Physics simulations typically require physical geometry to be provided in a series of convex hulls that approximate the shape of the object. This is because the intersection of two convex objects can be calculated fast enough for use in real-time simulations.
One solution for creating this type of physical geometry is to create a low-detail model of the object in a modeling program. However, this process can be tedious and is often overlooked by artists. Auto-generating this type of geometry from the visual mesh itself would be ideal.
Convex decomposition is a technique that takes an artbitrary polygonal mesh and transforms it into a series of convex hulls. Unfortunately until recently such algorithms were unreliable and produced physics geometry that was far too high-detail for real-time physics, as shown in the image below:
One solution was to model a low-poly polygonal mesh and then run that through the convex decomposition routine. Although this relieved the artist from the requirement of modeling shapes as separate convex objects, it created a situation that was the worst of both worlds; physics geometry still had to be modeled by hand, but the unreliability of a convex decomposition algorithm also had to be accounted for. For this reason, I have chosen to avoid using this technique until now. However, physics geometry is our bottleneck right now in getting more content into Leadwerks, and this is a problem that has been on my mind.
VHACD is a new(er) convex decomposition library. Apparently it's been around for a while, but I've only heard of HACD until recently, which did not produce very usable results. VHACD works by converting polygonal geometry into voxel data and creating a series of convex shapes from this data. Integrating this into Leadwerks took just two days, as it was very similar to the old HACD code, which was integrated at one point, but never saw the light of day because I did not feel it was good enough to release. The results of the new algorithm are, in most cases, about as good as hand-modeled geometry. This is generated purely from the visual geometry, so there is no need to hand-model a low detail collision mesh:
You can try this feature out right now if you opt in to the beta branch on Steam, on Windows. Open a model in the editor and select the Tools > Convex Decomposition... menu item to open the convex decomposition dialog.
Thanks to Khaled Mamou and Julio Jerez for their work in this area.