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Technology. Technology. Computer games have always been driven by technology.
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Technology Computer games have always been driven by technology. For many years it was advances in graphics that changed the way computer games were designed – the early two-dimensional (2D) games like Pac Man were made up of simple sprites, whereas games such as Heavy Rain now feature complex three-dimensional (3D) worlds made of realistic graphics that can almost pass for the real world.
2D games A simple 2D game needs to have an artist who designs the characters, items and the layout of the levels. Next it needs programmers who can create them. The characters, items and layouts are created individually at first and then they are brought together with a set of rules that controls how they behave. After this stage a sound designer or an audio engineer finds and adds sound effects and music to the game. At this stage the game is finished, but it still needs to have a graphical user interface (GUI) built onto the beginning of it and the game needs to be integrated into the system that it is being run on.
3D games Things get even more complicated when it comes to creating a 3D game. Specialist 3D designers are needed to design the characters and the environments where the game will take place. Some of these environments are amazingly complicated – it is the ambition of many games studios to create more advanced environments that will eventually be as complex as the real world. One of the attempts to do this on the Playstation 2 was a game called Spiderman 2. This game was an open world super hero adventure game where the player had to swing around New York and climb up its buildings. The city in the game was an exact replica of the real city, but scaled down. This involved a huge amount of development work, as well as a very detailed and complicated program. To create the city would have required many different 3D developers each designing some of the streets and buildings.
Artificial intelligence The Playstation 2 was able to run a game like Spiderman 2 because the processor that it had was powerful enough to cope with the 3D graphics, the sound and the artificial intelligence (AI) of the nonplayablecharacters (NPCs) within the game. AI is a set of rules and code that control the behaviour of the NPCs – it is often this that makes a game fun or not. If a character in a computer game doesn’t have very sophisticated AI, they will not behave in a way that seems natural or likely.
For example, in early games like Froggerthe NPCs moved along set paths, at the same speed and in the same way every time. In Froggerthe NPCs were trucks and cars and they moved in perfect unison along the road with the same space between all of them. Have you ever seen a motorway where the cars and trucks behave like this? Probably not. • As computer games technology has improved, so has the AI of the NPCs. In modern computer games, in the sports and fighting games genres, the AI will make the computer-controlled players adapt to what you are doing and make it harder for you. As with most things, as the technology gets better, so does the AI.
Task AI is all about rules. The developer puts in codes of behaviour for all of the important NPCs in a game and sets how they will react to certain things. For example, the ghosts in Pac Man move around the maze at a set speed and they have three rules: 1. If you touch Pac Man, eat him. 2. If Pac Man has eaten a power-up that makes you change colour, run away from Pac Man. 3. If Pac Man has eaten everything but your eyes, fly back to base to regenerate. Pac Man was made in 1980, over 30 years ago, and computer games technology has come a long way since then. Discuss with a friend: If Pac Man was going to be made today, what kind of behaviour would the ghosts have? Would they have strategies? Would they lay traps? See what ideas you can come up with.