Physics engines are software that allow computers to create physics phenomena that we experience in the real world (gravity, fluid dynamics, etc.) and apply them to 3D objects in games and other 3D renderings, which affects how those objects interact in the digital world. Game developers and video effects artists use physics engines to create lifelike computer-generated environments for video games, movies, and television. Some architects may use physics engines to create realistic 3D renderings for concept designs. Even if a 3D environment doesn’t require real-life physics, a physics engine will allow the designer to customise physics to fit their needs.
Without something like a physics engine telling many different 3D objects how to interact, programming an environment would be extremely time-consuming. Some environments may have hundreds of objects that all interact with each other in various ways. For example, an object in a bowl on a table is interacting with the bowl, the other objects in the bowl, the table, and the ground the table sits on. As a game developer or video effects artist, a physics engine will be part of the suite of tools used to create 3D environments. In many cases, physics engines are included in game engines, 3D modeling suites, and 3D rendering tools. However, it may be offered as a standalone or as a plug-in to another software.
To qualify as a physics engine, a software must: