An Evening of Game A.I.

This meetup will be themed around Artificial Intelligence in games - creating computer-controlled characters that move, think, and/or learn by themselves - with the ultimate aim of making games that are more engaging, challenging, and exciting to play.

In the first half of the evening there will be a presentation that introduces the theory behind some common A.I. techniques, and shows practical demonstrations of A.I. in various game genres, ranging from Pac-Man to Real-Time Strategy titles and the latest tactical FPS. We'll also look at some of the limitations of Artificial Intelligence and see some examples of "When A.I. goes wrong" (often with "hilarious consequences"!).

For the second half of the evening, we'll then have a free discussion about any aspects related to game A.I.:

  • Perhaps you'd like to know how to make your Orcs navigate through the Cave of Despair (rather than just walk continuously, lemming-style, into the Pit of Eternal Doom)?
  • Maybe you have a question about developing a character that senses and exhibits different states of emotion - a guard might be at rest, but when he hears a gunshot, he becomes suspicious. Then he sees the fallen body of a dead comrade, and he becomes scared. Then he takes the dog-tag, grenades and pistol off his ex-colleague and becomes vengeful. Then he sees the player enter the room with a rocket launcher and.... you get the idea....
  • Want to know how to create a driving game in which computer-controlled drivers race around a user-created level in a believable, challenging, but beatable fashion?
  • Maybe you've created a game in which you implemented a cutting-edge Markovian fuzzy Bayes net system to predict what colour hat the player is most likely to want to put on their avatar? Bring it along and show it to us!
  • Or, maybe you just want to know some A.I. lingo - "Fuzzy Logic", "Neural Networks", "Finite State Machines", and "Genetic Algorithms" - so you can drop them into conversation and impress your friends?

One of the beautiful aspects of Artificial Intelligence is that there is no "correct" way to do it, so everybody is welcome to participate in the discussions - all input is valued and what you think might be a throwaway idea might just give somebody else a spark for a great game mechanic!

Note that this will be an introductory and friendly session, and no game development or programming experience is necessary - we'll be talking in English, not in C++! Our group covers a very wide range of experience and interests, and we'll try our hardest to make sure that this session will include something of interest for everyone, whatever your background.

If you have any questions, or would like to see any particular topics covered during the evening, please do tell us and we'll try our best to incorporate them.

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  • Harry H.

    Awesome evening. Presentation was fantastic and it talked about a lot of the things i'm currently wrestling with! I look forward to the next evening, themed or otherwise!

    March 1, 2013

  • Steve M.

    Great talk Alastair and great evening all round. Really informative and interesting. Looking forward to the meet up :)

    March 1, 2013

  • Chris H.

    Fantastic talk, Alastair gave a great talk with fantastic examples.

    March 1, 2013

  • Alastair A.

    A few people asked for A.I. book recommendations which I've just done via a blog post: http://alastaira.wordpress.com/...­ I can recommend some good websites too, which I'll do in a separate post.

    1 · March 1, 2013

  • Dom D.

    Great evening, thoroughly enjoyed it. Sorry I couldn't stay until the end, could have stayed for hours asking questions if it hadn't been for the trains.

    March 1, 2013

  • Rich W.

    Highly impressed with Alistair's talk on game AI. I did a module on AI at uni and this talk demonstrated NN's and GA's better than anything on that course.

    March 1, 2013

    • Lawrence R.

      Same. Not only was it packed to the brim with info it was presented in such an entertaining way too!

      March 1, 2013

  • Alastair A.

    Well, I hosted it so I'm not sure my opinion is that unbiased... I thought it was pretty good though!

    February 28, 2013

    • Sam J.

      I have to agree!! Loved the examples of AI gone wrong!!

      February 28, 2013

    • Peter M.

      Was very good, I think you struck a great balance in terms of target audience. The bad AI in games was very amusing, im sure we've all thought "WTF is it doing!" in a few games :)

      February 28, 2013

  • Alastair A.

    ****Learning & Evolution ****
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/1485831...­

    Every Slide
    [Arrow Keys] -> Navigate between slides

    Neural Network Live Demo
    [Click Fight/RunAway] -> Repeat this action several times to build up a set of training data
    [Click Train Neural Network] -> Once enough training examples have been recorded, click this to run the network
    Once trained, [Click Next Scenario] -> See what decision the network makes in a new, random scenario

    1 · February 28, 2013

  • Alastair A.

    ****Graphs, Pathfinding, Search****
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/1485831...­

    Every Slide
    [Arrow Keys] -> Navigate between slides

    Pathfinding
    [Spacebar] -> Advance through animation

    Manual NavGraph Creation
    [Mouse Left-Click] -> Calculate least cost path and move blue arrow to location
    [M] -> Show network of nodes

    1 · February 28, 2013

  • Alastair A.

    ****Decision Making****
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/1485831...­

    Every Slide
    [Arrow Keys] -> Navigate between slides

    FSM State Transition Example (Pacman)
    [W, A, S, D] -> Move Pac-Man

    Another State Transition Example (Locked Door)
    [Keyboard, Enter] -> Get out the room!

    Limitations of Simple Logic Tests (Penguins)
    [A, D] -> Move player penguin left/right

    Fuzzy Boundaries
    [Spacebar] -> Advance through animation

    Single Variable Utility Functions
    [Spacebar] -> Advance through animation

    Utility-Maximising Decision Example
    [Spacebar] -> Advance through scenario

    1 · February 28, 2013

  • Alastair A.

    ****Movement****
    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/1485831...­

    Every Slide
    [Arrow Keys] -> Navigate between slides

    First, a Little Physics
    [Spacebar] -> Advance through animation

    Steering Behaviours Demo
    [W, A, S, D] -> Move player (red) arrow
    [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0] -> Change behaviour of autonomous (blue) arrow, as follows:
    1: Seek
    2: Arrive
    3: Flee
    4: Obstacle Avoidance
    5: Pursuit / Intercept
    6: Offset Pursuit
    7: Interpose
    8: Hide
    9: Flocking
    0: Collision Avoidance
    [T] -> Toggle trails on/off

    1 · February 28, 2013

  • Alastair A.

    For those of you that want to play along at home, here's links to all the demos I used tonight, broken up into 4 sections: Movement, Decision-Making, Pathfinding, and Learning.

    Generally speaking, use the left/right Arrow Keys to navigate forwards and backwards through the different topics. Certain slides have extra functionality, which are described.

    Dimensions are fixed to 800x600, I'm afraid - the projector went very wonky with anything greater than that!

    These were all hacked together for tonight, are untested, and come with absolutely no warranties. To be honest, it will be a minor miracle if I can get them to work on my computer, so don't blame me if they don't work on yours!

    2 · February 28, 2013

  • Miu

    Great Job Alastair!

    February 28, 2013

  • Peter M.

    hmm, not sure i could get there in time... 7:30 perhaps but dont really want to barge in :/

    February 28, 2013

    • Sam J.

      Its honestly fine! Very casual

      February 28, 2013

    • Peter M.

      ok i'll try and pop along then!

      February 28, 2013

  • Harry H.

    My last train leaves at 10:40pm :( However I should get there for 7pm easily. Will anyone be there a tad earlier?

    February 27, 2013

    • Alastair A.

      I should be there from about 6:30pm. We're in the upstairs function room so just come up when you arrive - I could probably use a hand setting up!

      February 28, 2013

  • Luke R.

    Gutted that I can't make this :( Hope you all have a great evening!

    February 27, 2013

  • Josh R.

    Hey, as this'll be my first time attending I thought I'd quickly introduce myself. Currently studying at UEA in the Music dept writing computer code - trying to create dynamic music in a halflife DM mod, which brought me into contact with AI code recently. Seemed like there was potential to manipulate music using cues similar to what the AI use to go about it's killing and whatnot.

    Anyway, looking forward to it!

    February 26, 2013

    • Alastair A.

      Hi! I remember when LucasArts first introduced their dynamic music system (iMuse, I think it was called) in their point 'n' click games of the 1990s - not just cross-fading between music in different scenes, but introducing elements of instrumentation or leitmotifs of the different characters as they entered the scene, and I thought it was brilliant. Yes - here's an article about it: http://www.artfulgame...­

      February 26, 2013

    • Alastair A.

      Oops - that comment got cut off a bit prematurely! Anyway, I'd love to hear about what you're doing now. We have a couple of sound-y people in the group, so perhaps we might schedule a "game music"-themed meetup in the future. Let us know if you'd be interested in demonstrating anything!

      February 26, 2013

  • Tim R.

    Decided it's worth the 2 hour train trip back from London for this, no pressure ;) Looking forward to it

    February 25, 2013

    • Sam J.

      Yea it is!

      February 26, 2013

  • Joe S.

    Not enough time for me to get there after work I'm afraid!

    February 21, 2013

    • Alastair A.

      Sorry about that - it's a fine balance trying to schedule enough time for people to get there after work, but also making sure we finish early enough for people to get the last train/bus home... I will just mention that the Unthank Arms provide excellent food (or so I hear), so you could always eat dinner there if it helps? :)

      February 25, 2013

    • Joe S.

      I'd love to, but unfortunately I work in Suffolk, and we have a busy couple of months so late nights are expected right now! I'll try make the next one though!

      February 25, 2013

  • Dom D.

    Should be there but will have to bail after the first half to get a train home.

    February 25, 2013

    • Alastair A.

      Well, it'll be great to see you for as much as you can make. I'll try to start promptly because there's lots of stuff to get through (I can get a bit carried away with excitement when talking about genetic algorithms and neural networks... just ask Sam!), and you can always ask any questions or pick up conversations after the event using the discussion forums here.

      February 25, 2013

    • Sam J.

      Yes... He does get carried away!! But in a good way!!

      February 25, 2013

  • Sam J.

    Really excited for this!!

    February 18, 2013

  • Harry H.

    Should be able to get there, assuming trains are cooperative!

    February 18, 2013

    • Alastair A.

      Excellent - look forward to seeing you there! The pub is about 25/30 mins walk from the train station and we've got the upstairs function room reserved.

      February 18, 2013

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