Rampant Games - The Joys of Crappy AI
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October 11th, 2013, 02:18
There's some great comments in Coyote's blog. Good responses.
I don't understand what Miller means by "Holy Trinity" in the context of AI. Is it something opposed to "smart" AI?
One of the best mods ever made for NWN (there I go again) was the improved AI mod. It was so much more smarter that Bioware was left defending themselves and they did borrow a number of ideas from it. I think one of it was to make AI more modular. The irony is, is that NWN was built off the customizable AI that companions use in Baldur's Gate.
Miller is right, in a MMOG you get huge pushback from players when you cap their exploits. Nerfing something is usually not the right solution, unless you absolutely have to. I only did that to Timestop, which affected the entire module and no one ever came up with a fix that didn't seriously leak memory or things like that. The other one was True Seeing - instead of being 100% see everything I let resistances work. This was a problem with the nature of Epic Spells. Once they were added, the level 7 and 8 level spells have to be nerfed in order for those to be truly "epic".
The hollers and screams I got from players when I added Improved AI was deafening.
The biggest complaint over AI was it's use of its favorite skill Knockdown. The players called it spamming. The irony that they spammed it too on the NPC's seemed to be lost on them. The fact was the Challenge Rating that generated their XP gain was based on the skills, but the official AI rarely used them just meant the NPC's were being exploited. (I solved this by contacting the author (who was busy generating a third edition that was never released) and he put a random element into the decision making for me rather than simply by going by priority of the NPC's best skill). I was the hero for all of about 10 minutes. Yes, I took off the spamming but they quickly discovered the NPC's were still using knockdown sometimes. Apparently what they wanted was for the enemies not to use it all!
But here's the thing: the players never quit. Some of them made a big stink and said goodbye forever, but these players were always back a week later. I learned something here: no who says they're going to quit actually quits. People just vote with their feet. Its numbers, not words, that count and my numbers would increase by 40%.
It was something I knew based on Sociology that most people don't quite realize: a society that has all its basic needs taken care of - food, shelter, companionship, etc. - seeks a challenge. If they don't get it they become self-indulgent and self-destructive. This is why we have secondary education and build massive monuments to the sky and jet airplanes. This is why we have games.
The mistake that is made with game development is the same one that goes on with any mass media - attempting to appeal to the lowest common denominator instead of seeing past that for what people really want.
They may express their frustration over the challenge but in te end its what they are actually playing for. There's a sense of accomplishment, and even learning, when you can overcome a challenge. This is human nature.
The real skill is recognizing that loud complaints aren't necessarily a bad thing. As they say in Hollywood, I don't care what you say about me; as long as you get my name right. The more and more loudness for me was a good thing. It meant more and more players were coming on board.
I think Miller here was trying to walk that fine line between making it sound like he was listening to the players complaints and doing something about it and doing what he knew what was right to make it a game they'd actually have fun with. In other words being being invisibile about it as Jay is saying.
Developer of The Wizard's Grave Android game. Discussion Thread:
Last edited by Lucky Day; October 11th, 2013 at
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