Titan A.I.

Posted by Daeity On Monday, February 6, 2012

Took Long Enough

A short while ago, Supererogatory finally published a piece about my older post on Swingin' Ape Studios and the other games they were working on (including exclusive information that I had obtained from Steve Ranck, who was the President and Technical Director at SAS.) I'm surprised he hadn't discovered it back in December. :)

As you know, I've been drawing a lot of parallels about Blizzard's old abandoned games and how they might be revisiting these ideas for their Next Gen MMO.

With that in mind, there was also a tweet about Blizzard's other cancelled project Raiko (which I had also mentioned as one of their cancelled games previously.) Apparently, though, I wasn't aware that Blizzard had outsourced the game to Flextech Productions.

According to Ron Seifried from Flextech, it was a role-played game based on Japanese Samurai.

Video Production Coordinator & 3D Modeler
Blizzard Entertainment
April 1996 – April 1998 (2 years 1 month)

I co-owned Flextech Productions, a company that was financed by Blizzard Entertainment to develop a role-playing game based on Japanese Samurai. This small operation was one of only three pilot companies that Blizzard deemed worthy enough to co-develop an computer game, at a time when resources were limited and time was short. From the days leading up to E3 ’97, we created a prototype that literally wowed our prospective investors, including volumetric lighting and multi-view angles that were years ahead of its time. I also managed finances and coordinated work schedules for development of PC role playing game and managed the video production facility.
Interestingly, Blizzard had brought Stan Sakai onboard to work on the new Next Gen MMO (lore & story.) And wouldn't you know it.. he has a wealth of experience with Japanese Samurai lore. :)

People in the World of Titan

I was going to wait until mid-March to post this, but since we're on the subject of Titan, I figured I might as well do it now.

For a while, I've had a belief that the Next Gen MMO would have a much deeper focus on it's people. I'm not just talking about character customization, but rather the NPCs within the game itself. I've been imagining more of a modern world filled with people, human villains and human heroes rather than the typically mass array of fantastical creatures and fictional aliens.

So, I've been following Brian Schwab (Senior AI/Gameplay Engineer II at Blizzard). He's given a few lectures of AI, but they have always been very careful never to say what game he has been working on at Blizzard. It's in fact the Next Gen MMO and he's their Senior AI programmer. That's why I've been so interested in his lectures; because he talks about his working experiences and he's careful not to reveal ongoing projects.

At this upcoming 2012 GDC (March 5-9), Brian is giving a presentation on Psychology in Game AI.
Less A More I: Using Psychology in Game AI
Tuesday 1:45- 2:45 Room 2006, West Hall, 2nd Fl

When dealing with game AI characters, psychology can’t help but come into play. Players process what they see and experience through a filter of expectations. We expect human-like game characters to exhibit human-like traits. A by-product of the quest to improve AI decisions, however, is that characters can begin to “feel” robotic and sterile. This session will begin by showing various psychological biases that we as game players bring to the experience. We will then show how characters can be imbued with simple affects to exploit these expectations in order to seem more “alive” and believable.
In earlier (2011) presentations, he talks about simple AI behavior and how you need to find a gentle balance so that it's not too challenging for players.

But now, he's focusing on human and human-like characters along with life-life behaviors. While this is no confirmation, it's interesting how he will be discussing this particular aspect of AI given that it's something that Blizzard has not done in any of their games yet (it's only life-like behavior via animation, but never AI) and it's not something that he spends his free time on. If it was an area of AI that he was currently working on exhaustively within Blizzard, though, then he would have a wealth of practical information and real world challenges to share.

Learning about a developer or artist's background and experience is a great way to get an idea about gameplay. For example, the Next Gen MMO team is comprised of many employees with scifi backgrounds such as Ghost and the Halo MMO. The artists themselves have done a lot with with scifi, post apocalyptic, and ancient city designs and concept art. And, a couple key writers have worked on scifi stories, secret societies, or historical civilizations (17th century Japan being one of them.)

This all makes me think that life-life NPC behaviors are planned for Titan. Nothing fancy, mind you.. something that has been proven successful (Blizzard won't experiment) like Skyrim, where the world's inhabitants have daily routines, jobs, reactions, emotions, and better communication options.

And, I'm thinking there will be a lot more people and humanoids (aliens) in the game, rather than just mobs of monsters, with a lot more interpersonal communication going on.