GAMMA research group, Department of Computer Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
geom at cs.unc.edu
GAMMA has been researching the problem of how to model interaction between people for several years. Our research has pursued many aspects of crowd simulation and we have published many papers on crowd simulation. From our extensive research, we have designed RVO2 Library, a software product well-suited to crowd simulation.
The main appeal of RVO2 Library for games is that it runs relatively quickly. Many commercial products have used RVO2 to perform crowd simulation. Most recently, products like Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine have used RVO2 Library to create much more convincing interactions between characters in games. The extent to which RVO2 Library is applicable to the interactive media domain is not limited to games with multi-milion dollar budgets. We hope to show this by demonstrating the potential of RVO2 Library in the mobile games space.
Mobile devices have become ubiquitous. Mobile applications have gained traction as never seen before. More particularly, casual games for mobile devices have become a massive industry. The poster boy for this industry is Angry Birds, developed by Rovio Mobile. Angry Birds has been reportedly downloaded 350 million times. Angry Birds has entered popular culture; finding a person who has not heard of Angry Birds is a challenge in itself. The game illustrates the impact and exposure possible for just the right kind of game.
What are the characteristics of Angry Birds? The game play is quite simple. The player simply loads a bird into a slingshot and shoots the bird at a pile of blocks. The goal is to destroy the structure in as spectacular a manner as possible. The art is appealing and full of character; the game is aptly named Angry Birds. What about the technology in the game? The play of the game is all about a single piece of technology: physical simulation of objects hitting each other (also known as rigid-body dynamics). Rovio Mobile has done an excellent job in taking a single core piece of commodity technology, wrapping it in an appealing and effective game design and delivered it to the world's handheld devices. They have even extended it to be played in web browsers.
Our crowd simulation technology, RVO2 Library, is an ideal piece of technology to apply to a mobile game. The simulation technology is extremely efficient. This efficiency leads to games that can run using less power, extending the lifespan of the mobile device's battery. In addition, we believe that the random-seeming movement in a crowd provides a great puzzle game platform.
We have prototyped a game, Herd 'Em, based on this technology. We have embedded a simple web version of this game on this page. In the game, the player controls a sheep-herding dog with the goal of, indirectly, controlling the movement of the sheep. In the full game, various challenges would arise which make controlling the sheep increasingly challenging. We feel this concept has a great deal of potential. It shares many traits in common with Angry Birds. It is a game based on a single key technology with simple gameplay and appealing artwork. This type of game is an excellent vehicle to showcase UNC's research to the world.
This prototype was built with the Unity Game Engine. Unity is a multi-platform device that allows deployment to any of a variety of platforms including console (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3), handheld (iOS, Android), and browser. With the incorporation of RVO2 Library into Unity, we can take full advantage of the portability of the engine and all of its features. We believe that the ease of incorporating RVO2 Library into Unity will speak to its strengths as a lightweight library. The mere fact that we are able to use this technology in a browser is a testament to the efficiency of the library and the potential for an interesting game.