IA on AI

Posts Tagged ‘GDC 2009’

2009 GDC AI Roundtable Audio

Sunday, April 12th, 2009

I have just posted the audio from the GDC AI roundtables on my GDC 2009 page. You can either stream it from the plug-in or you can download it to your own machine.

Lost Contacts

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

I lost my email and contacts file in a virus escapade right after GDC. If I am supposed to have your email address, please tag me so I can re-add you.

Additionally, if you attended the AI Summit at GDC and I didn’t get a chance to meet you, feel free to introduce yourself. You can find my contact information here.

Thank you.

Post-GDC Ramblings

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Well, I’m back and somewhat recovered from GDC. (It always helps to have a day of downtime built into the end of the week.)

From the comments that I and the rest of the participants received, the inaugural AI Summit was well received. I know that all of us were very pleased in not only the presentations that we each delivered but in all of the other ones as well. Apart from a false start at the beginning due to my laptop being under the proverbial weather with a virus, the rest of the two days went off smoothly.

I will post more on my reflections on each of the Summit sessions throughout the week. I did want to touch on a couple of high notes, however. We were very proud (as a group) to be able to deliver such a wide variety of topics. From animation to pathfinding to behavior to knowledge representation to layered goals and multi-threaded architecture, we hit a lot of the key topics. I think this was one of the comments that I heard the most… that there was a little bit of everything. Additionally, many people commented on how we mixed some past techniques with cutting edge stuff and then even some blue sky ponderings (“Human AI” and “Photoshop of AI“. Additionally, people liked the sessions that weren’t specifically technical such as the one on how to get along with designers.

For those that want to take a look at one man’s views on it, Dan Kline did another of his “live blogging” exercises over at his pad, Game of Design. (Day 1 | Day 2)

In other GDC news, After the Summit, much of the week was anti-climactic. There were the 3 normal AI roundtables as well as one run by Alexander Nareyek. I will be posting pictures and audio from the roundtables on this page. You can also check out last year’s stuff here. Eventually, I will have the pictures up from the AI Game Programmers Guild dinner (Sunday) and the regular annual AI Programmers Dinner (Friday) up as well. (Once I saw how dedicated to taking photos Petra Champandard of AIGameDev was, I figured I would let her do most of the shooting. I will link to those pictures as they become available.

Other than that, I only went to three sessions – one of which could actually be co-opted into an AI session. It was on balancing multi-player games. I figure this is an important facet of constructing AI as well for obvious reasons. I went to a roundtable hosted by Ben Sawyer about exploring emerging markets in games.

Peter Molyneux’s lecture on how Lionhead explores experimental stuff was surprisingly lame for a Molyneux talk. I was just really hoping to see more of where they were going right now. I thought it was going to be a sneak peak session. (I should have suspected something when his PR handler was nowhere to be seen.) The only amusing moment was when he almost let out the name of the project… although it is likely no one would have gotten much out of simply a name. Oh well.

I did spend a lot of time on the Expo floor. Much of that time was spent nosing around my publisher’s booth. I guess I sold quite a few books. The GDC store sold out of the 12 that they brought. Additionally, my publisher sold quite a few from their booth. Many of those sales happened while I was there. It took me by surprise to have people ask me to sign their copies. To be honest, it was more of an honor for me to be asked than I figure it was for them to receive a little of my ink. All I asked of them was to post a review out on Amazon when they got done. That would mean a lot to me (and the other people who might be interested in buying it).

Anyway, I plan on writing a bit more after I finally get my laptop cleared up. (Not looking good right now.) If you are coming into this post directly, you may want to check the tags below to see if I have written anything further about the Summit or GDC 2009.

GDC 2009 Coverage

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

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.

Thoughts Before the GDC AI Summit

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

I have been busily preparing all sorts of stuff at the last minute for the upcoming AI Summit at GDC. Having been involved since the initial discussions started at the last GDC, it has been interesting watching it grow.

The Summit is being put on by the newly formed AI Game Programmers Guild. As such, there are plenty of really sharp people involved. What was very striking, however, was how many times we all made comments expressing how interested we were in going to each others’ sessions! Theoretically, we would put this Summit on for our own benefit even if there were no attendees at all! (Although I believe that the GDC folks would not be terribly pleased by that prospect.) Seriously, we could easily have filled the entire week with the information that we wanted to exchange I, for one, know that I will be at every single AI Summit session with rapt attention. I am even looking forward to hearing what my own co-lecturers, Phil Carlisle and Richard Evans, have to say in our session, “Breaking the Cookie-Cutter: Modeling Individual Personality, Mood, and Emotion in Characters“… and I have already looked at their slides! 

One takeaway from that observation is that we will be talking about a lot of really nifty AI stuff. That much is obvious. Another takeaway, however, is that none of us… even the alleged “experts”… knows everything there is to know about AI. We all want to experience, learn, and expand. That desire comes from the somewhat discomforting awareness that there is a vast expanse of potential laid out before us. As the saying goes, “the more I learn, the more I learn how much I have to learn!” 

I think that will be the underlying theme next week… not just at the AI Summit, but at the entire conference. Sure, there are students and… *ahem*… n00bs at the conference, but there are plenty of seasoned veterans sitting in the audience rather than standing behind the podium or sitting at a panel table. Why? There is plenty more we can do to advance ourselves and, by association, our trade.

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?

This is why we improve AI…

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

Happened to see a link to this blog post: That’d be nice; Better A.I.

The author is not alone… many players want what he lists here. And they are getting rather vocal about it. I’m just not so sure that the game companies and the publishers “get it” yet.

I took a moment to assure him that we, as AI programmers, hear his plaintive cry. This, my colleagues, is why we formed the AI Game Programmers Guild and why we are holding the AI Summit at GDC.

More GDC AI Summit Sessions Posted

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2008

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.

Characters Welcome: Next Steps Towards Human AI
Date/Time: TBD
Format: 45-minute Panel
Moderator: Robert Zubek (Software Engineer, Three Rings Design)
Richard Evans (Senior AI Engineer, Electronic Arts),
Dave Mark (President and Lead Designer, Intrinsic Algorithm),
Daniel Kline (Lead Game Engineer, Crystal Dynamics),
Phil Carlisle (Game Programmer and Researcher/Lecturer, University of Bolton),
Borut Pfeifer (Lead AI Programmer, Electronic Arts)

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.

Breaking the Cookie-Cutter: Modeling Individual Personality, Mood, and Emotion in Characters

Date/Time: Tuesday (March 24, 2009) 9:00am — 10:00am
Format: 60-minute Lecture
Richard Evans (Senior AI Engineer, Electronic Arts),
Dave Mark (President and Lead Designer, Intrinsic Algorithm),
Phil Carlisle (Game Programmer and Researcher/Lecturer, University of Bolton)

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.
This is not an event you will want to miss!

AI Summit at GDC!

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Ok… I’ve known about this for about 6 months (since I was in on the original planning phases) but, because things are finally official, I figure it is time to make the announcement here.

The new AI Game Programmers Guild–of which I am a founding member–is putting on a 2-day AI Summit at the 2009 Game Developers Conference. We have a lot of great people putting together 14 hours worth of lectures and panels on the current state of game AI as well as our vision of its future.

Some of the people that are participating include:

Alex J. ChampandardAIGameDev.com
Richard Evans – ex-Lionhead (Black & White), now Maxis (Sims 3)
Soren Johnson – ex-Firaxis (Civ. 3 & 4), now Maxis (Spore)
Borut Pfeifer – EA
Adam Russell – ex-Lionhead (Fable)
John Abercrombie – 2K Boston (Bioshock)
Damian Isla – ex-Bungie (Halo 2 & 3)
Chris Hecker – Maxis
… and a ton more!

The list of sessions is being uploaded over the next week or so. Personally, I am delivering one co-lecture with Richard Evans and Phil Carlisle titled “Breaking the Cookie-Cutter: Modeling Individual Personality, Mood, and Emotion in Characters“. I am also sitting on a panel (description not uploaded yet) regarding what’s missing in human behavior AI.

All in all, the AI Summit is going to be a spectacular event. We are figuring that it will become a yearly fixture at GDC. I am honored to be a part of its inception.

See you there!