The massive computational power unleashed by quantum computers will create immense potential for the gaming industry. While we are at the Noisy Intermediate Scale Quantum (NISQ) regume, we can continue to utilize the current models of quantum computers to explore the possibilities of what can be. The games that currently make use of quantum computing do so either in their control loop or physics design. When the World Economic Forum gathered researchers from around the world quantum games were used to demonstrate the possiblities. These games were developed by IBM primarily to introduce beginners to quantum computing.
Wootton, a researcher at IBM, identifies the reciprocal relationship between quantum and gaming. Not only does he believe in asking the question about what quantum can do for gaming but also what gaming can possibly do for quantum computers.
For instance, Qubit the Barbarian is a game that was a part of the arcade at the World Economic Forum last year. The game is a puzzle that has a mysteriously changing labyrinth and you need to search for food to stay alive. You also need to perform quantum measurements in different directions. This helps you clear new paths or even builds new paths based on the outcome of the measurement.
Games have always been a medium of entertainment. We all enjoy playing games irrespective of the device. On the contrary, games can also be used to show technological advances. For instance, IBM’s Deep Blue beat the world champion in chess in 1997, IBM’s AlphaGo and AlphaStar beat the world champion in Go and StarCraft respectively.
Games can also be used for educational purposes as we can observe in the case of Oregon Trail, Sim City, and Civilization. In the 1950s, humans asked the question “What can games do for computers”. The programs were written using AI models and the existing human games tried to simulate these games. Later in the 1960s, the question “What can computers do for games” was considered, this raised a question about how can computers be improved to make better games. The very first game which was played on a computer but not by a human was Spacewar in 1962. This game was played on PDP-1 computer. It helped gauge the computation capability of this new computer. More games that were developed during this era were IBM’s Baseball (1960) and IBM’s Sumerian game (1964) etc.
Quantum in Gaming
As we are aware Quantum Computers can solve problems related to Optimization. This is where they can help improve the user’s gaming experience. The development of Quantum Computers began in the late 20th Century and after 2010 scientists were asking the question what can games do for quantum computers. IBM realized this to demonstrate the power of Quantum Computers.
Since then it has built two games called Quantum Battleship and Quantum Awesomeness. Both these games have been built by a single IBM researcher Dr. James Wootton. These are games that you can play using your normal computer as they are hosted on the cloud by IBM Q division. Another interesting game is Q|Game which is not exactly played on the computer. Each person behaves as a qubit and a quantum computer is used in the end to decide who played best.
There is a long list of quantum games that you can find on Github. Some of these help you to understand the concepts of superposition and entanglement.
The reciprocal relationship between Quantum Computers and Quantum Games
The famous Shor’s algorithm can factor large numbers into the product of their primes. These prime factors are chosen randomly from a large distribution of factors.Randomness is very important when it comes to developing games. The characters appearing from nowhere, construction of levels, etc. This prevents the player from identifying the patterns in the game and makes each level harder to crack. At the same time, we also do not want the level to be uncrackable by a player and lead to the player being trapped in a level. Right now the game developers are missing the tools for analyzing their algorithms for procedural generation. This is where quantum computers can.
Quantum computing opens a plethora of possibilities for generating game character encounters and game maps which should be truly random in nature. Also, after generating a random level layout, the quantum computers help the game designer resolve if a particular level is solvable or not. Wootton from IBM says that after they built a random puzzle, they need to ensure the following:
- A randomly generated puzzle needs to be solvable
- A randomly generated level needs to be completable
- Randomly generated terrain should not have features that trap the player
The game designer keep these constraints in mind while generating random puzzles, which leads to the game taking the form of a computational problem. These computational problems either take too much memory or too much time. For instance, if we take the Traveling Salesman Problem and challenge a player to solve a puzzle based on this problem, then we can generate a puzzle that is computationally very difficult to solve. If we cannot generate a puzzle that is solvable, we cannot expect the player to do it too. Hence, it would not be a good game because we cannot tell the player how well he/she has done 😉
The Quantum Leap in Graphics
Graphics are the most important components of games design. Quantum computers can render far more realistic and precise graphics using QNN’s. The characters rendered by Quantum Machines could behave more intelligently and perform their roles in complex scenarios.
To render graphics the game engine often has to perform database searches. Quantum computing already has algorithms to perform database searches better for example The Grover Search operator. As far as classical computing search is concerned it is done like searching a phone directory based on the last name while quantum computing search is like searching the same directory based on the phone numbers.
Microsoft: Microsoft is well known in the gaming technology domain. With Xbox under its control, Microsoft is all set to write the history in Quantum Gaming Technology too. It is supporting the development of its open-source Quantum toolkit called Q#.
IQIM Quantum Checkmate: How about a chess piece having its next move decided on the basis of bedrock quantum principles of entanglement, superposition, and entanglement. Chris Cantwell from the University of Southern California collaborated with IQIM from Caltech to build this game which is now a hit. The video below depicts a quantum chess battle between Stephen Hawking and Paul Rudd narrated by Keanu Reeves is one of the funniest quantum videos ever.
BOXCAT: A Toronto based startup has been able to render game images rendered by a quantum computer hosted on a cloud. They did it using the D-Waves cloud systems. Also, researchers at this startup have developed quantum algorithms for global illumination and polygon visibility, the terms game developers use to describe the combination of refractions and reflections to create realistic lighting effects.
Quantumgame.io : This week the QuantumHermit team spoke to Dr. Piotr Migdal who founded Quantumgame.io , A puzzle game with photons, superposition and quantum measurement, right in your browser. With true quantum mechanics underneath!
There are a many other companies that are actively working in quantum gaming as a hedge to the future. We think that the gaming industry has a lot to contribute to the development of Quantum Computers and vice-versa. We will see this space grow exponentially over the next few years.
By A. Yadav, Researcher @ QuantumHermit