A patent from two Rockstar North developers describes improved non-player characters for open world games. It is specifically about 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 describes that NPCs driving around in cars currently observe 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 goal and a route to follow. Even if an npc disappears from view, that npc continues 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. This may indicate an online implementation.
According to the patent, NPCs are also more aware of and anticipate what is going on in their environment. For example, NPCs slow down on built-up roads and brake before changing lanes on the motorway. The NPCs can also take special circumstances into account, such as a high-speed chase.
The patent application was filed last October and is in the name of David Hynd and Simon Parr. They 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. Whether Rockstar actually uses the described technique for a game is not known.
Rockstar North is reportedly working on GTA VI, but nothing is known about it officially. This year, an improved version of GTA V will be released for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X and S.