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Microsoft has acquired Havok. The long-running physics-based middleware toolset that has been used in countless games over time is now officially under Microsoft's umbrella after an announcement went out earlier today.
Over on the official Microsoft website there's a blog post about the acquisition of Havok by Microsoft.
If you're thinking this might have something to do with the upcoming, physics-heavy open-world action game for the Xbox One, Crackdown 3, you're not wrong. As noted on the blog...
Microsoft’s acquisition of Havok continues our tradition of empowering developers by providing them with the tools to unleash their creativity to the world. We will continue to innovate for the benefit of development partners. Part of this innovation will include building the most complete cloud service, which we’ve just started to show through games like “Crackdown 3.”
Crackdown 3 will also be the first real-world testbed for Microsoft's Azure cloud services. While we have heard a lot about the “power of the cloud” the one thing that we haven't actually seen is any real-world examples that are applicable from an end-user perspective. Many of the physics-based compute tests and simulations that Microsoft have ran, whether they were synthetic or theoretical, have always been in closed-door or controlled environments.
There are a lot of doubts and suspicions about the power of the cloud in regards to real-world application given its reliance on internet connectivity and bandwidth consistency. In the case of Crackdown 3, the game has been promoted to contain multiplayer maps with fully destructible city environments. Not only that but the game uses stress-based physics similar to Volition Studios' Red Faction: Guerrilla, so weight and distributable mass play a large part in how structures fall, become damaged or deconstruct within the game.
Given the complexity of these calculations and the amount of processing overhead required to render them in real-time at a moderate frame-rate, Microsoft opted to use their Azure cloud services as a processing helpmeet for the Xbox One. Supposedly, these features will be limited to the online multiplayer portion of Crackdown 3, so theoretically gamers should be able to play the single-player portion of the game offline, but that hasn't been thoroughly confirmed yet.
As far as Havoc's use with Microsoft's cloud endeavors... this is not surprising at all. The technology, whether it's for physics-based video game simulation or other enterprise and business related demonstrations or technological advances, opens up an interesting door for Microsoft because I'm now very curious what they plan on doing with Havok in the long run?
The middleware is also completely compatible with Windows 10's DirectX 12 API. Whether or not this means that other publishers will now come to Microsoft to license Havok puts that question front and center.
Nevertheless, I can't say I'm surprised at the news at all given that in a way this whole thing has come full circle. Havok was instrumental in Real-Time Worlds developing the original Crackdown for the Xbox 360, and now it's instrumental in the development of Crackdown 3. Only this time it will be playing a larger role within the Microsoft development ecosphere and future of the middleware is looking very interesting.