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Why does 3D object interaction with water still rarely occur in games?

When will quality water interactions be introduced into video games? We, like millions of players around the world, keep our fingers crossed. And trust us, the ZibraAI team is doing everything possible to bring this moment closer.

Why is water such a complex object in video gaming, and why is it so difficult to make it look real? Speaking globally, there are more atoms in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in all of the world’s oceans. Just imagine — all of the smallest particles of liquid must interact with other objects in the game. Convincing ways to simulate fluids have existed for a while. But these simulations cannot be found in games, because it is still expensive and difficult to simulate the liquids in real-time. So maybe we can do without realistic water simulations at all in games? Definitely not. I have a spoiler for you — Zibra Liquids has found a solution for the complicated challenge of making the interaction of game objects with water appear authentic! Be patient, you will find out more soon.

There are two main bases of water evaluation — appearance and realism. Let’s start with appearance. Okay, you can create beautiful wavy water in your river or pool. You will succeed if, for example, you have mastered the skills of Houdini or Maya. But there is one caveat — do not let the player get close to the water, because the scene is guaranteed to be baked. This means that water is not an element of game design, it does not affect anything. And this is not only true for the outdated games of 10 years ago. Take a look at games released in 2020. So what about realism? Do you remember the water in Сyberpunk 2077? Let me remind you.

Cyberpunk 2077

The water looks completely flat there. The car seems to be just driving along the road. The water does not react in any way to an object moving along it. The only result of the water interaction with the car is fake splashes.

There are plenty of such examples. Have you ever interacted with water in The Witcher? Check out the video below.

The Witcher

Here you can see the artist’s water bug — the character is floating in the air. Why would such an error appear? To make the character float, game developers use a standard trigger. It identifies areas where there is water and where it is not. The character crosses the area of water and the swimming animation starts afterward. Most likely, due to the fact that the artist painted the water zone farther than it should have been, compared to the idea of the level designer. There is one conclusion — we do not have realistic character behaviour with liquids.

In real life, when an object interacts with water, there is a transfer of force. The object acts with force on the water and it reacts. Why is it so difficult to achieve this reaction in games? To answer this question, we need to understand what approach is used to simulate water. The most popular one is surface simulation. But when you only render the surface, it is difficult to understand how the object affects the water. Therefore, game developers create baked water and add fake effects to it. As a result, we get unrealistic reflections, refractions, splashes, foam, caustics, etc. Therefore, there is no need to talk about the realistic interaction of objects with water yet. Or… is there one?

The ZibraAI team is excited to present to you, Zibra Liquids. It is the first-ever ML-driven, fluid simulation plugin available for commercial use. What does it mean for game developers? This plugin works in real-time and allows for water to become a part of the new gameplay! Zibra Liquids is embedded in the game engine. So developers no longer need to use expensive and time-consuming third-party software. Users get the desired solution right out of the box.

Zibra Liquids does not use a surface simulation approach. We create simulations with particles. This allows game developers to create more complex effects. Using AI-powered technology, the object-liquid interaction occurs in a few clicks. Let’s say you want to create a pool scene with objects falling into the water. No need to paint fake splashes. Or if you have a floating ship in your scene, you don’t need to fake the waves that come from it. The water will realistically interact with the ship and create these waves because of realistic real-time simulation. Are there any limits for the operation? You can choose any shape you desire. The only thing is that the object should be watertight.

Another important point is memory. All modern rendering techniques are memory constrained.

Usually, SDF is represented as a 3D texture that consumes a lot of memory. For example, object SDF with resolution 512x512x512 consumes 0.5 GB of VRAM. In ZibraAI technology, the object is archived using neural SDF representation. Thanks to this, the object becomes more compact — it uses significantly less space. How? We do not save all the voxels of the thing, but only those on its surface. This approach allows you to save a vast amount of memory, keeping high quality. So, the same object from the example above will take only a few hundred kilobytes.

Zibra Liquids take a couple of minutes to install. It can be used on any platform, including PC, game consoles, and even mobile devices. With Zibra Liquids the gaming future is closer than ever before.