I will be speaking at the 2009 Austin GDC, September 15-18. Rather than the broad-based coverage of the GDC, the Austin GDC is more tailored to online games. In that vein, I will be doing a 1-hour lecture entitled “Cover Me!: Promoting MMO Player Interaction through Advanced AI“.
Back on April 5th, Alex Champandard of AIGameDev interviewed me for about 90 minutes for the Members portion of his site. Our topic was how to use behavioral mathematics (such as I cover in my book) to improve the bots in Left 4 Dead. We cover a lot of interesting information in the interview. Some of the examples refer to things I covered in my Post-Play’em columns on the AI in the game.
He has it posted in audio and video formats (although with me rocking back and forth in my office chair, I look like I’m autistic!). I seriously advise that you check it out. (You will need to have access to the members area to view it.) If you are already a member of AIGameDev, you can find the interview here:
As the week of GDC rolls out, I will be posting observations both here and on this page. Additionally, any files or pictures related to the AI Summit, will appear on this page. It’s going to be a hectic week so I might not get stuff up daily. Be patient with me.
For those of you looking to find the stuff from last year, you can find it here.
Today I was invited to begin writing as an “Expert Blogger” for Gamasutra, the game industry’s #1 news and information source. This is apparently something they have started recently. There are “member blogs” and “expert ones”. It seems like anyone can start a member blog on the site, but the “expert” ones are invite only. Anyway, I’m in some good company. Some of the other experts that are blogging there include Mark DeLoura, Brenda Brathwaite, and Noah Falstein. Not bad company!
Anyway, I was encouraged to cross-post some of my material from IA on AI and Post-Play’em so if you follow those, you will see some duplication at times.
Anyway, mosey on over to my new blog at Gamasutra. I’m very honored to be included in that family.
Well, I guess my book has finally arrived on Amazon’s loading dock. They have managed to scan it so that it shows the “look inside” logo and stuff. So those of you who would like to peruse the table of contents, the index and the first 5 or 6 pages may do so. Of course, if you really want to have some fun, you can do the whole “surprise me” bit. Keep at it long enough and you could read the entire book… although it might not make quite as much sense all jumbled up like that!
I also like that you can now see the cover art much better. (I did the cover artwork myself.) Incidentally, the faces on the blocks are, from left to right, Blaise Pascal, John von Neumann, and Jeremy Bentham… all of whom are referenced in the book. A big thanks goes out to my colleague, Richard Evans, for his review blurb that appears on the front cover as well. On the back cover is a blurb by Alex Champandard of AIGameDev.com who was nice enough to provide a review as well.
All in all, I’m quite pleased with how the sales have been going. I’ve been averaging anywhere between 5th and 15th on the “Hot New Releases of Game Programming” list and have actually been in the top 5 a few times in the past 6 weeks. I’ve also made it as high as #2 in game programming books overall — although most of the time I’m in the middle of that very large pack. (e.g. 34th right now)
I’m looking forward to meeting many of you at the Charles River Media booth at GDC next week. (Remember, I charge 25 cents for autographs!)
Alex Champandard over at AIGameDev.com posted a preview of my book last night. He had been waiting for Amazon to get the cover displayed before he did so. Well, AIGameDev has about 3600+ subscribers so it is understandable that a write-up would affect my Amazon sales rank. However, I was not expecting this when I woke up this morning!
As of this hour (9:30AM CST), I jumped up to 16,384 in the overall books category. When you figure that my previous high was 74,604 (after Alex posted a small blurb in his weekly link digest) and that most of my time is spent between 200,000 and 600,000, being around 16k doesn’t suck at all!
More importantly, I jumped up to #14 in Game Programming. I had only appeared on that list (100 books) 4 times in the past 2 weeks, no higher than 57th, and usually only for a few hours. Maybe this time I have some staying power.
I am also #2 in the “Hot New Releases of Game Programming. I had been #3 or 4 a few times, but this is a pretty fluid list. Again, however, it will be nice to see how high this climbs.
I figure the next few days should look pretty good as Alex’s post is only about 12 hours old. And it probably takes a while for 3600 people to get around to their RSS feeds. Either way, I want to thank Alex for his support and the shout-out on the book.
Well, the cover for my book “Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI” is finally uploaded to Amazon (and I assume other retailers as well). It was odd having that mysterious question mark there for so long. But I suppose when the book is on sale before you have even finished writing it, that’s the price you pay. Anyway, it’s nice to have it show up properly on the page, the best-sellers lists, and the Amazon ads.
Speaking of rankings lists, I have been floating anywhere between 3 and 20 on the “Hot new releases in ‘Game Programming’” list. I’ve even made a few appearances on the top 100 Game Programming books in the past few weeks. Once, I was as high as 57. It doesn’t last long, however. They update those sales figures and rankings every hour so it is very susceptible to fluctuation. I figure that I will do a little better now that I have a pretty cover picture on the sites. (I guess people would be skeptical of a book with no cover.)
For those of you who bounce out to the site, the book description and the bio are still not updated exactly as they are supposed to be. From what I understand, they will changed in the next week or so. They have been pushed out the Amazon, but it takes a while for those sorts of changes to updated. *shrug*
I do want to give a shout out to my colleague, Brian Schwab, who just released his second edition to AI Game Engine Programming in the past few months. I’m looking forward to picking that up soon. He deserves props for being the only new AI book ahead of me (for now!).
Anyway, I need to finish getting the downloads section ready for the book. There will be all sorts of nifty stuff in there. I hope you all find it valuable!
Some of you have asked me questions about my new book, “Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI.” The information that is on amazon and other retailers is not up to date. For one, there is no cover picture. There’s a good reason for that. The cover is still being laid out and will be uploaded to the resellers soon. In the mean time, here’s the cover art that I developed (click for a nicely detailed larger version).
The description text that you see on the resellers’ sites is based on what I originally submitted to my publisher when I began the writing process. Things have changed a little bit since then. The following is likely what we are putting on the back of the book and will eventually be updated on Amazon, etc.
Human behavior is never an exact science. As a result, the design and programming of artificial intelligence that seeks to replicate human behavior is already an uphill battle. Usually, the answers can not be found in sterile algorithms that are often the focus of artificial intelligence programming. However, by analyzing why people humans (and other sentient beings) behave the way we do, we can break the process down into increasingly smaller components. We can model many of those individual components in the language of logic and mathematics and then reassemble them into larger, more involved decision-making processes.
Drawing from classical game theory, this book covers both the psychological underpinnings of human decisions and the mathematical modeling techniques that AI designers and programmers can use to replicate them. With examples from both “real life” and game situations, the author explores topics such as the fallacy of “rational behavior,” utility, and the inconsistencies and contradictions that human behavior often exhibits. Readers are shown various ways of using statistics, formulas, and algorithms to create believable simulations and to model these dynamic, realistic, and interesting behaviors in video games.
Additionally, the book introduces a number of tools that the reader can use in conjunction with standard AI algorithms to make it easier to utilize the mathematical models. Lastly, the programming examples and mathematical models shown in the book are downloadable, allowing the reader to explore the possibilities in their own creations.
If you have any other questions about the book, feel free to ask! (And yes, it should be available at the Charles River Media booth at the Game Developers Conference next month. I’ll be there quite a bit… flag me down!)
For those of you that have been wondering why this blog has been a little quiet in the past 6 months or why I haven’t progressed on Airline Traffic Manager, I present to you my excuse…
My new book, Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI, is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com (and dozens of other resellers). Some of the details on the site are incorrect since the book is being finished up. As my publisher (Charles River Media/Cengage/Course PTR) updates their information (including art for a cover that we haven’t even designed yet), the information at the resellers will be updated as well.
As it is scheduled now, the book will be available in mid-March. Thankfully, that means that it will also be on the shelf in time for GDC. Considering my role in the inaugural AI Summit, that will make for an exciting week for me.
Rather than the typical AI book which deals with the architecture of state machines and pathfinding, for example, I focus on behavioral AI. That is, what goes into a decision and how can we make those decisions more believable?
I begin by covering a lot of classical game and decision theory and explain how we can relate those examples into the video game world. I cover utility theory and marginal utility, how it manifests in the real world and how we can represent it in our AI agents. There’s a healthy dose of technical material as well. There are chapters on constructing mathematical formulas and algorithms to help replicate behavioral patterns. Lastly, I offer solutions to prevent some of the problems that hamstring our AI agents. Throughout all of the book, I tried to make it an easy and even fun read. How often have you read a technical book that would keep you awake chuckling rather than put you to sleep with a headache? After all, we do program games, right?
All in all, it has been an enjoyable project that forced me to re-analyze things that we all often take for granted as AI programmers. I hope that you enjoy it as well.
CMP/Think has posted more of the sessions for the GDC AI Summit that I am part of along witht he AI Game Programmers Guild. You can find the current list of sessions here. Both of my primary sessions are up now as well as my bio for what that’s worth.
Session Description: AI characters can be beautifully modeled and animated, but their behavior rarely matches their life-like appearance. How can we advance the current state of the art, to make our characters seem more believable? What kinds of human behaviors are still missing in our AI, how can we implement them, and what challenges stand in the way? This session will discuss practical approaches to pushing the boundaries of character AI, past successes and ideas for the future, with an experienced panel representing a wide range of perspectives and games.
Session Description: As game characters engage in deeper interactions with the player, subtlety of behavior becomes more important. However, in worlds that feature hundreds of characters, the homogeneous ‘cookie-cutter’ approach of modeling those characters becomes evident, leaving the world feeling repetitive and shallow. Everyone acts the same. Using examples from games such as The Sims 3, we will show how characters can be algorithmically endowed with distinct personality differences so that every one acts as an individual. We will also explore how personality, mood, emotion and other environmental factors enable individual characters to select from a wide array of context-appropriate choices and actions. We conclude with how these behaviors can be expressed through animation selection so as to be more engaging and immersive for the player.
For those of you that are planning on heading to GDC, make sure that you get a pass that allows you to attend the Summits and Tutorials.