As it turns out – and this is an open secret in the game dev community – players often don’t like it. That’s why. A recent article, Artificial Intelligence?, on MMORPG.com, discusses one failed attempt to make more interesting AI in City of Heroes.
My personal feeling is that it kinda comes down to not letting the player know you are letting him or her win. You can have neither incompetent AI, nor AI that’s clearly throwing the game. Players want AI that gives them a run for their money, enough challenge to make things interesting. Most of all, I think players want AI that – for lack of a better word – emotes intelligence, even when it is stupid to do so. It’s not enough to have AI that has very sophisticated problem-solving strategies… it needs to project this decision-making so the player can see it at work, if the end-result doesn’t make it obvious. In other words, the players need feedback to recognize the AI at work – and to therefore predict and adapt to the AI.
And of course, as suggested in the article, players want familiar patterns that are easy to respond to. The power mentioned in the article was – with the attempted AI response – not really a damaging power. It was a control power – it forced AI to respond by moving to range. Which is actually pretty cool, so long as its costs are effectively balanced. But players didn’t like it, according to the article, because it broke existing patterns of gameplay. And that’s certainly true.