What Makes Good AI?

Game Maker's Toolkit
31 May 201715:42

TLDRIn this Game Maker's Toolkit video, Mark Brown discusses what constitutes 'good AI' in gaming. He explains that while aggressive enemies and high health points can make AI seem smarter, it's not suitable for every game type. Brown highlights that AI should fit the game's intended experience, such as in Alien: Isolation versus Batman: Arkham Asylum. Good AI should allow players to 'cheat' subtly, communicate its intentions through audio cues or animations, and have distinct personalities to appear smarter. Predictability in AI behavior is important for player strategy, and AI should interact with the game's systems to provide varied challenges. Brown also emphasizes the importance of AI reacting to player actions, adapting its behavior, and having its own goals beyond defeating the player. He concludes by noting that AI is not just a technical challenge but also a design one, and that while advancements in AI technology are crucial, the ultimate goal is to enhance gameplay and player experience.


  • 🎮 **Aggressive AI**: Games like FEAR and Halo are known for their aggressive enemies that actively pursue the player, which can make AI seem smarter.
  • 🧠 **Health and Damage**: Resilient enemies with more health points and damage can influence player perception of AI intelligence.
  • 🚫 **Not One-Size-Fits-All**: Aggressive AI is not suitable for every game type; Doom 2016 had to adjust enemy behavior to fit the game's design.
  • 👀 **AI Transparency**: Good AI should communicate its intentions through audio cues, animations, or game mechanics to help players predict its behavior.
  • 🤖 **Personality in AI**: Giving AI characters distinct personalities can make them seem smarter and provide feedback to the player.
  • ⚙️ **Predictability**: Predictable AI behavior allows players to devise strategies and play with intentionality.
  • 🔄 **Interaction with Game Systems**: AI that can interact with the game's mechanics, like using items or environmental features, adds depth to gameplay.
  • 🤔 **Adaptive AI**: AI that reacts to and adapts based on player behavior can create personalized experiences and maintain game interest.
  • 📉 **Mood and Pacing**: AI can be used to control the game's mood and pacing, like the AI director in Left 4 Dead that adjusts enemy intensity.
  • 🎯 **AI Goals**: Good AI should have its own goals beyond just eliminating the player, contributing to a richer game world.
  • 🤝 **Friendly AI**: The role of friendly AI characters extends beyond mere companionship; they can contribute to gameplay and character development.

Q & A

  • What are the three examples of 'good AI' that are often mentioned in discussions?

    -The three examples often mentioned are the replica soldiers in the original FEAR, the various aliens in the Halo series, and the marines in the first Half Life game.

  • Why do aggressive enemies in games make them feel smarter to the players?

    -Aggressive enemies that actively hunt down the player and have more health points can make the game feel more challenging, thus giving the impression that the AI is smarter.

  • What was the significant change made during the development of Doom 2016 regarding enemy behavior?

    -The developers changed the enemies from chasing the player to holding their ground more, which made the players act more offensively and created a different gameplay experience.

  • How does 'Good AI' benefit the player without them noticing?

    -Good AI allows the player to 'cheat' in subtle ways, such as giving them a chance to attack first when emerging from cover in Uncharted games or limiting the number of enemies that can shoot at the player in Far Cry games.

  • What is the importance of AI characters having distinct personalities?

    -Distinct personalities make AI characters seem smarter to players and provide critical feedback that the player can use to understand and plan their actions accordingly.

  • Why is predictability considered good for AI in games?

    -Predictable AI allows players to create plans, diversions, and traps based on consistent behaviors, which contributes to a satisfying and intentional gameplay experience.

  • How does AI interaction with the game's systems enhance the player's experience?

    -AI interacting with the game's systems, such as picking up weapons or using environmental elements, makes the AI seem smarter and provides more varied and interesting ways for the player to deal with foes.

  • What is the significance of AI reacting to the player's actions?

    -AI that reacts to the player's actions can create memorable and personal stories, as well as adapt its behavior to increase the game's challenge and maintain the player's engagement.

  • How does the AI director in Left 4 Dead work to enhance the game's pacing?

    -The AI director in Left 4 Dead tracks the wellbeing of each player and adjusts the intensity of the zombie horde accordingly, increasing the challenge when the team is doing well and easing off to allow for relaxation.

  • What is the role of AI companions in games beyond being defensive characters?

    -AI companions can serve various roles, such as assisting in combat, solving puzzles, or enhancing the narrative and character development, providing a richer and more interactive gameplay experience.

  • Why is it important for AI in games to have its own goals beyond just 'killing the player'?

    -AI with its own goals creates a more dynamic and immersive game world, where non-player characters have their own motivations and interactions that can lead to emergent and unpredictable gameplay scenarios.



🎮 The Impact of Aggressive AI in Games

Mark Brown discusses the perception of 'good AI' in video games, focusing on three iconic examples: the replica soldiers in FEAR, aliens in the Halo series, and marines in Half-Life. He explains how these games' enemies are designed to be aggressive and resilient, which enhances the feeling of intelligence. Brown references a playtest by Bungie that demonstrated how more durable enemies were perceived as smarter by players. However, he also notes that aggressive AI is not suitable for all game genres, as evidenced by the development of Doom 2016, where a more defensive approach was taken to improve gameplay experience. The paragraph emphasizes that AI must align with the game's intended experience.


🧠 Predictable AI and Player Intentionality

This section delves into the importance of predictable AI behavior for creating a satisfying gaming experience. Brown cites Chris Butcher's view that AI should be consistent to allow players to anticipate reactions and act intentionally. Predictable AI enables players to devise strategies based on learned behaviors, such as guards returning to their posts or enemies investigating disturbances. Brown contrasts this with unpredictable consequences, using the example of a Grunt in Halo, which always flees but to an unknown location. He also discusses how good AI can interact with a game's mechanics, like enemies in Breath of the Wild that use the environment against the player, and how this interaction can provide strategic depth and the perception of intelligence.


🤖 Adaptive AI and Player Engagement

The paragraph explores how AI can react to player actions to create dynamic and personalized experiences. Brown mentions how AI in games like Batman can respond to the player's success in combat, and how Shadow of Mordor's AI remembers past interactions with the player. He also talks about AI that adapts to player behavior, such as in Metal Gear Solid V, where enemies change tactics based on the player's actions. Brown highlights the AI director in Left 4 Dead as an example of AI that adjusts game difficulty in real-time based on player performance. The paragraph concludes with a nod to the AI in Pac-Man, which was designed to alleviate player stress by alternating between chasing and wandering.


🌟 Diverse Roles of AI in Gaming

Brown discusses the broader role of AI in games, beyond enemy characters. He emphasizes the need for better AI in friendly characters, using examples from games like Bioshock Infinite, The Last Guardian, and Event[0]. He also mentions Final Fantasy XV, where an AI companion takes photos during gameplay, enriching the player's experience. Brown stresses that while 'better AI' is a technical challenge, it is also a design challenge that should be approached differently for each game. He concludes by advocating for further advancements in AI technology to create more nuanced and engaging gaming experiences.



💡Aggressive AI

Aggressive AI refers to artificial intelligence in games that actively pursues and attacks the player, often giving the impression of higher intelligence. In the video, Mark Brown mentions how games like 'Halo' and 'FEAR' feature aggressive enemies with more health points, making them seem smarter and creating a more engaging experience for the player.

💡Health Points

Health points, often abbreviated as HP, represent the life or stamina of a character in a game. The script discusses how having more health points can make AI-controlled enemies appear more challenging and intelligent, as they can withstand more damage before being defeated.

💡Game Design

Game design involves the creation of content and rules of a game, which includes the conceptualization, design, and development of game mechanics and environments. The video emphasizes that good AI must fit the intended experience of the game, highlighting the importance of game design in crafting AI that complements the overall gameplay.

💡Stealth Games

Stealth games are a genre where the player's character avoids being detected by enemies or other obstacles, often requiring strategic planning and covert actions. The video discusses how AI in stealth games can provide feedback to the player, such as through vocal cues or animations, which helps in creating a more immersive and interactive experience.

💡Predictable AI

Predictable AI in games is designed to behave in consistent ways so that players can anticipate and strategize around its actions. The video explains that predictability allows players to create plans and tactics based on the AI's behavior, which is crucial for a satisfying gameplay experience.

💡AI Interaction with Game Systems

This refers to AI's ability to engage with and utilize the game's mechanics and environment, such as picking up weapons or using objects in the game world. The video uses 'Breath of the Wild' as an example where enemies interact with the game's systems in creative ways, enhancing the perception of their intelligence and providing more dynamic gameplay.

💡Adaptive AI

Adaptive AI is capable of changing its behavior based on the player's actions or the game's progression. The video mentions how 'Shadow of Mordor' and 'Metal Gear Solid V' use adaptive AI to create personalized experiences and to keep the gameplay challenging and fresh.

💡AI Director

An AI director is a system used in some games to dynamically adjust the game's difficulty or events based on player performance. The video references 'Left 4 Dead' and its AI director that increases the intensity of zombie attacks when players are doing well, providing a balanced and responsive gaming experience.

💡Friendly AI

Friendly AI refers to non-hostile AI characters that assist or accompany the player in a game. The video discusses the need for better-designed friendly AI, such as companions that can participate in combat or contribute to the game's narrative in meaningful ways.

💡AI Companions

AI companions are supportive characters controlled by AI that provide assistance to the player. The video points out that AI companions should be more than just invincible followers; they can add depth to the game by engaging in combat, solving puzzles, or enhancing the narrative.

💡AI Personalities

AI personalities give individual AI characters unique traits, behaviors, and decision-making processes that make them feel more lifelike and varied. The video uses examples like the different leaders in 'Civilization' and the ghosts in 'Pac-Man' to illustrate how distinct AI personalities can enrich the gaming experience.


Three classic examples of 'good AI' in games are the replica soldiers in FEAR, aliens in the Halo series, and marines in Half-Life.

Aggressive enemies with high health points can make AI seem smarter, as demonstrated in early Halo playtesting.

AI must fit the game's intended experience; aggressive AI is not suitable for all game types, as seen in Doom 2016's development.

Good AI allows players to 'cheat' subtly, making the game feel fair without the player noticing.

AI should communicate its intentions to the player through vocal clips, animations, or game elements like vision cones.

Giving AI characters distinct personalities can make them seem smarter and provide critical feedback to the player.

Predictable AI behavior is important for allowing players to devise strategies and play with intentionality.

AI should interact with the game's systems to create dynamic and smart character behavior.

AI that reacts to the player can create memorable, personal stories and adapt to the player's actions.

Adapting AI to the player can build mood, drive pacing, and prevent repetitive strategies.

Good AI has its own goals beyond 'killing the player', adding depth to the game world.

AI companions should be more than just invincible followers; they can contribute to gameplay and character development.

Good AI isn't just about enemies; it's a combination of technical and design challenges that should be approached differently for each game.

In Uncharted 4, AI was designed to be spread out, human-like, and mildly predictable to enhance gameplay.

AI advancements should aim for nuanced behaviors and avoid pulling players out of the experience with stupid decisions.

The real goal of AI in games is to present interesting gameplay, not just to find the player.

The AI & Games YouTube channel is a great resource for learning about AI technology in gaming.

Engaging and intelligent AI can significantly enhance a player's experience and satisfaction in a game.