Develop 08: Bungie AI guru lays out future plans

The man behind the artificial intelligence in Master Chief's last two outings talks to developer conference about where Halo AI is going next.

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BRIGHTON--Damian Isla of Bungie Studios addressed the 2008 Developer Conference and Expo yesterday. The AI expert talked about the challenges he'd faced leading the artificial-intelligence development on Halo 3, how the AI has changed since the original Halo, and the problems being faced by the development team on their next project.

It is friendly AI, rather than opposition AI, that is currently his team's focus, according to Isla. Making friendly NPCs react in a manner that is both useful and natural is a great challenge, he said, as it requires the AI to be able to accurately determine player intent and act accordingly. The team have looked at two possible ways of solving this most vexing of problems. The first is to improve the AI's player modelling--essentially teaching the machines how players are likely to behave so that they can react in a more realistic and considerate way. This is, however, incredibly difficult, Isla said. "We'll never be 100 percent there, and 99 percent is very often just not good enough," he explained.

The other option, and the one being actively worked on, is to implement what Isla described through the medium of his presentation as a "UR DOIN IT RONG" button, so that players can easily correct errors made by their virtual colleagues. Described as the one Isla was "really excited about," this will allow players to "have a conversation, not give them orders," he explained. The challenge here is that it requires the development of a language that can be understood by the AI, and allows knowledge to be both shared and derived. Isla made it clear he had no interest in developing a system based on natural language, but indicated that the solution could be symbol-based.

Isla summed up the challenges surrounding AI by saying that, "Animation technology still sucks. Design interfaces still suck. Pathfinding will suck forever." He then concluded by saying that Bungie was currently hiring in "every position imaginable."

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