The Evolution of The Physics Engine In The Last 10 Years

Posted By | On 19th, Feb. 2012 Under Feature | Follow This Author @GNReith

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With the next generation of consoles seemingly on the horizon, industry commentators have spent the past few weeks attempting to look forward into what the gaming of tomorrow. Until we can learn to predict the future accurately though, our speculation is better held off in favour of analysing the past. With this in mind, here’s a run down of how the humble physics engine has evolved in the previous decade. 2012 has been left out on account of the lack of games released so far this year, but hey, we need to leave something that we can write about in the future.

2001: Red Faction

The game that practically started destructible environments, Red Faction’s GeoMod engine was a revelation at the time. With classic FPS gameplay and the ability to blow stuff up at will, the original Red Faction remains a cult favourite over a decade after its original release.

2002: Super Mario Sunshine

Sure, it might not have been the follow up to Mario 64 that everyone was expecting, but Mario Sunshine was pretty impressive at the time. With new water based mechanics, the series was able to show off some pretty cool water physics that were used in the colourful and fun ways that only Nintendo seem able to cook up.

2003: Virtua Fighter 4

So 2003 might not have been the best year for physics engines, but Virtua Fighter 4 still got a release that year and, despite being “just a  fighting game,” the physics were still pretty good. The way strikes actually connect and crumple your opponents had a realism to it, and the level of physical contact between combatants has seldom been achieved since.

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  • Paul Choi

    Physics does not equal graphical effects. Super Mario Sunshine had a simple physics engine with no defining characteristics whatsoever. In fact, the physics of Super Mario Sunshine are very glitchy in some places, resulting in frustrating gameplay and lame deaths. It’s water effects, however, are one of the strongest points of the game, but this list is for physics, not graphical effects. Instead of Super Mario Sunshine, The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker should have been included on this list. While most people think only of the graphics of that game, the physics engine of that game is actually pretty good for an action-adventure game, especially in the area of soft-body dynamics. It’s a shame that nobody recognizes The Wind Waker’s physics engine.


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