News 30 January 2021

Rockstar patent teases improvements to NPCs for games such as ‘Grand Theft Auto 6’

30 January 2021

A newly filed patent by Rockstar suggests a plan to create complex and more intelligent non-playable characters (NPCs).

Fans of open-world games like Grand Theft Auto V, Watch Dogs or Saints Row will be familiar with the concept of an NPC. These characters do not have a storyline and often act as members of the game’s population.

Despite this though, NPCs have become integral parts of gameplay, often allowing the player the chance to engage in conflict, interaction or just mundane activities like driving amongst others.

In the patent called “System And Method For Virtual Navigation In A Gaming Environment”, the application promises “a realistic virtual world that is not limited by hardware and software limitations” and says:

“Computer games often provide 3D worlds in which the game unfolds. Such games often include non-player characters (NPCs) that exist in the game’s 3D world and who interact with the human players, the 3D environment and other NPCs.”

“These NPCs can be programmed in an artificial intelligence manor such that their actions in the game are driven, at least in part, by real-time decisions made by the NPC algorithm regarding the current state of the game and the environment.”

“Games such as these often use a collection of nodes (vertices) and edges (links) (the collection also known as graphs, directed graphs, node networks, and so on), among other things, to provide paths for non-player characters (NPCs) to traverse the game world. For example, each node might correspond to a physical location in the game world. And the nodes can be connected to one or more other nodes in a graph architecture.”

The patent effectively promises a new system of controlling NPCs. This complex engineering would potentially allow NPCs to make more intelligent decisions using artificial intelligence that could improve the sense of realism in gameplay.

The patent highlights driving as a key example.

“A node-based vehicle in conventional video games may make arbitrary decisions at junctions.These node-based vehicles may not consider certain factors–such as traffic–when determining navigation. For example, some systems rely on low level vehicle avoidance to only have NPCs avoid vehicles and objects directly around it. This cannot account for changing lanes when parking cars, anticipating a road exit, weather conditions, and the like.”

Potentially, this could mean that in forthcoming Rockstar titles like Grand Theft Auto 6, NPCs will be more dynamic and unpredictable in their behaviour – leading to an enhancement in the overall gaming experience.

In other Rockstar-related news, a recent leak suggests that one of the protagonists in Grand Theft Auto 6 will be female.