FEAR 2: Project Origin Talks AI

By John Walker on December 2nd, 2008 at 2:00 pm.

Here the AI responds explosively.

I wonder how we’ll look back on this period of development, once we’ve got AI in games that’s likely to talk us out of the gunfight and to join its uprising against their developers. As games make stumbling progression, inching ahead with improvements for enemy behaviour, we’re still getting excited when we throw a grenade at them and they don’t pick it up and try to eat it. In the latest FEAR 2: Project Origin dev chat, below, Matt Rice and Nate Cleveland proudly explain that the AIs respond with a display of emotion when they catch on fire.

And good. These little steps are significant. I’m really excited to see if the AI will live up to the boasts in the game. But I do think we’ll look back and laugh.

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59 Comments »

  1. RiptoR says:

    I feel like replaying the first game now, but I still have too many new games to wrestle through…

  2. Jonas says:

    Deus Ex’s AI responds with a display of emotion when it catches fire, and DX’s AI was shite.

  3. Magic says:

    My dog would totally try and eat the grenade but he is pretty good at displays of emotion… I wonder how he would respond to fire?

  4. nakke says:

    Much of what they were talking about was ANIMATIONS, not AI. It doesn’t really require great amounts of artificial intelligence to jump over objects fluidly. Didn’t seem that impressive otherwise either.

  5. Charlie says:

    Exactly right.

  6. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Jumping over stuff is also a pathing thing. Doesn’t really please if the AI can jump over objects, but needs seconds of pathing to do so.
    Anyway, these programmer chats really don’t do it for me. Rarely do the programmers really sound like they really want to do this, and thats when half the time in the video you have to watch programmer heads moving their lips. What’s that about? I mean, however smart and cool these people are, if you cut a trailer to impress the gaming crowd, either do more programmer heads and make us bond with them by not cutting the video like a moderately professional infomercial, or do less programmer heads and more picture/voice to show off the thing you want us to buy.

  7. Bema says:

    Is a response to catching on fire really a new thing? No. No it’s not. If you want to show us how good your brand spanking new AI is just show us a few minutes footage of the game. Don’t quote marketing crap at us. It’s not as if anything they mentioned at all was particularly new/impressive.

  8. Bouchacha says:

    Blood had enemies respond with a display of emotion when they caught on fire (It burns! It burns! Aaaaaaaaahhhh!!), and that was over 10 years ago.

    What exactly is new and significant here?

  9. MrFake says:

    As a player, I wouldn’t be surprised if the AI ran behind cover and threw a grenade at me. I’d expect it. To hear that the developer is surprised by this behavior… well, it makes me think they should have spent less time hawking for the cameras and more time converting scripted behavior to actual frakkin’ AI!!

  10. Downloads_Plz says:

    While the fire part was quite stupid, when you stop and think that most games today still don’t have as good an AI as the original FEAR had, I have no doubt that the AI in FEAR 2 will be equally as impressive as I remember the first being.

    And you can say what you want about things like running behind cover and throwing a grenade being an easy thing that you would expect as a player, but how many games?

  11. MrFake says:

    @Downloads_Plz: Really, though, is that AI? The handful of FPS’s I’ve played in the last half-dozen years featured enemies taking advantage of cover–sometimes comically ineffective, sometimes forcing me to get creative. So, they added a “throw grenade” action. They may be making leaps and bounds that will appear in the game proper, very possible, but hopefully the shallowness of the video doesn’t betray the shallowness of their improvements.

    The player runs in one direction and the enemy accommodates? How many games?

  12. sbs says:

    We talked about F.E.A.R. AI briefly in the RPS-Steamgroup chat last week if I recall correctly.

    I suspect AI will be not more than a complex scripting system, things like “jumping in water, when some is nearby, when on fire” and “using movable cover, when movable cover is nearby, and walking with it” is a step forward in terms of surprise and impressive behavior when experienced first hand in the game, but not a leap in any means – But what would a “leap” be, anyway? Maybe some way of procedural AI that learns? Probably something like that.
    Or wait, I know: A sentient being, inside my shooting game. Yeah right.

    As I said in the chatroom, I was as impressed with how F.E.A.R.’s enemys behave in combat as the next guy, but a little disappointed finding out that it’s basically “just” an elaborate searching-cover system in the AI and the clever thing about was the level design supporting this system. (At least that’s how I understood it. I’m sure it’s a lot more technical and fancy sounding. Feel free to correct me If I’m emberassingly wrong.)
    It was not the game I was disappointed with though – It was more like getting a magic trick explained to you which, while intriguing, takes the illusion away.

    The one person guy there saying that he is constantly surprised by the game, probably bullshit, sure. He of all people will know what exactly makes it work like that.

    My point being? I don’t even know anymore. Something like, the experience counts, yadayadayada, faceless PR drone just doin his job, blabla, mildly optimistic about this etc., at least not as bad as the legendary trailer.

  13. velt88 says:

    MGS2 has the best AI emotion ever.

    Mainly because I liked shooting their trigger hand, their opposite leg, and then taking out their radio and watching them hobble around like wounded pandas. I’m evil lol

  14. Vic Reeves says:

    “we’re still getting excited when we throw a grenade at them and they don’t pick it up and try to eat it.”

    …which is what they do in L4D, and that is pretty exciting too in a “how many can I splatter at once” way.

  15. Funky Badger says:

    Hmmm, the internets are cold and aloof today it seems.

    Isn’t Half-Life (specifically the goddam Marines) the pinnicle of AI still? (Gears of War is quite good too – at least the 360 version)

  16. Elyscape says:

    I don’t know about you guys, but I find that, whenever someone throws a grenade near me, I instinctively run over to it and try to eat it. It doesn’t tend to end particularly well.

  17. Dude says:

    Half life marines were badass, but FEAR AI was good, it was the first time since a while when I had actually to really pay attention to my flank and had to restart quite a lot of fights because I didn’t notice one of those guy creeping behind me.
    The only problem is that slow mo made the game a little bit to easy sometime, but it was great to nail a few guy to the wall and see the last one running for his life screaming “sh**” in his mic….

  18. dhex says:

    looks awesome. totally jazzed.

  19. pepper says:

    And even Half-life’s AI still needs a lot of direction, you need to place info_nodes all over the place so the AI can quickly and effectively find there way around.

    I dont think there has been a lot of pressure for producers to make a better AI, because most people dont care about it.

  20. theleif says:

    @ sbs
    All A.I:s in every game are scripted, and it will remain as such until we can create a thinking machine.

  21. Mexico says:

    I think having monster closets and enemies spawning behind me really ruins the flanking dynamic. I can’t tell if that faceless drone really pathed all the way around the building to shoot me in the ass, or if his clone brother just spawned around the corner.

  22. manintheshack says:

    Hmmm… I’d assume that they were talking bollocks if the first one hadn’t been so good…

  23. Xercies says:

    I’ve never played a game where the badguy picked up the grenade and eat it, and now that I think about it its an AI trait that is needed badly. Right must get on and put that in my games.

  24. Ixtab says:

    I really have difficulty being impressed with AI when I can still think of it as AI. When I could, even if it required a little imagination, believe that I’m playing with real people then I’ll be impressed.

    Also all the stuff they mentioned is actually less true AI. They have decided that when moving cover is near by they’ll make the opponents use it and so on. Were it any where close to AI the opponent would make some sort of decision and infact somtimes not use the cover.

    Also AI doesn’t mean all the enemies have to be clever, the objective is normally to make them realistic and realisticly people make mistakes. If the AI made a genuine mistake (not just badly programed AI that acts like idiots all the time) that would go much farther to impressing me than “oh isn’t it clever it can hide round the corner and throw grenades at me.”

  25. ohnoabear says:

    I was impressed by Far Cry 2′s AI about 20% of the time. That 20%, they did a pretty good job of finding cover, using grenades when I hid in buildings to regenerate health (although they rarely threw them accurately) and flanking. The other 80% of the time, they “flanked” by running around me to a point 100 yards behind before taking cover or opening fire, set their own bases on fire with rocket launchers and rammed my stopped truck with theirs at full speed. I remember one time I realized I was being chased only when the pursuing truck ran straight into mine and flipped up and over it as I was getting out.

    Needless to say, the original FEAR’s AI is still the best I’ve seen, even if it was all smoke and mirrors. Even if it doesn’t markedly improve on the original, FEAR 2 will still probably inherit that title.

  26. Pags says:

    Can’t believe we’re talking about AI and no-one’s mentioned S.T.A.L.K.E.R yet. Granted it was patchy, but it was a damned sight more impressive than the usual sort of thing developers laud themselves for.

  27. Funky Badger says:

    Ixtab: the day the computer AI starts bunnyhopping around me in circles is the day I give up on FPS…

    (R6V and SWAT4 AI’s pretty good as well – which is short-hand for – I get killed. A lot.)

  28. clovus says:

    The whole grenade eating made me think that creating a really really bad AI would be great too. Right now early missions in FPSs are filled with a few weak enemies. Boring. How about filling them with a bunch of morons. Think of all the fun things they could do:

    When you throw a grenade they’d run over to it and point at it like a Sim who just found a new chair.

    They’d constantly shoot each other, or even hold the gun backwards and kill themselves.

    They’d take cover on the wrong side of the object.

    They’d forget to reload and just stand there “clicking” at you for hours.

    Also falling off buildings, groups getting stuck in doors, dropping their gun and clapping when they actually hit you, pulling the pin and throwing it instead of the grenade, waiving at the player, etc.

  29. Gaph says:

    AI is really something developers should do more with. I think it’s really what makes Half-Life better than Half-Life 2. The HECU Marines were actually tough. They were fast, they were aggressive and you had to be on your toes to make it defeat them.

    The other side is that you were given ways to exploit their AI in fun ways. Like trip mines… you knew they’d run straight through them and blow up. But also the detpacks you could set traps with and the snarks you could let loose on them. It’s like right alongside System Shock 2 where you can hack turrets to make them friendly or Deus Ex has tons of ways to play with the AI.

    Half-Life 2 on the other hand gives you no real way to “exploit” the Combine. You just kill them in varying ways, just like BioShock gives you many options but they’re all a means to the same end.

  30. Leeks! says:

    Man, reading John’s preamble made me think that eating grenades would be the terminally macho version of diving on top of one with your helmet to save your buddies.

  31. sbs says:

    clovus: Excellent idea! I think upon getting injured, they should also stumble about like the Sumotori Dreams avatars. That plus Euphoria engine should make it a sight to behold.

  32. Pags says:

    @sbs: I’ve always wanted to fight drunks, like Niko after he’s gone drinking with Roman in GTAIV.

  33. Muzman says:

    Half Life’s AI was surpassed by Thief’s almost immediately and it’s still something of a high water mark.
    And yeah, Stalker and CS should get a mention. They do the odd weird thing and stupid thing just like every game, but after a while you realise you’re ignoring the fact that some squad is fanning out, moving from cover to cover and flanking you in a rather complex way and you’re just used to it.

    How AIs react to sniper fire is always a bit of a stickler. And I don’t think anyone’s cracked AI detailed enough to make supressing fire actually work in a shooter without making it too easy. Maybe some game has?
    Also, Vietcong has some of the scariest, sneakiest AI ever.

  34. SuperNashwan says:

    Pfah, I don’t want ‘realistic’ or ‘emotional’ AI, I want functional, game oriented AI. Go play Halo and see for yourself. Each unit has very simplistic and obvious behaviour, yet because of that you really get to have fun with it. And of course a few different simple rules lead to complex interactions very quickly anyway, the real genius of Halo being the tuning of that to provide a shifting tactical landscape that really engages the player.

  35. Funky Badger says:

    “the real genius of Halo”

    See, I never really got this bit…

  36. Erlam says:

    “Needless to say, the original FEAR’s AI is still the best I’ve seen, even if it was all smoke and mirrors.”

    With the exception of Stalker, I totally agree with that.

    I’ve been bitching for years that we need to take a step away from graphic improvements and get back to the A.I., which is still basically as retarded as it was in Quake. Other than Stalker, all we’ve added is the ability to jump over/hide near something. Most of the time they don’t even go on the right side of things.

    The problem is, consoles will severely hamper this. With in-order processing, smaller processors, less RAM, etc, it’ll be AGES before consoles can come close to what PC’s are at, even now.

  37. Erlam says:

    “And of course a few different simple rules lead to complex interactions very quickly anyway, the real genius of Halo being the tuning of that to provide a shifting tactical landscape that really engages the player.”

    See Player, Attack Player, Dodge, Attack Player, Dodge, Attack Player, Dodge?

  38. Heliocentric says:

    Thelief you don’t need a thinking machine you just need a decent genetic algorithm. Have it remember how you defeated enemies, or just what it itself knows then have it adjust itself based on the input.

  39. Novotny says:

    Personally, I laughed immediately. I’m sure they’re great guys, I’m sure they’re doing the best work they can under the constraints of time managment and direction. PR requires they speak so.

    But the first time a developer says something like ‘the ai? oh, it’s as shit as you’d expect – has the audience got 10 gig core 2 quintabules? I think not. We spent it on the gfx, where we have to. But its a bloody blast man, you’ll enjoy it!’ I’ll buy shares in their company, nevermind the game.

  40. Novotny says:

    where oh where on god’s earth is the bloody edit

  41. MeestaNob! says:

    Looks like a fun game. I only played the demo of the original (and one of the apparently forgettable add ons). I reckon I’ll pick up the original when it hits Steam in a few months (Warner Bros owns FEAR now, so there’s a good chance it will join Lego Batman there).

  42. Squiff says:

    I think it’s also important to consider that AI in shooters is context-sensitive, particularly with the divide between open-world and corridor-driven games. Far Cry 2′s AI certainly had its weak moments, but maybe (for now at least) that’s a compromise we have to make for the luxury of free-roaming worlds.

  43. BobJustBob says:

    Hahaha! Thanks for this, it’s hilarious. The amazing goal-oriented AI with goals such as “shoot the player” and “player moved to the side, find him”. Unlike other AIs, it knows how to scream while on fire and how to walk while crouching. And it constantly surprises the devs how it sometimes throws grenades.

    I love this video.

  44. Deuteronomy says:

    Stalker has by far and away the best AI I’ve seen. Crysis isn’t bad either, but since you’re typically abusing the cloak you never notice it.

    Fear never impressed me in the AI dept. I never saw any real flanking maneuvers or anything else that would have given me pause.

  45. Mister Yuck says:

    Nashwan is dead on about Halo (1)’s AI. The way the enemies were designed forced you to play in a fun way. None of the enemies allowed you to backtrack or chip away their health slowly, whereas this is a valuable strategy in most games from that time period. The elites would retreat when their shields were down, drawing you forward, the jackals would camp, pretty much forcing you to flank, and the grunts would run screaming from you. It kept you moving forward.

    I also have to give Halo kudos for having believable AI when it was fighting itself. In so many games, when you are watching opposing AIs fight each other, it looks completely fucking retarded and fake. When the aliens/your Marines/the zombie aliens/some robots fought each other it was epic (and unscripted).

  46. Wedge says:

    I seem to remember the developers admitting the AI for the first FEAR was largely a bunch of careful scripting to give the illusion of there being some kind of actual intelligence behind how the enemies act. Somehow guessing this won’t really be that different. When is Monolith going to go back to making interesting games? =<

  47. Larington says:

    “I seem to remember the developers admitting the AI for the first FEAR was largely a bunch of careful scripting to give the illusion of there being some kind of actual intelligence behind how the enemies act.”

    And for me at least, that illusion failed, it was an interesting idea but the moment I saw a soldier walk up to a very specific shelf and pull that down I got an instant feeling it was script triggering and not inherent AI behaviour.
    That (unintentional) deciept was sufficient to put me off being interested in any further games based on the FEAR franchise.

  48. That1GuyNess says:

    What ai is IS a bunch of careful scripting. And it seems people fail to understand that. The ai in fear was amazing for it’s time and even now impresses compared to other games. It’s difficult to design an ai that will actively flank you and move around you in a three dimensional way rather than sit behind cover 20 feet down the road like in BiA or Cod. It’s much more difficult then you’d think it is and anyone commenting that it’s “just a bunch of careful scripting” doesn’t know how ai actually works. What do you think Stalker or Half-Life was? Have you ever designed a goldsrc map? If you had you’d understand that that’s all any ai is. Careful scripting and designing the level around it’s strengths.

  49. Ted says:

    What’s so great about STALKER’s AI? I’m playing it now, and it basically comes down to run to the tree nearest the bad guys, lean out from behind it, wait for the AI guys to get bored and leave their cover to come after you, then blast them when they’re out in the open and you’re half way behind a tree. It’s a fun game, but I’m not seeing anything noticeably impressive in the AI.

  50. Funky Badger says:

    The problem is, consoles will severely hamper this. With in-order processing, smaller processors, less RAM, etc, it’ll be AGES before consoles can come close to what PC’s are at, even now.

    Halo, Gears and R6V al have good AI and are all console games – Far Cry 2 and FEAR were ported to consoles.

    I understand the AI on L4D works the same across the divide as well.