I don’t mean to harp on a problem, but this is an old argument from work. It came to mind because of the discussions in http://www.opengl.org/discussion_boards/ubb/Forum2/HTML/008949.html as to what is a good solution and what is not.
When I am asked to add a particle explosion, I do my best to make it “look” good. Using 3 or 4 imposter based textures per effect (smoke, flame, shock wave, etc), plus point list, etc. (soon point sprites). there is a minor physics engine, and I do mean minor, gravity based on distance (since it has to look “reasonable” at any altitude) linear drag, though pressure estimate by altitude, etc.
I have never been out for any awards, this has never been used as a “explosion simulation”, only as a good look-and-feel system for the customer to know… “ahhh something happened!” Interestingly enough, the customers love it, but the supporting personel hate it. All the technical people want to add full fluid dynamics simulations to it, etc. But how much pay off do you really get from something that looks good, vs. exact science? Last I remember from looking at dynamics equations even a P4 will choke down on frames to bite down on that math…
Anyhow… My bosses are pleased and that is all that really matters, I will probably tweak additions from Siggraph and other places as I find them, and may expand the physics engine little by little; so no one out there is going to hurt my feelings. I am just curious if there is that big of a payoff in exact science vs gaming physics as it is often called?