Artificial intelligence is unlocking new possibilities in video games, even old video games. This month, a team of Italian researchers led by Edoardo Giacomello of the Politecnico di Milano used AI to create new levels of Doom, the groundbreaking first-person shooter game first released in 1993. By analyzing 1,000 official Doom levels going back to Doom 1 and Doom 2 as well as 9,000 levels created by the gaming community, the team was able to identify the key features of Doom levels and use these to automatically generate new levels. After 36,000 iterations, the AI-generated levels had reached playable quality comparable to that of human-designed levels. The researchers hope that this application of AI will make it easier for video game companies to create new content, one of the perennial challenges for game designers.
Giacomello’s team’s achievement illustrates how artificial intelligence is changing the video game world. Here’s a look at three other ways AI is transforming video game design and play.
Making Non-player Characters Smarter
The most common use of artificial intelligence in video games is generating more intelligent non-player characters. Traditional NPCs behave according to pre-programmed rules, making them predictable for experienced players. AI can make NPCs behave more intelligently by using an algorithm called a Finite State Machine, popularized in video gaming during the 1990s through games such as Dragon Quest IV, Warcraft and Half-Life. An FSM predicts all possible situations the game’s AI program can encounter and then generates a reaction for each eventuality. For instance, in a fantasy role-playing game, the FSM might have an NPC attack if a player appears and then withdraw when hit points fall below a certain level. More advanced FSMs use machine learning to make NPCs adapt to players’ gaming habits, making them more unpredictable and more challenging.
One recent game that uses AI to make NPCS smarter is Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5. Far Cry 5 uses psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to give NPCs complex motivations and behaviors. For instance, if you raise your weapon to a character you’ve just met, they will react with distrust and fear, initially warning you to lower your weapon, and escalating to an attack if you persist in threatening behavior.
Enhancing Graphics Quality
Another way artificial intelligence is changing video games is by enhancing graphics quality. Animators can use AI to analyze the way human beings, animals and machines move in real life. By scanning in thousands of hours of real-life footage for analysis, game designers can develop characters that move more realistically, display more authentic facial expressions and deliver more emotionally immersive gaming experiences.
One game where AI’s graphics potential is on full display is the upcoming Spider-Man PlayStation 4 game. Spidey’s movements in the game are based on physics simulations, with elements such as web anchor points and momentum factored into the webslinger’s aerial acrobatics and combat moves. The game’s NPCs and environment are also realistic, including a breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline. The result looks and feels more like a movie than a video game.
Supporting High-fidelity Mobile Gaming
Another way artificial intelligence is changing the video game industry is making it possible to play high-fidelity games on mobile devices. At one time, AI applications were only possible on PCs due to the amount of computing power involved. But recently, leading mobile processor manufacturers such as Qualcomm have developed mobile AI platforms that are capable of running artificial intelligence applications directly on smartphones and laptops, including immersive virtual reality graphics, with or without a connection to cloud resources.
An example of how AI has facilitated high-fidelity mobile gaming is Vector Unit’s futuristic hydro jet racing game Riptide GP: Renegade. The game’s spectacular graphics use physics dynamics to simulate water behavior and spray effects. Meanwhile, players can go online to compete against AI-powered NPCs.
Artificial intelligence is enhancing video game play by empowering smarter NPCs, superior graphics and high-fidelity mobile gaming. As AI technology continues to advance, the gaming experience will continue to become more realistic, more immersive and more fun.
Do you fear an AI take over or do you welcome this increasing role for it in gaming? Let us know in the comments section below.