For starters, how I'm actually resolving the collisions. It's still a bit buggy, so writing it down might help me figure out what is wrong.

As I said in the first part, I'm doing elastic collisions between spheres. If I was making a billiards game, this would be all I really need. Upon detecting a collision, as I said, I determine the position when the two objects first touch by moving them back in time until the distance to their centers is the sum of their radii. Basically multiply their speed by a negative number and add it to their positions.

Next I need to calculate their new speeds. In order to do this, it's helpful to move ourselves into a convenient reference frame. It's often the case in physics problems that you can get halfway to a solution just by changing how you look at it. In my case, all speeds and positions are stored relative to a frame of reference where all the spheres are initially at rest, and the origin is where the player first appears.

This means that the first collision will always be between an object at rest and one moving. Further collisions may be between moving objects, with no reasonable expectation of any relationship between their movements. Instead of this, we'll move the collision to the reference frame of the center of mass of the two colliding objects.

This has certain advantages; in an elastic collision, the speed of the center of mass before the collision and after the collision will not change. From the center of mass, the collision looks as if two objects approached each other, hit, and then moved away, regardless of what their speed in the standard reference frame is. Their respective speeds depend on the relationship between their masses, as well.

For example, consider two spheres of equal mass, one at rest and the other rolling to hit it head on. From the center of mass, it looks as if the two spheres approach, each moving at half the speed of the original sphere in the original frame of reference, meet at the center, and then their speeds where reflected off each other. From the original reference frame, it looks as if the first sphere stops and the sphere that was at rest moves away at the speed of the first sphere.

The angle of the green line represents the movement of the center of mass through the three stages of the collision. |

From the point of view of the center of mass, if the masses were different the larger mass would appear to move more slowly, and when they bounce it would move away more slowly as well.

This is fairly straightforward for head on collisions, but far more often collisions are slightly off-center. For these, we need to apply a little more thought. Still, the same rules apply. The main difference is that we need to reflect the speeds by the angle of the collision surface, the plane tangent to both spheres at the collision point.

In order to do this we need to know the normal of the collision surface, which is simple enough as it is the normalized vector that joins the center of both spheres. In our example the masses are equal, which means that in order for the center of mass to remain static the speeds must be equal and opposite, and this relationship must be maintained after the collision as well.

Off-center collision showing speed vectors, collision plane and normal. |

The equation to reflect the speed vectors is

Vect2 = Vect1 - 2 * CollisionNormal * dot(CollisionNormal,Vect1)

This must be applied to both bodies, of course.

We can see that the situation of both bodies crashing into each other is actually a special case of the off-centre collision, as we would expect. The dot product of the speed vector and the collision normal in that case is the length of the speed vector, since the dot product can be considered the projection of one vector on the other, and both vectors share the same direction.

Multiplying the length of the speed vector by a normalized vector in the same direction yields the original speed vector, and when subtracted twice from the original vector we end with a vector of the same length and opposite direction, which is what happens in head on collisions.

In off-center collisions, the effect is that we reverse the component of the speed along the collision direction, and leave the perpendicular component intact. The more glancing a blow is, the greater the angle between the collision direction and the speed direction, resulting in a smaller speed component along that axis and as a consequence a smaller deflection.

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