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Game AI Roundup Week #18 2008: 10 Stories, 1 Video, 3 Jobs, 3 Quotes

Novack on May 4, 2008

Weekends at AiGameDev.com are dedicated to rounding up smart links from the web relating to artificial intelligence and game development. There are even more jobs this week, blog posts and some great papers. Also don’t forget the Twitter account for random thoughts!

This post is brought to you by Novack and Alex Champandard. If you have any news or tips for next week, be sure to email them in to editors at AiGameDev.com. Remember there’s a mini-blog over at news.AiGameDev.com (RSS) with game AI news from the web as it happens.

Geospatial Decision Making

Mike Guinn posted an article on his blog, where he discuses a 2006 paper entitled Geospatial Decision Making, in which he founds interesting applications to video games, among other uses.

“A joint article was presented by Cyrus Shahabi, Yao-Yi Chiang, Kelvin Chung, Kai-Chen Huang, Jeff Khoshgozaran-Haghighi, Craig Knoblock, Sung Chun Lee, Ulrich Neumann, Ram Nevatia, Arjun Rihan, Snehal Thakkar, and Suya You of the Integrated Media Systems Center – Department of Computer Science, University of Southern California on how the increase in the availability of geospatial data has motivated the effort to seamlessly integrate the data into an information-rich and realistic 3D environment. These models are important because of their use by cartographers, military and national intelligence agencies, city planners, military simulations, and video games.”



Intelligent Mistakes

The blog Trusted Worlds published an article entitled AI Design and Trust discussing another article from Mick West (“Intelligent Mistakes”, published in the last issue of Game Developer magazine), about techniques for making AI more realistic, by programming it to make intelligent mistakes.

“In Mick West’s article ‘Intelligent Mistakes’ in the April 2008 issue of Game Developer, he explores a twist on a fundamental game AI issue. It is not uncommon for players to see an AI make an essentially random move that works out well for the AI and impart that either a) the AI is really well done or b) the AI is ‘cheating’, i.e. the programmer lets the AI use inside knowledge to perform better than a player in the same position. That is, a lot is in the eye of the beholder. This leads to the point of the article, a discussion of techniques for making a more realistic and well-matched opponent for the human player by designing the AI to make the same sorts of mistakes an otherwise intelligent human player of the same caliber would make. The AI gets better by getting dumber in a smart way.”

AI Programming A*, Mini Max, State Machine

Danielle Cheah posted on his blog a summary of her approach to solve her MSc’s course current assignment: to write an AI controller for PacMan using any AI techniques available.

“The term AI (artificial intelligence) is sometime confusing and misleading. Artificial intelligence defined by Stan Franklin as ‘Deciding What to Do Next’. Artificial in the sense that we try to simulate real life decision making through technology. Intelligences a property of mind that encompasses many related mental abilities, such as the capacities to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehension, and learning.”

L4D: AI Director



In an interview for Computer and Video Games, Valve’s Marketing Director Doug Lombardi, commented about the AI director — a new AI advance in their upcoming title Left4Dead:

“We want L4D to be something that you want to play every night and it be a little bit different every time, so that’s where the AI director comes in. It decides if a location will be really full of zombies or empty.

You can play the same area one day and there might be a boss in there, and the next there’s nobody in there at all. So it keeps things fresh and serves up a more dramatic experience that’s more than the usual ‘team reaches here, team wins’ scenario.”

Stoxpoker: Poker AI

A short press release: Stoxpoker announced a poker “Man vs. AI” competition, from 4 to 6 of July.

“Stoxpoker.com, an international leader in online poker training, will be hosting the second Man vs Machine Poker Challenge at the Gaming Life Expo in the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on July 4th through July 6th. The matchup will pit the world’s best artificial intelligence (AI) poker program against a host of Stoxpoker coaches, who are some of the biggest winners in poker today.”

Postmortem: Sins of a Solar Empire



Blair Fraser (one of the founders of Ironclad Games), and Brad Wardell (currently the CEO and president of Stardock Corporation) published on Gamasutra, a postmortem of Sins of a Solar Empire. Here there are some of their comments on the game’s AI.

“Sins of a Solar Empire’s retail release had computer AI that was as good if not better than most RTSes, but it was considerably weaker than what is commonly found in turn-based 4X games. This was simply a function of time and lack of opportunity to test it against live human opponents.

Version 1.03 took the experience of playing online and incorporated it into the AI. That said, the released version didn’t offer a computer AI level that “cheated” (got more resources than the player).

AIs that get advantages are non-ideal, but making sure players are always challenged trumps any philosophical positions. As with GalCiv II, AI development will be ongoing throughout the lifetime of the game.”

Gamer Criticisms & Requests

In what seems like a recurring theme, here’s another gamer’s rant on AI entitled “Artifical Intelligence? More Like Powerful and Broken Intelligence”. This was published in the GameRevolution.com blogs section about modern game AI.

“Ah, the good ol AI. Whether they enjoy screwing you over with their stupidity, or gleefully raping you with cheap tricks and blatant cheating, AI is almost every gamer’s bane. We should have won that race fairly, but no, the computer decides that you are not going to. We should have completed that mission smoothly, but nope, the computer ally decides it wants to kill itself. Computer players can seem like gods (or idiots) and it may make even the most hardened gamer smash a wall in fury.”

Popfly For Games (In Silverlight)



In another attempt to boost its Silverlight web platform, Microsoft introduced the Popfly Game Creator. Interesting enough, there’s a screenshot of the simple tool for creating behaviors. Another contender in the AI-O-Matic editor contest?

“When it comes to casual games online, they tend to be built in Adobe’s Flash (see Kongregate). But Microsoft wants people to start creating Web video games in its competing Silverlight.”

Neural Network Trained Enemies



Those of you that have played around with the Ogre 3D engine should recognize these assets. This application has a little more AI though!

“The enemy robots in this mini-game uses neural networks (NN) to do decision making. Prior to what you see here, the NN has undergone some training so that it has learnt how to react based on a human player’s reactions.

Notice these things about the trained robots in the video:

i) They approach me when I’m near and stop to attack when they are in shooting distance. They approach me again when I back away.
ii) Once their HP is low, they know that they should flee instead of trying to attack again
iii) Although they have started to flee, they try to attack me again when I’m not facing them. Once I point the cursor at them, they know that they should flee, even though I haven’t even started shooting. This implies that they are especially good at back attacks.

And all these are done by simply training the neural networks.

Note: The fleeing in a zig-zag manner is procedural and not done by the neural networks.”

Stupefied AI

On his blog, Artificial Intelligence and “Stupefication”, Stephen Foster has been busy posting a series of articles relating to game AI. Be warned though:

“Every time I begin a significant academic research endeavor (culminating in a final paper), I create a blog as a forum for hashing out my raw ideas before committing anything to paper. As a result, many of the ideas floating around on this blog are less-than-fully formed. But that’s okay. In fact, that’s the point. I find that blogging beforehand drastically improves the quality of the final product.”

AAAI and Games



The AAAI launched AI TOPICS a wiki for students, teachers, journalists, and everyone who like to explore what artificial intelligence is, and what AI scientists do. It has, of course, a special section, dedicated to AI on video games.

“Welcome to our new site incorporating an exciting Wiki-based system that merges AI Topics and AI Videos. This site reflects AAAI’s commitment and ongoing effort to effectively communicate the science of AI to interested people around the world.[…]

Why are games fun? In part, because they challenge our ability to think. Even simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe, Nim and Kalah, or puzzles like the Eights Puzzle, are challenging to children. More complex games like checkers, chess, bridge, and Go are difficult enough that it takes years for gifted adults to master them. Nearly all games require seeing patterns, making plans, searching combinations, judging alternative moves, and learning from experience, all being skills which are also involved in many daily tasks. It’s no surprise that Alan Turing proposed chess playing as a good project for studying computers’ ability to reason. In many ways, games have provided simple proving grounds for many of AI’s powerful ideas.”

Jobs of the Week

This week we have three studios looking to fill their AI dev positions. In fact, all the three of them Kaos Studios, Midway Games, and Digital Extremes are looking for the same man! :) A Senior AI Programmer.

Kaos Studios is located in the heart of New York City and is mere blocks from the Empire State Building and the thrill of Midtown Manhattan. Along with the opportunity to live in one of the most exciting cities in the world, we are also working on one of the most exciting FPS titles to date. Frontlines: Fuel of War (PC/XBOX360/PS3) is already receiving great press and that’s just the beginning! We also offer competitive salaries, comprehensive health benefits, and an excellent compensation package. We are always looking for talented artists, developers, and designers to join our growing team, so check out our job postings and let us know what interests you!”

Midway Games Inc. is a leading developer, publisher, and marketer of interactive entertainment software. Midway videogames are available for play on all major videogame platforms including the Playstation3 computer entertainment system, Xbox360 video game system from Microsoft, Nintendo Wii, and Nintendo DS. Midway is legendary in the industry with early breakthrough titles including Defender and Spy Hunter. More recent blockbuster titles include NBA Ballers, Blitz: The League and the Mortal Kombat series.”

“Based in London, Ontario, Canada, Digital Extremes proudly ranks as one of the world’s top independent game development studios. Best known for the co-creation of Epic’s Unreal™ franchise, Digital Extremes helped spiral the franchise into a multi-million unit selling and a top award-winning industry mainstay. Turning its sights to the next-generation, Digital Extremes recently released the much anticipated 3rd person action game, Dark Sector on its brand-new proprietary technology, the Evolution Engine.”

Stalker: Clear Sky AI



GameG33ks, site dedicated to hardcore gamers, posted an article on a Stalker’s prequel, set in that same mutant-ridden exclusion zone in the depths of Ukraine. Surprisingly, the focus of the hype is not -on the author’s opinion- on the graphic improvements, but the exploration sense and AI. This is what the he says on A-Life artificial intelligence systems:

“The real question, though, is not about GSC’s visual talents, but whether the much-discussed A-Life artificial intelligence systems, which control interactions in the world once scripted events have been triggered, will really allow gamers to attain a sense of place and exploration. There has been a feeling that, despite GSC’s claims, the living world systems it developed essentially took a back seat to the linear storyline that was so awkwardly delivered via NPCs and PDA messages. Allowing the game, and the gamer, to just get on with living in the zone could mean discovering more about what players actually want from the experimental end of FPS games.”

Chris Hecker on AI at GDC 2008

Dan Kline, AI and Game Programmer and Designer, posted on his blog Game of Design, an article about the talk on AI that Chris Hecker gave at GDC 2008.

“What would such a set look like? It should model ‘data’ in a ‘code’ system. Given my experience, it seems logically that decision-making (picking your prioritizes at any given point in time) will be our ‘code’. So what could be our ‘data’? It would have to be adaptable to the situation, reflect the personality of the character, and allow the designer to construct a set of interactions from it.”

Funny Quote of the Week

And the winner is…! Erik Kubik from The Daily Evergreen, for his review of Gran Turismo 5.

“Warning: The artificial intelligence in the game gets nasty after the first few races. Like a small cat you keep trying to pet, eventually it starts biting.”

Stay tuned next week for more smart links from around the web!

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