GDC AI Summit: Managing the Masses – Crafting AI for Online Games


This year’s AI Summit takes a look at online games and some of the special challenges that crafting AI for them entails. Two developers — one from the realm of social games and the other from the world of traditional MMOs — share their experiences and solutions.

From the GDC description:

Recently, MMOs and social games have begun pushing the envelope by adding rich AI agents to fill out their human-driven worlds. This movement exposed a new set of challenges. How do you create and manage thousands of simultaneous MMO agents that may interact with tens of thousands of users? And how do you do it in a manner that allows the fast-paced and often iterative release schedule of today’s online games? This lecture will outline the challenges unique to architecting AI for online games, and explain some of the solutions used by Zynga’s CityVille and ArenaNet’s upcoming Guild Wars 2.

Mike Lewis – Senior Server Programmer, ArenaNet Inc.

Mike has spent over a decade in the game development industry as a programmer, working on a diverse range of technical challenges, most often with an AI theme. He has shipped AI in three successful titles for Egosoft GmbH, and is currently a server architecture engineer working on ArenaNet’s upcoming MMORPG, Guild Wars 2. Mike has previously lectured at the GDC AI Summit, and volunteers as a forum moderator for one of the web’s largest game development communities.

Rob Zubek – Principal Software Engineer, Zynga

Dr. Robert Zubek is a principal software engineer at Zynga in San Francisco, developing games for social networks, where he forged new games such as CityVille and Roller Coaster Kingdom. Prior to Zynga, he was at Three Rings Design, and Electronic Arts / Maxis; even earlier, he did research in artificial intelligence and robotics. He holds a PhD in computer science from Northwestern University, where he also earned his other CS degrees.


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GDC AI Summit: Embracing the Dark Art of Mathematical Modeling in AI


In 2010, Kevin Dill and Dave Mark delivered a lecture on using utility theory in game AI. In this year’s session, “Embracing the Dark Art of Mathematical Modeling in AI” Kevin and Dave dig deeper into the nuts and bolts of how to use those concepts.

From the GDC session description:

Utility-based AI is a widely-used approach, particularly for games with deeper or more complex behavior. While new users may find utility functions complex and intimidating, experienced users see them as a natural and comfortable way to express behavior. In a follow-up of their 2010 lecture, Kevin Dill and Dave Mark will show how simple problems can be laid out quickly and easily using common design patterns. Additionally, they will show how complex situations can make use of utility functions to express more nuanced behavior. They will then walk through real-world examples, showing how they would be expressed in a utility-based architecture.

Kevin Dill - Staff Software Engineer, Lockheed Martin Global Training & Logistics

Kevin Dill is a staff software engineer at the Lockheed Martin Advanced Simulation Center. He is a recognized expert on Game AI and a veteran of the game industry, with seven published titles under his belt. He was the technical editor for Introduction to Game AI and “Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI“, and a section editor for AI Game Programming Wisdom 4. He has taught classes on game development and game AI at Harvard University, Boston University, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Dave Mark – President & Lead Designer, Intrinsic Algorithm

Dave is the President and Lead Designer of Intrinsic Algorithm, an independent game development studio and AI consulting company in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the author of the book “Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI” and is a contributor to the “AI Game Programming Wisdom” and “Game Programming Gems” book series from Charles River Media. Dave is also a founding member of the AI Game Programmers Guild and has spoken at numerous conferences including being a co-advisor for the previous AI Summits at GDC. He continues to further his education by attending the University of Life. He has no plans to graduate any time soon.

 


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GDC AI Summit: Less A, More I – Using Psychology in Game AI


The 2011 AI Summit had Dave Mark and Brian Schwab teaming up for the highest rated lecture of year, “Using Randomness in AI: Both Sides of the Coin”. This year, Dave and Brian return with another joint lecture — this time on the application of human psychology to the craft of creating AI for game characters.

From the GDC description:

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 begin by showing various psychological biases that we as game players bring to the experience. We will then show how characters can be imbued with simple affects to exploit these expectations in order to seem more “alive” and believable.

Brian Schwab – Senior AI/Gameplay Engineer II, Blizzard Entertainment

Brian, during his 18 years of industry captivity, has made AI systems for many disparate products including educational titles, war simulations, sports games, and everything in between. At last count, he has fixed just over 14,600 bugs so far. He has led teams of 2-15 people, done a ton of design work in addition to his coding, and also wrote the book AI Game Engine Programming, now in its second edition. He was also AI section editor for Game Programming Gems 6 & 7, and has served on the planning council for the AIIDE conference for a while now. He’s currently working at Blizzard Entertainment on an unannounced title.

Dave Mark – President & Lead Designer, Intrinsic Algorithm

Dave is the President and Lead Designer of Intrinsic Algorithm, an independent game development studio and AI consulting company in Omaha, Nebraska. He is the author of the book “Behavioral Mathematics for Game AI” and is a contributor to the “AI Game Programming Wisdom” and “Game Programming Gems” book series from Charles River Media. Dave is also a founding member of the AI Game Programmers Guild and has spoken at numerous conferences including being a co-advisor for the previous AI Summits at GDC. He continues to further his education by attending the University of Life. He has no plans to graduate any time soon.

 


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GDC AI Summit: Off the Beaten Path — Non-Traditional Uses of AI


This year’s GDC AI Summit features a collection of sessions that don’t fit into the “main stream” of game AI. As such, we figured it deserved its own session. Chris Jurney (Double Fine), Michael Robbins (Gas Powered Games) and Ben Sunshine-Hill each bring their own unique gem to the party!

From the GDC description:

In the game industry, AI is typically thought of as a collection of simple tools used to make characters “do things.” This lecture will show three different ways that people have leveraged more esoteric AI techniques in manners not traditionally seen in games. Michael Robbins will show how he successfully used neural networks for tactical decision-making in Supreme Commander 2, Chris Jurney will discuss computer vision tricks for Kinect in Double Fine’s Happy Action Theater, and Ben Sunshine-Hill will explain how to use AI techniques to dynamically adjust level of detail to match what a player is likely to perceive and remember.

Ben Sunshine-Hill, Software Engineer, Havok

Ben Sunshine-Hill is a software engineer at Havok, working on character pathfinding and local steering. Ben recently completed his PhD work at the University of Pennsylvania, designing ways for game characters to switch behavioral techniques in real-time, and for games to exploit players’ limited powers of memory and perception. His dissertation was ultimately titled “Perceptually Driven Simulation” after his original title, “Messing with the Player’s Head for Fun and Profit“, was rejected.

Michael Robbins, Gameplay Engineer, Gas Powered Games

Michael Robbins is a Gameplay Engineer with Gas Powered Games working on everything from UI to AI. He has been working in the industry for a little over two years after being a long time member of Gas Powered Games’ modding community. His most notable work is featured in Supreme Commander 2, released March 2010.

Chris Jurney, Lead Programmer, Double Fine Productions

Chris Jurney is a rock and roll experimental lead programmer at Double Fine Productions, with 12 years experience in games and simulation. He has shipped numerous titles in the games industry including Company of Heroes, Dawn of War 2, and Iron Brigade. Chris frequently speaks on the topic of game AI, having presented at GDC 5 times as well as at GDC China, Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, aigamedev.com, and various IGDA chapters. He has also written articles published in AI Game Programming Wisdom and frequently modifies his behaviors and routes to avoid the enemy psychics of Galactic Rear Admiral Thoothius Branx.


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GDC AI Summit: Believable Tactics for Squad AI


Next in the line of sessions slated for this year’s GDC AI Summit is Believable Tactics for Squad AI. It was submitted as a joint lecture by AIGameDev.com founder Alex Champandard, along with AIGameDev engineers Matthew Jack and Philip Dunstan.

From the GDC description:

Squads of non-player characters are notoriously hard to get right, particularly when designing the highly visible interactions of teammate squad members. Through a series of live, interactive demos, this presentation will compare a wide variety of techniques commonly used in the games industry for creating dynamic squad behaviors, including attacking and flanking, suppression and player leading and following. The analysis will include both centralized and distributed designs for squad member synchronization, the trade-offs of scripted versus procedural designs and high-level techniques for tactical squad path finding and cover selection.

Alex Champandard, Founder & CEO, AiGameDev.com

Alex is the mastermind behind AiGameDev.com, the largest online hub for artificial intelligence in games. He has worked in industry as a senior AI programmer for many years, most notably for Rockstar Games. He regularly consults with leading studios in Europe, most recently on the multiplayer bots for KILLZONE 2-3 at Guerrilla Games. Alex authored the book AI Game Development and often speaks about his research – notably at the Paris Game AI Conference he co-organizes. He’s Associate Editor for the IEEE Transactions on AI in Games, and serves on the Program Committee for the AIIDE and CIG conferences.

Mathew Jack, AI Consultant, Moon Collider Ltd

Matthew founded Moon Collider in January 2010, where he consults on AI for companies in the US and Europe and builds bespoke AI systems. He specializes in CryEngine 3 and Recast/Detour. He developed AI at Crytek for many years in a senior R&D role, including work on Crysis and Crysis 2. He has since worked for Microsoft and AiGameDev.com, and consulted for games and serious games companies in Europe and the US. Current clients include Xaviant LLC and Enodo, with products delivered to companies such as BMW. He has written for Games Programming Gems and presented at the Paris Game AI Conference and at Google.

Philip Dunstan, Senior AI R&D Engineer

As a Senior Engineer on the AI Sandbox at AiGameDev.com, Philip Dunstan prototypes cutting-edge solutions to the Artificial Intelligence problems found in today’s games. In addition, Philip brings his experience from six years of working within Electronic Arts’ EATech Central Technology Group, where, as a specialist in physics simulation, core technology and console performance, he worked on several of EA’s biggest franchises including FIFA, Need for Speed, Battlefield and Harry Potter.


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GDC AI Summit: Animation-Driven Locomotion for Smoother Navigation


This year’s GDC AI Summit will host a presentation on navigation and animation by Bobby Anguelov, Gabriel Leblanc, Shawn Harris.

From the GDC description:

As game worlds get more detailed, simply navigating along a shortest path isn’t good enough. Additionally, as character behaviors get more complex, seeing agents pivot or “footskate” in unrealistic ways break immersion. In order to achieve realistic movement, limitations on locomotion animations the character can perform must be taken into account. In fact, the animations themselves can be used as a valuable tool for finding the most realistic path in the first place. Using examples from the games Hitman: AbsolutionReckoning, and Thief, this lecture will show methods for improving character movement by utilizing character animation to help determine navigation.

Shawn Harris – Senior Programmer – Big Huge Games/38 Studios

Shawn has been with Big Huge since 2007 focusing on pathing, NPC movement and tools. Before Big Huge he worked on numerous hand held titles for the Game Boy Advanced and Nintendo DS. Shawn obtained his BS in Computer Science from Carson-Newman College and his MSc in Games Programming from the University of Westminster.

Gabriel Leblanc – AI Programmer at Eidos Montréal

Joining the game industry in 2003, Gabriel has worked as a game programmer on titles like Scaler, Indiana Jones and Wet. In recent years, he has focused on AI and animation systems. He is currently working on the next Thief at Eidos Montréal. He graduated in software engineering from McGill University, where he occasionally offers lectures on various gaming topics.

Bobby Anguelov – AI Programmer, IO Interactive

Bobby is currently working as an AI programmer at IO Interactive on Hitman: Absolution. Prior to this he spent the better part of a decade working as an enterprise software engineer as well as a two year stint teaching computer graphics and shader programming at the University of Pretoria. He earned an MSc in Computer Science from the University of Pretoria.


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GDC AI Summit: Beyond Eliza: Constructing Socially Engaging AI


Another session that has been announced for this year’s GDC AI Summit is Beyond Eliza: Constructing Socially Engaging AI.

From the GDC session description:

One of the frontiers of game AI is building agents that socially engage the player and each other in deep and dynamic ways. Traditional behavior-selection rules do not apply, while hand-scripted solutions do not scale and are often prohibitively brittle. Social and conversational beings require a deeper modeling of interests, drives, emotions, and an awareness of social norms. This lecture will show you architectures from three production games, Storybricks, Prom Week, and an unannounced title, that introduce new ways of constructing characters to allow deeper, flexible, and more meaningful social engagement with the player.

The session will feature descriptions of socially based architectures for Storybricks (Stéphane Bura), Prom Week (Mike Treanor and Josh McCoy), and an unannounced title by Little Text People co-founders Richard Evans and Emily Short.

Stéphane Bura – Lead Designer at Namaste

A role-playing game writer of 25 years, Stéphane Bura has advanced degrees in artificial intelligence specializing in the study of emerging properties in complex worlds. Before joining Namaste as their Lead Designer, he worked with Kalisto Entertainment, 10tacle Belgium, and as an independent game design consultant. His essays on game design theory can be found at http://www.stephanebura.com.

Mike Treanor – Game designer and PhD Student, Expressive Intelligence Studio at UC Santa Cruz

Mike Treanor is a game designer and theorist pursuing his PhD at the Expressive Intelligence Studio at UC Santa Cruz. His work focuses on understanding how to create videogames that represent ideas. He has made several short form expressive games, and has written papers that have been presented at academic conferences. Recently, he was lead gameplay designer for Prom Week, a social strategy/puzzle game, with very rich social simulation, about the lives of a group of high school students.

Josh McCoy – Ph.D. student in Computer Science, Expressive Intelligence Studio at U.C. Santa Cruz

Josh is pursuing a Ph.D. in Computer Science at the Expressive Intelligence Studio at U.C. Santa Cruz. He researches new ways to create and improve the state of the art of video games, interactive experiences and their design through the application of existing and the creation of novel artificial intelligence (AI) systems. As the latest product of this research, Josh initiated and developed Prom Week, a game featuring an AI system that enables playable social interactions.

Emily Short – Freelance Writer, Game Designer, Consultant

Emily Short is the co-founder of Little Text People, with Richard Evans. She specializes in interactive narrative, especially dialogue models. She is the author of over a dozen works of interactive fiction, including Galatea and Alabaster, which focus on conversation as the main form of interaction, and Mystery House Possessed, a commissioned project with dynamically-managed narrative. She is also part of the team behind Inform 7, a natural-language programming language for creating interactive fiction. She has spoken at the AI Summit at GDC and presented on interactive storytelling at PAX East, MIT, UCSC, and the University of Passo Fundo, Brazil.

Richard Evans — Founder and CTO, Little Text People

Richard is an AI specialist with a particular focus on the modeling of social practices and individual personality. Richard is the co-founder, along with Emily Short, of Little Text People. Previously he worked at Maxis as the AI lead on The Sims 3 and, before that, as the Head of AI at Lionhead responsible for the AI in Black & White. He is an exotic mixture of English and Welsh.

 

 


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GDC AI Summit: AI Post-Mortems


The first session announced for the 2012 GDC AI Summit is our yearly post-mortem session. Every year, our theme for the post-mortems is “challenges faced (and overcome)”. This year’s installment is no exception showing some of the challenges and solutions from Kingdoms of Amulur: Reckoning, Darkness II, and Skulls of the Shogun.

From the GDC session description:

This session provides a high-density look into some of the unique challenges that were faced (and conquered!) in three upcoming or recently released games. We will show how massive open-world RPG, Reckoning, dealt with the scheduling of hundreds of NPCs and how they dealt with designer/programmer interaction for authoring behaviors. The Darkness II shows how agent co-ordination, collision avoidance, and the perception-reaction system all contribute to the believable enemies in this story-driven, supernatural action-shooter. Additionally, we will show the solutions that were used to address challenges unique to a fast-action, turn-based strategy game, Skulls of the Shogun.

The presenters for this session are:

Michael Dawe – Senior AI and Gameplay Programmer, 38 Studios

Michael is an AI and Gameplay programmer at 38 Studios, where he helped to develop NPC scheduling and behaviors for the recently released role-playing game Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. He has been a perennial speaker at GDC’s AI Summit since its inception and strives to further what players can expect from our games. He holds a Master’s degree in computer science from DigiPen Institute of Technology.

Daniel Brewer — Lead AI Programmer, Digital Extremes

Daniel graduated from University of Natal Durban, South Africa in 2000 with a BScEng in Electronic Engineering focusing on artificial intelligence, control systems and data communications. He worked at Cathexis Technologies in Durban for 6 years as a software engineer writing software for digital surveillance systems. In 2007, he moved to Digital Extremes in Canada as a game-play programmer where he worked on Dark Sector and BioShock 2 multi-player, and two unshipped games. Most recently, he is the Lead AI Programmer on The Darkness II.

Borut Pfeifer — Plush Apocalypse/Haunted Temple Studios

Borut Pfeifer is an independent game designer and programmer. With over 11 years of experience making games, he’s worked at companies like Radical Entertainment, Sony Online Entertainment, and Electronic Arts. At EA he was lead AI programmer on a game in development with Steven Spielberg. His published credits include Scarface: The World Is Yours (on Playstation 2, Xbox, and PC) and Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom (a launch title for the Playstation 3).

He has written a wide variety of game development articles on programming, design, and business, in books like the Game Programming Gems series, Secrets of the Game Business, and industry websites like Gamasutra. He has also taught technical game design at the Vancouver Film School.

He is currently working on two games. The first to release is in co-development with Haunted Temple Studios, called Skulls of the Shogun, a strategy game in a set in an eerie, animated world of dead samurai. The second is The Unconcerned, a strategy roleplaying game set in Iran during the 2009 post-election riots, which attempts to combine engaging gameplay with deeper social themes.

 


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What would YOU like to see in the GDC AI Summit?


As many of you know, the AI Game Programmers Guild is responsible for producing the content for the AI Summit at the annual Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. For the past month, we have already begun work on preparing for the 2012 event. (Yes, we start 6 months in advance!)

Over the past 3 years, we have refined our preparation process to something we feel generates high-quality content. This process typically involves the guild members discussing which topics “need to be covered” each year and then staffing those topics with people who have relevant things to contribute. This differs from many conferences where the content is drawn largely from what speakers want to talk about. We believe our process is more attendee-focused in that we are trying to anticipate what our attendees would like — or even need – to hear.

What is it that you want to learn more about from the GDC AI Summit?

This year, however, we wanted to put in another twist. Now that we have this fancy new public face for the AIGPG, we wanted to be able to draw in the AI community as a whole to the discussion. That is, what is it that you want to learn more about from an event such as the GDC AI Summit?

Things that we would like to know from you include:

  • What techniques or architectures do you want to hear more about?
  • What recent games have had AI that piqued your interest?
  • What types of advice would you like to hear from professional AI developers?

This request is not without its caveats, however. For example, please note that the AI Summit is not meant to be an entry-level tutorial on AI. We decided when we started this that there are plenty of sources from which people can learn the basics of game AI. While we have had sessions that are geared more towards people new to AI, you will not find us spending time on “what is a finite state machine?”

The AI Summit has also been about the mysterious and esoteric.

Really, that’s not what GDC is about anyway. GDC is about cutting edge… the “latest and greatest“. I would add that the AI Summit has also been about the mysterious and esoteric, as well. That is, what is off the beaten path? What are the experts using that might be of help to other AI developers?

Another disclaimer here is that we can’t necessarily take into account all suggestions we may get from the public. The number of session slots we have each year is limited — usually 10-12 hours over the two days. While it has been suggested that we could easily fill an entire week with content, it is just not feasible for us to do so. (By combining 2-3 speakers per hour-long topic session, we already cram more information into our two days than is humanly possible to digest!) Still, we would like to hear what other ideas are out there so we can at least take them into account.

So… what’s on your mind?

So, we turn to you… it doesn’t matter if you are a professional game developer, a student, or an enthusiast — whether you are planning on going to GDC or not — what are the things you would like to hear about if you were to be hanging out with us for those 2 days? What’s on your mind?

Please feel free to comment here… and know that the 240 members of the AI Game Programmers Guild are listening!


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GDC AI Summit Call for Submissions Closes Oct. 31


GDC 2012If you are interested in submitting a lecture proposal for the 2012 GDC AI Summit, the deadline for submission is October 31st. For more information, please check out the details here.

The GDC AI Summit is put on in conjunction with the AI Game Programmers Guild. To see examples of material from past AI Summits, visit our Papers and Presentations page.


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