Querying the Real Minds Behind the Artificial Minds…

Dave Mark on July 30, 2008

For this week’s developer discussion, Dave Mark is in polling mode. What’s on your mind? Which topics do you want to hear more about? Help out by filling this survey or post a comment below and let everyone know.

Hmmm… If I used a genetic algorithm to improve the sigmoid activation function weights of the transitions on my behavior tree…

As the saying goes, if you put 100 monkeys in a room with 100 typewriters, eventually they almost surely would reproduce the entire works of William Shakespeare. Naturally, the point that is being made is about the nature of infinity. However, I would like to think that there is a sort of critical mass of monkeys that one can achieve to do great things. After all, if you only had 50 monkeys, it would take two infinities, right? I mean, how many monkeys does it take to achieve a sort of quorum after which you are truly able to start cranking out passable material? Heck, I suspect that if you have a certain “tipping point” of monkeys, you can accomplish great things.

The reason I started thinking about this obscure theoretical simian conclave was the recent posting of information regarding a different sort of gathering. (Lest I ruffle feathers fur without meaning to, let me write the disclaimer first: I am not comparing the following people to primates.) The program for the upcoming AIIDE conference has been posted — and simply reading through the list of presentations has me a little squirmy in anticipation. I am hoping to attend — barring nothing unforeseen. (Of course, it looks like my Cubbies will be in the World Series that week. That’s OK. It happens once every 100 years or so — I’ll wait for the next one.)

Artificial Intelligence in Interactive Digital Entertainment (AIIDE)

There is an attraction to this, however, that goes well beyond the 26 sessions, 9 posters, 7 demos and invited keynote speakers along the lines of Peter Molyneux (who seems to be everywhere at once right now) and some schlub named Damián who I guess had something to do with an off-market title called Halo. (’Sup Isla? ;-) ) As I wrote back in June, much of the attraction to conferences like these is in simply being with like-minded people. And while the likely attendees at this magnificent event are likely not necessarily capable of piloting nuclear bombers like the chimps in ones in Project X, I’m thinking they will make for fascinating conversation.

So, three full days of nothing but AI education surrounded entirely by AI people? Gee, what the heck would we talk about? I would venture that by the 3rd day we won’t be scrambling for subject matter. Conveniently, it turns out that AIIDE tends to attract about 100 attendees — just like our quixotic literary anthropoids above. So, given enough time to chat (and enough coffee to fill Stanford Stadium) we could theoretically conceive of great things, right?

“Imagine you had all the top people in game AI together in one room…”

I have to wonder, though… what if we have more things to talk about than we have time available? I mean, it’s not every day… or even every month… that you get to hang with some of the top game AI people. It’s kinda like putting some serious pressure on the monkey brigade to put out. They may start wondering if maybe they shouldn’t ditch working on a whole play and just try to crank out a sonnet or two instead. Also, it isn’t like we don’t have plenty of methods of communicating even when we are not in the same zip code. We aren’t going to be incapable of communicating once we leave each other’s company. Still, there is something magical about discussing AI in person around whatever passes for a water-cooler (e.g. a burger and a beer). When you have people in the same room, like the critical mass of monkeys, things start flowing.

“… what would you want to discuss with them?”

So my question is this… imagine you had all (or at least some) of the top game AI people together in one room. What would you ask them? What would you want to cover? What would you want to know about their work? What would you ask these people? (Of course, we could ask Peter about his “significant scientific achievement.”) For that matter, what would you suggest that they ask each other? Even if you were just the fly on the wall (in a room full of monkeys?), what would you love to hear them discuss amongst themselves? What is so important to you in the realm of game AI… what is so much on the cutting edge that you want to know what the big guns think of it?

(Yeah, I edited this. And that about exhausted my talent.)

Discussion 10 Comments

alexjc on July 30th, 2008

Dave wasn't entirely forthcoming with his post... He used AIIDE as an excuse to pick your brain! :-) But the fact is there's lots of stuff in the pipeline -- and we need information from you... What stuff are you finding challenging? Who would you like to hear about? If you have the time, it'd be really useful if you could fill in the [URL=""]survey[/URL]! It'll help define what you see in the future from in particular. ;-) Alex

Dave Mark on August 1st, 2008

So you peeps would have [I]nothing[/I] to talk about? Wow... maybe it's going to be a boring conference after all. Hmpf.

Andrew on August 1st, 2008

I've been away Dave :) I [i]personally[/i] would want to simply listen to the top people, because I am but a mere graduate and don't know squat to be honest (which I mainly did at GDC, and the AI dinner there). But if it was just me, I'd ask a load about AI design and their thoughts on where game AI might go, and also garner perhaps their reactions to negative criticism of the field both by reviewers and game designers. Finally, it might be nice to know what they personally like to play and why (and if it conflicts with what they actually make!), that is, if they ever have time to play games ;)

zoombapup on August 1st, 2008

Cant go, so not commenting (hmmph!).

Jare on August 2nd, 2008

I'd ask them how do they convince their teams to let them get the AI, behaviours and gameplay right before doing serious work & polish on the visuals and animations. Of course the answer would be: "Huh... we don't?" :)

Dave Mark on August 2nd, 2008

[quote=zoombapup;3954]Cant go, so not commenting (hmmph!).[/quote] Don't pout. Although I did have you pegged as one of the monkeys. :)

hellokeith on August 2nd, 2008

Specifically, I would like to hear some in depth discussion about 3d navigation in a dynamically changing world. In general, I would like to hear peoples' thoughts on what AI [I]should be[/I] in the future and what we need to do [I]now[/I] to get there. And lastly, I don't want to hear excuses like "we ran out of time". ;)

Ian Morrison on August 2nd, 2008

To be very, very specific, I'd love to grill Mike Booth about his AI Director. I don't think he's attending the conference you're mentioning, though. Not sure how to answer the question, otherwise... if there was a list of subjects, maybe I'd be able to wave my hand and say "Ian want that! Ooga booga!" ...In keeping with caveman tradition, I would probably then attempt to wrestle a dinosaur to the ground with my bare hands. Look, I don't do "asking questions coherently" well, alright? :P

Kevin Dill on August 5th, 2008

Here's what's been on my mind lately (not that any of this should surprise anybody who knows me well): What are the hot architectures that are going to replace state machines and decision trees? How can we build an architecture which simultaneously gives the designers good control, and acts autonomously to produce emergent behavior that looks right? What sort of tools can we build to bring designers into the AI creation process, and offload the work of tuning and tweaking to the people who do that for a living? What should we be reasoning about that we aren't even thinking about yet? How can we move from finding the *shortest* path to finding the *best* path? What does "best" mean? For a dog? For a soldier? How can we make efficient use of teams of programmers when implementing AI?

Dave Mark on August 13th, 2008

I won't turn down having you buy me a drink. Alex won't be coming to AIIDE, however. However, as the State-side representative of AIGameDev, I'm officially authorized to accept [I]his[/I] free drink as a proxy. (Note: if my Cubbies are in the World Series that week, it may have to be at a Sports Bar!) See ya there!

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