Last week Ryan "Icculus" Gordon had confirmed that the Linux client and server ports of Unreal Tournament 3 were caught up in a legal issue regarding some middleware used in this latest PC title from Epic Games. However, what is the middleware that Unreal Tournament 3 is caught up in? There is a strong possibility that it deals with the PhysX licensing from Ageia Technologies.
For those that are not familiar with PhysX, it is a proprietary physics engine SDK, which can be accelerated by their discrete Physics Processing Unit. The PhysX engine developed by Ageia is currently supported on Microsoft Windows XP / Vista and the Sony PlayStation 3 game console. Several game titles have adopted the PhysX SDK over the past few years, while the Unreal Engine 3 (used by Unreal Tournament 3 and other games) takes full advantage of its capabilities.
Back in 2005, we broke the news that Ageia was interested in supporting PhysX on Linux, but that we wouldn't see immediate results. Ageia's Media Manager at the time, Kimberley Stowe, had shared with us that the PhysX PPU (Physics Processing Unit) would be supported on Linux once there are requests from game developers. She also shared that a Linux port of the code would be quite easy.
Unreal Tournament 3 was released to PC gamers earlier this month, but both the Linux client and server were missing. Originally the Linux client was supposed to ship on the game's DVD, but after the Linux server beta shipped, Ryan Gordon (the one responsible for the Unreal Tournament 3 Linux port) had stated that the Linux client would not be included with the game but would be available for download later. Ryan had, however, hoped that the Linux server binary would be available on the same-day as the North American UT3 release. This didn't happen.
Going on a week and a half later, both the Linux client and server haven't yet been released nor is there any sign when either will surface due to these legal issues with the middleware. We also have yet to see any UT3 Linux client demo. Among those in Epic's Integrated Partners Program (IPP) for the Unreal Engine 3 include Ageia's PhysX, DivX, Fonix Speech VoiceIn and DecTalk, PhaseSpace Motion Capture, and GameSpy. As the physics engine is a core part of the game, it would make a lot of sense if Ageia were blocking the Linux release.
According to the Ageia Knowledge Base, the PhysX SDK on Linux is only available to select, licensed developers that maintain their own PhysX SDK ports. However, the entry goes on to add that they are evaluating Linux for their supported list of platforms and that initially it would just consist of software simulation. However, this entry is quite old and was last modified on January 23, 2007.
We have reached out to Kimberley Stowe to find out if things have changed since 2005 for the PhysX possibilities on Linux and if the UT3 physics implementation is the offending piece of middleware code. However, Kimberley is no longer representing Ageia Technologies Inc. Michael Steele, the VP of Marketing for Ageia, has been contacted but has yet to respond to our inquiry.
We are waiting on confirmation whether Ageia's PhysX is officially the cause for this Unreal Tournament 3 delay on the Linux platform, but we will provide an update once we hear any additional details.