CellFactor: Revolution Q&A - Physics, Characters, Story, and Psychic Powers

This physics-heavy action game will offer first-person shooting action and psychic powers that will let you smash the landscape to bits. We've got updated details.

There was a time when action games put you in static worlds, where the only things you could affect were enemies you could shoot; keycards you could pick up; and maybe, if you were lucky, barrels you could explode with a few well-placed gunshots. Thanks to the miracle of modern science, computer games now offer much more interactivity; you can blow up chunks of your environments and toss them all over the place thanks to advanced-physics programming--including the physics supported by hardware manufacturer AGEIA's "PhysX" chip.

This upcoming PC action game will let you use guns and paranormal powers to tear up the landscape.

One game that got some attention at this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo for its use of physics was CellFactor, a technical demonstration that will now be coming home to the PC as a new game called CellFactor: Revolution. Artificial Studios' president and lead developer Jeremy Stieglitz sat down with us to give us an update on this sci-fi shooter that will let you shoot, run, and tear up your surroundings.

GameSpot: We understand that CellFactor started out as a tech demo using AGEIA's PhysX technology. Tell us about how the demo eventually ended up becoming a full-fledged game product.

Jeremy Stieglitz: In January of this year, we got our hands on some prototype PhysX hardware. We decided to use what limited resources we had at the time--Artificial is a small, independent developer--to put together a uniquely styled first-person shooter demo. We thought development of CellFactor would end there, but to our surprise, the gaming community seemed genuinely interested in the concepts in the demo, so we managed to secure some backing to put together a full multiplayer PC game. Our goal at the time was to produce CellFactor: Revolution without affecting our other title in development, Monster Madness, and the solution has been to create a second team at Artificial to develop it.

GS: Tell us about the game's use of advanced physics--just how much of the game's environments can be moved and deformed? Will manipulating the environment be a big part of gameplay?

JS: In the tech demo [shown at E3], there are several thousand rigid-body objects within the environment that can be used as weapons, and there are some cloth and fluid elements, but beyond that, you're basically in a static environment. Not so for Revolution. Our goal for this game is now to make the environment as interactive as the objects within it, and our primary way of doing that is to construct architecture from breakable-jointed dynamic objects rather than static geometry (as was done in the tech demo). This allows explosions to shatter stairwells, psychic powers to collapse pillars (the debris from which can then be used as weapons), gunfire to chip pieces off concrete, and all manner of environmental destruction. The downside is that joints are very complex computations, so the performance difference between software and PhysX hardware is more extreme. Thus, we find that some environments simply don't run in software anymore, but that's a worthy trade-off for the havoc you can unleash on a destructible environment. It really makes some of the psychic powers rather insane to see in motion, as everything around you collapses and shatters.

GS: Is the game being developed mainly for users that will hopefully have purchased high-end computers with physics-accelerator hardware by the time the game ships? What kind of hardware specs are you targeting?

Artificial is attempting a game it hopes will, with the aid of physics processor hardware, be explosive and chaotic.

JS: The primary target user will have PhysX hardware, and a portion of the game's content will require that the hardware is present on the system. The game's content will still be accessible to users in software physics, but that will be limited to environments without the robust interactivity of the hardware levels. As far as graphics go, the sheer number of objects onscreen pretty much requires a GeForce 6800 or ATI X800 generation video card, but if you have a GeForce 7900 or ATI X1900, you can crank up the high dynamic range lighting, per-pixel motion blur, and texture resolution to enjoy some eye candy along with your physics. CPU requirements are not as great, since much of the most intensive calculations are off-loaded to the PhysX processing unit, so you can capably run the game with a single-core processor with a speed of about 2GHz.

Psychic Hotline

GS: We understand that you'll play as one of three different characters that may have powers that let them lift and hurl objects in the world. At E3, we also saw the character use a power-up item to take flight. Tell us about these characters' background stories and how they came to possess their powers. What are some of the other powers your character will possess?

You'll play as one of three different character classes with different abilities and powers.

JS: We wanted to open up the setting and let players choose from different balances between psychic power and weapon combat. To that end, we now have three character classes you can choose from in most of the multiplayer game types. Each of these characters represents a different approach to the game's combat mechanics.

Bishop: An experiment of the secretive Technocracy faction in the CellFactor universe. Though originally human, she's been injected from birth with mind-enhancing drugs and outfitted with cybernetic implants to further boost her abilities. The result is that though she does not wield any weapons, the bishop focuses both hands on projecting psychic power and thus is able to manipulate the world around her on a scale unmatched by the other characters. Some of her abilities include: "psi rift," which lets her gather huge numbers of objects in a gigantic ball; "psi crunch," which basically means she can detonate whatever objects she's holding (including other characters); "psi wave," which allows her to part a "sea" of objects to either side; and "psi shield," which allows her to surround herself with all sorts of nearby objects, creating a natural protective shield. Note that all these abilities rip up the environment, too. So, for example, activating "psi rift" near a structure might collapse it and gather its pieces in a big ball that you can then hurl at your enemies.

Guardian: A cybernetic creature developed by the Technocracy as a primary assault unit. The guardian is not an innately organic creature and thus does not possess any psychic abilities whatsoever. To compensate for this deficiency, the guardian can wield any two weapons at once. This includes heavy weapons, such as rocket launchers and Gatling guns. He can then use both weapons' primary and secondary firing modes simultaneously or independently, as he sees fit. Furthermore, the guardian has incredible strength, allowing him to leap hundreds of feet into the air and (optionally) pound the ground to create a gigantic shockwave. He can also unleash a variety of devastating punches (when carrying only one weapon), which can send objects flying or instantly kill any player. Effectively, the guardian is ideal for players that find all this psychic power to be a little too subtle and prefer the direct approach of massive firepower.

Black Ops: The standard unit of the human resistance, the black ops soldier is an elite unit who has undergone psychic enhancement from captured Technocracy equipment. The black ops is basically the character featured in CellFactor: Combat Training, who wields a gun in one hand and psychic power in the other. This strikes a nice balance between weaponry and physical attacks, letting the player determine which combat situation is best for each approach. As you've seen in the tech demo, the black ops soldier can increase his psychic potential by injecting himself with power-ups found in various crates within the environments. (For that matter, so can the bishop.)

GS: Give us a brief overview of the game's story. Who are the characters fighting against, and why?

JS: The world of CellFactor posits a near future in which a secretive military-industrial corporation, known as LIMBO, unleashes a secret force that has devastated the planet. The player characters can either fight as part of this force, known as the Technocracy, or against it with the human resistance. Since this will primarily be a competitive multiplayer game, the storyline is not central to the gameplay, but it hopefully does provide something of a basic context for the action.

GS: What can you tell us about plans for the game's multiplayer? How will the game manage all the complex physics calculations of objects, explosions, and particles online?

CellFactor: Revolution is being developed with multiplayer in mind.

JS: The tech-demo game was pretty much LAN-only, since it assumed that the server would have very high bandwidth, reliable messaging, and low ping. With Revolution, we're working to support proper Internet play out of the box. That includes retooling the network code to predict movement properly under high-latency, low-reliability conditions. Those adjustments aren't a problem, but Internet servers with low bandwidth won't be able to send that much real-time physics synchronization data (for thousands of simultaneously moving objects) over the Internet, no matter what we do. So to make the game playable under a wide variety of network conditions, Revolution includes a "physics density" slider for servers, which scales down the number of objects and destructive potential of the environment to accommodate servers with less bandwidth. The game will ship with presets for a wide variety of server configurations, so basically Internet servers of all kinds should be able to host sessions--some with less interactivity than others but all fundamentally the same game.

GS: Finally, is there anything else you'd like to add about the game?

JS: The first-person genre is extremely crowded, so with CellFactor: Revolution, we're working hard to bring something new to the table. Moving away from straightforward my-gun-is-bigger-than-yours combat and more toward innate character abilities is something that I personally enjoy very much--it makes me feel like I'm actually playing as a seriously powerful character--and I hope others do, too!

GS: Very cool. Thanks, Jeremy.

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Discussion

60 comments
Light_Power
Light_Power

sounds good...lets see if it looks as good too...I have a Cross-Fire application with 2GB of total Video Ram HD2900XT running DDR4 and 8GB of Kensington pc11000 Memory with a new 45nm QuadCore CPU at 3.0 12mb L3 Cache and have a Raid SCSI320 Drives at 15000rpm 32mb buffer... So, Even Crysis couldn't shake my rig.......this game I'm sure it won't ether...But will see how much of the graphics blah blah is true as to what they say it looks like.

unforgetible
unforgetible

Is there a single player part of this game??

tobygjohnson
tobygjohnson

Will this game take advantage of my 8800gtx physics processing capabilities?

evildeathbear
evildeathbear

My reply to this would definitely be a bit late, but Grinch, Ageia updates the engine from time to time, the drivers just enable the features and improve performance and such, though I think everytime they release a new engine you'd have to update the game via patch to support the new enhancements.. Thats where eyecandy turns into interactivity I'd assume. Cellfactor the demo has some performance issues with fluids a bit, though they dont interact with anything at all other than game world apparently, and they look like jumbo globs of.. weird stuff I wouldnt want sticking on my shoe. Anyways, they said Cellfactor: Revolution will be taking full usage of the PhysX chip whereas the demo only used 50% of it's capabilites, in other words, there's a slight chance some CPU stuff was being done, I don't know being as I'm not really "knowledgable" with the hardware's full capabilities, since according to Ageia, we've yet to see them. So apologies if my post seems a bit low in those areas.

olehberg
olehberg

strange thing that a game requires that much of a gamer that we will have to buy a new chip to the video-card only to make it be as good as it gets but anyway, thank god for nvidia GTX 7800... sry guys can't help it hehe!

Grinch123456
Grinch123456

The PhysX2, if that comes out, will hopefully be an improvement, since the current Physx adds only eye candy in games like GRAW. The great concept, but it could have been implemented better. That and maybe the PCI slot is slowing down, oh, and, the price.

amioran
amioran

room420, I know what 7950 is, it's only that I'm not english and sometimes I don't explain myself as I would like. About the thing that time will tell, probably you are true, in the sense that is too early to see how things will behave, but I think what I think for good sense. First, it's true that the GPU will use part (not all as you said, part) of the second chip to do what the PPU does, but, as I explained, the future will prolly be Quad-Sli, so in this ipotesis, only one of the three will be devoted to physics. Think about it, being this not the case, not Quad-SLi in any case for the buyer there's not much choice where to go on. Poor budget: better a single GPU + PPU than a dual-GPU card (as the 7950) or SLI? Medium budget: better SLI + PPU than Quad-SLI? Price is a bit more but of how much? Second, developers. Usually they do what they think it's best. I don't see at all they are working on the Aegeia powers apart the techs payed to do so. I see quad-sli prominent, and already some background test done with havok to use one chip. I simply don't think that in the future things will go the way of Aegeia being more easy to go the GPU route. But maybe I'm wrong? Maybe, don't seems so however. Third: the PPU is still another card in the PC. For example I have a single PCI card in my PC and I will not know where to put it since I have a SLI system. Simply having two more cards in a quad-sli or single-sly system is really prohibitive. Unless they plan to do Aegeia an integrated solution (maybe in future GPUs or on the MBs) I don't believe it will have an easy ground against what Nvidia and Ati are doing.

room420
room420

amioran, First, the 7950 is more than just two processors on one PCB (Printed Circuit Board), It is two complete 7900 GPU's physically mounted on top of each other and adapted to connect through a single PCI-E slot. It is a duel gpu single slot solution. Second the way both ATI and NVIDIA plan to use GPU's to do physics relies on one of two things, 1) the down time experienced by the pixel and vertex shader pipelines when rendering scenes. For example a scene might heavily tax the pixel shaders but leave the vertex shaders basically idle. Both Nvidia and ATI would use that idle time to calculate the physics for that scene, in theory. 2)The use of a second gpu to do the physics calculations (graphics calculations are similar to physics and can be performed by GPU's). While this solution provides the best performance it also requires a second GPU dedicated to physics. That in turn puts us in a multi-card solution to physics processing which is what Aegeia is trying to do. So if you wanted to use your 7950 to do physics and rendering you would have to sacrifice one of the GPU's to Physics. This all changes with Direct 3d10 (Direct X10).One of the intent's with DX10 is to unify the shader pipelines (pixel, vertex, and soon to be geometry) in order to use the entire GPU for rendering. That means no down-time for the pipelines which means physics and rendering must be performed on separate GPU's. The only advantage Nvidia And ATI have then is that you can use your old card to do physics instead of trying to sell it on eBay when you upgrade. The bottom line is it is to early to tell whose solution will ultimately be the best. There are no games released that use either solution (GPU or PPU) so basing an opinion on current reviews is a little naive (CF dos not count because it is a tech demo in its current form). If you must Have someone to lead the race I would say it is Aegeia. Nvidia and ATI are still in theory and test phase. Give it a year.

amioran
amioran

decebal, As I said Nvidia already has in his newer card (7950) integrated hardware to do what aegeia does. It has also in the 7900 line but with different approach, so to make things simpler I will explain only how things work for the 7950. Basically the 7950 is a two-chips card in one, i.e. SLI in one GPU. Apart from the obvious thing of doing SLI without having two GPUs and the possibility in this way to offer Quad-SLI (that will be the future since all software house in E3 had Quad-SLI in their test platforms) the card offers the way to do what Aegeia does. It works this way: if the engine (in this case Havok, and it has already been tested) is built around it the GPU takes part of the second chip to power the physics of the software in the same way Aegeia does now. This works with SLI also with two 7900, but naturally is better the way above. Since I suppose that two-chips in one will be what most card will adopt for the possibility of quad-SLI and also for the possibility of Havok to run part of one chip to do what I said, I think Aegeia will not have much future. Think about it, will you pay 400$ plus 300$ to have a single CPU (maybe with dual if you buy SLI) and an integrated PPU that is not supported (and will not) by the vast majority of software or you will prefer to pay 600$ for a dual chips in a GPU (with the possibility of Quad) that does exactly what the former configuration does and full support of software? What you think most people will do, and more importantly, what you think developers will put preference to? Selea.

ZosoFan
ZosoFan

I have a physx card and i love it. Yes pricey, but i would buy it just for UT2007

sharder1234
sharder1234

You guys are just bashing it because it's PC exclusive.

Wyked
Wyked

This was by far the funnest thing i played at E3. I was very perplexed when i heard it was just a tech demo. First FPS in a long time that actually had me shaking and tense. Hope the full game stacks up.

beedouk
beedouk

if the game is coming out on the 360 does that mean it has a physx procseser or has the 3 way CPU got osmething to do with it ?

BounceDK
BounceDK

I'm not impressed. All I see is a bunch of stuff flying around and it all looks very boring. PhysX is just a waste of cash.

evildeathbear
evildeathbear

As for the last guy, (george_h18) you can't precisely counter everything, similar to other games, it's all based on reaction times, I myself have a physx card, and I dont know how much different the gameplay will be in CF: Revolution, but in CF itself, no way in hell will you be fully defended from anything, cuz if a person were playing a "bishop" and were to do the psi-shield ability, they still wouldnt be able to take a nade to the face, in cellfactor (the tech demo that's current available) you can grab objects and use them to protect yourself but it wont save you from getting one of those gravity grenades thrown at you, which will pretty much throw you up if it's above you and slam you to the ground if thrown under you when you're in the air, not to mention it'll smash objects onto you too, Cellfactor itself is pretty fun the few moments I've been able to play it online with people, wish I knew people who I could play it with cuz of how funny it is to play, but yeah, bottom line is, use all the psi powers you want but they dont keep you from being killed, at all... Especially since most objects are destructible, so if a person sprays you they'll ultimately start shooting you and kill you if all you do is do the shield thing, Sorry for the huge post, felt the need to elaborate on my own experiences playing the CF:CT demo. BTW Miltox, it's being used in UT2k7 for effects only I think.. so probably more particles bouncing around and maybe some fluids (blood from bodies etc), also might be used to create a tech demo of someone throwing rocks at Bill Gates' head... You can never tell these days.

MiltoxBeyond
MiltoxBeyond

They still haven't perfected the PhysX PPU yet... Toms Hardware Guide had an article that showed that computers with and without the PPU were getting approximately the same Frame rate. Their software still uses too much CPU which hits systems hard. Oh before I get flamed: I don't mean to say that it sucks or anything. Its just not fully ready. And they need more software support to help em out. I'm pretty sure the Unreal3 Engine has support for the PhysX Processor. Can't wait to see if it makes the games on the engine betterer....

george_h18
george_h18

What i would like to know is how is anyone supposed to kill anyone when it seems like you can counter any attack thrown at you with your "powers".

badjames
badjames

TintedChimes "Hope its fun instead of tedious, I like the fact that everything is destructible but without a good story line and great gameplay it will just be a nice game to show off a new video card. Hopefully it will be good." that is so true. well said TintedChimes. nobody likes a repetitive game. this game has the innovation but it also needs a great story and fun gameplay. if it has these things i'm sure it wiil be great.

TintedChimes
TintedChimes

Hope its fun instead of tedious, I like the fact that everything is destructible but without a good story line and great gameplay it will just be a nice game to show off a new video card. Hopefully it will be good.

chuyangele
chuyangele

as some people indicated the physics looks good but the gameplay seems just dull

sicness10
sicness10

looks pretty cool, but im not sure how long that kind of gameplay can last without getting a tad tedious. love how natural and flowing all the floating debris looks.

sancezz
sancezz

hm, I'm not sure about this game either, everything in the game looks so WEIGHTLess, like even hugegroups of pipes are thrown about by a granade, and huge containers are picked up as easily as a piee of wood. They'd better sort that out.

drack48
drack48

dude! Wow, just, WOW! That looks freakin awesome! But, an integrated solution is a way better option. Maybe direct x 10 crads will have PPUs built in?

beanofengland
beanofengland

I'm unsure about this one, sure i love seeing new stuff ebing done in games, but when the whole thing is built around it, seems like it'll get boring after a week or so. It looks like an extreme Gmod game to me, one which will make my computer look like a fool, even though it'll probably get like 5.6 of GS i predict. No matter, when they decide the make a proper game out of the technology, i'll be more interested. Cos games these days have no geomod (an old term i suppose but red faction at least pushed games 'slightly')

decebal
decebal

amioran, The answer is simple: Because Havok can't do what Ageia does. Despite what Nvidia want's you to think, GPU is for eyecandy. Physics is a different business.

randy915
randy915

It was cool for the first minute... then it just became bland and boring.

faizali86
faizali86

the videos were really impressive. i think it has the potential to be a very good multiplayer game. +i hope they give this free with a ageia cards :D that would be great

MrHappyBizzar
MrHappyBizzar

Personally, the graphics are amazing and the physics are impressive but the game just does not look all that entertaining.

amioran
amioran

What I don't understand is why they continue to use the Aegeia card right now. I understand that it was a tech demo for the card before and it was done specifically to let people see the power of the ppu, but now that it has become a game for the public things change. Nvidia newer cards for example have already an integrated chip that let them do what aegeia does if the code is written to use it. Why one have to pay 300$ more for a thing that is already present in a GPU now and more as time pass? It's plausible that future GPUs will all have these integrated chips to do the same since Havok is so popular right now. Aegeia cannot simply compete with the popularity of the above mentioned engine and since already some graphics cards do the same without requiring to buy more hardware I don't understand why developers should bore to write software for it, apart of cases as this, i.e. as a tech demo. This is as bad as saying: this game could only be played on AMDs or Intel because we wrote code specifically for it and it alone. I understand the game could be played with less power in hardware without the PPU but why then they don't use also NVidia integrated chip and Havok to do the same? Bah Selea.

Max_Energy
Max_Energy

Wow that loooked pretty damn amazing. I cant wait for it. Yeah i hope they have a story mode that would be cool. YEay im excited

tugteen
tugteen

the first thing i thought of when i saw the ball of stuff was katamari damacy.

mrhankeydinks
mrhankeydinks

if it had a single player aspect i would get it. but to pay $50 for a game then $300 for a ppu, hell no.

kmwamala
kmwamala

All physics and all for show

RykuXr
RykuXr

0_0 I just watched the video for it and I am completely blown away.....this game looks kick ass. I really wish my PC could handle this game, but it can't.

the_real_VIP
the_real_VIP

66550 is right: obviously, the Ageia PhysX card is getting bad reviews because there's almost no games that use it or only a little bit (like the first time the Athlon 64 came out, was there an OS that fully used the 64 bit processing?). As I said, it should (I don't really know) take out some workload off the "normal" graphics card, which should give a better overall performance. Even if the X-BOX 360 has a tri-core, it doesn't have the physics geometric algorithms comparable to the Ageia PhysX.

DanMishler
DanMishler

*cough* Red Faction *cough* ...excuse me...

catsimboy
catsimboy

Just sounds like it's going to be a game that relies on showing off phancy physics as it's selling point. And the fact that it's multiplayer focused only just makes it less appealing to me.

viperx64
viperx64

very cool game... the only bad thing is that the ageia card is getting bad rewievs

66550
66550

The physx chip is geting bad reviews because it has not made its way into any highed games, and the games that do have it (GRAW..etc) don't use it to much advantage. I am happy to see a few publishers try to make it more important and utilize the power. I got one and can't wait to see what Artificial Studios and other publishers can do with it.

the_real_VIP
the_real_VIP

Wouldn't an AGEIA's PhysX card take off some work from the "normal" graphics card? Like that, the "normal" graphics card would have less processing to do, giving the physics processing tasks to another hardware. If it comes to the X-BOX 360, it will surely not feature the "special" physics, but only the "normal" physics.

blackleech
blackleech

Is that physics card really any good? Maybe this game might show its true power. But again, maybe not.

kawakev
kawakev

vegeta, a ppu is worst piece of trash you can buy right now, all the reviews are uninamous.

tacoeatingmonky
tacoeatingmonky

I really hope that they at least put in a small campaign, so that I can play by myself and really take advantage of what the game has to offfer, and not have to worry about bandwidth on a server. I want to have something to show off to friends and such. Looks like a great game, either way!

penguinofire
penguinofire

The demo certainly looked impressive, but I've gotta say I'm more interested in seeing how they use those physics effects to tell a good story, or create a great playing game. I'm definately optimistic about this one, I just hope they don't make a game which is All Technology and nothing else, since in that case we'd be better off with just the tech demo.

VegetaMaelstrom
VegetaMaelstrom

My sights are currently set on DX10 video cards and Vista. After that costly upgrade then I "might" consider getting a PhysX card if they come down in price a bit.

dukerav
dukerav

Glad to see this is now a game, but Im not sold on having a card just for Physics just yet.