Grand Theft Auto Developers Patent Describes Enhanced NPCs

A patent from two Rockstar North developers describes improved non-player characters for open world games. It specifically concerns the behavior of NPCs that drive cars. The new method makes more and smarter NPCs possible.

The document was discovered by reddit users and user Jaloss has written an analysis. It states that NPCs driving around in cars currently detect all the cars around them in order to prevent crashes. This method requires a lot of computing power and therefore the cars disappear when they are a certain distance from the player.

With the new method, the npc drivers actually have a target and a route to follow. Even if an npc disappears from view, that npc will continue to exist and follow its route. According to the patent, this implementation requires less computing power, because the routines of the npc’s can be calculated on a central server. That may indicate an online implementation.

According to the patent, the NPCs are also more aware of what is happening in their environment and they anticipate it. For example, NPCs slow down on urban roads and switch lanes before taking a highway exit. The NPCs can also take special circumstances into account, such as a high-speed chase.

The patent application was filed in October last year and is in the name of David Hynd and Simon Parr. Those are the Associate Director of Technology and Lead AI Programmer at Rockstar North, respectively. That Scottish studio is responsible for the Grand Theft Auto games.

According to the patent, the techniques would result in more realistic driving behavior and a more densely populated game world. It is not known whether Rockstar actually uses the described technique for a game. Rockstar North is reportedly working on GTA VI, but nothing is officially known about it. An enhanced version of GTA V will be released this year for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S.

Grand Theft Auto V