The Artificial Intelligence Quotient
What is an Artificial Intelligence Quotient? It’s something I just made up to illustrate and evaluate sarcastically the value of a very important aspect of game design; the effectiveness of a computers artificial intelligence. If you have played video games for any small length of time you have encountered odd AI quirks that can make or break your immersion in the viscous Aether of the world the developers have built for you. These unusual quirks range from a guard trying to navigate through a solid concrete wall to a tank getting caught up by a small flower blocking its path. With issues like that you can’t help but begin rating the quality ofthe AI that inhabits the world you are exploring. What goes into making a brilliant life-like intelligence and why do so many others exhibit fewer brain cells than a pet rock? Below is a list of 10 attributes you can use to evaluate your AIQ.
Scripting is Important – This isn’t a Brad Pitt movie
Even an action game deserves a little quality and depth to the various gears and cogs that define the world developers wish for us to interact with. Scripting is the part of an AI that gives an artificial entity the appearance of being genuine. If your AI is occupied with a task before a user interacts and resumes tasks when the user leaves you are off to a great start.
Example: Two guards having a conversation about their home lives moments before you drop from the sky and tear head from torso. The key is that they will do something before you arrive and resume something when they have lost track of you.
The Key to Longevity is Longevity
If only your super slick AI could survive a sneeze he might be able to show off all that amazing coding you put into him! The longer a well-designed AI lives the more opportunity he has to show off the neat little tricks you programmed into him. Gesundheit!
Example: If your AI can take cover you better hope he lives long enough to run to cover or he may never have the opportunity to prove he was worth you parenting him.
Design Levels Accordingly
You might not think it but navigation is just as important for NPC as it is for the user. Make sure you terrain or program in a way that the AI wont perform acts of stupidity. Running into a bottleneck or trying to navigate through a solid wall because of poor pathing can kill even the most intelligent AI.
Example: If your human intelligence level AI can’t open unlocked doors he isn’t going to impress the individual casually looting the bank vault because he had the foresight to shut the door.
Animate objects need animation
Nothing makes you doubt humanity quite like inhuman behavior. It sounds simple but human beings are incredibly tuned to picking up the body language of other humans. It’s a survival tool we’ve honed over generations. Sometimes this can work to your advantage if perhaps you want a character to appear to be unusual. More often than not though you’ll want to make sure object animations match with the real world experience.
Example: People are not owls, heads cannot turn 360 degrees. If a player is stalking someone and their head makes a quick 180 and screams “I found the villainous villain who is plaguing our evil empire!” a typical player is going to laugh your inept AI right off of their hard drive.
Efficiency & Assistance
Having a sidekick is great and very useful in games where you don’t want people to feel alone or require human players who might not always be available. Those of us without friends are loners not losers gentlemen, at least that is what I tell myself. Keep in mind you want your protagonist (The player) to feel in control, in charge and superior to their lackeys. If you can’t hit your target and your sidekick is making headshots you’re going to feel pretty unessential to the experience.
Example: Batman and Robin bust a gang and Robin single-handedly subdues a dozen villains. The batmobile ride home is going to be uncomfortably silent and full of resentful tension directed at our plucky little sidekick.
Include codfish and Moby dick
It’s a pleasant feeling being big shark surrounded by little codfish but there comes a time when hacking through the swarming mindless masses becomes irksome and you begin to want for a challenge. Be sure to include different levels of artificial intelligence in your game. A crafty opponent every once and a while can be an incredibly rewarding victory.
Example: You’ve killed a thousand orcs with relative ease and you encounter a goblin that outmaneuvers you and manages to send you to the floor. 9 times out of 10 you’re going to congratulate the goblin for his accomplishment, the other time you will rage and throw your keyboard at the door.
Exaggeration isn’t lying is it?
Have an AI call out that he is doing something that he isn’t actually doing. “FLANKING!” will alert the player to an AI behaving intelligently when in reality they aren’t doing anything special or intelligent. This also helps explain away poor decisions.
Example: The player may see an AI run out of cover to start shooting at them and attribute it to their efforts to flank the player but in reality the AI is just stupidly walking out into a kill box because it wasn’t programmed to avoid such situations.
Making Mountains out of Mole Hills
Is it fairly obvious what your AI is doing at all times? If he looks in a direction make him look with his whole body. If it’s not obvious it’ll likely go unnoticed. Make everything overly exaggerated and don’t be afraid to make little things easy to notice by having the AI call out what he’s doing.
Example: Is that ghoul looking at me or is that the blank stare of a ghoul engaged in the philosophical debate on negative utilitarianism versus nihilism? If only he cried out “What was that?” or became agitated I might be able to discern whether he just saw me or not!
A dog is a dog, a rock is a rock, and a man is a man.
A human will behave differently from a dog, so AI accordingly. Make sure to have objects that each level of AI will interact with. A human might stop to loot a dead body, attempt to use a payphone or get frustrated when a vending machine eats their last dollar. Dogs on the other hand won’t be interested in the marvels of suburban life; they’ll eat the dead and establish dominance over the meager. When an AI stops to examine an object it gives them an element of realism. When we enter a new area we explore its contents and features, when we observe this in others our empathy kicks in and we treat them more like humans than drones.
Example: I don’t mean to question your intelligence here, but I feel like the picture I painted should be adequate here.
There are difference reactions to events and objects for different observers and even within observers there are different levels of reaction. A unique situation will invoke unique emotions in your audience. Your AI should react to an intruder in an appropriate level of hostility. Nothing can confuse you more than being attacked by someone who has no reason what-so-ever to be attacking you.
Example: A bunny shouldn’t attack you, a stag wont attack until provoked and a lion will eat you on sight. However a bunny will run away from you, a stag might stare at you before fleeing and a lion might investigate to see if you are worth eating.
So how did your AI perform on our AI IQ test? Hopefully you’re happy with your score otherwise you may have to revisit the drawing board and remedy the mental ailment of your poor convalescent AI. Feel free to post your experiences with brain dead AI in the comment section below! Half the fun of an article like this is sharing your stories!