The Old Argument

This editorial over on the PC hardware site PC Perspective considers the age-old issue of why PC gamers stick with their format, rather than opting for the ease of consoles. It covers many tired old routines, such as the flexibility of the PC’s options and scaled resources, as well as the complexity of mouse/keyboard controls systems. One thing it comes up with that I’ve not heard before is this:

While Bethesda was having problems with certain Non-Player Character interactions, one can’t help but wonder if the AI was lobotomized to make it play well on the Xbox 360. If you never saw Bethesda’s pre-release demo videos they displayed at the 2005 E3, you can find them on YouTube. I would suggest the 5th video on which details the complexity of the Radiant AI specifically, as it shows the breadth the original version of the AI would display. If you never played the game, you can see the final implementation in many of the other videos on YouTube, from bizarre domestic violence to the death penalty for stealing bread. One of the most rabid fan bases for a PC game are having a collective convulsions in dread of what Bethesda will do to their favourite franchise. Fallout 3 is going to be released on the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 as well as the PC, and will use the Radiant AI system.

Those are their own links in there, and the first link explains what he’s talking about. Anyway, I can’t help thinking that any reduction in AI sophistication must have been about making the game work on more lower-end PCs too, since anything that didn’t work on the 360 wouldn’t work on a whole load of lesser PCs, right? It’s interesting that there is, potentially, a more sophisticated Oblivion AI out there though, and you wonder if an AI mod might serve/break the game in interesting ways.

Ultimately I think we all know why we enjoy PC gaming and don’t really need this kind of editorial to explain it to us. Nevertheless I actually believe a number of cross-platform developments have proven that the process need not result in a “reduced” experience on PC. The different formats are increasingly just serving different tastes and personal gaming habits.

It’s just, well, if only you could lean in Bioshock…


  1. John P says:

    I briefly went into console town this summer, but it broke after 5 days. Yes, a 360. I’ve decided that, in combination with the fact games cost half as much, and also the variety of games, it was a foolish idea anyway, so am going to be getting a new PC at christmas instead. Hurrah. Esp as processors are now cheap as chips, I notice. Well, about 100 packets of chips. Still, good value.

  2. John P says:

    I wish I could edit my comments, or bother to read them first – i CLEARLY meant that games cost half as much as they do on the 360 and there are more of them in general on the PC. Yes.

  3. Grill says:

    I remember reading somewhere (in fact, it might have been in an interview I did with Pete Hines) that the reason they dumped the original Radiant AI wasn’t to do with power of the machines, just that it simply didn’t work – the AI did far too many insane things and they had to cut it back to make the game playable. Looking at that demo video, the NPC didn’t do much that the scripted current characters don’t do – but I agree the few things she did made the world more realistic.

  4. icabod says:

    Regarding cross-platform development not necessarily resulting in a “reduced” PC experience, I was interested to see in the latest PCG that the upcoming PC port of Gears Of War actually has a fair bit more than the console original… not just extra multi-player maps, but stuff that was hinted at in adverts and then cut from the game.

  5. Turin Turambar says:

    Dynamic and complex AI is a nightmare to code, debug and test in both PC and console development. It’s not an issue in the PC vs console everlasting battle.

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah, I’m not convinced by this either. The Deus Ex kids did something similar with Invisible War, arguing that the graphics were brought down hugely in terms of detail in textures and lights due to being a co-release with the XBox. They put in a load of high detail textures post release, and the whole thing run at a crawl on anything but a tiny-tiny-tiny-percentage top line machine. Primarily, the Invisible War engine was just monstrous and the early images they did just something they couldn’t replicate.


  7. Bob Arctor says:

    Agreed, the DXIW/TDS engine is horrible.

    I thought the caption “Sim city 4 on DS or PC?” won the missing the point award though.

  8. John P says:

    Personally I love the IW/TDS engine! Massive amounts of bloom ftw! But I understand why most people didn’t.

  9. Mike says:

    The other possibility is that they scaled down the sophistication of the AI in order to more densely populate the towns. In the linked video the guy suggests there are “over 1000 NPCs” but the final game had close to 2000 from what Mr Hines last told me.

    Either way, I think Fallout 3 will improve on Oblivion’s system by a fair margin.

  10. Terry says:

    The AI in Oblivion does make lower end processors squeal and I think the original build did produce numerous anomalies and weird behavior.

    There are mods that radically alter Oblivion’s AI especially in the wilderness. The best are Obscuro’s Oblivion Overhaul, Martigen’s Monster Mod, and War Cry. You can use them together by using FCOM Convergence and Wrybash. There’s plenty of info around if anyone’s interested.

    The mods mentioned above make the AI do amazing things and create some interesting spectacles. I watched powerlessly as a gang of Goblins slaughtered a group of Imperial guards and the stable hands outside the town of Chorrol! All the different species now fight and hunt one another now. The world feels far more alive, although it can create problems when fulfilling quests.

    After experiencing super-modded-oblivion, I’m surprised Bethesda didn’t include such depth in the original build.