Monday, April 03, 2006

Emergent Behavior

So I'm working on the AI pack today and I for some strange reason I started reading about the AI in Oblivion. It was on some serious games mailing list I think.

They were talking about the emergent behavior you can see in the game. So I get interested in seeing it.

So I go to a local PC world and buy the game. 20 quid is a bargain. But of course I cant stop at one game. In fact, I managed to buy a total of 5 games.

Then it hit me, the price of PC games makes them insane bargains!!!

I bought:

Full Spectrum Warrior
Heroes of the Pacific (for research)
Oblivion (for research)
Far Cry
Prince of Persia - Sands of Time

Those are all AAA quality games, but they were SOOOO cheap!

I think maybe this is an offshoot of everyone moving to console development. Of course you still generally want to be developing on a PC for instance (so the now 200 programmers can still work and not require a devkit), so you have almost a "free" PC version of your huge budget game. But the PC market is dying, so you dont expect to make any money, so do a quick budget release and make the money on console releases.

So essentially the PC version isnt a moneyspinner, its merely there to get some "free" cash!

Now of course, you could say "how in the hell will indies be able to make a sale if AAA titles are being released so cheaply?

Well, the strange thing, is that its actually only a problem if youre doing products that fit into that same category. If you steer clear of the normal genre's (FPS, RTS, RPG etc), then youre in with a good chance that you can still find a market.

So I think all in all, its a good time for PC gamers right now. Apart from the mass of really cheap crappy product on the shelves, the scene seems to be quite good for us indies at least!

Anyway, back to the point about Emergent behavior. I'm not entirely sure that Oblivion is really going to offer the same amount of EB that I'm interested in. for instance, I was battling some creatures today and I just went and stood on top of a rock, not only were the enemies not able to target me, they also were unable to pathfind to my position (angle was too steep for them). Hardly the next evolutionary step for game AI I'd been told about.

Frankly, I think game AI is pretty dumb :) having done enough work in the area to know its actually damn hard to get right I cant blame them for having things like enemies running into walls. But if we're ever going to sort this kind of thing, then we're going to have to solve some of the problems a bit more intelligently.

Emergent Behavior is all well and good, but unless you're building on solid foundations (like actually being able to pathfind anywhere in the level the player can) I think we're going to be on shaky ground.