Ubisoft’s AI Programming Team is Bigger than Yours!

Alex J. Champandard on February 26, 2008

The Game Developer’s Conference 2008 is now over, and while those who attended spend the rest of the week recovering and catching up, the rest of us can start piecing together the important bits of information that came out of the event.

Along those lines, I just noticed a report from the session about Assassin’s Creed, from the blog of veteran game developer Rob Fermier (a.k.a. Xemu). One line in particular jumped out at me:

“50 software engineers at the peak. AI was 15-20.”

Just to make sure you got that right, there were between fifteen and twenty AI programmers at Ubisoft working on Assassin’s Creed. Now, I’ve been lucky enough to work and contract in some pretty big companies — but that’s just incredible! I’m simultaneously in awe at the possibility of what so many talented people could do, and also wondering about all the different kinds of management and engineering nightmares this could cause.

Basically, that’s the topic for this Tuesday’s developer discussion here at AiGameDev.com — officially the best place to take GDC’s AI discussions further!

How Many AI Programmers Does It Take…

In the hope of making half of you feel more adequate about the size of your team compared to the average, here’s a quick poll to see where industry is at these days.

Number of Dedicated AI Programmers on Your Team?

View Results

Discussion 7 Comments

Dave Mark on February 27th, 2008

One factor that I see driving some of this is that AI is getting more specialized. Even just splitting off the animation AI as a speciality is something that we are going to see more of. Depending on the genre and the title, you may have strategic, tactical, group/squad, simulation, environmental and animation AI. Toss physics in there for the heck of it, too, since some places consider that AI. If you have a variety of possible interactions like they do in Assasin's Creed, such as crowd behaviors, guard behaviors, etc., most with associated animation controls, the numbers of tasks are going to add up quickly.

zoombapup on February 28th, 2008

I heard that the AI team on one of EA's sports titles was several times that figure. But then they employ a hell of a lot of useless programmers (i.e. a lot of graduates that cant do much useful code, but are hellish cheap). Cant really remember the exact figure, but it was something insane.

Dave Mark on February 28th, 2008

I don't want to imagine how many people they need to just do the animation AI on a Madden title. And knowing football the way I do, I can see that the player logic gets to be a handful as well.

Jare on March 2nd, 2008

The more "AI programmers" I see in a team, the less "AI" I see them actually do. It's become fashionable to lump character, animation and general gameplay under the term "AI," I guess because it sounds more sophisticated, or because many experienced and smart programmers have shifted to work on AI but their skills are still needed for other gameplay areas. I find this trend annoying because it makes it hard for AI programmers to focus on (what I consider "real") AI tasks, and this slows down progress on AI technology and design. I guess in the end all is well because AI is not the only area where advances are useful and worthy, but still. For the record, I consider AI to involve complex and/or mid- and long- term decision making: pathing, planning, coordination, perception, memory. Executing those decisions is a different thing.

Andrew on March 2nd, 2008

A bit late into the discussion, but I tend to agree that I bet the "AI team" has a lot of parts which are not really AI, like Jare said. It'd be nice to get a breakdown of their contributions to the project, and to know what the other teams exist as - is there an animation team? (it seems unlikely!).

zoombapup on March 2nd, 2008

I think the EA case is a bit of a special case in that they hire a LOT of inexperienced programmers, so you probably get like 2 useful men out of 10 or so. That may be even less though as the experienced programmers end up as TD's for the most part. If I recall right, the figure was something like 150 programmers. But I could be completely wrong there. If it was "gameplay + ai" then maybe that works. I know they had 50+ for the UI and 15+ for online. Stupid numbers and totally unnacassary, my buddy was working on a previous version of the game (about 4-5 years before) and was only on the AI for half his time. Think the players noticed a 300% improvement? I doubt it :)

Dave Mark on March 3rd, 2008

If you listen to my interview with John Abercrombie, they had a handful of other people who did [I]some[/I] AI. There was one guy who worked a little on some sensory stuff and also programmed the security cameras, for example. Most of the heavy lifting (not a physics reference) went through John, however.

If you'd like to add a comment or question on this page, simply log-in to the site. You can create an account from the sign-up page if necessary... It takes less than a minute!