Game AI Roundup Week #42 2008: 8 Stories, 1 Video, 1 Quote

Novack on October 19, 2008

Weekends at are dedicated to rounding up smart links from the web relating to artificial intelligence and game development. This week, 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”). If you have any news or tips for next week, be sure to email them in to editors at Remember there’s a mini-blog over at (RSS) with game AI news from the web as it happens.

Personality For AI

Jorma Auburn (Lead Animator at NCsoft) posted in his blog an article about adding personality to the NPCs without a line of code.

In video game production, more often then not there is an assumption that any attack or motion will do for an AI as long as it is “cool”. A lot of this has to do with the fact that animation is often created before design has finalized the game plan. I find this workflow very frustrating. I understand that games are about the fun play factor and animation is the icing on the cake, but with a little staggering of roles I think both can be achieved. In games there are very few places to show personality for AI that doesn’t rely on cinematics. If possible I try to milk as much personality into every available piece of motion. The attack of a character should compliment its personality as much as the idle or fidget. An example of this can be seen in my TR creature reel.

Stay on Target: Real Life Tron on an Apple IIgs

An excellent [real]story about the AI of a Tron-like cycle game escaping from the game and subsequently crashing the system.

One day, when Marco and I were playing against two computer opponents, we forced one of the AI cycles to trap itself between its own walls and the bottom game border. Sensing an impending crash, it fired a missile, just like it always did whenever it was trapped. But this time was different – instead of firing at another trail, it fired at the game border, which looked like any other light cycle trail as far as the computer was concerned. The missile impacted with the border, leaving a cycle-sized hole, and the computer promptly took the exit and left the main playing field. Puzzled, we watched as the cycle drove through the scoring display at the bottom of the screen. It easily avoided the score digits and then drove off the screen altogether.

Shortly after, the system crashed.

Our minds reeled as we tried to understand what we had just seen. The computer had found a way to get out of the game. When a cycle left the game screen, it escaped into computer memory – just like in the movie.

Chatbots take the ultimate AI test - and fail

Remember the Loebner Prize, the annual test of artificial intelligence that we mentioned some weekends ago? Well, it took place featuring five chatbots but none of them convinced the judges it was human.

Elbot emerged as the winner, after scooping a 25% success rate at convincing the judges that it was actually human. That’s not enough to please the ghost of Turing, but it was enough to pick up Elbot’s owner, Fred Roberts, a cash prize. Fred’s invention had a few tricks up his sleeve, including trying to the judges off their game by explicitly referring to itself as a machine.

Player rant of the week

In the Blog of Lutonaut in a post with no text capitalization whatsoever, we found a particular rant about the general state of the last times game releases, with one paragraph dedicated to a well know game’s AI.

in elder scrolls 4: oblivion, we were led to believe in “radiant ai,” an artificial intelligence so powerful that we would believe that these non-player characters (npcs) lived lives entirely separate from our own player character; eating, sleeping, conversing & interacting with the environment as though they were actually real. the reality, of course, was that the programmers bit off far more then they could chew - their radiant ai was so ‘radiant’ that it constantly broke the game in their tests, both in in-game believability & game stability itself to the point where the ai had to be toned down to the point of impotence. ai, as delivered, walked around all day, delivering canned & random conversations, not acknowledging dead people next to them & not interacting with events unless they were scripted to do so (apparently, killing two trolls in front of townspeople isn’t newsworthy enough, nor is an impending crisis of doom from demonic-esque dimensions invading the countryside).

AIIDE 2008 News

Gamasutra and Develop brought us the announcement from the organisers of the annual event (to be placed in Stanford, next week): the Conference Line-Up is finalized.

The final line-up of speakers at the fourth Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE) conference has been announced, with the event due to take place at Stanford University, California on October 22nd to 24th.

High Voltage Interview

Darren Calvert from WiiWare World interviewed the High Voltage Hot Rod Show game’s producer Josh VanVeld who said this about the racing game AI:

WW: How will the AI play out in Hot Rod Show? Will it be rubber banded like in Mario Kart?

JV: Great question! While we can appreciate how a good rubber-banding system keeps you in the middle of the action, the team decided that we wanted the racing to feel really competitive and never cheap. In almost any racing game, there’s nothing worse than losing a race on the last corner to an AI that was obviously cheating the laws of the game. We built our AI to obey all of the game rules during a race (although I do admit that we give our hard AI a special edge at the start of a race).

We then plotted multiple racing lines along each track for the AI to try to follow and gave them decision-making abilities similar to the player’s. We also built in error percentages, so hard AI will never misjudge a trick, where easy AI does a lot of crashing. We ended up with a result that we’re happy with, namely easy AI that beginners can beat, and hard AI that provides a challenge even for veteran players.

Tomb Raider: Underworld Uses NavPower

Lara Croft will plan his adventures using the BabelFlux LLC’s AI motion-planning middleware, NavPower.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – October 15, 2008 - Middleware developer BabelFlux LLC announced today that its NavPower AI middleware package has been licensed by Crystal Dynamics for their upcoming game, Tomb Raider: Underworld.

Paul T.: I’ve Moved

On other news, Paul Tozour, AI designer and active poster at Game/AI will be away from the blog for a time, as he is now part of Intel’s Project Offset team. The best luck in his new adventures.

Just a quick note to mention that I’ll no longer be able to update this blog. I joined the Project Offset team at Intel a little while ago, and I’ll no longer have time to post here.

Call for Papers

Through the Lindsay Grace’s blog, we knew that the IEEE Transactions on Computational Intelligence and AI in Games journal is now open for submissions, with the first issue due to be published in March 2009 and Simon M. Lucas, in the Editor-in-Chief chair.

The IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON COMPUTATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND AI in GAMES (T-CIAIG), published four times a year, publishes archival journal quality original papers in computational intelligence and related areas in artificial intelligence applied to games, including but not limited to video games, mathematical games, human-computer interactions in games, and games involving physical objects. Emphasis will also be placed on the use of these methods to improve performance in and understanding of the dynamics of games, as well as gaining insight into the properties of the methods as applied to games. It will also include using games as a platform for building intelligent embedded agents for the real world. Papers connecting games to all areas of computational intelligence and traditional AI will be considered.

Interview Video: Spore Inventor on Artifical Intelligence

Popular Mechanics interviewed Will Wright about the current status of the Artificial Intelligence… not only in games.

In the future, Wright sees plot-driven videogames—which he sees as an unfortunate result of “film envy”—giving way to a kind of personalized gaming experience, based on a computer’s ability to read you. The more you play, the more defined the game will become. “The computer can sit back and say, you’re doing a comedy, or a drama, or a thriller,” says Wright. “The computer will start building a model of you, figuring out things you like, things you’re good at, things that intrigue you.” The computer might start tweaking game elements, from the graphics to the background music. “Computers will recognize the story the player is trying to play out, and up the ante,” he says. “It will be more like the Truman Show. The computer is in the background, adjusting the environment.” The player, meanwhile, is blissfully ignorant of the customized storyline reconfiguring itself around their every decision.

The point of this kind of self-writing game is to push gaming past linear attempts to blend the passive business of watching a movie with the interactivity of mashing buttons. Instead of, “Find the red key to get through the door to slay the dragon,” as Wright puts it, everyone will play through a different story, based on the computer’s reading of his mood.

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

Discussion 0 Comments

If you'd like to add a comment or question on this page, simply log-in to the site. You can create an account from the sign-up page if necessary... It takes less than a minute!