Posted by PerryVandell (2103 posts) -

In my mind, Russian-made games accomplish two things extremely well. One, they provide a unique atmosphere that is both nonsensical and believable. Two, they can make me go from a state of pure elation, to rage in a matter of seconds. You might ask, "Well, what's so wrong with a game like Metro 2033 that makes you seem like a sociopath?" The answer is simply this: poor AI. Metro 2033 is a magnificent storytelling device, creating a frightening world ravaged by nuclear warfare and the story of a young man trying

 "The only way to stop a turret, is to run at it head on!"
to save all that he holds dear. But when it wants me to actually play the game, my love for it takes a back seat. Nothing pulls me out of a story more than when a comrade of mine pours his heart and soul  into me, talking about his wife and kids and how he didn't want to die, only to combat a group of soldiers by running in circles ten seconds later. The only reasonable explanation for this behavior would be him taking a lethal dose of ecstasy while I wasn't looking. That, or he is a sociopath who is obsessed with the mystery of circles. Either way, the game's AI not only makes the game tedious, but also ruins any sense immersion (something Metro 2033 seems to be going for). You might as well have a message pop up saying "This is a video game, this isn't real!" every five minutes. Yes, yes, there are other problems Metro 2033. The combat is mediocre, the frame rate plummets, and everyone looks like they just spent the last 72 hours at a seminar on the history of cardboard. But none of these things are anywhere near the level awfulness that the game's AI manages to achieve.
 
Of course I wouldn't want to only pick on Metro, as there are plenty of non-Russian games out there with equally poor AI. One game that comes to mind is Resident Evil 5, which advertises itself as a great co-op experience since it can't be played any other way. Well to be fair, you can play the "not co-op" part of the game as long as you're prepared to romp through a zombifi- erm, infected Africa with a drunken misfit of a partner named Sheva, who seems to have slammed her head with a car door one too many
 "Chris I need more ammo! This invincible wooden box needs to be destroyed for some reason!"
times. For those who haven't had the pleasure of interacting with "Computer-Sheva", just imagine giving a gun to a five year old with ADHD and you will have somewhat of an idea of how computer Sheva acts. So congratulations Capcom, you managed to surprise me by making a Resident Evil game that actually made me miss Ashley from RE 4. Yes, that Ashley. The one who could fight against a one-legged, anemic 97-year old with arthritis and still lose.  She may have been completely useless but at least she didn't squander any usable item . One would think having an AI that can tell the difference between taking cover and taking bullets would be a priority for a game that has an AI companion following you everywhere you go.

Then there are those games that only go halfway when it comes to developing good AI. For example, Halo Reach has some amazing enemy AI that does all kinds of different things to keep its life while trying to end yours. Conversely, the companion AI has the intelligence of a tree. Bungie tries to compensate for your companion's poor intelligence by making them immortal, so your spartan pals can take 4 missiles to the head and leave a blood stain the size of Ohio while continuing to stand outside of cover not shooting at the enemy. It's a cheap fix (if you can even call it that) and wouldn't even work if your brothers in arms were dead eye shots, because then the game would be playing itself. You would be able to sit back and relax while your unstoppable AI companions obliterate the covenant opposition (only to be killed in a two minute cutscene of course).

So if there are all these problems with AI in video games today, then what's the fix? How do you make your companions effective in battle, while not making them a crutch at
 Cutscenes are their only weakness
the same time? Well, for action-RPG's I would use Final Fantasy XII's gambit system (or Dragon Age's tactics system). For those who aren't familiar, you basically program what your character does in a certain situation. For example, you could tell a character to consume the weakest health potion in your inventory once they reach less than say, 25% health. These commands can also be prioritized so more important actions (like keeping your characters alive) are more important than lesser actions (like casting buffs). It's a great system since you can't exactly be irritated with how your characters react since it's your own damn fault if they turn out to be idiots. Action games and shooters should adopt a companion AI system similar to Gears of War, where your companions are effective and actually kill enemies, but will be "knocked out" during the battle if they take too much damage. The only problem is finding the "sweet spot" where your AI companions don't get wiped out in the first five seconds of a fight, but aren't unstoppable killing machines either.

So there you go. Those are my thoughts on where AI in video games is today, and what can be done to improve it. Hopefully some game developer out there will take this knowledge to heart and make a truly amazing interactive experience. Or, they could make another damn Lemmings game.
#1 Posted by PerryVandell (2103 posts) -

In my mind, Russian-made games accomplish two things extremely well. One, they provide a unique atmosphere that is both nonsensical and believable. Two, they can make me go from a state of pure elation, to rage in a matter of seconds. You might ask, "Well, what's so wrong with a game like Metro 2033 that makes you seem like a sociopath?" The answer is simply this: poor AI. Metro 2033 is a magnificent storytelling device, creating a frightening world ravaged by nuclear warfare and the story of a young man trying

 "The only way to stop a turret, is to run at it head on!"
to save all that he holds dear. But when it wants me to actually play the game, my love for it takes a back seat. Nothing pulls me out of a story more than when a comrade of mine pours his heart and soul  into me, talking about his wife and kids and how he didn't want to die, only to combat a group of soldiers by running in circles ten seconds later. The only reasonable explanation for this behavior would be him taking a lethal dose of ecstasy while I wasn't looking. That, or he is a sociopath who is obsessed with the mystery of circles. Either way, the game's AI not only makes the game tedious, but also ruins any sense immersion (something Metro 2033 seems to be going for). You might as well have a message pop up saying "This is a video game, this isn't real!" every five minutes. Yes, yes, there are other problems Metro 2033. The combat is mediocre, the frame rate plummets, and everyone looks like they just spent the last 72 hours at a seminar on the history of cardboard. But none of these things are anywhere near the level awfulness that the game's AI manages to achieve.
 
Of course I wouldn't want to only pick on Metro, as there are plenty of non-Russian games out there with equally poor AI. One game that comes to mind is Resident Evil 5, which advertises itself as a great co-op experience since it can't be played any other way. Well to be fair, you can play the "not co-op" part of the game as long as you're prepared to romp through a zombifi- erm, infected Africa with a drunken misfit of a partner named Sheva, who seems to have slammed her head with a car door one too many
 "Chris I need more ammo! This invincible wooden box needs to be destroyed for some reason!"
times. For those who haven't had the pleasure of interacting with "Computer-Sheva", just imagine giving a gun to a five year old with ADHD and you will have somewhat of an idea of how computer Sheva acts. So congratulations Capcom, you managed to surprise me by making a Resident Evil game that actually made me miss Ashley from RE 4. Yes, that Ashley. The one who could fight against a one-legged, anemic 97-year old with arthritis and still lose.  She may have been completely useless but at least she didn't squander any usable item . One would think having an AI that can tell the difference between taking cover and taking bullets would be a priority for a game that has an AI companion following you everywhere you go.

Then there are those games that only go halfway when it comes to developing good AI. For example, Halo Reach has some amazing enemy AI that does all kinds of different things to keep its life while trying to end yours. Conversely, the companion AI has the intelligence of a tree. Bungie tries to compensate for your companion's poor intelligence by making them immortal, so your spartan pals can take 4 missiles to the head and leave a blood stain the size of Ohio while continuing to stand outside of cover not shooting at the enemy. It's a cheap fix (if you can even call it that) and wouldn't even work if your brothers in arms were dead eye shots, because then the game would be playing itself. You would be able to sit back and relax while your unstoppable AI companions obliterate the covenant opposition (only to be killed in a two minute cutscene of course).

So if there are all these problems with AI in video games today, then what's the fix? How do you make your companions effective in battle, while not making them a crutch at
 Cutscenes are their only weakness
the same time? Well, for action-RPG's I would use Final Fantasy XII's gambit system (or Dragon Age's tactics system). For those who aren't familiar, you basically program what your character does in a certain situation. For example, you could tell a character to consume the weakest health potion in your inventory once they reach less than say, 25% health. These commands can also be prioritized so more important actions (like keeping your characters alive) are more important than lesser actions (like casting buffs). It's a great system since you can't exactly be irritated with how your characters react since it's your own damn fault if they turn out to be idiots. Action games and shooters should adopt a companion AI system similar to Gears of War, where your companions are effective and actually kill enemies, but will be "knocked out" during the battle if they take too much damage. The only problem is finding the "sweet spot" where your AI companions don't get wiped out in the first five seconds of a fight, but aren't unstoppable killing machines either.

So there you go. Those are my thoughts on where AI in video games is today, and what can be done to improve it. Hopefully some game developer out there will take this knowledge to heart and make a truly amazing interactive experience. Or, they could make another damn Lemmings game.
#2 Posted by Mrnitropb (2090 posts) -

I prefer if a game give me AI companions, that I can switch and ASSUMING CONTROL of them, to prevent/stop their dumb shit, and such. Which off the top of my head, only Bioware has done well lately. 

#3 Posted by Jeffsekai (7025 posts) -

I don't get the anger over invincible ai buddies  in Halo Reach. 
 
What would people rather have? Them die and you fail? 

#4 Posted by PerryVandell (2103 posts) -
@Jeffsekai: It's not so much the fact that they are invincible that annoys me, but that they are completely useless.  I have not once seen one of my team mates take down anything bigger than a jackal during the entire campaign, and would rather they get temporarily knocked out and kill elites, than survive everything that's thrown at them and do nothing.
#5 Posted by Aetheldod (3495 posts) -
@Fullmetal216:  Cutscenes are thei weaknesses , LOL :)
 
I think the only solution is not to have AI companions , but I dont really care if they are idiots , actually I get pissed off if one takes my kill , so I dont mind em that much :P
#6 Posted by iam3green (14390 posts) -

nice, nice, i hate AI team mates. they are annoying and stupid that don't know what they are doing. there are still computers that stay walking into things. you have to walk back and then forward again and hope that they are walking good. it is very annoying to do that. lately the last game that i played that had AI, was black ops they don't seem to work very well. i still feel like i am a one man army when there are like 5 other guys with me. they will just be standing there and i will die from someone. 
 
the only way to fix AI is to remove them from the game. companies stop making AI comments in games. you could have them just sit around all the time and do nothing, like what OP said with resident evil 4. ashely just followed you while you killed some zombies.

#7 Posted by dankempster (2249 posts) -
@Fullmetal216: Great blog. Personally I didn't have any problems with Sheva when I played Resident Evil 5 earlier this year. Then again, the first time I picked up the game it was with the intention of co-op-ing through it with my girlfriend. After a pretty abysmal slog through the first half hour, I was grateful to restart with an AI companion that was at least competent. 
 
I think a really great example of squad AI is the World War II FPS Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30. The game boasts some pretty intelligent AI squadmates, and because you play as the squad leader, you have tactical control. For example, you can set up one team to provide suppressing fire, while a second team flanks the enemy. I was also quite impressed by the squad AI in Call of Duty 4. Captain Price, Gaz and the rest are all very competent support throughout that game. I really got the feeling I was part of a team, rather than a one-man army. I wish I could say the same for the enemy AI.
#8 Edited by blackbird415 (777 posts) -
@Jeffsekai: try playing army of two then. Of course that was kind of a mediocre game to begin with. 
 
  
I will say though for the people who hate AI companions, the half life series has some of the best AI companions Ive seen to date. They're unobtrusive yet still provide support and are convincing as characters in the story(because of their revolutionary facial animation system).
#9 Posted by Tyrial (6 posts) -

Triscadecaphobia

#10 Posted by dubios451 (134 posts) -

I approve of every caption under every photo in this blog. Personally I sort of enjoy bad AI companions (as long as they can't permanently die), then when I do something really stupid in a game I can look over at my AI buddy emptying clip after clip into a concrete barrier and feel better about myself.