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Is knowledge of physics necessary to design quality games? How important is it? Be realistic and explain a few novice examples of how's mandatory.

What kind of physics is necessary, non-calculus-based or calculus-based? Do I need to know Physics III (modern, heat, light, waves)? In summary, what part (and level) of physics must one know?

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Vector math is very important in 3D programming. –  stephelton Apr 11 '12 at 3:44
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As stephelton above me said, vector math is extremely important for pretty much any 2D or 3D game. However, physics knowledge isn't necessary for a lot of simple games. There are physics-like concepts you should understand a bit about, like collision, but you won't need calculus or physics classes for that as long as you keep it simple. A lot of things you may want to do can be simulated simply enough that players won't care much, like friction, or sliding, or gravity. A decent grasp of physics will likely help in many situations though. –  Nic Foster Apr 11 '12 at 3:51
    
@NicFoster that should have been an answer ;) –  stephelton Apr 11 '12 at 4:50
    
Thermodynamics come in handy when studying soft bodies such as balls/ balloons that behave in a plausible manner (pV = nRT equation here is your friend). Lennard-Jones potentials from molecular Physics are quite useful for some neat particle effects.. Light equations are nice to know if you go for ray casting through volumes (accumulation ray integral I think). Most games require particle effects - you need crude Euler integrators with mass points. Also, animation-interpolation curves in 3D are quite important. In all: particle systems + interpolation curves are quite common for small games. –  teodron Apr 11 '12 at 11:44
    
@stephelton: I just put it up as an answer. –  Nic Foster Apr 11 '12 at 14:55

5 Answers 5

There anything that you need to know in order to develop games. It depend what's your better knowdledge, that you should make some kind of game of another. Or depends of your traits, you should make a part of another in a game studio.

How do you see yourself?

  • Programer [gameplay programmer, graphics programmer, network programmer... etc]
  • Artist [2d artist, 3d modeller, ...et]
  • Designer [level designer, script...etc]
  • Musician
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+0 It helps to answer questions from the perspective of the 'lone ranger' on this site. In other words pretend OPs are 'all of the above'. –  Jonathan Dickinson Apr 12 '12 at 16:29

It depends.

There are many areas of game development, just as there are many areas of physics.

First, you will only need to know physics for games that require physics, obviously!If you're making an MMO, for example, you probably wont need physics.

But, as soon as there is any falling, velocities, acceleration and things like that involved, you'll need physics. Mostly, it's just movement stuff, m1v1 + m2v2 = m1v3 + m2v4, dS = V*dT, and your regular formulas you already know. I doubt that you will need anything more complicated from that, at least for now.

What is the problem, though, is applying physics. Collision detection isn't really an area of physics (or at least until you get to the subatomic level), but you still need it in your physics engine.

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As stephelton said in the comments to your question, vector math is extremely important for pretty much any 2D or 3D game. However, physics knowledge isn't necessary for a lot of simple games. There are physics-like concepts you should understand a bit about, like collision, but you won't need calculus or physics classes for that as long as you keep it simple. A lot of things you may want to do can be simulated simply enough that players won't care much, like friction, or sliding, or gravity. A decent grasp of physics will likely help in many situations though.

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+1 for vectors. Linear algebra and affine transformations are extremely useful for simplifying equations. –  NeuroFuzzy Apr 11 '12 at 19:07
    
@NeuroFuzzy what is an application of an affine transformation, in regards to game development? –  newprogrammer Apr 12 '12 at 6:05
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world coordinate to screen coordinate transformations, composition of matrices so that objects can be fixed relative to each other (limbs). Really anything to do with translating, scaling, or rotating objects (especially doing all three at once). Besides affine linear algebra, there's also dot product, useful for anything "in the direction of" anything else (shooting, turning, pointing). Linear algebra is also what turns a 3d object into a 2d point on your screen (1 matrix+1 division=point on screen!) –  NeuroFuzzy Apr 13 '12 at 8:06

You can write complete games without any physics knowledge depending on the type of the game. For example puzzle games rarely have any physics. If you want to have physics simulation you can use existing physics engines, but then you need some basic knowledge of the physics, e.g. about mass, inertia and impulses. You don't need to do the math, but you need to understand the concepts. Knowing the underlying math helps even more.

On the other hand in game development you can utilize almost any kind of physics if you want to and you have an idea where to use it. This can include rigid bodies, soft bodies, lighting, heat simulation, water pressure or theory of relativity for a game in space. It's up to you, but no physics knowledge is mandatory in general. Math is important though. You can hardly avoid that, as it's everywhere.

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Physics isn't really necessary unless you want to have physics in your game. While a good general knowledge of physics is recommended, it's not necessary if you're using someone else's physics engine (which I would recommend). Also, calc based physics will get you farther. And, you really only need to know mechanics but the other things don't hurt. All in all though, it depends on what you're doing.

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Mechanics of Solids and Fluids; I'm taking that next semester. Thanks for the advice, I'll be sure to pay extra attention. –  nodebase Apr 11 '12 at 3:53

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