The living game

Game development is something amazing. You start with a basic idea, shape it until it starts working, then polish, shape again, and son on – until you find something thrustful enough to say “that’s it”. At least, that’s how it works for me.

And one of the most rewarding things on game development is when you see that thing you’re creating behaving as you want – or even as you didn’t, but in a meaningful/interesting way. It’s like watching a thing becoming alive somehow.

As you may know, I’m developing a fancy soccer game called Double Trouble Soccer (please like our page!) And one of the challenges at building a highly responsive game is how to make the AI behave as expected, when so many variables, situations and possibilities emerges. You must play over and over again, more and more, trying to find any and every possibile AI reaction and fine tune it. It’s a painful labor, but no less important.

From time to time in the game, items falls from the sky and nearby AI players will go for it. To make it fair, the random item selection and their behavior are not based on the match context (ball/player position, match time, etc). I like the more chaotic behaviors, trying to mimic somehow the way nature works. That’s something I invest some serious time studying.

In the last weeks, though, something really interesting started happening. The items looked so timed, so precisely dropped so the AI could take it and affect me, that I caught myself almost blaming on the game – and only then I realized I was blaming on a game I’m developing, and I know has no biased AI/power-up behaviors!

As the game scale changed (now the teams are up to 10 players) and the random Item behavior changed to offer more diversity, this timed stuff started affecting the game in a ver unexpected – and welcome – way. It’s like if tha AI team knew when it was the right moment to drop meteors or knock out my players to pick the ball and counter attack me, even though that’s not right.

Then I thought about how difficult it should be for teams developing games like FIFA, Pro Evo, Rocket League, hearing players blaming over “handicapped” AI behavior. We know it exists and it’s benificial when well applied, but now I see much clearly how it’s easy to make gameplay diversity result in fake AI “cheating”. In the case of my game it fits like a glove, but I wonder how far it could go when more items and behaviors are available.

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