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Vienna Game/AI Conference ’12: Highlights, Photos & Slides

Alex J. Champandard on October 9, 2012

A few weeks ago the Game/AI Conference 2012 took place in the beautiful capital city of Austria. It was organized by AiGameDev.com along with the University of Vienna, where the event was held. In this post you'll slides from each talk, my take-away & analysis, as well as photos from the event. The recordings will be available incrementally through AiGameDev.com ULTIMATE membership.

If you're wondering what happened to the Paris Game/AI Conference... Vienna is home to the AiGameDev.com secret laboratory, so the organization team was on home ground! All the little details came together at the University's amphitheatre, from the Wiener hotdogs at the welcome reception to the Apfelstrudel during the coffee breaks that attendees raved about (some complained about gaining a few pounds), as well as the bamboo plants for ambiance and the "Game/AI" backdrop behind the speakers that delighted Petra (our logistics mastermind).

The conference itself featured two days of talks from recent or upcoming AAA games, as well as research presentations from leading academics (September 18th and 19th); the slides and notes for these talks are below. The days before and after the main event contained two workshops, the first on Behavior Trees as a review of the state-of-the-art in the field, and the second on Procedural Animation as a more forward looking day about the next-generation of algorithms. It was a great combination of summarizing what has been achieved and the robustness that AI has reached, along with inspiring look into the technology of tomorrow!

NOTE: Recordings of the conference presentations will be available for AiGameDev.com ULTIMATE members over the next few weeks as they are edited. There's a bonus month for new memberships until October 17th!

Thanks to Our Sponsors

Beyond the helper crew and the organization team, this event would not be possible without the support of our amazing sponsors, and they're the reason that everyone gained a few pounds on average due to tasty strudels and delicious muffins. We're particularly grateful to Gold Sponsors Autodesk! The company introduced Gameware Navigation at this very conference on Tuesday afternoon.


Thanks also to Havok for their continuing support of the conference as a Silver sponsor this year and the AiGameDev.com website. Find out more about the latest additions and technology behind Havok AI below.


Finally, thanks to PathEngine for their sponsorship of the main conference and Unity for sponsoring the Character Animation workshop.

Table Of Contents

The sessions from the first day, Tuesday September 19th, are here:

  1. This Year in Game AI
  2. Scaling Crowds in HITMAN: ABSOLUTION
  3. Understanding Player Behavior Using Data-Mining
  4. Motorstorm's AI: Racing while the World Crumbles
  5. THE RESISTANCE AI Bots Competition
  6. Design-Driven AI in SPEC OPS: THE LINE
  7. Behavior Trees for Social Territorial Intelligence
  8. Rapid AI iterations with Autodesk Gameware Navigation
  9. How to Have Fun in an Asylum (Batman: Arkham Series)

These sessions are from the second day, Wednesday September 20th:

  1. What's Next for Game AI?
  2. Dynamic Sound and Music in VESSEL
  3. Monte-Carlo Tree Search and Board Games Tutorial
  4. Implementing the Living City in MAFIA 2's Open World
  5. Optimizing Steering-based Animation Control
  6. Reinforcement Learning-based Character Locomotion in HITMAN
  7. Platforming AI Championship: Level Generation & Turing Test
  8. The Evolution of Codemasters' Racing AI: From DiRT to Showdown

This Year in Game AI

Session Details

Speaker: Alex J. Champandard
Company: AiGameDev.com KG
Time: 09:30
Duration: 30 min

Description

“In this introductory session, you'll learn the high points of the past year in Game AI, highlighting the advances the industry has made and summarizing the best in AI tips and tricks that the AI community has to offer.”

Slides

This Year in Game AI
Alex J. Champandard, AiGameDev.com
Download PDF

Scaling Crowds in HITMAN: ABSOLUTION

Session Details

Speaker: Kasper Fauerby
Company: IO Interactive
Time: 10:00
Duration: 60 min

Description

“A key requirement in HITMAN: ABSOLUTION was dense crowds that allowed players to both interact with and influence the behavior of individual characters. This presentation describes the techniques and optimizations used to achieve the 1200 character crowds while still running at 30FPS on current-gen consoles.”

Slides

The Crowds in Hitman: Absolution
Kasper Fauerby, IO Interactive
Download PDF

References

Understanding Player Behavior Using Game Data-Mining

Session Details

Speaker: Christian Bauckhage
Company: Universität Bonn
Time: 11:30
Duration: 30 min

Description

“Wouldn’t it be great if you could predict exactly how successful your game would be post-launch? What proportion of the player spike that your publishers marketing dollars bought will you be able to retain in a week, a month? Turns out, with some data-mining and machine learning skills this is a relatively easy task!”

Slides

Understanding Player Behavior Using Game Data-Mining
Christian Bauckhage
Download PDF

References

Motorstorm's AI: Racing while the World Crumbles

Session Details

Speaker: Kieran D’Archambaud
Company: Evolution Studios
Time: 12:00
Duration: 60 min

Description

“Learn how Evolution Studios created competitive racing AI for the highly dynamic environments of MOTORSTORM: APOCALYPSE. Hear about the challenges for AI when you are racing down the side of a falling skyscraper while the contents of the building rain down ahead, changing the track at every moment.”

Slides

Motorstorm's AI: Racing While the World Crumbles Around You
Kieran D'Archambaud, Evolution Studios
Download PDF

References

THE RESISTANCE AI Bots Competition

Session Details

Speaker: Alex J. Champandard and Richard Kogelnig
Company: AiGameDev.com KG
Time: 14:00
Duration: 30 min

Description

“THE RESISTANCE is a board/card game that combines a perfect combination of hidden information and logical deduction. In this first ever THE RESISTANCE programming competition, watch AI bots compete with each other to find out who is the spy.”

Slides

The Resistance AI Competition
Richard Kogelnig, Alex Champandard
Download PDF

Design-Driven AI in SPEC OPS: THE LINE

Session Details

Speaker: Daniel Kollmann and Jörg Reisig
Company: Yager Development
Time: 14:30
Duration: 60 min

Description

“This presentation focuses on 2K Games’ controversial cover-based shooter, which places a heavy focus on the player's experience of combat. They will discuss the project history, show examples of the generic enemy and companion behaviors and describe their player-centric design approach and how that affected many AI decisions on the project.”

Slides

Design-Driven AI in Spec Ops: The Line
Daniel Kollman and Jörg Reisig, Yager Development
Download PDF

References

Behavior Trees for Social Territorial Intelligence

Session Details

Speaker: Claudio Pedica
Company: Icelandic Institute for Intelligent Machines
Time: 15:30
Duration: 20 min

Description

“How can you use behavior tree-like structures to describe social behavior, and express territoriality? This research micro-talk shows a hybrid BT / activation network that allows multiple behaviors to be active at the same time, thanks to a subsumption-like architecture.”

Slides

Behavior Trees for Social Territorial Intelligence
Claudio Pedica, Icelandic Institute for Intelligent Machines
Download PDF

References

Rapid AI iterations with Autodesk Gameware Navigation

Session Details

Speaker: Guillaume Aldebert
Company: Autodesk
Time: 16:00
Duration: 45 min

Description

“Autodesk Gameware Navigation is a new realtime SDK that supports automatic NavMesh generation, PathFinding and PathFollowing in highly dynamic environments (avoidance, dynamic NavMesh, swappable sectors). Gameware Navigation also offers state-of-the art remote Visual Debugging tools that allow rapid iteration on your AI.”

References

How to Have Fun in an Asylum (Batman: Arkham City)

Session Details

Speaker: Tim Hanagan
Company: Rocksteady Studios
Time: 16:45
Duration: 60 min

Description

“Discover the tricks and techniques behind the creation of gameplay and AI in BATMAN: ARKHAM ASYLUM and BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY. Learn how the team worked together to create multitudes of enemies where controlled in order to create epic hand-to-hand combat which are unmatched in any other game.”

Slides

How to Have Fun in an Asylum (Batman: Arkham City)
Tim Hanagan, Rocksteady Studios
Download PDF

References

What's Next for Game AI?

Session Details

Panelists: Jurie Horneman (Mi'pu'mi),
    Peter Cowling (University of York), Gabriel Robert (Ubisoft Paris)
Time: 09:30
Duration: 30 min

Description

“The game development community is in a state of upheaval: large AAA studios are disappearing, business models are changing, niche markets are opening up everywhere and a new console generation is just around the corner. What will this means for the future of Game AI? Come along to find out.”

Dynamic Sound and Music in VESSEL

Session Details

Speaker: Kieran Lord
Company: Strange Loop Games
Time: 10:00
Duration: 45 min

Description

“Find out how a small indie team was able to create a great audio experience using AI techniques such as clustering and behavior trees. You'll learn how to guide the player with music, to simulate the sounds of water and even some tools to telegraph events to the player you may not even have known existed.”

Slides

[FileDownload basename="http://cratesmith.s3.amazonaws.com/VesselTalk/index.html" author="Kieran Lord, Strange Loop Games" title="The Adaptive Music and Sound System of Vessel"]

References

Monte-Carlo Tree Search Tutorial

Session Details

Speaker: Peter Cowling
Company: The University of York
Time: 11:15
Duration: 45 min

Description

“Monte Carlo Tree Search is able to quickly generate plausible initial solutions which can be refined to expert play with additional CPU time. This tutorial will take participants to the point where they can implement MCTS and discuss a range of examples of successful (commercial) application of Monte Carlo tree Search.”

Slides

Monte-Carlo Tree Search for Games
Peter Cowling, The University of York
Download PDF

Implementing the Living City in MAFIA 2's Open World

Session Details

Speaker: Jan Kratochvil
Company: 2K Czech
Time: 12:00
Duration: 60 min

Description

“What details and implementation tricks are necessary to go through to create the living city and characters of MAFIA II? Jan covers streaming, handling of dynamic objects and most importantly what to do with civilians on foot and in car. ”

Slides

Implementing a Living City for an Open World Mafia 2
Jan Kratochvil
Download PDF

References

Optimizing Steering-based Animation Control

Session Details

Speaker: Ben Sunshine-Hill
Company: Havok
Time: 14:00
Duration: 30 min

Description

“There are a lot of great collision-avoidance algorithms out there that fall apart when plugged into an actual game's character animation system. You'll see how to make your steering and animation systems stop fighting each other, and how to bring out the best in both. ”

Slides

Optimizing Steering-Based Animation Control
Ben Sunshine-Hill, Havok
Download PDF

References

Reinforcement Learning-based Character Locomotion in HITMAN: ABSOLUTION

Session Details

Speaker: Michael Büttner
Company: IO Interactive
Time: 14:30
Duration: 60 min

Description

“In this talk you'll hear about the novel approach to character locomotion that was used for the crowd characters in HITMAN: ABSOLUTION. The system uses a motion-graph based motion synthesis engine in conjunction with a reinforcement learning based controller logic.”

Slides

Reinforcement-Learning Based Character Locomotion in Hitman: Absolution
Michael Büttner, IO Interactive
Download PDF

References

Platforming AI Championship

Session Details

Speaker: Noor Shaker
Company: ITU Copenhagen
Time: 15:30
Duration: 45 min

Description

“The Platforming AI Championship focuses on two critical aspects of computer games; level generation and human-behavior imitation. This session hosts the Level Generation track and the Turing Test track of the competition, with descriptions of the entries, and a live session of playing and evaluation.”

Slides

The Platforming AI Championship
Noor Shaker, IT University Copenhagen
Download PDF

References

The Evolution of Codemasters' Racing AI: From DiRT to Showdown

Session Details

Speaker: Nic Melder
Company: Codemasters
Time: 16:15
Duration: 60 min

Description

“All Codemasters racing games in the DiRT, GRID and F1 series have been built from the same AI engine even though each of these titles has a very different racing style. This presentation will give you an overview of the different AI components, what they do and how they've evolved over the course of the years. ”

Slides

The Evolution of Codemasters' Racing AI: From DiRT to Showdown
Nic Melder, Codemasters
Download PDF

References

Take-Away Summary

The official theme for this year's conference was originally "Game AI for Everyone" throughout the call for submissions. Building on last year's turning-point event where AI publicly established itself in a wide variety of domains within traditional video games (design, gameplay, analysis, level generation, etc.), this year's theme emphasized the trend that games are now ubiquitous beyond consoles and AI must follow. Though AI on mobile and in browsers is effectively decades behind PCs and consoles, it's only a matter of time before it catches up. Part of this theme played out in sessions such as the Monte-Carlo Tree Search tutorial that highlighted the explosion of AI-heavy card & board games for instance. However, it generally seemed that AI on mobile and in browsers hadn't yet caught up in all other genres. The conference theme was possibly ahead of its time, though the trend is set to unfold in the next 6-12 months with Key games such as Clumsy Ninja, Creatures, City Conquest, Cotillion finally set for release, following Field Runners 2. These games not only push the limits of AI on mobiles but in general.

The current state of mobile and free-to-play has left the traditional games industry in somewhat of a comfort zone (at best). There were whispers after the GDC AI Summit that our field appeared to be in a rut — but that's a bit too extreme. There's progress being made in a variety of important technical areas and better understanding the implications of existing technology with modern designs / workflows. But in general there was a certain familiarity with solutions being used. Multiple of the biggest franchises (across genres) are effectively using the same AI as they were N years ago. That's not necessarily a problem but it showcases a lack of risk-taking and innovation in design that's portrayed by the stagnation of the AI & gameplay in many sequels and presents a surprisingly short-term risk. Luckily, the tide is turning in AAA games, almost as I write this, with simulation and behavior-heavy games such as Dishonored, Far Cry 3, Hitman: Absolution and Assassin's Creed 3 or even Gunpoint and Monaco — setting the scene for an exciting Autumn for AI enthusiasts.

If that's not enough excitement, over the next few weeks we'll be unveiling our masterplan for the Vienna Game/AI Conference 2013 — scheduled for the first week of September. This time, rather than reiterate on the same format we're going to redefine everything — getting those of you that were so enthusiastic (either in person or online) involved in the process. If you want to join the movement, stay tuned to the conference mailing list! Bonus points if you can figure out how The AI Sandbox™ is involved...

Your Feedback & Comments

“Nice format and excellent content! Game/AI Conference definitely offered the right context to get inspired and share ideas.”
— Aris Theophanidis, AI Technical Lead, Ubisoft Montreal
“The conference was not just packed full of useful insights during the main talks; I learnt as much mingling with the other AI guys between presentations as I did in the lecture theatre. Definitely looking forward to bringing my whole team along next year. PS: The food was amazing!”
— Tim Hanagan, AI Lead at Rocksteady Studios
“It was my first time and I had a great time at the conference! You've done a great job, thank you. I look forward to seeing more cool stuff next year.”
— Marek Roefler, Programmer at CDProjekt Red
“The Game/AI Conference continues to be a highlight of the year for any AI developer or researcher. As the years go on, academia is managing to sit and talk as equals alongside industry veterans, now wanting to work with the industry. Without this conference, I such progress would not have been made as quickly. It feels that when the next big step happens in Game AI, it will thank this event as its catalyst.”
— Kieran D’Archambaud, Lead Game Programmer at Evolution Studios
“The Game/AI Conference is an interesting and valuable part of my year as a game AI developer.”
— Tim Gosling, AI Developer, The Creative Assembly
“The organisation was flawless, the talks were mind-opening and the people were truly amazing. Big thumbs up for the whole Game/AI crew!”
— Julien Desaulniers, Lead Gameplay Programmer, Ubisoft Montreal
“The Game/AI Conference is a great event to meet both AI industry and academic experts in the same place. The AiGameDev.com team does an awesome job of selecting a mix of relevant presentations and useful networking events.”
—Michaël Rouillé, VP Engineering at Golaem
“This event is getting better every year! And Vienna is so nice and friendly place to stay. Thank you very much and see you next year!”
— Petr Kalandra, Student, Czech Republic
“A very enjoyable, interesting and thought-provoking conference. This event represents, for me, one of the most important events to bring together AI games industry developers and members of the AI research community, but with a focus on what is going on in the current generation of commercial games.”
— Peter Cowling, Professor, University of York

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