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BrechtDebruyne

What side skills are essential / noteable plusses for becoming a game physics programmer?

16 posts in this topic

I'm currently studying mathematics, eventually planning to do mathematical computer science, and planning to make my own game physics engine, as well as writing a game with it for my portfolio.

But I'd like to talk about side skills here.

How much should I know about graphics programming, and to what extent should I know DirectX/OpenGL?
What about networking?
What about other side-skills?

I would like to hear from people that actually have a job related to game physics, for the validity of the answers.

As on OT-question: Is there any site dedicated to game physics programming? I always find myself having a hard time finding help or existing solutions on the internet related to game physics (beyond the basics such as the 100+ articles on SAT) Edited by Xcrypt
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[quote name='Xcrypt' timestamp='1352979383' post='5001194']
job related to game physics
[/quote]
[s]Well, there aren't many jobs related to game physics to be honest. Game physics is continuously improving, but there aren't any major leaps , compared to e.g. rendering. There are some good, even some free, physics engine avaiable and creating a physics engine, a [i]stable [/i]physics engine ,is incredible hard. Therefore most, if not all, studios uses one of this engines.

Mathematics is getting more and more important in rendering (but this market is already ruled by existing professional engines too).[/s]

Okaay... sorry for getting Off Topic [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/blink.png[/img]

[quote name='Xcrypt' timestamp='1352979383' post='5001194']
What about other side-skills?
[/quote]
Well, [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_skills"]soft skills[/url] are useful. Edited by Ashaman73
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[quote name='Ashaman73' timestamp='1352980443' post='5001197']
Okaay... sorry for getting Off Topic [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/blink.png[/img]

Well, [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_skills"]soft skills[/url] are useful.
[/quote]

Haha. I'm sorry if you think I was being rude, but let's be honest here, everyone that did a little bit of research knows that making physics engines is hard, and it's also hard to find a job as game physics programmer. It's a danger to every similar thread to fall down to those discussions. To avoid these, I replied "please stay on topic" Edited by Xcrypt
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[quote name='Xcrypt' timestamp='1352979383' post='5001194']How much should I know about graphics programming, and to what extent should I know DirectX/OpenGL?
What about networking?
What about other side-skills?[/quote]I'm a graphics programmer, but have worked with physics programmers.
Knowing enough of a graphics API (of any kind) so that you're comfortable with drawing debug shapes ([i]e.g. visual versions of your physics capsules/boxes/spheres, or force lines, arrows, etc[/i]) would be handy. Also, knowing how to transfer object transform data ([i]e.g. a 4x4 matrix[/i]) from your physics engine over to the visual objects.
You'd almost always be doing this via a higher-level graphics engine, not D3D/GL directly, so learning those APIs specifically isn't a strict requirement.
Perhaps if you were doing something more advanced, like soft-body simulation, or CFD/Navier–Stokes equations, etc, then you'd want to have a much better grasp on graphics and visualisation techniques.

If you knew enough about networking to be able to have a conversation about how to handle the network-replication of physics-driven objects, and different networking strategies, like dependent lock-stepping, authoritative servers, etc, then that would be a plus.

Being qualified in another role -- either general gameplay programming, and/or another speciality like animation systems, would be very useful.
As mentioned in the off-topic above, ([i]almost[/i]) everyone uses existing physics engines, so the job of the physics programmer is to tame that existing code and make it do exactly what a specific game requires -- this might not keep you busy for a whole project, so being able to perform other roles might be required of you.

As for educational materials, I always see the [url="http://www.amazon.com/dp/0123749034/?tag=stackoverfl08-20"]same[/url] [url="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1558607323/?tag=stackoverfl08-20"]few[/url] [url=http://www.amazon.com/Physics-Game-Developers-David-Bourg/dp/0596000065/ref=pd_sim_b_10]books[/url] on people's desks. Edited by Hodgman
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Shell scripting. Whether that be bash script, powershell, or something a little more friendly like Python, is up to you. But either way, you need to know your way around the shell (find, grep, sed, etc.), and know how to write scripts to automate repetitive tasks.
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[quote name='swiftcoder' timestamp='1352993679' post='5001245']
Shell scripting. Whether that be bash script, powershell, or something a little more friendly like Python, is up to you. But either way, you need to know your way around the shell (find, grep, sed, etc.), and know how to write scripts to automate repetitive tasks.
[/quote]

Could you name an example specific to physics programming where shell scripting is used? I've heard of shell scripting before, but that's about it.
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[quote name='Xcrypt' timestamp='1352995623' post='5001252']
Could you name an example specific to physics programming where shell scripting is used? I've heard of shell scripting before, but that's about it.[/quote]
I was more intending that as a general injunction towards [b]any[/b] form of programming. A programmer who doesn't know their way around the shell, or can't automate simple tasks, is a pretty useless programmer in most environments.

Also, [url="http://www.timteatro.net/2010/07/21/why-every-physicist-should-know-python/"]physicists love python[/url].
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I can automate simple tasks easily, I just don't know my way around the shell... Is that a problem?
And I do know some python. Not exactly an expert on the language but I can make most tasks work with it :P Edited by Xcrypt
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[quote name='Xcrypt' timestamp='1353010712' post='5001332']
I just don't know my way around the shell... Is that a problem?[/quote]
It's not necessarily a deal breaker, but it's definitely something I consider a deficiency in any serious developer.

What happens when you need to search for a specific pattern in 500 MB of build log files stored on a remote build server? For a someone familiar with the command line thats a one-line call to ssh+grep. If you are stuck in GUI-land, it's likely to present a stumbling block...
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[quote name='swiftcoder' timestamp='1353017225' post='5001363']What happens when you need to search for a specific pattern in 500 MB of build log files stored on a remote build server? For a someone familiar with the command line thats a one-line call to ssh+grep. If you are stuck in GUI-land, it's likely to present a stumbling block...[/quote]In GUI land, you open a remote desktop connection to the server and then open the log in your favourite text editor.

YMMV, but I learned bash/grep/sed/etc in University and then never touched them again. Mostly because they don't exist on Windows, and there's not much point installing some Unix-style shell like cygwin, when a Python interactive shell is actually more powerful.
If I need to automate something, I'll use Visual Studio macros, or a Python script (or PHP, or JavaScript, or even C), or use Excel, or a [url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain-specific_language"]DSL[/url] like CMake.

On the topic of [i]every-programmer side skills[/i] - make sure you're comfortable with version control systems. Ideally, both a centralized one like Subversion/Perforce, and a distributed one like Git/Mercurial. Edited by Hodgman
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[quote name='clanston' timestamp='1353038526' post='5001437']
From the sound of things, you want to do physics simulation programming? Games being one application of this?

If your actually interested in making physics games, then I would say graphics are important.

I should also note that physics programming is a specialty of programming... I'd suggest developing your general programming skills (shell scripting/operating systems/ C++ (and other languages)/ algorithms/ etc) as well so that you make yourself as attractive as possible to potential employers. Getting started in the industry as a physics programmer is pretty hard, most juniors would start off learning many different aspects of game programming (graphics/ai/ gameplay/ asset pipline/ etc) before choosing a specialty... And in this day and age where AAA titles are on the decline and mobile games on the rise, a jack of all trades is much more useful [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

I hope that helps.

Cheers,
Brad
[/quote]

Thanks Brad, yes I want to do physics simulation programming. I am just as interested in the mathematical side as in the graphical side though.
I already have basic understanding of the D3D10 graphics pipeline, made a few applications and a basic 3D game engine with it, but I'm still far from an expert with it. The reason I mentioned graphics is because I saw some physics programmer portfolios, and they seem to be an expert on anything from rigid bodies to soft bodies and CFD, as well as graphics.

Also, I have a year or two experience with C++. Of course one can never master C++, but I'd say I know the language well above average.

I'm definitely interested in other aspects of game programming as well, and I will try to develop them as well as I go through my learning process. It's just that physics is definitely my favourite branch within game programming :) Edited by Xcrypt
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[quote name='Dirk Gregorius' timestamp='1353090145' post='5001594']
So if you want to learn physics programmer I recommend looking into Box2D and all of Erin Catto's presentations. Get something up and running and then experiment with this. A good start is a simple pendulum and a falling sphere. Then a box, a stack, etc. Don't try to reinvent everything, but make sure you understand the current state of the art first including its limitations.

For collision detection I recommend the books from Gino v.d. Bergen and Christer Ericson.

I hope this helps a bit. Good luck!
-Dirk
[/quote]

Thanks Dirk, good to hear from you!

Have those books, they are very nice. Comp geometry / collision detection is probably what I'm best at (thanks to those books). I'm having some trouble implementing a good solver though.
I've seen Erin's Catto ppt presentations before, they help but it would be better if I could find the text associated with them. I tried to look for them for a while but never found them. Do they exist?

I made a very basic 2D physics engine, just basic different shaped rigid bodies moving, rotating and colliding against each other, using mostly SAT for CD, and a very basic impulse based solver. I was just planning to take on Box2D Lite, but then my math studies started, don't have that much time atm. I will definitely pick up that idea again when I have some time! Edited by Xcrypt
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