Realism has been a driving force behind gaming, but games themselves are nothing without the hardware they run on. Without graphics cards we would not be able to experience the immersive virtual worlds we have been spoiled with. There is however a problem with realism; its very resource intensive.
The more game developers try to create more realistic worlds the more current technology is pushed to its limit. If you ask average Joe what realism in gaming is all about they would probably tell you about the graphics, but any gamer knows graphics are nothing if the world they render is skin deep. This is where physics comes into play. Physics have been present in games in some form since the start. Take Pong for example; two paddles on each side of the screen bounce a ball between them, if the ball lands at a certain angle with the paddle going at a certain speed then the resulting bounce will be relative to those variables.
Physics is actually a lot simpler than any explanation can make it, the simplest way to describe how game physics should work is by looking at the real world. This is what game developers have been doing for years; trying to bring real world to the virtual.
There are two elements to game physics; namely the hardware and the engine. There are two main physics engines at present, these are Havok and PhysX. Havok’s physics engine is unsurprisingly designed by Havok, it was first released back in 2000 and is currently on its 6th version which was released in August 2008. Havok has been used in over 200 game titles; these include Company of Heroes, Soul Calibur IV, and the upcoming StarCraft II and Diablo III. Havok is released to developers (after they pay a license fee of course) as a Software Development Kit also known as an SDK. This SDK allows developers to use the engine in all aspects of their game that require physics. Havok physics is in fact such a successful engine that it has been integrated into the PlayStation, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP Nintendo Wii, and the Xbox 360.