OS X The nVidia PhysX Support Thread For OSX Mavericks

Discussion in 'Mac and PC Games' started by Irishman, Nov 4, 2013.

  1. Irishman macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    So, for those of us who follow development of the latest and greatest GPU features with regard to gaming (OSX or Windows), PhysX is not news. PhysX is a feature compatible with nVidia GPUs that creates much more dynamic interactions with elements within a scene. In order to SEE these interactions, both the GPU and the game have to be written to take advantage of it.

    Here's a couple of short videos that demonstrate the effects it's capable of:




    Now, three games that could benefit from PhysX that are Mac-native are Borderlands 2, Batman Arkham City, and Metro Last Light.

    This list of GPUs (pretty extensive, going at least to the 2012 iMacs and Macbook Pros) supports PhysX.

    For those who know (preferably in Mac game or driver development), what's the hurdles keeping this feature from being implemented?
  2. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    PhysX exists in Mac games (just not hardware accelerated) Batman Arkham City and Asylum both use PhysX technology with Arkham Asylum being the Mac launch title. Those are two of a number of Feral games that wouldn't even run on the Mac without PhysX.

    The hardware acceleration options are tricky to implement, this is due to how it works and having more direct access to the hardware on windows, if it was to come to the Mac it could potentially be implemented on top of CUDA but this is hardly simple and performance would need some serious preplanning to make the most of CUDA.

    I think with the Nvidia performance issues right now on some graphics drivers (and CUDA) they will likely be focusing on those areas of driver development for Mavericks before spending to many resources on PhysX hardware acceleration. Faster graphics drivers benefits all Mac users (and even more all gamers) while adding PhysX hardware acceleration only benefits a few titles.

    I would guess based on similar technical decisions I have been involved in the past it would be a limited resources and the biggest end user impact problem. When resources are limited you focus your efforts on the biggest gain for the largest number of your customers first. Hardware accelerated PhysX is lower down the list than adding 10% performance to the Mavericks 6xx series drivers for example.

    That's my personal guess on the situation and isn't based on any special information that isn't in the public domain. Hope it helps!

  3. Irishman thread starter macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    So, for my Late 2012 iMac with the GeForce GT 650M 512 MB (listed on nVidia's site as a GPU that supports PhysX), Batman Arkham City for OSX does not feature hardware accelerated PhysX?
  4. edddeduck, Nov 4, 2013
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2013

    edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    For the Mac you are correct. The game uses PhysX to get you all the physics and cloth animation but it is not 100% hardware accelerated like the Windows version.

    To be clear you only need hardware acceleration for the high end expensive effects, most of PhysX doesn't need GPU acceleration to work. It's some of the top end hardware ONLY effects that are not possible on the Mac right now.

    This means some of the high end fog/cloth effects are not quite as complex as the PC but as you can see from the Batman, Mafia etc most of PhysX works as expected and the difference is usually fairly subtle.

    [EDIT] I will have a check as a new OS and new PhysX has been released since I last checked the status of PhysX but I believe that PhysX is not 100% hardware accelerated. The good news is if it is hardware accelerated effects in new games as it should just work.

  5. Irishman thread starter macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    While I was waiting for your reply, I went online to youtube and saw a video there that said that even PCs with AMD GPUs can do PhysX. It just offloads the hardware acceleration to the CPU instead.

    For what it's worth. But on the PC, you have to go in and edit an .ini file to enable the HW PhysX.
  6. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    AFAIK on the Mac Intel, AMD and Nvidia based Macs all use the same CPU not GPU based path.

  7. Irishman thread starter macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    It seems like there's more of an impact of hw accelerated PhysX.



    The first video shows PhysX implemented on the PC.

    The second video starts off showing the PS4's implementation of PhysX, but the important part comes after that (1:30 mins in) where it shows the same time demo without PhysX. THAT is what I see on my Mac when I play the game and the time demo.

    More than a subtle difference, man, really. :)
  8. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    It depends on the effect most of the effects like the cape, fight physics you won't even notice that you are in software. Some effects that require the hardware options are more noticeable if you are looking for them.

    As I said they are "usually" fairly subtle as the entire physics engine is this game is PhysX so every jump, cape movement etc is using PhysX and they act the same. The high end hardware stuff can be quite noticeable depending on the effect particularly if you do a side by side as your links show. The fog effects in BMAC are particularly noticeable as those were used by Nvidia to show off the PhysX. :)

    Anyway to get back on point we could get all these high end fog effects working on the Mac as soon as the Mac version of PhysX supports it. :)

  9. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    I am just guessing there must be some performance impact, particularly given the mobile GPUs in iMacs and MacBooks if those GPUs are tasked with PhysX as well as everything else they are doing in displaying a game. Would that be correct? Maybe it isn't that performance intensive. I wouldn't know but I was just wondering. If it is performance intensive I would imagine it is quite the balancing act then to implement that while retaining best possible performance for the game's visuals otherwise.
  10. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    I would expect it if implemented to have a similar impact to the PC works. If you enabled the hardware PhysX option in the graphics menu you will lower the performance of the graphics and may have to disable other settings. The impact would depend on the game and what effects are being used, I'd think of it as an another graphics option like triple buffering or FXAA. When enabled it can impact on performance and you would need to alter other settings accordingly on lower powered cards.

    How much it would effect things I wouldn't know as it doesn't exist on the Mac :)

  11. Dirtyharry50 macrumors 68000


    May 17, 2012
    That is along the lines of what I was thinking but on a PC there is more "headroom" if you will, assuming a gamer invests in a high end card that is significantly more powerful than a mobile GPU. Not that I am knocking Mac's GPUs or gaming performance personally. I'm very happy with my iMac but I am also reasonable in my expectations versus a dedicated Windows PC with a high end desktop GPU. What I mean is, in the Windows world if you have the money and care to spend it, there is probably plenty of power to support PhysX in hardware without performance trade-offs but I'm not sure it would be reasonable for Mac users with mobile GPUs to expect that. There's no free lunch as they say and there are limits to GPU power available on Macs compared to PCs.

    I feel kind of funny telling you some of that. I know you already know. I'm just sharing my thoughts I guess.


    Speaking of sharing my thoughts I was just thinking perhaps the issue of performance impact potential with PhysX will be moot sooner than later anyway as each new generation of Macs comes with increasingly good hardware from a gaming perspective.
  12. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    You always get a hit but the more powerful the card the smaller the trade off. As you state Apple use mobile GPUs so the effect would be more than a gaming card like the 590 card we have in one of our PC test machines *drool* ;)

    Yep I know all this but its all good info for the thread lurkers who might not :)

    As the cards get more powerful so will the graphics and physics effects to slow everything down again but overall Apple are packing better cards into their hardware than a few years ago that's for sure :)

  13. Irishman thread starter macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
  14. Solomani macrumors 68040


    Sep 25, 2012
    Alberto, Canado
    Is this something we are waiting for Apple to implement? Or is it something nVidia would implement on their Mac graphics drivers? :confused:

    Or something that individual developers (e.g. Aspyr, Feral) would implement in future games? (assuming the ability is already supported in Mavericks)
  15. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    PhysX is from Nvidia it is not connected to their graphics drivers and is a separate bit of technology. Implementation of hardware acceleration would be up to Nvidia. Nvidia have released software support for PhysX they haven't implemented the hardware acceleration feature.

    Feral already have used PhysX in many games so we already support and use this technology, however the hardware accelerated features are not available on the Mac. PhysX support doesn't require Mavericks we shipped Batman Arkham Asylum with support for 10.7.5 and it uses PhysX.

    If the hardware features of PhysX get added to the Mac SDK in the future then they can be used in new Mac games. Hardware acceleration would most likely only be available on Nvidia hardware as this is technology designed and developed by Nvidia.

  16. Irishman, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015

    Irishman thread starter macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006

    I don't mean to necropost, but I wonder if you had any updates to our hardware-accelerated PhysX for OS X thread?

    Has anyone on your end reached out to nVidia for any clues to when or if they plan to support it for OS X??

    I did find this new article on the PhysX Wiki:


    It adds support for hardware acceleration for Linux as well as Windows. Linux doesn't use DirectX, does it? It uses OpenGL? I wonder why one and not the other? I wonder if Linux support in the new SDK is a good sign for OS X support in future versions??
  17. soulsyphon, Feb 1, 2015
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2015

    soulsyphon macrumors regular

    May 3, 2014
    linux, osx, ios, android, playstation = opengl
    windows, xbox (microsoft) = directx & opengl... the reason xbox is called xbox, is because of directX

    as time flies, directx will be least favored since arm chips (whats in mobile phones) are starting to catch up to intel and amd chips.

    which means that sooner or later, apple will probably allow gaming from ios be played on desktops/laptops and android apps in chrome and chrome os.

    windows might be the most popular desktop os, however opengl is open sourced and apple/google won't be using directx anytime soon since they'd have to pay microsoft some money which they can neglect by supporting opengl.

    opengl isn't worse than directx, its just that before mobile gaming came to be a success, most of gaming was done on desktops/windows and the developers are too lazy to switch to opengl.


    physx is unique in that only nvidia supports it, and mobile users mostly do not use nvidia... there's another thing called Havok which amd and other companies use and is more widespread. the other thing is that companies like blizzard entertainment started to make their own physics engine... not having to rely on physx nor havok. (this is the case of diablo 3)

    osx doesn't need to care for physx, just like it doesn't need to care for directx... its pretty damn obvious that opengl and other physics engine will be more wide spread as time goes on.

    once mobile chips are fast enough to be placed in laptops and desktops, OSX/iOS and android/chrome will dominate windows.

    tldr; physx and directx is old news

    even valve who only makes opengl games have stated opengl is better than directx. blizzard entertainment sure has no issues using opengl.

    if you play games on mobile, you are starting to notice just how well opengl works, the amount of games that are pouring out on mobile and the amount of unique games is proof directx is no longer needed.

    and once opengl is more supported on desktops, the more OS's it could likely support... some company could come up with a whole new OS like ios/android and bam the games would work if the OS supported opengl (why wouldn't it)

    thats why on steam, valve was able to port mac games easily to linux. the mac/linux game ratio is almost identical on steam. only reason osx has more game support than linux is because of feral/aspyr etc which port directx games to osx. if they did that to linux than the ratio would be completely equal.
  18. antonis macrumors 68020


    Jun 10, 2011
    Although I'd love to see OpenGL being a well-established solid platform for gaming especially on OS X while throwing out closed APIs like DirectX, I believe we are too far from seeing that happen, yet. The reasons are a combination of s/w and h/w vendors/creators that have established a status quo in the gaming market, that is very difficult to steer towards a different direction, even with the rising of mobile devices. Here's some points:

    Yes, Apple will surely do that in the near future. But, IMO, that will not be because iOS devices are catching up with PCs, rather than Macs are turning into iOS devices. The gap between the PC AAA directx titles, and iOS device gaming is still devastating. ARM processors might catch up for the low-end computers but GPUs are not.

    On top of these, we should consider that Apple has recently taken a slight move away from OpenGL, creating Metal. It might be a stripped down version of OpenGL, but still it is a different API, exclusive to Apple devices.

    Indeed, Apple and Google won't be using DirectX anytime soon. I'd bet they'll never will. But, as things are right now, gaming market (aka most big s/w houses) don't seem to care much about this.

    If only it was a matter of developers laziness. However, developers are not the ones that take such decisions. Gaming companies (and, TBH, the publishers behind these companies) are the ones taking all decisions, and they do that according to profit.

    Agreed. After all, Apple is moving away from nVidia GPUs in every new Mac model. On the other hand, they don't seem too willing to jump to the open source train. Creating Metal and keeping iOS closed does not show any team spirit. I would not bet that we'll see Apple joining forces with Linux to support OpenGL anytime soon. Besides that, as the new Mac models keep becoming less upgradeable in every iteration, hardware vendors won't be investing on Mac platform.

    I wish this would be true, but on a serious gaming area, the gap is still huge. Also, let's not forget that ARM is a different - not compatible - platform, so the gaming houses should really make a brave switch (nobody wants to develop on two platforms concurrently).

    Yes, Valve has said that. They even gone further that this, by saying that Mac platform is a more attractive platform to create games on, since it has more stable / less variable h/w. But this was said around - not remember exatcly - a few years ago. Since then, nobody else made such a claim (not because it is not true, but because market goes where the money is).

    Mobile gaming has been improved vastly during the last 2 years. Nobody can deny that. However, playing games on both PC and mobile devices, also makes obvious how far they are from each other.

    Linux has its own demons to beat, though, before it becomes a respectable gaming platform. It suffers from a huge fragmentation (so many distributions, so much instability between them) and lack of support from h/w vendors.

    All in all, I believe we are far from seeing the fall of Microsoft / DirectX empire, yet, as lots of things have to change from both sides in order to see that. Apple has invested too much on their successful mobile ecosystem, but it is obvious that they don't care much about desktop gaming - they never did.

    So, is the solution to this a potential merge of mobile and desktop platforms ? Maybe in the future, but not just yet. Someone has to convince all these big players on the gaming industry that it is worth the effort. Apple should prove that they still care for desktop computing and Linux should put their stuff together and create a more attractive desktop platform, if they want to turn things.
  19. AndreGB macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    IrishMan, in addition to what Edwin said, I don't think there should be really any effort to port PhysX in its current form to the Mac.

    First of all PhysX is a proprietary technology NVIDIA acquired from Ageia. Ageia was a fabless company that sold a card with a chip to put on your computer to accelerate physics effects. When NVIDIA bought them, they've rewrote the base PhysX API and driver to CUDA, which runs on their GPUs only. Part of the CPU-only version of PhysX is a complete code rewrite to support CPUs.

    Then again I wonder what is wrong with Havok. I just think that NVIDIA's marketing team is better than Intel's, because Havok just works. Anyone ever played Half Life 2, Portal 2 (more physics than the first) and Painkiller? But, putting what I think to the side for a moment, it would be a much better effort to port PhysX to OpenCL and go from there instead of sticking to a proprietary platform. I don't know NVIDIA's efforts to support OpenCL, but that would be a nice way to go if they want to keep PhysX being GPU accelerated in the future. And specially now considering all the new advances on OpenCL and Vulkan, that would be even more awesome. Despite the fact that I think I'd rather have my GPU pushing vertices and pixels than physics (the CPU is powerful enough for that).
  20. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    Nothing is wrong with Havok. It is more popular on AAA titles with more features and power, however unlike PhysX it isn't free. :)

    Havok is purely CPU based and runs very well.
  21. Irishman thread starter macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    Glad to see you back in the thread, Eddie :)

    Any news on Physx hardware acceleration on OS X?
  22. edddeduck macrumors 68020


    Mar 26, 2004
    Nope but then again I don't have any special powers over anyone else in predicting the future. :)
  23. AndreGB macrumors newbie

    Jun 13, 2012
    LOL, as I said earlier, I don't think it's going to happen. Remember Apple has just switched from NVIDIA to AMD and/or Intel integrated graphics on their new hardware. What's NVIDIA's motivation to port PhysX now?

    As I said: go PhysX+OpenCL! That's our biggest chance.
  24. Irishman thread starter macrumors 68030

    Nov 2, 2006
    Apple historically gone back and forth between AMD and nVidia, choosing one, then the other.

    Even if there is a favoring of AMD now by Apple in its new Macs, there is an undeniably HUGE installed base of nVidia GPUs out there, all the way back to the Kepler series, that can support hardware accelerated PhysX.

    Even if there is a pendulum swinging towards AMD now, that pendulum will swing back the other way to nVidia in the future.

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23 November 4, 2013