“Good AI is what you see, not how it works.”

27 04 2007

… quoth Peter Molyneux in this Guardian piece on AI:

That said, Molyneux doesn’t believe AI can be solely responsible for intense, dynamic emotional experiences; they need to be married with what he calls “smoke and mirrors”.

“You have to define what games developers call AI,” he says, “as opposed to academic AI. There’s actually very little true, academic AI in games. If I go along to universities and talk to professors of AI, they sort of laugh at us and our crude attempts at real-world AI. But my promise has always been, ‘Well, good AI is what you see, not how it works.’ Whether that’s a mixture of true AI and an illusion is neither here nor there, because it’s really about what it brings to the game.”

Steve Grand chips in:

“AI isn’t so much unappreciated as nonexistent,” he says. “Most of what counts as AI in the games industry is actually a bunch of ‘IF/THEN’ statements. If a computer character doesn’t learn something for itself then the programmer must have told it what to do, and anything that does exactly what it’s told and nothing else is not intelligent. This is changing, and neural networks and other learning systems are beginning to creep in. But games programmers tend to devalue the phrase ‘artificial intelligence’.

“This is mostly because the importance of AI in computer games is now widely recognised, and hence any attempt to implement it – including Creatures – gets hyped up pretty quickly. As graphics have improved, the behaviour of characters has got more and more embarrassing. When characters looked cartoon-like, any vaguely lifelike behaviour was impressive, but now that characters have fluid movements, realistic textures and complex facial expressions, they tend to engage different circuits in the players’ brains. The better the graphics become, the worse the behaviour looks. So the need for good AI is well-appreciated. The snag is that none of us knows how to make it work yet.”

Emphasis ours. The article is a good snapshot of where game AI is at right now, and many similar points were included in Adam Russel’s Skillset talk on procedural AI last month.

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