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Plasma Pong: Fluid Dynamics in a Pong Game

Sunday, March 5th, 2006 by Matthew in Physics Games
221 Votes | Average: 4.02 out of 5221 Votes | Average: 4.02 out of 5221 Votes | Average: 4.02 out of 5221 Votes | Average: 4.02 out of 5221 Votes | Average: 4.02 out of 5 (Rate this game! 221 votes, average: 4.02 out of 5)
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Plasma Pong is a mesmerizing freeware title by Steve Taylor, a student at George Mason University. It combines a cutting-edge realtime fluid dynamics simulation with the game structure of pong. Steve’s describes the game as follows:

Players have several new abilities that add fun twists to the classic game. In the game you can inject plasma fluid into the environment, create a vacuum from your paddle, and blast shockwaves into the playing area. All these abilities have fluid-based kinetic effects on the ball, making Plasma Pong a fast-paced and exciting game.


Gameplay

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the gameplay in Plasma Pong, really. The game structure mirrors that of the original Pong: You score if the ball makes it past your opponent’s paddle and vice versa.

The right-mouse button creates a vacuum and sucks the ball towards you. This is a great way to safely catch the ball, as the fluid dynamics tend to create sudden unpredictable movements as the ball gets caught in eddies and currents.

Left-mouse button fires plasma which shoots into the playfield. It can be used to push the ball for some extra speed, but also modify the currents. If you can succesfully create an eddy near the opponent’s side you can usually score when the ball makes sudden last-second movements.

Questionable Intentions

Despite its advanced physics simulation, I found myself playing Plasma Pong as I would nearly any pong game. It’s hard to use the fluid dynamics in a deliberate way to your advantage. This is kind of a shame, because if the game were more easily able to manifest my intentions as a player I think it would be much more addictive. As it stands now, though, the player experience flattens out to mere repetition after a few minutes.

I would have loved to see obstacles like walls, wave machines, powerups, or other changes to the mundane back-and-forth mechanic. To be fair, the game is a pong clone, but so much more could be done with the simulation engine. Maybe a fluid dynamics-based shooter?

Visuals

The game is a visual treat, at least. It’s almost as fun to play the game itself as it is to simply watch the physics simulation. In fact, you can press F1 to toggle over to an interactive fluid simulation that does away with the pong ball and paddles completely. I played with this almost as long as I played with the game itself.

Plasma Pong Screenshot Screenshot of Physics Games
(Plasma Pong Game Screenshots)

It’s Free

Plasma Pong is free; why aren’t you playing it already? It’s a neat example of using real-time fluid dynamics to replace the physics of an existing game. The result is half physics game, half graphics demo. It’s an interesting study—what would you change as a designer to add more depth to the experience?

Download Plasma Pong game (6.56 MB), or head over to the official Plasma Pong site.

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11 Responses to 'Plasma Pong: Fluid Dynamics in a Pong Game'

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  1. fluffy bunny said,

    on March 6th, 2006 at 1:36 pm

    Wow, this was pretty cool. Definitely the most interesting Pong-clone I’ve ever played… :-)

  2. Creath said,

    on March 6th, 2006 at 10:04 pm

    You score some great finds.

  3. Jack (Wunderbear) said,

    on March 7th, 2006 at 2:04 pm

    A brilliant little game. One touch I like on it is how the music pitches up a notch with every level up; it brings drama to the game. (Of course, holding down the level up button producs stupidly funny results)

    One thing you can do to cheat though: go into the wave editor, and place lots of jets blasting at your opponent. You don’t have to do anything: just watch the computer play pong against itself! :D

  4. Verners said,

    on March 28th, 2006 at 10:34 pm

    This has to be the best pong ever!!!!

  5. darfgarf said,

    on July 10th, 2006 at 1:20 am

    great game, this version is better than the newest one i reckon, well much easier anywawys.

  6. Dosou said,

    on July 26th, 2006 at 12:59 pm

    The actual dynamics are kinda iffy. it feels too grid based to me.

  7. Beakless said,

    on July 28th, 2006 at 2:14 am

    Pukka!

  8. extremejon said,

    on October 7th, 2006 at 11:42 pm

    Trippyest thing I have ever seen.

  9. benjamin avdic said,

    on November 21st, 2006 at 3:10 am

    this game is kinda like fun but it would be evin fun if u hav some cheats like press l to lvl up, press a to blast a jet stream things like that pls do those its kinda fun like that bb ……………..hope u make them:-) (-.-)

  10. levi said,

    on January 12th, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    i just got to level 25 and died

  11. Malcolm Ryan said,

    on June 27th, 2007 at 10:54 pm

    I completely agree with regard to the gameplay. The fluid dynamics don’t really add anything much to the strategy, they just make the game less predictable.

    I think the best improvement would be to add static jets in the play arena. These would establish predictable waves and vortices which could then be exploited tactically. That way the fluid dynamics would actually become an interesting part of the gameplay, rather than just a visual treat.

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