AI programmers struggle to makes games 'imitate life'

Engineers propose solutions to some of the biggest problems in artificial intelligence

By Zach Miners, IDG News Service |  Personal Tech, AI, artificial intelligence

One game, however, that got it right in terms of feedback is the action adventure game "Dishonored," which lets players teleport at any given time and also see through walls, giving them instant access to enemies' behavior at any given time, Kline said. "You had all this information you could react to," he explained.

Less dramatic solutions may include automatically pausing the game to freeze-frame and emphasize a particular facial expression worn by a character, or change the lighting to focus on a particular behavior while filtering out the surround "noise," Kline suggested.

"We need to look for new, simpler, clearer ways of getting the player's attention," he said.

Still others suggested that programmers change their thinking on "emergent behaviors," which are serendipitous events or behaviors that manifest themselves in video games that were not the intent of the developer. For example, the scenario in which a player is barricaded in a room and enemy guards start throwing grenades at the barricade to destroy it may appear to be intelligent behavior, but if the scenario was not the programmer's intent then he should try to grasp how it came about rather than just "letting it be," said Ben Sunshine-Hill, a software engineer at Havok, a physics software engine employed by other game developers.

"This emergent behavior is not your friend," he said. "What if you were asked to change it from three grenades to two grenades? You can't do it," he said. Instead, programmers need to be in control, and to think more about how their code may be unintentionally affecting a game's AI, even if it's for the better, Sunshine-Hill said.

Similarly, others called on audience members to incorporate more robust, "adaptive architecture" into their games' AI, so that more stored information about the player, such as saved gaming history and statistics, could be used to adapt the AI based on the player's own decisions.

Because, after all, said Steve Rabin, of the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, Washington, "as AI programmers we are trying to imitate life."

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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