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AI Roundtable

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I am sitting now at the AI Roundtable, between Mike Lewis and Dave Mark. These guys were part of the crew running the full AI summit, which I unfortunately missed. Roundtables are something I discovered late at last year's GDC, and I think they might be some of the best events. It gives you more of a chance to engage directly with people, instead of just sitting through lectures.

* Dave Mark is discussing using real life as a model for building AI, by reflecting on how we make decisions in real life.
* How do you make complex AI stuff in the background (eg emotions etc) actually useful and visible to the user/player? Some games do it explicitly. Animation can do a lot as well. Ambiguity can be used so that the player simply makes up their own ideas about what is happening. Maybe the subconscious feel of the game is enough.
* It's dangerous to avoid doing AI because characters are only on screen for a few seconds. Maybe less characters could be on screen for longer, doing more interesting things.
* A lot of discussion about emotion. Candidly, I don't see the point...I don't want characters who get sad and angry and scared, really. I want characters who aren't stupid. That's the cure modern games seem to be missing...but I haven't played shooters in a long time.
* Talking about heavy animation blending in order to enable variety in how characters act and behave. It's difficult for me not to plug my company at this point, but we just don't have a product yet.
* The best designers are programmers. This is obvious to me. These non-tech people who want to still design the nuts and bolts of games need to get lost.
* More discussion about really enabling designers and junior programmers to build AI. Small scope custom scripting languages, designing around the designers, or teaching them code concepts. I'm imagining separate water fountains for coders and designers.
* Interesting suggestion -- go learn to use an appliance from a foreign country, with a language you don't understand. This is how designers feel about the tools engineers give them.
* Still more discussion about designers. I've never worked with a game designer, per se, so I don't have much perspective on the matter.
* Are designers like puppies? You have to train them just right or they leave a mess, from the sound of it.
* Another interesting way to approach AI, keeping compute power in mind -- use really stupid AI for characters until they actually become directly relevant to the player, and make up the rest from there. Not degrade existing AIs, but take uninteresting characters and promote them to much more detailed creations.
* Some games, making the enemies too smart isn't helpful because then you just lose. It's better to have them play out patterns that are complex and interesting but learnable and can be learned. I'm not sure I agree with that -- depends on your market.
* When is the last time someone reviewed a co-op game and said the co-op AI was good?
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