Havok Managing Director David Coghlan on Game Development Technologies


Havok Managing Director David Coghlan and Steve Waskul discuss working with top studios to bring their creative visions to life.

Havok, a leading provider of game development technologies, is currently celebrating its fifteenth year in business and seventh year in partnership with Intel. To kick things off, Waskul asks about the partnership with Intel. Coghlan describes how Intel has allowed Havok to keep its agility as a small company while benefiting from the backing of an industry leader. It’s also allowed them insight on the hardware side while still allowing them to maintain focus on a cross-­platform solutions, which is critical in the age of mobile. “It’s been a really nice structure,” he comments. There was some concern the partnership would be limiting, but Coghlan assures that Intel has allowed Havok freedom to grow independently, and the last seven years has proven the good nature of the partnership.

As a game development technology provider, Havok built what is now an “industry standard set of tools” that allow game developers to bring realness to their worlds. Essentially, they provide a complex set of algorithms based on physics that “bring motion and dynamics of the game to life,” such as how clothes move in the real world against gravity, wind, etc. They work “to make Hollywood like experiences for the gamer.”

On how Havok works with developers, David says “we work in close partnership with studios to help them realize their unique visions…it’s the subtle visual cues that bring a character to life.” That’s why even the physics of how clothes move in real time matters. “Regardless of what’s happening, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” Coghlan describes, and Steve Waskul relates how the visual effects that you don’t know are visual effects are often the most highly regarded. What rewards Coghlan is bringing the game developer’s imagination to bear on the raw power of the technology Havok has created. “It’s rewarding to be a part of that and [it’s] what drives the whole company,” concludes Coghlan.

Steve asks David if it’s challenging to deliver equal experience on small devices. “It is complicated, but we thrive on that complexity, on finding the greatest optimization,” responds David. He contends that one of the biggest challenges of developers is to offer consistency, or what he calls a “continuum of experiences,” along hardware that’s very diverse (from a game console to a mobile phone). Steve tacks on cloud gaming to that list. “How early,” he questions, “in the planning concept do and should developers work with Havok?” It turns out that there can be an involvement from the beginning to the end. What’s important in the beginning stages are the questions of use and purpose­ is it necessary to the story of the game to explode this building as such, etc. But even if involvement is toward the end, adding on real-­life aspects to clothing movement, for example, takes the game up a level.

“When you’re looking out at things that are new­ such as Intel’s work with perceptual computing­ do you see something that can be brought into the gaming experience?” Waskul asks. Most exciting to Coghlan, and perhaps to Havok, is augmented reality. He offers that Havok may find a niche in this field because of how it meshes physics technology with the real world, and “although [Havok’s] core focus has been on the gaming side, we consider ourselves as existing in interactive 3D,” he explains. So there is potential­: potential especially in interactive learning experiences. “We’re looking at, for example, medical training,” Coghlan explains, and in regards to the future, he thinks we’ll see blurred lines between game, entertainment, and learning

Waskul.TV agrees with David that there is great potential for AR. It’s something that could change many, if not all, of our day-­to­-day experiences in the years to come.