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i/2008/09/offer-sandbox

The Secret’s Out… Here’s What Will Happen October 1st.

Alex J. Champandard on September 24, 2008

In about a week, we’ll be launching the next phase of AiGameDev.com; it’s an entirely new part of the site that’s dedicated to professional game AI developers, with online training to help you stay ahead of the pack.

If you’re thinking it’s an online blend between the best AI sessions at game development conferences, the most practical books on game AI, and informal discussions with experts in the field, you’re on the right track! The difference is that it’ll be a continuous program which you can access from your computer on-demand, as well as participate and interact if you want.

You’ll get action-oriented material, including working code and expert tips distilled from decades in the trenches. Plus topic-specific reports will save you time when you have a common problem to solve. Better still, you’ll not only get access to information that’s regularly updated, but also published with short turnaround times!

We’ve taken into account all your feedback and suggestions over the past months, and here’s what we’ve come up with…

Prototypes & Code Samples

On the programming side, we’ll implement a variety of different algorithms and techniques, then apply them into game prototypes. Since we’re looking at this from a neutral perspective, we won’t be trying convince you that what we’ve done is revolutionary. Instead we’ll take existing techniques from research papers or less-often documented techniques from industry and compare them in practice. Then you can take the results, avoid the pitfalls, and apply the useful bits into your games.

Having working prototypes to build upon should enable you to innovate more during pre-production, and help you to find less risky solutions while you’re in production. To do this, we’re implementing a prototyping environment that focuses entirely on AI, animation and physics — optimizing everything and discarding cosmetics to decrease turn-around times.

NOTE: More technical details about this prototyping environment (a.k.a. “industrial-strength” sandbox) this weekend. Stay tuned!

Specialized Technical Reports



More generally, you’ll be able to get your hands on PDF reports that deal with a particular topic. We’re focusing on combining different expert’s knowledge and experience on the same subject (grounded in both industry and research), to give you a balanced overview of the field — with examples from a variety of games. It’s something useful to read while you’re compiling or updating your assets!

Not only will these reports go into the details, but they’ll also give you high-level actionable summaries too (if you’re in a rush) that you can take and apply into your game & team. What’s more, the documents you get will be continuously updated as we gather tips and tricks from the latest games and our growing list of guest experts.

NOTE: Stay tuned for another preview of a special report in the Insider’s area in the next few days.

Audio / Video Sessions

The online A/V meetings are an ideal complement to the code and reports, as they’ll add a little more interactivity and personality into the information. Often, sitting at a whiteboard and explaining something is much higher bandwidth than any amount of text… and what we’ll be using the closest thing we’ve found online!

That said, you will have the choice in going for the live and interactive sessions, and get to pick the brain of experts and join in on the discussion in the chat. Or you can wait until later and download the high-quality local recording and transcripts as we make them available. We’ll even provide iPod friendly versions for you to listen to on the way to work!

NOTE: The full line up for the next three months will be announced on Monday.



“It felt a bit like the AI Dinner at the GDC, except only Alex had a face.” — Robin Baumgarten, after AiGameDev.com’s first live Q&A.

Our Founding Experts

Over the next few months, we’ve lined up some of the best people in the field of game AI — but none better than the resident experts here at AiGameDev.com who helped us get everything setup.

  • Javier Arevalo — An industry veteran who worked as a Technical Lead or Producer at companies like High Voltage Software, Pyro Studios and Radical Entertainment, on a variety of games including the Commandos series.

  • Jeff Orkin — AI programmer extra-ordinaire best know for his work on F.E.A.R. as well as No One Lives Forever 2, currently involved in research at MIT’s Media Lab.

Hopefully, you read the first part of the Terrain Reasoning report last week, which included the insights from:

  • Kevin Dill — Works as a Senior AI Programmer at Rockstar, having previously developed AI for Master of Orion 3, and Kohan 2.

  • Sergio Garces — Is a Senior AI Programmer at Radical on Prototype. He previously worked the AI of Praetorians and Imperial Glory.

  • William van der Sterren — As a consultant for CGF-AI, he assisted Guerrilla Games in creating the AI for Killzone and Shellshock Nam ’67.

  • Paul Tozour — Is best known for creating the AI for Metroid Prime 2 & 3, as well as Deus Ex 2 and Thief 3 currently on Project Offset at Intel.

Also, if you read about our online seminars this week, you’ll also remember:

  • Phil Carlisle — veteran game developer behind the Worm’s AI, currently researcher & lecturer at Bolton University.

  • Mikko Mononen — Lead AI Programmer on Crysis & currently Indie developer at Secret Exit and AnyFun Games.

How Much Will It Cost?

Given the GDC price tag of over $1,500.00 — and even specialized conferences like AIIDE costing about $750.00 — it’s fair for you to be wondering how much the program at AiGameDev.com will cost. And that’s by far the most common question we’ve been receiving, and the answer is…

Less than you’re thinking most likely, but only for the first week.

And there’s a very good reason for this. Since you’re joining the program from the beginning, you’ll play a key role in shaping the program’s content to your needs, and for future members too. In exchange, you’ll get the best deal you can ever expect from us — as our way of saying thank you. We call this a charter membership.

This is a one-time offer since this is the first time we’re launching publicly. Not only that, we’ll be limiting the sign-up period to a week! After the first week of October, we’ll no longer accept new sign-ups, and will shift our focus on current members until we’re ready to open things up again. Finally, you’ll never see this same price again. Once we re-open we’ll increase the monthly price significantly — to reflect the extra value it will have acquired.

Now, if you sign-up as a charter member next week, you’ll benefit from the first price offer as long as you remain a member. We’ll announce the exact price in a few days, but if you’re curious about the number now, or have any questions about the program, you can send me an email directly at alexjc at aigamedev.com.

Discussion 7 Comments

Ian Morrison on September 25th, 2008

How much value will this have to not-so-professional developers like myself? Would this be at all a cost-effective investment for those of us who aren't doing this full time yet?

alexjc on September 25th, 2008

Thanks for your question Ian! I just received a bunch of emails with the same question also, so I'll spend more time on this... [B]1.[/B] First, the way I see it objectively, there's often little difference between a junior programmer and well motivated students if they've done extra-curricular work. If you're reading AiGameDev.com you're already a step ahead of the curve! [B]2.[/B] Second, there are an increasing number of aspects that involve game AI, ranging from strategic reasoning to low-level animation, path-finding or logical reasoning, crafting level scripting API, developing physics-based controllers, and design for taking into account the player's actions for better gameplay. Even if you're a professional with years of experience, it's unlikely you'll know about each of these things. So we will be making these techniques accessible to general game programmers. [B]3.[/B] Third, I think there's a lot to be said about complementing any kind of education with a practical outlook. Compared to anything else out there, we certainly feel that there's a lot of value in our program. [B]4.[/B] Fourth, if you're a student in a games degree, you could ask your supervisor or professor to get in touch with us and arrange something. The tuition you're already paying should cover the membership easily (by multiple-orders of magnitude :-) [B]5.[/B] Fifth, on Friday I'll be describing the plans we have for the community as a whole, which includes independent developers, AI enthusiasts, and students in general. You'll soon see how everything fits together even if you're not a professional. (I explained our plans during my Q&A too, and they went down very well. ;) To sum up, right now, as long as you have programming skills (C++ preferably) and are keen to get into the AI part of industry, the membership site should be a valuable tool for you.

Dave Mark on September 25th, 2008

Not knowing what Alex is going to charge either for the charter membership or down the road... let me make a comparison. Any given AI Wisdom book is between $40 and $65 depending on how much of a markdown you get from the likes of Amazon. In those books, you get... [I]how many[/I] articles? Now I love the AI Wisdom books (full disclosure, I wrote for #4), but think of how many papers, articles, interviews and actual [I]interactions[/I] you will be able to get on here... continually updated as new material comes out. If you are willing to drop $200 on 4 AI Wisdom books, I'm thinking that the subscription fees to have access to all of this premium content that will be here is kinda loose change.

alexjc on September 25th, 2008

Well, I'm always careful making such direct comparisons Dave because it's a rather different thing that we're doing here. It's also different to what you get at AIIDE or GDC too; in fact we see everything as rather complimentary. The big difference with the printed format is that instead of being a "push" model where the author tells you what he knows, we're trying as much as possible to make it a "pull" model -- since we have the advantage of it being a continuous and interactive program. We've been reading all your emails & suggestions, doing surveys to figure out exactly what you want, and we'll be even more responsive to what members want to hear. Also, before each interview, I gather questions and fit them in to the session -- or even pick out questions live. (Tonight's event will be even more interactive than the last one.) Anyway, on top of that, there's still The Big Idea(tm) we discussed during the Q&A last Sunday, which I'll mention on Saturday. Alex

RyanP on September 25th, 2008

[QUOTE=Dave Mark;5097]If you are willing to drop $200 on 4 AI Wisdom books, I'm thinking that the subscription fees to have access to all of this premium content that will be here is kinda loose change.[/QUOTE] Dave although we aren't sure yet what Alex will post, from how he mentioned it to me and the idea I got was it would be a re-occurring monthly cost so your analogy isn't correct at all. You buy a books once and you have a hard copy of that knowledge which you can always reference. An online login that can be enabled or disabled for certain content isn't like that at all, you either have access or don't have access with no way to keep that knowledge to reference unless of course you save everything to a file. So to stop speculation (unless of course you have insider information :) ). I think we should wait for Alex's post on final costs before we debate the issue.

Dave Mark on September 25th, 2008

I disagree with your premise on the point that an individual AI Wisdom book (or any other) is not simply a static cost, but also static content. However, the site will not be static content. In theory, each month's subscription could be loosely paired with the content for that month. An alternate method would be an [I]a la carte[/I] pricing where you only pay for an article or paper on a per each basis. That's kinda messy. Also, from what I've seen much of the offerings are done in downloadable .pdf format, so the "I've been cut off" argument is easily mitigated. My point was not exactly to equate dollar for dollar but to make the comparison that there is certainly value in being provided this information. One good way of looking at paying money for other people's work is "how long would this have taken me to do on my own" multiplied by "what is the money value of my time"? It's staggering when you put that into perspective.

alexjc on September 25th, 2008

To clarify, yes the content will be available as PDF and MP3 recordings for you to download and read offline. What you benefit from being subscribed is the updates to the PDFs, the new recordings that come out of course and the latest code samples! Details on Monday. :-) Alex

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