Game Physics Engine Development

How to Build a Robust Commercial-Grade Physics Engine for your Game


  • Ian Millington, Ian Millington is a consultant specializing in research and development for the games industry. He has done a good deal of work on physics engines and developing physics code. He was previously the CEO of a games technology company, and before that he ran one of the first web-based games companies. Millington's background is in artificial intelligence, and he has published academically on a range of topics. Ian Millington is author of Artificial Intelligence for Games (MK).

Physics is really important to game programmers who need to know how to add physical realism to their games. They need to take into account the laws of physics when creating a simulation or game engine, particularly in 3D computer graphics, for the purpose of making the effects appear more real to the observer or player.The game engine needs to recognize the physical properties of objects that artists create, and combine them with realistic motion.

The physics ENGINE is a computer program that you work into your game that simulates Newtonian physics and predict effects under different conditions. In video games, the physics engine uses real-time physics to improve realism.

This is the only book in its category to take readers through the process of building a complete game-ready physics engine from scratch. The Cyclone game engine featured in the book was written specifically for this book and has been utilized in iPhone application development and Adobe Flash projects.  There is a good deal of master-class level information available, but almost nothing in any format that teaches the basics in a practical way. The second edition includes NEW and/or revised material on collision detection, 2D physics, casual game physics for Flash games, more references, a glossary, and end-of-chapter exercises. The companion website will include the full source code of the Cyclone physics engine, along with example applications that show the physics system in operation. 

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Beginner-Intermediate: Students, aspiring game developers, and working game developers who are moving into physics development for games.


Book information

  • Published: July 2010
  • ISBN: 978-0-12-381976-5


Praise for 1st edition:

"The first game physics book to emphasize building an actual engine...his book fills a gap by demonstrating how you actually build a physics engine." - Dave Eberly, President, Geometric Tools.

"A competent programmer with sufficient mathematical sophistication could build a physics engine just from the text and equations--even without the accompanying source code.  You can't say this about a lot of books!" - Philip J. Schneider, Industrial Light & Magic.

Table of Contents

The structure of the book would be the same as the first edition, with various changes along the way. The TOC is as follows, a description of the changes follows.

  1. Introduction.
  2. The Mathematics of Particles
  3. The Laws of Motion
  4. The Particle Physics Engine
  5. Adding General Forces
  6. Springs and Spring-like Things
  7. Hard Constraints
  8. The Mass-Aggregate Physics Engine
  9. The Mathematics of Rotations
  10. Laws of Motion for Rigid Bodies
  11. The Rigid-Body Physics Engine
  12. Collision Detection*
  13. Generating Contacts*
  14. Collision Resolution
  15. Resting Contacts and Friction
  16. Stability and Optimization
  17. Putting it All Together
  18. Other Types of Physics*
  19. Two Dimensional Physics*
  20. Appendices*

* indicates a chapter with significant new material.