I did it! My AI is alive!

OK, just kidding. But a thread over in RAIF (partly) about Chris Crawford’s Storytron engine got the wheels churning over NPC AI.

There have been many discussions about AI on RAIF, searchable on the newsgroup or starting with this page:

ifwiki.org/index.php/Past_ra … PCs_and_AI

And as for games, a starting reference:

emshort.home.mindspring.com/Site … ation.html

Is anyone here familiar with these additional links?


And as an aside in context of Crawford, this blog post by Chris Bateman:

onlyagame.typepad.com/only_a_gam … remem.html

The Drama Princess journal is especially interesting to me in that the developers are concerned with creating the appearance of intelligent NPCs, and model the behaviours based on this concern, rather than the concerns of other simulationist architectures.

The reason why I’m posting this is that I’m planning to create a framework for engaging NPCs (I hope) bit by bit over several games, such that by the third or fourth game I could have something really good. Who knows of other good games to reference other than those on Short’s literacy page? Other current projects? What are the relative potentials of state machines versus emergence from simulation rules?

In these fuzzy beginnings I don’t think I want to make a chatbot to pass the turing test. Conversation is a valuable element of IF but it’s only a sub-element of engaging NPCs – it’s the engaging part I want to focus on.

In any case I’m pretty much a novice in all these subjects so any pointers would be helpful. It would be great to aggregate all these sites into the ultimate IF NPC resource page too. Maybe the wiki is a good place for that?

You might want to look for information on character AI not limited to Interactive Fiction, too. I have links (I think), but I’m running late for work and can’t hunt for them at the moment (maybe tonight).

I’ve never written games where I wanted/needed the NPCs to have even a rudimentary AI. I’ve thought about it (especially for a larger game I’d like to write), but when I do, it seems that the pacing and flow would be disturbed by it. If players are able to interact with NPCs in bigger and better ways, but the point of the game isn’t just these interactions or conversations, then it seems like a whole lot of work most players will either skip (and never see) or not skip (and get bogged down, not making progress in the story).

Maybe later, I’ll change my mind (I do that a lot). At present, it seems that if you want well-implemented NPCs in a game, anything labeled “AI” is overkill. Code an ability for them to recognize things a player might do or say, and react in what appears to be a realistic way. I guess I lean more toward “fiction”, where characters just need to be realistic enough to tell the story you want to tell, without necessarily needing a life of their own.

So… hmmm. I know you’re looking for resources, not opinions. I’ll shut up now. :slight_smile:

No, I agree with you Merk, I suppose I say AI because I don’t know of another all-purpose term to describe it. AI does imply something very specifc though, doesn’t it. We could call them reactive agents, say AGI (artificial general intelligence, not much better than saying AI), perhaps ‘narrative intelligence’ instead?

However to extend your example, I think not only should NPCs recognize and react, but that they can have their own goals, agendas, and so on to support the reaction – which is nothing new, there seems to be at least a few coded games and extensions in this direction. I guess this gives them a life of their own in a certain sense, but I think it makes the game fiction more interesting. I’m not so interested in simulation for the sake of simulation.

The term “AI” does get tossed around quite a lot. Good “AI” in a video game probably means the enemies are programmed to react to your movements, sounds, maybe try to anticipate your likely attack. Newer games are taking it further, so that NPCs will communicate this information to each other, manipulate the environment to reach their own goals, behave differently if they “feel” scared, brave, trapped, cavalier, etc.

In this sense, I think the concept of AI is dumbed down. These NPCs are still confined to their own narrow world view – whether it’s being a guard, or a soldier, etc. It’s no benefit for the game if an NPC has knowleged about anything else. You don’t need an NPC that (for instance) appreciates and can comment on art, in a typical first-person shooter. It will suffice to stuff them full of a few random bits of dialogue, without giving them detailed histories that are actually used to shape their character. So, AI becomes a matter of reaction and behavior, while the NPC itself is far less intelligent than my cat.

I probably didn’t say exactly what I meant, either. My first reply wasn’t so much to say that “real” AI in a game is overkill. We’re talking about the same kind of “lesser” AI, I think. I’ve just never envisioned a work of IF in which I wanted an NPC to have the ability to mess up the story. I guess that in itself would make an interesting story. :slight_smile:

Here are some links I found in my bookmarks:

www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~am … og.html#ai