In my 2D game I have a PhysicsEngine class. It currently does two things:

  1. Called every frame to apply global forces on all entities (e.g. gravity).
  2. Called by the CollisionDetector to do the physics part of collision response.

Currently, (almost) all physics-related logic goes through this class (including single-line things like entity.applyImpulse(..)).

My question is, from an OO design perspective: is it okay for an entity to do simple physics logic by itself, or should all physics logic (even simple things) go through classes dedicated to it?

For example: in my game, when spotting a collision the CollisionDetector notifies both entities to take care of gameplay related logic, and the PhysicsEngine to take care of physics related logic. Looks like this:

// on collision between entityA and entityB
entityA.handleCollision(entityB); // take care of gameplay
entityB.handleCollision(entityA); // take care of gameplay
physicsEngine.handleCollision(entityA, entityB); // take care of physics

But what if, for example when a Missile hits something I want to apply an impulse on the hit object? (In addition to the physics that always happens on collisions, in PhysicsEngine).

This is easy to do by simply adding about 3 lines of code to the handleCollision() method in Missile:

public void handleCollision(Entity entity) {
    Vector impulse = entity.getPosition().subtract(this.position);

However, this would be putting physics logic in a 'gameplay' class. Should the Missile delegate to the PhysicsEngine in some way? Or is it okay that it would contain physics logic?

Another example I encountered in my game, is that when an entity 'fires' a Missile, I want to apply an impulse on the entity to push it backwards. Again, this can be done easily by adding 2-3 lines to the fire() method in the Entity subclass, but I'm not sure it's okay design-wise to mix gameplay and physics logic.

So, is it acceptable to have simple physics logic mixed with the gameplay logic? Or should I always separate the two?

How is this done in 'serious' games?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes this is fine. There are no rules saying your code cannot do something a specific way. "Mixing logic", as you call it seems to work fine. \$\endgroup\$
    – RandyGaul
    Commented Jun 28, 2014 at 19:01

2 Answers 2


It's not at all uncommon to see games where some game objects have non-standard physical behavior that have to be managed by a particular controller (e.g. a character controller).

These typically use the physics engine to the extant possible (from applying custom impulses all the way down to only using the collision detection of the engine) but otherwise side-step the engine's usual integration and kinematics in order to precisely control the behavior of the object.


Yep, this is fine for small programs. Game play has to exist in some environment, it's not this abstract notion that contemplates its own navel all day long, and in your case you've defined that environment as a physics simulation.

In a trading game the game play code must know about markets and values, and so on.

I would create helpers and intermediaries that stand between your game play code and the raw physics calls, if not only to isolate boilerplate and make the game code easier to read.


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