Technical Challenges of Games

Current Technical challenges for computer games

  • Physics and dynamics
  • Dynamic lighting
  • AI
  • Terrains, Landscapes and Level of detail

Physics and dynamics take up a huge part of everyday gaming but making the experience unique is where the task of the game developer becomes difficult typical in game physics utilise a physics engine that enables life like physical actions and reactions to take place.

Making an in game physics engine over the last couple of years has become mildly easy with the use of pre made codes that were made for a specific engine but then became outdated and the rights are now public.

One of the most common physics engines for games is the Physx engine by Nvidia, the way the Nvidia GPU works enables some of its multicore technology to be utilised to run real-time simulations, this not only is a huge leap for games but it is also a very hard technological leap, Video games supporting hardware acceleration by PhysX can be accelerated by a PhysX GeForce thus offloading physics calculations from the CPU, allowing it to perform other tasks instead. This typically results in a smoother gaming experience and additional visual effect.

Dynamics in games are highly similar to typical physics but are defined more towards the way objects react towards each other, for example if a wall to collapse in game should the rubble land on the floor or fall through it. The physics engine calculates the object should fall and the dynamic object has a rule stating it shouldn’t fall through the floor.

AI  (Artificial Intelligence)

AI in video games is based upon techniques to produce the illusion of intelligence in the behaviour of non-player characters (NPCs). The techniques used typically draw upon existing methods from the field of artificial intelligence (AI). However, the term game AI is often used to refer to a broad set of algorithms that also include techniques from control theory, robotics, computer graphics and computer science in general.

Seeing as gaming AI is based around creating the illusion of intelligence in many cases, the computer abilities must be toned down to give human players a sense of fairness. This, for example, is true in first-person shooter games, where NPCs’ otherwise perfect aiming would be beyond human skill.

A very common framework for AI in games is to have states of behaviour with every given interaction a player can have with the NPC, Below is the most common arrangement of this.

•Idle. In this state, the entity is passively standing around or walking along a set path. Perceptions are low. Player sounds are not often checked for. Only if this entity is attacked or “sees” a player directly in front of it will its state change to a higher level of awareness.

•Aware. This entity is actively searching for intruders. It checks often for the sounds of the player and sees farther and wider than an idle entity. This entity will move to the Intrigued state if it notices something out of place (something to check for), such as open doors, unconscious bodies, or spent bullet casings.

•Intrigued. This entity is aware that something is up. To demonstrate this behavior, the entity will abandon its normal post or path and move to areas of interest, such as the aforementioned open doors or bodies. If a player is seen, the entity goes to the Alert state.

•Alert. In this state, the entity has become aware of the player and will go through the actions of hunting down the player: moving into range of attack, alerting fellow guards, sounding alarms, and finding cover. When the entity is within range of the enemy, it switches to the Aggressive state.

•Aggressive. This is the state where the enemy has engaged in combat with the player. The entity attacks the player when it can and seeks cover between rounds of attack (based on attack cool-downs or reloading). The entity only leaves this state if the enemy is killed (return to normal), if the enemy moves out of firing range (go back to the Alert stage), or if the entity dies (go to the Dead state). If the entity becomes low on health, it may switch to the Fleeing state, depending on the courage of the specific entity.

•Fleeing. In this state, the entity tries to run from combat. Depending on the game, there may be a secondary goal of finding health or leaving the play area. When the entity finds health, it may return to the Alert state and resume combat. An entity that “leaves” is merely deleted.

•Dead. In some games, the state of death may not be completely idle. Death or dying can have the entity “cry out,” alerting nearby entities, or go into a knocked-out state, where it can later be revived by a medic (and returned to a state of Alert).

AI is a very technological challenge of gaming and can make or break a game, if the AI is too easy or doesn’t act in the similar way a human/creature does people may feel alienated or even humour us towards the in game functions of the AI.

Terrains, Landscapes and Level of detail

When creating any game in this day and age an environment needs to be made for the player to be incorporated into, creating realistic terrains and landscapes with a sense of scale is very demanding and challenging for modern day artists.

There are a few tools to help with the process but it’s usually a pipeline firstly you have the concept artist sketch out the artwork that would help the level designers produce the final 3D composite.

Once the concept art is done its given to the 3D designer to either use an in game editor to produce the maps or a separate 3D package.

One of the most common things that is done is an editor is pre made with sculpting tools already integrated into it, the artist then uses this to recreate the environment.

The level of detail within an environment is achieved with texture maps and lower mpoly meshes that are displayed at different distances., is a method for adding detail, surface texture (a bitmap or raster image), or colour to a computer-generated graphic or 3D model. A texture map is applied (mapped) to the surface of a shape or polygon. This process is akin to applying patterned paper to a plain white box. Every vertex in a polygon is assigned a texture coordinate (which in the 2d case is also known as a UV coordinate) either via explicit assignment or by procedural definition.

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