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AI assisted gaming

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I'm thinking of gaming with things like autoaim or extreme chess, where human input is essential to success, but allows the AI to take care of the mundane aspects of a game. I notice that people frown upon those features as sissy, yet I can't help thinking how much better off we'd all be if a game played like a modern action movie with close calls and longer bits of head to head action. Actually, the one movie that really triggered my imagination was the Riddick Chronicles. At the end of the movie where the wierd undead guy could be in two places at once but both were deadly, it made me think... Gee... what if a game wasn't about who had the greater ability to handle the mechanics of the game (yes there's always some strategy, but strategy has always taken a back seat to ability to handle the input.) but it was about being really sneaky and clever and creating situations that even matrix time and godlike awareness couldn't get the other player out of. It seems like games could be made available to more mainstream gamers and actually increase interest with more going on. Then a game would degenerate somewhat into a constant action movie with a player deciding what to do next. Drunk players could play, newbies could play, and the expert could pull off manual maneuvers to beat the other players in a stylish way. More on this after some responses.

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The problem with this approach is that you can't really adapt it to any game play. Can you imagine a quake like game with the concept you mentioned ? I for one can't imagine such a game ^^

But you already have turn by turn strategy games, games like Myst, and I'm sure there are a lot more games using those concepts. It just isn't useable for any game type ^^

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Quake doesn't have much other than running and aiming well. But what about a game like a fast paced racing game where players have a degree of interaction. The interaction is a direct distraction to the actual racing. Maybe you want the game to play like that, but maybe you don't. Maybe the game is funner if the not hitting walls part of the game is nearly automatic, but the choosing the right path or timing your shots so that you cause a player to get knocked into the scary path was the focus of the game.

Some of these AI assisted things don't have to take over the player's controls. They could be projections of where shots are going and where path intersections may occur. They could be running lights along a corridor that indicate timings for making it past the deadly pendulums. These things can add to gameplay because now instead of figuring out where and how the missile will hit you, you are figuring out how to trap the other player so he can't escape your missiles. So I guess that weapons will have to be more powerful too.. :-D

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I believe that essentially, This type of improvement has no place in an action game.

However.

It is an excellant idea. Many strastegy games become action games simply because the player has to sit there and deal with complexity. I think it an excellant thing for the player not to have to deal with trivialities. I'm doing a space strat and I hope to have lots of instances where the game AI helps you out by calculating orbits, firing on a specified target, managing the output of the engines to keep a damaged structure together, etc. It's a really good idea, in the rifght context, but it could completely unbalance a game, so needs to be used carefully.

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I'm enjoying this conversation. Could you explain why you don't feel like a game that is essentially an action game would be less fun with assisted play? I think that an action game that played like a single unit RTS might be fun if there was constantly changing discrete set of actions that you had to choose from to survive and win.

I guess that from my point of view, I suck at using thumbpads like they are intended as analog input and usually they degenerate into 8 directional. That's one reason why I feel that Super Smash Brothers has done well as a game, the input system is very forgiving, and does not expect unreasonable levels of control from a mere thumbpad.

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Quote:
Original post by pTymN
I'm thinking of gaming with things like autoaim or extreme chess, where human input is essential to success, but allows the AI to take care of the mundane aspects of a game. I notice that people frown upon those features as sissy, yet I can't help thinking how much better off we'd all be if a game played like a modern action movie with close calls and longer bits of head to head action.


That's the problem. Most "autoaim" improvements are "aimhacks" which give you instant kills at no difficulty, killing any/all chance for any extended firefights. There's also plenty of places outside of FPS gaming where AI-asistance is good/manditory. An example would be MOO3's planetary advisors.

Quote:
I'm enjoying this conversation. Could you explain why you don't feel like a game that is essentially an action game would be less fun with assisted play? I think that an action game that played like a single unit RTS might be fun if there was constantly changing discrete set of actions that you had to choose from to survive and win.


It detracts from the "action" aspect. No desperately jamming the keys in an effort to get behind cover. With AI-controlled actions, you might click a button or two, then watch on as you either live... or die... with really little regard to what you actually did.

Can AI control and the action feel for the game coexist? Probably. It'll also probably be harder to implement, but more power to ya if you can pull it off.

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I could sure see a quake type game using this tech:


Imagine walking through a corridor...
Suddenly a short ingame event occurs, i.e big bad ass thing tries to pull you down below... by pressing a certain combo (Shown on screen) you manage to get away.

Hmm..
Don't know if that sounds so cool, but I think it sounds kinda cool. :)




And I also realized that my post has absolutely nothing to do with the OP's post.. but I post anyway. peace! :D

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Partial AI control is common in some games... For example, in most RTS games your units will react to enemies in some fashion even without user input. In the real-time combat of Weird Worlds we made the turrets on the starships automatically fire at any enemies that come into range by default. If you give the ship a specific target then the turrets will try to shoot at that target; if they can't then they fall back to the default mode. Alternately, there's a "manual fire" command that lets you specify a point in space that the turrets will fire at.

So it's got "layers" of control authority. Most of the time the AI will do just fine, but on rare occasions an expert player will use the manual control to do something unusual like try to shoot down a missile with a non-pointdefense weapon or attempt to hit a cloaked ship by guessing its location.

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I like the idea of more AI assistance in an RTS game. Let's say the AI controls everything from city building to warfare. As you play, you can take control of anything you want away from the AI. It would be a lot like being a single general going about and making sure things get done the way they need to. If the AI suddenly decides to attack an enemy, you could go help the war effort. If you think it's time to attack an enemy, you could tell the AI to get on it. If you see the AI building something stupid, you could tell it to stop.

Hardcore RTS gamers would probably trash the idea, but I think casual gamers would enjoy it. When I see a really cool AI demo, even if it's not interactive I'll watch it just because it's cool. If you made the AI interesting enough to watch, adding the ability to interact with it would just make it that much cooler.

Perhaps with the RTS idea, you could play as a single character who only has influence within a certain radius of himself. The character would also of course be very strong in battle. The game would be a balance between making sure cities are built right and the armies are trained, and using your character to dominate the battle field. The more you fight, the less control you're taking over the bigger decisions, but the more battles you win.

Whatever type of game you apply your idea to, you'll definitely need to make sure that the game is interesting to watch. If the character can't fully interact with your game, you'll have a hard time getting away with repetitive level design or gameplay.

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While not directly related to your 'AI Assistance', there are some games that attempt to indroduce style as a gameplay element. The best example I know of was a mod for half-life called The Opera. A more recent example is the free game Gunz Online.

Both of these games are made of features that exist in many games (such as 'wall jumping' that is in many games) but these two try to do so in a manner that promotes a kind of artistic style more than gamer elitism. Except for many annoying bugs, I found both of the games I mentioned enjoyable, and I think that a kind of auto-aim would only make them better because it would allow the player to think more about the style aspects.

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The RTS game I've been working on has the concept of "Lieutenants". The Lieutenant role (there's only one unit type in the game, and a given unit will have the skills for one or more roles) is one of subordinate control: other units can be assigned to it, and it will delegate them to various high-level tasks (repair, navigation, etc.) that are under its control. Each high-level task has a panel of sliders that the player can mess with to change the lieutenant's priorities.

In order to make this system workable, I've had to formulate the gameplay such that there is generally a very obvious "right thing to do" for a given unit at a given time. Of course, this needs to be balanced against the need for actual strategy. Additionally, lieutenants--especially inexperienced ones, or those handling too many tasks at once--will be somewhat slow at times to delegate jobs to the units under their control. Additionally, players can countermand the lieutenant at any point WRT a single assignment or multiple assignments, and the lieutenant will honor that countermanding without the rest of its assignments getting screwed up.

While I haven't done much playtesting yet, what I'm hoping is that players will leave lieutenants in charge of roles which are not of immediate importance, while handling those that need to be done especially well at a given time themselves. The goal is to reduce the tedium of micromanagement, while giving an advantage to those who can from time to time.

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One of the majo goals of my RTS is to add AI to the human player. Some of it sounds a little similar to Sneftel's ideas, other stuff I'm not aware of being done before.

Racing games use this already - as well as things like auto-gears and auto-braking, I know of one game where the steering is silently adjusted by the AI to make it seem easier. For isntance you get into a spin and the AI automatically pulls you out - making you think you've done a stylish 360 with your 1337 skillz.

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I agree with most of the posts that your idea isn't quite suited for a typical action game. You could use it as a real time "conscience" to help the player along, i.e. think for him, but I do not believe this is what you are after.

Along with your original though line from Riddick; it might be best to use it to do things that the player himself cannot do. The whole two players at once fighting thing would be a good example of this. In that case I would probly use a learning AI to figure out the players style, just so they don't get pissed when it does something realy dumb that they themselves would never have done.

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Quote:
Original post by Sneftel
The RTS game I've been working on has the concept of "Lieutenants". The Lieutenant role (there's only one unit type in the game, and a given unit will have the skills for one or more roles) is one of subordinate control: other units can be assigned to it, and it will delegate them to various high-level tasks (repair, navigation, etc.) that are under its control. Each high-level task has a panel of sliders that the player can mess with to change the lieutenant's priorities.


I'm working on a similar system for my space sim/RTS. Since the plan is to make control of the player's ship fairly complex, I decided to delegate most of that control to "officers", leaving the player to focus on whatever task is currently most pressing or interesting. In particular, the three major areas of importance during combat are maneuvering, firing control, and damage control. Since the game deals with large, complex ships all of those tasks end up being pretty involved.

The player can delegate maneuvering, for instance, to an officer (by issuing a command along the lines of "stay within 20km of that ship"). The game takes over flying the ship, while the player can focus on using the weapons and dealing with damage. Alternately, the player can automate weapons and damage control and just focus on flying. Masochistic players can just ignore the automation completely do everything themselves, but I'm trying to focus the gameplay heavily on interacting with and delegating to the AI "officers".

Of course, the downside to this is that the playability of the game heavily depends on the quality of the AI. If I screw up in implementing the AI that drives the way officers work the whole game ends up falling apart.

Still, I'd agree with everyone who says that this kind of stuff doesn't belong in an action game. The whole idea of an action game is that the player is forced to quickly react to events as they happen. You take away a big part of the fun if you remove the fast paced nature of the game, especially since most action games feature a very limited set of actions (move around, aim, shoot, switch weapons, etc.). The strategy in these kind of games comes from the complete freedom of movement combined with the player's skill at reacting to input as quickly as possible.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Well, AI-assistance can be a great thing. For example - a first-person RPG game. Your hero can shoot, but it is dependent on his skill how can he shoot. Then, for player, you have to options -
1) automatic aim - computer automatically sets center of fire on the target
2) manual aim - you manually set center of fire, which is harder, but that way some 3D-action game lovers can be added to the audience of the game ;)

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Everyone keeps talking about using AI assists in action games. What about in strategy? I believe that strategy can have things that are extremely complex, and that this can be a good thing. Ifyou increase the complexity yto the point where you HAVE to use AI to deal with it, you've got something completely new. I indend having a 2d space strategy game, but I intend that other than the number of demensions, it will be a hard sci-fi game. I want to make it so that the default is that you fight exactly as well as the AI ship, and as the commander, you deactivate certain ai and take control of that system. You give the AI parameters ingame. You give the weapons groups and give the groups targets and they fire on abjects 1, 2, 3, and whatever they can see, in that order.

Effectively what I'm looking at is a high degrwee of automation, not an actual AI. WHat I want is for a halfway decent player to be able to whoop the AI, simply because he knows how to use this automation effectively. Of course, because of the nature odf the game, the AI will only be used against the player where the player is heavily outmatched, in some way or another, thus resulting in about equal battles.

Is it wise to give the player control over the AI-script? How many players will use it? ANd how much help can I expect if I make that part more accessible to the general gaming audience? How much will they take advantage of it if I do this?

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I think a decent AI could assist you well in a strategy game. It gets edgy when the AI goofs up and causes you to lose the match.

Nowadays, strategy games already offer quite a bit of assistance, Civilization IV being a good example with their automated cities. But also Pathfinding is, in my eyes, AI assistance. and some games, such as Total annihilation, have really user-friendly path finders, with units that scoot out of the way to let less agile units through the shorter way, etc pp.

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