Considering the growth of A.I over the recent years through its implementation in various sectors and tech governed practices including mobile app development, one would assume that the video gaming arena is sporting sophisticated AI technology, by now. Which isn’t too far off from the truth taking the intricate plot lines, stories, and realistic virtual worlds of popular games into account.
However, that isn’t the case to the letter, as developers would want to maintain control over the player experience without completely losing it to advance AI – that would learn from players’ actions and its own patterns improving the algorithm further, leading to unpredictability.
Yet, game development has been benefitting tremendously from AI, enabling game developers to create life-like video game characters and environments allowing AI to make better decisions and create greater challenges.
When we speak about ‘game development’ in particular, there are a few major elements influencing how games are programmed. Let’s have a look.
Just like user-experience, games are developed to provide the ultimate gaming experience to its users. Machine learning facilitates this by a large margin as it goes through heaps of data available. It analyzes the information and allows the development of gaming environments and characters that appear and behave closer to reality.
In order for machine learning to perform its duties, it first requires information in abundance; provided by AI algorithms. This brings to another crucial element of AI in video games.
Algorithms & Theories
AI in game development as mentioned above has much to do with applying algorithms. Such as the Minimax Algorithm into machine learning to gather the necessary information that would help the game almost unbeatable.
With all the accumulated data and enough resources, the machine could become a lot smarter and knowledgeable than humans in terms of strategies.
According to the Author and Engineer, George Epstein, “The AI researchers used game theory — the mathematics of strategic decision making — to find the best strategy for each hand, while faced with a variety of uncertainties. Because the possibilities are so vast, this usually involves making appropriate approximations — quite a task!”
AI in Video Games: A Walk-Through
If we have to narrow down the elements that are governed by AI, we would find the following:
NPCs (Non-player character)
These characters as the name goes are not controlled by the player. However, with the help of AI, these characters behave according to the surrounding situations. There are many current games that are heavily loaded with NPCs, – like GTA 5, Red Dead Redemption 2, and more.
So in GTA 5 or open-world games, as the term goes, we see pedestrians and lots of them – they move out of our way when we are driving fast and about to hit a few of them. This is AI telling them to gauge the car’s direction, speed, and size and move accordingly. Impressive, right?
Take another example of autonomous vehicles in Grand Theft Auto 5 that are trained through AI to recognize stop signs, in any weather or condition.
There are many examples to quote, but just to understand how AI has significantly changed the gaming environments allowing NPCs to behave almost like humans.
Another genre of video games that remains heavily influenced by AI is the action-adventure stealth game, like Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry Series, Ace Combat 7, and more.
If we take Assassin’s Creed under the microscope- this game has some high-quality CGI incorporated that makes its story throughout looks like a realistic movie; top this with better combat scenarios thanks to AI, it becomes a game that gives the ultimate futuristic gaming experience.
These guys are different from NPCs and are useful replacement of players that are absent in a multi-player game. Take Counter Strike for example or Black Ops 4 Multiplayer gameplay. They have bots fighting you or with you in a group. AI curbs the repetitive scripted behavior and enables them to react to your actions, learn your behavior and adjust. That is, do critical thinking, be aggressive or defensive according to the situation at hand.
This keeps the interest of the players alive without pushing them into boredom after just a few plays.
It is remarkable what AI has achieved making open-world games detailed, well-planned out with life-like behaviors, outcomes, reactions, interactions, and so much more. Take Red Dead Redemption 2 for example. There is so much that is happening through AI; the climate changing, animals aging, wildlife ecosystem for hunting and feeding yourself for stealth, etc.
AI in Games Has Much Farther to Go
This is just the beginning of AI in game development. But it has definitely allowed game developers in software development companies to automate labor-intensive tasks and focus on the creative areas. And although PC and console gaming remains popular and highly debated as to which is better; one platform that has slowly taken the lead is that of Mobile. It won’t be long until mobile gaming leads the AI revolution scene.