From months to hours: the Spanish invention that cuts video game development times


The video game industry requires growing economic and human capital to develop impressive, complex works capable of surprising an audience accustomed to the game. blockbuster movie. It comes at a price. Whether it is level design, 3D modeling or rendering of large environments, the data load is superlative; development times too.

From San Jorge University in Zaragoza, the Software Variability for Internet of Things (SVIT) research group has worked to turn the situation around through engineering. his content suggestion engine not only was he able reduce development time in some sections from month to hour thanks to the reuse of previous work, but has been recognized in the prestigious Humies awards. MeriStation interviewed Carlos Cetina, Software Engineer at SVIT, to explain how this suggestion engine works, its direct applications in development and the possible uses it may offer to industry in the future.

Time, this final boss that is unstoppable … but to be avoided

“The scientific community does not yet think that video games are so much at the center of research”, he begins by telling this medium, specifying that he is not a video game developer, but that he and the rest of SVIT are software engineering researchers. For different reasons, the world of interactive entertainment has entered their lives, as have other areas in which they work. The goal of your work is always the same: that the support of a computer can serve as a complement to human work.

“Developing video games takes a lot of effort and hours on the part of developers who, if you think about it, there are millions of artifacts to keep in mind. They create worlds. Video games have reached a scale that transcends what a developer can do», He emphasizes. And this is why it is necessary to rely on technological engineering, to reduce human effort as much as possible until the objectives are achieved through IT support, thus streamlining processes that can take months.

Using technology as a medium: a digital collaborator

Over the past thirteen years they have worked in classical engineering; But software has become everywhere, even induction hobs in household appliances. Through these surveys in the industry, they have acquired knowledge which now becomes applied knowledge in the field of electronic entertainment; the one that concerns us. As soon as the Universidad San Jorge included in its academic catalog the possibility of studying video game development, the SVIT team stood out. His achievements are now recognized internationally, with Facebook keen to take advantage of its suggestion engine.

So what are they doing at SVIT? Cetina laughs, admits it’s very simple: “We are committed to accelerating software development. For many years in the classic industry; now applied to the video game industry.

How does your suggestion engine work? An innovative and useful idea

“The operation starts from the content,” explains Cetina. They always need ready-made examples, as the engine compares, analyzes and creates new examples. “You can focus on items, weapons, uncontrollable characters (NPCs), final bosses… There are many types of content. In our case, we focus on the final bosses. We use them as a starting point and the engine creates new final boss candidates. To do this, choose some of the starting criteria under specific selection criteria and cross or mutate them. We thus obtain variants of those we took initially. How do you know if these variations are good or bad? With a criterion which marks them ”, adds the award-winning member of the SVIT. “To mark them, we perform a simulation between a simulated player and a newly created variant.” Once they have determined which are the valid examples (new final patterns), the copy is created and is ready to use. “The engine is able to reproduce the vision of the creators», He concludes in his explanation.

“Our engine works like biology”

“The idea came from having contacts with the people in charge of the development of video games at the University; specifically the people of Kraken Studios, who are perhaps a spearhead here in Spain. At the beginning, we spoke in very different languages, in particular because we came from the academic side, from classical industry; but little by little you start talking to them and you realize that we are in the same place and it would be very practical to transfer our knowledge ”.

When they learned about the issues that were passed on to them, which was primarily based on having to work for about five years on all these ideas they had in mind, they realized that the solution was to speed up the process. This is how SVIT started working with them to identify what could be optimized and how they could complement it.

“Our engine works like biology. You have a certain content, in this case digital, that you bring to a computer and you start to go through it, to mutate, to evolve, until we do all of this evolution taking into account all the content that the developers have previously created ”. Its suggestion engine does not replace, but complete. “It’s a help,” he insists. “In the end, it’s like having one more colleague, but digital”.

Thanks to this type of technology, Cetina gives as an example cases such as Cyberpunk 2077, from CD Projekt, in which buildings now inaccessible in the future have all their businesses and activities, because much of the work already done can be reuse, adapt and improve without having to start from scratch.

Facebook’s approach is just one of many they’ve had in recent times. One of the examples he gives us is Tequila Works, the famous Spanish studio behind works such as Rime, The Sexy Brutale or GYLT.

The Humies awards, a bronze with a golden taste

After so many years of work in the classic industry, since SVIT, they have matured as a research team to the point of presenting themselves with guarantees and confidence for the Humies awards, awarded by ACM-SIGEVO, l one of the most prestigious international evolutionary computing associations. Humies recognize the jobs in which a computer performs better than a human being. With their third place, they only lagged behind the Google search team and Stansford University. Cetina hopes that in the near future more studios will take an interest in her suggestion engine, and little by little the video game industry will become a more sustainable place.


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