Tools Spotlight: Fork Particle

Tools Spotlight: Fork Particle
Craig Chapple

By Craig Chapple

November 30th 2011 at 9:00AM

Develop takes a look at the particle effects middleware provider

Fork Particle is a company that specialises in providing particle effects tools to developers.

Founded in 2005 by Noor Khawaja, the California-based firm’s technology has since been used in various regions around the world including North America, Asia, Europe and Australiain on games such as Civilization 5, LEGO Universe, Gun Slinger, Comic Jumper and Empire Earth III.

Khawaja says Fork’s mission “is to set the standard for artist friendly modelling tools for real time particle effects and deliver high performance cutting edge particle systems technology.”

The company’s middleware tools simulate effects such as smoke, fire, rain, snow, explosions, and other visual effects.

The toolkit provides four components, a particle effects authoring tool, a real-time simulation engine, in-game live updates and a data export automation module.

Khawaja says this has been specifically designed for artists so that they can separate the design phase from integration into the game.

The Particle Studio includes features such as super emitters, sword trails, hardware shaders and path following. The Runtime real time simulator engine allows for easy integration with in-house and commercial engines and optimised for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360.

Khawaja says the studio is careful about how it chooses to proceed in an ever-changing industry to make sure that it does not compromise the quality of their middleware.

“Fork Particle is always looking ahead and takes challenges head-on,” he says.

“We have held on to our core principles; we continue to enhance our tools and technology so our users are able to get the highest quality particle effects in their games.

“Our development pipeline to support a new target platform is mature. We are working on four new platforms and maintaining integrations with Havok Vision, Sony Phyre, Gamebryo LightSpeed, Havok Physics, NVidia PhysX, and Perforce.“

He adds that the middleware provider has had its on eye on the casual game developer market for quite some time and “feels that it is a good time to begin our move forward”.

He says plans are afoot to release Fork Particle Casual this year, which will target the sector through both online and mobile platforms.

Despite the emergence of casual gaming, he says that new powerful hardware “works in our favour as it can support new features” and plans to enhance Fork’s particle effects graphics and simulation capabilities to further improve the quality of effects.

He adds that the tools provider will be introducing their new ‘Particle Effects Director’ interface this year, which will enable users to set up movie like particle effects sequences and custom events.

Khawaja says that in future the middleware firm plans to add new features to the toolkit so that it provides a solution to social network games developers.

He also says the company plans to provide integrations of the Fork Particle technology with internet browers, whilst its ‘annual product enhancement technology roadmap’ includes support for particle effects on game UI and further integration with the Autodesk FBX to drive advanced features.