The nature of A.I. in video games

Visual appearance, design, and game play are among the features that make the next generation of video games advance further in overall quality. Many games are designed with the goal of creating a realistic and interactive experience for the player, though the quality of artificial intelligence remains questionable even in some of the more popular titles.

A player’s level of interaction with any video game can make or break a game’s success. Video games are primarily about their connection with the player and whether or not the player can become engaged in the game. If this implementation fails, players will likely cease to continue further into the game.

While advancing technical capabilities increase the potential for a better A.I., some games falter or brush away this possibility and hope that photorealism or cutting-edge movements will make up for it. This results in linear game play, with no true interactivity between the player and game, and lead to bland titles that stay on one path in one way. Most A.I. characteristics are executed in two different ways.

Difficulty

Games can be measured on difficulty, meaning that the opponent(s) will make the game continually harder as players try to progress in their game. The implementation of harder difficulties produces mixed results and is criticized mainly on their ability to challenge the player in a fair and logical manner.

Compare two different games on easy and hard levels of challenge. Mario Kart Wii uses an outdated, yet widely used form of A.I. known as “rubber-band” A.I. This means that despite how hard the player tries to win each race or how well they play the game, the computer will always be able to catch up either by staying behind the player at all times or by using tactics that, although not likely to occur often, happen more frequently. This does make the game hard, but an unfair computer advantage makes winning based more on luck than skill.

Another game to look at is Call of Duty 4. This game uses opponents that are particularly aware of their environment, even as the difficulty gets harder. Enemies will use their environment to gain an advantage or they will use all available weaponry, such as grenades or flash bangs, to defeat the player. While a harder difficulty may generally mean that the A.I. will tend to have a more accurate shot, the use of multiple weaponry and surroundings gives the players an authentic challenge without creating any unfair advantages.

Interactivity

The second A.I. characteristic is the reaction and interactivity of non-playable characters, or NPC’s. This includes the computer’s reaction to player actions, a memory of previous actions implemented by the player, and anticipating player decisions. This aspect is especially crucial in open-world environments, such as the Grand Theft Auto series, where players can engage with most NPC’s at any time. Most gamers play online games for an authentic challenge against another human player rather than defeat opponents that tend to stick to a particular pattern. A more advanced A.I. could adapt to the player’s strategy and work around it, allowing people to consider alternate strategies to completing any goal in a game.

Developers are beginning to focus more on the use of A.I. in video games and in due time, more interactive games should emerge. Realism in a game is created with more than eye-popping graphics, and video game players will become more demanding of this as the effects of increased graphical prowess wears thin.

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