A newly discovered patent filed by Take-Two Interactive might be teasing what Rockstar has plans for with the next iteration of Grand Theft Auto. The patent: System and Method for Virtual Navigation in a Gaming Environment, is a system and method for managing and pathfinding using a coarse graph of low-level nodes representing the virtual world of a gaming environment. Essentially, this is a new system for managing NPC navigation. What makes it more interesting is that it also mentions vehicle road routes and behavior leaving many to assume that this is for the next GTA. Furthermore, the new patent was developed by Rockstar’s lead AI programmer, Simon Parr, and David Hynd, Rockstar’s associate director of technology.
Detailing why this new system is being created, the patent talks about how NPC actions are typically created using a collection of nodes and edges that are part of an artificial intelligence system that would make NPCs perform actions such as using a vehicle to traverse a game’s 3d world. Nodes might correspond to a certain location in the game world, or a series of actions that an NPC takes like driving along a road, coming across an intersection, and making a turn to go on another road, and so on. The issue that the patent outlines with this conventional system are that they may make arbitrary decisions at junctions (wandering behavior). The vehicles may not consider certain things like traffic when navigating the environment. That’s why you may see some NPCs crashing into each other in some games or stopping and doing nothing when they are met with an obstacle in their path. Some systems rely on low level vehicle avoidance to only have NPCs avoid vehicles and objects directly around it but this doesn’t account for things like vehicles changing lanes when parking cars, anticipating a road exit, or weather conditions. There is also so much that these conventional systems can do with a limited amount of processing power, memory, and efficiency working only for a predetermined number of NPC cars in any single instance of a conventional system. NPCs are typically grouped by characteristics and perform the same motions.
This new system and method for virtual navigation in a gaming environment is an effort to overcome the aforementioned obstacles and deficiencies of conventional video game systems. Another thing to note is the mentioning of navigation between multiple islands which could be a small tease and clue as to where the next Grand Theft Auto will be set which may be a return to Vice City. There have also been reports and rumors saying that the main character for GTA 6 may be female, which would be a first for the series.