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The Geeks Of 3D

Introduction to NovodeX Physics Engine

By Jérôme 'JeGX' GUINOT
jegx [at] ozone3d [dot] net

Initial draft: November 9, 2005

Translated from french by Raphaël 'Satyr' Eshaghpour - satyr [at] ozone3d [dot] net

1 - Introduction

2 - Integration in Demoniak3D

3 - The test demo

4 - Downloads

5 - Feedback

1 - Introduction

Novodex Physics Engine, edited by Ageia, is a C++ library allowing to simulate physics in 3D application. When we speak of physics, we mean the dynamic behaviour such as gravity management, collision management between the scene’s objects, the pivot’s points and links or even body deformation.

One of Novodex great advantages, in addition to the fact that it has been integrated to Demoniak3D in a short amount of time, is that this library’s function can be accelerated by specific hardware (PPU for Physics Processor Unit) which will soon be available (ASUS will release one really soon). We will talk deeper about that when those hardware will be available for real! It philosophy is near OpenGL’s (or Direct3D) and 3D cards: to get or ultra fast rendering, functionalities are accelerated by graphic cards.

2 - Integration in Demoniak3D

At Demoniak3D’s level, Novodex’s engine ismainly accessible through LUA scripting (HYP_Nx_Physics library) and through elements and attributes in XML’s scene description. In Demoniak3D version 1.0.0, only a small amount of Novodex’s functionalities have been implemented. Those functionalities gather force management, couple, collisions, all this management is applicable only to simple objects such as : sphere, box and plan. But with those primitives, we still can do several things!

3 - The test demo

***IMPORTANT in order to properly execute Ageia PhysX demos***: Ageia PhysX Drivers and Demoniak3D

Now we reach the funiest part of this tutor. But first, a screenshot:

fig.1 - Dominos fall.

The demo purpose is very simple: a few dominos (or something looking like) are set on a plane and pressing the space bar triggers a ball throw at the first domino on the right. The rest is logical: the fall of the first domino triggers the others’. The source code is available at the bottom of this page.

The first thing to do when we want to use physics is to initialise the engine at Demoniak3D’s scene’s level. This is done simply by setting nx_physics_simulation and nx_collision_detection to TRUE as shown in the following code:
<scene name="NX_Scene" 
	nx_physics_simulation="TRUE" nx_collision_detection="TRUE" >
	<nx_gravity x="0.0" y="-100.0" z="0.0" />

nx_physics_simulation attribute allows to start the engine. Little detail but which has is importance: Novodex’s engine manages its own scene tree, as well as oZone3D manages its own. In oZone’s one, the tree’s nodes are called objects, in Novodex’s they are called actors. From there came the naming of some libraries and LUA’s host API’s functions: HYP_Object, HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorLinearVelocity() for example.

The nx_collision_detection activates the collision management. Most of the time it will be activated.

nx_gravity element allows to set the gravity value for the whole scene. The default value is {0.0, -9.81, 0.0} but the simulation gets more realistic when multiplying this value by 10. I suppose there’s a bug somewhere in Demoniak3D but I couldn’t located it, I’ll get it sooner or later!

Once the physics engine initialised, it remains only to set all the 3D objects/actors in the scene. In order to add one actor to the physical engine’s scene, all we have to do is to use nx_add_to_physics_engine available in primitives, mesh or model nodes. The following code sample shows the model node usage:
<model name="box08" filename="data/domino/box01.3ds" 
	lighting="TRUE" texturing="TRUE" 
	nx_add_to_physics_engine="TRUE" shadow_caster="TRUE" >

		<position x="-140.0" y="20.0" z="0.0" />
		<orientation yaw="90.0" />

In order to make the dimensions well interpreted by the physics engine, it is essential to center the model in the modelling software. That means that if in Demoniak3D the object’location is {0.0, 0.0, 0.0}, its bounding box must be centered on {0.0, 0.0, 0.0}. To display the bounding box, use the display_bouning_box attribute in mesh or model node.

The initialisation of the ten dominos and ball is done in a similar way. Details are shown in the related project.

This demo shows us a glimpse of the HYP_Nx_Physics library of LUA’s host API.

When pressing space bar triggers the ball throw. But how is this ball thrown? Simply by affecting a velocity vector to the ball using HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorLinearVelocity() function. To prevent the ball from going to far, we can add to it a speed damping factor using HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorLinearDamping() function.

Finally, to increase the realism, a small rotation with damping is applied to the ball through HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorAngularVelocity() and HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorAngularDamping() functions.
<script name="start_sim_lua" run_mode="ASYNCHRONOUS" >
HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorLinearVelocity( "bullet",-200.0,100.0,0.0 );
HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorLinearDamping( "bullet",2.0 );
HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorAngularVelocity( "bullet",0.0,0.0,1.0 );
HYP_Nx_Physics.SetActorAngularDamping( "bullet",1.0 );

I think that the essential have been told, for this introduction to the use of NovodeX’s physics engine. We will soon have the occasion to talk about it in future tutorials.

4 - Downloads

Download the accompanying project
Update: Nov 10, 2005

GeeXLab demos

GLSL - Mesh exploder

PhysX 3 cloth demo

Normal visualizer with GS

Compute Shaders test on Radeon

Raymarching in GLSL

>Texture DataPack #1
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