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Sponsored Feature: 'An Interview with Havok's Jeff Yates'

Havok, long known for physics, now has a reach that extends into other crucial middleware areas. In a sponsored Gamasutra feature that's part of the
January 22, 2009
Havok, long known for physics, now has a reach that extends into other crucial middleware areas. In a sponsored Gamasutra feature that's part of the Intel Visual Computing section, the company's Jeff Yates speaks about the present and the future. Discussing Havok's move from its core area of physics to Animation and Behavior, Yates describes how the company grew into those fields. With Havok Animation, Havok was spurred by requests for demonstrations of their middleware's blending of animation and physics: "In our demo creations, we began to notice that what we were writing was beginning to look more and more like a product. So we decided to build and support a full animation system and tool chain that people could license separately or with Havok Physics -- that's Havok Animation. Havok Behavior came about in much the same way as the Havok Animation product. When we were building our GDC 2005 demo to show off Animation and Physics, we wanted to show a guy walking around on uneven terrain -- getting knocked about by objects, falling down, and then getting up again convincingly, using a blend of animation assets ... The demo required a lot of creative tweaking to get the right game-play. Unfortunately, that tweaking had to be done by the programming team, and the creative iteration loop was slower than having the designers work directly with a tool. We saw first-hand how the creative process could be improved by moving more of the tweaking and tuning process for the data-components "up stream," to free up the programming team. So we built Havok Behavior -- an SDK for the programmers, wrapped by a tool for animators and designers." Yates also commented on where he sees Havok moving towards with animation blending, procedural animation, and behavior technology in the future: "Chris Hecker gave a fantastic talk last year at the Montreal International Game Summit. In talking about music and synthesizers, he mentioned how in the old days, synthesizers were purely synthetic, and then they became sampled. And rather than just one or the other, there was a blending of the synthesis approach and the sampling approach, which allowed musicians to achieve stellar results. I believe the future is going to be driven by great samples -- which in the case of animation could be fundamentally great leaping animations or reactive animations. Think of it as a node tree or a processing graph -- in the runtime -- in which those types of animations actually get mixed in with constraints in the world. Factors such as where the ground is and how fast the character is moving become very malleable results that can change every time you play the game. That is definitely where things are headed." You can now read the full sponsored feature, in which Havok's Jeff Yates talks further about the company's Animation and Behavior components, and also discusses plans for newer components like Destruction and Cloth.

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