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Posts with tag ai

The Army's Artificial Intelligence invades WoW

Joe Martin at picked up an article on Gizmodo talking about the coming invasion of Army Artificial Intelligences masquerading as real players in World of Warcraft. According to Dr. John Parmentola, the plan is to test the AI's ability to be a "fake" human by letting it interact with real humans in a virtual world.

My first reaction was, "Whoah, cool. All your base are belong to us." But after a moment's thought, this might not actually be such a great idea. Given the communication skills of some players (especially in the battlegrounds), I'm not seeing this as a litmus test of what in-game speech can pass for spoken by real people. While I'm pretty sure the AI won't communicate like a roleplayer, the AI could probably get by with a series of "lol" and "kek" typed out in rapid succession.

This isn't the first time we've heard about the military using WoW (or WoW-like systems) for training purposes, which is the nominal purpose of this new AI research. Maybe it won't be too long before we're logging in to have a Gnome Rogue named Joshua quietly whisper us, "Shall we play a game?"

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Odds and ends, News items

In WoW and other games, pathfinding is still "kind of a problem"

If you're not much of a computer programming person, this one might make your eyes glaze over a bit, but if you have any interest how the AI of videogame characters, including those in WoW, is programmed, this article about designing AI pathfinding is a terrific read. "Pathfinding" is a method of determining how NPCs move within a game world like Azeroth -- you and I can clearly see where the walls and bad guys are, and so we just have to press buttons to avoid either ingame, but NPCs (including pets and mobs) aren't quite that easy -- they need to be told clearly by programmers where they can go and how to get there. And when the rules they're given don't quite work, you get the funny seen above.

Many games use a "waypoint" system -- NPCs are given a series of paths around the space they can move in, and use those paths to determine where they can and can't go. The article argues for a "navigation mesh," a much looser definition of available space, which NPCs can then draw their own path across. It's a little technical, but it's cool to see the inner workings (and weaknesses) of Azeroth's code.

Of course, it's extremely unlikely that we'll ever really see the NPC pathfinding engine updated in WoW anyway -- Blizzard will update their system in certain places to fix things like exploits (and the occasional annoying escort quest, i.e. all of them), but there's no real need to update the whole system completely when there's so much content to be done. Hopefully videos like this will bring the problem to light, and in future games we'll see some better pathfinding. Someday, that NPC will know that it's easier to go around the pillar rather than trying to walk right through it.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Cheats, Blizzard, Humor, Bosses, NPCs, Hardware

Guardian pets need a mind of their own

This forums thread points out something interesting about player "guardians." Not pets-- guardians like Shadowfiend (which a priest I know called his shadowfriend), the druids' treants, and my shaman's totem elementals. After players wonder why shadowfiends keep breaking shackles, Neth says something that made me do a double-take: shadowfiends, as guardians, have an actual AI that is supposed to go after non crowd-controlled targets first.

That's news to me. I haven't spent a ton of time around shadowfiends, but in my experience, shaman and mage elementals and other "uncontrollable" pets (that's why they're called guardians) tend to go after anything that happens to be close to them. That's why they don't get popped when there's sheep or shackles around-- my guild could have used that fire elemental DPS on Moroes, but because it was so important to keep those shackles up, I've been saving the elemental for later. If there really is an AI (and if it works-- even Neth agrees that may not be the case at this point, though she says the shadowfiends on the PTR are supposed to be doing things right), then maybe we can start trusting summoned guardians not to touch CC'd targets until it's OK to do so.

Of course, there's other ways around it-- normally, I just don't pop my pets out until I'm sure there's no more CC left to break, but my pets are leashed to my totem, so with careful positioning, I can still avoid CC. And I believe both mage and druid guardians are targeted-- they open fire on whatever you've got targeted at the time, right? But I'd love a little AI, or at least a little control, in something like my Searing Totem. If there's a CC'd target out there, it's not worth the trouble to drop it even for the extra DPS.

Filed under: Analysis / Opinion, Instances, NPCs, Buffs

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