From automated cars and personal computers to smart homes and cell phones, AI can be found almost everywhere today. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on the role of AI in video games.

AI and video games have come a long way, with the former bringing the latter to life. From its humble beginnings as simple electronic games, the gaming industry has been revolutionized by AI. Today, at Zirako Magazine, we’ll take a look at the role of AI in video games and how it has evolved over time.

What is AI?

AI stands for Artificial Intelligence and is a branch of computer science that deals with making machines smarter through the use of algorithms and data. Essentially, it gives electronic machines the ability to think, learn, and make decisions like humans.

In other words, you can think of AI as a magic potion that grants electronic machines the power of thought. When properly implemented, these electronic machines can adopt abilities to think, learn, and make decisions as humans do.

Figure 1: Artificial Intelligence Visualization

AI in Video Games

Today, the role of AI in video games is very crucial, and it is all set to become even more decisive in the near future.
Artificial Intelligence plays a pivotal role in providing a deeper level of immersion to players. Be it the games of desktop computers, mobile phones, or console platforms, AI has influenced them all.
AI in modern games is still in the initial stages of development and is often referred to as “Game AI”. Since game developers are not AI researchers, their use of artificial intelligence in video game development is very limited.
The term “Game AI” is collectively used to refer to a broad set of algorithms that render a good gameplay experience.

A Brief History

The use of AI in video games can be traced back to 1951 when an electronic version of the Nim game was developed. As technology advanced, writing code for AI to beat professional players became possible, with IBM’s Deep Blue chess-playing computer defeating Garry Kasparov, the world’s then-chess grandmaster, in 1997. Since then, AI has been used in various ways in video games, such as in creative world-building and NPC behavior depiction.

Types of AI in Video Games

Figure 2: Skyrim

The very purpose of artificial intelligence in video games is to make them smarter and feel more interactive. The ultimate goal is to make NPCs more human, which adds an extra layer of realism and challenge to the player’s experience. 

As such, there are 3 main types of AI roles: 

    • NPC behavior

    • Pathfinding

    • Environment

AI concerning the behavior of NPCs ensures that they do not act in any unrealistic way that potentially ruins a player’s gameplay experience. The AI algorithm also ensures that NPCs react to the game’s world naturally, and that includes the player as well.

Pathfinding is also related to NPCs but is a whole different AI algorithm. Its purpose is to ensure that if an NPC is to move from place A to place B, it should find the shortest path possible to reach the destination while also avoiding obstacles in the way.

Moreover, the AI concerning the game environment randomly generates world events and dynamic elements that keep the gameplay unpredictable and hence engaging.

Impact on Gameplay

Artificial intelligence deals with both simple gameplay mechanics and complex patterns that render a unique, immersive experience for a gamer.

For example, in shooting games, NPCs will decide to flee if their health bar gets becomes too low. Another example would be taking cover behind an object if they run out of bullets. In more complex situations, like in a game of chess, the AI might consume a bit of time as it re-evaluates its strategy every time a player makes a move. And just like that, the list goes on…

Games That Have Made the Best Use of AI

Almost every major video game today makes use of artificial intelligence. It is difficult to accurately draw a line of distinction for games that make the best use of AI. 

Since common AI algorithms are widely available on the internet, developers tune them to their preferences. However, we can agree on one thing: artificial intelligence has become a lot better in recent game titles.

Here is the list of 4 video games that did standout back when they incorporated a certain AI algorithm in their gameplay:

F.E.A.R (2005)

Developed by Monolith Productions in 2005, F.E.A.R. is a first-person horror shooter game. The game uses an advanced AI that makes NPCs react to each of the player’s moves hyper-realistically. Moreover, thanks to artificial intelligence, NPC enemies can also coordinate with each other to build up tension in the player.

Grand Theft Auto IV (2008)
Figure 3: GTA IV

Developed by Rockstar North in 2008, Grand Theft Auto IV is an open-world game. It received huge praise for using advanced AI to create a dynamic game world with realistic NPC behaviors that react to every action made by the player. Thanks to artificial intelligence, the game’s traffic system also went under a complete overhaul.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) Developed by Bethesda Game Studios in 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is an open-world action role-playing game that uses AI to create a dynamic game world with unpredictable events and unique NPC behavior.

The Last of Us (2013)

Developed by Naughty Dog in 2013, The Last of Us is a third-person action-adventure game that proved to be a critical success. Its NPCs are highly intelligent and even react to the slightest of mistakes committed by a player. In addition to the game’s captivating world generated by AI, The Last of Us delivers an over-the-top gameplay experience.

Final Thoughts

AI has had a profound impact on the gaming industry, creating a deeper level of immersion for players and making games more interactive and unpredictable. With the advent of Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), the role of AI in video games is set to become even more important. AI algorithms will be used to create more immersive VR and AR experiences, and to enhance the gameplay mechanics. AI will play a crucial role in the future of video games and anime, making them even more interactive and engaging.

Conclusively, we can say that without artificial intelligence, it would be impossible to play games like we do today. The role of AI in video games stands tall and large. If anything, it will only increase in the future.