View Full Version : Ageia PPU... what's your take?

15th Jun 2005, 08:34 PM
For those of you who haven't heard, the new product for next year is the Physics Processor Unit (PPU). It's an add- on card much like a gfx or sound card, and its job is to handle all the physics from games, thereby freeing up the CPU.

The first (and so far only) such offering will be the PhysX unit from Ageia, the same people who make the Novodex physics engine which UT2007 will incorporate. More info here: http://www.ageia.com/technology.html

Initial MSRP is reported to be in the $300 US range.

I've seen reactions ranging from "what a scam" to "OMG! Must... serve... the will... of... the PPU!" :lol:

I'm a little skeptical myself, seems like not much bang for the buck to me, but that could change I guess... there aren't many facts to go on at this stage. Anyway, the thread at INA is pretty haywire (surprised? Of course you aren't...) so I thought I'd come see what the thinking was in saner parts.

Anybody got an opinion?

15th Jun 2005, 09:42 PM
I guess it's something that really is going to have to make a difference as far as gameplay before I am interested. Everything I've heard about it now suggests that developers are going to make use of it in ways that don't necessarily effect gameplay so that users without the chip can still play the game. *yawn*

I'm having trouble understanding how a game can make extra use of the power of the physics chip in a significant way while not alienating users that don't have it. Graphics, sound, maybe even AI deserve their own subsystems, but right now I think most people see physics as a novelty. I'm not willing to pay 300.00 to see more elaborate ragdoll deaths or to watch debris flitting about the level in a more realistic manner.

15th Jun 2005, 10:57 PM
When I see something like this I have mixed emotions.

1) I like the idea if it will make games better, but I'll have to wait and see how it actually performs. Specially with a price tag of a few hundred duckets.
2) I agree with pretty much everything Hal said. Things like this make me dislike them cuz I think it just encourages developers to add a lot of meaningless extra crap that most gamers turn off anyways into their games... or don't have the nut in their system to run it even though they bought a brand new system not 5 months ago.

16th Jun 2005, 02:22 AM
Well, GPU's are standard now, they come on you GFX cards.

APU's are as well, pretty much. Most serious gamers have Audigy's.

Epic is pushging the hardware envelope so hard with their software, that they are damn near alienating casual gamers, the very crowd they make their games for.

Yes, they will do all that can to scalability so that enough people can play their games, but I still feel it won't be enough. Things like this won't be requisit until they are common place. Specialized PU's are cheaper then Multiple full CPU's, and provide more similar, or better power, so it appears to be the way to go afaict.

It'll be expensive at first, but that will change in time.

My main concern, or "hope" is that Epic get's over this "biggest toy on the block" syndrome, and start to veer more towards sierra's "hardware survey" type of approach to guide them on how "graphically intense" to make their games.

I know they seen us post Gameplay > Graphics a couple thousand times, and for Gameplay to matter, people need to be able to play their game.

16th Jun 2005, 04:50 AM
Too bleeding pricey, for that yo ucan get an xbox360, far far better purchase.

16th Jun 2005, 07:13 AM
It's a - not necessarily needed - novelty at the moment and therefor pricey

When games make more use of it, prices will drop. Now it's a waste of money

16th Jun 2005, 08:05 AM
In the future it could become extremely handy for game developers, I mean the physics in Half-Life 2 really rip it out of my CPU at times. The more things flying around and bouncing off walls the lower my frame goes.

Good idea in my opinion, but at the moment a little too pricey.

16th Jun 2005, 08:21 AM
I remember the time when 3D-addon cards were € 100 - 150 or so.
There were a couple of false starts before 3dFx combined with a few quality games made it cheap enough for the average gamer to be able to afford it.

Therefor I doubt that UT2k7 will be the game that makes a PPU worth the askingprice for anyone except the rich.
It would take at least a few games that really used physics as such an essential component to show people the real power of the ppu.

Another problem is that there's no competitor yet. One needs to only look at Creative's crappy soundcards with their fake environment-sounds to see the kind of damage such a monopoly does to both price as well as featuresets of hardware.

16th Jun 2005, 11:27 AM
A better physics chip will come out eighteen months after this ppu, and so on and so forth........................i'd wait around until games do something meaningful with this technology................anyway sound is far too underused in current games and never evolved the same way graphics did.............which is a pity since even photorealistic graphic are dull without sounds and animations to bring them alive!

it all comes down to it's not what you have, it's what you with it really!

16th Jun 2005, 12:38 PM
What most people said already. I don't expect this to become a hit overnight, maybe a couple of years before it becomes significant. The main problem as far as I can see is that for multiplayer games, physics wise the game will have to be identical on everyone's pc. You can't just have a crate on one person's pc, and it not appear on another.
I imagine it will only be really used in single player games eg. half life 2, it's gonna be a long time before it makes a major impact on the industry though.

16th Jun 2005, 01:28 PM
Useless. You can use the other core of dual cpus for the physics :D

16th Jun 2005, 01:30 PM
I saw a press-release from Abit (i think or was it Asus?) and thats where i think the PPU:s belong, on the MB:s.

I wouldnt mind buying a (little more) expensive MB for my next PC.
I will not buy a standalone PPU in the price range of a new highend GFX card.

16th Jun 2005, 01:49 PM
Yeah, that's pretty well what I'm thinking as well... "nice idea, got potential, you want WHAT for it?!"

Most of the frou- frou stuff like foliage that blows in the wind, blah, blah, blah etc. I could easily live without.

The one thing that seems interesting about it so far, at least as far as UT is concerned, is that you might be able to install it on a server and dump projectiles onto it. If you did that, at least the way I understand it, you might be able to get rid of the "dud" projectile problem... at least from a processor load POV.

The bandwidth issues associated with that and other things, I couldn't tell you about.

As for the rest, I guess we'll just have to wait and see...

16th Jun 2005, 03:03 PM
Initial MSRP is reported to be in the $300 US range.
Where does it say that?

16th Jun 2005, 03:54 PM
In the first year, I dont expect it to show alot. But as it becomes more incorperated, a requisite peice of hardware, it's true advantages will show.

16th Jun 2005, 04:36 PM
Initial MSRP is reported to be in the $300 US range.
Where does it say that?

That's not in the link I posted.

It's in this link (http://www.pcper.com/article.php?aid=140).

16th Jun 2005, 10:29 PM
I dont see the use for a seprate card, they should be integrated on to graphics cards.

16th Jun 2005, 11:43 PM
No. They are going to use the other core of dual CPUs for enchanced AIs. :D

Ops... AIPU?

That gets at the single purpose problem.

I'm figuring that dedicating the extra processor to one specific thing allows it to perform better for that thing than if it were a more multi-purpose design.

The problem with that though, as I see it, is that the one thing in question has only been lightly tested as an actual gameplay element... so the narrow focus is troubling there. That's somewhat mitigated by the fact that at least Novodex is willing to completely take over collision handling, which is a big part of the current processor load; that may or may not be enough, though.

What bothers me even more is that the specific processor in question is being offered by the same people who offer physics software. When things go proprietary like that, the competition tends to become destructive rather than constructive, ie, it could lead to a situation where you had to chose which unit to buy based on which game you intended to play... one card would only support the physics engine used by id, whereas another would only support Epic games. One look at Apple's online store will tell you what that does to prices... and if the software tanked the tech would drown with it, and vice versa.

If this third processor has to happen, I'd much rather see it developed by a third party and, if possible, have not as much flexibility as a CPU but more than a PPU. That just seems healthier to me, economically speaking.

17th Jun 2005, 03:44 AM
In other words : Microsoft needs to integrate the Physics Processing into their DirectX-specs. That's the only way there ever is going to be a competitor (and thus better hardware). I doubt that a completely open standard is going to happen given the kind of money & businesses involved.

17th Jun 2005, 04:19 AM
I agree with JAFO: Physics SDK should be a part of DirectX.

I also agree with the posts that say that we have to wait and see a game that showcases the gameplay potential of a PPU in order to decide if value/money is OK. I dont expect UT2007 to be this game (unless the single player gameplay is much different from the online - which I doupt).

When I first saw GL-quake running on a powerVR GPU, it was the time I decided I had to get one of these no matter what the price was. I want to see something along similar lines for physics before I buy one.

I would choose near-realistic physics over real time raytracing without thinking once. But PPU's have a long way to go until then.

Most important of all I have to stop writting posts and get back to coding before I get fired...

17th Jun 2005, 06:51 AM
Has anyone noticed how much PCs are tending to look more and more like consoles ? I mean on the inside of course. There was a time when APU & GPU were terms that were only applied to the Playstation.

17th Jun 2005, 07:53 AM
Has anyone noticed how much PCs are tending to look more and more like consoles ? I mean on the inside of course. There was a time when APU & GPU were terms that were only applied to the Playstation.

Consoles are looking more and more like PCs.

17th Jun 2005, 07:59 AM
Perhaps. Or both are migrating to one common objective :) .

20th Jun 2005, 10:33 AM
its like, the age of parallelism or something... like, they cant make cpus run at 4ghz , so they give you 2 cores running at 2ghz each or something like that

well , if hardware begins to get specialized like ppus and gpus and apus, it reminds me of those ancient big flight simulator things, where they dedicate one hardware to rendering terrain, another hardware to rendering the clouds, etc etc

20th Jun 2005, 10:46 AM
Silicon has reached a stage where you can't get much mroe out of it at simple clock cycle level. You'll still see it rising (4GHz P4s, 3GHz amds) slowly but not like before. Instead Moore's Law is allowing them to pack multiple cores per chip without slashing core speed. This allows for a greater ability to do multiple tasks at any one time. This, directly, does not lead to better pefrormance, but programmed right and you have a severe increase in power over certain aspects of gaming. IE UE3.

Finally getting away from the MHz race.

20th Jun 2005, 12:00 PM
consoles have had specialised hardware for each task from the moment they were born.
It's pc's that have only recently seen the advantage of such a construction for certain parts (remember the first hardware-accellerated 2d cards).

The MHz-race is simply replaced by the mulitple-core race and the race to create the lists of buzzwords. Too bad as the MHz-race was at least somewhat easy to understand.

Nowadays you'd need a degree in engineering and markteting-bs to understand what a multi-core cpu with hyperthreading and on-chip memory-managers with superduper bandwidth multiplexers is never mind whether or not it will be faster ...

20th Jun 2005, 12:45 PM
There's no splitting involved, but doubling .. hence SLI. The whole point of GPUs is to process things light lighting realtime, so...

JaFo -> just find teh right benchmarks mate :)

20th Jun 2005, 01:32 PM
like that absoulutley atrocius dual core 512mb 6800 ultra?

Imagine 2 of those in SLI!

21st Jun 2005, 02:36 AM
Nah, you can get 7800s now :)

21st Jun 2005, 10:49 PM
I won't buy the car until 2k7 is out or until (if ever) the add ppu support in 2k4 so I can have my physics maxed out without losing fps. :D

22nd Jun 2005, 02:24 AM
JaFO -> just find teh right benchmarks mate :)
benchmarks rarely if ever cover true life results.

There's lies, damned lies and then there's benchmarks and the statistics they generate ...

Heck ... I'd even say that if you need a benchmark to 'prove' that one cpu is faster then there's no advantage in the real world.