A.I. Ah! Uh! … What is it good for?

by Maniac on August 15, 2010

…absolutely nothing… Stop.Stop.Stop! But i think you got the hint ;-)

Hello again peeps,

Since I’m still searching for a related topic that doesn’t necessarily end up in a code orgy, I’m here today (and tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow… guess I don’t go out a lot) to tell you about things you can do with A.I., or at least what can be done with A.I. related techniques.

As I mentioned earlier, most A.I. techniques deal with problem solving. This is primarily due to the fact, that living beings, especially the moving kind, have to deal with situations to make the best of it. Throughout the ages, survival was one of the problems life ran into and, quite obviously, it found some solutions that work. Even things that don’t look like problem solving ARE in fact problem solving and this is due to the nature of the difference between status quo and the desired status. If you have a very urgent natural feeling, you are tasked to solve it. Easiest solution is doing nothing and just letting go, which in most cases leads to different problems, e.g. cleaning the mess up. But in most cases you’ll try to reach and use a bathroom (or a bush [no pun intended… or no, of course its a pun, ha!]). There you are, you got a status quo and a desired status. The Problem is bridging the gap between both states and while doing so, considering a bunch of constraints. First constraint is to find an appropriate place to find relief, another one is unzipping your pants before doing so. So, most things we want to achieve can be described as problems, a starting and a target situation/state, constraints and possible ways to solve it.

There are quite many ways to visualize and think of problems, e.g. the space problem (a graph thing that shows connection between the states and the steps to reach them). This is a technique in psychology to learn about human problem solving. So there’s a way to scientifically describe what leads to certain behaviors and that’s quite neat, because if we can describe it as graph, we can travel through this graph using algorithms. And there you go, A.I.. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But if it really was that easy, you wouldn’t need a specialist like me to do it *cough*. Obviously, there’s much more to behavior than just solving problems, sometimes we spend a lot of time creating them. But seriously, even all the other stuff is in some way a tool to solve different problems and some of them solve such sophisticated and underlying problems that we just don’t see them. Think of hunger or emotions. Each of them is used as a kind of messaging system that transmits information from the body (“hey, buddy, I’m STARVING down here!”) or makes you do things that are important to your survival (“Uhoh… you better start running now…”) or even the survival of your species (“Hey, doesn’t she look like multiplying?” [girls that do math are hot, no question]). And yet do they leave you with other problems, which completes the arc that brings us back on topic.


The Hump The Hump

So, now we know, that A.I. is also a way of either modeling human problem solving and having things done by machines. So the application scope of those techniques is much wider than just having your NPCs behave. Even Compilers, Parsers are, to some degree, a kind of an A.I.. You give it rules and it behaves according to these rules. Pathfinding, a very basic A.I. thing, is widely used from obvious implementations like the GPS system in your car (yeah, you are controlled and lead by an A.I., how does it feel?) to the internet you are using right now. Actually, Dijkstra’s Algorithm (look here for more information about that topic) is widely used in networking today to find the shortest path with a reasonable amount of calculation, and there are a lot more algorithms and heuristics out there to determine the shortest or at least near-shortest path from one point to another (either for just those two points or in a scalable graph of points). This is a big issue, and not just because you want your signal not to travel round the world twice if there’s a shorter path (which will most likely still lead through some NSA, CIA, RSA and M$ servers. No conspiracy here.). Also controlling systems for car engines, trams, air conditioning already do smart calculations and even kind of “guess” or use fuzzy logic (something like translating “a little bit pregnant” into concrete payment numbers (some real information here) to achieve more appropriate controlling effects (trams start and stop without jerking, air condition knows how to keep a temperature more moderately instead of going full power as soon as the temp drops below a certain value and car engines with automatic transitions even adapt to the drivers driving style). Besides that, there’s a million thing A.I. obviously is used for, so I won’t get into that here. ;-)

Ok, after that priming, lets see what the A.I. in Apokalypsos can do for us, the lazy Designers. The evident use will be controlling the NPCs in the levels, both human and animals, but also any kind of acting machinery, like turrets, complex machines and computer systems. But also a lot of non-visible things will be controlled by some A.I., like all the movements that aren’t visible (migration of animals, reinforcements for conflict zones, recon, patrols, marauding raiders, trade convoys) and the distribution of information (intel, gossip, events, trade related information like prices or availability of certain goods). So, a lot of things that look random might be quite sophisticated, which will add to the realism in a pleasant way. Trade convoys e.g. wont be random placed in certain areas, but “travel” through the world and might be encountered, just like raider groups that might ambush you on your trip on the Superhighways. So there wont be anything popping up from thin air and every NPC you encounter will have its origin and destination and you might just be able to meet him again (if nothing unpleasant happens… its the wastes after all). Also the way information spreads throughout the world will happen in a realistic way. If you murder someone and there’s a witness and you let him run, but reach the next settlement before he does (and he got no radio communication [which would require him to have a radio device, no magic here] of course), then no one will know. Also information wont travel without someone that could transport it. E.g. if you are quite a marksman and shoot someone in a distance of over a mile and no one saw you take the shot… would be quite immersion breaking to have anyone know about that, wouldn’t it? Of course your karma might drop, but there will be no one screaming “MURDERER!!!” that has never ever seen you before. And even if the information is around, if you aren’t wearing flashy cloths or have some other feature that makes you easy to recognize, most folks wont know how you even look. And most information will only be spread about a certain distance, since most information will still go from mouth to mouth which takes some time and has a limited range. Or do you know all rumors from all over your Region? Don’t think so, and yeah, celebrities are something different. Also, not all information is spread, only if there’s someone that might be interested. To return to our example, if you shoot a loner in the wastes… hey, … happens sometimes. If you shoot an important person, a trader or anyone that has connections to people that might miss him and have an interest in seeing you dead, that’s a whole different case. Of course there’s a difference where you do it, as starting a gunfight in town is… not the best idea one could breed. The Soldiers of the faction will, at least upwards from squad level, have access to some sort of radio communication, but nothing mysterious, everything the A.I. can utilize, so will you. But that’s a different chapter.

This established realism will be applied to traders you might meet. You might only meet traders or smugglers on routes that make sense, so no mysterious convoy in the middle of nowhere (expect the middle of nowhere is part of the shortest (or safest) route between two somewheres) and no easy to spot smugglers where administrative forces patrol a lot. Also, the goods and especially the amount of goods they carry will be calculated in compliance with the amount that’s traded in this region, and this still will be traced. Not necessarily by its respective owners, but by the system. If you raid convoys, these goods will not reach their estimated target (or at least, not in the regular way) and if you raid a route a lot, you might even cause shortages of certain goods. So the system will trace what and how much of it is brought from which place to what else place and will notice the merchants so they calculate their prices accordingly.

Ok, I’m tired now, hope you enjoyed the read, be prepared for more around Monday, as usual!

So long, folks!

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