A recently uncovered Rockstar Games patent suggests the developer could be using new technology to make NPCs in its games more immersive, particularly when it comes to the highly anticipated action-adventure crime sim GTA VI.
As spotted by Reddit user Tobbelobben30 (via Eurogamer), former Rockstar Games lead AI and gameplay programmer Tobias Kleanthous issued a patent in April called “System And Method For Virtual Character Locomotion.” The 11-page document, as Kleanthous described on LinkedIn, was “architected and implemented for games” at the Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption studio. According to the paper’s abstract, the patent houses “a system and method for controlling the animation and movement of in-game objects.” In layperson’s terms, Kleanthous’ tech should make characters way more life-like. Tobbelobben30 detailed the patent’s contents in their Reddit post:
“Based on this patent, it seems like they’re using a clever system. They’ve built a library of small building blocks for character movements. These blocks can be combined in various ways to create a wide range of animations. For instance, think about a character in the game walking in the rain, feeling tired, or getting injured. Instead of designing separate animations for each of these situations, they use these building blocks to put together the character’s movements naturally. This means GTA 6 can have more diverse and lifelike animations. So, when you play GTA 6, you’ll see characters moving in ways that match the weather, their energy level, and their injuries. This makes the game feel more immersive. It’s like having characters that can adapt to different situations, making the game world feel more real and thrilling.”
“Immersive” can so often be an empty marketing buzzword thrown around ahead of game releases, but when it comes to this patent, the adjective couldn’t be more apt. Based on the tech described, Rockstar Games’ games—particularly GTA IV—should have characters with more dynamic animations, giving their worlds unparalleled realism. While Tobbelobben30 couldn’t verify if the system was used in Red Dead Redemption 2, they did say that the animations in Rockstar’s upcoming game will be “incredible.” (Kleanthous gave a talk during GDC 2021 about some similar tech used in the cowboy RPG.)
Various Reddit users have shared their reactions to this new locomotion patent. “Yeah it’s gonna be mind-blowing, even in the leaks the animations and physics looked insane,” ArkhamIsComing2020 said, referring to leaked development footage from September 2022. “Soo procedural animation? Niceeeee,” quipped ProceduralFish. “So basically if my arm gets hit with a bat I won’t be able to shoot as well? That’s kinda cool,” noted rustynutsbruh.
Kotaku reached out to Rockstar Games and Tobbelobben30 for comment.
We still don’t have a definitive release date for Grand Theft Auto VI, despite learning a lot about the game in recent months and years. A plethora of details have been made public, though, including the city in which the game will take place and the characters we’ll play as, all thanks to an 18-year-old hacker who used an Amazon Fire Stick to gain access to Rockstar Games from a hotel room.