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MMO Money Magazine

Writings on the business of fun: Virtual Worlds and Real Money Makes Online Gaming a Big Business. My economic view on the world of online games - without the hype.

Author: Inktomi

The Importance of Radiant A.I.

Posted by Inktomi Saturday December 10 2011 at 12:41AM
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A.I. is short for Artificial Intelligence, or as a textbook might define it as the study and design of intelligent agents. This technology has been around for longer than I thought. Doing some reading I had found that it dated back to the ancient Greeks during the Age of Antiquity pre-384 B.C. As time went on, A.I. was continuted to be studied and improved upon for the creation of intelligent robots, so much so that Isaac Asimov wrote his Robot series where he introducted the 3 Laws of Robotics.

A.I. is short for Artificial Intelligence, or as a textbook might define it as the study and design of intelligent agents. This technology has been around for longer than I thought. Doing some reading I had found that it dated back to the ancient Greeks during the Age of Antiquity pre-384 B.C. As time went on, A.I. was continuted to be studied and improved upon for the creation of intelligent robots, so much so that Isaac Asimov wrote his Robot series where he introducted the 3 Laws of Robotics in 1942.
 
 
 
I don't think that we are at the stage of worrying about robots hurting us, but computer programmers have been trying to implement the type of A.I. that WOULD hurt us. Here we have Bethesda, I am sure you are familiar with them. If you are here then you must be familiar with their Elder Scrolls series. Starting in Oblivion, they introduced a game mechanic called Radiant AI. Which is defined as the dynamic reaction to the player's actions by both NPC's and the game world. After Oblivion, Bethesda began further development of this programming in the Fallout series. However, Radiant AI wasn't perfect and could have used some improvement from the stage it was used in Oblivion. As you might see in the this video.
 
 
 
 
Now we have the fifth and latest edition of the Elder Scrolls, Skyrim. As you might have found out that Skyrims AI is rather more dynamic than its predecessors, more so than I have seen in many games. It is not enough that the NPC's walk around and are sometimes a pain to find, that's ok, it adds quite a bit more immersion. But are prone to make comments about you, your skills and equipment in passing. The feeling that everything you do has some type of meaning in the world of Skyrim is more apparent than ever. 
 
For example, I had just finished upgrading a weapon from it's already upgraded condition - not only did the Smith make a comment, but so did a guard and another passing NPC did as well. Some might call that faulty programming, but it made me stop and notice and in spite of its creepyness, it made me feel a little proud. So proud that I whipped it out and hit Lydia with it a few times, she will get over it. Also I could notice as I went further into the Companions questline, they began speaking to me different, not just in the words, but in the inflections they used, it was their ATTITUDE that changed. 
 
This is all not brand new and I can see how it might be imperfect at certain stages and the nonstop chatter can sometimes get downright annoying. But Radiant AI does offer a deeper amount of immersion into the virtual world of Skyrim. The way that it can be used in MMORPG's would give their gameworld a more dynamic feel to it as not as generic. Consider the option of having an NPC that will not buy your junk if you have a bad rep in the town. I know that withint the World of Warcraft their are roving NPC's, let give that more junction and have them wander between cities in making players need to search for them to either hand in or pick up a quest. Most AI I have felt in MMO's are gateways to getting further through the questline and in our modern MMO's reading quest text is a time waster and players rarely do, but some do.
 
Pick the one on the left!
 
I am interested to see how the AI in the new release of EA's Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to be. What I have been told from players of the beta is that it feels more dynamic than others and when you are in a cutscene and another player is making decisions, it almost feels like you're not talking to an NPC. This has to be seen rather than believed. Bioware has a unique way of delivering its storyline content to their players through the circular choice disk. In giving players more options in their decision making then you can feel more of a part of the story, rather than just breezing over quest text towards the next objective. 
 
Also how the additions of companions within SWTOR looks as an interesting option if these companions also carry unique AI and alignments. For instance, pick up a unique companion that has a very good disposition, make a few mean, evil or SITH decisions and they will start doubting you or eventually leave your charge. This is apparent in games such as Dragons Age, which I know for sure because I lost a few NPC's along the way. Now we have decision making with responsibility, how players with be accountable for their actions in an MMORPG will affect their gameplay. Not as easy as, kill some noobs and get a red label that everyone can kill you, but in the way that it may hurt them in personal ways, like in their wallet. If a player loses reputation within a town, have a bounty put on their head and the a town's powerful vigilante might come looking for them. That would add some spice wouldn't it.
 
AI within video games has come a long way, but I feel that it still has a long way to go. Call me spoiled, but as I log into an MMO and see the same generic looking NPC's sitting in the same generic positions all day erryday, it is a letdown. Being spoiled as playing games with dynamic content from Bioware and Bethesda is raising my bar of quality for my MMORPG's. I come to expect more impact for the decisions that I make, not just from the local NPC, but the game world as well. If I had some powerful tiger as my pet, as I did when I played World of Warcraft, why are other tigers attacking me? They should be bowing down to me and the king of the jungle by my side! Well, maybe not bow, but at least be a little less aggressive. 
 
This might cost a bit more programming along the way, and maybe not work as well within an online game as it would a single-player, but I am looking forward to the further development of Bethesda's Radiant AI system. A better AI would give the developers more content to create within the game as the games reaction to the player, and this would raise the immersion level overall. This also adds to my long, long list of qualities that I am looking for in my perfect MMORPG. I don't think it exists yet, but for now I will enjoy what I have.
 
Play safe,
Frank
MadnessRealm writes:

Although the graphics seems relatively bad, Citadel Of Sorcery seems to be thriving to build some sort of Radiant A.I. The game has yet to enter a BETA stage, but development seems to be progressing, so I'm definitively looking forward to that.

 

Onto something you said about Companions (In DA and SWTOR), Skyrim has something similar although not quite as deep. Some of the Companion NPCs (most) will turn their back on you if you mistreat them too much, or act against the law (being spotted while committing whatever crime). The only Companions that do not do that are Orcs, who will fight at your side until death (possibly also dogs and the mercenaries you gain as a Thane unless you lose your title). It's a neat touch. 

Sat Dec 10 2011 11:58PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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