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2010 GDC AI Summit – 1st 8 sessions

The first 8 (of 12) sessions for the AI Summit at GDC 2010 have been posted on the GDC site.

Here are the highlights:
Speaker: Steve Rabin (Principal Software Engineer, Nintendo of America), Kevin Dill (Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin), Brian Schwab (Senior AI/Gameplay Engineer, Blizzard Entertainment)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Lecture

Session Description
AI programmers rarely use a pure architecture such as a State Machine, Planner, or Behavior Tree in isolation. Rather, several symbiotic architectures are mashed together, resulting in an overall architecture that is unique and powerful in its own way. This lecture is designed as a series of three mini-lectures where you will hear about several mashed up AI architectures along with intriguing lessons and insights.

Idea Takeaway
Insight into the pros, cons, and subtleties of combining various AI architectures.



Behavior Trees: Three Ways of Cultivating Strong AI
Speaker: David Hernandez Cerpa (LucasArts), Radu Septimiu Cristea (Writer & Contributing Editor, AiGameDev.com), Michael Dawe (Programmer, Big Huge Games)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Lecture

Session Description
Over the last few years, various forms of behavior trees (BTs) have become the standard in industry. Since flexibility and customization are arguably the main strengths of BTs, they can be implemented in many ways. This set of short presentations will show how other developers are using them in practice. The presenters will show what developers can do to make behavior trees more designer friendly and easier to interact with via script. The session also shows implementation techniques to help keep AI code decoupled from the game logic and improve performance.

Idea Takeaway
This session will explain different ways programmers can leverage BTs in their games. The attendee will see how various styles of behavior trees are used in practice to address many different problems.



Deciding on an AI Architecture: Which Tool for the Job?
Speaker: Charles Rich (Professor, Worcester Polytechnic Institute), Steve Rabin (Principal Software Engineer, Nintendo of America), Alex Champandard (Writer & Contributing Editor, AiGameDev.com), Michael Dawe(Programmer, Big Huge Games), Dave Mark (President and Lead Designer, Intrinsic Algorithm)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Panel

Session Description
Often one of the most important issues an AI programmer needs to address is the decision of which architecture to use. This choice lays the foundation for the rest of the project both enabling and limiting choices down the road. With myriad (and even conflicting) pro and con arguments for all the major AI architectures, it can be difficult to determine which one is right for a given project. This panel approaches this issue from a unique perspective. With one person acting as an advocate for each of the popular AI architectures, the panel will be presented with hypothetical game examples and asked to explain why their method is the right tool for the job and why others are not.

Idea Takeaway
While this session is likely to get playfully adversarial, the attendee will be given not only a better understanding of the pros and cons of each of the types, but witness some of the thought processes that must occur when deciding on an AI architecture.



Experimental Game AI: Live Demos of Innovation
Speaker: Richard Evans (Lead Simulation Engineer, Maxis), Ian Holmes(Assistant Professor, University of California, Berkeley), Adam Russell (Games Studio Manager and Lecturer, University of Derby), Michael Mateas (Associate Professor, University of California, Santa Cruz), Steve Rabin (Principal Software Engineer, Nintendo of America)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Lecture

Session Description
Typically, the ‘next big thing’ in AI comes from tireless research and experimentation. This session will feature many interesting and experimental working game AI prototypes from both industry and academia, all demoed live on stage. This promises to be a very inspirational and thought-provoking session with many presenters on-hand to show their creations and innovations.

Idea Takeaway
Attendees will see a variety of new and different experiments and perhaps the ‘next big thing’ in AI. Prepare to be inspired to push the boundaries of traditional game AI!



Improving AI Decision Modeling Through Utility Theory
Speaker: Kevin Dill (Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin), Dave Mark (President and Lead Designer, Intrinsic Algorithm)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Lecture

Session Description
The ‘if/then’ statement has been the workhorse of decision modeling longer than digital computing. Unfortunately, the harsh transition from yes to no often expresses itself through behavior in ways that are just as harsh. Utility theory has roots in areas such as psychology, economics, sociology, and classical game theory. By applying the science of utility theory with algorithmic techniques such as response curves, population distributions, and weighted randoms, we can improve the modeling of the underlying brain of our agents, broaden the potential decision space, and even manage edge cases that other decision systems stumble over.

Idea Takeaway
This lecture explains the underpinnings of utility theory, and shows concrete examples of how to leverage it using the power of other algorithmic techniques regardless of the overall structure being used for the agent AI.



Little Big AI: Rich Behavior on a Small Budget
Speaker: Phil Carlisle (AI Programmer/Senior Lecturer, MindFlock Ltd./University of Bolton), John Walker (Senior Development Engineer, Applied Signal Technology), Robert Zubek (Senior Software Engineer, Zynga)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Lecture

Session Description
Small games have small budgets and short, iterative release cycles. But they still need great AI, only cut to size. This session presents first-hand experiences with successfully creating AI for a variety of those kinds of games. We will address the limitations faced by small budgets and present some useful tips from the trenches that will allow you to maximize the bang for your AI buck.

Idea Takeaway
This session will show you how to deliver a working AI within a tight deadline using minimal manpower. It will also show you examples of simple approaches that actually add value to the game. Finally it will demonstrate that it is possible to start small and improve over time.



Microtalks – AI Devs Rant!
Speaker: Borut Pfeifer (Freelance Game Programmer/Designer, Plush Apocalypse Productions), Dave Mark (President and Lead Designer, Intrinsic Algorithm), Adam Russell (Games Studio Manager and Lecturer, University of Derby), Kevin Dill (Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin), Steve Rabin (Principal Software Engineer, Nintendo of America), John Funge (Head of Game Platforms, Netflix)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Lecture

Session Description
Sometimes things just need to be said. Saying them out loud in a room filled with (hopefully) like-minded people just makes it all the more interesting and cathartic. Seven AI developers from all corners of the industry will deliver quick, to-the-point rants about what’s on their mind. Topics include AI design and programming, working with other portions of the dev team, working with academia, the perception of game AI by the public, scripting languages, and even those scary floating point numbers! Whoever said AI programmers only sit with their heads down over their keyboards?

Idea Takeaway
Find out what’s on the minds of AI developers in a fast-paced, fun, yet hopefully not controversy-rife session!



Why So Wary of AI Middleware?
Speaker: Steve Gargolinski (AI Lead, Blue Fang Games), Chris Jurney (Senior Programmer, Double Fine Productions), Brett Laming (Lead Programmer, Rockstar Leeds), Borut Pfeifer (Freelance Game Programmer/Designer, Plush Apocalypse Productions), John Funge (Head of Game Platforms, Netflix)
Date/Time: TBD
Experience Level: Intermediate
Summit: AI Summit
Format: 60-minute Panel

Session Description
In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of available AI middleware products designed to streamline common development techniques. Their reception by the industry has been spotty, however. While there are some success stories and some tales of horror, many studios and individual developers still eye AI middleware with a mixture of curiosity and suspicion. This four-person panel, comprised of people whose experiences and opinions are spread across the spectrum from pro to con, will share their rationale for why existing middleware is good or bad and what changes future products could make to become more appealing to developers.

Idea Takeaway
The attendee will hear real stories of how the use of AI middleware has hurt or helped development projects.

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