Wood-n't it be nice?

So you’ve broken some wood during your latest gaming adventure… well, not like this. LucasArts is introducing two new gaming technologies with the release of The Force Unleashed. These technologies are Digital Molecular Matter (DMM) by Pixelux Entertainment and euphoria by NaturalMotion Ltd. When these two technologies are combined with the Havok physics engine, gaming gets real. How real do you ask? Well, let me ask you to sit back and imagine this…

If you can remember playing Paper Boy on NES, you might recall this scenario. Even though your throws could be perfectly timed, the game would only have the windows break or that crazy lady with the hoop stop if you released the paper at the exact instant in the game that was tagged to register a successful shot. Thankfully gaming has come a long way since then and it seems that now the room for human error is built-in. No longer do you have to be as precise as you used to be when attacking something to register a hit.

But, did you ever notice that no matter where you shoot from or how hard you punch something, the object always reacts the same way? For example, I could shoot at a door and after enough shots, the door would break away. I could do this from across the street, from the porch, or from the neighbor’s yard. No matter where I shoot from, the door breaks the same way every time. The angle and velocity have no impact on how the door breaks, unless it’s a pivotal moment or object in the game. Programmers only spend extra time on these things when it really counts or the games would cost $200 a piece. Additionally, it’s almost impossible to animate every object and every scenario by hand because by the time the design was finished, a new platform or three would be released.

Now, starting with The Force Unleashed, the laws of the real world will really start to apply. When I shoot from the neighbor’s porch, the shots react with the door differently than when I shoot from the porch or across the street. Maybe I hit the knob and it explodes. Maybe I only scratch the door because it’s a bad angle. Maybe I take out a support beam by mistake and the porch collapses. Now I have to think about where and how I’m shooting because it does make a difference.

I know at this point many reading this will probably say, “So what? So the stupid game looks better. What’s the big deal?” The big deal is that this improvement requires no further coding on the designers part. Not one single additional frame of animation to make these effects happen. Textures, life forms, and other materials will now have “real” substance. They will look, behave, and act as they should in the environment, according to how similar objects act in reality. All the objects are defined, and then “presto” they behave as they should. This means that designers can spend less time worrying about how material reacts and more time on developing cool versatile scenarios.

So what does this mean for you, the gamer? Well, you’ll have a more realistic experience in games using this new technology. In fact, the games may be so realistic that every time you play the game, it’s completely different because this time you accidentally collapsed the porch instead of just shooting down the door. This means an extended life for your games. Now they may actually start to be worth the $60-70 they cost.

LucasArts has a demo up to show off this amazing new feat in gaming design. And what better way to showcase it than to have the demo show R2-D2 being thrown at a piece of wood repeatedly? You can check out the demo here and learn more about these gaming advances and other gaming trends through the links in this post or in another great article here.

Not being much of a consumer of video games (I like to rent), I have to say thankfully this won’t affect my budget any. But I do have to say this new move toward a better gaming “reality” is really cool. I also have to wonder why new, great, “feel-good” news like this is only available on the internet. Anyone?


“If you don’t turn your life into a story, you just become a part of someone else’s story.” – The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents