Thesis – Qualities of AI: Usefulness vs Personality

Thesis Title: Qualities of AI: Usefulness vs. Personality

Completion Date: November 2011

Special Note: Test map uses a modified version of 'Night at the Museum' map



Thesis Goal

How do players interact with AI characters in combat and non-combat scenarios.

Background

AI characters in modern day games have become increasingly complex. I have quantified all qualities of AI into two categories: Usefulness, qualities that pertain to gameplay; and Personality, qualities that pertain to story and immersion.

Method

I built a five room, five encounter level in Gears of War and provided players with two friendly AI units: Coleplane, the Personality AI who gave backstory, told jokes, and hid during combat to prevent any interaction on Gameplay; and Steve, the no-faced, no-named, soldier who excels at combat and locates pick-up items for the player when out of combat.

After playing the map, the player took a survey tracking down their experiences with the map and how they felt about each character.

Results Summary

Most people instantly recognized that Steve was more useful and that Coleplane had a stronger presence. About one third of test subjects, though, thought that Coleplane performed in combat.

For the complete results section, scroll down below, or view my video rundown.
Role: Solo Project

Engine: Gears of War Engine

Game Type: Third Person Shooter, Single Player

Build Time: 16 Weeks

Play Time: 20 Minutes




Video Rundown

Download Thesis

I built a map in Gears of War with five rooms. Each room consists of a unique combat challenge and a cooldown moment afterwards. The two AI units each have specific actions that they'll take during each combat challenge and each cooldown moment.

During combat encounters, Coleplane is scripted to run and hide, and both he and the enemies have been programmed to ignore each other. Coleplane uses these opportunities to tell jokes and encourage the player. Steve, on the other hand, will rush into combat and perform scripted combat sequences such as taking out snipers, sealing enemy entry points, and flanking. Steve's weapon aim was improved and I gave him improved armor to further enhance his performance.

During the cooldown moments, Coleplane will walk around the environment and spout backstory about himself, the level, and the Gears of War universe. When not in combat, Steve heads towards pickup items to alert the player before getting ready for the next encounter.

Amongst the total testers, Coleplane and Steve had a very similar Likeablity score and most testers easily identified that Steve was useful and Coleplane had more personality. But I suspected that something was odd with Coleplane's high Useful score.

One third of all testers believed that Coleplane was the one responsible for helping the player in battle, showing that a good personality can trick a player into believing a character is more useful.

As a final question, I asked testers in a life-or-death scenario, who would they save. The answer was a 62% favor in Coleplane, but half of those testers assumed Coleplane could fight off attackers. Check the video below for a more detailed rundown.

Description

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Nadav Pechthold | 973-902-1916 | nadav@nadavworks.com