Like painting the sea-while it´s moving
Problem: Whole careers in mathematics have been built on calculating the tiniest movements of less than a square millimeter of fluid. Videogames have to show an entire raging ocean´s worth of the stuff. â€Less than a year ago, there wasn´t enough processing power to dynamically generate the movement of water in games,â€ says Lee Bamber, a programmer for
20 years and founder of The Game Creators, Ltd.
Status: â€Viscosity is the difficulty,â€ says Ron Fedkiw, an associate professor of computer science at Stanford University who worked on the effects for movies like Star Wars: Episode III-Revenge of the Sith and Transformers and now works with Industrial Light & Magic. â€High viscosityâ€-as with solid objects-â€is easy to do. Clay, with a slightly lower viscosity, is harder, and water is harder still.â€ The math is there, Fedkiw says, but it takes supercomputers to pull it off.
What´s next: Game developers are experimenting with particle systems, in which groups of particles respond to events while observing certain rules. And slowly, turbulence modeling-the equivalent, in computational physics, of a ballpark estimate-along with improved processors and algorithms, are beginning to allow for even more lifelike splashes, bubbles and waves.-J.W.
Image: Riding atop a dragon in Lair is made more thrilling by realistic water-a major mathematical challenge