Up For Debate - Where Did The Intelligent AI Go?

Written by Jon Sutton on Sat, Jun 4, 2016 4:23 PM

I was going to open this Up For Debate by saying it wasn’t all that long ago it felt as if we were making great strides forward with videogame AI. That would be wrong. It’s been, at best, a decade since we saw any recognisable leap forward in the intelligence of video game characters. If anything, our AI team mates and arch enemies are becoming increasingly stupid, so where did all the intelligent enemy AI go?

For a long time AI was a hot topic. Every game preview would tout intelligent enemy movements and bizarre experimental systems. With every game it felt as if developers were uncovering incredible ways to make games more lifelike and believable. Goombas and Cacodemons were a thing of the past. While not a catch all, there were certain iconic games which contributed to this.

Halo: Combat Evolved, at the time, was fantastic. The Covenant would work in groups, take cover, flush you out. There was even communication between the groups, flanking you and exposing your weaknesses. F.E.A.R. attempted a very similar thing to even greater effect. Black & White and its sequel were a phenomenal look at AI behaviours and the process of computer intelligence actively learning.

And then, well, that was it. We’d plateaued. No F.E.A.R. game since contributed anything new. All we’ve got is the same carbon copy AI cropping up in every game, whether that’s Far Cry 4 or The Division. Seldom are we surprised by the behaviour of an enemy any more. Worse than that, plenty more games go one step further and opt for artificial stupidity. No AI in Assassin’s Creed has ever given me pause for thought. Every creature in The Witcher 3 (no matter how fantastic the overall package is) is entirely predictable. No developers seem to be concerned with this, not when there’s incredibly detailed visuals and massive crowd sizes to take into account.

Fortunately there are a few rays of sunshine. The xenomorph in Alien Isolation was exemplary. Unpredictable and capable of learning from player movement, its uncanny ability to out-think me made it a terrifying prospect. Then there’s The Last Guardian. Much of the talk surrounding this decade-in-development game surrounds the AI of Trico, the strange griffin-like beast which becomes the player’s AI partner. Game designer Fumito Ueda said a large part of the delay was attributed to working on the AI of Trico, although we still know next to nothing how this will translate in game. It does offer an insight at least into the troubles of building game AI.

With that in mind, what do you make of the current state of AI in gaming? Are there any recent standouts you'd like to draw attention, or do you think it has taken a back seat to visuals and world design?

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04:18 Jun-06-2016

gta v

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02:02 Jun-06-2016

To me. All AI is good... Is just me... Too good ingame, they can't kill me. LOL!

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19:08 Jun-05-2016

How about mgs v tpp ??

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16:42 Jun-05-2016

Actually, the Mass Effect and Dark Souls series still amaze me with their rich and thoughtful AI.

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16:27 Jun-05-2016

Where did it all go? It went to DooM. I've never been flanked so much in my gaming life.

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16:11 Jun-05-2016

dude, you heard of AlphaGo? that AI was so good, we were genuinely scared for the future of humanity for a while. and now Google DeepMind intends to murder Hearthstone players. Soon they'll move on to Brood War and if they manage to do that, we're screwed. i for one am fine with the stupid AI in all these games if it means the future of humanity.

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15:16 Jun-05-2016

In my opinion, good AI is pretty difficult to make and even if a good AI is made there is gonna be a lot of bugs. I think AI complexity has been growing but slowly.

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14:53 Jun-05-2016

anyone else felt that enemies adapt to snake's tactics in mgsv tpp. I remember a conversation between npc about a guy using tranquillisers so they are wearing helmets nd thick armour enemies hd night vision gogs if u prfered nit invasions.

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15:12 Jun-05-2016

yeah, Hideo Kojima actually touched on this subject way before the game was released, if you do too much headshots they will start wearing helmets.

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11:34 Jun-05-2016

Exanima has the best AI i've seen to date. Enemies arn't there to be killed, they're there to actively try and whack the player, and trust me.. they do. Feels like PVP most of the time due to their insane unpredictability

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08:50 Jun-05-2016

Amiibo top tier

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08:18 Jun-05-2016

oh cmon. I played bo3 with the highest difficulty, i shoot enemys so many times, they dont die. Yet they kill me with 1 shot, wtf is this. I want to feel like real war there. To shoot an enemy headshot or else and he to die...

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08:21 Jun-05-2016

I also remembered BF bad company 2 AI. It was awful. They shoot someone and do 0 dmg. And it is basically you vs 300k.

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23:31 Jun-05-2016

BC2 had really good AI in the PvE gamemode, but the campaign they did a low amount of damage which limited them.

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12:42 Jun-05-2016

that's how most games to difficulty now adays usually handicapping the player and the ai is the same for the most part or beef up them in a certain way or let them cheat, supreme commander and civ 5 are good examples of that difficulty 5-10 the ai starts cheating a bit it even says they do and how :P one game that has pretty decent ai is wolfenstien the new order there pretty clever

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08:07 Jun-05-2016

Payday also had a great AI

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07:30 Jun-05-2016

It's becasue of graphics. Think back to Halo 5. The day it came out they said that i order to get the performance and look to what they wanted they had to tone down the enemy AI.

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07:32 Jun-05-2016

And for an inverse think of Mordor. Not much of a looker, kinda bland honestly, but the AI was top notch, not even mentioning all the possible interactions.


Soon as the graphics race ends, we may start to see some big advances.

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10:37 Jun-05-2016

I really don't get the Shadow of Mordor love. The whole Nemesis system was a bit boring, and I'm not really sure what I saw there in terms of impressive AI? My memory is a little hazy though so maybe it was more impressive than I remember.

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12:00 Jun-05-2016

I'm with you there, I mean I tried it, I liked it, but did I loved it? not really.

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05:50 Jun-05-2016

Enemy AI simulator -2016

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04:28 Jun-05-2016

People may have a powerful enemy when faced with AI in Star Craft, but...shooters? I'd love it if I could fight an Elite and feel the fear that they actual possess in the books. They "perfected" the AI in halo 2, haven't bettered it...

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04:34 Jun-05-2016

...since. Of course there are no serious repercussions when playing usual shooters. Death does not mean the end of a game. Games, themselves, probably have gotten easier even with no real advancement in AI.

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04:27 Jun-05-2016

Guys before you start complaining about AI..think how much time games used to take to be made in those times and now
AI is something pretty hard and difficult and time consuming to code and debug..hell i had to spend a whole week just to make a program to solve the game of fifteen by itself

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02:18 Jun-05-2016

The last good AI in game I can think of, if you consider this good, was Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and maybe the souls series.

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00:47 Jun-05-2016

Sim & Arcade Racing made a lot of improvments with their AI over the last years, can be very good seen in PCARS, where they also fight back for position with manoveurs instead of just being faster.


In the Shooter genre i agree though, AI is more stupid.

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00:03 Jun-05-2016

ai in games just reminds me of a wtf moment in gta v where i had killed someone by accident with a car, the paramedics rock up in there ambulance sorta fiddle with the dude and f off back in there ambulance leaving the body to decompose in the street lol was the first time id seen it and was just like what the hell is the point in that O.o

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00:11 Jun-05-2016

sometimes tho i just wish npcs had more of a routine and character some games like assassins creed for example im just looking around at the game cause some of it is stunning and i realize there are like 100 people below me and they may as well not be there cause they really don't do anything and you cant talk to them, i like huge games but sometimes a smaller more interactive game would be cool

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09:55 Jun-05-2016

Smaller, more interactive games is much more Bethesda's specialty. Yes they might be massive games, but in terms of npc's there are many, many times less npc's in world than say there are in Assassin's Creed: Unity had on screen at one time. However, in a game like Skyrim or Fallout, every npc had their own personality even if some of them were more or less copy-paste, they still could be interacted with more than in Assassin's Creed. I suppose it's just a difference in priorities and development.

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18:57 Jun-04-2016

The division AI are so so,dying light AI are great imo,specially for virals and volatiles

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