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Physics engine grounds Earthrise players

James Egan

Being grounded in this case is a positive thing. Honest. Moll, the Community Manager for the sci-fi MMO Earthrise, typically fields a 'Question of the Week' over at the game's forums. This time, Moll answered a few related questions in one go, writing about the physics engine in Earthrise. Moll stressed that Masthead Studios wanted to balance client requirements with server load, while trying to build a realistic experience for Earthrise's players:

"The physics engine will run simultaneously on the client and on the server. The server will ensure that the physics results from the client are feasible and prevent cheating. We are using a 3rd party physics core, which can take advantage of hardware and GPU acceleration and also have some internally-coded subsystems."
Sound will be tightly integrated with all physics effects in the game, adding another layer of realism. Best of all is the revelation about Earthrise's physics engine: it will feature ragdoll style effects.

Moll explained that players, NPC's and objects within Earthrise are governed by forces generated by the physics engine, namely gravity and wind. Vehicle motion and collisions are affected by the mass of a given object; visual effects including particle systems, explosion blast waves and projectiles will also benefit from the engine on the client side.

The ragdoll system "will augment animations to ensure good foot to surface contact, maintain player look and pose, provide realistic hit, knockback, and fall movements," Moll said. Another significant announcement made is that bunnyhopping will not be a part of the Earthrise experience. "We're still working on many aspects of movement and dynamics, by considering the combat system in every aspect, as well as realism," Moll stated.

This is good news. Imagine the futuristic utopia of Sal Vitas, a thriving city which stands as a testament to humanity's achievement. Yet venture outside of this ivory tower into other regions of Enterra Island and you discover long-forgotten places, crumbling and burned out -- besieged by mutants and other gene freaks. Given all this attention to mood and setting in Earthrise, at least what's evident so far from screenshots and newsletters, having players bouncing about like so many dropped Skittles runs counter to the direction Masthead Studios is taking the game. The richness of the environment would be spoiled by the incessant hopping of avatars trying to remain as unassailable as possible.

Masthead Studios wants to diminish this sort of tactic and how it detracts from immersion in the setting, so jumping will burn off small amounts of stamina, thereby limiting the behavior. That said, they aren't eliminating the ability to jump to avoid damage or to cover ground faster. Rather, they're adding abilities to the game which will modify jumping, allowing it to be used in certain situations more effectively and, hopefully, avoid having battlefields that resemble a Bravia ad.
More power to them.


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