Artificial intelligence to revolutionise game and movie development

25 Mar 2009

Dublin-headquartered gaming physics software firm Havok has developed a new middleware product that could revolutionise the gaming industry, giving animators simultaneous control over multiple character movements.

The Emmy award-winning Irish company, which provides interactive software and services to digital creators in the international games and movie industries, has launched its sixth product at the Game Developer Conference 2009 in San Francisco.

The new product, called Havok AI, provides developers with unique solutions to perform pathfinding and advanced character interaction in highly dynamic game environments.

In game development, pathfinding is a technology used to allow game characters to navigate through their landscape. As today’s games become more complex and dynamic, finding plausible solutions to pathfinding is increasingly difficult, time-consuming and costly.

Havok AI allows characters to predict the movement of obstacles and adapt accordingly, moving plausibly through the complex and often congested situations that arise when environments become dynamic. Havok AI features out-of the box integration with Havok’s other products Havok Destruction, Havok Behavior, Havok Physics and Havok Animation.

Havok AI is architected from the ground up to deal with the sheer scale of characters and dynamics of the cutting-edge games of today and tomorrow. By using Havok AI, developers will dramatically improve the performance of their AI runtime systems and save significant time in production and development, driving down costs, while helping developers raise the bar for their gaming audience.

“With the addition of Havok AI, the company continues to expand its broad product portfolio,” explained David O’Meara, managing director of Havok.

“As the solutions provider of choice for the game development industry, featured in over 200 games to date, Havok continues to engineer new software and tools that address key challenges currently unmet in the gaming industry, making Havok the ultimate one-stop shop for development.”

Havok AI is available as part of Havok 6.5, which includes Havok’s highly acclaimed and industry-dominant software products and tools. Havok technology can now be found in over 200 games worldwide, with 75 additional releases slated for 2009.

All Havok tools dramatically accelerate the development of cross-platform, innovative electronic games and special effects for film, in line with the requirements of the world’s top developers and producers.

At the 2008 BAFTA Video Game Awards in London in March, games created using Havok’s award-winning technology were chosen as the winners in six categories. Ten Havok-powered titles received nominations in 12 of the 14 categories.

Recently, Havok was awarded a prestigious Game Developer Front Line Award for its industry-leading middleware product Havok Physics. US based magazine Game Developeris the leading publication for the worldwide gaming industry, and its annual Front Line Awards acknowledge technology companies and products that drive innovation and efficiency in creating state-of-the-art gameplay. Winning a Front Line Award is a significant accolade, as winners are chosen by their peers in the global game developer community.

The company also won an Emmy award from the US National Academy of Television, Arts & Sciences at a glittering ceremony in Las Vegas last year. The company was honoured with the award for its work on pioneering physics engines, which makes games more realistic than ever before.

“Havok has an unparalleled reputation for delivering robust, optimised, cross-platform solutions to our customers, and Havok AI represents a natural extension of our portfolio of run-time technologies,” said David Coghlan, vice-president of development for Havok

“It provides a focused set of services and technologies that help enable plausible, engaging and creative in-game characters, as well as delivering significant productivity gains during production,” Coghlan added.

By John Kennedy

Pictured: a scene from Halo 3, one of many best-selling games that use the Havok physics engine