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Physics for Game Developers [Paperback]

David M Bourg
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
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Physics for Game Developers: Science, math, and code for realistic effects Physics for Game Developers: Science, math, and code for realistic effects
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Book Description

Nov. 20 2001 0596000065 978-0596000066 1

Colliding billiard balls. Missile trajectories. Cornering dynamics in speeding cars. By applying the laws of physics, you can realistically model nearly everything in games that bounces around, flies, rolls, slides, or isn't sitting still, to create compelling, believable content for computer games, simulations, and animation. Physics for Game Developers serves as the starting point for those who want to enrich games with physics-based realism.

Part one is a mechanics primer that reviews basic concepts and addresses aspects of rigid body dynamics, including kinematics, force, and kinetics. Part two applies these concepts to specific real-world problems, such as projectiles, boats, airplanes, and cars. Part three introduces real-time simulations and shows how they apply to computer games. Many specific game elements stand to benefit from the use of real physics, including:

  • The trajectory of rockets and missiles, including the effects of fuel burn off
  • The collision of objects such as billiard balls
  • The stability of cars racing around tight curves
  • The dynamics of boats and other waterborne vehicles
  • The flight path of a baseball after being struck by a bat
  • The flight characteristics of airplanes

You don't need to be a physics expert to learn from Physics for Game Developers, but the author does assume you know basic college-level classical physics. You should also be proficient in trigonometry, vector and matrix math (reference formulas and identities are included in the appendixes), and college-level calculus, including integration and differentiation of explicit functions. Although the thrust of the book involves physics principles and algorithms, it should be noted that the examples are written in standard C and use Windows API functions.

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Aimed at the game developer or student/hobbyist interested in physics, Physics for Game Developers reviews all the maths for creating realistic motion and collisions for cars, airplanes, boats, projectiles, and other objects along with C/C++ code for Windows. While this authoritative guide isn't for the "mathphobe", the author's clear presentation and obvious enthusiasm for his subject help makes this book a compelling choice for anyone faced with adding realistic motion to computer games or simulations.

It's the clear, mathematical presentation here that makes this title a winner. Starting with the basics of Newtonian mechanics, the author covers all the equations needed to understand velocity, acceleration, kinematics and kinetics, among other concepts. A knowledge of college maths (including calculus) is assumed. (Appendices review the basics of matrix and quaternion mathematics for those needing a refresher.)

Central to this book is its presentation of modelling projectiles, airplanes, ships and cars. The author first presents essential mathematical concepts for each kind of object. (For instance, pitch, yaw and roll, and lift for airplanes, modelling fluid drag for ships and braking behaviour for cars.) For many chapters, Bourg then presents Windows-based DirectX programs in C++ to illustrate key concepts. For example, you can experiment with different parameters to view a cannonball's path. (On their own, these programs make this book a great companion text to any advanced high-school or college physics course since students can see the effect of each variable on the behaviour of each body in motion for a variety of equations.)

Modelling collisions is a central concern here (a necessity, of course, for action games). To this end, the author provides collision detection and the mathematics of 3-D rigid bodies for simulating when bodies collide. As the sample programs get more involved, the author discusses techniques of tuning parameters for performance. A standout chapter here models a fluttering flag using particle systems.

In all, this text proves that physics and computers are a perfect match. The author's patient and clear mathematical investigations of common formulas and concepts can add realistic motion to any computer game, as well as help teach essential concepts to any student or hobbyist who's interested in physics and doesn't mind a little college-level maths. --Richard Dragan


An excellent book…After reading this book, you won’t think about classical mechanics or translating a model into executable code as a dry subject. -- Bill Schweber, EDN Magazine, April 18, 2002

Do not let the basic calculus and vector algebra scare you away the explanations are clear and down to earth. -- Brian D Foy, The Perl Review, April 2002

For the experienced game developer who is looking to learn about physical simulation... -- Jeff Lander, Game Developer, March 2001

It's really good seeing all this stuff put together in
one relatively concise volume, and I think that Bourg
has done a bang-up job with it. -- Martin Heller, Byte.com, March 11, 2002

Teachers in secondary school physics courses should finds it a useful resource for the way it explains and presents mechanics and physics. -- Major Kerry, Book News, March 2002

This book is highly recommended to both game programmers and physics teachers. -- Computer Shopper, April 2002

While it is definitely not for the math adverse, PGD is clear, concise, and beautifully produced. -- Greg Wilson, Dr Dobbs Journal, May 2002

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
While the book has some value (primarily owing to its choice of topic and introductory level), the impact it might have is greatly reduced by its examples reliance on non-metric units -- and a variety of dissimilar choices at that. It makes as much sense as using EBCDIC in your examples in a work on text processing. The result is that the examples suffer a loss of literal value if you wanted to quickly transplant them into a project that has the good sense to use metric measures to avoid confusion over unit conversions.
Secondly, the code examples are sparsely documented. This causes trouble if one wants to transcode one into another language (as I did in taking the flag simulation to Java). One is reduced to blinking and trying to figure out whether the first or second dimension of an array in the author's example corresponds to the flag's height along the pole or its "fly". He's presented a lot in this code, and there are so few comments in it to clarify the arbitrary choices within that a great benefit would have been realized had he added a few. Even had they been taken from the text of the chapter, they would have produced a more valuable result.
I would love to see Mr Bourg attempt a second edition that attended to some of these needless editorial choices.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well Done Jan. 5 2004
By A Customer
For really, really small objects, Newton's laws of motion don't apply (that's why we have Quantum mechanics and the like.) For everything else, we follow Sir Issac. If you're a game developer, you'll need more than a rudimentary understanding of physics if your aim is realism. David M. Bourg's most recent book covers the theory you'll need to polish your game while keeping it "real."
Inside the covers, you'll discover a review of Newton's laws accompanied by a hearty dose of explanatory graphics. Warning: as a prerequisite, he assumes solid math and basic intro college physics skills. Next, he segues into Kinematics, you know, the underlying mechanics of motion of objects.) He teaches linear and angular displacement, velocity and acceleration. Don't worry, it's not all equations and graphs, he includes helpful sample code (in C) too.
The final chapters cover advanced topics like 3D rigid body simulators and rotations, collision response and particle systems. Before you reach those chapters however, Bourg covers specific examples for projectiles, aircraft, ships, hovercraft and cars.
With the advancement in speed and power of today's microcomputers, achieving reality in games is certainly possible. Bourg's book helps you achieve that without having to spend days in the library pouring over college physics texts. This book is a sound physics review and very well written for the gaming professional.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Nice refresher with basic application in games July 24 2003
Even if you haven't taken physics, this does give you a nice overview of the science. Everything is covered with the idea that it can be used in games. Naturally there is math involved, but nothing overwhelming. Overall, I found that this can be pretty helpful as a side reference, but it doesn't offer anything ground breaking. Naturally, there isn't much in physics that you can't learn from school...but a lot of people have problems learning physics from school anyway.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Physics De-ruster June 25 2003
If you're a Computer Science major you most likely were forced feed physics in college, and totally forgot about now days. Basically this book gets the rust off your math and physics gears and provides a great deal of formulas for many vehicle models. This book is great for programmers tackling real physics for game engines and simulation models. When I was working on an aircraft lift model this book cut my development time in half, it feed me formulas, examples and code. It saved me time in researching and allowed me to have more time to program and design.
Basically if you look at this book as a reference guide for physics this book is prefect. It's a great resource to have in an engine programmer's library.
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3.0 out of 5 stars KNOW YOUR CALCULUS! May 19 2003
While I did find this book informative, I must warn potential readers that very advanced math is required to make any sense at all of this book. I'm not talking matrices and trig, here, folks. This book assumes knowledge of Integral calculus and differential equations. My integral calculus is rusty, having never used it since college, and I never did take differential equations. Luckily, I used my trusty college calculus book to review so that I could interpret this book. I have read dozens of books on 3D graphics and game design, including Math of Game Programmers, and this book is the most mathematically involved.
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1.0 out of 5 stars I could be stoopid, but... Dec 6 2002
By K. Baum
I've been trying for over an hour to get the flight simulator sample provided with this book to do anything remotely realistic; so far, no dice (unless you consider weird wobbles, wild oscillation and almost immediate stalling a good thing.) If the author's example doesn't demonstrate a realistic flight model, how is an ignorant sap like me supposed to develop one?
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5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive Sept. 4 2002
This book is impressive, close every other book!!
All physics formulas and theory that a software engineer developing games or simulators ought to know. However, if you don't have a good math background then you're probably better off buying another more comprehensive book.
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