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how to combine/seperate physics and character

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I like working on car games because they''re pure physics, you just let the physics engine handle everything. Now im working on a game with a character and i hit a bit of a block. How do i move the character myself yet still use the collision response, friction simulation, and all the other things i need from the physics engine? Do i instead of sayin like player->x++; add a force in the physical world and then what primitive do i use to represent my character, a ball, a tall rectangular prism? If i use a rectangular prism what happens if it falls over? I could ignore rotations but then the friction and collision will be off. Any suggestions or links would be great. (the biggest thing im thinking of right now is, if the player is standing on something that moves, i want him to move with it, which is simply done with the physics engine)

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