While videogames may have evolved leaps and bounds in terms of graphics, some argue that enemy artificial intelligence has remained relatively stagnant. That is to say, enemy AI is shiny-looking, but still pretty dumb. Kind of like supermodels (AKA the things that you will never have a chance at). The case for this may very well be true, but we're not here to talk about that argument. I am asserting that gamers, unbeknownst to even themselves, do not even want smarter AI.
Being the videogame nerd that I am, I am able to have friends who work on the development side of the industry. Speaking to a gaming programmer friend of mine, I brought up the topic of enemy AI with him.
"With technology being as powerful as it is today and with graphics becoming better and better with each year, do you think AI has fallen behind in comparison to aesthetics?" I asked him.
"Absolutely not," he responded to me. My friend proceeded to explain to me that, no matter how good a person is at a videogame, programmers could always design the enemy AI to be better.
Now perhaps you're thinking along the lines of "cheap" enemy AI now. But really, what is "cheap" AI?Sure we can all agree that AI that insta-head shots you is a bit cheap, but what about programming AI that aims more for the head, as opposed to the torso? (as is so prevalent in today’s games) I mean, real players generally aim for the head, right? So why not give the AI the same mindset? I mean, if you really wanted smarter AI, you would opt them to aim for your head, no? ...okay, this is getting a bit masochistic.
The point is, gamers don't want smart AI, they want AI that is ultimately fun to kill. Take Zelda for example. Zelda is a game filled with bosses that feature "cues." Perhaps you might see Ganon roar before he does his trademark tackle attack. My programmer friend explained that players like to feel rewarded; these cues (aka the roar) allows players to figure out the boss’s pattern so they can successfully counter attack. Essentially, that's dumb AI at its purest. I mean, shouldn't you at least be a little unpredictable, Ganon? Yet, you never hear of anyone complaining about these cues.
If all games featured smart AI, no one would want to play a stealth game. Take the Metal Gear Solid series for example. In the MGS series, you play as one-man army Solid Snake. As Snake, you must sneak around and take out your enemies quickly and quietly. In the MGS series, enemies are usually relegated to their specific corridors and don't really stray much further from their assigned walking paths. Again, this allows players to understand the pattern and counter accordingly. If these enemy soldiers were smart (and/or real) they would attempt to close in on Snake's position and triangulate a secure perimeter to stop his escape, but no, there are always ways out of escaping an alert. Truly smart AI would not give up searching for you after 60 seconds. Just sayin'.
In addition, my friend was talking about an instance in a game where he had to dumb down the enemy AI because it was too smart. Working on City of Heroes, there was an instance where a group of players would walk into a building and then fall under ambush to a group of enemy AI. Because the AI was programmed to attack the first person they saw, they focused on the first person that entered the building and wiped him out almost immediately. The group of players didn’t last long and complained that the enemy AI was too cheap. In reality, focus firing is an intelligent tactic that many real-life players would use. This was one instance where players bit off more than they could chew.
In summation, smart enemy AI would go for the head shot, they would flank you, always use the environment for cover, and try to sneak up from behind you to stab you in the back. You think you want smart enemy AI, but you really don't. So sit back, play your games, and stop being so cynical. Mmmmkay?
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