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The 2009 Awards for Game AI: Submit Your Nominations

on December 9, 2009

In December for the past couple years, has hosted The Game AI Awards to celebrate the games that came out over the previous twelve months — and particularly those with great artificial intelligence. This time it's a bit different, however...

This year, the awards have been extended to encompass innovative applications of artificial intelligence, and creative uses of Game AI in general. This means you have a much more important role to play by submitting in your nominations, to help reward current games that broke the mold and help shape future developments in the field!

The Golden Marvins

Welcome to the 3rd Annual Awards for Game AI, where the best games of the year are nominated and voted for by professionals, enthusiasts, and researchers in artificial intelligence for games.

Here's the plan for the new few weeks:

  1. THIS WEEK — Post your nominations for the games you think are worthy of an award. Either write a comment below, on the forums, or email in your suggestions to alexjc at

  2. NEXT WEEK — The most popular nominations are selected, and voting begins in The Game AI Forums. You'll need to sign-up before you can participate!

The winners will be announced on December 28th.

Game AI Awards

Screenshot 1: Marvin needs your nominations!

Change of Focus

Past editions of the awards have focused more on the "event" behind the nomination process and the voting. It brings the community together and it's a nice way to reflect over the games that came out this year. Last year I introduced an award for the Best Research in Game AI, which turned out to be both interesting and refreshingly different!

The new award helped emphasize which research the community finds the most useful. Based on this positive impact, I've expanded the scope of the awards even further this year, by picking categories to help drive the development of artificial intelligence in the games industry as a whole... In particular, a big space where there's huge room for improvement is Design & AI, as well as Better Characters.

These new award categories require more input from you over the next week, during the nominations, so be sure to add your comment below!


There are now seven categories in this year’s nominations.

Best AI in a AAA Game
What was the best artificial intelligence in game with a big budget and high production values, published via the traditional distribution channels?
Best Non-Player Character
AI technology doesn't exist in a vacuum; it requires character design, art, animation, writing and voice acting. Which game character combined these together best?
Best AI in an Independent Game
Which game written by a small team of developers, either web based or available on PC/Mac/Digital Distribution, had the best AI?
Design Innovation in Game AI
AI requires some solid ideas and a good game design to really shine. Which game showed off the best AI design?
AI Technology in a Supporting Role
Non-character AI (and non-actor AI) is becoming increasingly important as games become more complex. Which game used artificial intelligence best in unusual places?
Technical Innovation in Game AI
Who had the best ideas and technology for 2009, including middleware vendors or games listed above?
Most Influential Published Research
Which white paper, book or in-depth article about game AI has & will influence the field most?

All the items you nominate of course must have been released after the 1st January 2009 and before 31st December 2009.


Remember, you’re giving an award for the best artificial intelligence in a game. This means it must be a balance of two things:

  • Entertainment — The AI in a game isn’t supposed to behave perfectly; in fact it’s often supposed to make mistakes in a convincing way. So, are the non-player characters (NPC) or non-character AIs fun to play with or against?

  • Intelligence & Believability — Do the in-game actors fit in with the design and story? It’s not purely about smarts, but it helps!

Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive, on the contrary! The best games each year successfully use intelligent behaviors to create a fun experience for the players.

Click here to let us know about your nominees. The voting will begin next week, so stay tuned for this year’s best game AI.

Discussion 6 Comments

Kevin Dill on December 9th, 2009

[U]Best Non-Player Character[/U] [LIST=1] [*]Dragon's Age. [LIST] [*]While the combat AI isn't amazing, the fact that it's exposed to the player (making it part of the gameplay) - and that you can purchase a greater level of control by putting skill points into it - is extremely nice. [*]The overall production values are outstanding. There is a wealth of high quality animation and voice acting that really brings the characters to life, as well as solid assets and rendering. [*]Reasonably good facial animation, including expressions, gestures, and so forth. Nothing groundbreaking here, but a state-of-the-art execution of a very challenging set of problems. [*]The level of detail in the social interactions. Responses vary on all sorts of features, so that if you replay the game with a different character, and do things in different ways or in a different order you will get very different interactions with the various NPCs. This does a lot for believability. [/LIST] [*]World of Zoo [LIST] [*]Although this isn't a game that most of us would play (it's target market is much younger), the characters are extremely well realized and, frankly, lovable. The team responsible for creating them was headed by Bruce Blumberg, who did some of the foremost research on believable agents while he was at MIT, and the quality of the result reflects his influence. [/LIST] [/LIST] [U]Best AI in a AAA Game[/U] [LIST=1] [*]Dragon's Age [LIST] [*]For all the reasons I gave above. This is an absolutely compelling role-playing experience, and it takes all sorts of AI (in many subtle ways) to bring off an experience of that quality. [/LIST] [*]Left 4 Dead 2 [LIST] [*]The AI Director technology continues to be one of the coolest innovations we've seen in recent years. I realize it doesn't actually appear to have changed all that much in the new version of the game, but it's still worth mention. [/LIST] [/LIST] [U]AI Technology in a Supporting Role[/U] [LIST=1] [*]Left 4 Dead 2 [LIST] [*]For their AI Director technology. [/LIST] [*]Natural Motion [LIST] [*]If AI is about making characters seem "real" and "alive," then animation is a huge part of that. The folks at Natural Motion have created some of the most innovative and cutting edge animation tools - from Morpheme (which does only conventional animation) to Euphoria (which does physically plausible animation in real time) - that exist today. While there are other approaches in the real world that can produce similar results, to my knowledge those approaches have not been extensively used in games, while many of the biggest and most successful games to date (e.g. GTA IV, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and the upcoming Red Dead Redemption) rely on Natural Motion's technology. [/LIST] [/LIST] [U]Design Innovation in Game AI[/U] [LIST=1] [*]Left 4 Dead 2 [LIST] [*]I would imagine that working with a whole new way of placing enemies required a very different approach to game design than, say, Half Life 2. [/LIST] [*]Dragon's Age [LIST] [*]I imagine that creating the conversational experiences in this game required a different approach to content generation than simply branching conversations (or else it required some seriously complex conversations). [/LIST] [*]World of Zoo [LIST] [*]Their integration of tools made it possible for much of the AI development for their characters to be done directly by the animators and designers. In addition, a large part of their success in crafting so much compelling behavior for so many different types of animals in such a short time resulted directly from the tight integration between animation, engineering, and design, and their flexibility in working together to solve problems. Often a problem that was hard to solve with AI (for example) was easy for animators - or vice versa. [/LIST] [/LIST] [U]Technical Innovation in Game AI[/U] [LIST=1] [*]Natural Motion [LIST] [*]For all the reasons I gave above. [/LIST] [*]World of Zoo [LIST] [*]For their tools and tool integration. [/LIST] [/LIST] [U]Most Influential Published Research[/U] [LIST=1] [*]Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI, by Dave Mark [/LIST]

alexjc on December 9th, 2009

Maybe there should be an award for most "outward" studio in terms of information shared with the community. It's hard to judge the other games... [B]Best AI in a AAA Game[/B] [LIST=1] [*]THE SIMS 3 -- Some incredibly amazing stories emerge from the incredible characters. [*]KILLZONE 2 -- To date the best combat AI built, reactive/purposeful behaviors thanks to the HTN planner, offline skirmish mode against that fools the best journalists. [*]DEMIGOD -- Most people played this game offline! It has a few bugs in the pathfinding but the experience of playing against the computer is very much fun. [/LIST] [B]Best Non-Player Character[/B] [LIST=1] [*]Chloe/Elena in UNCHARTED 2 [*]? in ASSASSIN's CREED 2 [/LIST] [B]Best AI in an Independent Game[/B] [LIST=1] [*]GRATUITOUS SPACE BATTLES [*]AI WAR (PC) [*]BACKBREAKER (iPhone) [*]GALACTIC ARMS RACE (PC) [/LIST] [B]Design Innovation in Game AI[/B] [LIST=1] [*]LEFT 4 DEAD 2 [*]ASSASSIN's CREED 2 [*]CORTICAL -- Amazing indie game about modifying behavior, but not published. [/LIST] [B]AI Technology in a Supporting Role[/B] [LIST=1] [*]LEFT 4 DEAD 2 -- AI director for procedural geometry placement. [*]GALACTIC ARMS RACE -- Genetic algorithms for weapon creation. [/LIST] [B]Technical Innovation in Game AI[/B] [LIST=1] [*]KILLZONE 2 -- PS3 SPU usage for the AI, first use of HTN in a combat game, bridging the gap with RTS AI: influence map, incremental/tactical squad pathfiniding. [*]ASSASSIN's CREED 2 [/LIST] [B]Most Influential Published Research[/B] [LIST=1] [*][URL=""]Multi-Agent Control in Adversarial Games[/URL] [*][URL=""]An Architecture for Game Behavior AI: Behavior Multi-Queues[/URL] [*][URL=""]Aggregate Dynamics for Dense Crowd Simulation[/URL] [*]... [/LIST]

alexjc on December 9th, 2009

Though I agree with its design innovation (procedural geometry) and "Supporting Role", I have to express an opposing negative comment for LEFT 4 DEAD 2 in the "Best AI of 2009" category. They've apparently not touched the friendly AI, and because the world is more complex, the bots have become visibly worse. See the host of bugs on YouTube. It also surprises me not to be listing HALO 3: ODST here, based on the pedigree of the engine, but it seems the changes in the team and the fast turn-around times affected the quality of the AI compared to previous games. Alex

alexjc on December 15th, 2009

[B]Most Influential Publication[/B] (Continued.) [LIST] [*][URL=""]ClearPath: Highly Parallel Collision Avoidance for Multi-Agent Simulation[/URL] [*][URL=""]Improving Offensive Performance through Opponent Modeling[/URL] [/LIST] Thanks to people in #gameai on for all the suggestions and the discussion.

arges on December 17th, 2009

Design innovation: Prototype and its three-way war. The three-way war in Prototype had a great organic feel (har har), where as the virus begins to spread through the city you can easily run into large scale battles that have nothing to do with you. More importantly, it seems natural to the development of the story, and doesn't try to overpower you main quest. AI Technology in a supporting role: Prototype as well, see above. Tangentially related to the awards, but how do we classify the use of (what seems to be) flocking algorithms in a beautiful way, specifically in the PS/3's Flower? AI Technology in a supporting role?

alexjc on December 19th, 2009

Here's the link to [URL=""]take the survey[/URL]. It's handled via the forums to make sure you're registered and can only take the survey once. I'd rather have fewer votes than the flooding problems from the previous years... ;-) The actual blog post announcing the voting will hopefully follow shortly. Alex

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