Well, it’s that time of year again; GDC is almost upon us! I will be giving my third official GDC talk, entitled Playing to Lose: AI & “Civilization”. Unfortunately, it’s in the dreaded 9:00 AM slot, and since this is the first GDC where I will be sleeping at home instead of a nearby hotel, I better make sure I master the BART schedule and get there on time! Here’s the summary:
Playing to Lose: AI and “CIVILIZATION”
Speaker: Soren Johnson (Designer & Programmer, EA Maxis)
Date/Time: Thursday (February 21, 2008) 9:00am — 10:00am
Location (room): Room 2018, West Hall
Track: Game Design
Secondary Track: Programming
Experience Level: Intermediate
Artificial intelligence performs a crucial role for any strategy game, providing a compelling opponent for solo play. While many of the challenges of AI development are technical, there are also significant design challenges as well. Can the AI behave like a human? Should it? Should the game design be adjusted to accommodate the limitations of the AI? Should the AI be exposed to modders? How do we make the AI fun? Should the AI cheat? If so, how much? Do we even want the AI to win? This session suggests some possible answers to these questions using the “CIVILIZATION” series as a case study. Ultimately, games are many things to many different people; fantasy, competition, narrative, even construction set, and the best AI will support as many different approaches to the game world as possible.
This lecture is intended primarily for game designers and AI programmers who would like a deeper understanding of the consequences of high-level AI development decisions on the final product. Further, important lessons will also be shared for all developers interested in crafting a compelling single-player experience.
Attendees will leave with a better understanding of the difference between a “good” AI and a “fun” one. Furthermore, they will learn the trade-offs inherent in deciding between the two options.
Essentially, I will be talking about the difference between thinking of the AI as the player’s opponent and thinking of it as simply an extension of the core game design (what one might call the difference between “good” AI and “fun” AI). There will also be a long section on AI cheating – the bane of my existence for many years – concerning which type of cheats are acceptable to players and which type are not, using Civ as an extensive case study. Further, I hope to prove that, for Civ at least, there is no such thing as – and never could be – a “fair” difficulty level where the AI is playing the same game as the human. Your mileage , of course, might vary.
This talk will be a bit of milestone for me as, presumably, this will be the last time I’ll be giving such an extensive talk on Civ. In fact, I feel a little sheepish about giving it as a non-Firaxis employee. I’m so used to getting feedback from my old colleagues on my presentations that I can’t seem to shake the feeing that now I’m just some dude spouting off about Civ, and the world already has plenty of those!
At any rate, hope to see some of you there…
I would love to be there, but reality has a habit of getting in the way, so I’ll have to make do with second-hand accounts. Any chance that you’ll be adding it to your Presentations here? In any case, good luck with your early-morning speech. 🙂
Skipping GDC this year, which is too bad because this sounds like a great topic. Hope you’ll give us the run down once the con is over.
Since I got a AI-related scholarship, how can I miss this event? Should be great 🙂 and it is just before Ray Kurzweil’s futurist speech at 10:30 too, so at least you’ll be up for that 😀
Civ4 is a bit of a discussion point at AIGameDev.net too, and having played the game quite a bit recently, I know the game details so don’t have to have a blank face on some bits, haha.
“This talk will be a bit of milestone for me as, presumably, this will be the last time I’ll be giving such an extensive talk on Civ. In fact, I feel a little sheepish about giving it as a non-Firaxis employee. I’m so used to getting feedback from my old colleagues on my presentations that I can’t seem to shake the feeing that now I’m just some dude spouting off about Civ, and the world already has plenty of those!”
Yeah, when will this guy stop ranting about Civ? Doesn’t he know nobody’s listening any more? 😉
Soren, good luck with the talk and I hope you post some slides, or at the least a rundown for us folks who can’t get to GDC. 🙂
Have fun Soren, and I second the slides request. A talk on programming, AI and Civ, what could be better… it’s a shame we can’t get to the GDC.
And Civ isn’t something you can get away from. You knew it was a curse that way when you signed up for it, right? 😉 It would be interesting to see you do a strategy game again at some point in the future. I imagine a RTS designed by you together with Brian Reynolds could be quite something.
Greetings from brazil! hope you still remember the party at SBGames and the guy that wanted to kick you in the shin because of Civ IV. Yup that was me.
only one week to go, and your talk is one i won’t miss. hope we can meet there!
I’ll definately be seeing you there next week. Once I found you were doing a lecture on Civ 4, I intentionally put off the analysis of the AI that I was going to do on my AI observations blog. I didn’t want to look silly by attributing something to your genius when it was simply the AI cheating… or vice versa!
Take care… see you next week!
Unfortunately I won’t get to attend in person, so I’ll have to settle for a post-GDC recap. Also, if you get a chance, I recommend you attend the AI dinner; I’m sure they would love to chat with you about “good” vs. “fun” AI.
Also, quit yakking about Civ IV and get back to working on Spore! 😉
@Andrew: It’s AiGameDev dot COM 🙂 The .net works too, but it’s a redirect.
I have to say, I’ve become fascinated by the topic of “AI as the extension of design” too… So much of how the AI is structured in FPS/RTS games assumes that we want the AI to kick ass, rather than provide a cast of characters that encourages the player to feel certain emotions.
I can’t go into too many details for NDA reasons, but I’ll write about the topic on my blog soon hopefully 🙂
Looking forward to the recorded session / slides too. Your talk is the only one I’ll really regret missing from this years GDC. (Move out of the way Kurzweil.)
Actually, about half of the presentation is available right now from the AIIDE 2007 link in the sidebar.
I hope you don’t expect me to remember every site I give free publicity too 😉
And there are already some slides? Neato, I might have read them before but I’ll certainly re-read them now 🙂
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Just posted my notes from the session. I definitely need the slides, though.
Good work, Soren. Wish you had joined us Friday at the AI Programmers Dinner… that would have made for some interesting discussion. (We picked on Damian instead.)
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