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Jan 3 Update: More Ai Smartness


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#1 Fidcal

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 03:07 AM

Looking at the latest Jan 3 update about AI smartness and recalling previous info I am thinking level developers are going to have to be more generous in favour of the player to compensate. Is it going to be just too tough and/or frustrating to continue once the AI in an area have 'compared notes', are in extended alert mode, using smart searching, hurling bottles as well as insults at the player? I look forward to seeing these new situations but just wondered what game testing has been done yet to evaluate what it will be like with ALL the improvements working together.

It seems to me that players are going to have to develop new game strategies to cope with these AI. Ghosting might be the only option - and possibly extreme ghosting: closing, even relocking, doors behind you, closing containers, etc. I like ghosting but will the novice be able to cope? Mission developers are going to have to be extra smart themselves to produce the different difficulty levels to suit different skills.

What extras might the player get to handle this new breed of AI? They get the same basic weapons and tools as T1/2 so is it just down to the player developing new skills and strategies? One things for sure: it will be fascinating finding out.

#2 Crispy

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 03:16 AM

This hasn't been a problem so far. We haven't got to the tweaking stage yet anyway. Rest assured that when we do, we'll be doing some heavy playtesting to make sure that the gameplay works.

Keep in mind that these behaviours represent the smartest things that the AI can do. It's a lot easier to make the AI stupider than it is to make them smarter. :) A lot of this behaviour is configurable (per-AI if you want to bother), or will be configurable by the time we release the mod.

So don't worry about the mod being too hard - if you want it hard, we've got the mod for you, but if you want an easier time of it then that's fine too. There will be difficulty settings. :)
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#3 sparhawk

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 04:30 AM

We are just implementing the features that we want to have. We have not been playtesting properly at the moment. But these features will be also weakened according to the difficulty level and we also plan to provide customization option so that players can tweak certain parameters to provide their individual playstyle.
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#4 Fidcal

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 05:29 AM

Sounds good and the flexibility should make any degree of difficulty possible I guess.

About my point of the player getting anything new to compensate, it's hard to think of anything, even for fun, to add to Thief's current tools. One idea I was wondering was a diversion similar to a noise arrow or thrown object - but which would reassure the AI when they saw it. In the movies its always the stray cat right? Can't see Garrett carrying a spare cat around - nor even a dehydrated cat potion - hey! instant cat! but it might be nice to think of some harmless object he could throw with a kind of anti or negative suspicious property. Maybe even anti-suspicion sedative gas grenade or arrow?

No, I'm not trying to give you guys more work, just playing with ideas. My vote is you do the reasonable minimum from now on to get the show on the road. Just hope you retain interest to do a TDM2 a few years later!

#5 Ishtvan

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 06:00 AM

What you're describing sounds like the "rat arrow" but I think someone already has a patent on that. :)

#6 Gildoran

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 07:21 AM

My preference is for the Rat Pro arrow... twice the rats for the same price!

#7 Ombrenuit

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 10:36 AM

Fidcal has a point. One of the things I absolutely hated in the Metal Gear Solid games was the art mode (especially in the third game) that took three minutes to count down. This was to encourage the player not to wait it out in the shadows, but rather to take out enemy AI in a more difficult environment.

In a sense, Thief balanced this to my satisfaction. When you are caught, you are forced to fight or flee, of which I chose almost always to flee. I would enjoy figuring out escape routes before hand and ensuring safety, but I also liked that once I found a clever hiding spot, the fireplace perhaps, there was a tension, a waiting game; would he find me? was I well hidden enough? But this never lasted long, just long enough to discourage being caught.

With every feature added, there must be a balance. With every new disadvantage or challenge there has to be ways to offset it: new choices to make that can allow the player to overcome it. So, the AI is searching for the player; the player overcomes this by hiding. The control comes in that they can develop a discrimination between good hiding spots and poor ones, where to go, where not. Difficulty is how hard this discrimination is. Balance is making sure the player is punished only just enough to discourage the action: getting caught, but enough to encourage them to keep playing the game, enjoying the challenge. I'm not saying though that the player should be given more tools...they have plenty already. I'm just saying to be wary of new features and how they may 'tip the scales'.

For example: if guards comparing notes makes things too difficult, perhaps a way to balance it is that if the player successfully distracts a guard when he makes the comment, "I should probably report this" maybe the guard simply gives up and goes into apathy due to laziness and stupidity! "Ugh...oh well. I don't get paid enough for this." As has been suggested, the player could have a pebble thrown, "rap" on a close surface, or yell out "Hey you." enough to pull the guard from his path when the guard alerts the player that they are going to compare notes with other AI.

Edited by Ombrenuit, 05 January 2007 - 10:48 AM.


#8 Springheel

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 10:49 AM

Guards communicated with each other in the previous games as well...it's not like this is a new, untested idea.... :huh:

Anyway, as others have said, we'll have an extensive playtesting phase, and I'm sure people just like you will be involved in that as well.
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#9 SneaksieDave

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:25 AM

Bucket o' Frogs.

#10 Maximius

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:29 AM

I'm very much in favor of note taking and comparing by the guards. I say take it to the point of impossibility and then ratchet it back maybe two notches. It will allow for a great deal of tension to build up in a map. Say for example you have your AI set so that when items go missing from a room the level of alert ratchets up and that when they communicate that to one another it goes up even higher. In order to successfully clean out a mansion, you would have to essentially scout out each area before you touch a thing, closing doors behind you and all that. THen, once you have located the wealth and planned an escape route, you can begin to pinch stuff. And you have to do it fast, get in and out before the levels of excitement are too great and the place goes bananas. Mmmm, fresh baked sneaky goodness!

If you start stealing stuff first, you wont get to finish because by the time you get halfway into the joint the guards will be on high alert. It seems this could also call for strategic KOs and kills, if there are two guards that are walking between two sections of a house, they have to be removed in order to stop the flow of communication between the different sections. But only a handful of guards per map, if you throw in the ability for AIs to be aware that their comrades are missing from their patrols, you are truly facing a tough nut to crack. It will come down to precise timing, careful planning of routes, and strategic use of tools that even the play in the Precursor games could not begin to touch.

#11 ZylonBane

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:42 AM

In order to successfully clean out a mansion, you would have to essentially scout out each area before you touch a thing, closing doors behind you and all that. THen, once you have located the wealth and planned an escape route, you can begin to pinch stuff. And you have to do it fast, get in and out before the levels of excitement are too great and the place goes bananas.

Wow, forced stealth followed by forced hurrying. How delightfully awful.

Thief gameplay is about manipulating the environment. This is fun to do at the micro level (a single or small set of rooms), but excruciatingly tedious to do at the macro level (an entire mansion). Therefore, your ideas are bad.

#12 Vadrosaul

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 12:19 PM

IIRC the guards in Thief would go on high alert if they spotted an item of value missing, and would communicate it with nearby guards, but it always seemed that spotting murder would cause more of a frackas.
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#13 Maximius

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 03:24 PM

Wow, forced stealth followed by forced hurrying. How delightfully awful.

Thief gameplay is about manipulating the environment. This is fun to do at the micro level (a single or small set of rooms), but excruciatingly tedious to do at the macro level (an entire mansion). Therefore, your ideas are bad.



So can you give me an example of a map where you are NOT forced to be stealthy or to hurry? This would have to be a map of the Thiefs moms house, cause in every other environment you have AIs trying to find and kill you. And this isn't even taking into account timed missions, which I personally hate but which I make exception for when the storyline provides a strong rationale for that setting. And what does manipulating the environment even mean? Moving chairs around? Switching peoples toothbrushes?

I described the difficulty settings as I did because I believe they can make the map more immersive by presenting more realistic challenges. Its unrealistic for a guard to walk through a room that once held dozens of gold cups but is now empty, and to have that guard do or say nothing. This was a constant problem in the Precursors, guards guarding empty picture frames and open, looted chests. Its also unrealistic to have a guard pass by an empty guard post and not raise an eyebrow. Thats at least partly why security forces have set schedules and assigned posts, so everyone knows where everyone else is at or should be. WHen a guard goes missing, just one guard, for longer than a few minutes, any professional security force goes on alert. It just makes sense, if you are guarding stuff and the guards start to disappear, you probably have a problem.

#14 Maximius

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 07:58 PM

IIRC the guards in Thief would go on high alert if they spotted an item of value missing, and would communicate it with nearby guards, but it always seemed that spotting murder would cause more of a frackas.


I think they should go on low level alert if their lunch is missing. Well maybe not, but I'm definitely things like keys, important books, or wallets. But the guards in T1/2 would also return quietly to their posts after a short while, and then you slinked out from behind something and slipped away. That shouldn't happen IMO. At the very least you should have a triple hard time getting back out after they even suspect someones around. I thin k some FMs did this or something but I cant remember now.

Edited by Maximius, 05 January 2007 - 08:01 PM.


#15 Crispy

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 08:03 PM

In Thief 3, if AI noticed you'd pickpocketed them they'd go into level 2 alert (search mode). And they would always notice. I always thought that was really annoying.

Thankfully, this didn't apply to keys, otherwise pickpocketing would have been completely useless.
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#16 Maximius

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 08:14 PM

In Thief 3, if AI noticed you'd pickpocketed them they'd go into level 2 alert (search mode). And they would always notice. I always thought that was really annoying.

Thankfully, this didn't apply to keys, otherwise pickpocketing would have been completely useless.



I think I would make it key dependent. If it was the scullery maids key to the woodshed, no one is going to ring the alarm. But if you are guarding a bank vault and the main key goes missing, you are in trouble. One possible solution on such a map could be to replace the key with a decoy, a real feat of pickpocketing.

Maybe you would have like a two to three minute window, after lifting an important key from someones belt, to slip a decoy into its place. You would probably have to develop a storyline to account for how you knew what the decoy looks like in advance, or use a similar key from the map from another door or something.

Edited by Maximius, 05 January 2007 - 08:25 PM.


#17 Crispy

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Posted 05 January 2007 - 11:00 PM

One possible solution on such a map could be to replace the key with a decoy, a real feat of pickpocketing.

Can we just pretend this happens automatically, and that the decoy key is invisible to the player? ;)

Gameplay over realism, that's all I'm saying.
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#18 Irenices

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 10:35 PM

I was just reading through some of these posts and i thought something, are guards always going to be noticing missing loot? If you go into a room with say 10 golden plates sitting on a shelf and you only take 3 or 4 of them are the guards going to automaticly notice this or only have a small chance to?

Also would most likely underpaid, undereducated guards really notice a couple missing minor items in the middle of the night while there wandering around dark halls for hours on end.

(sorry if my post makes no sence im quite sick right now and i suspect no one is going to know what im talking about)

#19 Ishtvan

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 10:54 PM

It will be customizable by the mapper, so some pieces of loot might not be noticed missing, some may give out a larger alert than others, some areas might be more highly scrutinized than others, etc.

The final alert transmitted to the AI is also modified by the AI's "environmental acuity," so some AI are better at noticing things than others.

#20 kohan69

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 11:24 PM

Reading the AI updates makes me really proud if DarkMod, it's everything I wished Thief to be.

Difficulty level should NOT compensate AI behavior! but instead their senses (distance they see/hear) and ammount damage player can take.

I strongly support the "ability for AIs to be aware that their comrades are missing from their patrols", but that should not always result in highest caution mode, but cause them to search and talk/complain to other NPCs


"essentially scout out each area before you touch a thing, closing doors behind you and all that"

That is unrealistic. Guards cannot notice everything that was taken - especially objects in furniture.

Agree with "guards would go on high alert if they spotted an item of value missing, and would communicate"
and also to servants, and be more aware of other cues and follow them (search harder in rooms with open doors, drawers, etc)

They could notice things missing in search/alert mode and compare nots about the incident and increase overall security, which brings me to the next point:

Guards that were alerted by sound/sight/something out of order, their senses would increase in patrol mode.
So if they hear that creak, search go back to patrol. See object missing, search harder/longer or alert others.


With keys, I think they shouldnt notice unless they need to go through a locked door, or another NPC asks them to open a door
Plus if either one is in search alert mode (you locked the NPC who needs a key out) both their alerts would rise



If anyone has trouble understanding, I will explain anytihng in detail

#21 MadhatteR

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 03:07 AM

"That is unrealistic. Guards cannot notice everything that was taken - especially objects in furniture"

well you could let guards notice everything being taken by giving every object an object id, however that would require a database behind the game that stores every object id plus the action the NPC ought to take.

So that would mean that you would be looking at implementing something like the AI in fear, that recognises every object in a room by its ID then looking up the action in the "database" to do with the objects in the room (throwing up a makeshift blockade with a table) This would then lift the need of a heavy CPU since everything action was pre-set and just had to be looked up, while giving a "realistic" response.

Throwing in several objects in a room, would when objects are taken allow for some randomness as to what action the AI could take and make it much more difficult for the player to adjust.

It basically would mean that every object in the darkmod would have to be "ID"ed in a database plus several actions that could be taken by the AI when an object is taken. Another thing that also could be added then is how an object could be manipulated by the AI in order to use it against the player when he has been found out. Which would then again allow for more diversity and randomness of the AI and at the same time sparing the CPU.

Then again, I know very little of implementing these kind of things, so in theory it might work :D but then the gameplay might suffer... a lot. I like the gameplay of thief 1 and 2, with it predictability and the occasional scare :D

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#22 Domarius

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 04:33 AM

I'm very much in favor of note taking and comparing by the guards. I say take it to the point of impossibility and then ratchet it back maybe two notches. It will allow for a great deal of tension to build up in a map. Say for example you have your AI set so that when items go missing from a room the level of alert ratchets up and that when they communicate that to one another it goes up even higher. In order to successfully clean out a mansion, you would have to essentially scout out each area before you touch a thing, closing doors behind you and all that. THen, once you have located the wealth and planned an escape route, you can begin to pinch stuff. And you have to do it fast, get in and out before the levels of excitement are too great and the place goes bananas. Mmmm, fresh baked sneaky goodness!

If you start stealing stuff first, you wont get to finish because by the time you get halfway into the joint the guards will be on high alert. It seems this could also call for strategic KOs and kills, if there are two guards that are walking between two sections of a house, they have to be removed in order to stop the flow of communication between the different sections. But only a handful of guards per map, if you throw in the ability for AIs to be aware that their comrades are missing from their patrols, you are truly facing a tough nut to crack. It will come down to precise timing, careful planning of routes, and strategic use of tools that even the play in the Precursor games could not begin to touch.


This sounds like you want to play like a one man SWAT team :) At the highest difficulty/playstyle settings, you should be able to make it like this for yourself :)

#23 oDDity

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 10:22 AM

Never mind all this nonsense about Ai realism.
The single most unrealistic thing about games is the fact that you get multiple lives.
The first thing that needs to be fixed is, that when you get killed,. the game immediately kicks you out to desktop and uninstalls itself, and leaving it so you have to reinstall Windows and the game, and then start from the beginning again..
There's no point making AI realistic, when it doesn't matter anyway, even if they do catch and kill you, you just start from your last save.
Utterly pointless. Challenge means nothing unless there's risk of failure, and failure means nothing if there's not a price to be paid for failing.

So, unless you're prepared to be a man and accept some consequences for failing, there's no point swaggering around boasting about how you want the AI to be more realistic and the game more difficult. Best to keep it at the current childish level that all games maintain.
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#24 Komag

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:15 AM

dang!
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#25 Maximius

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 11:51 AM

This sounds like you want to play like a one man SWAT team :) At the highest difficulty/playstyle settings, you should be able to make it like this for yourself :)



Heh, yes Dom I guess I do! I'm sure the mod will be sufficiently adaptable for sado-masochists like myself as well as the less extreme gamer out there.




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