A new patent filed by Rockstar Games parent company Take-Two Interactive suggests that the studio is looking into new gameplay systems to increase the situational awareness of its NPCs.
The patent, titled “System And Method For Virtual Navigation In A Gaming Environment,” outlines tech aimed at creating a “realistic experience” in video games by making AI smarter at detecting their environment. Specifically, the patent is targeting NPC vehicle driving behaviors.
Currently in video games, NPCs can only sense a few objects in their immediate vicinity. This level of detection is typically relegated to other cars almost exclusively, which is why NPC drivers tend to not only run into each other but also into the objects found within the world. Through this new patent, though, Rockstar is looking to give NPCs a distinct driving profile.
According to the patent–which was filed by Rockstar’s associate director of technology David Hynd and lead AI programmer Simon Parr–an NPC could “define its own specific characteristics for traversing the road nodes.” Roads in games are linked together like dotted lines, joined in nodes that the AI reads to determine its path. This new method would give NPCs a sense of autonomy on the road. If one road is backed-up with traffic, NPCs could decide to take another route. If the roads are slick because of rain, NPCs could avoid them.
On top of analyzing weather conditions and making judgements based on those external circumstances, NPCs could recognize non-moving obstructions on the road–like a car crash–and navigate around them. Additionally, the behavior of an NPC driver could dynamically change based on the situation, such as slowing down to drive on residential streets.
Moreover, through this patent, NPCs could take into account other external factors, such as speed limits, vehicle handling and top speed, cornering and maneuvering, and breaking times. All of this is aimed at creating a more life-like driving experience when on the road with NPCs.
Of course, it’s worth noting that a filed patent doesn’t mean it will become a part of a project. It also doesn’t mean that Rockstar intents to use the technology it’s filing a patent on. It simply suggests that the studio is looking into ways to improve how NPCs are currently designed.
While the patent doesn’t mention any Rockstar-associated project, it has garnered some speculation by Reddit users that it has some sort of connection to Grand Theft Auto 6. The authors note that the tech is being built for “virtual navigation and management of objects in a multiplayer network gaming community” and targeting PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Neither mean much, but if the patent does become proper Rockstar technology, it could appear in the long-rumored Grand Theft Auto 6 or the hugely popular Grand Theft Auto Online.
In other GTA news, Rockstar is bringing the seven-year-old Grand Theft Auto 5 to PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S later this year. PlayStation Plus subscribers playing on PlayStation 4 will receive cash bonuses in GTA Online every month until the mode hits Sony’s next-gen console.
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