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Infinite object games in 2D

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Seeing how 3D games apply between 47 thousand to 5.2 million calculations on many vertices/pixels/whatevers to display better graphics with shadows, lighting, bump mapping and a few other dozen effects I have only heard the names of - I started thinking: how much of this computational power be used to change game itself? This could be applied in 2D or 3D but as 2D is simpler I will head towards the 2D direction. The game will be created of tons of objects with relations to each other. Instead of calculating the visual appearance we will be calculating the physical/chemical/molecular structure and behavior of each object. This way a cup of coffee moving acorss the screen would have 30 pixels of coffee inside it moving from side to side and could possibly spill on the floor. A grenade would have gunpowder, an ignition switch, metalic objects in it and could be altered by placing the objects differently etc... A car: a block connected to 2 wheels [2d car ;p] a gasoline/grass [enviromentalist car] tank and an engine that burns gasoline/grass and applies wheel movement. Somewhat like the sand games seen in flash only more object relationships defined. I am sure this has been done to some extent [and of course thought & talked about] but probably never enough to be compared to the computational power devoted to 3D graphics. I wonder what was the most ever done with this idea... Share you thoughts!

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Original post by origil
Seeing how 3D games apply between 47 thousand to 5.2 million calculations on many vertices/pixels/whatevers to display better graphics with shadows, lighting, bump mapping and a few other dozen effects I have only heard the names of - I started thinking: how much of this computational power be used to change game itself?

Practically none. It all happens on the GPU within the video card.

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Original post by origil
A car: a block connected to 2 wheels [2d car ;p] a gasoline/grass [enviromentalist car] tank and an engine that burns gasoline/grass and applies wheel movement.

You'd be surprised how complicated the simulations for realistic racing games currently are. Some of them actually do model the car as a collection of components connected together - brakes, gearbox, engine, suspension may either be individual components or broken down even further.

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Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by origil
Seeing how 3D games apply between 47 thousand to 5.2 million calculations on many vertices/pixels/whatevers to display better graphics with shadows, lighting, bump mapping and a few other dozen effects I have only heard the names of - I started thinking: how much of this computational power be used to change game itself?

Practically none. It all happens on the GPU within the video card.


So take this none that happens on the video card and make it play with the game mechanics.
Call the video card a game mechancis card instead if it'll make my point more valid...

Quote:
Original post by OrangyTang
You'd be surprised how complicated the simulations for realistic racing games currently are. Some of them actually do model the car as a collection of components connected together - brakes, gearbox, engine, suspension may either be individual components or broken down even further.


Yeah, a lot of this is being done, but is far from the depth and flexibility I am talking about.

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Original post by origil
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Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by origil
Seeing how 3D games apply between 47 thousand to 5.2 million calculations on many vertices/pixels/whatevers to display better graphics with shadows, lighting, bump mapping and a few other dozen effects I have only heard the names of - I started thinking: how much of this computational power be used to change game itself?

Practically none. It all happens on the GPU within the video card.


So take this none that happens on the video card and make it play with the game mechanics.
Call the video card a game mechancis card instead if it'll make my point more valid...

Let me be more specific. None of the calculations that render polygons can be used to increase the complexity of gameplay - because it all happens on a seperate processor on the video card.

By the time it takes your gaming calculations to travel from your system memory over to your video card, get computed, then travel back, your CPU could have done that work ten times.

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Off-topic:
Ok... I see my nice "theoretical" idea has been killed again and ran over by off topic technicalities that have little to do with my idea but were merely implying that:
Just as graphics calculations are made, so can these be made to create a richer world in the terms of relationships between objects.
I am NOT saying: Becuase of 3D calculations we are losing computer power, thus can't use these for other things.

Quote:
Orignial quote by Kylotan
It makes it more valid, but it doesn't make it any more practical...


Sorry for wasting your time with my non-practical point.
So this will never happen, neither on a smaller scale?

Thank you so far for the constructive feedback.

And back to topic [phew [wink] ]:

The incredible machine has done this on a much smaller sclae about 10 years ago +- and I am sure this can be taken many steps ahead.

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Original post by origil
Off-topic:
Ok... I see my nice "theoretical" idea has been killed again and ran over by off topic technicalities that have little to do with my idea but were merely implying that:
Just as graphics calculations are made, so can these be made to create a richer world in the terms of relationships between objects.
I am NOT saying: Becuase of 3D calculations we are losing computer power, thus can't use these for other things.


They aren't off topic; they are informing you that you can't use the GPU for general purpose programming on the level you need. You can use the GPU for some pretty physics type stuff, but that's only for physics where you don't need to keep that data around. For your game specific programming, all you have is the CPU. Doesn't matter what the GPU is doing while your CPU is running so cutting down graphics (to that extreme level) probably won't do much for the idea. Of course you'd want to use simple 2D sprites or something (there's still some CPU overhead of a complex 3D scene what with scene-partitioning and things like that).

The idea is a cool one, but very hard to do currently. Each object you mentioned can probably be accurately modeled separately, but to do them all at 60fps is the challenge. With multi-core processors coming to light and the new quad-cores that are out, it's becoming more feasible, but there's still the issue of maintaining the separate threads and keeping all the data in sync.

Everyone wants molecularly sound game dynamics, but the fact is that computers can't handle it. The GPU won't help you here since getting data back from the GPU takes far too long compared to just doing the work on the CPU.

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I know EXACTLY what you mean! I've always thought that, why not represent in code the real world? That is, vigintillions of atoms and photons interacting all over the place. There's only four forces in the real world, shouldn't be too hard except for the complexity and innumerability and infinitesimallity (made up word) of the system and its components.

Maybe they could get a super-computer or six to do it. Just letting you know I'm on a similar, if not quite the same, page as you.

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Original post by NickHighIQ
I know EXACTLY what you mean! I've always thought that, why not represent in code the real world? That is, vigintillions of atoms and photons interacting all over the place. There's only four forces in the real world, shouldn't be too hard except for the complexity and innumerability and infinitesimallity (made up word) of the system and its components.

Maybe they could get a super-computer or six to do it. Just letting you know I'm on a similar, if not quite the same, page as you.


Represent the real world? Please, define real world. It seems like you know everything about the "real world", that it shouldn't be complicated to represent it in code.

Well, sorry but you cannot represent the "real world" in code, because mankind does not know enough about the real world to do that. The best you could do would be an approximation, but that approximation would not represent the real world.
Look at all the physics engines out there. Do you think that they have anything to do with realism? No, because they all use newtons axioms (sort of), and those are considered disproved. Even if you were to implement something on the atomic level, it still wouldn't represent the real world, as the laws concerning atoms aren't doing any good in representing the real world either, because the concept of atoms is in itself flawed (therefore science came up with quantum physics). And yet there are problems in science to apply the laws of quantum physics to macroscopic phenomenons. It seems as if these two were two fundemantal different things, and still both, macroscopic and microscopic physics are separately used to describe the real world, although they can't work together. So please tell me, how would you try to simulate a cup of tea with just implementing some laws of the atomic level, if even those aren't considered true.

Lets assume someone was to succeed with this concept: A physics engine that would compute everything by interactions between atoms. To "realistically" simulate even just a ball bouncing or something, you would need so many atoms until you gathered the mass of the earth, unless that engine used some sort of hack to do as if that many atoms existed. You still would be better off just assuming that ball was a rigid body and just applying newtons laws on it. There is no need to simulate atoms if you just end up using them for everyday bodies, but if you do that to simulate things like water, it is highly unlikely that you end up with pleasing results (or even "realistic" ones).

And I don't see the point in the ideas discussed in the first post. Why compose a grenade of gunpowder, ignition switches and so on, if you can just hard code a grenade that applies some force to its surroindings after it explodes? Yeah right, if you had a physics engine on the atomic level you wouldn't have to hard code it, but just compose it from different elements, still you would probably end up with the same result.

I think stuff like "atomic level" calculations are unnecessary, because today's pyhsics engines do just fine. There are also libraries out there which can cope with real time deformations and fragmantations. So why ask for more? Anything more wouldn't add to the gameplay anyway. The only gametype that would benefit from such a thing would be these sand games-sort of game, and they aren't any good.

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Hmm the GPU chip can be used for general purpose algorithms, otherwise these people are severally mis-lead;

http://www.gpgpu.org/

I have implemented a FFT algorithm and a even more complicated Wavelet algorithm using Shader technology. You *do* have to be careful about design and think about how you get your data too and from the GPU hardware, but there are techniques to avoid this. you can use the system to take advantanges of the parallel nature of the system without too much hassle - the potential is extraordinary, with each new generation of graphics cards the potential for this becomes greater and easier to implement as the shader language becomes more open-ended.

There even exists some specific sdk's and compiles (one developed by nvidia) for creating programs that are optimised for graphic cards.

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Quote:
Original post by NickGravelyn
Quote:
Original post by origil
Off-topic:
Ok... I see my nice "theoretical" idea has been killed again and ran over by off topic technicalities that have little to do with my idea but were merely implying that:
Just as graphics calculations are made, so can these be made to create a richer world in the terms of relationships between objects.
I am NOT saying: Becuase of 3D calculations we are losing computer power, thus can't use these for other things.


They aren't off topic; they are informing you that you can't use the GPU for general purpose programming on the level you need.


I do see them as off topic because you don't need to use the GPU for it, nor do you need to give up good graphics for this.
It was just an example: If you can have tons of calculations for graphical representations, so can you have them for the effects of objects.
As been said before: The CPU would do this much faster, thus - if you can calculate "trilinear body shadow image dithering whatever" on a GPU, the calculations I want to do on the object interaction would be able to achieve 10 times as much.

Quote:
Original post by Cranky
And I don't see the point in the ideas discussed in the first post. Why compose a grenade of gunpowder, ignition switches and so on, if you can just hard code a grenade that applies some force to its surroindings after it explodes? Yeah right, if you had a physics engine on the atomic level you wouldn't have to hard code it, but just compose it from different elements, still you would probably end up with the same result.


You are right, we can't define everything on the atomic level, not yet at least.
We don't have to define atoms though, we can define pixels or larger objects.
Maybe sand games are bad [subjective of course] - I believe some of their features could be used for games.
You are also rejecting the idea of flexible design here - you could hard code a grenade. But then it would not be a 'grenade'. It would be a radius area that does "damage" to the area.
What if you have objects that respond to heat and noise [released by the grenade]? Or magnets that pull metals [such as grenades]... Or 15 other attributes that apply to the materials in the grenade?

Again, take "The Incredible Machine" and take it many levels higher.

Some things will be hard coded - how does gunpowder behave. How do objects react to heat. Gravity... Etc... But the more generic these definitions are, the more flexibility and power.

I am not sure towards which direction I will be taking this idea to but the more flexible the design, the more possibilities of interaction, thus the more creativity that can be expressed by the player.

Every idea has to start somewhere [not by me because this idea obviosuly exists long enough by now] and saying: "It will not work because computers are not fast enough..."
So take it as far as you can, until you reach the limit of your hardware.

I think this will be my new small project - The advantage: It won't die with time but only benefit from it when new hardware kicks in the market.

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I don't know if I'm off-base here, but wouldn't the memory footprint for molecular or per-pixel computations be ridiculously huge? Even if each particle of your system only held one or two variables, and you kept them as unsigned shorts, accurate representation of fine-grain matter (the fragments of the grenade that exploded, the collision points on the car, grains of sand, etc) would require more memory than you can currently access with PC architecture.

If you somehow maintained a very finite view of this game environment, I'm sure you could stream all the data and keep your footprint smaller, but I'm under the assumption that you're referring to making some kind of navigable game world with these new ideas, and at that point your window of view (even in a side scroller) can only be so narrow.

For example, in the FPS Red Faction, there were certain game levels that you could play around in, progressively "digging" tunnels into the rock walls with an endless supply of rockets. I actually broke the game several times doing this, because the memory that all the procedurally generated new walls were taking up became too large. And that's with procedurally generated 3d meshes, meaning they only consisted of the vertexes of triangles and texture mapping info, and only existed once I acted on the environment.

Creating realistic solid matter would involve filling each space that is normally hollow (meshes) with mass of a finer-grain nature, creating a huge array of points. (this would still be true in 2d, as what before was just a reference point to an image file now has to have reference info for each point that fills it, and each one of those points will be acted on by your game's physics rules)

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ok, now I see what you mean, origil. Something like that could be implemented these days, if you don't do it on a per-pixel basis, or at least limit the per-pixel calculation to just a specific elements of the game.
You should then be able to create a sand game with a little bit more interactivity and perhapls also a gameplay. It would be interesting as an experiment.

There is this game coming out for the ps3, that is going into the same direction with regards of activity like you described I think:
http://www.mediamolecule.com/games.html

So that brand of games are still being produces. But as you see, they used a common physics engine (a pretty awesome one too). I think you could add these game principles you talked about without necessarily having to calculate everything on the per pixel basis.

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Your theoretical idea doesn't serve much of a purpose. The video card has it's own processor because we needed to do heavy math on it, specifically for rendering polygons. If we need extreme computation to render sounds, you can bet there would be one on the sound card as well. There is no gameplay card because the CPU IS the gameplay card. And it should already blow away most GPUs.

The reason the GPU seems so powerful is because it was engineered to do exactly one type of job, and that's all it does.

If you want a faster CPU, all you have to do is buy one and snap it in.

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If we're talking purely about physics calculations, I would nearly understand the concept. But the type of physics being used by most physics-heavy games is already at a very complex level. Definitely high enough to enhance any gameplay that can be enhanced by it.

I have played a few 2D games that had extremely detailed physics - beyound that of many 3D games. Those games may have even bogged down a high end system if they were rendered in 3D. But within a few years, all of this processing power is way ahead of us again. Since it will take most of us that long to build our games, we may as well pretend we're already able to do it.

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Quote:
Original post by Kest
If we're talking purely about physics calculations, I would nearly understand the concept. But the type of physics being used by most physics-heavy games is already at a very complex level. Definitely high enough to enhance any gameplay that can be enhanced by it.

Not necessarily. Most current physics systems fall apart when too many objects collide at once. Imagine having a giant toy-box full of physics objects, and you can use motion controls to rotate/shake the box in any direction... with all current physics techniques there will be tons of interpenetration and twitching, the objects inside the box wouldn't act realistically at all.

Also imagine a house full of physics objects and people. Now imagine the roof collapsing inward on that house: ten thousand chunks of wood and debris all snapping and falling in on animated people. Same concept, all of those pieces would be trying to interpenetrate each other and the system would blow up. Not to mention the animated characters would be adding energy to the system, which wouldn't help matters much.

The physics used by "most physics-heavy games" are in fact quite simple, they are highly optimized rigid body systems. Unfortunately we don't yet have enough processing power to handle large numbers of simultaneous collisions. Specialized hardware could help in this regard, but it would be quite a piece of work to design an API for it that can support full interactivity.

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The issues are not the complexity nor the "heavy-math" issue.

The issue is in the short cuts and assumptions.

YES a video card can do a whole lot of calculations usefull in non-video situations. YES it is possible to leverage this in many many scenarios that curerntly do not do so. BUT - it isn't automatic or easy, nor applicable to every sort of "calculation" you might want to do.

1) An old school fixed function video card is very very rigid in the pipeline and calculations it can and will do to each piece of data.

2) A video card is made to do operations on its own internal buffers thus alleviating memory pressure from graphics from the CPU. Due to historical reasons they we're not very efficient at branch prediction, nor at reading output values back to main memory (because traditionally video data went 1 way, out to the display).

3) A video card's processors are normally balanced for the typical workload they tackle ... a gaming card has a number of rasterizers, pixel processors and vertex processors and video bandwidth balanced to be good at normal CURRENT game strategies. These change over time such that a crappy 8400 GM can outperform an old 9800 Pro in some modern games (at low resolutions only). Will these help your app? It depends on your ability to properly struture your computations for the card(s) in question and the algrotihm's suitability to such a system.

4) The newest generation (8x00 for nvidia and 2x00 HD for amd) DO have mostly unified processors that can do vertex, geometry, pixel, physics, etc (hence the name STREAM processors instead of vertex or pixel processors), however the card's interaction with the CPU and main memory is still a major problem in leveraging these features for other applications. Currently you can only get a major gain from them in cases where the amount of specific sequencial math operations on various data is both a long chain (multiple instructions in a pipeline) and highly parallel (multiple data going through same process). This does not apply to most obvious CPU computations, but it does apply to many cases and people will find more and more such situations as the resources become more common.

So mainly its a YES you can get a benefit in theory, and over the next 20 years more and more people WILL get such benefits. But the state of the industry now is that it is very very hard to realize such benefits in most cases.

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Original post by Logodae
Setting aside the question of how this can (or can't) be done, my question is: why? What would this level of simulation get you, in terms of gameplay?


The way I see it - the more objects can interact [this does not refer to pixel sized objects but to all] the more creative choices for the player.

Take the simple case in a 3D First Person Shooter:
You need to hit an enemy hiding behind a wall.
When these games first came out there was no way to hit him - now you can make bullets, discs and what-not bounce off walls.
If you had more types of interactivity between objects [and what better way than make it more general and flexible] the gameplay would increase immensly. [Of course you would also need to find 'holes' that tip the game balance which would become a much more difficult task].

Kest, I agree with you about your last post - this is a project that can be started now with the future held into account.

As for the hardware debate, I never intended to talk about the GPU and his friends [smile], only mentioned them as examples but sure.

Quote:
Original post by Kest
Your theoretical idea doesn't serve much of a purpose.


No man! It's awesome! [wink] A few years from now. A few years..

Quote:
Original post by Kest
The video card has it's own processor because we needed to do heavy math on it, specifically for rendering polygons. If we need extreme computation to render sounds, you can bet there would be one on the sound card as well.
There is no gameplay card because the CPU IS the gameplay card. And it should already blow away most GPUs.


You might want to google about a Physics Card as I've seen an article about it long ago as well as a decent video about it, seems really cool.
EDIT: Or maybe just follow the link JBourrie supplied on PhysX.

Quote:
Original post by Kest
The reason the GPU seems so powerful is because it was engineered to do exactly one type of job, and that's all it does.


Sounds reasonable. This will probably end all of these video cards/proccesing units when you can get 4 CPU's on one motherboard.

Wouldn't my goals be easier to reach with a couple of CPU's installed?

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Original post by JBourrie
Not necessarily. Most current physics systems fall apart when too many objects collide at once.

I'm not suggesting physics simulations can't become more insane, but that most games aren't even employing the current level of it. Half Life 2 is a great example of how more physics does not equal more gameplay.

Quote:
Original post by origil
Take the simple case in a 3D First Person Shooter:
You need to hit an enemy hiding behind a wall.
When these games first came out there was no way to hit him - now you can make bullets, discs and what-not bounce off walls.
If you had more types of interactivity between objects [and what better way than make it more general and flexible] the gameplay would increase immensly. [Of course you would also need to find 'holes' that tip the game balance which would become a much more difficult task].

Was that the point? That more processing power can lead to better physics calculations? Isn't that obvious? Or was the point that we should build specialized cards to deal with physics? We already have those. So what was the point?

Quote:
Wouldn't my goals be easier to reach with a couple of CPU's installed?

I have no bloody idea what your goal is [smile]

But I'll just stop distracting you and leave you to it.

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Just remember that there is a point where the simulation stops mattering. You dont need to simulate everything
to get the same end results. And it is that end result your players judge. If they can't tell how you did it, it doesn't
matter if you cheated. If they can see a performance hit due to their actions, they are going to be upset.
Simulations slow down the more you throw at them, and a player WILL throw everything they can at the simulation.


1) Take what you are simulating, and think "What does this add to the game?"
-I want a coffee cup with coffee in it! (LOOKS!)
-I want containers with liquid in them! (Looks, but could be gameplay)
-I want 'The Incredible Machine!(tm)' (prolly gameplay.)
-I want grenades with powder, ignitors, casings!( gameplay)

2) Take that 'addition' and think "What was the end goal?"
-Realistic look
-Puzzles with fluids
-Puzzles with physics
-Customizable weapons

3) Take that 'end goal' and think about how you can do it without the simultion
-Good effects modelers

-Good object model(fluid level, container shape, formula for tilt+level -> spillage)
Good effects, and places where the objects actually interact vs places where the objects just create spillage effects on the ground.

-Obviously just use physics (like the armidillo run game linked)

-Come up with tables/formulas just like any rpg for figuring out the size, shape, power, and effect of the new weapon.

4) Now sit back and think "what would simulating this add?"
-NOTHING
-Interesting effects of complex shapes that couldn't be easily faked unless the world's puzzles were totally
static in design.
-Not really doable without simulation
-NOTHING!

5) Now that you know what simulating it ADDS, think about what is easier to do: simulate? hard code interactions?
-hard code in some effects
-probably simulate if you want complex / evolving puzzles, else just hard code effects if you already know what all the puzzles will
behave like.
-simulate!
-hard code. EXPECIALLY since the end results are dicated by the interactions the world accepts.
Come up with relations to the formulations that allow you to inject things into the rest of your simulation while still skipping
the step of simulating the weapon.

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Quote:
Original post by Kest
I'm not suggesting physics simulations can't become more insane, but that most games aren't even employing the current level of it. Half Life 2 is a great example of how more physics does not equal more gameplay.


True, every feature can be misued. But in many cases it also leads to better gameplay.

Quote:
Original post by Kest
Quote:
Original post by origil
Take the simple case in a 3D First Person Shooter:
You need to hit an enemy hiding behind a wall.
When these games first came out there was no way to hit him - now you can make bullets, discs and what-not bounce off walls.
If you had more types of interactivity between objects [and what better way than make it more general and flexible] the gameplay would increase immensly. [Of course you would also need to find 'holes' that tip the game balance which would become a much more difficult task].

Was that the point? That more processing power can lead to better physics calculations? Isn't that obvious? Or was the point that we should build specialized cards to deal with physics? We already have those. So what was the point?


The point was a small generalized comparison to the question earlier asked of how a simulation would add to the gameplay.
The gap between the old FPS games and between the ones of today also has a lot to do with the object relationship/interactivity. [Bullet didn't bounce off walls, now the do]
This is the same gap with today's FPS games and my idea.
[Bullets bounce off walls but walls will USUALLY never break - for example. Yes, maybe a game already does that, but this is a part of the idea. More could be done as well]

Quote:
Original quote by KulSeran
1) Take what you are simulating, and think "What does this add to the game?"
2) Take that 'addition' and think "What was the end goal?"
3) Take that 'end goal' and think about how you can do it without the simultion
4) Now sit back and think "what would simulating this add?"
5) Now that you know what simulating it ADDS, think about what is easier to do: simulate? hard code interactions?


Thanks, you hit the point there.
It's true that going to far with it will lead to a slow game hardware-wise, that is why the balance needs to be found - as well as design it for future hardware which seems like an interesting task especially for hobbyists like me that usually design with today's technology and once finished are 10 years back in tech.

As for the gameplay, I think it would add a lot to the game if done correctly.
Again -> it would incorporate a lot of player creativity because a good flexible design can do a lot more than hard coded ones.
If the player knows every object has a 'maximum heat' attribute in which it turns to liquid he can try melting materials with his flame thrower.
As for the coffee example, turn this into barrels filled with gasoline, let the player tip the barrel, the gasoline will spill and maybe be ignited by the player. Throw some water inside the barrel, you would have more gasoline [less flamable though]
The grenade example would allow interesting weapon customization, as well as many side-effects the designer didn't think of but that still could be used by the player.

Take worms, lemmings, super mario, sandgames and the incredible machine, stir them in a bowl and you will have a very interactive gameplay enviroment for the player.
Now instead of having one solution to the puzzles presented to the player, he/she/it will be able to use the many object properties as can be done in real life.

The questions you present are good.
My answer is as flexible as the idea:
It depends how they are used in the game.
Some games will benefit from this while others won't.
The bottom line is that a flexible design will lead to many more game possibilities than hard coding features.
Wether these possibilities add to the game, that's the game designer's job.
I believe I can incorporate them into a decent game.

The "Infinite objects" idea is the theoretical part - meaning we will never get there.
But increasing the amount of game objects is the practical part that can be supported by today's hardwares as well. The question is how many more objects because obviously [to me at least] more objects, if done correctly, will lead to a richer game experience.

I think this debate lies in a problem of terminology.
Take into account that there is no difference between hard-coding and simulating. There is a thin line between them that is defined by each person differently.
If I make every pixel an object you might call it a simulation, I might call it hard coding pixel objects because each of these pixels has 1,000,000 molecules that I didn't take in to account.

Everything can be broken into more pieces - eventually the smallest pieces will be hard coded no matter what, because as been mentioned earlier we don't have a complete grasp of the universe be it using quantum physics or the atom model.
The question is, which will the smallest piece be in a game.
While some objects will not gain from defining each pixel, others will.

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