Better Blood Splatters

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Say hello to the Physics Processing Unit.

The core concept behind this is that you’re better off in a game having dedicated silicon handle the physics calculations required to simulate grass swaying or bullets hitting, etc., etc., etc.

While one can hardly be against such a thing, isn’t this what the video card is supposed to do? Wouldn’t it be better if the video card had the silicon to do that? Is it at all realistic for something like this as an add-on card to become mainstream?

Fast physics may be better, but it looks to be awfully inconvenient.

First, it won’t be cheap. The first PPU is supposed to consist of one big chip and 128Mb of fast RAM. That would seem to indicate a minimum price of over $100, maybe a lot more than that.

Second, just where do you stick it, and just how much work will it actually do? Yes, it is supposed to have either a PCIe or PCI interface. If it can work OK with a PCI interface, it can’t be doing all that much data transfer all that fast, and it is kind of kludgy having the video card sending all kinds of requests through the PCIe and/or PCIe plus PCI bus to this card. It reminds me of “shared memory” in AGP. Yes, it works, but no serious video card depends on it.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean this PPU won’t do a better job than what we have now. It does mean that a video card that incorporates this technology would likely do much better than this.

Third, how popular is this likely to be? What percentage of video card buyers are going to like being told, “OK, you just shelled out two or three or five hundred dollars for a video card. Now you have to shell out another one or two or three hundred dollars to make it look good.” I think most people are going to have a problem with that, no matter how legitimate the add-on is. You know this stuff is going to be incorporated into video cards in a couple years. For how many will it be worth hundreds of dollars to make blood splatter better?

Not all people, mind you, not at all. There will always be a small proportion of people who will do whatever it takes to get the best that they can, now. Given that high-end computing is still a lot more affordable than, say, a Corvette, there ought to be more than a few twenty-somethings using gaming as a social substitute who’ll spend, and probably spend a lot more given the opportunity. Somebody’s buying these Alienware boxes.

Perhaps that’s the whole point to this. Technology vendors see little money or profits in plain vanilla computing, and see gamers as a cow to be milked, a niche to be exploited.

It certainly happens in other entertainment fields, we have audiophiles and videophiles, and there’s certainly strenuous efforts being made to create a gameophile group. In a few years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see professional video game players with $10K video systems inside $20K boxes doing battle with each other.

It sure would cut out a lot of people, though. Can video gaming really become a spectator sport?



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