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Fleshing out a character in Team Fortress 2

This isn’t necessarily directly AI-related… but when I read it, I thought about how appropriate the process is towards making design decisions about AI characters. On the Team Fortress 2 blog, they have posted about the process they are going through in the creation of a class pack for the Heavy. In it, they list some of the considerations that the team makes in determining what should go in and what should stay out. Here are some examples:

Goal: Make the Heavy more viable when he has no Medic to pair with.

Constraints:

* It shouldn’t have a cumulative effect when being healed by a Medic as well. Heavy/Medic pairs do pretty well as it is.

* It shouldn’t significantly change the Heavy’s role, relative to other classes. In particular, it shouldn’t significantly encroach on another class’s role.

[snip…]

Extra:

[snip…]

* Is it an interesting tool to choose relative to the base Heavy weapon it’s replacing? What scenarios can you envision in which each is useful? What arguments can you raise for why each is better than the other?

* How often does the Heavy need to think about it? Is it something he uses once every 5 minutes, or is it something he needs to be constantly thinking about? A greater impact on player decision making is generally a good thing.

[snip…]

Finally, keep in mind the skillset required to be a good Heavy. He doesn’t really rely on fine aim, since his minigun has such a wide spread, instead relying on more tactical skills, like these:

Being in the right place before he starts firing, because he has little ability to move while firing.

* Good anticipation of enemy behavior, for both the above point and because his minigun needs to be spun up before firing.

* The ability to estimate the amount of damage he’s taking. It takes time for the minigun to spin down, so he needs to be able to know when it’s time to retreat several seconds before his health has run out.

[snip…]

There are a few that I cut out of there. Go to the link above to see more of it and some description of the whole process.

The reason I find this interesting is that they were very cognizant of taking a holistic approach to the game… and to the game players as well. i.e. who is going to choose to play a Heavy, and why? Can we magnify that? What will it break? Does it step on the toes of other classes?

Anyway, excellent questions and a nice peek at what it takes to be a game designer and developer.

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