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Commercial vs Free Physics Engines

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If you developed a game and had to choose a physics engine, what would be your criteria? What would be the first features you were looking for? Also, when is a commercial physics engine better that a free one? I am thinking that the fact you also get support, documentation, tutorials, examples, tools, etc. with a commercial license, makes up for the price. With a free engine you do not have the assurance that you are going to have support and the feedback you need, or even if the engine is going to be around for long. I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks.

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Huh? What is the difference between tons of objects reacting between each other perfectly or a few wooden box/barrel who end up passing through each others?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Is there a list of 'free' physics engines someplace??

I doubt all of them match the poor oppinion of the second poster.

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ODE is free as in open-source.
Newton is free as in lunch.
NovodeX/PhysX is free for non-commercial use.

Gangsta and OPAL are wrappers over these libraries, which you might have an easier time using.

I've used ODE and found it excellent and fairly easy to use. Lots of people like Newton; for an impressive and fun demonstration, see Walaber's Trampoline and Stunt Playground (source available).

See here for links to physics engines and everything else you need to put together a game engine, even if you're not using OGRE.

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drakostar, if you were developing a game, would you choose a commercial engine or a free one? In other words, what do commercial engines have that free ones don't? So, when / why is a commercial egine better than a free one?

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PhysX (aka Novodex), at least, is considerably faster, more stable, and more capable than any of the free engines out there, even in pure software mode. I suspect Havok is the same way, but I haven't used it.

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Not being a professional game developer, I have no experience with Havok or other commercial engines. But the stated featureset on all these engines, including Havok, is effectively identical, and there's generally not a huge difference in speed and simulation stability, unless your needs are quite extreme. It really comes down to, as you say, interface, documentation, and licensing considerations. For example, if you do go with PhysX and decide to sell your game, be prepared to pay them $50,000. If ODE or Newton does everything you want right now -- and it's quite likely that it does -- you can use that version forever and not worry about it.

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Quote:
Original post by drakostar
For example, if you do go with PhysX and decide to sell your game, be prepared to pay them $50,000.
This is not what PhysX costs anymore.

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Quote:
Original post by Promit
Quote:
Original post by drakostar
For example, if you do go with PhysX and decide to sell your game, be prepared to pay them $50,000.
This is not what PhysX costs anymore.


Full details from AGEIA:
Free for non-commercial use, PS3 development, or if you make "significant use" of their hardware.
$50k for everything else.

Did they change the price and not update their site?

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Quote:
Original post by redrexblue
So, to conclude, why would you buy a physics engine? For support / documentation / tools ?


It depends on what you're doing.

For example, Havok puts significant effort into per-platform optimization, and can send support engineers to your site. Clearly, this costs money for them to do, so you end up paying them. From my personal experience with them (check out PsiOps), they do a good job, and using their product was a good call.

If you're doing a small game that isn't heavily physics dependent, would using their product make sense? Depends on the budget, the team, the timeframe, etc., but it's not as likely.

So, just like any other tool, the utility of the tool depends on the application. If you can provide any more specifics about your circumstances, perhaps we can provide more meaningful guidance.

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Quote:
Original post by redrexblue
So, to conclude, why would you buy a physics engine? For support / documentation / tools ?


Havok is a pretty amazing package. Well documented, good support, and a supa cool run-time visual debugger. It works on all consoles and PC. and, man, that debugger is sweet (seperate app you can click and drag around objects in your game world and they'll move in your actual game.

-me

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Quote:
Original post by drakostar
Quote:
Original post by Promit
Quote:
Original post by drakostar
For example, if you do go with PhysX and decide to sell your game, be prepared to pay them $50,000.
This is not what PhysX costs anymore.


Full details from AGEIA:
Free for non-commercial use, PS3 development, or if you make "significant use" of their hardware.
$50k for everything else.

Did they change the price and not update their site?


Then make significant use of their hardware (which basically involves having an option to run the particle systems through a secondary physics scene that runs on the hardware).

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