AI in Games Network

22 01 2008

Procedural content

Great post from Mark Morris of Introversion, about the inaugural meeting of the AI in Games Network. So far it involves three UK universities meeting a load of game developers. It’s difficult to pick out a highlight from the post, really, the whole thing is worth reading, but I especially like this part where he doesn’t mince words about the current state of industry-academic collaboration:

So why aren’t we seeing all these wonderful techniques in games now? Is it the fault of the men in T-shirts or those in white coats and what do we need to do to ease the passage of research from the lab to production-level video games? Having listened to the arguments from both sides, I’m going to take the blame and say it is industry that is providing the barriers. We constantly criticise the academics and say that their techniques would not work on real games, yet when they ask for some source code we tell them that there are “IPR” issues or that we do not have time to work with them. The very nature of research demands that most attempts will fail (or will almost certainly take longer than expected) and so we tell them that there is too much risk to let them near our precious games.

I’d like to see this change and I have a plan. Once we have finished and shipped a game, we send the source code across to the boffins with a list of super-hard problems that we failed to solve. They then use science to fix those problems and come back to us with a demonstration of their technique working. We then compare the new version of the game with the old and see if the AI has genuinely made an improvement. If it has, then we consider implementing it in the next game. It sounds simple and of course there will be details to work out, but that’s why we have an AI in Games Network.

Oh, and if anyone say’s it’ll never work – tell them the DEFCON AI is currently being turned into HAL 3000 by separate teams at both Imperial and Bradford.

Kudos to Introversion for thinking beyond product, and letting academics tinker with their code. I look forward to seeing what the AI in Games Network results in.

(Header image is made from Chris Delay’s procedural content generation write up).

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