Weekends at AiGameDev.com are dedicated to rounding up smart links from the web relating to artificial intelligence and game development. This week, we have many media comments on upcoming titles; as always, there are some good articles and blog posts for you to read. Remember, there’s also lots of great content to be found in the forums here! (All you have to do is introduce yourself.) Also don’t forget the Twitter account for random thoughts!
This post is brought to you mostly by Marcos Novacovsky (aka “Novack”) with minor editorial comments by 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.
Game/AI: How to Become a Game AI Developer
Paul Tozour, posted on the blog Game/AI, an very interesting article in response to the one published by Dave Mark here at AiGameDev.com.
The industry always needs more talented AI developers, and I thought I should post some thoughts here to share my own perception of the best strategies for picking up the skills the industry needs and getting into a game AI development role.
Not so Bad Company (?)
This week, all over the Net, more comments were published about the last Battlefield franchise development. Far from the last week praises however, the game has received a lot of flak the last days. Below, you will read a little roundup on some of the opinions and comments on Battlefield: Bad Company.
“…slightly inept artificial intelligence. On occasion, your fellow soldiers will shoot like mad and leave themselves wide open to damage, especially in vehicles.”
“With enemy AI, there’s a thin line between very stupid and very smart. Sometimes soldiers stand out in the open and slowly reload their gun while you blast them to bits, but the majority of the time they tear open every building you hide in and attack from all sides. It takes the “no cover is safe” dynamic of the Auger in “Resistance: Fall of Man” to an entirely new level.”
“Your Bad Company cohorts live up to their name. They offer little help. On a couple occasions, I watched teammates run past an enemy without even a shot fired. Prepare to do almost all the work. Computer-controlled foes aren’t any better. They’re wildly inconsistent in their attack patterns. Sometimes, they’ll flank and maintain aggressiveness. Other times, you have to chase them down. There were moments where enemies waited seconds before firing.”
The title has been revamped, to be released for the Sony console. It seems that work has been done, to make it a bit more than a just Blu Ray port. As usual, we payed atention to the comments on AI changes, and found some sweet surprises:
“…the game is at times a real challenge and the enemy A.I. is the best in any shooter to date. In one segment, I decided to bounce a grenade off the wall and take out a group of enemy soldiers. This plan worked great until one of the soldiers pulled a metal cabinet from the wall and used it as a shield against the grenade blast. As the game continued, A.I. controlled soldiers knocked over desks and tables as shields, jumped through street level windows, as well as ducked behind walls to avoid incoming fire. As if this was not enough of a challenge, they would also reach their weapons over objects and fire without presenting a clear target for me to engage.”
Call Of Duty: World At War
Some interesting comments provoked the first look at the latest Call of Duty chapter (currently under development by the studio who was in charge of the CoD3). Despite the obvious good work on the CoD4 AI, it seems like is not enough for a game with a radical environment swap:
“…the studio does at least acknowledge that new AI and tactics had to be developed for the new foe. That said, World at War producer, Noah Heller did reveal that the new AI was only developed after trying out how the standard Call of Duty code performed on the jungle islands of the east…that’s not an admission Treyarch had tried to find a short cut, is it?”
After Death: Wrap-up of AIFighter
Billy Hewlett, the UCLA DESMA student developing his final project (we have been following his progress for the last weeks), posted a little postmortem about his work in AIFighter.
“Most people, on hearing the game pitch, didn’t feel like we would make a fun game or thought that our AI couldn’t be implemented in the short time frame we had, but everything worked very well. There was enough time at the end of the project to add additional modes like AI vs. AI, player vs. player, or single player training AI.”
Race Driver: GRID
More praises to the PlayStation 3 title, that seems to be making very happy the virtual racers… or at least the game’s journalists.
One of the reasons that GRID is such an impressive game is the brand new damage model and the brutal AI. The AI is simply fantastic - they will bump and grind your car, fight for every position and even drive differently. At times it really did feel as if we were racing against human opponents and this means that the game stays engaging throughout the single player mode and will have players wanting to beat these opponents.
Matt Hooper (id Software lead designer) interviewed by Next-Gen made some interesting declarations about tasks specialization, relating it directly with AI development.
“the AI is so complicated, and our gameplay goals for Rage are so much more than we’ve ever had before, that if you don’t have an AI designer working with an AI programmer, then you’re just going to be in bad shape. So we’ve been forced to do that, just by the breadth of our design goals.”
The MotoGP series (Xbox/360) creators Black Rock Studio (recently acquired by Disney Interactive) are working on a multiplataform off-road racing title, called Pure. Interviewed by Jason Hill for GameRatty, Jon Gibson (Black Rock’s Game Director) told some great insights of the game’s AI development.
I’m also interested to hear about the game’s AI drivers, because obviously they can make or break a game like Pure in single-player mode. Have you worked hard on giving the driver’s personality? How aggressive are they? And have you used rubber banding?
We use rubber banding. It’s needed to keep the action tense. But it’s quite subtle. When we started this game we didn’t want unrealistic rubber banding, a catch up system where you’re up front and the AI goes at light speed to catch up with you. The AI unrealistically speeding up or slowing down. In this game you’ve got lots of jumps. As a user, to get over those jumps as quickly as possible, you need to use a combination of boosting and pre-loading. If you boost and you pre-load, you will land on the down face of a jump. What the AI will do, they will use the same technique. So if they need to catch up, they will go over jump sections absolutely perfectly. Jumping and boosting at exactly the right amount to get over those sections as quickly as possible. If we want to slow the AI down, rather than artificially slowing them down we make them start mistiming jumps. They also crash as well and mess up tricks. So its much more natural than in other games where you just see them artificially slowing. Throughout the game we also have dynamic competition balancing, an AI difficulty system which will be varied according to the player’s performance. So when you play through the World Tour mode which is the main career structure, the player’s performance in each race will determine how they perform. If you do really well in a race, the AI difficulty level will ramp up even more. And if you tail off, it will get easier. This is something that has also taken a long time to balance through testing. The idea is there’s always a consistent level of difficulty and a consistent challenge as you play through the game.
Rather late for another review?
Francis Trujillo from Santa Fe New Mexican, wrote a review on S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl (yes, the original, not the upcoming prequel). The interesting note, is how not specialized media can (from time to time), bring a fresh view over the always under-pressure game AI development.
“The game totes a unique inventory system for a shooter, a very large amount of Soviet and Western weapons, an engaging storyline and that one thing most games strive for, but hardly ever achieve: good AI. The game, especially on the higher difficulty settings, is very impressive. Enemies will cover each other, run for cover or flee if they think they are loosing a fight.”
Empire: Total War AI Diary
Offering more details on the next release of the Total War RTS franchise, Creative Assembly published in the Total War Blog a development diary, exposing some Battle AI insights. The game will include for the first time 3D naval combat situations.
Hi, I’m Jack Lusted a Games Tester at the Creative Assembly UK and this blog will detail my part in the Battle AI development process and how the AI testing works. This blog compliments an upcoming video development diary on the Battle AI.
Then lets Clear the Sky! … No, Im not sorry about that. Now more seriously, more details had been revealed about the next S.T.A.L.K.E.R. title. As always, juicy AI improvements are promised. Below there are some comments published by Gametactics.
“Special attention was given to realistic, independent thinking and actions of the NPCs. The artificial intelligence from the predecessor game was strongly improved, so that foes and allies now make their own situation-based decisions that impact the further course of the game. For instance, the outcome of battles is not predetermined. Only in the last few levels is the player guided towards a given end of the story, which leads to the events described in Shadow of Chernobyl.”
Funny Quote of the Week
Sometimes the videogames journalists act like an angry mob; to the point that sometimes their words sound really funny… Thats why I’ve choosed this, as the Funny Quote of the Week!
“The Jumpgate Evolution faq boasts about how advanced the AI of computer opponents is. I am always sceptical reading such statements. When was the last time you were actually impressed with a game’s artificial intelligence?”
AI Video Lectures
This is the first video, of a series of lectures on Artificial Intelligence. For the full list of videos, look at the link at the bottom of this article.
Lecture Series on Artificial Intelligence by Prof. P. Dasgupta, Department of Computer Science & Engineering, I.I.T,kharagpur. For More details on NPTEL visit http://nptel.iitm.ac.in
GNU/Linux AI & Alife HOWTO
John Eikenberry, has made an interesting compilation of AI material for Linux. A must read for the AI developers and Penguin followers.
This howto mainly contains information about, and links to, various AI related software libraries, applications, etc. that work on the Linux platform. All of it is free (gratis) for personal use and most of it is truly free (libre).
Stay tuned next week for more smart links from around the web!