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Smart MMO AI


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#1 ShawnCowles   Members   -  Reputation: 295

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 05:43 AM

I was pondering artificial intelligence the other day and I got to thinking about MMOs. I've only really played WoW, with maybe a few hours of guild wars, and as far as I can recall even in dungions/raids mobs just stand there until a player catches their attention. It's all very static and boring.

The hypothetical idea is thus: add a strategic "master" AI for an entire zone or dungeon. This master would control the moments of squads of normal mobs in order to achieve some objective. (AI within the squads would be more or less the same, so the standard tank tactics would still work) This sort of strategic oversight by the master would keep things dynamic and interesting for the players, requiring cooperation on their side as well.

Has this been done before? Is there some flaw I'm missing that would ruin it?

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#2 Caldenfor   Members   -  Reputation: 323

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 07:56 AM

I was pondering artificial intelligence the other day and I got to thinking about MMOs. I've only really played WoW, with maybe a few hours of guild wars, and as far as I can recall even in dungions/raids mobs just stand there until a player catches their attention. It's all very static and boring.

The hypothetical idea is thus: add a strategic "master" AI for an entire zone or dungeon. This master would control the moments of squads of normal mobs in order to achieve some objective. (AI within the squads would be more or less the same, so the standard tank tactics would still work) This sort of strategic oversight by the master would keep things dynamic and interesting for the players, requiring cooperation on their side as well.

Has this been done before? Is there some flaw I'm missing that would ruin it?


I think it would very good if done properly. Perhaps a scout would have to avoid capture while detecting the players and report back to the "master" to activate it? Then the master could use all immediate forces to defend, realistically, the area of which the players are trying to invade. This would put the NPCs on the offensive at times rather than always defensive/stagnant.

You could use more patrols.

They designed WoW/other dungeons generally to not have any variables. Do X as a player and Y will always happen. Encounter solved. There really isn't any variety to it, I agree.

#3 Telgin   Members   -  Reputation: 200

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 09:51 AM

I agree that this would be pretty cool in implemented well. That's the catch of course. It would both be potentially very CPU demanding for the server, or a balance nightmare. On one hand, I think even adding a small layer of strategy on top of the basic pull->tank->kill model would be welcome and not terribly difficult to implement.

A simple example would be an improvement on the patrol concept WoW introduced then seemed to toss away. If patrols noticed, say, dead NPC bodies on the ground, they might go run off to an alarm somewhere and set it off. Once an alarm is triggered, then more NPCs spawn, more patrols, maybe traps, that sort of thing. The strategy then becomes watching for these patrols, alerting the others if you see one, and making sure you silence them before they set off the alarm.

That's a very simple example and would likely only work for specific scenarios, and indeed would get old itself eventually. Players would likely avoid that dungeon if others didn't do complicated things like it, so you'd have to make sure all dungeons were equally mentally challenging.

I also like the idea of playing against a master AI who directs squads to deal with threats. Depending on how you implement it, this could range from what I just described to Team Fortress 2. Definite possibilities in there.
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#4 SimonForsman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 6111

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 09:53 AM

I was pondering artificial intelligence the other day and I got to thinking about MMOs. I've only really played WoW, with maybe a few hours of guild wars, and as far as I can recall even in dungions/raids mobs just stand there until a player catches their attention. It's all very static and boring.

The hypothetical idea is thus: add a strategic "master" AI for an entire zone or dungeon. This master would control the moments of squads of normal mobs in order to achieve some objective. (AI within the squads would be more or less the same, so the standard tank tactics would still work) This sort of strategic oversight by the master would keep things dynamic and interesting for the players, requiring cooperation on their side as well.

Has this been done before? Is there some flaw I'm missing that would ruin it?


There are two real problems with it:

1) MMOs are by definition massive, having your servers run advanced AI for a few npcs or even all the mobs in one instance isn't a big deal, running advanced AI for a few thousand instances is. (instance servers are easy to scale from a technical point of view so the main problem here is financial, hardware costs money and any visible dynamic behaviour adds to the bandwidth requirements (and thus to your running costs))

2) Player enjoyment, WoW allready features patrolling squads in many instances and scouts that have to be killed before they raise an alarm in others (Which can be insanely frustrating for newer players), You can create very dynamic and challenging behaviours with simple scripts (But lets face it, the players want to kill bosses, not trash mobs).
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#5 ShawnCowles   Members   -  Reputation: 295

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 07:30 PM

There are two real problems with it:

1) MMOs are by definition massive, having your servers run advanced AI for a few npcs or even all the mobs in one instance isn't a big deal, running advanced AI for a few thousand instances is. (instance servers are easy to scale from a technical point of view so the main problem here is financial, hardware costs money and any visible dynamic behaviour adds to the bandwidth requirements (and thus to your running costs))

2) Player enjoyment, WoW allready features patrolling squads in many instances and scouts that have to be killed before they raise an alarm in others (Which can be insanely frustrating for newer players), You can create very dynamic and challenging behaviours with simple scripts (But lets face it, the players want to kill bosses, not trash mobs).


I agree that #1 may be an issue, however it might be solvable by using the master AI in areas that aren't instanced. If I recall correctly there is a zone or two on WoW that players from several servers can all play together on. Something like that would be ideal for this type of system since there would only be a few dozen master AIs running, instead of thousands. A fairly modest server could probably handle the AI for all of the instances.

I'm not so sure on #2 though.

The reason I would like to see this idea in practice is precisely because I am bored with the status quo in MMOs. This concept wouldn't be for people who are happy with the state of WoW and the myriad others, but for people like me who would really like to enjoy the game, but get bored with how routine it can become.

#6 sunandshadow   Moderators   -  Reputation: 4918

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 10:07 PM

One problem with really good AI is that if a monster always does the smartest thing, it's predictable. A monster that acts a mix of smart and random is better because it challenges the player to adapt when the monster does something unexpected.

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I want to help design a "sandpark" MMO. Optional interactive story with quests and deeply characterized NPCs, plus sandbox elements like player-craftable housing and lots of other crafting. If you are starting a design of this type, please PM me. I also love pet-breeding games.


#7 ImmoralAtheist   Members   -  Reputation: 118

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Posted 28 August 2011 - 10:35 AM

I was pondering artificial intelligence the other day and I got to thinking about MMOs. I've only really played WoW, with maybe a few hours of guild wars, and as far as I can recall even in dungions/raids mobs just stand there until a player catches their attention. It's all very static and boring.

The hypothetical idea is thus: add a strategic "master" AI for an entire zone or dungeon. This master would control the moments of squads of normal mobs in order to achieve some objective. (AI within the squads would be more or less the same, so the standard tank tactics would still work) This sort of strategic oversight by the master would keep things dynamic and interesting for the players, requiring cooperation on their side as well.

Has this been done before? Is there some flaw I'm missing that would ruin it?


Much could be done by adding more interesting behaviour. In a wilderness some master AI won't make much sense, because the animals are very little connected. You don't need to give the animals some insanse analytical abilities either. Make different animals/monsters have different behaviours. A typical thing some games have is monsters that warns you if you get to close. If you don't run away until a certain time limit, they will attack.

Here's something I wrote in another thread about implementing various behaviours:

-------------------------------------- width format (this should fit on one line) ------------------------------------------------

In current mmorpgs the wilderness is quite dull.
This will be a description of how the wilderness around the beginning town could look like, but the
same principles can and should also be applied later.
I'm not sure how well it fits this subforum topic, but it fits the thread title.

You're placed in the beginner town. The town is surrounded by wilderness and there are different
types of wilderness in the different directions. You are free to go anywhere you want,
but there will be a beginner quest chain, introducing you to the game that most will follow.
The wilderness around the town are mainly forests, but to the north it is denser and darker.

You are first sent out into the "normal" forest,
here you will enounter regular monsters like in typical mmos, but there are not as many of them.
There are enemies that are "hiding" that will come out if you approach, or only if you do something
special. This is a good way to balance monster numbers compared to players in the area.
If there's many players the, spawing will be more agressive (secret world will enable you to
summon zombies by turning on car alarms).
There will also be types of non agressive monsters.
The first type is something like big, powerful and peaceful plant eating animals. You can attack
them, but they can easily crush you.
The other type is herds. They are formed by a specie of smaller plant eating animals.
They are individually defeatable, but an attack on one will either cause them to flee, or they will
attack you (most likely alpha males). They will generally travel over large areas, and a running herd
can easily trample anyone standing in the way (although getting hit by a "herdtrain" is unlikely).
Herd's consist of females, juveniles, young/small males and big and powerful alpha males.
This can be considered the"casual"/safe wilderness area.

The forest to the north will look very similar, but it is denser and has a darker atmosphere.
Monsters are found in fewer numbers here, but they are stronger and have a more agressive
behaviour.
The big and powerful peaceful creatures are now more agressive. If you get very close or do
something wrong, they may attack you, but only after warning you to back off (which you should
heed).
The alpha males in herds are very agressive here, and if you approach a juvenile or a female,
close alpha members will fend you off. They will charge towards you, but if you run away, they
will not follow. An alpha male is difficult to kill, but a small party (3-4) will easily take one down.
Killing an alpha male will cause the belonging herd to flee at full speed to a location far away.
If you kill more than one of other types, and the alpha males are struggling to take you down,
it will also cause the herd to flee.
The big difference however, that makes these forests so dangerous, are wolves. They are fierce
predators cooperating together. Scouts will run around, and detect targets from a large distance.
If they believe you are weak enough, they will attack you. If not, they will call the others.
An available party of this specie will respond, and move towards your location. The scout will
follow you, but keep it's distance, so fleeing away is not that easy. Only a large party (8+) will be
strong enough to not attract wolves. To escape you must loose the scout, and preferably get away
before backup arrives. The best thing though, is to stay undetected. Characters will be given several
ways to stay undetected, and this is crucial to survive in the northern forest and similar types of
areas.

RIFT made rifts with demons pop up, but I'd rather see interesting monster/animal behaviours like
what I described here. They enrich the world, where both strong and weak monsters are mixed,
without making it to "hardcore", as yes there's monsters that can defeat you, but you can generally
avoid those fights. However a group may take on some of those fights, making the forests
interesting for both groups and individuals.
You can avoid the northern forest, but the increased difficulty is more exciting than pure attribute
boosts and rewards are generally higher here. Many special items (like rare crafting materials) are
only found in these types of areas.

What you end up with is a much more interesting wilderness.
Let's say you're asked to bring proof of killing a wolf. How do you go about?
Wolves will keep their distance, unless they think they can win.
Do you make yourself appear weaker to lure it in, do you set a trap, do you use a weaker player as
bait, or do you become the hunter yourself by sneaking up on a wolf?
By making dynamic behaviours like these, simple kill/gather quests get much more interesting,
as they have the potential to be fun to do. This can compete against well made, scripted story heavy
quests.


Naturally this could be a bit more resource demanding than your standard mmo, but not to much. Remember the hardware was quite a bit weaker when WoW came out, so it should be fully possible to implement more varied behaviour.




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