"Sorry about the programmer art," ends a recent tweet from Teardown developer Dennis Gustafsson. He needn't apologise. His tweet contains a video of a pathfinding robot navigating the destructible, constantly-changing world of one of last year's best games, and the robot is simultaneously terrifying and cute.
Watch the video here:
I know a lot of you liked the dynamic pathfinding I tinkered with a couple of years ago. Well, I'm back working on it for part 2. Prepare for robots! Sorry about the programmer art... pic.twitter.com/MQWFakLiGq— Dennis Gustafsson (@tuxedolabs) June 21, 2021
The point of the video is to show off the pathfinding rather than the robot itself. Teardown is a game about performing 60-second heists, which are only possible because you've got a set of tools that allow you to blow holes in walls, knock down bridges, and form your own routes through its architecture. Its current early access release has no NPCs, and any it adds would need to be able to navigate a world where the possible routes of traversal are always being changed by the player.
So it is impressive in the video above when the player jumps out of a hole they've made in a wall and the robot finds a route down, and more so when an ad hoc ramp is created by a player and the robot is immediately able to use that, too.
Yet it's the robot itself that interests me. It's cute and goofy, with string-width legs, no arms, and a glowing, expressionless face. There's a Baymax-like stoicism to it whenever it stops and thinks, peering at a player that has just scuppered its planned path and caused it to tumble to the ground.
Then it sets off again. It doesn't run, but it is relentless in its pursuit. Is it mad that you made it look foolish? What will it do when if it reaches you? I don't know - I'd bet nothing, at this stage of development - but I also don't want to hang around to find out. It is somehow more terrifying than the spiders.