I need collision detection for my 3D racing game but it isn't going well right now. I think I understand the concept of testing boxes and generating a response, however implementation part is a nightmare for me. OpenGL makes everything more complicated than it has to be.

How can I use a shape that is constructed with glVertex*? Should I create the bounding boxes with some Vector3D class?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you want to do your collision detection on the CPU or GPU? Do you want to write your own code for learning purposes? otherwise you might consider implementing well tested opensource solutions. \$\endgroup\$
    – cppanda
    Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 0:52
  • \$\begingroup\$ I do collision calculations on CPU since GPU programming is a little advanced for me right now. I want to write my own code. I also could use a library like Havok, but I guess, with the same time that I spend learning how to use those libraries, I can write my own code; plus at the end of the day, I'd learned some stuff. \$\endgroup\$
    – hevele
    Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 10:27

1 Answer 1


At the end of your question you're on the right track; object-oriented programming is your friend here. You'll want to create various mathematical classes, like vectors and matrices, or use a pre-existing math library like glm to save yourself the pain of mistyped indices or an improper w component.

From there, you can create various classes that represent your collision structures, probably your standard AABBs and OOBBs, and then write the algorithms for testing for collisions between them.

The important thing to remember is that OpenGL is strictly a rendering library. It handles graphics, nothing else. This means that the other subsystems of your game may take on whatever architecture you want them to; the only restriction that OpenGL places you under is that your data can be easily transferred into a format that OpenGL expects. To give examples, an array of floats for vertex data, texture coordinates, normals, etc; most often an array of floats.

To put it another way, you don't want to think of how GL calls like glVertex* will factor into the design of your physics shapes, because OpenGL is an entirely different subsystem. Instead, think of what's easiest for you to work with in the context of physics, and then determine how you want to render that data.

Here's an example: let's say you decide you represent your AABBs using four values: the center of the bounding box (as a 3D point), and its width, height, and depth. When it comes to rendering this box (probably in a debug rendering situation), you can construct your vertices on the fly, with the following pseudo-code:

draw function:
    - compute the 8 corners of the box using the center and dimensions
    - assemble this in the triangle format OpenGL expects
    - push the generated data to OpenGL for rendering

Note that for data like models, things are very different. Models don't have a functional purpose other than visually representing something in the game world, so their data representation is heavily tied to the rendering engine. Hence, models are specified with the very same data that will be pushed to the renderer.

To sum up, for something that is not functionally tied to rendering - in your case, physics structures - ignore rendering while you design it. If you have a physics structure that you want to render, determine the best way to do so without compromising a representation that is easy for your physics system to digest. OpenGL is actually quite unrestrictive when you think about it, because all it requires are numbers.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks for explaining the big picture extensively. I have one question in my mind. If I represent my OOBBs with some vector class, do I have to transform those points with another function as I transform my OpenGL shape, right? \$\endgroup\$
    – hevele
    Commented Dec 23, 2012 at 10:21
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MertToka I'm not sure I follow; are you asking if you will have to use two separate methods to transform the points of your physics shape and its corresponding graphical representation? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Dec 24, 2012 at 3:23

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