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Teala's Wickedly Cool MMORPG.com Blog For The Masses

Just my thoughts on MMO's, roleplaying, game companies, and the people that play these games.

Author: Teala

No Smarter Than A Rock.

Posted by Teala Sunday August 28 2011 at 3:54PM
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Watching all the latest game videos for up and coming games and one thing I noticed that was prevalent in all of them...the AI of MOBs has gotten no better than the AI of MOBs we encountered in games back in 1999.   No seriously...watch any new or recently released MMORPG and you notice this right away.   They are like this...

a rock.

 

Why are we still seeing MOB AI that is seriously no better than this rock?   Over ten years and the MOBs we fight in todays MMORPG's are no smarter than the MOBs we fought in games over a decade ago!   In most games the MOBs are stagnate, non-dynamic objects that sit in one place, like a rock, and wait until a player comes by and whacks on them with an oversized (weapon of choice here).   They will not run.  They do not try to manuever.  They do not do anything out of the ordinary that most gamers would encounter in any other situation...just like a rock...

I made a request of developers in a recently released game, I will not name, to make the MOBs more dynamic(just a little bit), have them try to out manuever the player, or even try to run away - anything to give the feeling that the MOB had some kind of intelligents to it.   What was I told.   Most players do not want that in their game.  They do not want to fight unpredictable MOBs, they want to just kill what they are fighting and move on to the next one.    Personally I find this hard to believe.  

Are the majority of gamers really like this?  Do they want stagnate, stupid MOB's that do nothing but sit in one place and let you wail on them until they are dead - like most MOB's in the past, present, and future games?

Do you as a gamer - really like that?  I know I am tired of it.  I would think others would be as well.

I mean how difficult would it be to put some level of AI into MOB's that make them a little more challenging to defeat than your common rock?  And why wouldn't players want a little more challenge to the MMORPG's they play?  Am I to believe that the majority of players are happy with how MOBs are handled and made to behave in MMORPG's, and that adding smarter MOB's would put people off if they became more challenging to defeat?

I just don't get it. Games would not only be more fun, but challenging.  It would add a level of challenge to add some dynamic AI to MOBs so they are not so predictable. 

This is also the one thing that drives me crazy about dungeons, raids, and boss MOB's.   This set of game mechanics I think are the worse offenders of the lot regarding MOB placement and MOB AI.   It is crazy that after all these years and we're still dealing with stupid MOBs that are no better than rocks, and the vast majority of players are content with this type of game play.  

Look at any raid bosses, in any MMORPG, and you know what...they never change how they behave or how they were programmed/scripted to perform.  They are so linear in action that you can find youtube videos telling you how these MOB's will perform down to the last second.  There is nothing dynamic about them in the least.   None of the MOB's...not even the hardest of the so-called "hard mode" MOBs are any smarter than a rock you'll find in your yard or while you are walking down a gravel rode.  What makes them ahrd is they have more HP than your average MOB and they hit harder - period - end of story.   They are stagnate, non-dynamic, over hyped, rocks - with their own instance to make us players think we've encountered something that is more challenging.  The reality is, though, far from this.   Am I the only one that is a litte tired and annoyed of this?

For the love of gaming!  Please...please...please, developers, can we get past this level of gaming, and add a little challenge to these games by making MOBs a little less predictable by giving them some form of AI beyond that of a rock?

If you played any MMORPG prior to say World of Warcraft, and then watch videos of soon to be released MMORPG's, or play some of the most recently released MMORPG's of today, you soon discover that in this area of game play nothing has changed.  MOB's are stagnate, non-dynamic, poorly scripted, and in most cases - no smarter than a rock.

Gondlyr writes:

This is why I prefer PvP games and not PvE games.  I want an unpredictable opponent.   I don't want to spend my time fighting rocks.  

Mon Aug 29 2011 12:26PM Report
ZombieKen writes:

RE: Most players do not want that in their game.  They do not want to fight unpredictable MOBs, they want to just kill what they are fighting and move on to the next one.    Personally I find this hard to believe.

I don't find it hard to believe.  I think the dev's description is accurate.  Based on observation, people like a mindless grind for low and mid-level progression.

In mindless grind mode, fighting mobs is not different than picking tomatoes.  Grab a few, catch your breath, grab a few more.  Probably the hardest part about it is staying awake.

I have a theory, and I have not ever tested this out in detail, that the most popular games in terms of mass appeal, actually have the easiest grind content.  *dumb as a rock*

In one I play, key 1 autotargets a mob, runs the character to the target, starts auto attack.  Key 2 loots the mob drops and may take a couple presses.  1 pause 2,2,2... repeat.

That's not challenge.  It's no more challenging than picking tomatoes.  It's a mindless progression time sink that requires little effort, produces significant reward, and can be done while watching TV, chatting or becoming intoxicated.

However, the game I'm refering to is very popular.  If the combat was a negative in the eyes of the playerbase, it wouldn't be.  One can only assume they like it.

MMORPG gaming has become as dumbed down as the nightly news.

Mon Aug 29 2011 2:02PM Report
ZombieKen writes:

Bah, no edit comments :-(  Pardon the typos.

Mon Aug 29 2011 2:05PM Report
Damon writes:

I feel the same way about NPCs and mobs in these games.  However, I find it easy to believe that the massive casual gamer audience doesn't want this type of challenge.  Even if a large portion of the MMORPG users agreed, there are countless casual players who don't spend any time on sites like this one.

Mon Aug 29 2011 9:46PM Report
astoria writes:

Yes, many people don't want mobs that are that intelligent. I don't know why. In Darkfall, they are intelligent, they attack you from a block away, the strafe, the switch weapons, the run around. But we know the game doesn't have the population. Ryzom also has much better AI, stuff migrates, and will gang up on you. Also, very low pop.

Thu Sep 01 2011 9:32AM Report
Rommie10-284 writes:

Intelligent AI is slower to kill than Rocks.  The Mousies want the easy cheeze, so they'll kill Rocks if given the choice.  That means most to ALL of your mobs have to have smart AI or players will avoid them.  It's not worth the time investment to program all those AI's, and then have your players duck them and/or whine like Tornado Sirens about the "stoopid" AI.

Thu Sep 01 2011 12:19PM Report
teakbois writes:

I want smarter AI.  I want more challenge, but from a strategic standpoint vs. a 'twitch' standpoint.

 

It does seem sadly like the last MOB AI advancement weve seen in MMOs was way back when in EQ when that little gnoll pup ran away and alerted his friends in the process.

Thu Sep 01 2011 7:44PM Report
kjempff writes:

AI is quite hard and time consuming to code.

I am currently playing deus ex - hr, and there is an example of some AI that is more than basic. I bet they put alot of resources into that AI but you can always find a pattern to take advantage of. Still deus ex - hr has the best AI I have seen in any game so far.

 

I don't beleive stones are what people want to fight generally, but there also has to be some kind of system in mob behaviour so luck doesn't play too high a role. Problem is also that devs want to have their games in a short leach controlling every aspect, and with that in mind AI makes that task more complicated.

Thu Sep 01 2011 10:56PM Report
dreamscaper writes:

The vast majority of gamers have a drive eerily reminiscent of lab mice. They want the easiest, fastest possible path to the reward. This is pretty easy to see online; reading the official forums of most official game forums feels like giving yourself a lobotomy.

 

Let's put it this way. Players whined to the FFXIV devs about the roaming/curious wildlife's AI that made them curious about/attracted to players at times because they would invariably get caught in AoEs and drawn into the fight. It didn't matter that it was often entertaining and gave a little bit of life to world, the general player reaction was 'it's not something that I can control so make it go away!'

Fri Sep 02 2011 4:33PM Report
MadnessRealm writes:

This blog made me reminiscent of The Chronicles Of Spellborn, had some pretty group mob AI. 

 

On the topic itself, it's hard to have challenging AI in Tab-Targetting games. Mostly because the combat mechanics themselves haven't changed. Your fireballs are all heat-seeking-will-follow-you-to-the-end-of-the-earth-missiles. Even if the mob were to have a better AI, he'd still get hit regardless of what he does. Mob Difficulty is proportional to Combat Mechanic's difficulty. If you stick to the basic, you'll just keep fighting a rock.

TCOS in that regard had a more challenging gameplay despite still being more or less a tab-targetting game, so they could do a lot more with Mob AI and whatnot. Mabinogi also comes to mind, challenging combat, mobs have some great AI.

Same goes for more action-oriented titles (albeit not quite MMOs) like Dragon Nest or Vindictus, although the mob AI could be better for average mob, they at least move around rather than acting like rocks.

Sat Sep 03 2011 12:33AM Report
MurlockDance writes:

Teala has a point here but there are some games that have a better mob AI than others. An example, and an old one at that, is GW1. Ryzome had decent mob AI too and though I've never done them, the sleepers in wormholes in EVE are supposed to be harder AI-wise than most mobs.

I sometimes like challenge and I sometimes don't, depends on what mood I am in. I do find that MMOs have gotten a little too easy though recently, and many companies seem to be dumbing down their mob AI. Examples of this would be DAoC, WoW, and EQ2. Not that either of these three games ever had really hard mob AI but the little bit of challenge they did give has been almost completely scrapped with reduction of aggro range, or programming them to use their special abilities less often, etc.

I remember when I first played DAoC, it was possible to aggro even cons from quite far away. And in WoW there were so many zones where there were high level aggressive mobs walking around lower level areas that are no longer elite and have been changed to normal mobs. In EQ2, aggro ranges have decreased and social mobs seem to aggro more predictably.

It's a shame in many ways to have gotten rid of those few items of complexity, but I guess many players don't want to think at all when they play. MMOs have become part of the dungeon crawl genre much like Torchlight and Diablo.

Sat Sep 03 2011 1:49AM Report
ZombieKen writes:

@ MurlockDance

RE:"I do find that MMOs have gotten a little too easy though recently, and many companies seem to be dumbing down their mob AI."

I agree completely.  In one game I play there are a slew of guards around a dungeon entrance.  They are non-aggro.  You don't even have to be cautious with pulls.  Just pick one, kill it move to the next.  Easy as (*&^ for farming, but considering they're supposed to be guarding the place having the AI turned off is beyond easy.  If you don't poke one, you can just walk in.

Sat Sep 03 2011 5:45AM Report
aspekx writes:

surprising that only one person mentioned the coding of AI. and when i say coding i mean algorithms. and when i say algorithms i dont mean learning how write a line of code i mean Math. as in hard math. as in more difficult than most people study kind of math *and* its application in relation to a game to boot.

i agree that more engaging AI would be nice. however, i think more is at stake here than simply "no one wants a hard game anymore". a sentiment i normally agree with. but not in this case.

in part perhaps lazy gaming affects this. but again, AI is not like building a website. its nothing like even coding the animations of a character. AI in real world applications is hard enough and quite frankly its not making any huge leaps and bounds. instead AI in some cases has degenerated into software that attempts to mimic human behavior closely enough that we begin to believe what we want to see: real AI.

Sun Sep 04 2011 12:55AM Report
greywolf2002 writes:

Let´s see: people choose to play a MMO and spend their lives in ficticional worlds because they want to flee from harsh reality and annoing / enraging / bad moments. They take the coward´s choice, they do not want to fight, to prove themselves or to try to improve.

I hate to say this, because MMO is my fav game kind, but you typical MMO player is a coward worm without the sligtest bit of willopower :P

 

So, why would they choose to do a "hard thing"?

Sun Sep 04 2011 1:11PM Report
Excession writes:

I say no to stagnate mobs, lets say no to stagnant mobs while we are at it.

Im not sure I want intelligents though, but some intelligence would be great.

It seem's improvements need to be made all round ;P

Tue Sep 06 2011 5:21AM Report
theAsna writes:

I'd as well like more believable NPCs / monsters. That doesn't necessarily mean an AI that is outwitting human players. Depending on the "culture" and the background of the NPC / monster you'd meet different behaviour.

A solitary creature wouldn't call reinforcements but try to avoid combat or flee combat if it can't win.

A monster that lives in tribes would only in rare occasions be encoutnered alone. Fighting a small group of such monsters could result in the tribe fighting you if survivors spread the word.

Of course you'd have NPCs / monsters panick in combat situations as well. Feint death, fleeing, etc.

The same applies for wild animals.

One of the most unbelieving elements is the aggro mechanic. In some games, depending on your character's level and the level of the NPC, the NPC might get startled to your presence. No chances to hide or sneak through the shrubbery (unless your class provides such abilities).

On the other hand there is no room for such NPCs / monsters because of the quest system of todays theme park MMOs. The NPCs / monsters have to be plastered all over the place in case there are too many players in the same zone. Quests are pretty easy and boring kill quests and fed-ex quests.

Luckily there are some off line games (e.g. civilisation, capitalism, etc.) where the AI isn't much smarter but replayability is better because each new game will provide a different starting point (due to randomization) and different evolution through a game session. This is despite the game rules being always the same.

Tue Sep 06 2011 12:01PM Report
Yamota writes:

Most PvE centric people dont want unpredictable mobs for the same reason they dont want to do PvP. They want easy mode gaming.

That is why I dont bother with PvE centric MMORPGs. Just dont see the point.

Wed Sep 07 2011 3:53PM Report
ZombieKen writes:

One game that I think has decent mob AI is GuildWars.  Without a doubt the coding is intended to look like actual thought on their part.  ZOMG, who do I attack?

They run from AOE and I've never seen that anywhere else.  They reevaluate targets on a regular basis.  I have to chuckle when I see one out chasing down an NPC henchmen.  And the henchmen do pretty well on their own.  They will run if being attacked, plant themselves for an attack and if the mob catches them, then off they go running again.  Their run pattern seems to be based on running away from the attacker but not leaving a certain radius of the battle.

One of the reasons I believe this can be done effectively is because that combat is always group vs group.  In one on one combat, there's no freedom to have AI jumping targets because it only has one.

Even so, an advanced system in one on one combat could try to back-side its opponent, strafe back and forth, dash off forcing the character to chase it down, or try to flee trying avoiding losing a fight.  Another would be switching back and forth between ranged and melee combat.

Thu Sep 08 2011 2:32AM Report
eugam writes:

Vanguard had mobs running away, recover healt and comming back. Often bringing friends. It was annoying. They had AI but no strategic challange.

I doubt more AI would make fights better. In oldschool games the mind challange was to find a safe spot to fight and to watch and understand the roamers and respawns. A tough mob with lots of HP and the danger of a roamer or respawn required some thinking. Pulls have been more difficult. Nowadays all is really static, Instanced and without respawns. No more tacktics needed when crawling a dungeon. It was a matter of  the dungeons design, not of the mobs AI.

 

Ryzom has awesome AI. But the AI was not there to be beaten but to avoid the mobs.  Some Kitin packs are to strong to beat them (unless you zerg them) and the challange was to avoid them.

Seems to me we dont need AI, but mastercrafted cardboard-style layouts for zones and dungeons.

 

Thu Sep 08 2011 5:15AM Report
fansede writes:

The answer can be found and I still feel it can be done. Player run Bosses.  Several ways this can eb implemented. 

Fri Sep 30 2011 9:56AM Report
VirusDancer writes:

The average player does not want better AI.  We've been discussing the "monster farm" status of games for years now.

Players want scripted encounters revolving around a level/gear check.  They do not want a test of skill nor ability.  Because they might fail such a test.  They're looking for entertainment, casual fun.  That is the direction the genre has gone, because that is the market.

Those that want the challenge tend to get involved in PvP - whether in a MMO or a FPS/RTS/etc.

Wed Oct 05 2011 10:28AM Report
Nlite writes:

I went from powergamer in roguelikes to powergamer in MMORPG's. I got frustrated by the dependence on other players to progress and "the grind"but the social aspect of making friends made up for it.

I found a properly balanced player versus player set up provides the best challenge and this is the next step in my player evolution. But Trion ruined it for me in Rifts by suddenly giving every class near maximal damage reduction (think resilience in wow) this is such a relative nerf fo the only non tank speccable class mage that I voted with my money and left.

Game mobs should not be rocks, they should not block every safe route to another city, they should not attack for no reason and should be a challenge for the "appropriate level" I don't see why if you're 10 levels higher you still need to fight 6 minutes to get through.

Fri Oct 07 2011 2:59AM Report

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