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# Improving AI of MMORPG Raids

## 23 posts in this topic

I'm kind of new on this forum so maybe this is something that has been discussed before. I'm no expert in AI or even novice for that matter, however I've been working as a programmer for 5+ years in systems non related to gaming. Gaming has always been an interest of mine and I'd like to start a discussion about AI and MMO raids. I'm not sure how these raid encounters are programmed in current MMOs however I assume that most encounters are just scripted events with minimal AI. I'd like to know the difficulties of implementing a better AI system for boss encounters. Based on my experience playing games I've noticed that with time almost every encounter once defeated becomes increasingly easier each attempt. This is expected as the players are going to be better each attempt and with practice they will have the script timing and execution down to a science. I'd like to discuss the difficulties of creating a better AI system for raid encounters. My goal isn't to make the encounters more difficult but less predictable without just making the entire encounter based on a random dice roll.

Some simple ideas are:

1. Boss stops using abilities that are not effective. For example, if 80% of the players have a large resistance to ice abilities then change to a different ability. This may take a few tries to come to the conclusion that the ability is not being affective but once that decision is made the strategy should be changed.
2. When players run to a specific location to block line of sight why doesn't the boss position himself in the optimal location in the room to affect as many players as possible. Positioning is a big factor in current MMO raids. Why is it that the boss is so willing to move around if it puts him at a disadvantage. Having him fight at different locations in the room could easily increase the sense of a better AI.
3. If a player is low on health why not switch targets to kill the player who is low? Maybe this is too powerful or maybe it could only be used for players that are inside his vision.
4. Maybe even learning from previous battles how he was defeated and changing some of the encounter to counter the strategies of players. I'm not sure that all these AI changes need to take place in real time but the idea is that no two encounters are the same.

Is this possible or will players eventually figure out every combination and it just becomes a more complicated encounter script with more possibilities?
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I think the predictability is there for a reason made by designers, rather than the inability to program convincing AI.

It also depends on what kind of structure you're having for your game. If we're taking World of Warcraft as an example where you have 3 roles: The tank, the healer and the DPS, the most logical A.I. choice for a boss is survival, so if I would make the A.I. for a boss, I would let the boss be aware of why this one person (the tank, the one who is taking most/all of the damage) doesn't die and why is everyone back to full health after a powerful attack? It's that healer, let's focus on killing that! No heals means players going down, results in victorious boss!

In this specific case, the whole structure on which the game is based is destroyed by a boss that only figured out that there is someone healing, making it very hard, near to impossible, to down this boss. So in this example it's not feasible to let the boss be aware of the roles.

Let's take your first example in a general case. Assuming that a boss is learning to adapt his spells related to the resistance of the players. In general if a game has some sort of resistance stats, it's either a general resistance to a school of damage (physical, magic, ranged), or to a specific school of magic(fire, ice, lighting). Could be different ones,but let's keep it to this. Now the boss is learning his fire attacks have no use so he switches to lighting after a while. This is all fine and dandy, but ineffective. Players will (or should) be able to notice the switch and anticipate their gear on it. Should their be an "infinite" amount of schools the boss can switch to, an encounter would become too unpredictable and players will die because they will never be able to anticipate the course of action and the boss will find out the lowest form of resistance and keep on using that, making the encounter near to impossible. Resistance is a vital part of the battle, you can argue that even with the lowest of resistance, you should be able to survive, but having resistance in the first place would then be useless, as the player will know it and will take the lowest anyway.

So yeah, looking at different MMOs, the A.I. of bosses is mostly based on the general gameplay of the entire game (exceptions are there probably) and balancing out A.I. Changes is probably too difficult to do effectively. Complete randomness would be to unpredictable for players to anticipate on depending on how the game is played. Learning A.I. might become predictable again after a while as there is only so much you can do without it making to random, rendering the complicated A.I. useless over time.

All of this is of course depended on how you structure your game, the more versatile your game is, the more versatile you can make your boss encounters, but that is, in my opinion, still a design choice rather than the inability to program convincing A.I.
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I think that this topic is more suitable for the game design forum.[img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1349387248' post='4986919']
1. Boss stops using abilities that are not effective. For example, if 80% of the players have a large resistance to ice abilities then change to a different ability. This may take a few tries to come to the conclusion that the ability is not being affective but once that decision is made the strategy should be changed.
2. When players run to a specific location to block line of sight why doesn't the boss position himself in the optimal location in the room to affect as many players as possible. Positioning is a big factor in current MMO raids. Why is it that the boss is so willing to move around if it puts him at a disadvantage. Having him fight at different locations in the room could easily increase the sense of a better AI.
3. If a player is low on health why not switch targets to kill the player who is low? Maybe this is too powerful or maybe it could only be used for players that are inside his vision.
4. Maybe even learning from previous battles how he was defeated and changing some of the encounter to counter the strategies of players. I'm not sure that all these AI changes need to take place in real time but the idea is that no two encounters are the same.
[/quote]
In short: you don't want perfect AI

In long: the goal of a game should be to make the game interesting and challenging to the player. That is, if the player almost died to defeat a boss is much more satisfying than kill the player instead to give him a learning session. If you make the boss too clever, it will just wip the raid for what ? For the ego of the developer ? The trick is to give the players the feeling that they are immersed in a hard fight and to be honest, [i]classic [/i]AI is just a little, almost unimportant, part in such a play.

I call it classic, because in my opinion, the [i]AI[/i]-director of L4D is heading in the right direction. It makes a repeating game experience more challenging and interesting while keeping a relative constant difficulty for the player.
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[quote name='IADaveMark' timestamp='1349709768' post='4988015']
Ugh... I gave an entire lecture on this at GDC Austin in 2009. Wish I had the time to go into it but I'm currently catching my flight from a full 4 days of Indiecade straight to a full week of GDC Online (ex-Austin). Suffice to say there are plenty of places where MMO AI can be changed -- and some companies are in the process of doing so (not necessarily released yet). However, there is a sort of mystique about some things. One of the major comments about my proposals in 2009 was "but that will break Tank-Healer-DPS!" To which I replied, "so?"
[/quote]

That sounds incredibly interesting. Please return here once you've rested from your trip [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]
 I think I [url="http://intrinsicalgorithm.com/media.php"]found the slides[/url] from the talk Dave mentioned, for anyone also interested. Edited by Amadeus H
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[quote name='IADaveMark' timestamp='1349709768' post='4988015']
Ugh... I gave an entire lecture on this at GDC Austin in 2009. Wish I had the time to go into it but I'm currently catching my flight from a full 4 days of Indiecade straight to a full week of GDC Online (ex-Austin). Suffice to say there are plenty of places where MMO AI can be changed -- and some companies are in the process of doing so (not necessarily released yet). However, there is a sort of mystique about some things. One of the major comments about my proposals in 2009 was "but that will break Tank-Healer-DPS!" To which I replied, "so?"
[/quote]

I just went through the slides and I'd like to go through them a little more when i'm not at work. Your points about the currently problem accurately reflect the current market for MMOs. I'd be very excited to see some of this implemented in a new MMO I'm tired of just figuring out a script. Don't get me wrong its still fun, but it gets boring playing the same script after the first few times you do it. Encounters should remain a challenge even after the first time you figure out the script.

I think its perfectly reasonable to remove the Tank-Healer-DPS but personally i'm a pretty big fan of it. I think the healers and dps can remain unaffected. What ruins the whole AI is that the tanks have Taunts and other abilities that artificially add agro for nothing. Please, someone tell me why the boss should be attacking the tank, its not logically at all. The tanks should be trying to protect healers and create barriers and slow down bosses so people can run away. Their job is to protect healers and DPS but not necessarily by taking damage even though that could come into play a little.

An intercept ability is a good example, the boss attacks healer 1 and the tank realizes they're gunning for him so they attempt to intercept the damage by placing themselves between the boss and healers.

Like the above examples, spells in the current state of the game are based on targets, but why should a spell go through 2 people and hit someone behind? Can't a tank use his shield to reflect or absorb the damage if he is correctly positioned in front of the DPS or healer that the boss has targeted?

Something I think you focused on a lot Dave was formation and the bosses working as a team. This is a good idea as well, part of the problem with current raids is that we have 10-25 people vs 1. The boss if all alone needs to be extremely powerful to even stand a fighting chance. In essence this is what causes the tank roll, nobody can take these huge hits but the tank. Without the huge hits the boss would never be able to kill anyone. Lets say that we had a fight 10 players vs 10 npc where the NPCs were working together just like the players. WoW tried this in WotLK I thought it worked out pretty well thought it could have been improved since the NPCs were not working together and the taunts still worked (at least temporarily).

Anyways I think that these responses answer my original question, its not a matter of computers not being able to perform this kind of AI real time in a game, its a matter of a game design that doesn't allow for this kind of AI in its current state.
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[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1349798317' post='4988392']

I think its perfectly reasonable to remove the Tank-Healer-DPS but personally i'm a pretty big fan of it. I think the healers and dps can remain unaffected. What ruins the whole AI is that the tanks have Taunts and other abilities that artificially add agro for nothing. Please, someone tell me why the boss should be attacking the tank, its not logically at all. The tanks should be trying to protect healers and create barriers and slow down bosses so people can run away. Their job is to protect healers and DPS but not necessarily by taking damage even though that could come into play a little.

An intercept ability is a good example, the boss attacks healer 1 and the tank realizes they're gunning for him so they attempt to intercept the damage by placing themselves between the boss and healers.

Like the above examples, spells in the current state of the game are based on targets, but why should a spell go through 2 people and hit someone behind? Can't a tank use his shield to reflect or absorb the damage if he is correctly positioned in front of the DPS or healer that the boss has targeted?

Something I think you focused on a lot Dave was formation and the bosses working as a team. This is a good idea as well, part of the problem with current raids is that we have 10-25 people vs 1. The boss if all alone needs to be extremely powerful to even stand a fighting chance. In essence this is what causes the tank roll, nobody can take these huge hits but the tank. Without the huge hits the boss would never be able to kill anyone. Lets say that we had a fight 10 players vs 10 npc where the NPCs were working together just like the players. WoW tried this in WotLK I thought it worked out pretty well thought it could have been improved since the NPCs were not working together and the taunts still worked (at least temporarily).

Anyways I think that these responses answer my original question, its not a matter of computers not being able to perform this kind of AI real time in a game, its a matter of a game design that doesn't allow for this kind of AI in its current state.
[/quote]

Most of the current ways things are done in MMOs are to overcome obstacles involving latency. Your ideas on positioning (intercepting attackers, physically blocking attacks, etc...) are of course good ideas, but they tend to fall apart in a simulation where oft-times large latency is present, which is pretty much every MMO. Everyone who has played with huge ping times is familiar with rubber-banding and other occurrences, and these issues are only aggravated by the requirement of precise positioning. A raid wiping because they failed the script is one thing, but a raid wiping due to latency issues on the tank's part is a whole different ball of wax, one that annoys the piss out of the players when it happens. With tight timing and positional requirements plus latency, this type of wiping would likely become the rule rather than the occasional occurrence.
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[quote name='FLeBlanc' timestamp='1349801748' post='4988408']
[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1349798317' post='4988392']
I think its perfectly reasonable to remove the Tank-Healer-DPS but personally i'm a pretty big fan of it. I think the healers and dps can remain unaffected. What ruins the whole AI is that the tanks have Taunts and other abilities that artificially add agro for nothing. Please, someone tell me why the boss should be attacking the tank, its not logically at all. The tanks should be trying to protect healers and create barriers and slow down bosses so people can run away. Their job is to protect healers and DPS but not necessarily by taking damage even though that could come into play a little.

An intercept ability is a good example, the boss attacks healer 1 and the tank realizes they're gunning for him so they attempt to intercept the damage by placing themselves between the boss and healers.

Like the above examples, spells in the current state of the game are based on targets, but why should a spell go through 2 people and hit someone behind? Can't a tank use his shield to reflect or absorb the damage if he is correctly positioned in front of the DPS or healer that the boss has targeted?

Something I think you focused on a lot Dave was formation and the bosses working as a team. This is a good idea as well, part of the problem with current raids is that we have 10-25 people vs 1. The boss if all alone needs to be extremely powerful to even stand a fighting chance. In essence this is what causes the tank roll, nobody can take these huge hits but the tank. Without the huge hits the boss would never be able to kill anyone. Lets say that we had a fight 10 players vs 10 npc where the NPCs were working together just like the players. WoW tried this in WotLK I thought it worked out pretty well thought it could have been improved since the NPCs were not working together and the taunts still worked (at least temporarily).

Anyways I think that these responses answer my original question, its not a matter of computers not being able to perform this kind of AI real time in a game, its a matter of a game design that doesn't allow for this kind of AI in its current state.
[/quote]

Most of the current ways things are done in MMOs are to overcome obstacles involving latency. Your ideas on positioning (intercepting attackers, physically blocking attacks, etc...) are of course good ideas, but they tend to fall apart in a simulation where oft-times large latency is present, which is pretty much every MMO. Everyone who has played with huge ping times is familiar with rubber-banding and other occurrences, and these issues are only aggravated by the requirement of precise positioning. A raid wiping because they failed the script is one thing, but a raid wiping due to latency issues on the tank's part is a whole different ball of wax, one that annoys the piss out of the players when it happens. With tight timing and positional requirements plus latency, this type of wiping would likely become the rule rather than the occasional occurrence.
[/quote]

Even with low latency(Which is achievable with nation or region restricted servers for example) that kind of gameplay would be problematic at the MMO scale due to the increased bandwidth requirements (Less complex gameplay lets you squeeze more players in, (even if you can afford more bandwidth on the servers you will restrict your playerbase if the clientside bandwidth requirements get too high). (You can have tight positioning in a MMO if you want but you have to sacrifice something to get it) Edited by SimonForsman
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[quote name='FLeBlanc' timestamp='1349801748' post='4988408']
Most of the current ways things are done in MMOs are to overcome obstacles involving latency. Your ideas on positioning (intercepting attackers, physically blocking attacks, etc...) are of course good ideas, but they tend to fall apart in a simulation where oft-times large latency is present, which is pretty much every MMO. Everyone who has played with huge ping times is familiar with rubber-banding and other occurrences, and these issues are only aggravated by the requirement of precise positioning. A raid wiping because they failed the script is one thing, but a raid wiping due to latency issues on the tank's part is a whole different ball of wax, one that annoys the piss out of the players when it happens. With tight timing and positional requirements plus latency, this type of wiping would likely become the rule rather than the occasional occurrence.
[/quote]

You make a good point, running to a positioning to block wouldn't really be feasible because of latency. However, you could have spells that put a static object on the ground that players can stand behind. There wouldn't be any problems with latency there, or instead of running in the traditional sense couldn't you cast a spell where you want to jump? As long as the location is pre-determined doesn't that fix the latency issues? If the reaction time is less than the latency the player should successfully block the spell. Edited by bwight
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Players largely dont really want greatly smarter (especiallly unpredictable) opponents , but making them more entertaining and capable of spectatular believable mistakes/misses (and more varied interactions with the terrain/players) still could be justified (something to do once the glitzy graphics hit their eventual limits)

Developing and Debugging efforts increase geometrically with AI complexity and simple costs to the game companies is often the ruling factor for any decision.

Anyone have guesses of what the increase in complexity are for some of the AI improvements have been talked of here ??

Logic reuse might help, but bosses tend to be specialized, requiring more unique logic (and certainly balancing).

Maybe with time, such things with 'key-hole' solutions (one boss at a time) can be demonstrated to make it less risky for the game companies to decide to make that kind of improvement in a more general way. Edited by wodinoneeye
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I think static content is more the problem with MMOs than the AI. Looking at things from outside the box, do you really want an AI that, for example, stops using frost abilities because you have frost protection? Didn't you just nullify all the work I put into protecting myself?

There's a fine balance between challenge and just being downright mean. There needs to be a feeling of reward for a player who does things right and can utterly dominate a situation because of it. Certainly they will learn the magic method of defeating a boss to where it becomes trivial, but I think that's part of the Static content problem and not a problem with the AI itself.

Personally my problem with Dungeon Crawls in MMOs is the "Trickle" problem. You walk into a base and see monsters around you standing and having a conversation, you really don't feel like you just infiltrated an enemy stronghold where everyone would be on alert. I think there needs to be more dynamics on that front to bring immersion. Edited by RevenantBob
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[quote name='RevenantBob' timestamp='1351009742' post='4993134']
I think static content is more the problem with MMOs than the AI. Looking at things from outside the box, do you really want an AI that, for example, stops using frost abilities because you have frost protection? Didn't you just nullify all the work I put into protecting myself?
[/quote]

If they don't cast the frost spell because you have frost protection, then it is doing its job. If that is the primary attack of the enemy, then you are winning because of the fact that you protected yourself.
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[quote name='RevenantBob' timestamp='1351009742' post='4993134']
There's a fine balance between challenge and just being downright mean. There needs to be a feeling of reward for a player who does things right and can utterly dominate a situation because of it. Certainly they will learn the magic method of defeating a boss to where it becomes trivial, but I think that's part of the Static content problem and not a problem with the AI itself.
[/quote]

I'm not talking about being mean, I'm talking about making the AI more intelligent. Why do the players need to dominate a situation? For me once a boss is trivial to kill it becomes boring shortly after. What I'm attempting to find out is if there's a way to make it possible for the strategies to be more dynamic. Think about battlegrounds when you're fighting against other players, there are multiple strategies that can win. Players try out different strategies and when they find one that works they continue with that. If at some point the opposing team effectively counters their strategy they begin searching for a new one again. AI in raid encounters use 1 strategy once players find out how to counter it they post it online in a video everyone reads it and spends a few weeks practicing and then the boss is on farm status. There doesn't have to be a "Magic Method" of defeating a boss you've just been brainwashed into thinking that's how it should be.

[quote name='RevenantBob' timestamp='1351009742' post='4993134']
Personally my problem with Dungeon Crawls in MMOs is the "Trickle" problem. You walk into a base and see monsters around you standing and having a conversation, you really don't feel like you just infiltrated an enemy stronghold where everyone would be on alert. I think there needs to be more dynamics on that front to bring immersion.
[/quote]

I agree with this. I think its funny how if you're 51 meters away from the NPC he does nothing and suddenly at 50 meters you become a threat... Shouldn't it be obvious that if you're accompanied by 20 other players that you're obviously going to attack? Maybe if you're alone the NPC isn't threatened as much.
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[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1351178124' post='4993816']
I think its funny how if you're 51 meters away from the NPC he does nothing and suddenly at 50 meters you become a threat... Shouldn't it be obvious that if you're accompanied by 20 other players that you're obviously going to attack? Maybe if you're alone the NPC isn't threatened as much.
[/quote]
If the NPC only has two states - Idle or Attack - the transition will always be abrupt.
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[quote name='comfy chair' timestamp='1351203224' post='4993944']
[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1351178124' post='4993816']
I think its funny how if you're 51 meters away from the NPC he does nothing and suddenly at 50 meters you become a threat... Shouldn't it be obvious that if you're accompanied by 20 other players that you're obviously going to attack? Maybe if you're alone the NPC isn't threatened as much.
[/quote]
If the NPC only has two states - Idle or Attack - the transition will always be abrupt.
[/quote]

He's not talking about the transition, but rather the use of an arbitrary trigger point such as "x distance". (Again, this is something that I've covered repeatedly in my lectures.) If a trigger does not reasonably map over onto one that we would use as people (e.g. arbitrary distance), then it seems "wrong" to us. OTOH, if you use something that people use (e.g. LOS), then we feel more comfortable with it. It seems "normal". In fact, the more "normal" that AI behavior is, the less we notice it because it is "doing what it is supposed to do."

[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1351178124' post='4993816']
I'm not talking about being mean, I'm talking about making the AI more intelligent. Why do the players need to dominate a situation? For me once a boss is trivial to kill it becomes boring shortly after. What I'm attempting to find out is if there's a way to make it possible for the strategies to be more dynamic. Think about battlegrounds when you're fighting against other players, there are multiple strategies that can win. Players try out different strategies and when they find one that works they continue with that. If at some point the opposing team effectively counters their strategy they begin searching for a new one again. AI in raid encounters use 1 strategy once players find out how to counter it they post it online in a video everyone reads it and spends a few weeks practicing and then the boss is on farm status. There doesn't have to be a "Magic Method" of defeating a boss you've just been brainwashed into thinking that's how it should be.
[/quote]

I agree with this wholeheartedly. The thing that makes for Sid's "series of interesting decisions" is if the opponent (human or AI) is making interesting decisions as well. It is the combinatorial explosion of this potential state space that makes things engaging rather than "read the script; play your part."
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[quote name='Rld_' timestamp='1349602426' post='4987634']
I would let the boss be aware of why this one person (the tank, the one who is taking most/all of the damage) doesn't die and why is everyone back to full health after a powerful attack? It's that healer, let's focus on killing that! No heals means players going down, results in victorious boss!

In this specific case, the whole structure on which the game is based is destroyed by a boss that only figured out that there is someone healing, making it very hard, near to impossible, to down this boss. So in this example it's not feasible to let the boss be aware of the roles.
[/quote]

This could be easily implemented with the current wow-style of raid mechanics.
The boss could go through a phase, for say 20 seconds, where he looks around for healers, instantly killing anyone who sets off a heal.
With a comment like "Wait a minute, whats going on here..." "AHA!! A HEALER!!"

Obviously this is not what u intended, but my point is if ur going to challenge the Tank-Healer-DPS(Support) paradigm u need to do it carefully and overtly or u need to recreate the way the game is played.

[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1349798317' post='4988392']
I think its perfectly reasonable to remove the Tank-Healer-DPS but personally i'm a pretty big fan of it. I think the healers and dps can remain unaffected. What ruins the whole AI is that the tanks have Taunts and other abilities that artificially add agro for nothing. Please, someone tell me why the boss should be attacking the tank, its not logically at all. The tanks should be trying to protect healers and create barriers and slow down bosses so people can run away. Their job is to protect healers and DPS but not necessarily by taking damage even though that could come into play a little.

An intercept ability is a good example, the boss attacks healer 1 and the tank realizes they're gunning for him so they attempt to intercept the damage by placing themselves between the boss and healers.
[/quote]

I could not agree more, and this should be possible.

[quote name='FLeBlanc' timestamp='1349801748' post='4988408']
Most of the current ways things are done in MMOs are to overcome obstacles involving latency. Your ideas on positioning (intercepting attackers, physically blocking attacks, etc...) are of course good ideas, but they tend to fall apart in a simulation where oft-times large latency is present, which is pretty much every MMO.
[/quote]

This argument is outdated, the MMO Darkfall did this very well, free-target magic spells and arrows that can be dodged or avoided, with massive amount of players on the screen at the same time. [url="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b45oKjWgK7s"](youtube)[/url] Tera Online has a hybrid free-target and targetable spells and abilities.
Graphically these games could not be more different, Tera looks beautiful and Darkfall looks like a PS2 game, and therein lies the challange. Most MMOs fade players out at a certain range, so while u can see a large valley in front of u, u have no idea whether there are players or mobs there as they wont exist on ur client till u get much closer.

Darkfall avoided this, and so did the MMO Tabula Rasa, which allowed players to play more or less like a shooter. My point is that as as soon as the player can aim for himself, and not rely on TAB targeting, he will start to challenge the range of his attacks to get a better advantage.

This is a challenge for the Engine, obviously, and one so far completly overlooked by most Triple A MMO studios unfortunately.

But think of the possibilities, to actively dodge spells, or block them with shields or even weapons is just the beginning.
What if a spell hits another spell? Ice vs Fire, Lightning vs Acid? What if clashing these powers together caused random explosions, or in high end cases could even summon elementals or planar beings, rendering the fabric of reality asunder with their power etc..

The mind boggles at the random possibilities in PVP or vs Raid Bosses under such mechanics.

But more to the point, look at what Tera Online did with boss fights, every attack follows the animation, so most of them can be dodged by looking at where the boss is targeting. The Secret World did a hybrid version of this where, under some attacks, they will paint the target area in front of the mob giving the player a warning to get out of the way. (only for some attacks though).

At this point the Tank could be designed around a Snare ability, ensuring the boss cannot move fast enough to catch the healers or DPS casters and would be forced to focus on the tank be default, whereas the tank would have to keep agro only agains the other Melee DPS, or perhaps do away with agro all together by putting the onerous all on the DPSers.

Or, now that i think about it, use an ability from the Warhammer MMO where some tanks could share the damage of their assisted target, this ability could be applied to an AOE around the tank for instance.

-Exo
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[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1351178124' post='4993816']
[quote name='RevenantBob' timestamp='1351009742' post='4993134']
There's a fine balance between challenge and just being downright mean. There needs to be a feeling of reward for a player who does things right and can utterly dominate a situation because of it. Certainly they will learn the magic method of defeating a boss to where it becomes trivial, but I think that's part of the Static content problem and not a problem with the AI itself.
[/quote]

I'm not talking about being mean, I'm talking about making the AI more intelligent. Why do the players need to dominate a situation? For me once a boss is trivial to kill it becomes boring shortly after. What I'm attempting to find out is if there's a way to make it possible for the strategies to be more dynamic. Think about battlegrounds when you're fighting against other players, there are multiple strategies that can win. Players try out different strategies and when they find one that works they continue with that. If at some point the opposing team effectively counters their strategy they begin searching for a new one again. AI in raid encounters use 1 strategy once players find out how to counter it they post it online in a video everyone reads it and spends a few weeks practicing and then the boss is on farm status. There doesn't have to be a "Magic Method" of defeating a boss you've just been brainwashed into thinking that's how it should be.

[quote name='RevenantBob' timestamp='1351009742' post='4993134']
Personally my problem with Dungeon Crawls in MMOs is the "Trickle" problem. You walk into a base and see monsters around you standing and having a conversation, you really don't feel like you just infiltrated an enemy stronghold where everyone would be on alert. I think there needs to be more dynamics on that front to bring immersion.
[/quote]

I agree with this. I think its funny how if you're 51 meters away from the NPC he does nothing and suddenly at 50 meters you become a threat... Shouldn't it be obvious that if you're accompanied by 20 other players that you're obviously going to attack? Maybe if you're alone the NPC isn't threatened as much.
[/quote]

I too have been disappointed by how feeble the game situations have become in MMORPGs

The problem is with the shooting gallery arrangement that most MMORPGs have where they have to offer thousands of kills easily found (I call it the minefield of monsters). It makes it easy for the company scripters with their trigger area activate and then charge at player 30 feet away - very little AI processing needed and keeps the 14 year old mentalities happy thinking theyve achieved something because of their easy kill count.

Ive seen a tactic of a enemy NPC to run back and get reinforcements (forcing you to kill it quick before it does) but only in a few places.
If they did something like that all over or a much larger activation radius (Im apalled at how small the radius has gotten - now 20 feet away in many cases in one game) then the player would have to deal with alot more enemies simultaneously than the level content is usually balanced for (fight 1 ok, fight 2 a challenge, fight 3 and die pretty quick).

A Raid can be (have been) better choreographed and cut out interference by uninvolved players, but they largely work with similar scripting relying on simple initial placement to appear smart and then some special logic of when to apply special attacks (or to have add spawns thrown in at certain times)

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The whole game style would have to be rebuilt to make most of the map have 'raid like' situation (an improved raid-like...) and more :

The combat would largely have to somehow be instanced so that griefer players cant interfere (and you know they will if allowed)

Respawns would be eliminated within the battle (stupid that the companies still have them pop in right next to you when a simple programmed check could stop that) I never did figure out why they think if you are having difficult slow time fighing that they should punish you by respawning enemies youve already killed.

Combat would have 'frontage' (front side rear) that effects tactics and bodies block movement
-- getting on their weak side as a tactic
-- using player movements (or actions/abilities)to block enemy movements
-- allowing a real front line and behind areas for the appropriate classes
-- maneuverbility and movement suddenly has a real effect in combat

Player needs additional actions to use in the tactics to counter the enemies 'smarter' actions
and the enemies of couse have a wider range of actions (and the more complex AI to do ALL this stuff)

Change the encounters so that the baddies are in fewer concentrated areas (no pointlesss illogical minefields) or huge bodycounts
- enemies often are in groups (you have to be careful to avoid or get then a few at a time)
- they communicate cooperatively so you have to counter that (they do calling for reinforcements)
- Enemies do real patrols to keep them moving instead of being murder mannekins
- they can utilize (via the game mechanics) defensive positions/factors (which is were all that magic crap comes in to nullify)

You get alot more experience (and the difficulty to justify it) from fewer baddies (Ive almost killed more orcs in LOTRO than there were in all the movies just by myself - and that includes the armies...) and more interesting mini battles (even just 1 on 1 fights)

Different foes use different tactics/abilities and you would progressively learn them as you progress in the game -- the boss over there uses something different then you may have to go back several times to figure out ways of countering it and have many alternatives (and not just the action of one class as the 'key')

Battles/combat need more outcomes than "you killed it or it killed you" if players are to be able to 'go back to try again' frequently.

Cooperation between players is good (more interesting) but its largely not practical these days for much of the game - so the players characters have to be more general in abilities (the classic divided team roles cant work any more except if they are amplified for real group 'raids' within the new changes)

Because of move and countermove variations the same situation will likely play differently each time - with more 'thinking on your feet' to counter the situations than the rediculous raid situations where players know exactly what to do at every scripted step that runs like clockwork.

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Unfortunately to control the NPC baddies now they have to do AI logic about 1000 times more complicated than the feeble scripting they do now.
Every special case of special abilities/different actions (for players and NPCs) adds more code (ontop of customizing types of enemies to their type specific tactics)

Similarly much more complex game mechanics for combat and movement and interactions with terrain (all still having to work within the latency issue) has to be coded (and all the debugging/balancing that goes with it)

Can most players handle this kind of more realistic combat ? - is it too intense, too easy to mess up? No big body-counts? Not enough certainty?

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Unfortunately the hardest thing of all will be breaking players out of their largely mindless mode of playing they have had pushed on them to get them to accept a better game. Edited by wodinoneeye
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[quote name='wodinoneeye' timestamp='1351563694' post='4995262']
The whole game style would have to be rebuilt to make most of the map have 'raid like' situation (an improved raid-like...) and more
[/quote]

Exactly. Again this brings me back to Tabula Rasa, an MMO Hybrid-shooter. (that unfortunatly had to shut its server down after breaking the most important rule of MMOs for over 6 months, no endgame). But the game was based entirely on LOS as opposed to aggro range, forcing players to constantly look for cover and try to bottleneck as much as possible. The games design made this possible from the ground up, AOE dmg and AOE healing was easy and spammable, making players completely overpowered in most MMOs, but allowed the game designers to set up combat with swarms of mobs at the same time it all more or less evened out.

TR never did have raids or even bosses in their dungeons, a massive oversight in my eyes, but I remain convinced it was a superior way to treat an MMO.

-Exo
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I talked about this at the GDC 2012 AI Summit. Suffice it to say this is a combination of design problems and technical challenges. The slides are available for free [url=http://gdcvault.com/play/1015872/Managing-the-Masses-Crafting-AI]here[/url] but the talk itself goes into much more detail.

I'd be happy to rehash the high-level content of the talk for anyone interested :-)
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[quote name='bwight' timestamp='1351178124' post='4993816']
AI in raid encounters use 1 strategy once players find out how to counter it they post it online in a video everyone reads it and spends a few weeks practicing and then the boss is on farm status. There doesn't have to be a "Magic Method" of defeating a boss you've just been brainwashed into thinking that's how it should be.[/QUOTE]
To point out the obvious, the primary goal of a player who watches YouTube videos to find the "Magic Method" to defeat a boss and to farm it, is not a dynamic, challenging experience. They may want to experience the whole game in a short time period, to prove they can excel at something, or to generate money on eBay. Even back in the early console days, many games came with cheat codes, and it was up to the player whether to use them. Whatever best entertains each player.
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And yet, as I pointed out in the GDC Austin lecture mentioned here earlier, there is a reason that people can play the same maps of Halo and TF2 all night. Because of the dynamic nature of the (human) opponents, it never plays the same way twice. There is a lot of value in that for people.

That said, there are plenty of people who like kicking pillows and thinking their bad asses for doing so.
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&nbsp;

AI in raid encounters use 1 strategy once players find out how to counter it they post it online in a video everyone reads it and spends a few weeks practicing and then the boss is on farm status. There doesn't have to be a &quot;Magic Method&quot; of defeating a boss you've just been brainwashed into thinking that's how it should be.

To point out the obvious, the primary goal of a player who watches YouTube videos to find the &quot;Magic Method&quot; to defeat a boss and to farm it, is not a dynamic, challenging experience. They may want to experience the whole game in a short time period, to prove they can excel at something, or to generate money on eBay. Even back in the early console days, many games came with cheat codes, and it was up to the player whether to use them. Whatever best entertains each player. http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/#EMO_DIR#/smile.png
&nbsp;

In this age of social media and the increasingly widespread realization of players that organization is the key to end-game play, rethinking the "canned" encounter in favor of emergent behaviors would seem to be the way to go.

There are no shortage of designers who have come to the realization that winning the 'content war' is cost-prohibitive.
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I was have been looking at a game that will be coming out this month  and after alot of the game mechanics were shown on the way too many trailers and interviews,  it was obvious that by randomizing game factors (plot scene order, weapon/powerup mixes, opponent spawn content, props to effect cover) they could vastly change/vary the players game experience.

That would be good for replay (needed with the shortening play-thru times).    That would also be without require much/any  costly expansion (expense \$) for additional  choreographed special scenes or flavors of opponents.  There are always plenty of generic situation in between  where simple combinatoric options could be applied).

But no, apparently nothing remotely like that is to be there, just the usual 'led by the nose'  fixed path and scene and opponents.

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Emergent behavior can be suprising and the game companies dont like spending alot of money on QA.  Tweaking coefficients and threshold values is alot simpler than requiring a programmer to fix balancing issues.

Procedural recombination of a scene is especially easy when all the candidate options are already vetted  : put object A at one of this list of possible precanned  locations.  Now the player has to shift where they stand for cover each play thru or what explodable object NOT to stand next to.

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