Upon first glance, today's press release from AMD, "AMD and Havok to Optimize Physics for Gaming," caused us to do a double take. Considering the long-time feud between AMD and Intel, it seemed surprising that any sort of amicable partnership could develop between AMD and an Intel-owned company, such as Havok:
"AMD (NYSE: AMD) and Havok today announced plans to jointly investigate the optimization of physics effects utilizing AMD's full line of products.
With over 100 developers and 300 leading titles already using Havok’s physics engine -- Havok Physics -- the company has clearly defined its position as the leading developer of game physics. By working together, both companies are demonstrating their commitment to open standards and continued support for the needs of the game community."
While AMD's and Intel's lawyers are sparing with each other, the two companies' developers are playing patty-cake. What gives? It’s been said that necessity makes for strange bedfellows, and that is precisely what is going on here.
Physical-world realism is quickly becoming the next big selling point for games. This is because recent advances in the processing power of GPUs and CPUs are finally capable of the massive computational power required by physics calculations. Nvidia's recent acquisition of gaming physics technology company, Ageia, puts both AMD and Intel on the defensive: Nvidia plans on integrating Ageia's physics technology into its GPUs.
That leaves AMD to either develop its own physics engine or buy a company that already has one. Intel owns such a company, but currently doesn't sell any true game-worthy GPUs. By utilizing Havok's physics engine, both AMD and Intel can perform physics calculations in the CPU. (Finally, a practical application for gamers for multi-core processors!) By working together, they are in a better position to compete with Nvidia's Ageia. AMD gets additional benefit from the deal, as it can also put hooks to the Havok physics engine into its own ATI GPUs for additional computational power at some point, although that is not what was announced today. And Intel keeps hemming and hawing that it will someday have a worthy 3D GPU--owning Havok makes it that much easier to build a physics engine right into the graphics processor.
Working with Havok is also a very smart move, considering the industry support that already exists around the engine:
"Havok works in partnership with the world's best known game developers -- including Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Pandemic Studios. Havok's cross-platform, professionally supported technology is available for the PlayStation2, PLAYSTATION3, PSP, Xbox, Xbox360, Wii, GameCube, and the PC. Havok's combination of superior technology and dedication to delivering for our customers every time has led to our technology being used in more than 150 of the world's best known game titles, including BioShock, Halo 3, MotorStorm, Stranglehold, Crackdown, Age of Empires III and Cars.
Havok products have been used to drive special effects in movies such as Poseidon, The Matrix, Troy, Kingdom of Heaven and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
To further expand Havok's oeuvre, it has made its physics and animation tools available as a free download to developers. Free games and applications can use the Havok physics engine at no cost. Even developers designing commercial titles can use the Havok physics engine at no cost during the development stage, and only have to pony up the licensing fees if they actually decide to include the engine in the final commercial release.
This is a smart--but surprising--move for both AMD and Intel, and shows that they are capable of looking beyond their differences when necessity calls for it. What's next, dogs and cats living together?