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Rockstar Developers Patent New NPC Tech, Potentially for GTA 6

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A patent filed by Take-Two Interactive details a new Rockstar-developed system for managing NPC navigation, with details explicitly referring to vehicle road routes and behaviour.The patent application, entitled ‘System And Method For Virtual Navigation In A Gaming Environment’, was filed by Rockstar’s parent company, Take-Two, in October 2020, and was recently discovered by Reddit users. The system described within it was developed by Rockstar’s lead AI programmer, Simon Parr, and David Hynd, Rockstar’s associate director of technology.

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This new system is designed to create “a realistic virtual world that is not limited by hardware and software limitations,” which is a response to conventional systems that are unable to produce the kind of NPC behaviours players expect within the limits of current processor and memory bandwidth. This is specifically in relation to traffic behaviour; the patent details boats, cars, and drivers throughout. The system outlined would result in a more realistic and immersive simulation of traffic.

Of particular note is that the system means “each NPC can define its own specific characteristics for traversing the road nodes.” These characteristics include understanding acceleration, breaking time and distances, top speeds, and cornering speeds. NPCs and AI systems would be able to use these characteristics to generate more life-like drivers on the roads of a video game world.

Without jumping to concrete conclusions, it is possible that a system designed by Rockstar programmers for a vehicular traffic system could be for Grand Theft Auto

6. The project is not mentioned by the patent, but IGN understands that GTA 6 is currently in development at Rockstar, and so it’s not unreasonable to assume new technology will be produced for the game.Of particular note is a line of the patent that explains the system is for “virtual navigation and management of objects in a multiplayer network gaming community.” If the system has been designed for a multiplayer game, it raises the question of if Grand Theft Auto 6 will be an online experience. Alternatively, perhaps this system has been built to be implemented into GTA Online; the details refer to Xbox One and PS4 consoles rather than the next-gen machines that GTA 6 would presumably be released on.

Additionally, the system is described to work via a cloud network communicating with player consoles. If the system is for GTA 6, even if the game is not multiplayer-only it may well be that the game demands an always-on internet connection to provide the processing for NPC behaviour.

For context, the patent includes an evaluation of the current deficiencies with NPC navigation systems, noting that limited resources mean that the simulation is reduced in complexity. Current processing power and memory restrictions mean some NPCs “fade out of existence as the player approaches the NPC,” the patent explains. It notes that current NPC systems only allow only for a predetermined number of NPC controlled cars, and that “players of a video game would expect to see more than a predetermined number of NPC controlled cars in a video game for a realistic experience.” Additionally, the patent also describes that current conventional systems rely on behaviour that has “no high level knowledge” of traffic, which can lead to vehicles being unable to plan accordingly for blocked roads. The new system is designed to prevent situations like this.

While Rockstar has been quiet about the development of the next Grand Theft Auto, it recently released The Cayo Perico Heist for GTA Online, which was the result of seven years of game evolution and finally allows a solo-player approach for GTA Online content.

Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.

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