Balancing unpredictability and order is key for dynamic AI, says The Occupation dev
"You don't want to plan specific end scenarios so much as you want to create independent systems that can talk to each other."
- Designer Pete Bottomley explains the mentality powering The Occupation's dynamic environments.
For designers Pete Bottomley and Jonny Pickton, as well as much of the White Paper Games team, The Occupation is the first time they’ve worked with dynamic AI. Following on the heels of the studio’s previous game Ether One, the team wanted to push their skills and found that forgoing pre-scripted AI would do exactly that.
In an interview with Gameumentary, both Bottomley and Pickton explore complexities of designing dynamic, non-linear AI. The pair touch their experiences using Unreal engine, finding ways to clearly telegraph AI actions to players, and working around some of the strange bugs that can pop up when your NPCs have minds of their own.
“We wanted a balance between unpredictability and a kind of order where it looks like they’re doing things purposefully. The way the game is set up, everyone has fixed jobs we know they’ll be doing throughout the day. They’re not randomly generated,” notes Bottomley. “But while they have a core arc in the world, we also wanted more emergent behaviors that cause them to go off their path, and maybe be manipulated by players.”
While deviations occur naturally thanks an AI character's own needs or interactions, he notes that it's vital to ensure there's still "an element of predictability players can use to plan their approach.”
For more on how the team at White Paper Games tackled dynamic AI for their latest project, including a look at some of the bugs and changes that emerged during playtesting, take a look at the full interview over on Gameumentary.