Or, more appropriately,the Havok Game Dynamics SDK
, commonly referred to as Havok 2 (since the current version is the second version).
You may have heard the name Havok 2 passed around casually
every now and then. Or you may have enjoyed similar effects via Porrasturvat
. Perhaps you've downloaded the Stairs
mod for Unreal Tournament 2003
, and enjoyed flinging hapless space marines to their endlessly fascinating, bone-cracking, physically articulated doom. Or maybe even you've used it first-hand as a developer or artist.
Or perhaps not.
What it is
The simplest definition is this paraphrase from the official blurb on Havok's site (www.havok.com):
The Havok Game Dynamics SDK allows you to easily insert physical objects into your game.
Where "objects" refers to just about any virtual entity
embedded into a game, be it a piece of wood, a vehicle
part, or a humanoid
body. What this means for gaming is that it is now far simpler to achieve dynamic special effects. Where before careful scripting
and plotting of all objects was necessary (and usually played out identically each time it occurred), now in-game objects respond realistically to stimulus
. Let's have a simplified example
In the very early part of the game Half Life
, the intrepid nerd
hero Gordon Freeman
is picking his way carefully through the devastated underground government lab
, Black Mesa
. As the player moves past a certain spot, there is a nearby explosion which topples over two huge mainframe
s, falling nearly on top of our hero (and providing a gratuitous heart attack
to the player). What happens behind the scenes is that the game is actually setting off an explosion
effect, and then triggering two objects to shift position from vertical
. None of these objects actually interact physically; their behavior has to be painstakingly specified by the programmer
s, and is identical every time you play the game.
With Havok, all you have to do is designate the two mainframes (and a nearby lamp, and a guard
standing by, and his weapon
, and the two cups of coffee
on top of the mainframes) as Havok objects, then set off the explosion. The force of the explosion will make all of these objects react appropriately, flinging them about with abandon, without further programming needed to make this happen. Since Havok uses some sort of random
ness in its algorithm
s, this event will occur differently (the differences will be small, but still present) each time you play the game.
And that's pretty damn cool.
A few more cool things that Havok offers:
Who's behind it
Havok was founded in 1998 by Hugh Reynolds
and Steven Collins
and has its origins in the computer science
department of Trinity College Dublin
. That's what the website says, and the little timeline there reads like a success story
right out of fairytale
s. In an industry
where ideas and indeed whole companies come and go without having had much impact, Havok has only grown in recognition.
Havok is still located in Dublin, right along the Liffey
The Digital Depot
Tel: +353 1 472 4300
Fax: +353 1 671 0022
Games Havok is (or will be) in: Half Life 2, Deus Ex: Invisible War, Max Payne 2, Second Life
, Lord of the Rings
: Middle Earth Online
, Starcraft: Ghost
, Starsky and Hutch
. So far, it appears that Half Life 2 will be the first game to truly utilize Havok's potential. Max Payne 2 mostly used ragdoll
s and boxes that could be shot; Painkiller is all about gratuitous overuse of the ragdoll effect; Deus Ex: Invisible War did have a few places where hurling boxes was useful as a distraction or a weapon, and a place to use physical objects as stepping stones to a high place, but we have yet to see a more thought-out use of the SDK. I do not doubt that as games become more interactive, we will see more of Havok as well as more competing physics packages.