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Suggested Pre-Conference Reading and Live Broadcast from Paris!

Alex J. Champandard on June 13, 2011

In slightly over a week, the game development and artificial intelligence community will descend upon Paris for this year's annual Game/AI Conference 2011! Whether or not you can make it, here's a list of related research from around the web, our very own blog, and the PREMIUM area, to help you prepare for the onslaught of content. :-)

The following references and white papers are listed in order of the conference. There are no spoilers; you can read everything without worrying about taking away from the conference itself. There's a lot of material though, so I'd suggest selectively picking the topics you're less familiar with, or the ones you'd like to be well prepared for!

Live Broadcast?

Behind the scenes, thanks to the sponsorship of Namaste, we've been working on setting up a (paid) live stream of the event. It's still not 100% certain yet and if it does happen it will be in BETA, available to a limited number of people — due to infrastructure reasons. But nonetheless it should give those of you around the world the opportunity to get something out of this conference, as the most action-packed event of the year focusing on gameplay, character animation and artificial intelligence.

How do you sign-up? If you're interested in the live broadcast, simply register to the official newsletter on the conference website. Please do so before Friday, June 17th at 17:00 UTC. We'll be sending out the final details about the broadcast shortly afterwards, and you'll be able to register for online viewing.

Tutorial #1
Applying Reactive Planning to Behavior Trees

Description: Ben Weber will explain the best ideas from behavior languages such as ABL, which was used to create Façade. You'll hear how he applied the techniques to a RTS bot, the EISBot, one of the favorite competitors for the AIIDE 2011 Starcraft competition. You'll also find out how you can use these design patterns within your own BTs.

Take Away: You'll reach an understanding new idioms and design patterns to improve your own BTs, find out the benefits of running multiple trees in parallel, and see a good way to structure your RTS AI.

Related Material:

A Behavior Language: Joint Action and Behavioral Idioms
Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern, 2004.
Download PDF

Keynote #2
Battle AI in TOTAL WAR: SHOGUN 2

Description: TOTAL WAR: SHOGUN 2 is a strategy computer game developed by The Creative Assembly. This latest iteration in the series has focused heavily on its AI, and the game is receiving acclaim for its revamped battle AI. You’ll hear all about it in this keynote!

Take Away: Discover what the Creative Assembly has learned over the ten years of making TOTAL WAR series, and how the Battle AI was improved from a technical and a design perspective for this highly acclaimed iteration.

Related Material:

Presentation #3
10,000 Ships Doing the Locomotion in X REBIRTH

Description: The upcoming game from EgoSoft in the X Universe will feature large numbers of space ships flying around, which presented many challenges on the locomotion system's implementation.

Take Away: Learn about the performance tricks that were applied behind the scenes to allow large numbers of spaceships to navigate efficiently.

Related Material:

Presentation #4
Stochastic Sampling and the AI in LOVE

Description: LOVE is an ambitious and stylish MMO game that features entirely procedurally generated planets. The world is inhabited by tribes of AI characters which can be hostile or friendly towards the player, and built up their own settlements autonomously.

Take Away: Find out why stochastic sampling is such a robust solution for building complex worlds, and also helps the AI make its decisions in the rich environment that was generated.

Related Material:

Presentation #5
Drive-Orientation in SPLINTER CELL’s Bots

Description: Developed by Ubisoft along with Spir.Ops' drive-oriented behavior system, SPLINTER CELL: DOUBLE AGENT features bots that you can play against competitively in multiplayer mode. These bots provide an entertaining and varied experience as you play the game multiple times.

Take Away: Find out how the AI for these bots was implemented using a utility system in practice. You'll hear about the benefits and challenges that this provided in practice.

Related Material:

Presentation #6
What's New in Autodesk Kynapse 2012

Related Material:

Tutorial #7
Data-Mining Techniques Applied to Games

Description: Research in data-mining has matured a lot over the past decade, and can now be applied to a wide variety of problems reliably. There's a huge opportunity for games to help interpret players behavior, either once the game has launched or during development.

Take Away: Georgios Yannakakis will show you different examples of how data-mining can be successfully applied to extract patterns from game data, as well as the details about the underlying technique that was used.

Related Material:

Presentation #8
Parametric Character Animation in CRYSIS 2

Description: The most recent iteration of Crytek’s sandbox shooter, set in New York, combines the incredible technology of CryEngine 3 along with the trademark gameplay that defines the series. In particular, you’ll hear about the animation technology under the hood and how it’s used by the AI.

Take Away: You'll find out about the parametric animation implementation in CRYSIS 2, notably how it works and interacts with the AI. You'll also hear some lessons learned from its development, and how to leverage these ideas on your own system based on parametric motions.

Related Material:

Automated Extraction and Parameterization of Motions in Large Data Sets
Lucas Kovar and Michael Gleicher, 2004
Download PDF
Parametric Motion Graphs
Rachel Heck and Michael Gleicher, 2006.
Download PDF

Tutorial #9
The Next-Generation of Game Planners

Description: The use of planners in the games industry is at a key junction in the games industry, to stay competitive with other solutions. Innovation in technology could certainly help, and R&D is a great place to turn for inspiration.

Take Away: In this tour of academic planning research, you'll hear about the strenghtns and weaknesses of a variety of planning techniques used in research and other domains, that will take the games industry beyond STRIPS.

Related Material:

Agent Architecture Considerations for Real-Time Planning in Games
Jeff Orkin, 2005.
Download PDF
Three States and a Plan: The AI of F.E.A.R.
Jeff Orkin, 2006.
Download PDF

Keynote #10
The AI Director in DARK SPORE

Description: In the tradition of its developer Maxis, DARK SPORE is an innovative RPG game that features some radical AI design. In particular it addresses two of the most promising game design frontiers: player monitoring and experience management.

Take Away: In this second keynote, you'll find out how the AI Director was implemented in Maxis' latest RPG. You'll also hear Dan Kline's perspectives on the design process, and how it progressed through the development process.

Related Material:

Panel #11
The Future of Deliberative Decision Making

Description: Recent trends have not been very favorable to STRIPS-style planners, with many developers switching away from using the approach in practice. Why is this the case and what can be done about it?

Take Away: This panel will try to establish a consensus on the current state of GOAP (Goal-Oriented Action Planning) in the games industry. You'll get a chance to listen to both sides of the debate on key topics from both academia and industry, then vote on resolutions.

Related Material:

Presentation #12
Visual Effect Techniques for Crowd Shaping

Description: Making realistic looking crowds involves more than just picking an algorithm. How can designers and artists craft the overall behavior of the crowd and what tools should they use to do that?

Take Away: Find out what techniques you learn from the latest VFX toolchains used in films, and how their user interfaces can help create better looking crowds in games. Find out about the techniques behind Golaem's new crowd product!

Related Material:

Tutorial #13
Procedural Generation for Games

Description: Procedural generation is a simple and effective way to add more variety to games and increase the quantity of levels available for players. It's proved to be a particularly good option for independent and casual games, as well as some AAA games too!

Take Away: In this tutorial, you'll find out about the most promising research techniques to generate worlds, levels and maps procedurally so they aren't just random but fun to play! Julian will also show some examples from different games and levels generated.

Related Material:

Presentation #14
Turn-Based AI in GREED CORP

Description: Greed Corp is a turn-based strategy game which focuses on strategic battles on a map featuring a land collapsing mechanic. Players choose one of four factions (Freemen, Pirates, Cartel, Empire) in matches of around 20 minutes. The opponent AI in this fun tile-based strategy game went through multiple iterations!

Take Away: Find out which technique performed best in practice, the version based on neural networks, mimax search or one with hand-crafted utility functions.

Presentation #15
High Performance Racing AI in NASCAR 2011, THE GAME

Description: NASCAR races have forty-three cars racing in tight packs around the tracks, and Eutechnyx set out from the start to create a realistic experience where drivers have distinctive personalities and race just like their real life counterparts. Optimizing that game to run smoothly on modern consoles, particularly the PS3, was quite a challenge!

Take Away: Find out the different tricks and techniques that Codeplay used to get a solid 30 FPS even on the PS3, and how you should architect your AI code to make sure you can do this in your own game.

Related Material:

Tutorial #16
Believable Game Characters in Havok Behavior

Related Material:

Presentation #17
Automatic Annotations in KILLZONE 3

Description: The fourth installment in this science fiction epic, KILLZONE 3 continues where its predecessor left off. Guerrilla Games has a history of investing in its AI technology for both single player and multiplayer, but this edition of the game takes it further by leveraging traditionally AI techniques to improve the player locomotion and controls.

Take Away: Since voxel-based techniques work so effectively for navigation, why not apply them to other parts of the toolchain — such as terrain reasoning? In this presentation, you'll find out how Recast was applied in Guerrilla Games' latest hit, and how to handle automatic annotations too!

Related Material:

Presentation #18
Emotions, Social Physics and PROM WEEK

Description: PROM WEEK is an innovative AI-based social game developed by Expressive Intelligence studio and Michael Mateas, creator of Facade. The game features groundbreaking gameplay with puzzles based on emotions and traits of characters preparing for a high-school prom.

Take Away: You'll find out how to build simple emotional models for your characters, and how you can incorporate those into mini-games to build your gameplay around.

Related Material:

Presentation #19
Rapid Prototyping of AI in… C++

Description: C++ is commonly used for low-level AI and engine functionality, but is replaced by scripts at the top-level. However, scripting tools are often very brittle compared to the fully fledged commercial IDE solutions available for C++. Maybe there's a compromise!

Take Away: Matthew Jack and Doug Binks will show a working prototype for dynamically reloading game code (and BTs) written in C++, as if it was a script! You'll find out what it'll take to integrate such a solution into your own game.

Related Material:

Keynote #20
Backbreaker and Euphoria in the Real World

Description: BACKBREAKER is an American football game that features realistic physically simulated tackles that make you feel every hit and blow. It uses Natural Motion’s Euphoria, a game animation engine that generates motion on the fly based on physical simulation of a character’s muscles.

Take Away: Find out how physics-based solutions are used in practice in the games industry, and how they are integrated within the rest of the blend trees.

Related Material:

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