I gave a keynote at Game AI in Paris last week. Thanks again to Alex and Petri and staff for inviting me. Excellent conference. And a big statement to have a design-focused talk as one of their keynotes. Appreciated.
The keynote was secretly 3 talks in 1:
- “What is Game AI?”,
- “The AI Director in Darkspore”, and
- “Improved AI Design”.
In the first section, I walk through some of the history of AI and why that has failed us, and why we need a better definition for Game AI. I derive my definition of Game AI, “algorithms that replace randomness“. I claim there are 3 pillars of game AI: character AI, strategic AI, and AI direction, and correspondingly define AI Direction as “algorithms that replace randomness that manage experiences”.
In the second section, I discussed how we used AI Direction in Darkspore. I focus on 2 out of the 10 in particular: how we created the random enemy selection buckets and how we layered “spike” and “wanderer” spawn points to add drama and flow to the game. Unlike Left 4 Dead, Darkspore’s AI Director called for a fixed challenge per level instead of a player-adjusted one. I discuss how we tackled challenge while still bringing surprise, replayability, and interest to the table. I showed how we tested the Director, and briefly covered how to tackle the tricky problem of debugging experience management. Then I go into some of the technical numbers on how the Darkspore AI Director works, and why the numbers are more important then the code. I call that AI Design.
In the last section, I talk about the importance of AI Design. I look at how AI Design was actually most of the work, and argue that AI Engineers are the best positioned developers in the industry to make new and interesting kinds of games. I urge them to look for places where we use traditionally randomness, and see them as opportunities to create better gameplay. I debate Michael Mateas that AI Engineers need to understand Design in order to make the games of the future. We talk a little bit about Chris Hecker’s call down for AI Design at AIIDE 2010. And I share how I’ve found ways to do design in my projects and trained to be a better designer. Finally, I look at some of the things we left random inside Darkspore instead of AI Directing, and discuss whether or not that might have been a mistake.
AIGameDev.net will be posting the full presentation soon, along with audio and video. In the meantime, I’ve uploaded the powerpoint slides with notes, as well as a smaller pdf without the notes:
If you haven’t seen it my AIIDE 2009 talk on narrative in AI Director is highly relevant to this talk, expanding on it greatly.