Improved Heuristics for Optimal Pathfinding on Game Maps

Yngvi Bjornsson and Kari Halldorsson

As computer game worlds get more elaborate the more visible pathfinding performance bottlenecks become. The heuristic functions typically used for guiding A*-based path inding are too simplistic to provide the search with the necessary guidance in such large and complex game worlds. This may result in A*-search exploring the entire game map in order to find a path between two distant locations. This article presents two effective heuristics for estimating distances between locations in large and complex game maps. The former, the dead-end heuristic, eliminates from the search map areas that are provably irrele- vant for the current query, whereas the second heuristic uses so-called gateways to improve its estimates. Empirical evaluation on actual game maps shows that both heuristics reduce the exploration and time complexity of A* search significantly over a standard octile distance metric.

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