Havok Buzz: How triple-A influenced Project Anarchy

Havok Buzz: How triple-A influenced Project Anarchy
Will Freeman

By Will Freeman

August 29th 2013 at 4:45PM

A look at how the top studios informed the creation of Havok's new tool suite

[This feature was published in the August 2013 edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

In case you missed that Havok recently unleashed Project Anarchy, it is fairly easy to get up to speed on.

The tech suite offers mobile studios, indies and small teams a wide-ranging toolset centered around a version of Havok’s Vision Engine, including significant elements of the company’s famed Physics, AI and Animation Studio tools.

And while it might not be conceived for triple-A teams hundreds in number strong, whether they know it or not, it is the development talent behind blockbuster games that have shaped the creative platform that is Project Anarchy.

“Our lineage has always been in triple-A,” explains Havok’s long-serving head of product management Andrew Bowell.

“What that’s resulted in is a quite clear offering. Firstly, there’s the core of what we do; our runtime. It’s that tight, restrained, platform-optimised code that is designed to work on all platforms in the most efficient possible way; that’s what drives our Physics, Animation, AI technology and so forth. That’s what the triple-A guys demand.”

But, in addition to these needs, Bowell says teams also want Havok to provide a thoroughly flexible API.

“They need that core from us, and they need to be able to open it up and tool away,” he offers, elaborating on his point.

“They need access to source code, and we need to get it out to them in C++, as that’s their language of choice. And then we’ve worked together with those developers to make our tools perfect for the job.”

FROM THE TOP

But what does all that have to do with Project Anarchy, squarely aimed as it is at studios and individuals that would unlikely lay claim to being triple-A?

The answer, says Bowell, is that that very relationship with large-scale studios has shaped the product Project Anarchy has become, giving mobile developers and their peers a highly refined toolset to work with.

“That kind of collection and aggregation of experience and technology you can only get over time,” states Bowell.

“What triple-A developers have asked for before is now shipping with Project Anarchy. Those big developers have really informed what Project Anarchy is; they’ve contributed in their own right really.

"I think the community will quickly appreciate these tools that are quite unique in that they are molded by the people doing big budget games, and are also suited for studios working on the likes of mobile projects.”

And, says Bowell, that means in using Project Anarchy developers can learn lessons from the way big studios work. He believes that many of the included features will serve the same roles that they did in the full-scale Havok products, providing developers with solutions to problems, meaning users can quickly embrace triple-A approaches to the universal intricacies of making games.

IN THE BLOOD

Furthermore, in the same way Havok has used triple-A studios’ input to shape its renowned tools over the past 15 years, today it hopes mobile outfits can contribute to the future feature set of Project Anarchy.

“We’re really into just listening to our users,” insists Bowell. “And that’s our general philosophy across Havok, to the point that a large part of our support network is about working with developers in that way, to offer them what they need.”

The next couple of Project Anarchy updates will serve to flesh out the middleware’s platform support, adding in the likes of Android-x86 and Tizen support. After that point, the technology’s team will be pulling in the input of users, particularly from its community forums.

“We’re intrigued to see where our community will take the tool with us,” says Bowell, before moving on to the impact Project Anarchy may have on mobile games.

“Game worlds used to be static,” he offers. “Then they became dynamic, and then destructible. When things got dynamic that’s when Havok physics came in and made its name, and later Havok Destruction did the same thing as destruction became a reality.

“Destruction isn’t in the box with Project Anarchy, but a form of it is part of our pro version, which you can upgrade to. What we’re hoping is to see that those tools impact mobile games and such in the same way they did in the world of triple-A. This will become even more relevant as powerful mobile devices continue to flood the market.”

It’s a promising foundation for an exciting future, and with Project Anarchy’s user community growing with aplomb, there’s every chance Bowell’s optimistic vision for mobile games will become a reality.

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