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Particle Physics


Josh

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I made some changes to the design of the particle system. I am less concerned with the exact behavior of particles as they move around and move interested right now in building a system with good performance and deep physics interactions. Although I want particle behavior to be customizable, I don't think scripts are the right tool for the job. C++ plugins are better suited for this for two reasons.

  • C++ is much faster, and particles are a system that will make heavy use of that.
  • Lua scripts can't be run on separate threads.

In Leadwerks Engine 4 we have basic particle collisions, but I wanted something more interactive in the new system. I move the particle update code into the physics thread. I implemented collision as well as the ability for particles to exert forces on other objects. Here's what happens when some slow-moving smoke particles interact with a scene: The lower platform rotates freely while the upper platform is motorized.

When the particle velocity is increase they start to behave like a stream of water:

Best of all, the speed is surprisingly fast. 4000 particles with collision update in just 2 milliseconds. The code scales well across cores so if you have a lot of CPU cores simulations with 100,000 particles are possible.

Right now particles are processed in the physics thread, and get sent to the rendering thread for display, but right now the main thread actually never sees the individual particles.

This is fast enough I think particles will default to full physics. Instead of just being a dumb visual effect we are going to have fully interactive fluids and gases. Flamethrowers can fill a room with fire and it will creep around corners to fill a space.

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This is certainly a pretty cool feature! Whenever physics is involved, however, the programmer needs to keep in mind that there might be slower systems out there and things might break when executed on slower systems. The programmer might e.g. be tempted to give an option to reduce the particle effects on lower end hardware but then the entire physics might break.

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