Steering behaviors aim to help autonomous characters move in a realistic manner, by using simple forces that are combined to produce life-like, improvisational navigation around the characters' environment. They are not based on complex strategies involving path planning or global calculations, but instead use local information, such as neighbors' forces. This makes them simple to understand and implement, but still able to produce very complex movement patterns.
Two memories stand out in my career writing game AI. The first takes place in a dingy computer lab on the top floor of the computer science building at Birmingham University in the UK. Although I am half-way through the first year of my Artificial Intelligence degree, I’ve only been in the department for a couple of weeks after transferring from a Mathematics major. Catching up on a semester of work is, unexpectedly, great fun, and there are a great bunch of fellow students eager to help me learn about Expert Systems, Natural Language Processing, Philosophy of Mind, and the Prolog programming language. One of my fellow students has written a simple text-based adventure game in Prolog. I’m not new to game programming—I was part of the 8-bit bedroom coding scene through my teenage years, and by this time had written more than ten games myself. But this simple game completely captivates my attention. It is the first time I’ve seen a finite state machine in action. There is an Ogre, who can be asleep, dozing, distracted, or angry. And you can control his emotions through hiding, playing a flute, or stealing his dinner. All thoughts of assignment deadlines are thrown to the wind, and a day later I have my own game in C written with this new technique. It is a mind-altering experience, taking me to an entirely new understanding of what is possible. The enemies I’d always coded were stuck following fixed paths, or waited until the player came close before homing right in. In the FSM I saw the prospect of modeling complex emotional states, triggers, and behaviors. And I knew Game AI is what I wanted to do. The second memory is more than ten years later. Using some technology developed to simulate military tactics, I have founded a company called Mindlathe, dedicated to providing artificial intelligence middleware to games and other real-time applications. It is more than two years into development, and we are well into the process of converting prototypes and legacy code in
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