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How Enemy Pathfinding AI works in Video Games

Game developers have been experimenting with various approaches to obtain the best possible ways to make the AI look more natural and, in the true sense, smart, and these trials have yielded some impressive results as well. We have more complex AI that sometimes even outsmarts its creator. We have examples of AI chess master that beat even the best chess players in history, and when talking about video games, how can we forget the smart Cop system in GTA that chases us while we try to run off stealing cash in GTA Online.

But one of the most impressive works of art in video games is the pathfinding algorithms. They are responsible for most of the AI movements in the game world. They create and determine the best path for an NPC to run or walk on to reach their destination. The recent technological advancements have enabled the developers to create some very complex systems that led us to believe that the NPCs can behave like humans, be it dodging cars, running errands, chasing the player, and more.

But how does pathfinding work in video games? Before that, let’s talk about what it is.

The simplest way to define what pathfinding is is that it’s a simple process of finding a path between two points. And there are a lot of ways to go about finding a path between point A to point B. In video games, different pathfinding algorithms are used to help the NPCs find ways to reach a particular destination; it could be the player while chasing him, someplace they need to get to, finding ways around obstacles, and so much more.

Pathfinding algorithms help them determine these things. A pathfinding algorithm is a method that is most commonly used for enemies in games to determine the shortest path to a specific place on the map. It investigates several different routes to get from point A to point B.

Now, there are a plethora of pathfinding algorithms that all achieve the same thing: determine the shortest route from point A to point B on a map but in various ways. Some of these pathfinding methods have been more efficient over time than others as they take into account a number of things before they even take their first step towards reaching the goal.

But it’s not always about efficiency or even finding the shortest path amongst several paths; some game creators want their NPCs to behave more organically, so they use algorithms or even create their own that are more well-suited for their games.

How the Pathfinding Algorithms Work?

While many pathfinding algorithms are being used for several purposes, many video game developers do rely on the ones that yield the best result depending on the type of game they are working on by altering the already existing algorithms. But one thing that is common in all of these algorithms is the fact that they are all used to determine the shortest route between two places or points in the game world. However, they go about it in their unique ways to get the result; some are more quicker than others, while others tend to be more realistic in approach.

One of the most common algorithms that many game developers have been using for a long time now is the A* pathfinding algorithm. It is considered one of the best pathfinding algorithms as it is way more efficient than most of the other algorithms out there. It is used to determine the shortest path between the source and destination points in the game. This allows the developers to have the enemies swiftly calculate their route in the game and quickly change the path if one path gets blocked.

The way it works is the A* pathfinding algorithm considers the walkable parts of the map, and it creates a grid on top of it. The grid has little blocks, which we can call the steps. The algorithm then determines the shortest path to reach the destination using these steps. The smaller the number of steps, the quicker the path would be to reach the destination.
Each of these steps has two costs: the distance from the endpoint to the next point in calculation, and the other is the distance from the stage that the player is on to the next point in calculation. The way this algorithm finds the shortest path to reach the destination is by adding these two costs together to find the one with the lowest output, which is called the F value of the algorithm.

These algorithms are what makes these games so good, and the NPC walks naturally with stability as developers are trying to make this more efficient and less power-hungry. Games like RDR 2 have some of the best algorithms that allow for more complex behavior, something that many other games lack, which is why the NPCs end up sticking out like a sore thumb.

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Islah Ejaz is the senior content writer of Techlectual.com and a consumer tech expert. He’s been writing about the tech industry since 2012.

Categories: How-tos
Islah Ejaz: Islah Ejaz is the senior content writer of Techlectual.com and a consumer tech expert. He’s been writing about the tech industry since 2012.