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2007 AiGameDev.com Awards for Game AI: The Results

Alex J. Champandard on December 31, 2007

Here are the results for the 1st Annual AiGameDev.com Awards for Game AI, where the best games of the year are nominated and voted by professionals, enthusiasts, and researchers in artificial intelligence for games.

As soon as the voting started, it was very clear that there were multiple polls going on at the same time: one for regular readers of the blog, and the other for game fans referred from other sites. But thanks to the logs, it was quite easy to separate out the different winners into sub-categories.

Best AI in a Mainstream Game

Half-Life 2 Episode 2



Half-Life 2 Episode 2 gathered the most votes from regular readers and subscribers of the Game AI for Developers blog (RSS). This game’s artificial intelligence stands out for multiple reasons:

  1. Valve have taken NPC interaction to the next-level with this game. They’ve always been famous for the original Barney AI, but with Alyx in this episode they’ve paid much more attention to the details. Having an NPC lean over and wink at you while you’re driving should be enough to win it!

  2. The combine soldiers are appear very effective at coordinating to assault the player. The AI technology behind the squad behaviors has been maturing well since the original Half-Life, even if this episode didn’t show it off as much as previous games.

  3. The game features an impressive variety of characters, including zombies, robotic dogs and mechanical striders, etc. Each of them requires a custom AI, but they all tie into the story very well and work together to improve the player’s experience.

Here’s what readers and voters had to say:

“I feel HL2E2 should get [the award]. Not so much for getting a zombie to walk after you but for the combine soldiers tactics. If you listen closely though their garbled speech they bark orders, make the team scatter from grenades and take cover.” — sputnik

Half-Life 2 Episode 2 won the grand prize slightly in front of BioShock.

  • Runner Up: BioShock

  • Finalists: S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Call of Duty 4

Community Award for Game AI

BioShock



BioShock was the overwhelming choice of the active community here at AiGameDev.com. The AI in this game stands out for two reasons:

  1. The characters are not only original, but also tie in to the story and its world beautifully. The developers paid particular attention to the little details throughout the game, including the behaviors and the way they are portrayed.

  2. Each character is part of an eco-system, and has a role to play in interacting with other characters. Yet these emergent behaviors are expertly tied into the mostly linear progression through the game.

Here’s what commenters had to say about it:

“I found the AI enemies awesomely realistic, to the point where I began to ‘feel’ them in my life beyond the game itself, imagining slicers on the ceiling or that the rumble of a passing big-rig was actually an approaching Big Daddy.” — Robert Lyon

Yet more praise for the game:

“The AI interacts with each other in interesting and convincing ways with a believable social groups (splicers, lil’ sisters, big daddies). […] The AI will blindly fall for the trap and run into the turrets line of sight but is willing to react to the situation as the turret fires.” — Logo

Most Popular AI in a Game

Halo 3



Halo 3 got by far the most votes from players and game fans around the web. (I’ve been most impressed by the community built around Bungie’s title!) The AI in the game features impressive enemy AI, particularly on the harder difficulty settings:

  1. The enemy groups are particularly fun to play against. Not only do they do the typical flanking/cover behaviors, but they also have different group behaviors, for example when you take out their leader.

  2. The combat in Halo has always had interesting dynamics thanks to the shields, for instance. What’s particularly impressive in Halo 3 is that the enemies seem aware of the combat mechanics, and capable of regrouping to wait for your protection to run out.

Bungie is always very open about its technology, and their ideas have been spreading quickly through the games industry. However, as readers pointed out, certain behaviors have a few flaws, notably for the allied squads and soldiers driving — although it’s true most other games take the easy route here.

Technical Innovation in Game AI

Assassin’s Creed



Assassin’s Creed was the clear winner of the vote for technical innovation in game AI. While the behaviors in the game aren’t always the best in terms of gameplay, there’s certainly lots of promising technology in this game:

  1. The large crowds, rendered and animated at next-gen quality, are a leap ahead for NPCs in games. This isn’t only impressive by the sheer number of people, but also by the way they come to life as a crowd interacting with the environment.

  2. The animation of the player is pretty amazing, but the NPC animation also follows suit. The interaction between the player and the guards for example, or movement while pushing through the crowd is astounding.

Here’s what readers had to say:

“I was impressed with the animation AI, crowd stuff, and guards were not too bad either. The main thing though is a much denser amount of these objects at once!” — Andrew Armstrong

  • Runner Up: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.

  • Finalists: PathEngine, Kynapse

Best AI in an Independent Game

Armageddon Empires



Armageddon Empires gathered the most votes as well as being the most nominated game for best independent AI of 2007. It’s a turn-based strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic earth, integrating board- and card-game mechanics. The AI shines for multiple reasons:

  1. It has the ability to outsmart the player using long term strategies, which players can catch glimpses of if they stay alert.

  2. The AI makes certain mistakes by design, inspired by the kinds of mistakes humans would make playing the game.

Here’s what readers had to say about the game:

“This game was a real surprise. The AI puts up a very good fight. Once while moving in on the enemy’s main base, I thought I had it in the bag. Then BAM my supply line was cut and I was forced to pull back. The rest of the game was spent trying to get my supply back in shape for the final push.” — Rick Porter

And more praise:

“Terrific replay value because of the solid AI. In fact, this is one of those very rare games where you can actually learn game mechanics and strategy by watching the AI in action!” — Grandpa Mantis

  • Runner Up: Democracy 2

  • Finalists: GalCon, Depths of Peril

What do you think about the results? Who would have you like to see win an award? Click here to post a comment!

Discussion 5 Comments

Andrew on December 31st, 2007

I'm really glad you decided to not remove votes, or restart the votes, or simply take it as Halo 3 is the AI of the year :D It does come down to different tastes and categories, and the popular vote being linked from a Halo 3 site tends to upset the balance if the other games fans don't vote for their game :) Good stuff Alex :) can't wait to see what this year brings. I only just got Unreal Tournament 3 and it might have half-decent AI in. It'd have been good to have your expert opinion on these games too, since you sorted it all out you now have the results, you can tell us what you think is the AI of the year, etc, etc. :)

alexjc on December 31st, 2007

I've not played 2 out of 5 yet, so I can't judge entirely fairly (like everyone else I guess :). I'm a bit surprised HL2 won over BioShock, but either result would have reflected my professional opinion. Halo 3 took a lot of flak during the voting, which I think is a unwarranted, but it didn't deserve to win the grand prize... In the end, 2007 goes down as a year for strong character AI rather than pure combat or squad tactics. I think this'll be a much more obvious trend for 2008, but that's another article! Anyway, I may be super busy with a contract in the fist few months next year, so I won't have too much time to finish all these games, but I hope to get some insider gossip from the developers if I can! So there'll certainly be more on the subject. Alex

designingpatrick on January 2nd, 2008

There wasn't much "AI" in any of the winners for the 2007 AiGameDev.com Awards for Game AI: The Results. Almost every reason for the placement had to do with a scripted animation or some aesthetic or visual quality which describes a character/creature image. This is not AI. The Half Life Explanation; #1 talks about an animation, #3 doesn't actually say anything except that it ties into the story What are "combine soldier tactics"? Does this mean he can change from zombie to soldier? Is this new? Oh and talking troops? I swear that is old news. Bioshock; addresses original characters, and an ecosystem and once again how this ties into the story Halo and Assassin's Creed aren't any better, the crowd control is only an example of utilized hardware abilities. The sort of "AI" displayed by the "crowd" can be summarized as multiple nodes aware of an effector's proximity which display a set of animations which vary based on said effectors list of available actions. This logic system isn't really new. The Armageddon game seems to be one of the examples of a well explained winner.

alexjc on January 2nd, 2008

[B]patrick[/B], Thanks for your comment. Keep in mind that the process of creating [I]game[/I] AI involves a lot of what you dismiss: animation, scripts, character design. I explained this in the [URL=http://aigamedev.com/awards/2007-nominations]nominations[/URL]. Have you played any of the games, including Half-Life 2? Supporting a variety of character behaviors isn't easy (#3) and the squad behaviors are still the best out there (#2). I'd be curious of what games you think deserved to win. Also, if you have any comments about the AI in the games above, feel free to write them down and I'll include them. I've basically summarized the comments of the community here. Alex

Andrew on January 3rd, 2008

The AI winners cover a lot more systems then purely the finite state machine which determines which actions to take...it's more covering the entire behaviour of characters, scripted or no. Oh well, there'll be disagreements. I doubt Patrick played Bioshock though. Unlike Halo 3 (urg) and Half Life 2, while enemies were mainly scripted when to appear their AI was pretty good, and environmentally aware as far as running into water when on fire, or running away if highly damaged to get more health. Got repetitive since it had a low amount of types of enemies, but there we go. That's just the combat too, they did do stuff when not in fights, which in most games mainly means "standing until see a player" :)

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