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Fickle AI Reviewers

Like many bloggers, I have some Google Alerts set up so that I get daily mailings about relevant topics. While it is sometimes frustrating to have to wade through articles and other blog posts about basketball player Alan Iverson (AI) and his “games” (= “game AI”), it is also very helpful to see a daily stream of what people are saying around the interweb thingy.

The fun starts when I see a series of articles come through over the course of a couple of days about the same game. Even just from reading the brief Google-like blurb attached to each entry, I can see trends. Sometimes, there is a string of similar gripes or a parade of praises. However, there are times when I see some of each. It’s times like that where I wonder what people are really looking for in game AI… and if we will ever be able to satisfy everyone.

There’s an example going around in the form of “Dark Sector”. Here’s some samples.

Gamercenteronline.net

Lets face it people, the game does have some crummy AI and it doesn’t take long to see that, for example if you are in the middle of battle and you need to
heal and you run alway the AI just stops and stands there. And if you didn’t know it’s not surrpost to do that.

The Sixth Axis

AI is a hot potato these days, especially with the power that the PS3 can wield. Dark Sector’s AI is set to offer evolving enemy tactics, because they’ll be able to communicate amongst themselves, and therefore offer realistic repsonses to player actions.

Total Video Games

It also doesn’t help that enemy AI is also weak, with some soldiers standing guard as their comrade’s blast away at Tenno, whilst others seemingly have a sixth sense with where our infected hero is. The inextricable ability to shoot through walls also doesn’t help matters, and only serves to strength our belief that Digital Extremes could have done with an extra couple of months to polish up the Dark Sector experience.

Gamespot

There are several boss battles in Dark Sector, and all of them are very different. Variety comes courtesy not only of bosses that differ wildly in shape and size, but also of the weapons and abilities that you’ll need to defeat them. None of the bosses are overly challenging if you take your time with them because, with only a few exceptions, their attacks just aren’t powerful enough to kill you with a single blow. They’ll hurt you, and the borders of the screen will flash red to let you know that you’re injured, but Hayden regains health so quickly that getting into cover briefly or even simply performing a few evasive rolls is generally all you need to do to get back to full strength. That’s not to say that all of the boss battles are easy, though, because they’re not. It’s just that often the tricky part is figuring out how to beat them rather than actually doing it.

G4 TV / Xplay

[Reason for 2 stars out of 5] Terrible Enemy AI

Gaming Age

Challenging AI – Players will employ special tactics while encountering new and different enemy combat tactics as the evolving AI communicate amongst themselves, take cover and offer realistic responses to player actions.

Get the point yet? Of course, the interesting thing is that the “good” comments read more like propoganda from the marketing department. Oh well. It’s easy to see why AI programmers have such a difficult time. We have no idea what our users will think “good AI” is. (See my column at AIGameDev on “Good vs. Fun AI“)

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