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Dave Mark's Book

Post-Play'em - Observations on Game AI

Portal: Sometimes No AI Is Just Fine

As much as I hate to admit it, there are times when no AI is perfectly OK. I finally got around to playing Portal last week. I figured I would find out what all the fuss was about. Like many people, I thought it was very amusing and disturbingly addicting. It held my attention. It challenged me. It made me mad at times. It made me feel triumphant at others. I was captivated by the characters (such as they are). And then it hit me.

The AI in the game was pretty much minimialistic. The computer AI was entirely scripted, of course. (But the commentary was more than entertaining.) About the only true “AI” in the game sense was the cute little turrets… and even those had about as much AI as could be found 15 to 20 years ago: an obvious state machine (idle, scan, fire, scan, idle), and some ray casting. And yet the cute little buggers were a perfect match for the game in which they were placed. (A first-person version of Peggle? *shrug*)

And that is my observation of the AI of Portal. Almost non-existant… yet perfectly matched to the game. Anything more would have been distracting away from the main charm of the title.

Well done, folks.


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