Wheel Life: F1 2010 AI Faked?

By Quintin Smith on September 28th, 2010 at 4:58 pm.

I fake my intelligence all the time. In the bedroom, mainly.

Cheating AI in racing games? We’re acquainted with it. Cheating AI in racing games gets a card with a robin on it at Christmas and an invitation to our birthday party. What’s emerging from F1 2010 is an order of magnitude more serious, though.

Codemasters has admitted that what the AI cars do during qualifying matches bears no relation to the lap times those cars post. As for the actual races in the game, Codemasters is keeping very quiet, though F1 players are having doubts about the legitimacy of the AI racing drivers there as well. Whether they’re actually racing at all, for instance.

In a nutshell, people are posting about inexplicable occurances during their races. In this example a player talks about completing the first lap of a race with a time of 2:03, putting him in 2nd place, and the AI driver behind him in 3rd place posting a time of 1:59. The theory doing the rounds at the minute is that the AI cars that appear in front and behind you during races are there to get in the way, and that’s it, rather than them being genuine simulated drivers of any kind.

What makes this more believable is the inexplicable absence of several features which would otherwise allow the player to spy on the AI. Like not being able to swap the camera to other cars during replay videos, and the total absence of split times from the game. Codemasters have claimed the former is a limitation of the game’s engine, but when every other racing game I can remember playing for the last few years managed it, that’s a hard sell.

Let’s hypothesise that this is correct, and the AI really is nothing but smoke and mirrors. Does it matter? Isn’t the race experience the same?

Well, that depends on the quality of said smoke and mirrors. If nobody could spot what Codies had done here, it wouldn’t make any difference whatsoever. The illusion would be maintained, and this’d be a racing game like any other. The problem is simple: they took and a risk, and they appear to have fumbled it.

Thinking that the AI you’re up against materialises just behind you and vanishes when it’s in front of you makes a huge amount of difference. Rather than being a competitor in a simulated sport, you’re a gamer having wool pulled over your eyes. It’s fundamentally less pleasant.

Jim posted his somewhat disappointed impressions of F1 2010 yesterday, also mentioning that the game absolutely isn’t a sim. Which kind of makes me down about this whole bug / cheaty AI business. I wouldn’t have minded playing this.

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123 Comments »

  1. Lukasz says:

    I find this very distasteful. It is not a race anymore against another opponents but race against clock. I presume nothing you do will ever affect the time of your opponents?

    Horrible horrible thing.

  2. Dominic White says:

    The true story of Wesley Crusher.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oxopd_qSVKo

  3. Weylund says:

    This is actually sort of brilliant. Why spend time writing an AI to do the work when you can just generate semi-realistic (read: “beat these times as a mini-game!”) lap times?

    That’s a smart dev team there. From the linked thread I gather there were some, err, draconian time constraints, too.

    If the race times are faked that’s a bit more of a problem though.

    • Fede says:

      I think Codemasters have always done this for qualifications, since the very first toca more than 10 years ago. And while I don’t find it very good, I think it’s acceptable.

      But you cannot do that in race and hope no one finds out…

    • BAReFOOt says:

      I think you mean “brillant”. As in the “brillant” Paula Bean?
      “Brillant” as in cars who were behind you, suddenly being in front of you on the clock.
      Yeah, very believable. Very “brillant”.

      I remember Screamer having cars jump some dozen meters forward at the start/finish line. And that was already very lame. But still a thousand times better than this.
      Looking at the definition of what is a game right now, I doubt this is even a game at all.

  4. Richard Beer says:

    Bah, bah and thrice bah!

    When the jiminy will someone dedicate a team of extremely bright people to AI in a game? It’s like the ginger step-child of game development right now. The ginger step-child Cinderella of game development, actually, because one day it will be king. Or queen or whatever.

    Just sort out your goddamn AI, developers. Yes I’m talking to all of you! Stop snickering at the back, Civ 5! And I haven’t marked your homework, yet, Shogun 2: Total War, so I don’t know why you’re smiling!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Flatout 2′s AI drivers are pretty damn good, both in terms of smarts (they actually try to avoid the dynamic debris and other drivers littering the track most of the time) and gameplay fun (they get angry and wreckless and actually have a little hint of personality to them, and the rubberbanding, if any, seems to be based on the nitro mechanic, so if you do get one hurtling up alongside you trying to claim 1st, they’ll probably fail the next corner anyway).

      1NSANE was pretty good, too, especially given they had to handle unknown (admittedly heightmap) terrain and a set of somewhat complex game modes, such as having to pathfind through a set of random nodes and strategically plan that some of those nodes will be claimed by other players before you can get there so you need to head off in a different direction to them.

      Marrying those two together would produce pretty much the perfect non-serious-sim racing game, really. (Both are awesome at LAN parties too. Taking that out of Flatout 3-whatever was truly beyond idiotic.)

    • Richard Beer says:

      That’s what really irritates me about AI. It is standing still while graphics, sound etc get more and more development time poured into them. The AI in past games seems no worse than the AI in modern games, despite the fact that there are more CPU cycles than ever to cope with it as GPUs take on more of the hard work.

      Seriously. Can someone give me a decent answer. Why was I playing against AI bots in QW:DM or Q2 so many years ago, or racing against seemingly proper cocks who weren’t afraid to give as good as they got in TOCA or Geoff Crammond’s Grand Prix racer, that seem no more idiotic than today’s pathetic efforts? Why has AI seemingly stagnated so badly?

      What this industry really needs is a great big popular article by Jim or Alec complaining about it!

    • Arathain says:

      I think this is one of those cases where it’s not that developers are lazy (although I’m not sure about this case), but that good AI is Properly Hard to get right. Most instances of decent AI involve a fair bit of cheating, or misdirection at least. Case in point: AI War. It genuinely does have a smart AI with a good sense of priorities. It also includes a fuzzy factor, however- there’s a degree of randomness to its choices. When this works and, by chance, you get attacked from an unexpected direction, players tend to be impressed by the AIs creativity. Well, yes and no…

      One of my current games, another space 4X called Sword of the Stars has AI that impresses me. It seems genuinely able to analyse your ship designs and come up with specific counters, which given the complexity of the tech tree is no mean feat.

    • Starky says:

      It’s quite simple really, AI has advanced, quite a lot, but you see as game complexity rises, so does AI programming, almost exponentially.

      There are masses more variables that AI has to keep track of and make decisions about, even take something like an FPS – in half life soldiers could flank, would run away and would use team tactics, but these were fairly simple illusions and cheated a LOT (fixed pathing, rails, and scripting).

      I’d wager in modern games the ability for AI to believably traverse the more complex terrain of modern shooters (say something like Alex in HL2 Ep1/2) is more complex than the entire all of the Ai coding in HL1.

    • battles_atlas says:

      What everyone else above this says, but with added NARRRRHHHHHHH I’M SO ANGRY AT LAME AI.

      I’ve found that AI has stagnated now for so long that often when you complain about it some who respond have decided that sucky AI is simply a law of nature – that without the creation of true artifical intelligence we’ll be stuck at this level for ever. Utter bollocks. If Deep Blue could beat a chess Grand Master with less processing power than a modern day mid-range graphics card, I’m pretty sure that you can code half-plausible AI.

      I think the media has been an unfortunate accomplice in this ongoing fail. When you’re rushing a review to get it onto the interwebs first, graphics are instantly appraisable, but AI takes time to appreciate. How come none of the F1 reviews I’ve read so far have mentioned these problems with the AI? Probably because the reviews were based on half a day of game play.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Graphics are much easier to improve than AI, and give a much better wow factor in trailers, screenshots, and other previews.

      No, don’t blame this on console kids. I’ve seen the comments here. The PC crowd is easily as shallow and will condemn a game forever for being ugly based on a snippet of footage. You get the games you deserve.

    • Weylund says:

      The game industry pays about a third of what “properly bright people” doing AI can earn in other industries. I earned staggering quantities of cash building industrial AIs. Game companies do not pay nearly as much.

      That, and the guys above me have got it right: most game AI cheats, because it is Properly Hard to build a Thinking Machine Person Thingie that can make fantastic decisions with the miniscule amount of frame time that game AIs have available, especially after common time-consuming tasks like pathfinding are out of the way.

    • Starky says:

      Indeed, I don’t do AI in games, but I’ve done some AI for robotics… and I could probably get a job earning £70-80 a year doing that (once I’ve finished my masters) – where doing AI in games is a order of magnitude harder, and will maybe earn me half of that in a senior position.

    • frymaster says:

      the original f1gp’s AI wasn’t bad

      papyrus’s games, nascar especially, had FREAKING AWESOME AI

      you could play the game on dial-up (and my brother did) with people from the US, and the game could AI-control their cars in between updates with uncanny skill

    • Richard Beer says:

      Funny you should mention robotics, but I posited on a previous thread that game companies should employ people from those industries and/or purchase a base model AI that they can then adapt for purpose.

      It’s all about the money!

    • Jason Moyer says:

      you could play the game on dial-up (and my brother did) with people from the US, and the game could AI-control their cars in between updates with uncanny skill

      That’s not artificial intelligence, it’s predictive networking. Inbetween position/speed updates, Papyrus titles and iRacing say “the car was here, this is where the car might be”. There’s no AI involved, and if you drove any of those games offline you’d be aware that the actual artificial intelligence in them was laughable – just a bunch of objects in the gameworld that followed a handful of pre-defined lines with a few basic rules governing their behavior rather than any having any sort of decision making ability. There performance also completely ignored the physics engine, i.e. everything was faked based on values in a few text files.

    • dr_demento says:

      I hate to say it, but you know what FPS has genuinely rock-hard AI, fully capable of outwitting you and making tactical decisions based on how it’s doing in fights, along with a range of enemies characterised by personas? Halo, especially on the hardest difficulty.

      Search your heart. You know it to be true.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      Arathain says: “Most instances of decent AI involve a fair bit of cheating, or misdirection at least. Case in point: AI War.”

      The AI War AI cheats horrendously. The more you play it the more you’ll notice it (hell just park a scout in an adjacent system & watch as units appear out of thin air every so often). Doesn’t make it a bad game though & in some ways actually helps make it better.

      battles_atlas says: “If Deep Blue could beat a chess Grand Master with less processing power than a modern day mid-range graphics card, I’m pretty sure that you can code half-plausible AI.”

      Yes because brute-forcing every possible move every turn on a 8*8 board with 16 pieces max is the same as AI in modern 3D games.

      dr_demento says: “I hate to say it, but you know what FPS has genuinely rock-hard AI, fully capable of outwitting you and making tactical decisions based on how it’s doing in fights, along with a range of enemies characterised by personas?”

      S.T.A.L.K.E.R?

    • Matt says:

      @dr_demento: Halo 1? You mean the game where the level designers placed ‘firing point’ objects all over the levels, so the enemies would know when they could shoot you?

    • dr_demento says:

      @Malibu Stacy – I didn’t say it was the only one!

      @Matt – although Halo 1 had far better AI than anything else released around that time, no, I was talking about 3 and Reach – the singleplayer of the latter is based entirely around massive open areas for the AI to show off in.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      The hardest AI in any shooter is OpFlashpoint/Arma, although I wouldn’t call the AI in either of those good by any means, even though they can kill you repeatedly without cheating.

  5. Gotem says:

    So it’s just like those atari 2600 games with nicer graphics?

    • Batolemaeus says:

      You know that sound a balloon makes when you blow it up and then just release it? All the hot air coming out at once, propelling the balloon forward for a few seconds until the deflated mess hits the floor?
      That is the sound I imagined in my head when i read this article and the comments.

    • Zogtee says:

      Pole Position 2010.

  6. Michael says:

    Looks like the deadline imposed by the licensed nature of this game has killed it. As an F1 obsessive, I’m gutted. I was really looking forward to this. This is why I don’t pre-order.

    I’m splitting blame evenly between Codies and FOM. It’s been a decade since there was a decent F1 game. This is the closest most fans will ever get to actually competing in the sport they follow. It’s important for maintaining the fanbase. So it should be a high priority for Bernie’s boys, but they can’t see past short term profiteering.

    • aldo_14 says:

      They spent something like 2 years developing this, on top of an engine which had already had some fairly enjoyable open-wheel racing in GRiD…. how on earth did they manage to blow it so badly?

    • drewski says:

      Has anything in the past 20 years of being aware of F1 given you the slightest hint that Ecclestone and friends are interested in anything more than extracting the most amount of cash possibly out of F1 in the shortest period of time?

      Because if it has, you’ve been watching a different sport to me.

    • Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox says:

      Hmmm. Sport…

    • P7uen says:

      I thought Codies’ obvious passion could have balanced that out though.

      There are compromises and there are compromises and then there is removing any aspect of ‘racing’ from a racing game.

  7. Starky says:

    This kind of thing is pretty much unforgivable in a F1 game, maybe other racing games might get away with it (say need for speed or something that is totally arcade racing) – but even in a game that isn’t a simulation to do this is about the worst choice a designer could ever make.

    It’s no longer a racing game, but a time trial game, with the times of your opponents being utterly arbitrary.

    I could forgive it if it was something like the nearest 10 racers are real AI times based on how fast they drive the track, but outside of that it is just made up numbers based around those 10. So if you were in 1st place, positions 2-9 would be real full on AI simulations racing you as if it was another player – but 10-20 (or whatever) was just +seconds from then on. To save CPU cycles.

    Could you imagine if in a FPS game against bots, the final scores of said bots were just made up at the end of the round, and no reflection on what those bots actually did in the game?

    • Senethro says:

      Bot AI is always meaningless as they’re just rolling random numbers to miss you. Computers need never miss, so the fact they do has no relation at all to how successful you’re playing or anything you’re doing. Since they’re not really moving a mouse about or interpreting a game world remotely like you, its not at all meaningful to beat them or lose to them.

    • Starky says:

      That is totally NOT the same thing, and you’re totally and utterly wrong.

      Bot AI is there to simulate imperfection, or lack of skill.
      Making a AI bot believably make mistakes is the skill in programming AI, anyone could code a wall-hacking perfect aim AI bot that would be impossible for a human to defeat.
      Beating AI is a challenge, or should be – with the AI stimulating a human opponent as best they can, great bots do this well, so beating a medium difficulty AI should prepare you for low-medium skill humans.
      Take Starcraft 2 for example, which has pretty decent AI, once you can beat hard AI reliably, and hold your own against very hard, you’re probably ready for human opponents at a silver level. The Ai follows the same basic strategies as human players, make the same basic timing mistakes and has the same basic gameplay flaws – because it was programmed to do so, even though it could have perfect macro timing 100% of the time and just smash any newbie with a big ass army.

      You missed my point though.
      What if in a FPS you were playing against bots, got 10 kills in the round and then on the leader board you were placed 5th because the scores of the bots you were killing were TOTALLY MADE UP.
      That is the equivalent.

      These F1 guys decided they could not be arsed (or were unable) to program good, believable AI bots, and instead just cheated.

    • Senethro says:

      FPS Bot scores are TOTALLY MADE UP because they’re not playing the game. If two bots with the same programming score differently, is the difference real? Its all random numbers so really they should just ignore the bots “actual” scores and let you win the match based on your ability to score high enough within a time limit. Kind of like a time trial in fact.

    • Starky says:

      They are not “totally made up” they are totally simulated up – and there is a very important difference in that.

      A game with time trial against a simulated AI opponent (which you never drive against) could use the EXACT same AI/programming as one you race against, and could just be calculated after-the fact.

      That is how most games do qualifying laps, and that is perfectly fine – the illusion is maintained.

      This game shatters that illusion, and that is all AI is at the end of the day, the illusion based on a complex series of semi-random choices and if/and/or situations to fool the player into thinking they could be playing a human.
      So the bottom line is this game’s illusion is so fake, so transparent that it just seems unrealistic, and pointless (pointless to even have other cars on the road) – so it utterly fails at being a racing game.

      It’s not a racing game, it’s a timetrial game (you’re basically racing against yourself) which isn’t bad in itself, but the game is being sold as a racing game.

    • Wilson says:

      @Senethro – Starky covered most of it, but you’re also not taking into account how the AI deal with the only thing you can’t pre-simulate, the player interaction. AI in FPS games reacts to what the player does. This makes a huge difference to the game for the player. You could just give the player a high score to beat and spawn bots in every so often for them to kill instead of simulating them properly, but that would remove a lot of the fun. If you want, you can pick on a particular bot, and their score will be worse at the end of the game if you have kept killing them specifically. I seem to remember reading an anecdote on the codemasters forums where a player held up an AI driver for ages, but the AI then still got a standard lap time. This is why AI that is simulated to actually play properly is better than a more blatantly fake AI.

    • Starky says:

      Damn, can’t believe I missed the most important fundamental point of AI, I guess I just assumed everyone knew it and took it as given – that it is designed to interact with a human player, and react to their moves.

      So yeah what Wilson said.

    • Urthman says:

      FPS Bot scores are TOTALLY MADE UP because they’re not playing the game.

      So if you play a 1-on-1 deathmatch against a bot, and you kill it 10 times, and it kills you 7 times, and at the end of the match the game says “Bot wins! 14-8!” you wouldn’t be surprised? Because, as you say, bot scores are just totally made up at random?

    • Matt says:

      FPS bot AI isn’t even that easy. If you give them a hitscan sniper rifle, 360 vision, and wall hacks they can do pretty well, but if tactical planning and mission objectives are more important than twitch reactions they have a hard time measuring up to even average human players. Imagine trying to code the AI for a TF2 medic or for a Natural Selection Skulk.

  8. Senethro says:

    Racing game AI is a deception anyway. We should be as willing to accept this as the previous shoddy excuses.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Man, the graphics are all fake too—they’re just textured polygons. And your own car’s handling is a pile of maths! We should just give up on games entirely because playing pretend is for little children.

    • Senethro says:

      Works of fiction are fake but they should still make an effort to have believable characters. The comparison here is between two different kinds of man shaped props or scenery.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Your analogy is ridiculous because one man-shaped prop is a Industrial Light & Magic animatronic robot and the other is a piece of cardboard with a face finger-painted on it by the director’s pre-school child.

    • Senethro says:

      Your description of my analogy is ridiculous because I disagree with you.

    • Fede says:

      Racing AIs might be fake at times, or might have some slight handling advantage, but there are plenty of racing games with AIs racing for real. Even free ones, like TORCS.

  9. LionsPhil says:

    So, they’ve taken the Grand Theft Auto approach to NPCs, then.

    Still, it’s Codemasters. They haven’t developed or published a good or unbroken game in years.

  10. Berm says:

    First they deceived every single gamer with the fake OF:DR trailers and pics and now this.

    Codemasters is becoming a more shady publisher than Activision and EA put together, and that’s saying something.

  11. SirKicksalot says:

    AI resetting on track:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoX0ClBDljE

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0BBTXpeGQs

    Flatout 2′s AI was brilliant.

  12. Turin Turambar says:

    “Cheating AI in racing games? We’re acquainted with it.”

    Yes, and it’s acceptable… in arcade racing games. It’s ok in a crazy Flatout or NFS game, but not in a semi-simulation F1 game. It’s a game where you play in multi-year careers against the AI, in races where a 0.1 second per lap difference is important, fake AI times or AI resetting their cars or AI blocking your way out of the pitlane is totally unacceptable.

    • Matt says:

      Even in arcade I often prefer straight AI. If I take the time to t-bone the leader off a cliff in a GTA race, I expect them to stay well behind me cause If they do it to me I sure as hell wont be recovering any time soon.

  13. Bob Bobson says:

    In general driving games, or other games where you can hide AI bits out of sight, so what? I want to challenge and overtake the racers near me and it’s no worse than rubber banding.

    In an F1 game, where so much of the real life sport is about timing pit-stops, tactics, tyre wear and petrol load management however this is a big deal. F1 tactics are all about split times and meaningful interactions on track. So this batch of smoke and mirrors matters hugely.

    Not that I was ever going to buy an F1 game, not my cup of tea.

    • Starky says:

      It’s not though because the bottom line is what you are seeing in game is NOT representative of the actual positions of the cars you’re supposed to be racing against.

      You might think you’re catching up with the car in front, or pulling away from the car behind only to have the game tell you you have the exact same lap time.
      It shatters the illusion (and yes all driving AI is just an illusion, we all know this) of actually racing.

      They might as well have you race on am empty track and simply have a time you need to beat to win… which might be fun but it ISN’T a racing game.

    • DrGonzo says:

      F1 seems to try it’s hardest to not be about racing either though. Half the rules seem to be in place just to discourage overtaking.

    • P7uen says:

      Just to point out, half of the other aspects of F1 racing you mention that should replace the fun racing e.g. pitting, split times, are not actually in the game.

      The reason all the ‘bugs’ were occuring were actually a by-product of there being no AI.

  14. teo says:

    This is far from being confirmed, a lot of people are confused by the way lap times are displayed. Don’t be too quick to condemn them

  15. Yeah says:

    RC Pro Am.

  16. Diziet says:

    Limitation of the engine? Geoff crammonds formula one on amiga managed it. That was a stunning game for the time.

  17. Vando says:

    There are so, so many things broken about this game. It ate my savegame the other day for no apparent reason (and this is apparently on the ‘known issues’ list!) and I really have no motivation to keep playing a giant sack of brokenness that, even if you turn a blind eye to the various jarring issues, wipes hours of gameplay out at random.

    Anyone have any ideas of the chances of a refund given that I bought this through Steam? Email Codemasters support and cross fingers? I’ve never, ever been driven to ask for a refund before but this is about as close to unplayable as I’ve found in two decades of gaming. That’ll teach me to preorder, I guess.

  18. Nick says:

    Jeff Crammond > Codemasters I guess.

  19. Bonedwarf says:

    I’m a sim junkie. I KNEW Codemasters would blow this. Bernie licensing the sport to them was always going to be a bloody disaster.

    ISI had pitiful AI in rFactor. Simbin however made pretty good AI in GTR2 and GTR Evolution. I’ve spent HOURS tweaking and playing with AI in all these sims. In rFactor cars will just plow into you. In GTR2 I’ve watched AI take avoiding action when I screw up. They also fight for position.

    AI seems to be getting worse. Gran Turismo 4 had pathetic AI whereas GT2 had acceptable AI.

    ISI claimed they were working on a great new AI for rFactor, but then held it back for the upcoming RF2, but seem oddly recalcitrant in regards to answering any questions about said AI.

    The problem is multiplayer has ruined AI. Devs seem to assume that everyone wants to play online, which of course eliminates Codemasters pathetic AI from the equation, whereas I prefer to race a good AI.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      There are two problems with AI, as I see it. Firstly, as you say, the knee-jerk reaction when anyone complains about AI is “AI can never match a human opponent (so why bother trying)”. Secondly, Ai is written pretty much from scratch, for every game. By contrast, graphics code tends to be carried over from one game to the next – if not the entire engine, then at least the bulk of the code. This is why we see graphics getting prettier and more accomplished, but AI seems to stand in place, or even get worse.

    • Rick says:

      As far as Bernie is concerned, he’s got all he ever wanted out of this project. The same thing that motivates him in every other regard with F1: its made him loads of dosh.

    • Walsh says:

      Not only that but from an article I read on gamasutra a long time ago, the biggest issue is dedication of resources to AI processing. Most games only allow AI to use the leftovers after the graphics and various game related number crunchings get their share of the CPU. I think I recall one guy saying they could only get 10% of the CPU for AI.

      They can create better AI but if it’s slowing down the frame rate then the prettiness wins out.

  20. stevehatesyou says:

    ALL game AI is smoke and mirrors. The most powerful AI in the world doesn’t even have the reasoning capacity of a two year old, let alone what you find in a video game.

    • drewski says:

      That’s not the point. All AIs are not equal merely because they are all fake.

    • teo says:

      Videogame “AI” isn’t design to perform rational though, it’s supposed to play the game which it in almost all cases will do better than a two year old

    • D says:

      The problem isn’t really that AI is smoke and mirrors, people can accept that, if it’s believable. The problem in this instance is that the smoke is almost clear and the mirrors have cracks in them. Refunds should be given for this.

  21. Rii says:

    /sigh

    My copy of F1 2010 hasn’t even arrived yet (ordered from the UK to save $) and already I’m wishing I hadn’t bought it.

  22. Toby says:

    Haha, oh wow. It wasn’t like this in DiRT 2 right? At least I never noticed it.

  23. jeremypeel says:

    On an interesting side note, this is a prime example of what Prominent Games Journalist Kieron Gillen calls a mechanics spoiler (c. a couple of hours ago).

    This falls very much into the catagory of “game-breaking and therefore must be revealed to the public” then, like Empire’s rubbish fleets. If, as Quinns says, it was a competent illusion (and who knows how many we’ve let slip unnoticed?) then its reveal in a review would be detrimental to the reader’s experience of the game, and for no good reason.

    This, however, is the kind of thing people really have a right to know before they pour their earnings into the game. I have a housemate currently saving up to buy F1 2010 and I will be letting him know about its coniving ways pronto. Really, that’s a microcosm of what a review should offer – as a trusted source, I’m expected not to let slip any game-ruining spoilers of any kind, but to overrule that should I come into the knowledge suggesting that said game is a deceptive pile of turd and not worth his time or money.

  24. Radiant says:

    Artificial intelligence is only supposed to APPEAR to be intelligent.
    It’s actually quite inventive if this is what CM have done.

    The only wrong they have done is that they failed to hide it well enough.

    • Radiant says:

      “It’s actually quite inventive if this is what CM have done”

      Replace ‘done’ with ‘accomplished’.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      I think the problem is that the illusion has broken. Nobody thinks the AI drivers are real competitors, just temporary roadblocks. The emperor’s new clothes have disappeared.

    • Wilson says:

      @Radiant – I don’t think you can call it inventive really, since it’s kind of the bare minimum they can do, short of not actually having other cars on the track at all. It’s not inventive compared to actually having the AI race since it’s a step backwards.

      Surely even having the AI follow set lines around the course, knocking into anything in the way, would be better than this bizarre sounding half real half approximated system. And how hard could that be?

  25. Orbb says:

    This gives also the occasion to think about videogame “journalism” because no review pointed out this, not even the pit stop bug, and because of that i bought a game that otherwise i wouldn’t have.

    :\

  26. iggypopbarker says:

    Codemasters have history in pulling really dodgy shit with sports games
    http://worldofstuart.excellentcontent.com/swiz2/swiz2.htm

    tl,dr version: their awful 2006 reworking of Sensible Soccer was a quickly knocked up version of their execrable and commercially unpopular ‘Club Football’ games – made slightly more arcadey and given the classic sensi overhead view. It was unplayable single-player and clearly rushed out for the 2006 World Cup. They also went to great lengths to both deny the Club Football link in interviews and delete comments on review sites mentioning it -

  27. Jackalope says:

    I’ve never really found the AI cars in driving games convincing. GT Legends wasn’t too bad, I didn’t feel like I was being treated unfairly. They made driving mistakes but tried to avoid collisions and didn’t just pile up into the back of me every corner. Test Drive Unlimited wasn’t too bad although they never try to avoid accidents and will happily smash head first into me. but since they treated traffic the same it wasn’t a major issue for me and I just liked crusing and exploring in that game. Most driving games though it seems if I collide with an opponent they go zooming off into the disctance, but if I get hit, instead of a miraculous boost of speed I get shunted into a wall or just stop dead. That hasn’t changed in the last thirty years!

  28. CheetahMen says:

    So it’s kind of like Vanishing Point on the Dreamcast? (You play time attack with other oponents on the track that act as roadblocks).

    VP was a nice game, but it didnt try to hide it’s true nature.
    I guess the biggest problem here is not what they did, but where. The public that’s going to buy this game is very special, I mean, I love racing games and I consider this discipline too hardcore, so I imagine that someone buying this game will find realistic split times, pit stops and race times VERY important on such a technical sport.

    Seriously, if this is true, what were they thinking?

  29. kwyjibo says:

    Can’t believe they thought this was acceptable for an F1 game. Some arcade racer, fine – no one cares. But F1? Seriously? These guys care about the shape of the fucking duct (F-Duct).

  30. Jibba Jabba says:

    Artificial Intelligence isn’t real????

  31. iphigenia says:

    This post is well worth a read:

    http://community.codemasters.com/forum/f1-2010-game-1316/432635-nutshell.html

    I think Fittipaldi might have hit the nail on the head. The cars do have a permanent presence, it’s just that that presence is heavily influenced by a very clumsy rubber-banding mechanism.

  32. cheal says:

    I picked this up and just to reiterate, the times do appear to be faked, acceptable in some racing games, not in a Formula 1 game.

    For those saying that all AI is a fake, yes you are correct, but we accept as gamers that AI is either good or bad. However that’s not the case here. What Codies has done is produced rubbish AI and then glossed over that by LYING to the player regarding what that AI is doing.

    There are plenty racing games out there which do good AI. I still play Grand Prix 4 with all the new mods. This is a 7 year old game with AI largely developed in the early 90′s and it still has the best AI of any racing game I’ve ever played, no question.

    Grand Prix 4 AI races around the track and it’s times are based on how long it takes them to get around the track. Even on modded in tracks the AI is still very competent.

    F1 2010 is nice for an immersive “Story” based racing game but if you want to drive an “F1 car” then Grand Prix 4 is still way ahead of the crowd.

    What’s Ironic is that the devs of F1 2010 said they were big fans of Grand Prix 2 and the Crammond games, and that can be seen in some elements of the game but they have managed to fluff the one element that made Grand Prix 2 and the Grand Prix series great. I never played Grand Prix, but I played the second for many years and even IT is a better simulation than this (still have it on dosbox on my netbook)! That’s a pretty sad fact.

    This is not a simulation, so fair is fair regarding the handling and the complexity of the game but faking timings is an absolute cardinal sin.

    • Tom says:

      I agree completely. I still play Grand Prix 2 (thank you DOSBox!) and Formula 1-wise that series is still the best.

      Regarding Codemasters racegames, I only enjoyed TOCA3, but only because it has a fun hot-seat multiplayer option. I bought DiRT2 for $1 (thank you RPS Bargain Bucket) but it doesn’t capture me the way Grand Prix 2 still does.

  33. John Peat says:

    It’s interesting that this has kicked-off because I’ve been playing a lot of racers recently and wondering ‘where next’ for their AI and specifically how an F1 game would work with overtaking much less common/requires much more skill and preparation.

    If you look at Grid/Dirt2/PGR3&4, the purpose of the AI is clearly just to provide mobile chicanes/a challenge at the start of the race and perhaps for ONE of the cars to keep you honest for the rest of the race at best .

    Forza 3 isn’t much better – it’s attempt to give the drivers ‘personality’ just results in them all driving aggressively and inconsistently (a car will do 5 average laps and then start putting in MAD times for example). There’s also a CHASM between ‘Medium’ (effortless) and Hard (nails – the best possible car and flawless driving is required to beat the 1/2 competitors you’ll actually be racing).

    Lastly you have NFS:Shift which has a MASSIVELY optimistic number of cars on track which results in some STAGGERING slowdown when they get tangled and stupid ‘traffic jams’ when one car fails to make it around a corner. The end result is the AI are still mobile chicanes but there’s so many you have little option but to wallop them more often than is remotely realistic (Bugatti-only races are farcical to the point of hilarity really).

    Anyway – AI – it’s a long way from where you’d like it to be which is why online racing matters more I guess – and this does offer, in theory, a full online field with no computer-morons??

  34. Monchberter says:

    Having read everything here, I’m feeling rather bitter that Codies have squandered the goodwill that I had for them from the Dirt series and Grid. I’m also feeling utterly shortchanged on the copy of F1 i preordered and was looking forward to putting some serious time into.

    Something that now I don’t think i’ll bother.

    • John Peat says:

      I think there are 2 things which matter here

      1 – you should ALWAYS make your own mind-up about a game you think you MIGHT like – plenty of people are always available to knock games, if you listen to them you’ll never play anything.

      2 – my golden rule of gaming is “play the game the developer made” and not the game which lives inside your head/fantasies. It’s wonderful you have a picture of what a game SHOULD be like, but there’s little point spending too much time thinking about it because that’s not the game in the box…

      All this “it’s an F1 game so we expected more” is nonsense, developers can’t pull amazing technologies out of their arse just because they’re basing a game on a sport which spends too much money on too little entertainment :)

      F1 will be a driving game QUITE like other driving games – if this isn’t what you expect, you’re deluded…

    • Monchberter says:

      You make a good point. I probably would have thoroughly enjoyed F1 2010 had I not read about all its faults.

      Alas, i’ll just enjoy it on my own terms. Integrity be damned.

  35. John H. says:

    This is bad because it affects strategy. If you’ve focused on keeping a certain driver out of the standings, for instance, then it turns out it doesn’t matter because he’s just a randomly generated presence anyway, and will always be mysteriously right behind you no matter what you do.

    Sports games represent themselves as simulations of real life. In this case, what are they simulating? An actual race against other cars, or a horrible universe in which you’re pestered by phantom vehicles, unhindered by the laws of time and space, their existences only defined when the probability-cloud that exists forever just outside your line of sight is actualized by your approach.

  36. Nalidor says:

    The lap times are only faked in practice and qualifying. Lead designer has stated that the reason for this is that they couldn’t give the AI proper practice and qualifying behaviour (see http://twitter.com/T4RG4/status/25443565012 and http://twitter.com/T4RG4/status/25631947972). Also, he insists (http://twitter.com/T4RG4/status/25609891784) that the actual race AI is genuine. Yet the article’s author states “As for the actual races…keeping very quiet”.

    We all expect better research from a RPS article :/

    • Langman says:

      Yep. I think RPS need to be careful here.

    • Frye says:

      Yea, i doubt the game has fake race AI GTA-style, not that bad. Game is getting a bit of an unfair treatment. Lots of red hot raging sim fans that didn’t get a sim.
      But it’s pretty close to a sim. I think they struck a rather good balance, being the ‘official’ F1 game.

  37. Perry says:

    I still find the game fun. These complaints seem like nit picking.

  38. Mark says:

    This happens in lotsof other games. AI entities frequently switch between being “real” or simulated or other different abstractions of complexity depending on how close they are or what they’re doing etc. You just don’t notice it normally. Most AI cheats for instance, and has to be stopped from doing things human players can’t (think of the way bots in CS:Source follow players through walls etc).

    If it’s not noticable I don’t see why it’s a problem. Games cheat a hell of a lot (often to help you!)

    p.s. videogames aren’t real! *runs screaming*

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Personally, having raced every serious chin-stroking sim ever, I think it’s a clever solution to the problem of making good AI, and since Geoff Crammond’s teams were the only ones who ever found a good solution to that problem, I don’t see the big deal. If CM were to tidy up the laptimes to further the illusion, no one would have even noticed.

      Seriously, outside of Crammond’s Grand Prix series, which had fantastic AI (good thing too, since they were never able to get multiplayer working), name one racing sim with passable AI. Papyrus had fantastic multiplayer code from Grand Prix Legends onwards, so fantastic that the man who developed that code (Randy Cassidy) is continuing to perfect it in iRacing. Likewise, their AI was so terrible that it’s not even on iRacing’s list of potential features.

      ISI-engined games, i.e. anything from Simbin, Need For Speed SHIFT, rFactor, F1 2000/01/02/Challenge, etc. all have drivers who use theoretical performance tables and almost completely disregard the games’ physics engine, while alternating between obvious machine-like perfection and total hilarity (try racing the AI at a street track in an ISI title sometime and see if 20% of the field can manage a single lap).

      Richard Burns Rally was initially supposed to feature true staggered starts, with the possibility of catching up to slowed competitors and simulation of accidents and so forth, and this was eventually dropped and you’re just racing against a set of times and time modifiers in a text file (Misc/ai/ai.ini if anyone’s curious).

      And that pretty much covers every serious PC racing game of the last 10 years.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Yeah I have played tons of racing games where I left a driver in the dust only to have them still riding my ass later. Definitely nothing new here. That being said, I still don’t like it, and would prefer to have a “real” race.

    • John Peat says:

      It’s seriously difficult to create decent AI racers – not the least of the problems being that a dozen ‘thinking’ opponents chews up a lot of CPU cycles…

      You could easily make cars which drove perfectly and wrung their cars out to 11/10ths but that would be no fun – so you make them flawed but that means they might hit the player’s car (which will drive them nuts) or each-other just drive off the circuit in a comedy way (NFS:Shift really struggles when this stuff happens).

      Real racing has comedy moments too tho – and races are ended by the mistakes of others (something you’d not really tolerate too-often in a game) and small mistakes have massive outcomes too.

      One thing I’ve found fascinating in Forza is rewinding tight corner tussles over and over again because the AI drivers do something different each time you rewind the corner (even if you do the same things) – which suggests there’s more ‘thinking’ going on that earlier games did.

      I’d actually say Forza has the best racing AI I’ve seen – it’s over-aggressive (but so are real racers) but the chasm between Med and Hard is too big which spoils it rather (as does the endless ability to rewind).

      and we forgot Dirt2 where everytime I screw up the drivers apoligies ‘DUDE!’ but everytime THEY screw up they criticise me – WTG there :)

    • cheal says:

      People are confused. i don’t care that the AI is crap. I have played many a game where the AI is crap. I think most people are pissed off that the timing screens are faked.

      Jason, the Simbin AI might not have been too great but it was better than most and more importantly they managed to get their “fake AI” to drive around a track competently enough to post a time that you could compete against. I had plenty issues with the AI in that game but at no point did I feel lied to. Even when I set the AI to over 100%, knowing that it was likely being giving a performance advantage. It never bothered me.

      We’re not talking about bad AI. Bad AI exists in all games. We are talking about the AI just being given the win so we won’t lose interest. It would be akin to playing an RTS that ignores you’re ability to trounce the AI and just declares them the victors regardless of what actually happens during the game? How fun does that sound.

      John, Geoff Crammond created AI far far superior to this, 17 years old. That’s SEVENTEEN years ago. It even managed to get the cars around the track in a competent enough manner to post a bloody time. The Grand Prix series still has, by far and away the greatest AI of any racing game so that’s a lot to live up to. But they didn’t even managed the simplest of tasks. Getting the cars around the track quickly. I really don’t get why people are apologizing for this. Is it now completely fine for developers to blatantly lie about a fundamental component of their game just because /you/ still think it’s fun? Like seriously, some people here wanted a half decent challenge out of this, but if it couldn’t provide that I wouldn’t be on here complaining. I’m on here pointing out that it is the lie that makes this such a breach of trust. It is the lie that makes this a major issue.

      As far as I can see, the battle lines are drawn between people who can drive and wanted a /real/ challenge and those who think Forza is too difficult. Between people who more than anything believe it is a deception, a lie and a discredit to a fondly loved sport, and those who think the graphics are pretty.

      What side do you think you are one John?

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Cheal, fire up Race07 and run a race against the AI at Porto. It’s genuinely hilarious, and the same problem ISI had with the AI at Monaco in F1 Challenge, half the field is retired before the first lap is over.

    • cheal says:

      I know that there are issues with it’s AI. But for the most part they could drive around the track in a competent fashion. Making them several steps ahead of the AI in F1 2010. However that is not even the point. I’ve stated twice now that it is the faked times which do dis-service to this game, and the sport. If you want to create a fantasy game, call it GRID or some other awful name. If you want to make a Formula 1 game. Get the basics right.

  39. Dagda says:

    Exactly. Good AI is AI whose behavior comes off as intelligent. This is terrible AI.

    • John Peat says:

      As I said above, I don’t think I’ve really seen ‘intelligence’ in any racer yet.

      Forza, on a good day, will push you into trying harder and NFS Shift runs hot and cold (sometimes great, often hilariously bad).

      Most AIs are really just mobile chicanes tho – so get yourself online…

  40. DerangedStoat says:

    I read the thread that brought this up yesterday, and left entirely convinced this was true for all the reasons listed in it.

    However, I later decided to test this myself. I sat at the last corner of Melbourne, so I could manually time laps, track car position (of the first 4-5 cars at least) and check when (and if) they pit.
    What I saw in terms of lap times and field position were entirely believable (note: AI difficulty was set to professional, it may indeed be different when upped to Legendary). Lap times were all ~1:32-1:33 for all 10 laps I could time (20% race distance, excluding the longer lap with a pitstop).
    I didn’t notice any unexplainable shuffling of drivers either over the entire race. When 3rd and 4th place pitted early in lap 2 or 3, they ended up mid pack, and wound up stuck there for the entire race as if they were held up by the slower cars. When the current leading 4 cars pitted mid race they slotted back in behind the mid pack cars that hadn’t pitted yet, and once those cars pitted from the lead, the original leading 4 were back as you would expect (albeit with a position change amongst them).
    I repeated this experiment twice and saw nothing unexpected in the race results or lap times (however the lap time during which they pitted, seemed a bit funky and too quick though in one of the races). Although the fact that I was stationary the whole race, may have removed some of the variables that cause unexplainable things to happen.

    One thing I have noticed though, that I really don’t like, is that cars seem to lap at a speed based on their track position, and not the car’s performance, so if an HRT ends up near the front of the pack, it’s going to consistently lap at the leaders pace, and if a McLaren is at the back of the pack it starts to lap at a backmarker’s pace (again manually timed, not relying on the displayed lap times).
    Between this, and the clearly wrong displayed lap times, I can easily see how the impression of Faked AI (oxymoron much!?) is given.
    I certainly believed it based on my experiences when I read said thread, but I’m a little more sceptical to about it now…

    Also Steve Hood, the lead designer, has denied it on Twitter FWIW, but admitted that the Qualifying is a sham, and if they can’t get it right in that, you have to doubt their ability to make it all correct for races…

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I’ve driven enough races now that I don’t think the AI is being faked, I think their laptimes are being measured incorrectly for some reason. That’s probably why it makes up times in qualifying, tbh.

  41. Irish Al says:

    I have one question – do you get hit from behind by an unavoidable blue shell at any point ?

  42. Anach says:

    This is pretty much what NFS Shift did. AI played catchup which is nothing new, but they also get a sudden boost in performance if ahead of you, depending on your “level” and such, making it impossible to win, as the AI cars will pull performance out of their tailpipes, well beyond what the cars are capable of.

    These systems, are what makes the difference between arcade racers and sims. Similar to shooters with auto-aim, which are more common in consoles.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I don’t think Shift had catch-up logic. What Shift did do, though, is render car upgrades meaningless by giving the AI a speed boost depending on how far your car was upgraded. It’s much easier, on the hardest AI setting, to blow them off in the stock cars, and at a track like nurby I’m putting 30+ seconds on the AI in the stock S2000.

  43. Malibu Stacey says:

    Burnout Paradise says hi.

  44. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    When you think about it this isn’t just awkward.. this is very very stupid. They could do it right and have a good AI in place (or perhaps try the smoke-and-mirrors but test it really, really, really well and put more effort in it).. or they could’ve gone with pre-recorded runs. At least those are consistent.

  45. Kevbo says:

    This is pretty bad, but I gave up on sim AI a long time ago. I joined an online racing league and race with real people. race2play.com is good, but if you go there, be ready to lose. A lot of the people who race there have raced IRL.

  46. Morph.E. Uss says:

    I reckon I know why AI has gone backwards in games. I reckon all these devs have been watching too much Matrix in between coding sessions. You know how the story goes, dev creates ai, ai takes over, ai enslaves dev and the rest of the human population. It could just be that ai is already trying to take over in every game we create, and that every time devs release a game with crap ai, that represents a victory in the fight against the ai of that game trying to break out and enslave us all. So what codies have actually done here, is they’ve saved the human race.

    But in the process, they’ve created a really crap “racing game”.

    Cest la vie. This is life, non?

    Fornula 1 2010 awards:

    Biggest letdown 2010
    Biggest anti-climax award 2010
    Most shameful ripoff 2010
    Worst developed AI 2010
    Sneaky in the fact that they purposely withheld a free demo so that people did’nt work out the crap ai problem for themselves before they bought the game award 2010.
    No games review ever mentioned any of these problems, hence I call that they got paid off to spout propaganda 2010

    The awards for this game keep stackin up

    :)

  47. Morph.E. Uss says:

    P.S F’sure.

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