The Second AI

Problems with video games can highlight what is right with tabletop role playing games and vice versa.

When a player goes up against a computer opponent in a game, that opponent is controlled by an AI. The AI is supposed to simulate the tactics and decisions a real opponent would make. The orcs might be smart, the orcs might be dumb — it depends on how the AI is set and also based on how well it is programmed. If there are multiple opponents, there can be more than one AI, but each AI is basically subjective — it controls creatures in the game world.

What's missing is the Second AI, the AI that controls the game itself, the AI that tries to make sure the player is having fun. The enemy AI's aren't supposed to do that — they're supposed to try and win, not cut the player a break.

So what would this Second AI do? Moderate random events within the world of the video game, swinging them for or against the player to maximize the fun. Increase the challenge when the game is too easy, or foil the enemies a bit if the player is having too hard a time.

This idea probably sounds familiar, because even though it is non-existent in video games (as far as I know), it's ingrained in tabletop roleplaying, because that's what the GM does.

footnote: “Second” AI might not be the best term, since in computer games there could be any number of AIs running the adversaries. It's really a Gamemaster AI or Game AI.

    Ben Robbins | November 25th, 2006 | game theory | show 6 comments