Intrinsic Algorithm News

Speaking Engagement at GDC China Cancelled

October 1st, 2014

Due to a confluence of unfortunate circumstances — including business, personal, and family, I have had to withdraw from speaking at GDC China this year. I was looking forward to attending and once again presenting a lecture there in Shanghai.

Thankfully, it looks like my slot may be in good hands as one of my AI colleagues is likely taking my place. I won’t name him because his details haven’t been finalized.

Speaking at GDC China Again

September 2nd, 2014

gdcCN_logoForgot to mention that I will be speaking at GDC China again this year. Because they are a little thin on AI content at GDC China, I proposed that I deliver my “Utility Mega Lecture” — a compilation of a variety of the lectures I’ve given on utility over the past 6 years. Here are the official details:

Creating Dynamic Character Behavior with Utility-Based AI

Traditional AI architectures such as finite state machines and behaviors trees have started to buckle under the weight of this complexity leading to huge workloads for designers and brittle, error-prone behaviors for the characters. The past 5 years has seen the rise of utility-based AI to help address this problem. Once used primarily in titles like The Sims or strategy games, utility methods have worked their way into the AI of other genres such as RPGs and shooters. This lecture explains utility-based AI and shows how to use it to create more expressive, responsive characters.

Included with this lecture is a description of the Infinite Axis Utility System that I debuted at the 2013 GDC AI Summit and have used with 3 different clients. I’m looking forward to presenting in Shanghai again and hope that this material is well-received!

2nd Lecture at East Coast Game Conference

April 17th, 2014

ECGCI’ve been asked to do a 2nd lecture at the East Coast Game Conference in Raleigh, NC next week. I have agreed to do a combination of some of my utility-based AI lectures from recent years. It will be a combination of GDC lectures from 2010, 2012, and 2013 — including an overview of the powerful Infinite Axis Utility System (IAUS) which I have been using on my recent AI consulting contracts. This is in addition to my lecture on Thursday (Day 2) at 10AM on psychology and AI that I mentioned previously.

The official information on the lecture is:

Running the Numbers: Improving Character Behavior with Utility-Based AI

AI in modern games can be an enormously complex problem. The sheer number of actions and behaviors that game characters can exhibit has been increasing rapidly. When combined with the number and complexity of possible situations those characters may find themselves in, it makes for a massive number of criteria to consider. Traditional AI architectures have started to buckle under the weight of this complexity leading to huge workloads for designers and brittle, error-prone behaviors for the characters.

The past 5 years has seen the rise of utility-based AI to help address this problem. Once used primarily in titles like The Sims or strategy games, utility methods have worked their way into the AI of other genres such as RPGs and shooters. This lecture will give an overview of utility methods, how they work, and why they are often better for handling character AI. Additionally, attendees will learn about the Infinite Axis Utility System – a stand-alone AI architecture that leverages the power of utility in a way that makes crafting behaviors quick and intuitive for designers.

The session will be on Wednesday (Day 1) at 11:15 (2nd session slot). I hope to see you there!

Now Consulting at ArenaNet on Guild Wars 2

April 8th, 2014


I’m happy to announce that as of April 7th, I am engaged in a contract with ArenaNet for AI consulting on their banner MMO title, Guild Wars 2.

At this time, I can’t divulge the details of what I am working on with them. Suffice to say they have some excellent ideas about how to improve their product in many different areas. I’m pleased that they have brought me in to assist them in this exciting project.

I’m also excited to be working alongside my friend and colleague, Mike Lewis, who has been the AI developer for ArenaNet for a number of years. Mike was instrumental in bringing me in on this project and, as can be seen in his Twitter feed, is just as excited about where we are going as I am!




I look forward to being able to tell you more of what Mike and I are doing — and especially for players of Guild Wars 2 to see these changes in the game! Stay tuned!

Speaking at East Coast Game Conference

March 30th, 2014

ECGCI have recently accepted an invitation to speak at the East Coast Game Conference in Raleigh, NC. ECGC takes place on the 23rd-24th at the Raleigh Convention Center. I will be speaking on a favorite topic of mine, the psychology of AI. The lecture will be similar to a session I presented at the GDC AI Summit in 2012. The official description is below.

Subconscious Fishhooks: Leveraging the Players’ Own Psychology for Believable Characters

When dealing with game AI characters, psychology can’t help but come into play. Players process what they see and experience through a filter of expectations. We expect human-like game characters to exhibit human-like traits. A by-product of the quest to improve AI decisions, however, is that characters can begin to “feel” robotic and sterile. This session will use examples from film and other media showing how we process information in unexpected ways. The lecture will then show how characters can be imbued with simple “psychological fishhooks” in order to seem more “alive” and believable. Note: This session will be of interest to designers, animators, and writers – not just AI programmers!!

The conference also boasts some very interesting speakers from around the industry, including the legendary Ken Rolston. I’m looking forward to not only being a part of this conference, but attending it as well! Hope to see you there!

Consulting Contract with Storybricks for SOE’s EverQuest Next Ends

February 20th, 2014

As of February 19, 2014, Intrinsic Algorithm is no longer under contract with Storybricks to assist them with their work on Sony Online Entertainment’s, EverQuest Next. From the beginning, the EverQuest Next project was Storybricks’ contract with SOE with Intrinsic Algorithm as a sub-contractor. It is that sub-contracting relationship that has terminated.

We are honored that we were asked to participate in the AI architecture design and be able to assist both companies in their ambitious project. We wish the both the Storybricks team and the EverQuest Next team at SOE well with their continued efforts.

(Please understand that Intrinsic Algorithm is still under NDA and, therefore, cannot answer any questions about the project or details of the contract relationship.)

Speaking at GDC China

August 19th, 2013


A few months ago, I was approached by the organizers of GDC China to speak at their conference in September in Shanghai. They have asked me to re-give my well-received lecture from last October’s GDC Online in Austin, “Psychology vs. Structure, the Power of Numbers in Game Design“. I am honored that they asked me to join them (and that they are paying for a good chunk of the travel).

From the site description of the lecture:

Numbers, visible or not, are often at the core of game design. They are the expression of the designer’s vision of “how the world works.” There are considerations that go beyond simply balancing an equation, however. Through the selection of numbers such as scores, abilities, damage ranges, and even prices, we are often crafting what a player perceives, believes, and even feels. Through extensive use of (often amusing) examples, this lecture will demonstrate what our numbers may be conveying and explore ways that we can leverage the psychology of numbers to build more engaging games.

I will be bringing my wife/VP/CEO Laurie Reynolds along on the trip — it promises to be a grand adventure! Hope to see you there!

Working with Storybricks on the AI for EverQuest Next!

August 19th, 2013

eqn-logoA few months ago, I posted an article (AI Consulting Contract with @Storybricks on AAA MMO) that was a little vague. Yes, I had started on a long-term contract working with Storybricks on a contract for a 3rd party, but I couldn’t divulge who at the time. The secrete was not all that well kept over that time, but I couldn’t officially say who I was working for and what I was working on until only a few weeks ago.

So, I can now say that, for the past 4 months — and likely for quite some time into the future, I will be working as part of a Storybricks-staffed team doing the AI for Sony Online Entertainment’s new MMO, EverQuest Next. It is what SOE is calling “the biggest sandbox MMO ever developed.” And if you watch the videos below, you can see why they say that!

Storybricks Logo

This is an enormously exciting project to be working on due largely to the sheer scope of what they want to do… especially with AI.  Some of these ideas were coincidentally things that I spoke about in my 2009 GDC Austin lecture on AI in MMOs. Others are ideas that I have talked about in my other, non-MMO-based lectures at GDC and elsewhere — but are relevant nonetheless from an AI standpoint.

The most exciting thing, however, is some of the new and different features they want to do are things I have wanted to see in games ever since I started in MMOs back in September of 1997 with Ultima Online. In short, this project is largely a dream come true for me as an AI developer and a player!

Over the past few months, I have enjoyed immensely working alongside Stéphane Bura, Brian “Psychochild” Green, Ben Sizer and others from Storybricks as well as the entire EQNext team at SOE. The game industry is a talented, creative one in general… it has to be. But the energy in that room about this project is on a different level. I have found it truly inspiring!

For more information on EverQuest Next, here are some videos of the “reveal” from SOE Live in Las Vegas on August 2nd.


Part 1

Part 2


Anyway, I’ll be talking more about it as I can — somewhat of a staple comment in our industry. And believe me, when you see what we are doing, you will understand why I am brimming with excitement over this game!

AI Consulting Contract with @Storybricks on AAA MMO

April 23rd, 2013

[This post has been edited due to a request from the client. – Dave]

After many months of waiting to begin, I can officially announce that I am starting on a major consulting contract with Storybricks. Together with some of the staff from the London-based company, I will be working on a long contract developing and integrating Storybricks’ proprietary designs and technology (as well as my own original AI work) into a AAA MMO project.

I am excited to be working directly with Storybricks’ designers Stéphane Bura and Brian “Psychochild” Green. When I was approached by Storybricks CEO, Rodolfo Rossini in late 2010, I was intrigued by what he was setting out to do with his new company (then known as Namaste). Neither one of us thought that it would take this long for us to begin working together in a long-term capacity. Over that time, I have seen the direction that Storybricks has taken with their core product — an AI- and personality-driven model for dynamic, modular game characters — and it only served to increase my desire to work with them. The wait was worth it.

The alignment of vision between Intrinsic Algorithm and Storybricks on this project (and potentially more) is fairly obvious. To quote from the Storybricks site (currently somewhat bare due to non-disclosure restrictions):

We believe that while graphics, gameplay and interface have evolved in gaming, Artificial Intelligence has lagged behind. Our goal is to bring changes to Artificial Intelligence in games as significant as 3D graphics were to game aesthetics.

We designed and built an emotional intelligence engine in order to breathe life into virtual characters. They have their own goals, moods, they interact among themselves and take decisions on their own. The story no longer revolves solely around scripted behavior: game worlds can now be rich and complex.

The first paragraph almost mirrors what I have stated as one of the observations and related design goals of Intrinsic Algorithm for many years. The second paragraph parallels what I have been writing and speaking about for 5 years. Suffice to say, we are headed in the same direction and, for the time being, will be sharing the same road.

The new client’s project provides an exciting opportunity to work on a genre and style of game that I have been wanting to work on for over 15 years. It truly is a dream come true for me in many ways. Additionally, while I cannot yet divulge anything about the project, I feel that it has the potential to significantly change the way games are approached from both the development aspect and the end user experience — due in large part to what Storybricks and I will be providing. Thankfully, we have found a company that we did not have to convince to take this direction — they were looking for it from the start and are completely bought in to what we can provide. This opportunity to do something truly groundbreaking is, in and of itself, tremendously exciting.

Right now, I anticipate working on this project for quite some time. While this is likely to be close to full time (and will have me on the road a lot) I will still be available for AI consulting for small projects — providing they don’t violate my non-compete clauses, naturally.

Hopefully, later this year, we will be allowed to divulge more about what our work will entail. At that point, I hope you will be as excited as I am about it!

And yes, for those of you who are curious, there is plenty of utility-based AI in it!

Boston Gameloop Trip

July 31st, 2012

I will be attending Boston Gameloop on August 18th. As is the case with “unconferences”, I don’t know whether I will be speaking — or about what, if I do. I certainly am looking forward to the camaraderie and inspiration from everyone there, though!