New Patent Could Cause Realistic Environmental Aging in EA Titles

EA has filed a patent for “Artificial Intelligence Based Virtual Object Aging,” which could see objects age within games using AI. Just to be clear, there is no evidence at present to say this method will be used for any of EA’s upcoming games.

EA’s patent does hold some interesting claims that the method, which utilizes artificial intelligence, could streamline the process of making in-game assets appear old. For most, that process is currently very hands-on, requiring conscious intervention for virtually every texture change and missing piece. The EA patent may streamline that process, making it so that a snowman built in Sims 4 will melt in a slightly different way each time, or allowing developers to apply a filter to objects representing a ten-year jump into the future.

In order to create, for example, the walls of a castle such as Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Skyhold, typically a game asset artist would have to consciously think about how the stone weathers after the mason is long gone, considering things like where cracks would form, if the color and texture of the stone would change, and more. According to the claims in this patent, at least two AI algorithms are trained to try and recreate this process: one to apply textures and deformations to the “before” image, and the other to assess whether the “after” image appears realistic.

Obviously, the process is more complicated than that, but the gist is that there is a “generator” model and a “discriminator” model. Likely, the discriminator model is trained by looking at many images of real-life locations and structures at various stages of their aging process, and it may even be specialized to specific types of objects aging. The generator model has access to a library of textures that it experiments with, and fine-tunes its process according to the feedback provided by the discriminator model.

Artificial Intelligence is a widely misunderstood subject, given that some people start to think of Skynet from The Terminator, a network that develops sapience and inevitably turns against mankind. In reality, machine learning and AI are more like the latest tools in an ever-growing box of technologies. AI can think about specific things a lot faster than humans do, but computers largely lack the ability to make generalizations and assumptions, such as Skynet assuming it will be better off without humans. EA’s patent therefore currently lies squarely in the realm of, “this is interesting, but will it actually look good.”

Companies like Nvidia have been working on AI development to improve computer graphics performance already, so EA is not the only kid on the block playing with the latest toys. It is unlikely that any company will be open about its use of AI technology in the coming months, so at this point, gamers will have to speculate what it means for the future of game development.

Content retrieved from: