Computer simulations of ultrafast optical pulses face multiple challenges. This requires one to construct a propagation model to reduce the Maxwell system so that it can be efficiently simulated at the temporal and spatial scales relevant to experiments. The second problem concerns the light-matter interactions, demanding novel approaches for gaseous and condensed media alike. As the nonlinear optics pushes into new regimes, the need to honor the first principles is ever greater, and requires striking a balance between computational complexity and physical fidelity of the model. With the emphasis on the dynamics in intense optical pulses, this paper discusses some recent developments and promising directions in the field of ultrashort pulse modeling.