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A Look At the AI of Empire: Total War and F.E.A.R. 2 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the entertainingly-foolish dept.
mr_sifter writes "The newly released Empire: Total War and F.E.A.R. 2 have both been praised for their excellent AI. In this feature, Bit-Tech talks to the developers behind these games about how they handled the challenges of creating Empire's armies of thousands of AI soldiers and F.E.A.R. 2's aggressive teams of military operatives. The discussion also talks about how game AI is 'smoke and mirrors' compared to research AI, and looks at the difficulty of improving the quality of game AI." We talked about F.E.A.R. 2's engine and AI back in December as well.
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A Look At the AI of Empire: Total War and F.E.A.R. 2

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  • by RuBLed (995686) on Friday March 06, 2009 @04:56AM (#27088753)

    it gives you the impression that itâ(TM)s a real human character wanting to kill you and survive...

    I would revel at the day when the AI is more human like which would tremble upon sighting my avatar, run to the ends of the map at the sound of my bullets, curse me, and log out.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Jmanamj (1077749)

      Actually, I can see a more human-like AI bunnyhoping towards you as you try to kill it, shooting you in the face with a shotgun, and then sending a message saying "pwnd b1tch."

      At this point, the humanity and sophistication of AI will have reached truly awesome heights, and gaming will be all the better for it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by montyzooooma (853414)

        Actually, I can see a more human-like AI bunnyhoping towards you as you try to kill it, shooting you in the face with a shotgun, and then sending a message saying "pwnd b1tch."

        At this point, the humanity and sophistication of AI will have reached truly awesome heights, and gaming will be all the better for it.

        Doesn't it already do this in Unreal Tournament 3?

  • No AI in ETW (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mseeger (40923) on Friday March 06, 2009 @05:57AM (#27089071)

    Hi,
    i love the Total War Series. But the AI in ETW is a complete disappointment. I see no enhancement compared to MTW2. The opposite is true, there are so many AI bugs that battles agains the AI are close to pointless. I slaughtered enemys at the border of the battlefield, standing with theit back towards me. I micromanage my own units because grouping tends to produce strange results. Due to this, battles are a lot more point&click-work currently. I'm waiting for a patch :-(.
    Sincerely yours, Martin

    • Re:No AI in ETW (Score:4, Insightful)

      by mike2R (721965) on Friday March 06, 2009 @07:22AM (#27089559)

      But the AI in ETW is a complete disappointment. I see no enhancement compared to MTW2. The opposite is true, there are so many AI bugs that battles agains the AI are close to pointless.

      You know I don't think it's as bad as you make out. Sure I agree that it does do stupid things and I'm sure it will be better after a patch or two, but in the right situation (and really this is most battles I've played) it seems capable of good solid play. The problems I've seen tend to be where it tries to do something clever (like split its forces) and ends up weakening its position, but it hasn't happened very often and certainly isn't game breaking.

      I dunno, I guess I tend to be a glass-half-full type of player when it comes to AI - I don't expect miracles and I'm willing to accept that there will be situations where it does something stupid. People who listen to computer game publishers' marketing and judge the AI against human intelligence are always going to be doomed to disappointment, but I'm happy enough with the Empire AI at the moment, in comparison with other games I've played.

      • by mseeger (40923)

        Hi,

        correct: the AI may act OK in some battle. Unluckily i never had the experience where there wasn't no screwup in one battle. Also i have currently so much micromanagement to do, because basic formations (infantry in a line) may result in utter chaos on my side (e.g. four infantry units in a line: A B C D. I draw another line fifty yards ahead and they end up: B C D A). This kills the fun. Or you have a fight to the knife and the decision hangs in a balance. Suddenly the AI turns his units around, marches

        • by mike2R (721965)

          If you've has that many problems then I can see why your disappointed. However one thing I can't agree with:

          I'm disappointed because MTW2 was much better (even at the release)

          That's got to be a rose tinted view :) Man that passive AI bug was a pain...

          • by mseeger (40923)

            I give you that the AI appears more lively than the one from MTW2. But so does a beheaded chicken .... for some time at least.
            But the theory, that time has softened my memory is also a valid one :-).
            CU, Martin

          • I'll chime in here, the AI in MTW2 did some things a little more cleverly, but for the most part, you could still beat the pants off it flanking with your cavalry. Oh, and I had to micromanage my troops in MTW2 all the time as well, the grouping just sucked ass: not only do you get misalignments like what somebody above mentioned, the autorotation of the line was hideous, I don't know how many battles I had to hurriedly select all and then hit stop because one side my line was advancing while the other was
      • by Narpak (961733)
        I love Empire Total War, but the battle AI is far from perfect. Though the two things that really made me scratch my head was
        1) That after the Independence of the Thirteen Colonies the troops still say "Yes Your Majesty"; even though they have an elected President.
        2) First turn of the last chapter of The Road to Independence; Great Britain wanted me to give them Main offering technology and Gibraltar in exchange. And every turn their after they kept offering crap in exchange for Main; though nothing quite
        • by Chyeld (713439)

          That after the Independence of the Thirteen Colonies the troops still say "Yes Your Majesty"; even though they have an elected President.

          Obviously your troops are mocking your micromanagement and totalitarian attitude. See, the AI is human-like.

      • The problems I've seen tend to be where it tries to do something clever (like split its forces) and ends up weakening its position, but it hasn't happened very often and certainly isn't game breaking.

        That's quite realistic. Lord Chelsford did it before Islandwana. After Quatre Bras/Wavre Napoleon sent Grouchy off to chase the Prussians.

        • As did Rufus T. Firefly in Freedonia's epic war against Sylvania.

          Those who do not read history are destined to repeat it. Or at least, catch it on late night A&E.

      • It isn't as though humans don't do stupid things, too. Even if I could make a game with a perfect AI, would people want to play it? Supposing the AI knew all the rules and never fucked up, what fun would it be? It'd always win since it was perfect.

        While I am certainly a person for better AI, by better I mean "more human." I want an AI that can act like a human player of varying skills. Part of that WILL be making mistakes.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Delosian (1443777)
      I agree with you completely. The French and Indian forces will stand with their backs to you after they are forced to retreat. You can either walk up to them and shoot them in the back and they won't do anything or you can shell their position and they'll just stand there and take it till they're all dead. At one stage the enemy attacked me with cannons and I don't mean with cannon balls. They walked up to my lines with the cannons while under heavy fire and tried to walk through my lines. I suspect that f
  • Not everyone is convinced that GPGPU is the best way of processing AI though. Bethesdaâ(TM)s Jean-Sylvere Simonet notes that "we might be able to take advantage of parallel architectures, but not for everything. You could probably speed up some individual parts of the decision process, such as replacing your AI search with a brute-force GPU approach, or running a pattern detection algorithm". However, Simonet also points out that "most AI processing is very sequential and usually requires a lot of data

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      For an NPC to decide on its next action, it will usually have to query the world for a tonne of information, and most of that information is conditional on a previous query result.

      I'll believe him, but he's obviously talking about Bethesda games.

      Elder Scrolls / Fallout NPCs have a hojillion options available to them. They can sleep, eat, pick up objects, converse with other characters (NPC or the PC), go home, go to work, go to the store, equip clothing and weapons, fight, run away et cetera. All this requires a lot of knowledge about the time of day, all of the objects and characters in the NPC's immediate environment, and some information about other locations in town.

      In an FPS lik

  • Fear 2's AI sucked. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by n1hilist (997601) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:07AM (#27089123)

    The AI in Fear 2 was terrible! Well, if it was good, I didn't notice because it was so god damned easy to play that it was more a case of "Hi, *slomo* bye." .. firefights were so short that if there was amazing AI under the hood, I completely missed it.

    On the parts where I didn't use slowmo, again, nothing remarkable, and I'm not exactly an amazing FPS player either.

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>"Hi, *slomo* bye." .. firefights were so short that if there was amazing AI under the hood, I completely missed it.

      Yeah, Fallout 3 made for a pretty bad first person shooter for this reason: *Tap z* -> VATS comes up. Click on head. Head shot! OMG, I rock!

      By the end of the game, I was refusing to use VATS for no other reason that it was insulting me by assuming that I couldn't aim.

      Of course, if I was stuck using the Xbox controllers, I'd be used to being unable to aim, and relying on games to chea

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Fallout 3 made for a pretty bad first person shooter because it wasn't a first person shooter. It's an RPG.

        VATS is an attempt to combine a real-time first-person combat system with a traditional turn-based RPG battle system. It succeeds at that pretty well I think. Of course, one of its strengths is that you can ignore it completely and only play the game in real time, as you did.

        • by n1hilist (997601)

          VATS was OK, but it lacked all the features RPGs usually have, like special moves, weapon combos, or anything meaningful. The only remarkable feature in VATS, aside from the lovely slow motion gore fests was the chance to target the foe's gun, or even better, a grenade.

        • by cptnapalm (120276)

          For the 5 or so hours I played Fallout 3, I didn't use VATS. Aiming directly between the eyes at 10 feet would usually miss by a mile. It was awful. While I loved Fallout 1 & 2, I hated 3.

          • Aiming directly between the eyes at 10 feet would usually miss by a mile.

            So, uhh, Fallout 3 is an awful game because ... you did not use VATS? It's a turn-based RPG -- just like Fallout 1 and 2. Using the real time combat was mostly useful for dealing with inferior enemies. There are no inferior enemies in the beginning of the game.

      • by n1hilist (997601)

        Yeah, they should have given you a very finite amount of VATS points, or allow you to earn them and have slow motion replays ONLY for critical hits.

        • Max Payne had this kind of mechanic: more bullet time accrued via better kills in real time. It was fun having to manage the amount of BT you had, knowing that somewhere down the road you'd need it, and it wasn't worth spending it higgledy-piggledy.

          • by randyest (589159)
            I can't believe I'm posting this, but I believe you mean willy-nilly [merriam-webster.com] rather than higgledy-piggledy [thefreedictionary.com].

            The former means "by compulsion, without choice, in a haphazard or spontaneous manner " while the latter refers to that which is "In utter disorder or confusion, topsy-turvy, jumbled."
    • by Goateee (1415809)

      Now I have only played FEAR 1 and expansions, but I'll assume FEAR 2 is about the same. If I remember correctly there were like Easy, Normal, Hard and Masochist.

      I am by no means good at FPS games and barely needed to use the slowmo. If they care to name a difficulty Masochist it better be so hard that its almost impossible!

    • by Lorcas (1299955)
      I don't know what's to praise about the AI in FEAR 2. For me, it's just horrible AI with well thought out lines to make the immersion better. Under no way will I praise bots saying "Advancing" when the target is out of view or "Take cover" when a grenade is near. The AI in this game is below average at best.

      Here's a little something that happened TWICE yesterday as I was playing through the game:

      I enter a room with cubicles and 4 hostiles that aren't aware of my presence. I shoot to kill one of them and
  • When has a game not claimed it has ultra-realistic AI only to end up having blatantly unrealistic AI?

    I don't think you can even have ultra-realistic AI and keep the game fun in most cases anyway, if the AI was in fact ultra-realistic then they'd all just move to the same part of the map, wait until you come along and ambush you from every direction leaving you no chance whatsoever after all.

    AI has got better through the years, it's started using cover and that sort of thing and the odd game has managed to h

    • by Crumplecorn (904797) on Friday March 06, 2009 @06:59AM (#27089421)

      I've always thought that a never ending march towards smarter AI would go something like this:

      The Past:
      No real AI. Enemies know where you are at all times, and simply make a beeline for you. To the player, the enemies seems to always know where you are and make a beeline for you.

      The Present:
      The enemies are no longer allowed to know where you are. Instead, simple AI makes basic decisions about how to act when you walk right in front of it. To the player, the enemies seem stupid.

      The Future:
      The AI now has advanced heuristics which allow it to take prompts from the environment and knowledge of your probable goals to judge your probable location by using 50% of your CPU power, and use advanced physics engines and inverse kinematics to take a realistic route to get to you, using the other 50% of your CPU power. To the player, the enemies seems to always know where you are and make a beeline for you.

      • by Xest (935314)

        I think you're right, some of the AI systems we've seen touted as being the best just seem to the end player to be effectively no different from some of the worst earlier AI. Call of Duty 5 is a good example of AI gone wrong, where enemies do try to flank you, use cover efficiently and so on. They're also good at using grenades, the problem is, they're all too good at using grenades. So when you hide behind cover 5 germans will chuck grenades at you so you have to run for other cover at which point another

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Ostracus (1354233)

          "So when you hide behind cover 5 germans will chuck grenades at you so you have to run for other cover at which point another 5 will throw more meaning you have to run back to where you were assuming those grenades have blown up, all whilst dying repeatedly anyway because enemies kill you in only two or three shots on veteran. The fact they just plaster the area with 5 grenades often left me feeling little difference to the "hard mode" of old in many past games where the enemies were made harder by simply m

          • by Lord Crc (151920)

            For example your teammates in GRAW1 are a bunch of idiots. Occasionally handy but mostly dead because they wandered into the line of fire.

            You're talking about the XBox version or something? Cause on the PC, GRAW2 team AI is significantly worse. At least in GRAW1 they would correctly identify incoming fire and return it. In GRAW2 there's countless times where I've seen them sitting still in the open, facing the wrong direction, yelling "taking fire" until they die.

          • by Xest (935314)

            Have you played the CoD series?

            Some sections spawn unlimited enemies and the only way to prevent the constant spawn is to move up and push forward so you can't just sit back at a distance picking them off else you simply run out of ammo.

        • for what it's worth, i always thought that COD was overly grenade happy. i just got done playing Brothers in Arms, the first one (road to hill 80) and was pleasantly surprised with the AI of both your teammates and enemies.

          teammates will find cover, when possible. if you point at an area for them to goto they will automatically stay low and not get shot if there is any nearby cover. if you order them to suppress an area they do a good job keeping up fire so you can flank the enemy. the only time i had
        • STALKER and Clearsky were both terrible with grenades as well, they would throw them so far and hit you in the head with them.

          I guess in a post-apox world people have nothing better to do than sit around and throw stuff that must be why they are so good with grenades.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702)
            They were doing this during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Haven't you seen Braveheart?
    • While your criticism holds for traditional Doom style run and gun AI, I think there's a number of ways you could still make a great game out of it, and I think the players would respond positively to a game with really great AI.

      Just off the top of my head;
      1) Halo style you're a tank with shields. Just because the AI is acting really smart, you're still a lot stronger than most of the enemies you face. That makes for a pretty entertaining scenario, and good AI would work great with it.
      2) Enemies don't know

  • More DRM (Score:1, Troll)

    by Aceticon (140883)

    As a side note

    Empire: Total War uses online activation (through Steam), so if you buy this and you don't have an Internet connection all the time in your gaming PC, or you upgrade components on it or you upgrade your OS or any other arbitrary condition (which can change at any time at the whim of one of the suits at Creative Assembly) then you've just threw away a nice chunk of your fun money.

    Also forget about re-selling them game or giving it to a friend once you've became bored with it (or if you find out

    • by ifrag (984323)

      so if you buy this and you don't have an Internet connection all the time in your gaming PC

      Emphasis mine. This is false. If it's just Steam activation it's a one time deal. After that you can play it in Steam offline mode without problems.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by clubby (1144121)

      Empire: Total War uses online activation (through Steam), so if you buy this and you don't have an Internet connection all the time in your gaming PC, or you upgrade components on it or you upgrade your OS or any other arbitrary condition (which can change at any time at the whim of one of the suits at Creative Assembly) then you've just threw away a nice chunk of your fun money.

      Where the hell are you getting this from? Why do you think that activation on Steam precludes you from upgrading your PC, changing your OS, etc? And why do you think that "arbitrary conditions" from Creative Assembly will stop you from playing the game?

      FYI, Steam needs you to go online once to download/activate the game, and after that, you're pretty much free and clear. Every few weeks your Steam "ticket" will expire, and you'll have to go back online for all of 5 seconds to log in again. You can insta

  • This quote from the article identifies the problem quite well:

    Creative Assembly's Richard Bull notes that "there's still this disturbing mindset among programmers, particularly game programmers, that if the AI is taking any kind of considerable chunk of time, that's a really bad thing. It's only just getting to the stage now where people regard it as important enough to deserve this chunk of time in a game. If your graphics rendering is taking up 50 percent of your CPU time it's like 'well, never mind, it looks great', but if you try to tell people that you have this really intelligent decision-making system that's taking up 30 percent of the CPU time, they'll say 'you obviously don't know what you're doing, it's badly programmed' and so on".

    I'd bet every strategy gamer out there would take a better AI over seeing blades of grass, but alas, AI doesn't draw marketing like grass blowing in the wind. :( FWIW, reviews are already criticizing Empire a bit for what has been a problem in past versions: all focus on the tactical AI (much needed, no doubt), but the campaign AI is still problematic. In this sense, CA has a heck of a task developing two quite different AIs. It is hard enough getting just one of them in respectable shape!

  • I'm about to conduct a modest study of NPCs in games; and came across this article.

    Having read several texts on narratives in games and played a fair share of games - many of which were well written crpgs; it seems to me that games that rely heavily on authoring player-character behavior (through non-interactive scenes - such as FMVs) - create a sort of pseudo-NPC of your player character - leaving you, as a player, passive and unimmersed in large parts of the game. This does not necessarily have to be
  • This is probably one of the best articles I've read in Slashdot in a while. Yes, game AI may be a couple steps below true AI, but it's certainly a step above the problem-solving your average software developer is used to, so it picked my interest.

    Thing is, I'd like to learn more about this and perhaps try my hand at writing a basic AI for a game, but I have no clue on how or where to start. Anyone has any recommendations?

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