Autodesk and NVIDIA continue their effort to create the universal physics simulation system for 3ds Max package – it is known as MassFX.
What has changed in new MassFX version, that comes with 3ds Max 2013, in comparison to the first release? We have tried to answer this question in our review.
One of the main new features of MassFX 2013 is the addition of mCloth – cloth simulation module, which was co-developed with Autodesk. Despite the rumors, mCloth uses PhysX 2.8.4 cloth solver for underlying physical calculations.
In comparison to APEX Clothing tools in PhysX plug-ins, mCloth is clearly oriented on VFX area: “one click” set up (no need to skin the mesh and apply movement constraints, as for APEX), full collisions with MassFX rigid bodies with two-way interaction, vertex group operations (like pin or attach to object), support for dynamic and kinematic cloth, ability to bake the simulation in keyframes.
Desired cloth behavior can be archived by tuning fabric settings, like density or damping, which can be saved and loaded as presets.
Additional parameters include rigid body collision responce and solver precision settings.
mCloth objects support per-vertex tearing.
Interesting option is ability to visualize material tension within given treshold.
Another feature is so-called “ballon behavior” – closed meshes can be inflated with internal pressure to imitate soft body, jelly-like objects or baloons themselves.
However, if hole in the baloon will be detected (as result of tearing, for example), it will deflate and force will be applied to the point of air outflow.
“Hardware acceleration” option can be enabled for cloth simulation, however, we were not able to spot any performance difference between CPU and “GPU” execution. It seems GPU acceleration is not fully operational yet.
To summarize: mCloth is a strong cloth simulation solution with decent pack of features and sufficient artist control over simulation, however, as a new tool it has not avoided some “childish” problems, like nonoptimal baking process (it is significantly slower than sim in viewports), unstable behaviour of baloon objects or overestimated cloth solver settings (they are set automatically, based on mesh resolution, but for real 3-5 times lower values are sufficient).
Another vital new feature – standart Forces (like PBomb, Vortex or Wind) can now affect MassFX objects, both rigid bodies and cloth.
Being developed in Autodesk, Forces interaction feature is not using forcefields mechanism from PhysX SDK, instead, custom forces are applied directly to actors.
Third major addition – stable auto-generated ragdolls from biped skeletons.
Instead of abomination – jiggling mess of rigid bodies and joints – that may be familiar you from original PhysX plug-ins, “create dynamic ragdoll” option now generates fairly adequate ragdolls, usable even without aditional tuning.
Note: unlike latest PhysX plug-ins, MassFX is only using one version of PhysX engine - 2.8.4.
Apart from all the features described above, MassFX 2013 also contains numerous amount of smaller features, interface changes and bug fixes. Here are some examples:
It is now possible to assign gravity to Forces (or even it completely) through MassFX Toolbar.
Convex decomposition (this tool allows MassFX to support concave objects) has been reworked – it is now using simplified interface and operates faster.
Physical meshes can now be displayed not only as wireframe, but as shaded hulls as well.
Multiple constraints can now be adited at the same time via Multi-object Editor tab (previosly only available for rigid bodies).
And.. more !
To summarize: MassFX has grew up, but still not enough to reach level of Reactor’s feature set. However, with continuing support from Nvidia and Autodesk, MassFX will eventually overcome previous solution from Havok.