Posted 27 March 2005 - 02:23 PM
I'm not sure if AI is being neglected because of graphics, but I feel that a lot of work could be put into AI to make games better. Here are my observations and ideas:
I agree with Steadtler that graphics sells the game, but the AI is what makes it great. Game boxes has pictures of the graphics on the back, and in features it's listed "Advanced AI". What do people see? IMO the pictures. It's when they play the game they see how the AI is. If a game has good graphics (sub-HL2/Doom3), but a very realistic and life-like AI that retreats and calls for backup and such if faced with overwhelming odds, then I would like that better than a game with photorealistic graphics, but enemies that just swarms me.
I also agree with James Trotter, in that the non-enemy NPCs in Gothic 2 looks more realistic than those in Morrowind. I'm not saying the AI is better, as I can't remember them walking around and actually doing stuff, but they stand and talk with each other which makes them more life like than those in Morrowind who just stand in a spot or patrols an area all day long.
A FPS where the enemy's AI analyses a "render" of what he sees and identifies the player (or his team-mates) visually would be great. AFAIK in most games just let's the AI know where the player is even if he's perfectly camoflagued and standing still and otherwise made no action to reveal his position. Their advantage can be compared to the enemies being rendered with a pure red color and a pointing arrow on the player's screen. Some games, most notably the Thief games, Splinter Cell games and some of the Delta Force games is taking cover and concealment into concideration, but more often than not it's too black and white. If the player stands still in the shadow in front of a white, lit wall the enemies still won't see him, even though he should have a very distinct silhouette. I doubt making "AI-sight" would be easy, but it's certainly something that would add realism. Even in a simplified form that takes into account camoflague, silhouette, light, movement and other things like that would be better than what is in most games. Sound is also a thing the enemy should be aware of, but not necesserily be enough to pin-point the player's position (it might at higher difficulties).
Enemy cooperation and needs:
In all genres the enemy should be able to retreat and look for cover or assistance if he feels threathened. I don't think it would be hard to implement (at least calling for help), and would add realism to games where they today mostly just runs heedlessly towards the player, guns blazing. Again, there are games that are better than others, but in most cases the only need the enemy has is to kill the player. If he at the same time tried to stay alive then there wouldn't have to be an overwhelming and sometimes respawning number of enemies to make the game challenging. Team tactics with cover fire and advancing to cover would make it more challenging to hold a position. Most games make this act a shooting gallery where the only thing the player needs to to is to avoid running out of ammo. Adding realism could be as easy as placing the enemy behind corners and having them pop out and fire a burst once in a while. Then the player needs to aquire the targets and shoot, and at the same time avoid being shot from one of the other corners. Keeping the crosshairs in a single spot and hope to catch the enemy as he pops out is simple, while doing the same when the enemy has the player pinned from multiple spots is foolhardy.
Speaking of ammo, it seems that enemies in FPS games has an infinite amount of it. They hardly ever fire bursts or single shot, even though in real life that would increase accuracy and lower ammo consumption. Most games penealies the player by increasing spread if he keeps the trigger depressed, but I'm not sure if it's the same with the AI enemies. IMO it should, and the AI should compensate by making every shot count (of course there are times for full auto as well). If the AI has to find more ammo if he runs out would also increase realism. This would be easy enough by setting waypoint and a path to the armory or a stockpile (which doesn't have to be accessible to the player if it should be hard for the player to find ammo).
AI in RPGs:
For the most part cities in RPGs tend to be populated by a lot of people just standing around having nothing to do. In Gothic they stand around talking all the time, but they don't stop talking after a while and go to do some work or running errands. In Morrowind they stand around and waits for someone to walk up to them and talk, or in the case of guards patrol an area. They don't ever walk up to another NPC and talk to them, or walk from a building to another. Most other RPGs are like this as well. Giving the people a list of places to go, and letting them stop and talk about rumors to people they meet wouldn't be very hard to do, and would add a lot of realism. It doesn't have to be extensive, just enough to give impression that they are real people. Farmers would get up at sunrise and go milk the cows, eat breakfast, tend the fields, eat dinner, go to bed, etc. People in cities would get up, go to their store and open it up, go to the market, go and eat, go home and go to bed etc. Guards could get out of bed, have an inspection, guard change (perhaps exchange some words), tend their equipment, go to a tavern, go to bed etc. Townspeople could wander around to various stores and chat with the store-keeper and perhaps buy stuff, to the market etc.
In most cases it could be a simple list of what to do at what time. They could have a list of people they know, and rumors they know about, and stop for a chat if they meet. In most cases the player wouldn't notice it if everything is the same each day, but if they do nothing at all each day, then it would be noticable.
For even more realism, the shopkeepers could walk around in their store and arrange their goods and other things like that until the player walks up to the counter. Of course this depends on the type of store. Pharmacists or Alchemists could be working in their labs, armorers and smiths could work in their smithy, scholars and mages could read books etc.
At night the thieves could go out of the thief guild and sneak around in the town. At day pickpockets could be roaming the streets and target passers by. If the player notices them and follows them to the thieves guild it would be a lot more realistic than if he just asks a person on the street where the hidden guild is located.
Monsters in RPGs tend to be incridibly stupid. They mindlessly attack the player who walk in on them and never try to flee if they're wounded. In some cases it's ok, but in some cases it would be more realistic if they decide to run if they're out of their league, and just fight if escape isn't an option. Even if they're initially aggressive, they might want to flee if the player is more powerful. I'm sure you agree that fighting a pesky Lvl 1 rat worth 10 XP isn't interesting if you're level 20 and need 10000XP to reach next level. Undead creatures and mindless or extremely hostile enemies would fight to the death.
AI in RTS:
I'm not into RTS, but a friend of mine mentioned the Close Combat series in regards to AI. In his opinion the AI in CC1: A bridge too far is about as great as it gets, but in the newer games of the series the AI has been lacking. Even so far as that if he destroys a column in an ambush on an open field, the enemy keep sending more units in the same way just to be destroyed as well (more or less swarming). In the first game they learned where ambushes was placed so that a single tactic couldn't be used all the time. In real life this would be done by using radio, or in lower tech scenarios, with observers following the column that returned to warn the rest of the force.
Also, in the first game (not sure about the others), the player controlled units had a morale meter that controlled how they reacted to the player's orders. If their morale was very poor they would refuse to enter dangerous areas or even try to desert. In complete panicked frenzy they could do weird things like running towards a machine gun nest to destroy it or other such things. One of his soldiers once destroyed 3 nests inside some buildings without the player's command because he panicked and acted on "instinct". CC1 is a pretty "old" game and it's graphics can't measure up the the graphics of modern RTS games, but because he feels the AI was so spectacular he considers it one of the best strategy game he's ever played. A great example of Steadtler's comment.