After a year of work and countless corner cases the pathfinder upgrade is finally done! Yay, cool. But what’s a pathfinder?
It’s an implementation of one of the algorithms developed as part of the graph theory branch of mathematics, that is a “single-source shortest path” algorithm which…
Yeah, okay, sorry. Think of it as “movement code”. When you order your party to move, or when enemies come to you to try and kick your ass, that’s the pathfinder at work.
What it does is build a set of points that characters must move to to get to their destination. So you take point A, point B, point C and move one step at a time, that’s the gist of it. Control engineers call “moving one step at a time towards your goal” a “proportional regulator” and it’s also how cruise control on your car works.
The issue that prompted this upgrade is that, with the old pathfinding code, characters could only move at 45-degree angles, which didn’t match the originals. Therefore the main improvement is that characters can now move at any angle, providing more fluid and realistic character movement.
This upgrade also brings in one new feature from the originals: actor bumping. When somebody’s moving and a “nice enough” actor stands in his or her way, that actor can move out of the way for just the time needed for the moving character to pass. This is done only if there is no other way, like when an actor is blocking an open door; characters will always prefer moving around somebody instead of bumping.
Furthermore, as in the originals, characters will now back off and wait for a while when the situation is too crowded, again providing smoother movement instead of continuously re-calculating the paths to be taken.
The whole movement pipeline was also improved: characters will only stop mid-way if there really is no hope of reaching their targets and bigger parties will not get tangled up when moving all together.
One last bonus is that, previously, base walking speed was the same for all games, while the originals all had different speeds. This is most noticeable in Planescape: Torment with its bigger sprites. This pathfinder unhardcodes base speed into an .ini file variable, allowing varying speed between games and providing one more degree of freedom for making new games with GemRB.
So here it is and we hope you will like that your characters now learned how to walk smarter. :)