The challenges and follies of building a generic ai engine
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The Challenges and Follies of Building a Generic AI engine. Dr. Paul Kruszewski, CTO © 2000–2004 BGT BioGraphic Technologies Inc. Overview. AI.implant: Post-mortem the first 4 years

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The challenges and follies of building a generic ai engine l.jpg

The Challenges and Follies of Building a Generic AI engine

Dr. Paul Kruszewski, CTO

© 2000–2004 BGT BioGraphic Technologies Inc.


Overview l.jpg
Overview

  • AI.implant: Post-mortem the first 4 years

    • I thought I was going to talk over game could teach film but it is really about what we learned from all of you

  • The vision

  • What went right

  • What went wrong

  • Pleasant surprises

  • The vision’ (Take 2)


The mindset l.jpg
The mindset

  • Background

    • Procedurally modelling of branching patterns (“the tree guy”)

    • My Virtual Model

    • Just quit my job as CTO to start-up a company

  • Convergence between film and game

    • SIGGRAPH vs GDC

    • Crowd simulation vs game AI

    • I felt they were solving the same problem but didn't know it


The vision l.jpg
The vision

  • Build an AI generic game engine

    • Different markets

      • Special Effects (SFX) : digital extras

      • Video games : AI middleware

      • Simulation: digital soldiers

    • Different users

      • Animators

      • Level editors

      • Programmers

    • Roll out / Adoption

      • Film

      • Cut scenes

      • Game engines

      • Simulation


The vision5 l.jpg
The vision

  • Build an AI generic game engine (cont.)

    • Architecture

      • Character based

        • If it moves in an intelligent way, it’s a character (e.g., human, bird, fish, etc.)

        • Otherwise it’s physics

      • Real-time

      • C++ SDK

      • Integrated as visual plug-ins into art packages and components into game application

      • Data-driven


What went right l.jpg
What went right

  • We survived as a company

    • Dot com crash

    • Many (AI) middleware companies came and went


What went right cont l.jpg
What went right (cont.)

  • Overall architecture was correct

    • The character / vehicle paradigm

      • Humans

      • Fish

      • Flaming Cows

      • Tanks

      • Space ships

      • Spiders

      • Weird bipeds

    • Tools went well

      • Integration into Maya/max was key to every sale in the entertainment space


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What went right (cont.)

  • Customers used it in all three markets

    • For film and video

    • For game cinematics

    • For a PS2/Xbox game (PSI-Ops)

    • For simulators


What went wrong l.jpg
What went wrong

  • $

    • VC crash; money came more slowly and more expensively

    • Game industry shakedown

      • developers went broke after they bought the product but before they paid us

    • Price slashing in animation

    • All of this naturally affected our execution


What went wrong10 l.jpg
What went wrong

  • Technology

    • We initially built something that no one liked

      • Game people said that it was only good for special FX

      • SPX people thought of it as a game engine

    • We built the wrong things first

      • Animation

        • An AI system was no good if you couldn't

          • control the underlying animation

          • render things out

      • Game

        • People really cared only about the path finding

        • Didn't want level editors/animators to author things

        • Build decision trees instead of FSM

      • Focus was on flocking and decision making

        • Pathing and animation control turned out to be the hot stuff


What went wrong11 l.jpg
What went wrong

  • Technology (cont.)

    • Too ambitious

      • Too split on the two markets with two different pipelines

      • Too many tools

      • Wide but not deep functionality

    • Consoles are hard

    • Bleeding edge tech causes you to bleed

  • Culture

    • Learning the 3 cultures took longer than we thought

      • speaking game with a heavy film accent

    • Really underestimated the resistance to middleware

      • You can't argue on cost-it really has to be better

    • It is a very new field so we had to make up a lot of stuff including language


Interesting twists l.jpg
Interesting twists

  • Military simulation

    • We really expected the military to be ahead of us

    • KMW uses our system to drive tanks and control all humans

  • Decision trees

    • Wrong choice for game (should have used FSM) but animators love them

  • Did a lot of things that weren’t AI (we really thought somebody handled them already)

    • Surface solving

    • Animation control

  • Essentially turned Maya into a game engine


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Moving forward

  • Challenges in game AI

    • Complex worlds

      • New graphics cards allow huge worlds

      • Physics creates dynamic worlds

      • Automatic tools are no longer an option

      • Navigation meshes are becoming the core data structure

    • Complex characters

      • Integration of all human systems to form intelligent skeletons

        • AI driven NLA

        • IK/FK

        • Ragdoll

      • Volume

        • No more ghost town (Craig Reynolds)

    • Parallelism


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Moving forward (cont.)

  • Industries

    • Game will continue to be the most dynamic environment for innovation

    • Animation (SFX). It is really becoming a question of playing the game with the record button on

    • Military is most open to these techniques

    • Convergence is happening, I was just out by 4 years

      • Film, games and simulations use the same database (Blackhawk down)

    • Most users want a drag and drop system particularly in sim and film


Thanks l.jpg
Thanks

  • Dan Fu for inviting me

  • My team back home for building such difficult software

  • All the customers who have helped us along the way


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