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Author Topic: Lets talk about AI  (Read 1714 times)
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corruptrelic
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« on: February 08, 2006, 07:48:38 AM »

Seems every aspect of the game has improved over the years, full multiplayer support, better graphics by the year, even good intros and voice acting, but it seems like AI is still in it's infancy stage.

I'm not sure how many others are as interested in artificial intelligence as I am (I think 'obsessed' might be a better word for me) but I'm getting pissed off seeing so many games not include proper AI - From halo and halo 2 not including bot support (therefore cutting off any form of singleplayer replayability - 90% of their install base) from earth 2160 including a skirmish mode but conviently leaving out the team options to do team battles with the computer, to games likes quake 4 and call of duty 2 not including bots, from swat 4 taking out the "AI element leader" that was part of SWAT 3, Tribes Veangance lacking bots because they say it's up to the customers to make bots on their own time without pay, to the bots in perfect dark zero not being able to play darkops and being limited to 16 players, to the bots in battlefield 2 only being able to play on 16 player maps, the list goes on and on.

The only true series that I can actually say I've enjoyed both the singleplayer and multiplayer (as you can do anything you can do online, offline with bots) is the unreal tournament series.
Thanks to Steve Polge - who originally made the Reaper bot for the original quake (played that back in the days also) his dedication to making sure the bots are top notch and play all the multiplayer modes/maps is exceptional, and to top it off, he's not "just the AI programmer" (since most companies have one dedicated AI programmer) he does plenty of programming on other parts of the game as well.
Unreal Tournament 2007, I can only imagine what it might be like the things they've been talking about with the bots.
Especially the "AI Commanders" mentioned in one interview.

A game like Tribes 2 had two full-time dedicated AI programmers and they coudn't even support half the maps out of the box and the bots coudn't use any of the game vehicles.
I know that because I interviewed them long ago when I was part of the bot epidemic team and gave them around a 30% for the review.

Some of the worst games I've played (in terms of computer AI):

Age of Empires II - the skirmish AI is useless. The computer will send their troops to you but won't respond to any attacks along the way. Meaning you could just put some guys in the middle of the map, ambush the computer, and as you hack and slash away at his guys he just keeps moving along until either all his guys are dead or until he reaches his destination. That AI flaw alone makes it some of the worst AI in the RTS industry. Apparently it's a flaw in the game engine, so they were unable to fix it, they said they'd have to recomplile the whole engine in order to get the AI to respond to attacks.
(Originally they said if a human sent guys from point a to point b they woudn't defend themselves either - until they got hit with at least a human would see/hear his guys under attack on the minimap, click over there right away, and respond accordingly)

Settlers 3 - need I say more? Sure you can do 20 players (you and 9 AI allies vs 10 enemy computer players) and it has the nice feature of the AI picking up for a human player if they leave the game, but the AI is as bad as AOE2.

Best AI:

Unreal Tournament 2004.

Tzar: Burden of the Crown.

Decent AI:

Starcraft

Warcraft 3

Age of Empires III

Quake 3 Arena

Battlefield 2 (As limited as it may be)

High Impact Paintball

I'd like to hear other opinions out there on AI since I'm only one guy. What games are worth your money and what games aren't?

Perhaps in the future we can consider putting up a website dedicated to game & AI (bots) - I've been wanting to reopen the bot epidemic, but it's been so many years now nobody probably even remembers it.
Would anyone be interested in joining me as staff? We'd write reviews on games mostly based on their AI (or lack of), interview AI programmers for games, interview third party bot developers, maintain an active list of games (both pc and console) that support bots and skirmish modes, and so on.
IMO, until game developers start seeing there's a real need for things like bots, they're going to keep ignoring them or putting them on the back burner.
You can't tell me that Bungie and Microsoft with all their money coudn't hire a single AI programmer to code in some basic bot support for Halo. If a game as complex as Battlefield 1942 (with all it's vehicles) can do it, so can Bungie. I think it's more that they just personally don't care for bots, and they want to push Live so much, that if you want any form of replayability in the Halo series you need to put down 50 bucks more to get online with it.

Any thoughts?
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« Reply #1 on: February 08, 2006, 08:24:34 AM »

Very interesting idea...

You know, with regards to UT2k4, I used to be really impressed with its bots.  I really did.  But to be completely honest, after my nearly 300 hours of time I put into UT, I really began to see the flaws of these bots.  Some of the weapons that they used were ridiculous on higher levels (secondary-fire plasma gun, I'm looking at you) and the bots did not act like humans.  Sure, they double-jumped...but none seemed to dodge-jump.  I mean, put me in a match with all different names and I could easily tell you which player was a bot and which was a real human player.

And I guess what I'm getting at is when are we going to see less of a seperation of this?  I really enjoyed Quake 3's bots.  But they didn't use the strafe-jumping that all higher-level players did.  Even without this, though, it seemed like their thought-process was very human-driven.  They're probably the best FPS bots I've played against.

The question I'm posing is, has anyone come across an AI opponent in which that opponent played just like any other human?  In every game I can think of, the way the AI plays the game is entirely different than any human.  And it's incredibly easy to spot this with the more time you put into that game.  But are there any games in which an AI opponent can really surprise you?  I mean, I've never been tower-rushed by an AI opponent in War3 (not a real fair example, because who knows if the programmers even realized this strat), but are there any games in which an AI opponent has really surprised you?
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gameoverman
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« Reply #2 on: February 08, 2006, 08:26:35 AM »

Rise of Nations and Civ4 have the kind of AI I like:  you can set the level you want, and I can find the level that gives me a challenge without either it being a total pushover OR unbeatable.

Most games have AI that fall into those either/or categories and I hate that.  Either you can wipe the floor with them or you can't beat them at all.

In FPS games I expect something different.  I want AI that helps me feel I'm 'in' the game as opposed to offering me a challenge.  If I want a challenge in an FPS game, I go online against real people.

I believe good AI is an art in game terms, which means you can't just train or hire someone to be good at programming AI.   Just like you can't pick someone off the street and train them to be a brilliant painter- either they have it in them or they don't.

Someday, if some kind of programming standard for AI comes out, such as OpenGL and Direct3d are standards for doing graphics, I think then we will see widespread AI that works well in all areas.
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« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2006, 12:25:19 PM »

corr - If you want to add a game and/or AI programmer to your list of greats, definately include the Kohan Series and Timegate Studios.

These guys got praised alot for their game itself (the original Kohan will be considered a Classic one day I am sure) - but it was the multiple AI personalities that really made it stand out for me.  Not to mention the community being able to actually "write their own" AI scipts and then trading them between the playerbase.

The whole AI philosophy and implementation with that series was excellent.

Cool topic.
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« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2006, 03:52:48 PM »

Space Rangers 2 is a magnificent game but the enemy AI doesn't exist, period. The RTS sections are case examples of how non-existent it is. One map I was in the left corner, an enemy was in the top left and one was in the bottom right (directly across from me I might add). I had to play defensively at first just to survive but that's because they sent wave after wave along a set path between their two bases and I couldn't get through. Eventually I built up enough force to where I kept the guy in the bottom right busy while the guy in the top left did an end-run around the whole map and took out the base in the bottom right. I then set up a perimeter outside that base that he literally could not punch through. I sent my guys up to the top left and then he started pouring units out of that base WITHOUT pouring units out of the bottom right.

It wound up that I basically head-faked the AI and beat it. Zero worth of strategy there. Set up solid choke points, then build your forces up and chip away until they're done. I think, sadly, that's been the cornerstone of RTS games since Dune II.
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« Reply #5 on: February 08, 2006, 04:05:16 PM »

For single player fps FEAR is tops now in my book. The combat AI in that game was main reason I enjoyed it enough to finish the game. It wasn't perfect by any means but way better than what I've played mostly before. I think the UT bots are a tad overrated simply because most other FPS with bots totally suck. They arn't bad, and I guess are playable for somebody not wanting to go online but they don't replace human players.

The main flaw in RTS games I've seen is no real ability to use combined arms to beat an opponent, or take notice of a defensive layout and maybe bypass it to get at say the main base. Designers simply rely on the perfect micomanagment abilites of the computer.
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« Reply #6 on: February 08, 2006, 07:30:34 PM »

UT2004 definitely had some of the best AI i've seen, but like TML said, you started to find some significant faults if you played against the bots long enough.  they were really good about navigating the levels and chasing down important players in objective-based games, but the higher difficulties relied more on extreme accuracy with powerful weapons than intelligent playing...they also start to have an amazing ability to dodge your shots.  despite their shortcomings, the UT bots definitely put up a good fight and are a reasonable replacement when you can't find a good group online.
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« Reply #7 on: February 08, 2006, 08:08:32 PM »

Civ4's AI is great for the complexity of the game.  All the leaders are very 'in character' and challenging on the default settings.  If you want to simulate a multiplayer situation, you just turn on Random Personalities and Aggressive AI, and it's pretty much just like an MP game.
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« Reply #8 on: February 12, 2006, 04:27:45 PM »

Battlefield 2 one of the best ai's ever ?
I must lol....
That is so much not true, the ai is one of the dumbest in the history.
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« Reply #9 on: February 12, 2006, 07:57:29 PM »

Did you miss the "Decent AI:" part?
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« Reply #10 on: February 13, 2006, 04:56:06 AM »

I actually believe AI has improved in some ways but not in ways that have always kept pace with other aspects of gaming.  Think of the environments that the graphics technology now allows us.  As players we have way more options than we had 10 years ago.  However, the AI also has to grow to be comparable in those environments and it hasn't.

Some tactical AI is much better than the past, however.  FEAR has been mentioned and I would throw in Far Cry and Half-Life 2 in as well.  We have seen improvements because in the old days the enemies just took the shortest path to you and now they are designed to act in ways that are more realistic.  This only goes so far, however, because in the open environments of today's games we can always figure out a way to put the AI in a tough spot.  Today's AI is limited in it's ability to think for itself; it needs scripts to govern different situations and there is only so much time a developer can spend so there are always situations the AI isn't prepared for.

That said, when you consider that goverments and other researchers have spent tons of money and time trying to create AI for other purposes, you then realize what a monumental task it is.  To expect games to be ahead of that is totally unrealistic.

Finally, I do believe two things have happened in the last 10 or so years that have resulted in a de-emphasis on AI.  The first is online multi-player gaming.  Who cares about the AI if the gamer is just going to playing his friends online?  Gamers who then buy these games reinforce the attitude by developers.  

The second is the success of reaction based games.  Whatever you want to say about turn-based games, the fact was that they drove AI development because given an unlimited amount of time a person will eventually solve the problem.  When gaming is dominated by real-time games, as is the case now, the AI doesn't have to be good, it just has to be good enough to keep you on your toes in an environment where you are reacting as much as your are strategizing.  

However, it is a "chicken or egg" kind of situation: do gamers go online and prefer real-time games because the weaknesses of the AI is masked or did developers adopt online and real-time to hide the weaknesses of AI?  It's probably a mix of both.
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« Reply #11 on: February 13, 2006, 06:35:55 PM »

I talked with a programmer on a message board and he said it was easier to make a good AI for a turn based game than a real time game, which surprised me.  I thought the opposite was true.  It was on a Master of Magic 2 forum where I proposed the main reason MoM 2 wasn't made yet was because the AI programming would be very difficult.
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corruptrelic
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« Reply #12 on: February 13, 2006, 07:10:27 PM »

Quote
The first is online multi-player gaming. Who cares about the AI if the gamer is just going to playing his friends online?


Even though online multiplayer has definitely taken off, I think it's fair to show that statistics still show that the majority of gamers are doing singleplayer.
Age of Empires III for example, while I don't have the sales figures off the top of my head, it sold at least 500,000 copies.
At any given time, there's maybe 5,000 (at most) players online, and that's being generous.
That's not even 10%.
And those of us that are online, are still posting about AI problems in the message boards.

So while multiplayer gaming is definitely growing, I still think it's a far way off before we can write it off as who cares about it as long as the multiplayer is good. There's still too much of a market for singleplayer right now.


I know unreal tournament 2004 bots aren't without their flaws, but if they are any indication of what's to come for Unreal tournament 2007, I think we're in for a good treat.
They originally said the assault space map (where you start off in a fighter space ship and have to dock it on the enemy base) woudn't be supported offline with bots because of how complex it was, yet right out of the box it was supported.
Bringing the difficulty up to "Masterful" (if not inhuman or godlike) IMO makes the bot a very decent challenge.

Quake 3, IMO was good too. Made by Mr.Elusive who made the Gladiator bot for quake 2.
Good example of a company (ID) hiring a third party to come in and add bots for their game. Soldier of Fortune gold hired Rich Whitehouse (who made the famkebot for half-life) to come in and do bots for them as well.
Wish more companies would follow this trend.

I'll have to check out civilization 4, thanks for the heads up lord ebonstone. I only played civ3 briefly, but played a ton of alpha centauri. Even though it was pretty easy to "play" the AI (in diplomacy and betraying them) it was still a hell of a lot of fun for a turn-based game, especially the fact that you could let the AI micromanage a lot of things for you.

Has anyone played an old, old RTS game called KKND2? (Krush Kill N Destroy 2)
This must be at least 8 years old now, but the back of the box claimed excellent AI for the computer players, and even though it's been years since I played it I'd have to agree with their advertisement. The AI would continually analyize the map and see where your weak points were.
If you left the northern section of your town pretty much undefended and had plenty of towers covering the south part, the AI would launch his attack (not just one guy at a time - they'd attack in full force) in the northern part. They also might wait for you to go attack his ally (if it's a 2vs2 or 3vs3) and while all your guys are away from the base, he'll attack when you don't have time to get back and protect your town.

I'm still hoping that TeamFortress 2 will come out sometime in our generations before we are too old to play games anymore.
Having supposed to be an expansion to quake 2 (some kind of feud with ID not wanting anyone to charge for "mods" led them to valve) I remember old conversations with John Cook or Walker.. been so many years can't even remember his name anymore, but where he said they had two full-time AI programmers working on their bots and the bots would play all maps and classes, including squad leaders and commanders.
Where the hell is TF2 after all these years? Anyone remember how addicting the original (quake 1) teamfortress was? The 2fort4, or 4fort4, playing the hunted, the well, building sentry guns by the flag, or being a sniper, playing on a sniper-only map sometimes..
I really miss those old days. Wonder if anyone 10+ years later is still playing team fortress? If only I can find my copy of quake now.

The original quake was definitely the introduction of the bots, from the zeus bot that played cooperatively with you to beat the singleplayer campaign, to steve polge's reaper bots for deathmatch practice, to the ctfbot that was probably the first AI to ever play capture the flag.
Really missing those old days, and starting to fee old that it seems like just yesterday, was in fact, 10 years ago!
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« Reply #13 on: February 13, 2006, 07:14:08 PM »

Quote from: "ioticus"
I talked with a programmer on a message board and he said it was easier to make a good AI for a turn based game than a real time game, which surprised me.  I thought the opposite was true.  It was on a Master of Magic 2 forum where I proposed the main reason MoM 2 wasn't made yet was because the AI programming would be very difficult.


This makes sense because the AI isn't really under a time constraint to think about what to do, whereas in an real time game, decisions have to be made instantly.

I was always under the impression that AI in general is hard to code, primarily because "we" can think up a lot more crazy stuff then the computer and there is no way to think of everything wqhich could lead to problems.

I remember one of the Oblivion articles talking about an npc farmer or something that would go around killing other npcs for their rakes or something like that. I thought it was funny, but can see how it could be a problem. Besides, the day we make real AI is the day "they" take over and thus no more video games....
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corruptrelic
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« Reply #14 on: February 13, 2006, 07:35:31 PM »

Quote
Besides, the day we make real AI is the day "they" take over and thus no more video games....


You sir, have been watching too much of the Matrix!
The day my roomba decides to stop following orders and vacuuming my house is the day he gets trashed.
However if the Roomba is any indication of what's to come in real-life AI, we're still a long, long, long way off!
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« Reply #15 on: February 13, 2006, 09:39:52 PM »

Quote from: "corruptrelic"
Quote
Besides, the day we make real AI is the day "they" take over and thus no more video games....


You sir, have been watching too much of the Matrix!
The day my roomba decides to stop following orders and vacuuming my house is the day he gets trashed.
However if the Roomba is any indication of what's to come in real-life AI, we're still a long, long, long way off!


Matrix, terminator, any number of Sci-Fi movies. smile

As for the Roomba..... have you ever lost any keys, socks, etc...? I'm just saying....
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« Reply #16 on: February 14, 2006, 07:08:58 PM »

The best work I've seen for AI to date is for the wargame genre. I'm guessing this is probably because the majority of wargamers still prefer to play singleplayer vs. the AI and if the AI isn't top notch then the wargame won't be selling as much.

By wargame I'm referring to either the turn-based stuff by people like Matrix Games and Battlefront or the Combat Mission (turn-based planning, real-time execution) tactical ww2 games or the real-time gaming of Highway to the Reich (HTTR).

Combat Mission has some of the best AI that I've seen - and not just AI for the oponnent but AI in terms of simulating how men react under fire and in the heat of combat.

HTTR is also similarly brilliant, and probably the only RTS where I feel I can macromanage (command units at the brigade level) and let my AI subordinates micromanage their units (my orders then get translated to the orders for each individual battalion or company). I ferverent wish is that Supreme Commander by Chris Taylor gives me some of that same feeling of being able to trust my units to the AI when I'm busy fighting elsewhere.
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2006, 08:53:34 AM »

ray, I'll have to check that out, never really paid much attention to wargames (since I prefer real-time strategy) but I'll definitely be looking up HTTR.

I think it's still safe to say though that the majority of all gamers are still playing singleplayer.
I didn't realize it, but according to Epic, less than 25% of the people who bought Unreal Tournament 2004 are even playing it online.

And Age of Empires 3.. with what, a million copies sold (I'm too tired to look it up) and only 5,000 at most online at any given time?
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2006, 01:52:05 PM »

Quote from: "corruptrelic"
ray, I'll have to check that out, never really paid much attention to wargames (since I prefer real-time strategy) but I'll definitely be looking up HTTR.

I think it's still safe to say though that the majority of all gamers are still playing singleplayer.
I didn't realize it, but according to Epic, less than 25% of the people who bought Unreal Tournament 2004 are even playing it online.

And Age of Empires 3.. with what, a million copies sold (I'm too tired to look it up) and only 5,000 at most online at any given time?


Just so you know, HTTR is heavy on gameplay but light in the graphics and sound department. Actually the maps are nice looking and the counters are well-designed. I like how you can change the counter display so you can get graphic feedback on the morale, ammo load, fatigue of your units. Still, don't expect anything on the order of Battle for Middle Earth 2 or even Kohan graphics for the units. And they don't even give "acknowledgement" voice responses when you click the units.

Still, its cool to give a brigade an order to move to a nearby town and assault it and then watch as the brigade HQ gives orders to each of the subordinate units. If you tell them to march quickly to the town they'll form up in column formation, with scouts leading, HQ in the middle and mortars to the rear. Then once they're at the assault "form up" point they'll transition to a line formation (infantry in line, mortars behind) and start attacking.

HTTR also has the concept of an "orders delay" which I think is long overdue for RTS games. In real life there is a lag between when a general gives an order and when units actually start moving out. In HTTR, if you set the game to "painfully realistic delay" you'll see that constantly changing orders or micromanaging your units is actually detrimental to the battle.

Come to think of it, madminutegames, the makers of Take Command: Bull Run and upcoming Take Command: 2nd Manassas, also do orders delay. They visually show you a runner (guy on horseback carrying your orders) leaving your commander and heading for the HQ to give orders to. They've also implemented the ability for the runner to get shot at or intercepted and perhaps not even reach the HQ in a timely manner. You might want to look at these games as well, since they are more "graphically pleasing" to look at; a la Sid Meier's Gettysburg.

I think the main point that distinguishes wargames from the other genres is that its a niche genre. A developer who makes a wargame knows that his audience limits the product to make only 1% of the money he could earn if he made a vanilla RTS. Thus, every sale counts. So, if this niche market demands quality AI and they vote with their dollars you can bet the developer will try to satisfy that demand.
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