christian and jay

A.I. woes

Jay: Fighting your friends in Halo is fun in of itself. The whole point is to kill your friends. But single player games need progression to be enjoyable. Truly intelligent enemies would drastically slow a game down and lead to many deaths that feel unavoidable. If a game is pattern based then it will be clear that you died because you went left and not right, but if you’re fighting a human it’s never that clear. It can be very frustrating to play against someone who is significantly better than you, and if it isn’t, it’s because you know the person and enjoy playing with them. If you’re playing a computer that can consistently beat you and there isn’t a clear method to beat them it could lead to incredibly frustrating sessions.

We can only hope intelligent AI would make Dynasty Warriors unplayable. You’ve made enough of them, Koei, please stop.

Christian: A good AI opponent who kicks your ass would indeed cause problems and slow things down. But what if it was done well? Imagine a game where both you and your enemies are stalking each other in the jungle… picture MGS3 with better AI. None of you can take much damage, and the quality AI means that this is fairly even playing field. I think a game like that could be pretty damn intense. Better AI might indeed lead to game styles we’ve never seen before, but I don’t know for certain if all of them would be bad. That all depends, I think, on how the tools are used (and you’re right; at first they’d probably be used horribly, like physics engines are right now).

Jay: There may be a psychological effect of being beaten by a smart machine. Now, when we lose, it’s because enemies have bigger weapons and more health. When we lose we know we can go back and figure out the pattern of enemies. We can easily see it’s just a program running patterns. When enemies are very smart, losing to them may bother us more than we expect. Humans have been the smartest things on the planet for millions of years, suddenly being beaten by something we perceive as truly intelligent may make us very uneasy and may be less fun than we anticipate.

Christian: There is a chance that some players would get pissed at losing to a computer. I know I do nowadays, though mostly it is because the computer has a distinct advantage over me (ie. they cheat). But when upping the difficulty in Unreal Tournament, I don’t mind if I lose to a bot. If they beat me fair and square, then its my job to practice and get better (like one would against humans). And if it is a team game, then I know I’ve got buddies of the same skill covering my back. Ultimately, I think it all depends on how fair the AI is made.

If chimps were smart enough to design games, they may look something like this.

Also, to play devil’s advocate, the only reason the AI’s could potentially beat us is because we’re the smartest thing on the planet. And we have the choice to not play against them.

Jay: Finally, far in the future when there is a push to make games as realistic as possible, we may run into the issue that reality is not fun, which is why we play games in the first place. Games simplify everything into a few discreet gameplay mechanics. As games and AI get more complex they will mirror reality more and more and there may not be easily discernable cause and effect in games, which is why reality is not very much fun.

Christian: I don’t think this is an issue of the future; I think it is happening right now. Over concern for realism is why I couldn’t play San Andreas for more than two hours. It is why some sports games drive me nuts. You’re right though that it will only get worse, and AI could be part of the reason why. Again, the key issue is what can we improve in Artificial Intelligence to make a game more fun and not more frustrating, and how long would it take for developers to properly utilize a new technology?

Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
18 years ago

I’ve only played a couple of games where the AI opponents are good enough that I’ve forgotten I wasn’t playing online (other than the lack of being called a faggot every five minutes I would have sworn I was there). Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. As far as single player experiences, the Splinter Cell series and Half-Life 2 have some of the best enemy AI I’ve seen in a long time. Those first two games are set in a totally foreign setting, not going for realism at all. The last two are hyper-realistic with enemies even engaging in spontaneous small talk.

I guess my point is that realism isn’t necessary for AI to be good. I believed that I was playing with other humans in Unreal Tournament because the bots were good … real good … and they played like people play. When there was ammo near by they grabbed it, even if they didn’t need it. They actually played offense AND defense, instead of letting you do all of the defending (cough* HALO! *cough). The other two games went for a photorealistic setting, requiring a totally different type of AI. The kind that fights in groups and doesn’t just stand in the open while you shoot from a mile away. The kind that changes their patterns when you reload the game.

My other comment is addressing Jay’s last point. Game reality will always be hyper-reality. Just like the movies, which are making fantastical things more and more life-like with each summer blockbuster, games are “real life” until you realize the setting you’re in and the abilities of your avatar. I don’t care how “real” the Splinter Cell series looks or feels, you’re still one guy who will kill about 100 people over the course of 5 in-game days, restoring your health by drinking vials from a first aid box. When a game is created where you can’t heal once from start to finish and two or three bullets are enough to drop you for good, then games have crossed the fun line into being way too real.