There’s a great thread over at Quarter to Three called AI in MMORPG Games, in which the community discusses mob AI and how many players desire more intelligent encounters in MMOs. Lum made some great points on the second page, which can basically be summarized as: testing and data suggest that players don’t really want complicated artificial intelligence. Lum’s post and my thoughts after the fold…
“Gamers say they want better AI in MMOs.
Data mined statistics show that the most popular monsters in any MMO are the ones with the most brain dead AI, preferably bugged into virtual unconsciousness.
CPU load is another issue, but not as much. Many MMOs have very intricate AI encounters – but players tend to hate them because good AI adds a concurrent risk. While saying “hey, it’d be cool if guards responded when their buddies are attacked” while discussing the subject, it’s entirely different when you attack a monster and are suddenly fighting off 10.
It’s a classic game design challenge – make the player *feel* as though they have completed a difficult challenge, while keeping it easy enough for them to actually accomplish.”
Lum hit the nail on the head here. There still are technological restrictions here, but it’s actually more of a design reason that there isn’t intricate AI in MMOs (or, at least, it isn’t prevalent).
It appears that players don’t want inconsistent experiences, and complex AI can create inconsistent experiences. Many players actually prefer the mobs who just sit there with their sole purpose in life to get slaughtered by players.
That’s not to say there can’t be more complex behaviors in MMOs, but they need to remain consistent for players to truly desire and enjoy them… which means that you aren’t really making complicated AI so much as utilizing intricate predetermined behaviors.
Orc Warriors always attack mages first. Wilding Mages always blow themselves up at 10% health unless they are stunned. Venturian Archers always keep a distance until they are hit with a melee attack. Etc.
Experiences that are consistent and predictable after they’ve been experienced a few times, but must be learned and appear complex and random when first encountered.
I do believe that players would like to see more complex AI when it comes to NPC behaviors for NPCs they can’t (or aren’t intended to) fight… to a point. Quest givers who went to sleep at night in a house you couldn’t get in would be confusing and annoying. Flavor NPCs in towns who behave like real people would add atmosphere and immersion, however.
Anyway, this is a case in which I think players believe they want complex AI but what they really want is additional challenge and consistent but intricate behaviors. I know this post is going to be controversial, but there’s no need for me to pussyfoot around. Plus, it feels good to be controversial sometimes.