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GPU PhysX in Alice: Madness Returns

with 21 comments

Alice: Madness Returns, highly anticipated sequel to original American McGee’s Alice, and first game with GPU PhysX support for this year. As always, we have prepared comparison PhysX video – for your viewing pleasure.

Update: PhysX benchmarks roundup

Update #2: Comparison PhysX screenshots available

GPU PhysX content in Alice: Madness Return can be characterized as “Particle Madness“. In a good way – this game contains probably most rich and diverse physically simulated particle effects, of all games with hardware PhysX support. From habitual and universal debris, chunks, smoke and dust (emitted either by player’s weapons or enemies) to environmental particles (dynamic leaves, ash, bubles, etc) and place-specific effects.

Physical simulation of goopy oil-like substance, that is spawned when black “Ruin” beings are damaged or killed, requires a special notice. During intence fights, up to 10 000 SPH fluid particles, which are colliding with level geometry and reacting to player’s movement, can be processed simultaneously.

In addition, two APEX modules  – APEX Destruction and APEX Clothing – are utilized for some minor effects:

Stone slabs, chessboards and rocks can be smashed to pieces thanks to APEX Destruction module.  Scenes, containing such objects are looking simply amazing, but unfortunately, you’ll face them only few times for the entire game.

APEX Clothing effects are so subtle, that we even haven’t included in the comparison video. Several pieces of simulated cloth and “dynamic” newspapers – you’ll be able to see them all in first 15 minutes of the game walkthrough.

Overall level of PhysX support can be adjusted via in-game settings:

PhysX High includes all additional GPU PhysX effects, described and showcased above.

PhysX Medium is less demanding for system resources – amount of physical particles is lowered, chunks from destructible objects are disappearing faster, SPH Fluid simulation is disabled.

PhysX Low -  basic CPU physics, similar for PC and consoles. Interesting note: physically simulated clothing and hair for Alice are not part of hardware PhysX content, and are not affected by PhysX settings (moreover, it is not even using PhysX engine for simulation).

Sum: Alice: Madness Returns is showing particularly good level of GPU PhysX support.  Definitely worth a play and, actually, PhysX effects may be the main reason to choose PC version over the console ones.

Keep an eye on GPU PhysX Profile page for comparison screenshots.

For additional details we recommend you to familiarize yourself with “Alice: Madness Returns: PhysX Graphics Comparison” article at GeForce.com

UPDATE: How to squeeze a bit of performance with GPU PhysX enabled.

Alice: Madness Returns is indeed showing top grade PhysX effects, but is also very demanding for resources – in certain scenes (for example, while you’re shooting oil-dropping “Ruins” with Pepper Grinder, that is producing a lot of physical particles itself) overall framerate may drop to 20 and lower fps, resulting in unpleasant gameplay. That is what we’ve faced with our single GTX 470, and we saw reports on low performance from people with GTX 560+ GPUs (dedicated PhysX GPUs seems to work better, however).

Hoping to obtain some performance increase,  we’ve tried different combinations of PhysX related parameters, that can be found in game’s .ini files. Unfortunately, this game is not using APEX Particles module for particle effects (90 % of all GPU PhysX content in this title are particles), but some older PhysXParticleSystem implementation – it is not affected APEX resource budget settings (which are functioning properly) and promising “ParticlePercentage” parameter, that is supposed to define global particle LOD, is simply not working (so we can not say “hey, spawn us only 1/3 of all particles” and expect 3x performance increase).

Moreover, due to game structure, we can not disable particles effects one by one (like we did in Mafia 2) – for example, volumetric smoke from Pepper Grinder, which is big resource hog.

Finally, we came up with following settings:

File:

\Documents\My Games\Alice Madness Returns\AliceGame\Config\AliceGame.ini

Set:

[Engine.WorldInfo]

MaxPhysicsSubsteps=4

To perform less physics calculations per frame (default for UE3 – 5, default for Alice – 10).

Next, File:

\Documents\My Games\Alice Madness Returns\AliceGame\Config\AliceEngine.ini

Set:

[Engine.Engine]

PhysXGpuHeapSize=128

PhysXMeshCacheSize=16

To increase amount of GPU memory, allocated by PhysX calculations (default – 64/8).

In addition, you might also want to decrease number of rigid body chunks, produced by destructible APEX objects (but they can be found only on several game levels).

[SystemSettings]

ApexDestructionMaxChunkIslandCount=50

ApexDestructionMaxChunkIslandCountHigh=150

For PhysX Medium (default – 150) and PhysX High (default – 500) settings.

To check out if our tweaks will have any practical effect, we used a scene from the beginning of “Chapter 1 – Assemblage” level – an intense fight with “Ruins” (6-7 Malicious Ruins + 1 Menacing Ruin = a lot of SPH Fluid) using only Pepper Grinder (a lot of particles and volumetric smoke).

PhysX is set to High. System: C2Q 9400, GTX 470, 4BG RAM, Win 7 x64. Measured with FRAPS.

As you may see, there is no significant difference in performance, but framerate is smoother, without large fps drops.

Two last things:

- If you are not satisfied with “PhysX High” settings, switch to “PhysX Medium” – that will disable fluid simulation and scale down particles effects.

- By default framerate in Alice is capped by 30 fps. To remove it, you need to set “bSmoothFrameRate” to “False” in “AliceEngine.ini”. But in this case your framerate may bounce from 100+ fps to 30+ fps (in intensive PhysX scenes) and back, so it will result in unresponsive and choppy controls. Thus, we will recommend to keep Smooth option enabled.

If you’ll have any ideas on more performance tweaking, let us know.

Written by Zogrim

June 17th, 2011 at 5:47 am

Posted in PhysX Games

Tagged with , , , , ,

21 Responses to 'GPU PhysX in Alice: Madness Returns'

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  1. Has some pretty good use of PhysX and APEX in this game. I’m going to pick this game up tomorrow. Cool video thanks for the comparison.

      

    xDee xDee

    17 Jun 11 at 7:39 am

  2. Will you do some tests to show us which GPU is recommended to use as dedicated card for PhysX acceleration in this game?

      

    mareknr

    17 Jun 11 at 10:06 am

  3. mareknr:

    Will you do some tests to show us which GPU is recommended to use as dedicated card for PhysX acceleration in this game?

    Nope, but I will aggregate tests, performed by others, in one “benchmarks roundup” article.
    Unfortunately, Alice does not have built-in benchmark, like many other GPU PhysX games, so I don’t think we will see many performance comparison articles.

      

    Zogrim

    17 Jun 11 at 10:40 am

  4. I’m pretty curious how this game performs with a Nvidia GPU. I’ve done some testing of my own on a HD6950 and the results are grim…

    With PhysX set at high the game performs up to 70% worse than with the same setting at low…

    @Zogrim here’s a benchmark if you’re that interested: http://benchmark3d.com/alice-madness-returns-benchmark

      

    BenchmarK3D

    18 Jun 11 at 12:27 am

  5. To get PhysX working with a hybrid setup you need to remove or rename the “PhysXDevice.dll” the same way you do for Fluidmark. You can find this file under:

    C:\Program Files (x86)\Steam\steamapps\common\alice madness returns\Binaries\Win32

    Also I suggest doing some tweaks to the games “AliceEngine.ini” config file found in:

    C:\Users\UserName\Documents\My Games\Alice Madness Returns\AliceGame\Config

    To remove the FPS cap you can do it in two ways:

    First way: Set “bSmoothFrameRate” to “FALSE”

    or

    Second way: Set “MaxSmoothedFrameRate” to something higher like “60″

    To disable Vsync look for “UseVsync” and set it to “False”

    There are still other things to play with in this file it looks like. Just backup your files before editing. There is also a default file located in the game folder.

    The game runs nice for me.

    Hope this helps.

      

    xDee xDee

    18 Jun 11 at 2:41 am

  6. BenchmarK3D: here’s a benchmark if you’re that interested

    Thanks, I’ll add it later when more articles will appear.

    ————
    There is certanly something wrong with volumetric smoke effect from Pepp-grinder gun – it alone drops framerate heavely, while being a relatively simple simulation by itself.
    Gonna be nice if it will be sorted out in a patch.

      

    Zogrim

    20 Jun 11 at 11:03 am

  7. Developers knew the framerate will suffer hugely so they capped the FPS at 31. Smooth move…

    Seen those PhysX comparison video…pure marketing.

      

    BenchmarK3D

    20 Jun 11 at 1:41 pm

  8. Hi there,

    could You please tell me, what numbers should I add in these lines*, while using nvidia gtx460 1Gb as a dedicated physx card?

    Should I actually tweak those at all, or will the game (logically &)automatically alocate all the available memory resources on this (otherwise idling) phys(e)x(clusive)-gpu card?

    Thank You for Your reply.

    *[Engine.Engine]

    PhysXGpuHeapSize=128

    PhysXMeshCacheSize=16

      

    Shi

    20 Jun 11 at 8:13 pm

  9. Shi: You please tell me, what numbers should I add in these lines*, while using nvidia gtx460 1Gb as a dedicated physx card?

    Those numbers should be enough for most GPUs.

    Shi: will the game (logically &)automatically alocate all the available memory resources

    PhysX SDK will allocate exact number specified by GPUHeap during its initialization, afaik

    Shi: Should I actually tweak those at all

    On your choise. In our case that resulted in minor positive effect.

      

    Zogrim

    20 Jun 11 at 11:30 pm

  10. What about these settings? Worth messing around with?

    File:

    \Documents\My Games\Alice Madness Returns\AliceGame\Config\AliceEngine.ini

    [Engine.PhysicsLODVerticalDestructible]
    MaxDynamicChunkCount=1000
    DebrisLifetime=60.0

    [Engine.PhysicsLODVerticalEmitter]
    ParticlePercentage=100

      

    xDee xDee

    21 Jun 11 at 2:10 am

  11. I’ve messed with them already

    xDee xDee: [Engine.PhysicsLODVerticalDestructible]
    MaxDynamicChunkCount=1000
    DebrisLifetime=60.0

    This one is related to PhysX Destructibles, but since Alice is using APEX Destruction, setting are not having any effect

    xDee xDee: [Engine.PhysicsLODVerticalEmitter]
    ParticlePercentage=100

    This one is for PhysX Particles – it should work, but it is not.

      

    Zogrim

    21 Jun 11 at 8:17 am

  12. http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=346495 -> 1st post – my problem fixed but not 100%

    I tried to delete “APEX legacy”’s and physxdevice.dll files and I can improve much performance until 60fps!!
    thank by @TheHunter!
    but 60fps…7~10 fps during few seconds… back to 60fps… this slow during few seconds… 60fps. lol -> how can I fix?

      

    nuninho

    21 Jun 11 at 4:40 pm

  13. nuninho: I tried to delete “APEX legacy”’s and physxdevice.dll files and I can improve much performance until 60fps!!

    Sorry, I was not able to verify any of this:
    - deleting PhysXDevice will force the game to use this file from PSS installation. PhysXDevice from 9.10.0514 PSS has same version – 10.6.23. No effect.
    - legacy APEX .dlls are used to load assets from APEX 0.9, before universal serelization was implemented. No effect on this game anyway, in scenes containing APEX objects I’ve tested.

      

    Zogrim

    21 Jun 11 at 5:40 pm

  14. nuninho:
    http://forums.guru3d.com/showthread.php?t=346495 -> 1st post – my problem fixed but not 100%

    I tried to delete “APEX legacy”’s and physxdevice.dll files and I can improve much performance until 60fps!!
    thank by @TheHunter!
    but 60fps…7~10 fps during few seconds… back to 60fps… this slow during few seconds… 60fps. lol -> how can I fix?

    I’m using a 2x ATI 5770 HD Readeon and this really does help. Before even on Med Physx I was getting 20-30fps.

    Low=60fps runs silky smooth
    Med=50-60fps runs pretty good even in the intense battles
    High=30-40fps

    It seems the smoke is a huge fps drop. Is there configuration for the smoke effects?

      

    joel_91

    25 Jun 11 at 5:10 am

  15. i changed all the settings in this guide but my game still running at 10-15 fps in game with med or high physx. my vga card is gtx560 ti and i playing (actually can’t playing) at 1360×768 :S but game is not running well :S
    pls help me :(

      

    murat

    3 Jul 11 at 12:43 am

  16. joel_91: I’m using a 2x ATI 5770 HD Readeon and this really does help. Before even on Med Physx I was getting 20-30fps.Low=60fps runs silky smoothMed=50-60fps runs pretty good even in the intense battlesHigh=30-40fpsIt seems the smoke is a huge fps drop. Is there configuration for the smoke effects?

    the cause of my problem is NOT smoke. I got stutter (=slow during 1 or seconds).

      

    nuninho

    3 Jul 11 at 11:41 pm

  17. IM having similar issues. the faster you run threw the game smashing things the faster frame rate drops. I’ve been testing the part at begining where u fight screw fly things and ruins/ wonderland goes all hellish (volcanos erupt) Its weird cuz it will be handling everything fine running a 60 with cap removed. and then it must reach a certian point were the Physx processor is FULL or sumthing cuz from there if u continue to break more things or use pepper grinder the fps continues to dive. (down to low 20s)fps cap on or off. I have 2x 480 gtx sli and a 240 gt for deticated. tried all possible configs using these three cards. Using 480 as ppu and running the other as single card. All of which yeilded close to same results with the gradual frame rate decline as thing continue to break. Is apex calculated on physx card of is it kinda stand alone? How can u make the particles disappear sooner of as new ones appear? strange how my 480s still gets bent over by this game when used even as deticated ppu. im stumped on this one. Tried all tweaks sujested too. EA games chat support was no help what the #@$!!!!

      

    JD

    23 Sep 11 at 9:10 am

  18. Can u guys list of your fluid mark 1.22 scores at (1024X768, no msaa, 3 emitters, particle count 60,000. multi core phsx on, async on, post fx on) With gpu name n physx setup please! I get with my 480s in sli and 240 gt deticated.
    PhysX: 196 (32 SPS) – GraphX: 2058 (337 FPS)
    one 480 n one 480 deticated physx
    PhysX: 1253 (205 SPS) – GraphX: 1939 (318 FPS)

      

    JD

    23 Sep 11 at 9:25 am

  19. I’ve tried a lot of things now, including the fixes from this site, but I’m still stuck at ~10 fps in the most intense scenes with lots of particles, even if I turn of everything and set the resulotion to 640×480! In non-intense locations, everything runs smoothly. There shouldn’t be a problem with my setup:

    Windows 7 with DirectX 11
    Radeon HD 6970 with latest drivers
    4 GB RAM
    Alice: MR installed on an SSD drive

      

    Sigurd

    4 Dec 11 at 3:16 pm

  20. Sigurd: but I’m still stuck at ~10 fps in the most intense scenes with lots of particles,

    GPU PhysX effects should be disabled unless you have NVIDIA card.

      

    Zogrim

    4 Dec 11 at 3:25 pm


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