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Posts Tagged ‘Spore’

The Case for Procedural AI

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Ok… this goes in the “Amen, brother!” category. Kris Erickson at PS3Informer.com wrote a column entitled Why Procedural AI is the Next Big Milestone in Gaming. In it, he smacks on the problem of ostensibly large-scale world with very repetitive content. He sums it up with one question:

How can we create realistic open world games where people that we meet in the street repeat more than the same 3 phrases over and over ad infinitum?

Can that be any more accurate?

At the upcoming AI Summit at the Game Developers Conference, I am on a panel “Characters Welcome: Next Steps Towards Human AI” where I hope to bring up this very notion. My observation is that, until we can solve the natural bottleneck of content creation, in-depth AI is going to be hamstrung. It doesn’t matter that we can create 100’s of subtle behaviors and interactions if our characters only have the voice acting and animations for 20.

With the reasonable success at procedural animation for Spore’s creatures, I feel that we may be able to leverage that for human character animation. Many games are already using varieties of automatic animation creation (which, not being my speciality, is completely beyond me). However, we are definitely up against a wall with regard to voice assets. Until we can do realistic generation of speech, we are going to be hurting for a way to accomplish dialog interaction without pre-written lines for voice actors.

Even if we could pull of natural-sounding speech, automatically generating content is a bit of a quandary as well. If you have time to read 200 pages, I’ve started muddling through my colleague Rob Zubek’s PhD thesis, Hierarchical Parallel Markov Models for Interactive Social Agents (pdf). I am only about a quarter of the way through, but I like where he’s going with it. By applying rational reasoning to interactive speech patterns, we are taking a big step forward in being able to process input speech as well as generate responses. Combine that with natural-sounding speech synthesis and our games will take a massive leap forward.

In the mean time, I believe we have to apply procedural concepts wherever necessary to be able to bypass the content generation pipeline such as it exists now. After all, GTA 4 had a $100 million budget and people still thought that the content was limited. Can we, as an industry, even afford to continue down this route?

Interviews with Soren Johnson about Spore

Sunday, July 27th, 2008


If you are a devotee of the Civilization franchise or if you are interested in where the upcoming game Spore is headed, there were recently two interviews with Soren Johnson.

The first was at 1up.com. The second was at Gamasutra. In both, he talks about how his experiences with (and distinct interests in) strategy and simulation AI translated over to the world of Spore.

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