[Gamasutra has teamed up with AIGameDev.com to present their 1st annual Game AI award winners for 2007, honoring the best in artificial intelligence for games released last year, from BioShock to Half-Life 2 and beyond.]
Here are the results for the 1st Annual AiGameDev.com Awards for Game AI, where the best games of the year are nominated and voted by professionals, enthusiasts, and researchers in artificial intelligence for games.
As soon as the voting started, it was very clear that there were multiple polls going on at the same time: one for regular readers of the AIGameDev.com blog
, and the other for game fans referred from other sites. But thanks to the logs, it was quite easy to separate out the different winners into sub-categories.
Best AI in a Mainstream Game: Half-Life 2 Episode 2
Half-Life 2 Episode 2
gathered the most votes from regular readers and subscribers of the Game AI for Developers blog (RSS). This game’s artificial intelligence stands out for multiple reasons:
1. Valve has taken NPC interaction to the next-level with this game. They’ve always been famous for the original Barney AI, but with Alyx in this episode they’ve paid much more attention to the details. Having an NPC lean over and wink at you while you’re driving should be enough to win it!
2. The combine soldiers are appear very effective at coordinating to assault the player. The AI technology behind the squad behaviors has been maturing well since the original Half-Life
, even if this episode didn’t show it off as much as previous games.
3. The game features an impressive variety of characters, including zombies, robotic dogs and mechanical striders, etc. Each of them requires a custom AI, but they all tie into the story very well and work together to improve the player’s experience.
Here’s what readers and voters had to say:
“I feel HL2E2 should get [the award]. Not so much for getting a zombie to walk after you but for the combine soldiers tactics. If you listen closely though their garbled speech they bark orders, make the team scatter from grenades and take cover.”
Half-Life 2 Episode 2
won the grand prize slightly in front of BioShock
* Runner Up: BioShock
* Finalists: S.T.A.L.K.E.R., Call of Duty 4
Community Award for Game AI: BioShock
was the overwhelming choice of the active community here at AiGameDev.com. The AI in this game stands out for two reasons:
1. The characters are not only original, but also tie in to the story and its world beautifully. The developers paid particular attention to the little details throughout the game, including the behaviors and the way they are portrayed.
2. Each character is part of an eco-system, and has a role to play in interacting with other characters. Yet these emergent behaviors are expertly tied into the mostly linear progression through the game.
Here’s what commenters had to say about it:
“I found the AI enemies awesomely realistic, to the point where I began to ‘feel’ them in my life beyond the game itself, imagining slicers on the ceiling or that the rumble of a passing big-rig was actually an approaching Big Daddy.”
— Robert Lyon
Yet more praise for the game:
“The AI interacts with each other in interesting and convincing ways with a believable social groups (splicers, lil’ sisters, big daddies). […] The AI will blindly fall for the trap and run into the turrets line of sight but is willing to react to the situation as the turret fires.”
* Runner Up: Call of Duty 4
Most Popular AI in a Game: Halo 3
got by far the most votes from players and game fans around the web. (I’ve been most impressed by the community built around Bungie’s title!) The AI in the game features impressive enemy AI, particularly on the harder difficulty settings:
1. The enemy groups are particularly fun to play against. Not only do they do the typical flanking/cover behaviors, but they also have different group behaviors, for example when you take out their leader.
2. The combat in Halo
has always had interesting dynamics thanks to the shields, for instance. What’s particularly impressive in Halo 3
is that the enemies seem aware of the combat mechanics, and capable of regrouping to wait for your protection to run out.
Bungie is always very open about its technology, and their ideas have been spreading quickly through the games industry. However, as readers pointed out, certain behaviors have a few flaws, notably for the allied squads and soldiers driving — although it’s true most other games take the easy route here.
Technical Innovation in Game AI: Assassin’s Creed
was the clear winner of the vote for technical innovation in game AI. While the behaviors in the game aren’t always the best in terms of gameplay, there’s certainly lots of promising technology in this game:
1. The large crowds, rendered and animated at next-gen quality, are a leap ahead for NPCs in games. This isn’t only impressive by the sheer number of people, but also by the way they come to life as a crowd interacting with the environment.
2. The animation of the player is pretty amazing, but the NPC animation also follows suit. The interaction between the player and the guards for example, or movement while pushing through the crowd is astounding.
Here’s what readers had to say:
“I was impressed with the animation AI, crowd stuff, and guards were not too bad either. The main thing though is a much denser amount of these objects at once!”
— Andrew Armstrong
* Runner Up: S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
* Finalists: PathEngine, Kynapse
Best AI in an Independent Game: Armageddon Empires
gathered the most votes as well as being the most nominated game for best independent AI of 2007. It’s a turn-based strategy game set in a post-apocalyptic earth, integrating board- and card-game mechanics. The AI shines for multiple reasons:
1. It has the ability to outsmart the player using long term strategies, which players can catch glimpses of if they stay alert.
2. The AI makes certain mistakes by design, inspired by the kinds of mistakes humans would make playing the game.
Here’s what readers had to say about the game:
"This game was a real surprise. The AI puts up a very good fight. Once while moving in on the enemy’s main base, I thought I had it in the bag. Then BAM my supply line was cut and I was forced to pull back. The rest of the game was spent trying to get my supply back in shape for the final push.”
— Rick Porter
And more praise:
“Terrific replay value because of the solid AI. In fact, this is one of those very rare games where you can actually learn game mechanics and strategy by watching the AI in action!”
— Grandpa Mantis
* Runner Up: Democracy 2
* Finalists: GalCon, Depths of Peril
[This article was originally presented at AIGameDev.com, a site that regularly updates on the art and science of producing artificial intelligence for games.]