What Is Gameworks? (And Why We’re Investing in It)

by Rev Lebaredian

Great gaming hardware needs great games.

We’re not afraid to say we build the world’s most advanced GPUs. But breakthrough gaming experiences—like Borderlands: The Pre Sequel, launched this month—rely on more than great hardware. That’s why we devote a lot of resources to creating terrific software, too.

We do this because we know gamers seek out great experiences. We play these games, so we know what it’s like when a game shows you things you’ve never seen before. And we know how hard developers work to create those experiences. That’s why we built GameWorks—software libraries and tools that put our latest ideas at their disposal.

It’s an effort led by a team of developers at NVIDIA dedicated to advancing the state of the art. Some are veterans of top-tier game development shops with years of coding experience. Others are Ph.D.s from some of the world’s best universities. They help navigate the cutting-edge computational mathematics underlying the most important graphics algorithms.

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It’s paying off, and not just for gamers who use our hardware. More than half of all the top PC games in 2014 now include GameWorks technologies. But, if anything, that understates our impact. Most of the major game engines—CryEngine3, id Tech 5, Source, Unreal Engine 4 and Unity—now include support for GameWorks features. As a result GameWorks technologies find their way into console, mobile and cloud gaming systems.

Let’s touch on a few of our efforts.

HairWorks

NVIDIA HairWorks builds on existing NVIDIA technologies to help developers render hair and fur in a more lifelike manner than had ever been possible.

In Witcher 3, from Poland’s CD Projekt, players encounter a charging wolf that has 200,000 separate strands of fur, all simulated in real time. Animators can control all aspects of the fur’s behavior, from “waviness” to “clumpiness.” The same fidelity is seen on the manes and tails of the horses that are everywhere in the game’s medieval European setting, as well as the hair on many of the human characters.

We scare because we've got... hair: GameWorks helps developers feature more real looking creatures.
We scare because we’ve got better hair: GameWorks helps developers feature more realistic-looking creatures.

HairWorks also struts its stuff with Riley, the beloved German Shepherd in Call of Duty: Ghosts. In that game, HairWorks is simulating up to a half million strands of fur on Riley alone, both their primary and secondary motion. We’ve worked hard to make sure this works well on not just our hardware, but all DirectX 11-capable systems.

Explosions

Explosions are a staple of the most popular games, and with explosions comes the inevitable smoke. APEX Turbulence is another component of GameWorks, one that allows developers to render smoke with complete immersive realism. Call of Duty: Ghosts used this NVIDIA software to spectacular effect. Not only is the fog from the blast of a smoke grenade rendered; each particle of smoke becomes interactive and can be influenced by other physics in the game. You can see this when the smoke dissipates as characters run through it, as it does in real life.

Fluids

Interactive fluid simulation has been featured in several popular games, such as Crazy Machines II and Alice: Madness Returns. In Borderlands 2, the fluid effects provide more immersive gameplay. One of the game characters spits Slag at players, coating them with goo and making them more susceptible to attacks. The slime takes full advantage of NVIDIA fluid simulation; good players know to avoid it and increase their chance of survival. Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel contains even more realistic fluid effects.

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Fluid simulation leads to more immersive slime effects in Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel.

Just Looking

Hair. Explosions. Fluids. This isn’t all GameWorks does. But if you’re looking for a few reasons why we built GameWorks, boot up Call of Duty: Ghosts or Borderlands 2.

Call it a case of what you see is what you get. Forget insidery terms like PhysX, FaceWorks, MFAA, TXAA, middleware or HBAO+ (they’re important—but we’ll get to them in future posts). Instead, take a moment and look.

You can see our GameWorks team’s handiwork when a character’s hair rustles in the wind; or an explosion rips though a room; or a cascade of water runs over a landscape. That’s why we built GameWorks: it’s an investment that gets results gamers see every day.