Simulated Ballistics Gel – The Death of the Health Bar?

I have a dream, and now seem to be on the cusp of making it a virtual reality.  I am hesitant to make this dream come true, because I myself am unsure what effect it will have on the world as a whole.

You see, I am a Gamer.  The simple fact of the matter is that I was dissatisfied with a new game’s version of “Realistic Damage” (essentially a single wound inflicted anywhere on the body being fatal) and thought there must be a better way.

I believe that realism is something that must be engineered into a game, starting with the very first line of programming.  It should be intrinsic; not an afterthought.  Death should not come via a kill switch – essentially a single byte of information.

Life is not binary.

This “one shot, one kill” philosophy of damage is nothing new.  Implementing it into a game is not a step forwards, but a throwback to the likes of Unreal Tournament 1999 and its “Instagib” mode.  Looking back even further, you could say that this idea is as old as Space Invaders and video gaming itself.

Virtual Reality will bring with it a world that is modelled in 1:1 scale, not one that is viewed in miniature as we are accustomed to with conventional displays.  With this greater sense of scale, comes the ability to more accurately hit a target.

It is my opinion that the easier it becomes to hit a given target, the less plausible it becomes to measure its condition using a health bar.  The question must be asked, is it enough to portray “general body condition” in Virtual Reality?  Should all damage be treated as equal as is the status quo in many games?

Some titles use separate health bars for different parts of the body, which is a step in the right direction.  Even then, given this new sense of scale is it enough to treat an arm for example as a single entity?  Should the upper and lower arm be treated as separate areas with their own health bar?

Where would this process end?

This brings me to a fundamental problem.  Today, we remain chained to a statistics based approach.  Health is measured as a percentage, and weapons are programmed to inflict a certain amount of damage.  It is time we broke free of this constraint.

I have a deceptively simple idea: to use computer technology to replicate a piece of Ballistics Gelatin, in a computer simulation.  Ballistics Gelatin is used to test the destructive potential of firearms, because it matches the density and viscosity of human tissue.  If you’ve watched Mythbusters like I have, chances are you will have seen it in use.

First, I found out about a physics simulation program called DMM:

“DMM is a physical simulation system which models the material properties of objects allowing them to break and bend in accordance to the stress placed on them. Structures modeled with DMM can break and bend if they are not physically viable. Objects made of glass, steel, stone and jelly are all possible to create and simulate in real-time with DMM. The system accomplishes this by running a finite element simulation that computes how the materials would actually behave.”

If I had the technical expertise I would have been able to create this substance this myself using DMM, and you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog.  I had almost abandoned the idea when I saw a demonstration of a new technology called Nvidia FleX, which simulates soft body and fluid physics.  I downloaded the SDK of this software, and with some experimentation soon found myself looking at a close approximation of Ballistics Gel.

But then, it occurred to me that this piece of “Virtual Ballistics Gel” was more than that.  It was actually going to be a piece of virtual human flesh.  This prompted me to consider the ethical side of the matter.  Was there a more altruistic way in which this could be used?

The fact is, that if a piece of human flesh can be modelled in a virtual world, then a completely deformable human body could also be created.  We have the technology.  Such a construct has great uses both in gaming, military simulation, and civilian surgical training.

While I wish to profit from the fruit of my imagination, I am not sure which steps to take.  I need the help of developers who are familiar with FleX or DMM, and are able to help replicate the physical properties of Ballistics Gelatin.  I am currently unable to offer anything but my thanks and a pro bono arrangement, but am investigating equity crowdfunding as a means to fund this project.

Thanks for your time.  I leave you with a quote from John Maynard Keynes:

“The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping old ones.” 

Author: Tony Spencer, Boom Headshot Studio


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