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Panda3D Manual: Rapidly-Moving Objects

Panda3D's collision system works by testing the current state of the world every frame for a possible intersection. If your objects are moving so quickly that they might pass completely through another object in the space of one frame, however, that collision might never be detected.

To avoid this problem, the Panda3D scene graph supports an advanced feature: it can record the previous frame's position of each moving object for the benefit of the CollisionTraverser. The CollisionTraverser can then take advantage of this information when it is testing for collisions. If it sees that a moving object was on one side of an object last frame, and on the opposite side this frame, it can trigger the collision detection even though the two objects might not currently be intersecting.

There are a few things you need to do to activate this mode.

1. First, you must tell the CollisionTraverser that you intend to use this mode; by default, it ignores the previous position information. To activate this mode, call:

base.cTrav.setRespectPrevTransform(True)

You only need to make this call once, at the beginning of your application (or whenever you create the CollisionTraverser). That switches the CollisionTraverser into the new mode. If you create any additional CollisionTraversers, you should make the call for them as well.

2. Ensure that base.resetPrevTransform(render) is called every frame. Actually, this is already done for you automatically by ShowBase.py, so normally you don't need to do anything for this step.

The resetPrevTransform() call should be made once per frame (at the very beginning of the frame) for every different scene graph in your application that involves collisions. It ensures that the current frame's position is copied to the previous frame's position, before beginning the processing for that frame. Note that if you have multiple CollisionTraversers handling the same scene graph, you only need to (and only should) call this function once, but if you have two or more disconnected scene graphs, you will need to call it for each scene graph.

If you don't understand the above paragraph, then you aren't using disconnected scene graphs, and you shouldn't worry about it.

3. Whenever you move an object from one point to another in your scene (except when you put it into your scene the first time), instead of using:

object.setPos(newPos)

You should use:

object.setFluidPos(newPos)

In general, setPos() means "put the object here, directly" and setFluidPos() means "slide the object here, testing for collisions along the way". It is important to make a clear distinction between these two calls, and make the appropriate call for each situation.

If you are moving an object with a LerpInterval, and you want collisions to be active (and fluid) during the lerp, you should pass the keyword parameter fluid = 1 to the LerpInterval constructor. It is rare to expect collisions to be active while an object is moving under direct control of the application, however.

Visualizing the previous transform

When you are using the setFluidPos() call, and you have called show() on your CollisionNode to make it visible, you will see the CollisionNode itself each frame, plus a ghosted representation of where it was the previous frame. This can help you visually see that the previous-transform mechanism is working. (It does not guarantee that the setRespectPrevTransform() call has been made on your CollisionTraverser, however.)

Caveats

At the present, the CollisionTraverser only uses the previous transform information when it is testing a CollisionSphere into a CollisionPolygon--that is, when the "from" object is a CollisionSphere, and the "into" object is a CollisionPolygon (or a wall of CollisionPolygons). Other kinds of collision solids currently do not consider the previous transform. (However, the other collision solids are generally thicker than a CollisionPolygon, so it is less likely that a moving object will pass all the way through them in one frame--so it is not quite as bad as it seems.)

Enabling the previous transform mode helps reduce slipping through walls considerably. However, it's not perfect; no collision system is. If your object is moving tremendously fast, or just happens to get lucky and slip through a tiny crack between adjacent polygons, it may still get through without detecting a collision. Any good application will be engineered so that the occasional collision slip does not cause any real harm.

The CollisionHandlerFloor is especially bad about allowing objects to slip through floors, in spite of the previous transform state, especially when you avatar is walking up a sloping path. This is just because of the way the CollisionHandlerFloor works. If you are having problems with the CollisionHandlerFloor, consider reducing the slope of your floors, increasing the height of the ray above the ground, and/or reducing the speed of your avatar.