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The Challenges and Follies of Building a Generic AI engine
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The Challenges and Follies of Building a Generic AI engine

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  1. The Challenges and Follies of Building a Generic AI engine Dr. Paul Kruszewski, CTO © 2000–2004 BGT BioGraphic Technologies Inc.

  2. 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)

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. What went right • We survived as a company • Dot com crash • Many (AI) middleware companies came and went

  7. 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

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. 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

  15. 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