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[Column] General: Artificial Intelligence?

SBFordSBFord Associate Editor - News ManagerThe Land of AZPosts: 16,633MMORPG.COM Staff Uncommon

Artificial 'intelligence' is that which moves the enemies we fight. Some players want more intelligent AI, some not so much. In his latest column, Matt Miller takes a look at AI and the arguments presented by both sides. Read on and then leave your AI thoughts in the comments:

This taught me an important lesson. While there is always a voice in game community for smarter enemies, there will always be an equal voice for enemies who are dumb and can be manipulated to the players’ advantage.

Read more of Matt Miller's Artificial Intelligence?

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Associate Editor: MMORPG.com
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Comments

  • Agnostic42Agnostic42 That place, Overthere, WAPosts: 375Member

    I remember that change. I was playing my Ice/Ice Blaster and would always have those damned Fire Tankers running through the area. Then I got into a group with one and then fully understood what was going on, and it kind of sickened me.

     

    Here I was, working as hard as I could to manipulate the mobs and work on how best to defeat them(And I was good too) and then a build comes along that funnels them into an inferno and wins. Same later when Regen/Spines Scrappers had their day.

     

    I personally prefer my enemies as smart as possible, I want my enemy to reach out through my monitor and slap me if I make a mistake. I want my opponents to think and react, not be a mindless zombie waiting for me to come by and kill it for free exp.

  • QuesaQuesa Sacramento, CAPosts: 1,246Member

    You make it sound as if one who likes the Holy Trinity only wants dumb AI's and no variety in the games we play.  I find that to be a rather asinine stance on the paradigm.  You're dropping everything down to it's lowest common denominator.  You could say the same thing about instances in GW2 where you're really solo'ing a group of mobs with a few other people and when you run out of juice to dodge attacks, you die.

    There were many instances in Holy Trinity style games where aggro had to be managed, position monitored and actions taken to complete an encounter.  Holy Trinity based games can be just as, if not more, challenging than those who aren't.  The distinction comes down to the developers and how far they are willing to go for their own vision of the game they create.  Your example of the fire tanks in CoH (a game I miss), the crowd playing those tanks wanted dumb AI's but it's the dev's job to sack up and do what is right for the game.  

    Just because a bunch of gamers bitch and moan about a change doesn't mean the change isn't good for the game.  I find that, more often than not, developers are more willing to give into the masses desires only to find that the changes they made lessen the quality of the experience in trade for some instant gratification.

    Maybe that's the problem with why so many games live and die like super-massive stars.  All they do is chase the dollar with a game that will keep someone entertained for a few months then die out with headlines of new micro transaction system, server merges and NOW F2P!!

  • maplestonemaplestone Ottawa, ONPosts: 3,099Member

    I like an AI that slowly adapts to the exploits used against it - so that it can be manipulated, but not infinitely.  To use the fire tank example, I would see the flame generating threat of its own so that the tank would have actually use their taunts to maintain the AI's aggro over its self-preservation.

    I also like the idea of sort of slow AI-evolution.   Each NPC weights different stimuli differently and the next generation of spawn inherits its weights from the most successful NPCs of the last spawn.  So again to use the fire tank example, those that treated the fire as a more serious threat would likely live a little longer, passing on their threat parameters to the next generation of spawn.  Over time, with no developer intervention required, the NPCs in the area should become better at fighting fire tanks, but may simultaneously will likely be making themselves vulnerable to some other exploit (eg: using fire as a barrier ranged attackers can hide behind).

  • OzmodanOzmodan Hilliard, OHPosts: 7,191Member Uncommon
    Good AI takes a lot of coding and lots of memory.  While today's computers are pretty robust, not sure they can yet handle good AI, besides that would take significant resources from the programming staff too.  
  • odienmanodienman quincy, MAPosts: 54Member
    I don't stand on either side.  But where I do stand is find the old paradigm of walking into an area with mobs just going along a few lines of path and back again just waiting to be attacked dull.   Not sure exactly of a consistent solution, but this is dull.  My favorite moments in any MMO are the ones where things don't go according to plan and you have to really adjust on the fly, micro your abilities flawlessly, dodge and line of sight accordingly, help CC or heal at the right moment since aggro is just not sticking to the tank.  I imagine this would mean that Bosses can't one shot, and that they can equally damage or not outright kill anyone other than a tank being hit, but still, I'd like to see  things requiring me to react, adjust and learn.  Don't get me wrong, sometimes I like feeling like a baddass and just swaying through monsters for a bit and if it's actiony or MORE actiony than CoH then great (even though I got tired of the similar kinda zones/buildings in the game, the combat feel was always a pleasured change of pace, it had umpph).
     
  • TheLizardbonesTheLizardbones Arkham, VAPosts: 10,910Member

    I could be wrong, but it seems like Mr. Miller is in the group that wants AI to be a bit smarter. I could be wrong here, or maybe I'm misreading things, but that's the impression I got.

    Anyway, I'm good either way. It is possible to build engaging and fun encounters with dumb AI, and it's possible to do it with smart AI too. It's also possible to go in the other direction. Bad encounters with both dumb and less dumb AI.

    I think the best solution is probably a combination of both tactics. Some mobs will be dumb, or in some scenarios engage in dumb behavior, but in others they will be pretty smart. In Deux Ex, the enemy combat was pretty engaging. Mobs would seek cover, generally wouldn't just stand in the line of fire and were what people would consider "smart" AI. On the other hand, if the player hides out of site for awhile, the mobs go back to their routine, with emotes along the lines of "there's no way this guy would just hide behind a box, just past the end of my path, so he must be gone!" In that respect they were really dumb. The combination made for some fun game play.

    I can not remember winning or losing a single debate on the internet.

  • PAL-18PAL-18 AnachronoxPosts: 802Member

    1.

    opponent a)ranged dps                                                      

    opponent b)melee dps                                         which one you attack first ?

    opponent c)hybrid a+b

     

    2.

    opponent d)healer

    opponent e)tank                                                which one you attack first ?

    opponent f) can be a,b or c

     

    Not much AI needed on option 1.

    But in option 2,it also includes everything from option 1,i prefer challenges therefore i choose option 2 any day.

     

    So, did ESO have a successful launch? Yes, yes it did.
    By Ryan Getchell on April 02, 2014.
    **On the radar:http://cyberpunk.net/**

  • RocknissRockniss Youngstown, OHPosts: 1,034Member
    I want smart ai that I can manipulate. Not all ai are created equal though. You would expect a hierarchical tree of knowledge much like pawns to kings and queens in chess. We do have that in place, but it's time to up the antes. We can write that into the game code to learn player habits, or.... we just let the players command the ai not just by telling them where to attack, but how to attack. RTS and MMORPG synergizing. Thats what I want. Basically "Kingdom Under Fire" mix in a little mmorpg, a splash of next gen ai programming, a sandbox, fire, swords, gorgeous large breasted warrior women, your favorite beverage, ..... oh please dont wake me up.
  • KyleranKyleran Tampa, FLPosts: 20,008Member Uncommon

    I enjoyed the article regarding the discussion around the challenges that fire tanks presented, and I can even go along with the premise that sometimes players prefer easier enemies to more intelligent, and challenging ones.

    But then came the "I see what you did there" moment, when author decided to link those who favor easier enemies to pve carebears who enjoy the trinity, and those who want more challenging enemies to be the more savvy, pvp centric and dare I say, better gamers?

    Enemies in a trinity game actually do act unpredictably, they can call for help unexpectedly, or break off the tank regardless of the taunts and kill the primary healer dead, play a game like DAOC to see how it's done.  I realize COH was lacking these sorts of mechanics, which is why I didn't care for it, lack of an intelligent AI dare I say?

    Bah, I had more to say but am not going to bother. 

     

    In my day MMORPG's were so hard we fought our way through dungeons in the snow, uphill both ways.
    "I don't have one life, I have many lives" - Grunty
    Still currently "subscribed" to EVE, and only EVE!!!
    "This is the most intelligent, well qualified and articulate response to a post I have ever seen on these forums. It's a shame most people here won't have the attention span to read past the second line." - Anon

  • nezixnezix Eugene, ORPosts: 9Member
    Before that CoH change me and my friends (no fire tanks)  had a lot of fun seeing just how many mobs we could pull and still survive. After the fix it was certainly harder to do, but  I wouldn't say it made it more fun through the challenge. I agree with Quesa that you're trying to divide people to cleanly into two separate camps that just isn't realistic. I favor the trinity end of the spectrum but I also enjoy smarter mobs. I think you're first solution (get out of fire!) would have been better for CoH.
  • AmarantharAmaranthar OhioPosts: 2,430Member Uncommon

    I want the AI. It just numbs me when you know exactly what to do. I want the mental gymnastics involved in figuring out how to win on a case by case basis.

    I even want to change up depending on my compatriots. I'm not a "Holy Trinity" guy, and I hate the Themepark style of games, but I do believe in character identity with a major part of that being "class". And having, say:

    • an assassin type with me making stealthy kills while the rest of us labor at setting up those kills
    • as opposed to herding the enemy via field spells into close quarters for archer attacks
    • or having only a warrior, healer, mage and having to pull the enemy into a hallway where the warrior stands, blocks, and attacks while the healer keeps him alive and the mage does AOE
    Basically, I love tactics as both planned assaults based on scouting the unknown as well as on-the-fly need. I love challenge and surprises, and having to stay on my toes through a fight.
     
    And that last, "stay on my toes", requires more AI to provide a randomness in the reactions of the NPCs. Weighted by circumstances to make it seem more intelligent. This shouldn't be that hard to do at a basic level. Enemy sees they are losing the fight, do they heal or run away? Or do they do nothing and stand and fight to the end? Add more INT to the NPC if there's another option of finding a defensive position (which would probably require some AI modifiers built into the zone (dungeon or etc.).

    Once upon a time....

  • SephastusSephastus New Brunswick, NJPosts: 448Member Uncommon

    The problem in what you said was not Smart AI Vs. Dumb AI. It was a problem of TAKING AWAY something that the individual already had. And there will always be pushback to something like that.

     

    If proper MOB AI is done well from the outset, and the encounters are designed around it, it will always be better than if a dumb AI is made, and then when exploits are found, they get "adjusted". The individuals will then not feel robbed.

     

    Players enjoy challenges, whether this is caused by "smart" or "dumb" AIs. At the same time, they also want to be able to overcome said challenges in an appealing time allotment. Start with AI that is too smart from the outset, and it will push players away. Keep dumb AI into the end game, and players will fail to see a challenge and move away. Give the players a tactic, and then remove it, and your players will move away. It's all about balance, and never taking away something, but instead build around it.

  • MumboJumboMumboJumbo LondonPosts: 3,221Member
    Originally posted by odienman
    I don't stand on either side.  But where I do stand is find the old paradigm of walking into an area with mobs just going along a few lines of path and back again just waiting to be attacked dull.   Not sure exactly of a consistent solution, but this is dull.  

    Mobs are mass-produced off the production belt for me: They act, react and more or less do the same temporary stuff. I'm sure programming the AI can be fun, but playing it is only sometimes for me. As for really tough mobs they're just a case of working out the formula to win.

     

    Originally posted by Matthew Miller

    This taught me an important lesson. While there is always a voice in game community for smarter enemies, there will always be an equal voice for enemies who are dumb and can be manipulated to the players’ advantage.

    I just prefer the intelligence possible from other players. They even attempt to escape in interesting ways and you can build histories of rivalries with particular players remembering their name, seeking them out again for the next duel to the death.

  • PAL-18PAL-18 AnachronoxPosts: 802Member
    Originally posted by Sephastus

    The problem in what you said was not Smart AI Vs. Dumb AI. It was a problem of TAKING AWAY something that the individual already had. And there will always be pushback to something like that.

     

    If proper MOB AI is done well from the outset, and the encounters are designed around it, it will always be better than if a dumb AI is made, and then when exploits are found, they get "adjusted". The individuals will then not feel robbed.

     

    Players enjoy challenges, whether this is caused by "smart" or "dumb" AIs. At the same time, they also want to be able to overcome said challenges in an appealing time allotment. Start with AI that is too smart from the outset, and it will push players away. Keep dumb AI into the end game, and players will fail to see a challenge and move away. Give the players a tactic, and then remove it, and your players will move away. It's all about balance, and never taking away something, but instead build around it.

    Problem with his thinking is that if there was really AI,then computers need to feel death and they should be scared of dying.

    which means something like if i have 2 hp left and AI 3 but i can do 5 damage. what should AI do ?

    normally AI does not care because its not affaid to die.

    So we need random rolls and it does not make dps zerg more intelligent.

     

    So, did ESO have a successful launch? Yes, yes it did.
    By Ryan Getchell on April 02, 2014.
    **On the radar:http://cyberpunk.net/**

  • Whiskey_SamWhiskey_Sam Lynchburg, VAPosts: 294Member Uncommon
    I fail to see how having an NPC chase after a healer in the rear of the group thus exposing his back to everyone else where he would normally be most vulnerable is smarter AI.  That would be the height of stupidity in realistic combat.  Standing in fire is stupid, too, but let's not bias the discussion by acting like one of those is smarter than the other.  They're both stupid tactics.  It's just a matter of which one is more popular at the moment as to which gets into a game.

    ___________________________
    Have flask; will travel.

  • BMBenderBMBender Nowhere, NCPosts: 568Member Uncommon

    Heh I got in a debate with someone over this in another thread.  I couldn't seem to get the concept across that it's not a matter of how hard/easy the ai is set up to be.  It's the balance between the AI and your player base that matters.  Designing a challenging or stumpy ai for a few demographics is fairly straightforward in relative terms anyway.  I'ts when you start mixing/matching demographics who want diametrically different results from an ai encounter that "issues" crop up.  Player chars don't come with handy little flags to tell the ai witch particular group or play style one belongs to or prefers, so the default is lowest common denominator. 

    The Ai isn't the variable in this situation, which particular group or playstyle it's targeted towards is.

     

    an RPR will expect one type of return from an ai encounter

    A PVPr dipping into the pve content - another

    A raider grinding out whatever in prep for the weekend raid - something else

    a soloer -sigh

    a casual - ....

    a group - shoot me now

     
     
    EDIT And no raiders are no more in a sate of hate for smart ai than pvpers are in love with hard ai,  your projecting a little there buddy :D

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  • CirolleCirolle CopenhagenPosts: 10Member
    Originally posted by Ozmodan
    Good AI takes a lot of coding and lots of memory.  While today's computers are pretty robust, not sure they can yet handle good AI, besides that would take significant resources from the programming staff too.  

    Storybricks would like to think different.

     

    But they are only working with gaming AI, so what do they know?

  • CirolleCirolle CopenhagenPosts: 10Member
    Originally posted by Whiskey_Sam
    I fail to see how having an NPC chase after a healer in the rear of the group thus exposing his back to everyone else where he would normally be most vulnerable is smarter AI.  That would be the height of stupidity in realistic combat.  Standing in fire is stupid, too, but let's not bias the discussion by acting like one of those is smarter than the other.  They're both stupid tactics.  It's just a matter of which one is more popular at the moment as to which gets into a game.
     

    OK two things.

     

    If you do not have a tank, and you wont have one if the AI is even smart enough not to hit the guy with most armor and hps, then why would you need a dedicated healer?

     

    If the AI is being made smarter, one of its options would be to hit the healer, but not always.If it is going to hit the healer or not, would be decided from serveral different factors.

    What you described, sounds like taunt being taken away, but threat is still the only thing left for an "AI".

    Threat is a part of the trinity, it is the base of stupid AI in MMOs.

     

  • TehRealGeevesTehRealGeeves WarmenhuizenPosts: 1Member

    I do like a bit of a challenge, and a change in the fight every time it is engaged. I also like a bit of a "Holy-Trinity" group setup. 

    So I guess I am a bit of both worlds, Yes to good AI, with all the effects that it entails and Yes to the "Holy-Trinity" group setup, making sure every party member knows what (s)he is expected to do. Sure this last will lessen the challenge level of a raid group, but it would allow a group to coordinate a fight slightly better, making it a more fun experience for groups that learn slowly. 

    Hybrid classes, if properly designed are most welcome in my groups aswell, as long as there is a fair trade off towards none hybrid classes. 

  • MMODesignerMMODesigner Guest Columnist Foster City, CAPosts: 7Member
    After this article hit, one of the CoH designers reminded me about the Lord Recluse Strike Force AI that was created; the Arachnos Lieutenants were efficient and brutal, targeting healers and avoiding taking damage. We thought it would be a nice challenge for players to figure out how to beat it. Instead they just never played it because it was felt to be unfair, the enemies didn't act like any other enemies in the game. We eventually relented and put the AI back to more traditional aggro tables and the players were happy again.
  • NoxMaelstromNoxMaelstrom Albany, NYPosts: 9Member

    A good AI is not always about the mob doing the smartest thing - a good AI should be fuzzy.  As a simple example how much thought a mob can apply to a problem can be based on how tactical they are for a given context (maybe they know all about ice but nothing about fire) as well as how stubborn they are - as they say, are you stubborn or stupid.  Based on these simple scalar values, x passes at coming to a conclusion can be made, with each pass being a weighted RNG accumulated over each pass.  The final value is compared to a set of possible decisions, scalar ranges, each range representing some possible action the mob can make.

    Long story short (or not so short), sometimes the mob will get out of the fire, and sometimes not.  Thats what makes a fuzzy AI more interesting.  Smarter mobs will obviously get out of the way, but hey, who is to say the taunts of tanks don't piss them off enough to increase that stubbornness factor and in a blind rage stand in the fire.

  • niccoli00niccoli00 Murray, UTPosts: 98Member

    Originally posted by Quesa: 

    "Your example of the fire tanks in CoH (a game I miss), the crowd playing those tanks wanted dumb AI's but it's the dev's job to sack up and do what is right for the game."

     

    This, so many times this.      

     

    Loudest common denominator reaction (LCDR).  We didn't do the best fix, because people were upset.  So common in so many MMO, always ends up with a new LCDR for the next group.  Had you asked the gamers as a whole, what they thought about the tactic, I think you may have found that most supported a change, and probably the initial change you did.  Instead, you made a good change, people screamed, so you did something else, just tweaking it so they couldn't do as much at a time, but could still do it.  

     

    What you did was fix an exploit of the system.  (exploit doesn't always mean cheating fyi)  A change to fix something that was being exploited repeatedly, to the advantage of a group of people that played solo.  While those without Fire Tanks considered rerolling, because they couldn't take on groups at a time, with impunity.    

     

    Smarter AI is my preference, because I tire of boring games, because the AI is stupid.  GW2 is not really a good example of 'smart' AI, only a game without any aggro management of the "holy trinity" variety.  While combat was different, it just shifted how you managed aggro. "Oh look, I've pissed off the mob, I'll dodge and stop doing damage until he changes focus."  

     

    Holy Trinity AI mechanics pretty much come down to a choreographed dance.  Move here, dodge this, move here, move there, etc.  Player skill devolves to "can you pay attention for 5 minutes of the same ole garbage" per boss fight.    

    Niccoli

  • Matt, the problem was that by doing so, you failed to address the other side of the coin at the same time: Fire Tanks main damage mitigation was to kill things really fast. If you are thinking it was solely because of the AI, you are wrong. The goal of a tank is to maintain aggro of the mobs while the rest of the team recovers. Fire tanks couldn't do that with the burn change, especially with the longer recharge and greatly reduced damage output. They didn't have the mitigation to compensate for your change.  You probably would have done better to replace Burn with something that worked better with the "run away" AI. I can tell you from experience that the immobilization protection really didn't compensate for the intense fear that burn had after the change.

     

    Also, when combined with the control nerfs (long recharge, short durations, mobs with higher resistances to controls), getting close to the previous amount of damage, even for less than a group of 15 critters, was unlikely.

  • Gaia_HunterGaia_Hunter BristolPosts: 2,828Member Uncommon

    In GW2 during the betas they also made mobs scatter from AoE damage and most players still hated it.

    In GW1 mobs (and hero/henchmen AI) still scatter from AoE - for sometime the solution was to use skills that slowed/immobilized the enemy but then it became just enough spike damage to kill all the mobs without allowing them to trigger their scatter while maybe using mobs path finding against them by holding against a wall.

    Additionally in GW1, enemy mobs did go after the healers just like the players did go after the mob healers and of course it wasn't stupid from the mobs since the healers could keep them alive.

     

    In the end what developers and players alike need to understand is that Mobs exist to be defeated by the players.

    But the need to be "special" by being the only one to be beat something is a pressure players exert over developers.

    And that would be ok except then developers tie rewards to that content (both because players pressure devs but also because devs try to entice players to become better at that content to win the rewards), including rewards that will make the rest of the game easier.

    PvP via proxy PvE is just a problem without a simple solution.

    Currently playing: GW2
    Going cardboard starter kit: Ticket to ride, Pandemic, Carcassonne, Dominion, 7 Wonders

  • Blazer6992Blazer6992 Las Vegas, NVPosts: 606Member Uncommon
       I don't want smarter AI against me, I want it with me. For example, a companion such as in SWTOR or even in games like Skyrim. I want my companions to be smarter. If you want an enemy to be harder to kill just give it more HP.
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