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News & Features Discussion  » [Column] General: Artificial Intelligence?

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  hardicon

Hard Core Member

Joined: 11/23/10
Posts: 359

10/02/13 8:54:14 AM#41

Matt as much as I loved city of heroes and I did love it, five year subscriber here, there are some things that was messed up from the beginning about that game.  This was one of those things.  How in the hell that mechanic made it through internal testing is beyond me to comprehend but the better solution was to make mobs run out of stuff that would hurt them which if I remember correctly you guys did eventually do as well as limit how many targets a tank could hit.  The real question I always wanted to ask is why you guys let Jack Emmert push Enhancement Diversification through right after a huge nerf to all powers.  That nearly killed the game and in my personal opinion was the killing blow that caused the games demise although it did take a long time for the game to bleed out.

 

Anyways how come people cant like trinity yet like smarter mobs.  It is not always as simple as just go after the healer.  I go back to my pen and paper dnd games where the npc mobs was controlled by a human person.  Our dm would always go after the healer even if we blocked off the healer and was beating on those mobs, to me that is just another form of stupid ai and I would tell him so.  My whole argument was if I am sitting here beating this person or mobs face in he is not going to leave me alone to go after someone that is not even doing damage to him.  This to me is where threat mechanics come in to make smarter AI.  If a healer gets too much threat then the mob will target him but as long as he is seen as not a threat then the mob wont but the mob shouldn't and wont just sit there and die to fire just because it is supposed to be attacking that person.  At that point unless someone is making the mob stay there through the use of hold or another control type power then that mob should make an effort to get out of the fire.

  Overkillengine

Novice Member

Joined: 4/29/13
Posts: 3

10/02/13 9:04:34 AM#42

I played as a Fire/Ice Tanker, and the reason I disliked the burn-fear was that it was a rather narrowly selective application of the mob AI getting "smarter", so it came across as half ass and vindictive. If the AI was truly smart, they'd never hug up around and Invulnerability Tanker, nor keep trying to run into a Storm user's Hurricane, nor would they stand in any other location based AE that decreased their chances of winning.

The fair thing barring a global AI upgrade of that kind would be to simply tweak the damage to make burn herding less OP instead of flat trying to invalidate it.

 

Edit: That being said, I did like how ruthless the Gw1 AI was in that it did a simple check of who was close, who was low armor, and who was low hp. So if you tried being a stereotypical frail healer xp leech you got gobsmacked. It was fucking glorious.

  FrinkiacVII

Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

10/02/13 9:42:31 AM#43
Originally posted by hardicon

The real question I always wanted to ask is why you guys let Jack Emmert push Enhancement Diversification through right after a huge nerf to all powers.  That nearly killed the game and in my personal opinion was the killing blow that caused the games demise although it did take a long time for the game to bleed out.

Wow.  The game's been dead for almost a whole year and people are STILL mad about Enhancement Diversification, which happened in like 2004.  I lived through that and I have to say, at the time as after, I didn't think it was a big deal.  It was pretty obvious at the time that people were making a mockery of the enhancement system, a la "I know, I'll put ALL damage SOs in my attacks, I'm a GENIUS."  and for there to be any reason why a person would put anything else in an attack power, they had to do something.   It had gotten ridiculous.  For what it's worth, I thought what they did was fair.   Not even "tough, but fair", just fair.  Whatever they do to tweak a game in any way, it will usually cause people to have to rebuild toons that were optimized for the last wave so as to be re-optimized for the new wave.  So what, deal with it.  It was a minor inconvenience for the sake of better overall game play. It was necessary.  What I find comical is the implication that once one has optimized a toon, they then feel they have the God-given, sacrosanct, etched-in-stone, legally-binding, non-negotiable RIGHT to that build being "teh uber" for the rest of their life, and their children's, and their children's children's.    I would have expected those same people to be just as mad when they rolled out Invention Origin Enhancements.  THAT'S causing one to have to scrap all your builds and start over, but nobody seemed to complain about that.  Why?  Because this time they weren't so much "taking all our toys away", they were making newer, shinier toys that made us want to abandon the old ones.  I guess I understand a certain amount of "how did they not see this coming" but really, companies don't have infinite time to tweak the game before they release it.  I think CoH actually had MORE play-testing than a lot of games today get before release, and if you recall, the Task Forces needed some TLC in the first month or two.  Back in 2004 people might have had higher standards, but nowadays, I don't think anyone expects a game not to have some balance issues in the first year or so.  The fact that there was as much content as they had actually impressed me.   I disagree that ED killed CoH.  Those of us who stayed generally stopped complaining about it in like 2005, and those who still complained about it were complaining about it in CoH chat channels in between "LF TF" requests and costume contests.  Inventions, which were awesome, made it largely moot anyway (and by largely moot I mean that after IOs, nobody was using SOs anymore anyway, so the original complaint about ED was no longer anything anyone cared about anymore).  One thing I found almost funny was that they managed to redo the HamiO's like RIGHT before the shutdown was announced.  It was as if the game HAD to live long enough to see that loophole closed, THEN it could die.

"Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  Torvaldr

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 5670

10/02/13 10:12:40 AM#44

I like more intuitive AI. It's one thing I really liked about Guild Wars - the mobs pretty much played like a simple player rather than a predictable script.

I know the pro-trinity guys hate the shot taken at the end of the article, but it's true. Trinity AI is predictable. It has to be, or the trinity breaks.

And just to point out, you can have clearly defined roles (healer, damage sponge, control, support, etc) and still not have the trinity or have mobs with simple trinity AI. Again, Guild Wars, a non-trinity game, has all those roles and a superior AI for its generation. I'm really hoping EQ:N will have interesting mob behavior.

@Matt Miller(even though it's unlikely to be read by you):

Why did you capitulate to the players demands for the more simplistic AI? Why didn't you stick to your original instinct and have the mobs move out of the fire? It makes sense and even other trinity games I've played (LotRO is the example coming to mind) have made changes so mobs don't stand in pools of roiling death.

You don't have to answer directly, but I hope you will address this in a future column. It's not meant as a pot shot either as I never played CoH. I'm just really curious what leads to that conclusion over the one you wanted? I think your original idea was great.

edit: I did see your post above (if you're MMODesigner). So to clarify, why not make the entire game AI more intelligent rather than go with the simplistic trinity behavior?  Is there really that much of a risk involved with improving it? Is there a real fear that the backlash could be huge (NGE/CU style)? Are MMO players that inflexible? That would seem odd to me in a genre where evolution is foundational.

I think a mind wipe so people could play an mmo like it was their first time again, would be easier to build than a new mmo people here would actually like. - DamonVile

  FrinkiacVII

Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

10/02/13 10:29:45 AM#45
Originally posted by Torvaldr
@Matt Miller(even though it's unlikely to be read by you):

Why did you capitulate to the players demands for the more simplistic AI? Why didn't you stick to your original instinct and have the mobs move out of the fire? It makes sense and even other trinity games I've played (LotRO is the example coming to mind) have made changes so mobs don't stand in pools of roiling death.

You don't have to answer directly, but I hope you will address this in a future column. It's not meant as a pot shot either as I never played CoH. I'm just really curious what leads to that conclusion over the one you wanted? I think your original idea was great.

 

I'm no Positron, but I'll give that question a try anyway.  First, the badguys DID try to get out of AoEs (eventually).  Some/most AoE damage powers got added "and it slows the affected badguys in the area" added to theor effects to compensate though (at least Rain of Fire, my fire blaster's one AoE got that).  Second, if you completely ignore the response of the player base enough times or for too long, or as a general policy, you won't have one for very long, and that means going out of business.  The fine people who made CoH as GREAT as it truly was wanted to keep doing that for a living, and I don't blame them.  Third, simply making the thugs not stand there and burn to death like morons wasn't really enough.  If your Tanker could hold and entire map's aggro indefinitely, it was still unrealistic that all the badguys would be falling all over each other trying to follow him around.  The aggro cap or whatever it was made things more realistic, I thought.  The only real crime in the Taunt + Burn = I win nerf was that Burn, the small, immobile DOT power, was made almost completely useless, at least for Tankers.  A Blaster or Defender could have used it to keep melee mobs at arms length when shooting at them, so as a defensive stand-off kind of deal it would have worked.  But Tankers didn't need or want that, so that Burn power became a thing nobody ever took anymore.  I don't remember if they replaced it altogether later on or not (I never made a Fire Tanker). 

"Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  hardicon

Hard Core Member

Joined: 11/23/10
Posts: 359

10/02/13 1:14:12 PM#46
Frinkiac it wasn't so much of what ED did as in how it was implemented.  It came right after a major nerf and rebalance of powers in which the player base was told no more nerfs after this and then ED was introduced right after effectively nerfing the powers again.  I also thought it was fair although I thought the timing was bad.  This also occurred right around the time a little known game called World of Warcraft was getting released and gaining steam.  Personally I do think this decision cost the game a lot of its players.  It was bad timing even if it was for the betterment of the game, if they would have waited six months to a year for ed or just been honest and said they were still planning on changing the enhancement system I don't think it would have been received so poorly.  Nothing will change it now of course but to me Jack Emmert did everything he could to destroy this game before he left and Paragon studios buying the game is what kept it alive.  I know he was the head of cryptic but one would think someone could have persuaded him to go a different path.  Oh well I have hope now for City of Titans for my superhero mmo but was just wondering why those bad decisions at the time were made, doubt I will ever get a answer for that though.
  Torvaldr

Elite Member

Joined: 6/10/09
Posts: 5670

10/02/13 1:18:46 PM#47
Thanks to both of you for the insight. I'm sure hindsight is 20/20 in this case. Anyway, that does shed more light on it so thanks.

I think a mind wipe so people could play an mmo like it was their first time again, would be easier to build than a new mmo people here would actually like. - DamonVile

  FrinkiacVII

Novice Member

Joined: 1/23/13
Posts: 45

10/02/13 2:05:55 PM#48
I definitely agree that people left in droves when WoW rolled out.  I personally blame WoW fully for that (I mean not everyone was a comic book fanboy who wanted to put on tights and fight crime like me, a lot of them were just DnDers that were more comfortable in a fantasy setting I think) and if the timing of ED was such that it exacerbated an already bad exodus that was waiting in the wings, then it was probably bad planning on their part to do it when they did.  So you've got a point there.  As for Jack Emmert, well, he wanted to make the game he wanted to play, not the game some other people wanted to play.  There are those who want an immersive, party adventure RPG experience, and there are those who want to solo around, frag other people and take their stuff a la first person shooter games.  I don't think it's any secret Emmert was in the former camp, firmly, from day 1.  I can't really blame him, I mean there were already games like Doom and Quake etc for the hardcore competitive PVPers of the world, so why try to please them when it's the other group you claim to be trying to sell to?  CoH began with no PVP of any kind, which some people complained about right away, because presumably they wanted it to be like DiabloII where you could hack your toon, write a few macroes, and gank people at will.  Turns out only ONE customer likes that game, and all his hapless victim noobs just quit out of disgust.  I don't actually think anyone who fit the mold of "RPGer" in Jack EMmert's mind would have complained about the nerfs, because they were done, ostensibly, to rebalance the classes so that no one class sucked or dominated and all had their place at the table so to speak.  That's a laudable goal, even if getting there is sometimes a little frustrating for the players playing blasters and scrappers or what have you.  Even after they fixed the power pools so that you could get Fly at level 4 without taking Hover first, I felt a little dirty.  It was like they were giving away the store just to retain customers.  Eventually nobody cared about getting killed anymore either, because the XP debt was a joke.  I'm not saying I actively ENJOYED having to get to level 14 to take Fly, but it made getting there feel like an accomplishment when you did.  One thing I absolutely disagreed with was that you had to pay rent on your SG base, and not even Influence, but rather Prestige, a brand new currency they invented just for that.   I felt that was just unnecessary.  It was already a HUGE pain in the butt to actually maintain a SG and build a base for it, so adding in the Prestige currency system was just onerous, I felt.

"Well sure, the FrinkiacVII looks impressive - DON'T TOUCH IT - but I predict that within 100 years computers will be TWICE as powerful, ten THOUSAND times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them." -Prof. Frink

  Ender4

Advanced Member

Joined: 5/18/08
Posts: 2056

10/02/13 2:10:24 PM#49

City of Heroes was just a bad game, sorry. The mobs just stood there, the combat was clunky. You could play it for an hour and tell it wasn't going to do well without changes. WoW had nothing at all to do with it.

  kjempff

Hard Core Member

Joined: 10/12/04
Posts: 684

Make worlds not stories

10/02/13 5:05:11 PM#50

To say trinity = simple AI and nontrinity = advanced AI is where You loose me. That is not a question of trinity at all. Even the simplified trinity of today is much more advanced than what You describe, and old "trinity" models in for example EQ were much more complex, although still mostly based on aggro numbers, was also calculated on distance, faction, burst threat (afaik) and other factors. What I am saying is trinity is just roles to play, and is not clashing with the making of intelligent AI, in fact several games based on trinity has intelligent AI such as an enemy switching to ranged to attack a caster. Also the attempts at non-trinity so far, has not more intelligent AI than Your trinity combat, not any I have seen anyways :)

 

But I do get the point, and an excellent example with the fire-patch kiters. I wonder if it would be possible to combine the need for expected behavior from some or the need for interesting behavior from others, or it is a matter of serving the right AI for the right customers. Personally I would like to see more games that focuses more on one type of players, instead of trying to please everyone. Niche is what we need, and I think it is possible, because when You go niche You also simplify all the game concepts and hence development cost (totally a theory that I cant back up in any way haha).

Cheers.

 

  waynejr2

Elite Member

Joined: 4/12/11
Posts: 3732

RIP City of Heroes!

10/02/13 5:21:52 PM#51

I can understand where the firetankers are coming from.  It is like giving them a bunch of powers then making the enemy immune to them and doing so after they have invested time into that characters.  ::warning:: For those read that literally and are about to complain about it, pull your head out of your butt before replying.

IMO, it is bad dev work.  Not making needed changes for the good of the game but not creating the proper thing during the design phase and also not catching it during testing.  Smoke was broken and should never have been in beta in the state it entered release in.  It is often too simple for devs to adopt the we can fix it later rather than doing it right mindset.  Poor planning leads to poor results.

You have to remember, it is easier to give than take away. 

  User Deleted
10/02/13 5:22:18 PM#52
Id rather just fight real players. In the days of paper and pen, everyone was real.
  mrputts

Advanced Member

Joined: 2/23/05
Posts: 174

10/02/13 11:25:08 PM#53

While I am not Die hard Holy trinity I want Clearly Defined roles. Everyone heals them self is bullshit. 

 

If Aggro goes wild, and healers are being targeted cool. As long as there are systems in place to allow the healer escapes FFXIV Conjurer's fluid aura comes to mind (it is a close range attack with pushback and an Immobilizing effect) Or other classes that have stuns, slows, Friendly Teleports or the like so healers have a chance to GTFO and don't just get targeted and killed everytime from smarter enemies.

 

Ea is like a poo fingered midas ~ShakyMo

  Overkillengine

Novice Member

Joined: 4/29/13
Posts: 3

10/03/13 2:53:30 AM#54
Originally posted by FrinkiacVII
Originally posted by hardicon

The real question I always wanted to ask is why you guys let Jack Emmert push Enhancement Diversification through right after a huge nerf to all powers.  That nearly killed the game and in my personal opinion was the killing blow that caused the games demise although it did take a long time for the game to bleed out.

Wow.  The game's been dead for almost a whole year and people are STILL mad about Enhancement Diversification, which happened in like 2004.  I lived through that and I have to say, at the time as after, I didn't think it was a big deal.  It was pretty obvious at the time that people were making a mockery of the enhancement system, a la "I know, I'll put ALL damage SOs in my attacks, I'm a GENIUS."  and for there to be any reason why a person would put anything else in an attack power, they had to do something.   It had gotten ridiculous.  For what it's worth, I thought what they did was fair.   Not even "tough, but fair", just fair.  Whatever they do to tweak a game in any way, it will usually cause people to have to rebuild toons that were optimized for the last wave so as to be re-optimized for the new wave.  So what, deal with it.  It was a minor inconvenience for the sake of better overall game play. It was necessary.  What I find comical is the implication that once one has optimized a toon, they then feel they have the God-given, sacrosanct, etched-in-stone, legally-binding, non-negotiable RIGHT to that build being "teh uber" for the rest of their life, and their children's, and their children's children's.    I would have expected those same people to be just as mad when they rolled out Invention Origin Enhancements.  THAT'S causing one to have to scrap all your builds and start over, but nobody seemed to complain about that.  Why?  Because this time they weren't so much "taking all our toys away", they were making newer, shinier toys that made us want to abandon the old ones.  I guess I understand a certain amount of "how did they not see this coming" but really, companies don't have infinite time to tweak the game before they release it.  I think CoH actually had MORE play-testing than a lot of games today get before release, and if you recall, the Task Forces needed some TLC in the first month or two.  Back in 2004 people might have had higher standards, but nowadays, I don't think anyone expects a game not to have some balance issues in the first year or so.  The fact that there was as much content as they had actually impressed me.   I disagree that ED killed CoH.  Those of us who stayed generally stopped complaining about it in like 2005, and those who still complained about it were complaining about it in CoH chat channels in between "LF TF" requests and costume contests.  Inventions, which were awesome, made it largely moot anyway (and by largely moot I mean that after IOs, nobody was using SOs anymore anyway, so the original complaint about ED was no longer anything anyone cared about anymore).  One thing I found almost funny was that they managed to redo the HamiO's like RIGHT before the shutdown was announced.  It was as if the game HAD to live long enough to see that loophole closed, THEN it could die.

ED was in 2005, right after a series of justifiably needed defense set nerfs to make pvp balance even remotely achievable in preparation for the CoV release, and right after Emmert had basically said that there were no more major nerfs incoming for those sets.

So right off the bat it was a double whammy exponential reduction in effectiveness, and heavens help you if you had a set like FA or SR where you generally only had one type on enhancement that was useful to slot in a power. Can't diversify a monofocused power set! Defenders and Controllers were overall the least affected since a lot of their powers had diverse valid slotting options to begin with. Some sets still had lingering issues left over from that even on the final day.

So add that in with how disingenuous the Dev statements came across PLUS how unforgivably long the period between ED and IO's was (a fucking year and a half!) , and you of course have people remembering that with more than a little bitterness. It took years for the Dev team to earn back even a modicum of trust in what they said after Emmert's shenanigans.

  SkogSon

Novice Member

Joined: 9/10/13
Posts: 58

Free to live, Free to play!

10/03/13 4:36:37 AM#55
They made some very interesting leaps forward with the new hitman game. Individual artificial inteligence for npcs with learning and a situational awereness. Pretty darn cool if you ask me!

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  TwiPhoenix

Aion Correspondent

Joined: 8/07/09
Posts: 19

10/03/13 11:58:00 AM#56

I definitely prefer smarter enemies, to an extent.  If the A.I. forces you to think and approach each battle with caution (so long as you aren't overleveled/geared to trivialize the encounter), then that's good.  But if the A.I. is smart enough to the point of frustration, that's bad.

 

For example, in CoX some enemies would realize that they were "being griefed" and would respond by running away.  This would have been fine if they stopped when they realized it was over, but they'd continue to run away for a freaking long time and could sometimes get as far as from one side of a mission map to the other.  They'd also run from other situations too, but I don't remember all the exact triggers.

 

Or a non-CoX example, Borderlands 2.  The enemy is fairly intelligent and it's fun.   But at some points they're too smart.  Specifically, they'll go, take cover, and hide from you if they get you to "Fight for your life" so you can't kill one to get a second wind.  In multi, this might not be such a problem because your friend can just pick you up.  But this gets frustrating in single player when they all suddenly hide and you literally can't do anything but die.  It turns an otherwise fun mechanic into a PITA.

 

An example a good "smart" enemy is in a game called Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup.  In older versions, you could lure ranged enemies into melee by just ducking around a corner.  Now they'll try to position themselves so that they can see around that corner while keeping as much distance away from you as possible.  It makes them much trickier to lure into close combat, but it's still doable with some thought and makes for more interesting situations.  Meanwhile, the devs there mentioned they thought about having those same enemies kite the player, but didn't include it because it'd be too frustrating and, consequently, unfun.

 
  samuel130

Apprentice Member

Joined: 10/28/08
Posts: 14

10/08/13 7:25:00 AM#57
thank you mr. miller for backing city of titans, with you in the lights of missing worlds media , this project will get off and running. ohh by the way sorry for posting this here. it's the only way i can personally thank you.
  SkogSon

Novice Member

Joined: 9/10/13
Posts: 58

Free to live, Free to play!

11/05/13 6:07:09 AM#58
What do you figure about diablo 3 ai? I perceive it as quite good but it might have me fooled with it being rather like the dynamics of verry different attack patterns making them varied as a group.

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  Wanders

Novice Member

Joined: 11/13/13
Posts: 1

11/13/13 9:52:34 PM#59
Give me an AI slider. Sometimes I am in the mood for smart, and other times I want herdable.
  LaughingAlex

Apprentice Member

Joined: 12/24/12
Posts: 2

5/10/14 9:13:59 PM#60

I am for smarter AI that doesn't fall for the trinity myself.  See the way I see it, predictable AI that is easy to control that falls for the trinity, and also the trinity itself,  contribute to the repetitiveness of MMORPGs and why many who hate mmorpgs stay away from them.  They see that they are repetitive, though why they are may not be readily apparent, the feel becomes repetitive.  When the AI is indeed smart enough to target the healers and ignore the heavily armored tank, then the trinity falls appart.  I'd seen a very amateur team in guild wars try to use a holy trinity setup on a bunch of veteran pvpers.  What ended up happening was the veterans ignored the almost litterally immobile tank, and concentrated on spiking down the healers.

 

They then melted the team who really only deleyed the inevitable fall.  The tank was no threat to the veterans as he had no damage.  Now in pve mmorpg players seem to want that "lets keep them stupid so we can exploit that" mentality, because it's easy for them in reality.  It's like they want the enemy to always fall for the same thing every time.  But see that adds to the repetitiveness.

 

You likened the holy trinity style to a puzzle and funnily enough I agree, but it's the same puzzle over and over again on top of that.  So even puzzle gamers are often not impressed, the ones who are, are those who love to much routine in their games, it's like they wanna relax, not have to think outside the box or come up with a different strategy every time.  Or they just wanna get richer and richer in the game repeating the same thing.

 

Strategy games are often not repetitive, because you end up having to make decisions every time on the spot and come up with a new plan in many maps.

 

Honestly in game design, I say it has to be right off the bat for the AI to be able to think for itself, rather than implemented later as well as making it halfway decent at stopping a trinity team.  It's usually best received then as at that point no one gets the opportunity to be exposed to success on repetitive "tactics".  I saw a similar issue in guild wars in that many hated the AI change to make them react to AoE, but the only reason it was received was because the devs specifically stated to make the AI slightly more like pvp.

 

But that change was also very early in the games life.  And AoE wasn't extremely important like it was in CoX.  So i think that also contributed to that.  But when people can use repetitive "tactics", like the trinity, and are exposed to success with it for to long, they end up closing their minds and also become very apprehensive towards any new ideas.  They even get irritable at any tactic outside of that, as they become spoiled.  I notice even with myself when I play a game where I get away with stupid tactics to much for to long that I get lazy myself and my ability to play other games that require me to expect the unexpected suffers.

 

So the game AI has to be intelligent and something that isn't overly predictable as to target tanks predictably right off the bat.  If it's more prone to target healers rather then tanks, and the gameplay generally discourages the trinity but consequently encourages other tactics, your more then likely to attract players. 

 

But at this point I'd think that it'd be non mmorpg players playing a game that really fully broke the trinity with smart AI and flocking to it should it have advertising.  Because I get a bad feeling that many mmorpg players of today had gotten themselves spoiled because they were successful with the trinity for a long, long time.  And they don't even have any concept of an AI that dodges anything for it or even understand the concept of unpredictability or non repetitive play.  They just have played anything outside that for to long, and are trapped in a bubble that will be extremely hard to burst.

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