Game AI Roundup Week #44 2008: 9 Stories, 1 Video, 1 Quote

Novack on November 3, 2008

Weekends at are dedicated to rounding up smart links from the web relating to artificial intelligence and game development. This week, we brought to you a variety of topics; 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”). 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.

Dodging The Question

Another interesting article by Ted Vessenes, exploring the aspects behind the decisions of his design: Brainworks.

First person shooter games like Quake 3 are really games of questions and answers. Every shot you take at an opponent asks the question, “How will you survive this hit?” And your opponent would prefer to respond, “You aren’t going to hit me”.

How do the opponent characters think and act in games?

In his blog, Praveen Koduru posted about an article he found, entitled How AI Works In FPS Games. It is an old, but interesting text wrote by Mark Hachman for ExtremeTech.

When I play computer games that have AI opponents, I always had the questions and doubts lingering in mind about the game engines.

In the earliest games that I have been involved with like Doom or Quake, the game play was much like a storyboard and the meanies were programmed to use the linear sight of view to shoot at you. However, in the past decade the games have evolved much and the straightforward kind of intelligence has been overtaken by better and smarter engines. Even though, there have been instances in games where you might suddenly jump to conclusions that the opponents are really smart or really stupid.

In this quest I found this nice article that explains how the game engines work and how they have to follow the computational constraint to enable uninterrupted game play. Do give this a read.

Scenegraphs: Past, Present and Future

An interesting discussion of world models. This is explained in the context of rendering, but given the recent discussions about the MVC pattern (model-view-controller), you should see how these ideas can be applied to develop models useful for the AI.

To help understand where scenegraphs came from, it’s useful to take a quick look at the evolution of graphics languages like OpenGL and DirectX. Early on, real-time graphics existed on special image generation (IG) hardware that contained entire visual databases in closed proprietary form. Modellers created their databases and loaded them onto the hardware IG. Programmers were generally limited to modifying elements of these databases, like the position and rotation of a helicopter or setting the time-of-day.

Lionhead title to be unveiled in ‘08

On a very short post, wrote about Peter Molyneux’s ambitious new game.

Artificial Intelligence is said to be the focus of Lionhead’s next Microsoft-backed product, and Molyneux has previously confirmed that his next offering will be on “on the front cover of Nature”.

Nature is of course not a gaming publication, which suggests Lionhead have really gone to town and crafted something of interest to the scientific and nature community, too.

Turning dumb dialogue into intelligent conversation

A good article by Keith Stuart for the Technology section of the The Guardian online, about the incidence of dialog in the simulation and the game’s immersion.

Things are advancing: enemy soldiers are becoming proactive, formulating and verbalising simple strategies. In Ubisoft’s Far Cry 2, you can hear your opponents helping each other. As the game’s technology director Dominic Guay explains: “One AI can tell two others to flank the player while a third rushes him and the first takes care of suppression fire.”

This sort of chatter increases the sense of immersion - and it also provides clues about enemy operations. Is that shrub you’ve just dived behind providing sufficient cover? If your enemies are yelling “I’ve lost him!”, the chances are it is.

Game Developer’s Conference 2009

The registration for the next year’s GDCis open. The conference will now feature an Artificial Intelligence Summit!

The AI Summit at GDC features panels and lectures from more than a dozen of the top game AI programmers in the industry. Organized as a collective effort by the newly formed AI Game Programmers Guild, this event promises to give you an inside look at key architectures and issues within successful commercial games, as well as let you eavesdrop on conversations, debates, and rants on how game AI can move forward. This summit is targeted toward the intermediate to advanced programmer who wants deeper insight into the world of game AI, however anyone who is interested in what AI can offer next generation games will find invaluable insights and lessons from the speakers.

.NET surprisingly makes a fast game scripting engine

An open source project to make a common language runtime for Linux, Mac, and iPhone that’s .NET-compatible, has ended up succeeding in an area no one may have expected at first: as an artificial intelligence provider for gaming engines.

“One of the problems that people were talking to us about was, it turns out that a lot of games have limitations on how much AI they can put on a game, because it’s the slowest piece of everything,” de Icaza continued. “So it turns out that the display, the simulation, and the supporting infrastructure tend to be built on C, C++, or assembly language. There are people tuning shaders, tuning physics, using templates and that sort of thing. But when it came to the game logic, this is not something that you want to render in C++. This is something that you wanted to keep high-level, you want a different team of people to actually build that, so you have people from MIT doing the graphics and the simulations and the physics. But you want an artist to be tweaking the behavior of light, and you don’t want those guys forgetting to free a blob of memory, so you give them a safe language.”

Funny Quote of the Week

The blog May Contain Gamers is the winner, with some interesting words for the Ubisoft’s title Far Cry 2.

That AI is unbelievable. I’m all for smart AI and I love the way they flank you or hide behind bushes however their god-like ability to spot you from a mile off and hit the target is a bit over the top. Whatever happened to confirming identity before shooting? I’m sorry, there is no way on earth they could know who I am in my dust-trailing jeep the size of a quarter of a pixel to them.

AIIDE 08 Post-mortem

In his blog Words on Play, Malcolm Ryan posted an article about his experiences at the AIIDE 08.

The best thing about AIIDE has to be the industry participation. In my experience, AI researchers are prone to a kind of hubris that expresses itself as “Here is a problem (in games or engineering or medicene) that could be solved using AI. I know all about AI. Therefore, I can solve this problem.” The ’solutions’ that are thus produced are often laughably innapropriate or otherwise bad when examined by someone who actually works in the field.

Playing with Time

An awesome lecture in the mood of a friendly chat, between Brian Eno and Will Wright.

In a dazzling duet Will Wright and Brian Eno give an intense clinic on the joys and techniques of “generative” creation.

Back in the 1970s both speakers got hooked by cellular automata such as Conway’s “Game of Life,” where just a few simple rules could unleash profoundly unpredictable and infinitely varied dynamic patterns. Cellular automata were the secret ingredient of Wright’s genre-busting computer game “SimCity” in 1989. Eno was additionally inspired by Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain,” in which two identical 1.8 second tape loops beat against each other out of phase for a riveting 20 minutes. That idea led to Eno’s “Music for Airports” (1978), and the genre he named “ambient music” was born.

The Long Now Foundation was established in 01996* to develop the Clock and Library projects, as well as to become the seed of a very long term cultural institution. The Long Now Foundation hopes to provide counterpoint to today’s “faster/cheaper” mind set and promote “slower/better” thinking. We hope to creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years - The Long Now Foundaton

Debate on Spore’s Dumbed-Down Gameplay

To close this week, an interesting thread at the EA title Spore oficial forums.

“Seed Magazine wrote: “Steve Grand, who made the big sim-life hit of the 1990s, Creatures, also faced the task of reconciling the limited behavioral range of virtual life-forms with the advanced expectations of players. “There are two ways to tackle this problem,” Grand says. “Try to make the behavior look more real, or stop lying to people. As far as I can tell, Spore takes the former approach, to gently and quite openly fool the user into thinking she’s engaging with real living things, while Creatures took the latter?—?I did my best not to fool anyone, even if that meant the results weren’t so playable.”

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

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