Microsoft acquires Havok physics engine from Intel

After being acquired by Intel eight years ago, Havok is changing hands once more. Microsoft announced that it's purchased the 3D physics software provider from Intel today. Redmond says the acquisition puts another arrow in its quiver of tools for game development, alongside DirectX, Visual Studio, and Azure.

For the uninitiated, Havok is the physics engine beneath a huge range of titles, including Half-Life 2, Assassin's Creed, Call of Duty, Halo, and several hundred other titles across consoles and the PC. Microsoft says it'll continue licensing Havok's tools after the acquisition to allow third-party developers "to create great gaming experiences."

The company also alludes to the possibility of including Havok in its Azure cloud services, as part of its effort to build "the most complete cloud service." Azure services are already part of titles like Crackdown 3 on the Xbox. 

Comments closed
    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 6 years ago

    Is microsoft going to make a physics processing unit???

      • LostCat
      • 6 years ago

      Not bloody likely.

        • VincentHanna
        • 6 years ago

        Virtual physics processing unit.

    • bfar
    • 6 years ago

    A couple of Havoks founders used to teach us Computer Science in Trinity College Dublin. They were very bright guys, great teachers and very decent too. I was always happy that they did well.

      • SomeOtherGeek
      • 6 years ago

      What a cool experience! Those are rare individuals.

        • TruthSerum
        • 6 years ago

        “Rare individuals” indeed

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 6 years ago

    Kinda hope this means hardware-assisted physics will get a true alternative to PhysX for PC gaming that’s widely used.

    On the other hand, I’m betting this is just Microsoft trying to build in another reason for publishers to use their Cloud (Blast) processing to make games better on Xbox One when compared to PS4. Not that it’ll work because no publisher is going to do anything serious these days that inherently makes the game significantly worse on PS4 than Xbox One given the sheer marketshare disadvantage such a choice would have.

    Sony’s giving them a huge window to sell games without first party interference and Sony has a huge lead on Microsoft in units sold. Both are great reasons not to favor any kind of system that makes the PS4 version weak.

    So I’m going to go back to hoping Microsoft’s doing something actually USEFUL (even if just to PC gamers) with Havok rather than wasting their time on shenanigans that won’t work for Xbox One and Cloud (Blast) Processing.

    • kuttan
    • 6 years ago

    PhysX alternative is much needed. Vendor independent Havok physics engine backed by M$ can make Havok pretty strong in the market.

    • confusedpenguin
    • 6 years ago

    Meh, lets get rid of all hardware acceleration and just do everything in software. An Intel processor doing everything. AI, Physics, sound, and 3D graphics. Should run very smoothly. 😉

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Havok does run quite well, in fact. At least, Sleeping Dogs ran well.

        • confusedpenguin
        • 6 years ago

        Lol. 7 thumbs down, and everyone in my family tells me I have a hard time detecting sarcasm. I tried to dish it out, and wham. Either that or I caused much butthurt among sensitive nerds everywhere. Havoc is a nice physics engine. I can’t remember which games used it, but it has been around for a long time. I wish more things were hardware accelerated. They need to bring it back for audio. I don’t care how fast processors are becoming. It’s nice to be able to take the burden off of the main processor. Hardware accelerated NIC, 3D graphics, sound card, and I’d have my dream machine. I look back sometimes and wonder if adding an 80387 math coprocessor to my old computer would have helped any DOS games, i.e. Ultima 7, Wing Commander, etc.

          • LostCat
          • 6 years ago

          Aww I sorry. I just get touchy from some of the snarliness around here.

          • alrey
          • 6 years ago

          don’t worry i’m in agreement with you 🙂

      • sweatshopking
      • 6 years ago

      I knew you were joking.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 6 years ago

      It’s like “hey, the winky face should tell everyone I’m joking” and WHAM people just didn’t stick around to see it.

        • confusedpenguin
        • 6 years ago

        That and I don’t think anyone would be insane enough to wish for the return of those days when programmers had to closely keep track of processor and video memory usage when making games. I’m thinking about the Commodore 64 era. Although for nostalgia and reminiscing, it would be nice to have a very old computer laying around to play on. 🙂
        [url<]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tfh0ytz8S0k[/url<]

    • Bensam123
    • 6 years ago

    And during the physics revolution people predicted that DX12 was going to include a physics engine… That never happened. It’s good to see there is a renewed interest in physics and maybe, hopefully, we can expect to see a full physics engine integrated with DX13. That definitely will help push games forward and should’ve been done years ago.

    It’s unfortunate Nvidia gobbled up Ageia and that was pretty much the end of things back when AMD was talking about making their own engine as well, but this may be the change we’re hoping for.

    • TopHatKiller
    • 6 years ago

    Seriously?! Ha!

    • UberGerbil
    • 6 years ago

    Seems like we’ve been talking about this for over a decade. Wait, [url=https://techreport.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=29&t=41613&p=566034<]we[/url<] [url=https://techreport.com/news/8217/physics-processing-products-to-arrive-this-year<]have[/url<].

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Wow, cool historical insight, thanks!

    • Tristan
    • 6 years ago

    For sure, Intel optimized Havok for their CPU. Maybe MS will optimize this also for AMD CPU.

    • jihadjoe
    • 6 years ago

    A good thing, IMO.

    Software libraries are better off in the hands of software companies. At the very least there’s less incentive for them to lock it down to a specific hardware platform, compared to say a physics engine being owned by a GPU manufacturer.

      • odizzido
      • 6 years ago

      MS will just lock it down on windows though. I don’t really see any difference other than MS already owns DX

        • sweatshopking
        • 6 years ago

        Yeah. They don’t have any software on competing platforms these days.

          • odizzido
          • 6 years ago

          Havok is just for games right? If they released directX for linux I’d be more optimistic but I see this as just another way to keep gamers on windows.

            • sweatshopking
            • 6 years ago

            Released directx for Linux makes no sense. Huge costs and no payoff. That’s not a platform currently worth the development.

            • odizzido
            • 6 years ago

            not for MS at least

            • Meadows
            • 6 years ago

            Not for anyone, unless they work at home and long for some moral justification instead of actual money.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            Yup. For everyone doing cross platform there’s Vulkan, OpenGL, etc.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            At least they’re still supporting both Vulkan and OpenGL on Windows, unlike Apple with its new attempt at vendor lock (Metal).

            • Grape Flavor
            • 6 years ago

            Huh? OpenGL still works on Mac like it always did.

            • Timbrelaine
            • 6 years ago

            They haven’t kept up with newer versions. I believe the last OpenGL version that OS X supports is 4.1, which came out around 5 years ago. They are letting it slowly trend towards obsolescence.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            Drivers are old. And Metal is only supported on Intel integrated graphics.

            EDIT: Clarification. “Fully supported”, as in for all tasks, GUI or otherwise.

            • nexxcat
            • 6 years ago

            Metal is definitely supported on other graphics – otherwise, the 2015 MBP would’ve trounced the 3yr old iMac in Metal benches done by Ars: [url<]http://arstechnica.com/apple/2015/10/metal-performance-in-os-x-el-capitan-sometimes-great-often-mixed/[/url<]

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            [quote<] Even if your Mac is on the support list, there’s a chance that it doesn’t use all of Metal’s advertised features. For example, Apple tells us that the Core Graphics and Core Animation acceleration is available only on Macs that use Intel integrated graphics exclusively. It’s not available on higher-end Macs with dedicated GPUs or in laptops that switch dynamically between integrated and dedicated graphics. The Intel GPUs are the ones that need the most help driving OS X’s UI, but it still seems a bit odd. That said, all of the Macs on the support list can use Metal for gaming and GPGPU tasks, integrated or dedicated. [/quote<] [url<]http://arstechnica.com/apple/2015/09/os-x-10-11-el-capitan-the-ars-technica-review/7/#h1[/url<] [url<]https://techreport.com/news/29126/os-x-el-capitan-and-ios-9-0-2-are-available-for-download?post=941603[/url<]

            • Timbrelaine
            • 6 years ago

            You do realize that they are an OS vendor, right? Why on earth would they spend resources adding features to a competitor? That would be actually insane.

          • blastdoor
          • 6 years ago

          Games appear to be different for some reason, and it seems to have more to do with the Xbox than Windows. If it wasn’t for the Xbox, maybe there would be Halo for Mac…. heck, maybe there would even be Halo for Windows!

        • mdkathon
        • 6 years ago

        Which is good business. Being able to have Windows and Xbox One to use well tuned physics software library sounds like a good way to build value to me.

        • Voldenuit
        • 6 years ago

        Or worse, make it Win10 exclusive, just like DX12.

          • BestJinjo
          • 6 years ago

          That’s good. More reasons to force people to do free upgrades to Windows 10, which is far superior to W7/8/8.1. The more PC gamers migrate to Windows 10, the more developers can start taking full advantage of DX12 — way lower API overhead which means more free performance, more advanced AI as CPU cores are freed up — and Asynchronous Compute — even more free performance or superior graphical features.

          Windows XP/7/8 are holding back progress for next generation games made on Vulkan and DX12 APIs. The sooner all gamers move to W10, the better it is and since W10 is a free upgrade, there are no excuses. If MS needs to make Havok a W10 exclusive, all the better to force people to upgrade.

            • auxy
            • 6 years ago

            While I actually agree for the most part, I did want to point out that Vulkan is completely OS-agnostic and assuming there is a supporting driver, would work fine on Windows 7, 8, or 95. (‘ω’)

            • LostCat
            • 6 years ago

            Vulkan is supposedly only supported on 7 and up, and better on Windows 10 – [url<]https://twitter.com/repi/status/585573314669711361[/url<]

            • auxy
            • 6 years ago

            Only supported on Windows 7 and up because there won’t be a driver that supports it on an older OS.

            • Klimax
            • 6 years ago

            Well, with each WDDM version there are updates to OpenGL driver interface.
            [url<]https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/hardware/ff569877.aspx[/url<]

            • JustAnEngineer
            • 6 years ago

            If you’re using an operating system older than Windows 7, you don’t deserve new games.

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            No one’s holding back “progress”. Yes, we’re holding back “progress” for MS. And Vulkan runs on Windows 7.

            And mark my words, one day you’ll be forced to upgrade even though [i<]you[/i<] don't like it, and people will claim you're holding back progress.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 6 years ago

        We’ll be lucky if it reaches Windows. They’ll probably lock it down to Xbox.

          • Meadows
          • 6 years ago

          I disagree, but even if they did, it doesn’t matter, as not many games use it nowadays anyway. A lot of games either use their own physics or software PhysX like on the consoles.

        • dikowexeyu
        • 6 years ago

        More probably lock down on Xbox, or only on the last Windows version, like DirectX.

      • VincentHanna
      • 6 years ago

      Hardware vs software is rather irrelevant.

      Licensed vs proprietary is the important distinction.

    • TwoEars
    • 6 years ago

    This is going to create havok.

      • DoomGuy64
      • 6 years ago

      Ebrace, Extend, Extinguish. Sounds like Microsoft is getting ready to pull a directsound3d on PhysX.

        • Klimax
        • 6 years ago

        Can’t tell if this is joke or ignorantly serious.

          • DoomGuy64
          • 6 years ago

          Opposed to what exactly? Intel was holding Havok back on things like GPU acceleration, and it’s not like Microsoft hasn’t done this before in other areas.

          The only thing “questionable” might be how I phrased it, because it wasn’t Directsound3d that MS removed, but hardware acceleration, and by extension EAX. Of course, that should be understood by most people, and I shouldn’t have to perfectly spell it out. There probably are better examples too, but whatever. Microsoft could push PhysX into extinction. The question now is, will Nvidia open it up to AMD? Because that’s the only thing that could possibly save it at this point.

            • Klimax
            • 6 years ago

            Microsoft can’t with PhysX nor any other things. DirectSound was exception not rule, because of the way things work. There are no better examples for same reason.

            And frankly, it doesn’t look there is much lost.

    • sweatshopking
    • 6 years ago

    GREAT. PHYSICS BASED SPYING. THANKS M$

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      lol

      • Meadows
      • 6 years ago

      It’s amazing how you went from -9 to +6 as of this comment. I guess the humourless people’s thumbs arrive first.

        • Laykun
        • 6 years ago

        I think some people have poor sarcasm perception.

          • confusedpenguin
          • 6 years ago

          Maybe they are starting to pay agents to crack down on online sarcasm to make it easier for the NSA to detect serious threats. 🙁 I don’t think any form of software or AI could detect sarcasm. Humans have the upper hand. 🙂

            • LostCat
            • 6 years ago

            Well the peacekeepers obviously can’t do it.

          • crabjokeman
          • 6 years ago

          Oh, I thought he was being serious…

    • rika13
    • 6 years ago

    One thing that can be done is include Havok as part of DX13. They could call it DirectPhysics.

      • crabjokeman
      • 6 years ago

      Or they could play on words and call it DirectPhysX! Oh, wait…

        • oldog
        • 6 years ago

        DirectPhysic? That could be cathartic.

      • guardianl
      • 6 years ago

      I hope not, this is what DirectX looks like:

      (first, just the audio…)
      DirectSound : EOL, deprecated (but still widely used, including in new applications)
      DirectSound3D: EOL, deprecated (hardware acceleration was removed with Vista)
      DirectMusic : EOL, deprecated
      DirectAudio: EOL, deprecated (are you confused about audio programming in DirectX yet?)
      XACT3: EOL, deprecated (this is audio too, although you would never guess it from the name, this is the “easy” API)
      XAudio2: Kinda the current audio API

      DirectDraw : EOL, deprecated
      DirectShow: EOL, deprecated
      DirectPlay: EOL, deprecated
      DirectInput: EOL, deprecated
      DirectX.NET: EOL, deprecated after one major release (hahaha)
      Direct3D: still around
      DirectCompute: new

      Some of these like DirectShow just moved to core Windows API (for the most part), but others like DirectSound, DirectMusic and DirectDraw (don’t even pretend WFP is anything like a replacement) are dead but still widely used because they don’t have real replacements.

      I’ll go on record as saying Havok will be effectively canceled, sold or otherwise disposed of by the time we see the Next Xbox (i.e. ~5 years) because Microsoft’s mid-managment is a merry-go-round and every new group tosses the existing “let’s go on an adventure” stuff away when they take over.

        • Ninjitsu
        • 6 years ago

        I thought DirectInput was still widely used?

          • Grape Flavor
          • 6 years ago

          It’s generally been replaced by XInput.

            • guardianl
            • 6 years ago

            XInput is best for the 360 controller, but can’t work with joysticks. So you have to use DirectInput even tho it’s officially deprecated or write against the USB controller spec via the Raw Input API which doesn’t always play nice with older devices.

            • auxy
            • 6 years ago

            Why can’t it work with joysticks?

            • guardianl
            • 6 years ago

            XInput literally only works with Xbox 360 controllers and theoretically other Xbox peripherals. Microsoft basically decided to try to kill what little was left of the joystick/gamepad market for PC in the name of making the PC more like the Xbox.

            [url=https://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/ee417014%28v=vs.85%29.aspx<]API Notes[/url<] "Note Use of legacy DirectInput is not recommended, and DirectInput is not available for Windows Store apps." Again, you can kinda use RawInput instead of DirectInput, but it's a mess. There is no possible way to use Raw Input and have it logically assign key mappings unless you literally test it with every joystick out there because the USB key codes aren't really standardized (different manufactures interpret axis etc. to mean different things). I actually recently did some of this for some VR work, and I wish I could forget I did...

            • auxy
            • 6 years ago

            I ‘literally’ have non-Xbox-360 controllers that work with Xinput. So pardon if I don’t take you at your word. (*’▽’)

            • sweatshopking
            • 6 years ago

            yeah, lots of logitech and other devices support xinput.

            • guardianl
            • 6 years ago

            I wasn’t aware logitech had made xinput compatible devices. The xinput api docs say its for xbox controllers only….

            • Ninjitsu
            • 6 years ago

            But that still means joysticks may be unsupported, as they’re not controllers.

            iirc my Extreme3D Pro uses DirectInput.

            • Klimax
            • 6 years ago

            I have Force3D Pro and games supporting Xinput see it too. And often it causes problems…

            • auxy
            • 6 years ago

            But you understand why this comment is irrelevant, right?

            Because he said that it “can’t’ work with joysticks. Can’t means it can not, which means it never will, which is objectively false.

            So whether or not SOME controllers are NOT supported is irrelevant, only whether or not ANY controllers that are not [i<]Microsoft Xbox[/i<] controllers ARE supported. You understand, right? Like, you get it? You see how your comment is pointless? [url=http://i.imgur.com/qWYp0X0.png<]Mmk. ( `ー´)ノシ[/url<]

            • DrDominodog51
            • 6 years ago

            Where do you find all of these manga things?

            • auxy
            • 6 years ago

            I crop them myself! (*‘ω‘ *)

            • ColeLT1
            • 6 years ago

            Same here, I use PS3 controller + DS3/betterDS3 set on Xinput for rocket league.

    • guardianl
    • 6 years ago

    This has looking for a problem in search of a solution all over it (cloud-enhanced-gaming).

    Many games run the collision/phsyics every other frame (or less) which means you have as much as 66 ms gaps between updates (2 frames @ 30 FPS). That’s enough time theoretically for a round-trip to a server + time to calculate on a server.

    On the other hand, I think in practice no one but Microsoft will attempt this type of “enhancement”. Real world internet connections are pretty variable in terms of latency and bandwidth so this is still mostly a pipe dream.

    Maybe they’ll figure out a use case for Xbox+Azure (other than traditional MP etc.) with something like 250 ms round trip but I don’t think collision/physics is it…

      • NTMBK
      • 6 years ago

      Think multiplayer games, where the host server is running the physics simulation. Keeps it synced across all players, and lets them do more than superficial physics effects.

        • sweatshopking
        • 6 years ago

        Crackdown looks pretty awesome.

          • LostCat
          • 6 years ago

          Everything about Crackdown is awesome, if we forget 2 happened.

      • Ninjitsu
      • 6 years ago

      Well, it allows fully destructible environments to be more friendly to multiplayer environments, a la Crackdown. Also lets the destroyed stuff remain visible, as the client or dedicated server doesn’t need to handle all of that.

      In Arma 3, for example, PhysX isn’t used for dynamic destruction because:
      A) Server load, since using GPU would require the server to have an Nvidia card.
      B) Syncing the destruction at the scale at which Arma is played is a pain
      C) AI soldiers will probably cry.

      That said, Battlefield 3/4 do have some degree of destructible environments, so maybe it’s not [i<]that[/i<] difficult to do today without firing up "cloud" servers.

        • auxy
        • 6 years ago

        The problem with destructible environments in network games is that synchronizing physics simulations on multiple clients over current internet is nightmarish.

        • sweatshopking
        • 6 years ago

        The destructible environments in bf are just either exploded or not. No physics used

    • terminalrecluse
    • 6 years ago

    “The company also alludes to the possibility of including Havok in its Azure cloud services, as part of its effort to build “the most complete cloud service.” Azure services are already part of titles like Crackdown 3 on the Xbox. ”

    Hmm…so the ability to call a the Havok physics library from an xbox game with Azure integration using a sort of API as a Service model?

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