Post-Play'em - Observations on Game AI

Civ 4 and Bioshock updates

A month ago, I mentioned that I was going to be doing analyses of Civ 4 and Bioshock. Well, I have decided to wait until after the GDC next week. The reasons are clear…

1) I will be attending a lecture at GDC by none other than the man behind the AI on Civ 4, Soren Johnson entitled Playing to Lose: AI and “CIVILIZATION”. From the description of the session:

Artificial intelligence performs a crucial role for any strategy game, providing a compelling opponent for solo play. While many of the challenges of AI development are technical, there are also significant design challenges as well. Can the AI behave like a human? Should it? Should the game design be adjusted to accommodate the limitations of the AI? Should the AI be exposed to modders? How do we make the AI fun? Should the AI cheat? If so, how much? Do we even want the AI to win? [...snip]

And from Soren’s own blog, “Designer Notes” on a post entitled “A Farewell to Civ”:

Essentially, I will be talking about the difference between thinking of the AI as the player’s opponent and thinking of it as simply an extension of the core game design (what one might call the difference between “good” AI and “fun” AI). There will also be a long section on AI cheating – the bane of my existence for many years – concerning which type of cheats are acceptable to players and which type are not, using Civ as an extensive case study. Further, I hope to prove that, for Civ at least, there is no such thing as – and never could be – a “fair” difficulty level where the AI is playing the same game as the human. Your mileage , of course, might vary.

Given that I will be getting a peek into what he was actually doing in the AI design, I don’t want to stick my neck out and make comments about how wonderful this or that was and find out that it was either unintentional or cheating. That would be embarrassing. Also, I’m hoping to have the opportunity to interview him – or at least hang out with him to some extent. That would provide a lot of great material for a Post-Play’em entry.

2) On a similar note, I received this email a few weeks back under the subject of “Bioshock on Post-Play’em”:

Hey Dave,

Cool blog (both of ‘em). I’m waiting for the Bioshock review though… curious what you think. :)

See ya at GDC (?)

John Abercrombie (AI Lead on Bioshock)

Oh yeah… that wasn’t even remotely intimidating!

I’ve talked to John a bit since that point… he’s actually really cool about the whole thing. It’s not like I was planning on ripping his work apart anyway. I’m actually quite impressed with some of the things I’ve seen in the game so far (I’m still not terribly far in.) We are planning on getting together for a while during GDC. I’m very much looking forward to meeting him and talking shop. In fact, I hope to pick his brain a little on some of the much heralded AI in the game.

So that’s what’s holding me back on doing those two games right now. I hope to be giving you some juicy tidbits… if not next week during GDC, then possibly the week after I get back. Remember to keep an eye on the IA News blog next week as I report from the GDC and let you know all the nifty stuff I see and do (complete with pictures!).

… if I make it home without going into a coma. What a week GDC is!

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3 Responses to “Civ 4 and Bioshock updates”

  1. alexjc says:

    Dave, Do you have a namedrop tag? :-)

  2. Dave Mark says:

    You’re just jealous because for once I didn’t mention you!

    “Ladies and gentlemen… the one and only… Mr… Alex… Champandard!”


    BTW, I’m planning on wearing my AIGameDev shirt to the AI Programmers Dinner on Firday night. How’s that for ya?

  3. alexjc says:

    True, that’s pretty awesome :-)

    I’ll also give people bonus points for mentioning the site during the roundtables! hehe.

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