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An AI Coach for Bad Gamers? 79

newchurch writes "In this week's "Gaming in 2020" issue of The Escapist, Chris Dahlen writes about a no-talent gamer who gets help from the 'Nintendo Coach' - an AI installed in the console that watches him play and gives him pointers and feedback. This is set 14 years in the future, but how hard would it really be for a next-gen console to pull this off? Would gamers want this kind of thing, to make them more competitive or just to help them master a title like Ninja Gaiden? And would your average gamers even admit they need help?"
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An AI Coach for Bad Gamers?

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  • What about opposite? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:49PM (#15715271) Journal
    What about game enemies learning tricks from the player?
    Play a deathmatch against bots, that learn movement patterns of players, instead of using predefined paths, learn new ones by watching the players and follow them, becoming more of a challenge, less predictable, learning most efficient tricks? At first the game is just a game against bots. Later it becomes a game against yourself. And if you limit the bot to learn from you, and not from the "hive mind" that contains tricks from all players, fighting it you learn your own weaknesses.
    • exactly what i was thinking.

      for all the advances in graphics, sound, and even mechanics it seems that AI is the slowest to come along. that's understanable to me, but it just gets boring when racing games have rubber-band cars, fps' with the "stupid bot," "medium bot," and "bot that whips around and headshots you with a rocket launcher while jumping over obstacles" and boss battles that just throw wave after wave of attacks at you in easy to remember patterns

      i'm sure AI programming is hard, but can anybod
      • It's hard. I've done some modding for Enemy Territory to create bots that play decently, but by no means are they perfect.
        • i belive it. i guess i should have refined my question. with the concentration in other areas (especially with a new gen rolling around), are teams devoting enough personal to AI compared to other depts?
          • because it's hard to market good AI. Screenshots are the first impression. Then come numerical data: size of levels, number of enemies, number of weapons etc. Then some extra perks. "Better AI" entry there will show up no matter if the bot jumps randomly once in a hour or can kill the player at any time. So why bother? The player passes the money the moment they buy the game, and later they may bitch on sucky AI all they want.

            Remember the Half-life 2 AI hype? Or Oblivion?
      • There only are three kinds of AIs: Cheating, Pattern and "Realistic"

        Of those cheating AI is by far the worst. I hate playing car games that use rubber band AIs, or Civilization on harder difficulty levels where the enemy AI gets everything cheaper.

        Realistic AI is the most difficult to program and is most useful in 1vs1 or other even situtation. Quake/UT bots are good examples for these. The most difficult things is to create realistic AI that doesn't exploit the characteristics of computers (like perfect ai
    • The Eraser bot for Quake 2 did this.
    • So we hook a game that learns from the player up to a deathmatch with a game that teaches the player. If the game can teach the player, maybe it can actually play the game. We set the two AIs against each other.

      Whichever one wins most gets to fight for the users.
    • Dead or Alive 4 is pretty brutal about this. It's very difficult to win by doing the same move or strategy over and over again.
      • That's because the best strategy in DOA4 (as with all DOA fighting games) is to vary your attacks. The game plays like a complex version of rock paper scissors and if your strategy is to always pick scissors... well even the most retarded AI could pick up on that.
    • First of all AI has no meaning in any game that's you against the world in some impossible odds, because if the opposition can actually think, then it is really impossible. For example you'll never see an AI in a MMORPG capable of coming up with the idea that killing whoever can heal is smart. If they're able to do so, then it is necessary the enemy can be prevented from doing this and in that case they might as well not be able to figure it out in the first place. Now if you move to something that's 1 v
      • First of all AI has no meaning in any game that's you against the world in some impossible odds, because if the opposition can actually think, then it is really impossible.

        Not true. You just have to outthink the AI, just like you would a human opponent. A small band of rebels can overcome the empire, in real life and fiction; they just have to use their advantages to their fullest and prevent the empire from using its advantages.

        For example you'll never see an AI in a MMORPG capable of coming up with

        • The problem is you're usually dealing with OVERWHELMING odds in the first place. The Dragon is supposed to win against your army of 40 or 20 guys 99 out of 100 times, if not more. Anyone with any knowledge of the fantasy genre knows this. It simply asks an impossible suspension of belief that you and 500,000 others are the chosen ones against an intelligent AI. Take a game like Metal Gear Solid, we know you don't just 'outsmart' an army of professional soldiers/terrorists led by superhuman leaders. It i
      • > First of all AI has no meaning in any game that's you against
        > the world in some impossible odds, because if the opposition
        > can actually think, then it is really impossible. For example
        > you'll never see an AI in a MMORPG capable of coming up with
        > the idea that killing whoever can heal is smart.

        The standard MMORPG concept is "extremely tough, but offensively weak guys, extremely powerful but squishy other guys, and semi-squishy to very squishy healers".

        Such a group would get destroyed on
    • Zanac for the NES had this feature built in back in 86.
    • I think such AI would best serve in more *true* coop games, instead of "Me against the world" FPS's. Me, my headset, and 2-3 friends, versus a truely badass AI.

      A group of humans versus an army would have a ghost of a chance...But not before hilarity ensues.
  • Hell no! (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    There's already too much of this in gaming today. You can't go 10 paces in any game without some pop-up dialogue box or voice telling you what to do and how to do it. I'm sick of my instruction manual being in the game; I'd rather figure things out for myself. Isn't that what it's all about?
    • Re:Hell no! (Score:2, Funny)

      by KDR_11k ( 778916 )
      I'm sick of my instruction manual being in the game; I'd rather figure things out for myself.

      So in other words you don't want to RTFM and you don't want the machine to do it for you either?
  • by CrazyJim1 ( 809850 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:52PM (#15715284) Journal
    Coach,"The first step to recovery is to admit you have a video game playing problem."
    Guy,"Ok, I admit it, I have a problem."
    Coach,"Alright, now lets review your build order for Xel'naga."
    Guy,"Wait, I thought my problem was that I'm addicted to video games."
    Coach,"There's no such thing."
    Guy,"Oh cool, thanks. I don't need you anymore. I'm going to go back to playing Duke Nukem Forever"
  • AI Coach (Score:5, Funny)

    by killermookie ( 708026 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:54PM (#15715291) Homepage
    Ok, go into this tunnel. Ok, left...left again. Kill that guy.

    Good, ok...go here. Get that gun. Jump this lava thingy. Kill that guy.

    Ok, now right. No, your other right, dummy. You stepped on a trap! Oh noes, they're coming. RUN!


    It's not my fault!

    /switch AI Coach off
    • Re:AI Coach (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hotawa Hawk-eye ( 976755 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @11:57PM (#15716705)
      "It looks like you're trying to capture the enemy's flag. Would you like me to help you ...

      * shoot the enemy

      * move toward the enemy's base

      * dodge the enemy's fire

      * write a letter to your enemy ... whoops, wrong application."
      • * write a letter to your enemy ... whoops, wrong application."

        Well, if the enemy is a robot, cyborg or an ultratechnical soldier, like they often are, then sending them an email virus might be a very effective way of getting rid of them.

  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by linvir ( 970218 ) * on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:55PM (#15715296)

    This is the wrong way around. If a gamer is having difficulty in a single-player game, the right thing to do is usually to detect this and ramp the difficulty down for them. Believe it or not, most people who are bad at gaming are bad because they are casual gamers. The last thing people like that would care about is any kind of coaching.

    • by Yakman ( 22964 )
      I play sports games occasionally (FIFA, NHL, etc) as a replacement for real exercise. The difficulty levels in these games can be a bit dodgy at times - say in FIFA, on the easiest difficulty level I can win 7-0 or 10-0 which isn't very realistic (assuming the two sides are fairly evenly matched), however on the next difficulty level I end up losing 2-1 or 3-1 or something.

      The score is more realistic, but I have to work too hard to even eke out a draw - it stops being fun. I don't play games to lose - I wa
    • I agree that a lot of players are casual gamers, but that doesn't mean they don't want to be better. Give them the option: "I see you're having problems, would you like some assistance or would you like to play at an easier setting?". Casual players don't want to be bad players; some may not care because they _are_ casual players, but some of us are casual gamers because work/wife/things-that-are-not-games take precedence unfortunately.
    • That depends on what the user wants. Especially games that can be played with multiple players would benefit from coaching. Or even just manuals and tutorials that explain more than the basic controls. How about e.g. explaining some useful strategies to the player and teaching him more optimal build orders in an FPS? How about training him in the actual use of combos and special features in fighting games rather than simply saying "Press Weak Kick, Strong Kick and Strong Punch to trigger the 'ultimate shiel
  • Great Idea (Score:3, Funny)

    by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @06:55PM (#15715297)
    Coach: I see you are trying to kill a Ninja, would you like help?

    * Get Help Killing The Ninja.
    * Just kill the Ninja without help.

    []Don't show this messege again.
  • Its called "kids."

    "C'MON! We have to go this way! What're you trying to do? Its not XYYBYAXYYB, its XYYBYAXXYYB." ;-)

    Yes I am exaggerating, but nothing motivates you to learn a game like Halo or SSBM like having your kids pound time and again.

    • SSBM...

      Man, I had to look that one up. For a second, I thought that maybe you were playing games in the same way the WOPR plays games :)

      Ship Submersible Ballistic Missile
      • That's SSBN or SSB (for nuclear and conventional propulsion), not SSBM as the M is already covered by the B.
        • I know, but it was close enough that it triggered that in my head.

          Anyway, googling for it found the result that I posted. I would imagine that it's a more generic term for sub-launch missiles bearing unspecified ordinance. That, or a whole lot of sites had made the same typo, then gave the incorrect expanded meaning. *shrug*

          I think I've been playing too much Superpower. The game sucks, but Shadow President is just too damn buggy in DosBox to be playable :(
      • SSBM...
        Man, I had to look that one up. For a second, I thought that maybe you were playing games in the same way the WOPR plays games :)

        Ship Submersible Ballistic Missile

        You're ahead of me. All I could come up with was "Single-Shot Bowel Movement".

    • Its called "kids." This is /., remember? :p
  • It was called Tamagotchi [wikipedia.org].

    Some "AI" tells you what you have to do.

  • And would your average gamers even admit they need help?

    Of course not.

    my l33t skillz pwn u any d4y biatch ch3ck teh mad aimb0t i got w/ my 133t skilz f4gs u wish u had m4d h4xx0rz lik3 me

    • "And would your average gamers even admit they need help? Of course not."

      I aggree. Either the gamer is a casual one who doesn't really care all that much about getting l33t skillz, or the gamer is at least semi-hardcore who wouldn't dare learn l33t skillz from some in-game help thing.

      Besides, you know how annoying those help/hint/tutorial/whatever things are in most games.

    • And would your average gamers even admit they need help?

      Of course not.

      So true. I remember when Devil May Cry offered me easy mode. I was offended.

      But, when I sit and think about it, I suck at that game.
    • Acctually, I think you're wrong. Sure, maybe in public gamers wouldn't admit to needing help, but in private insecurities go a long way towards getting folks to take whatever help they can get. They might not admit it in front of their gamer friends, or have the Nintendo Coach box sitting out in plain sight, but with the right marketing campaign highlighting promises of dramatically improved gaming results in a friendly, professional package I think folks would buy it. Hell, it works for penis enlargement p
  • There were some modded scenarios that you could download that would help prompt you with your build order to show you the ways to get things done faster.

    For most games, there really isn't a substitute for just playing or just playing with others. Most AI these days for FPSs feature increasing difficulty of bots that you can train against.

    The more chess-like the game, the more coaching might help.

    • yeah, I agree... I wouldn't want help in an FPS, the mechanics of an FPS are pretty much the same you've either got it or you don't, past that it just comes down to level and weapon familiarity which can't easily be passed on by a "coach" without holding your hand.

      Fighting games rely heavily on your familiarity with the different moves the characters perform, they typically offer a sparing mode which is far more beneficial then a "coach" would be. BOTH of those game types are too fast for decent live coa
  • Ah, yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by porkchop_d_clown ( 39923 ) <mwheinzNO@SPAMme.com> on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:15PM (#15715687) Homepage
    Have you ever noticed how much of life consists of arms races in one form or another?

    If everybody uses AI coaches, will that make everyone l33t or will it just raise the minimum requirement for playing online without embarrassing yourself?
    • How much does a player's efficiency increase with additional training? A player with no idea of what makes a good build order for the first moments and what units have damage modifiers against what other units (i.e. what is a counter to what) will just play horribly and noone would enjoy playing against them until they've learned enough. Remember the "Learn to fly OFFLINE, noob!" complaints about BF2?
      • then the complaints will just be "Learn to do x, noob!" Where x wasn't covered by the AI.

        In other words, additional training may change the range over which skills vary but it won't change the fact that skills vary - nor will it change the behavior of the skilled and the unskilled.
        • Yes but it'll reduce the number of fundamental errors a noob could make. OTOH many people will probably just skip the advanced strategies tutorial because they just KNOW that spending the first 15 minutes teching without building a single defense is the right way...
    • What's the best way to learn to play a game online? To lose! Eventually, you get your ass kicked enough, you begin to learn how to reverse the process. So if you're playing against people who have become "leeter" through this AI training, eventually those people are going to breed the next level of gamers after that. And the cycle will go on, as it already is; except having a portion of gamers who were taught by a computer, rather than by people, would be... interesting... to say the least.
  • AI expression (Score:2, Interesting)

    how hard would it really be for a next-gen console to pull this off? The current level of AI found in modern games is not a limit of how smart the processor is. AI is limited by the inability to express AI-ness in modern programming languages.
  • I think this could be good for gamers who haven't developed the skills to press the buttons precisely (the "button-mashers"). Normally RPG-type games have some kind of training so that you can learn every move, so I assume this would be different from that.

    An AI coach would have to be more than Navi from Ocarina of Time too. In theory, it could replace talking to tons of townspeople for clues and hints, annoying fairies, and the like. I think I would use it if I got stuck in some place and didn't know what

  • by DaveJay ( 133437 ) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:30PM (#15715764)
    The racing game Forza (on XBox) has something like this now, albeit nonverbally. You can turn on a trainer that places arrows on the track to indicate the line you should be driving, which is not a big deal; however, that line is dynamically updated as you drive to give you information that's pertinent to your current performance and situation.

    Let's say you drive into a turn too quickly. What were once green arrows (to say "keep going, no need to slow down") suddenly turn yellow, then red, as you pass the point at which you should have hit the brakes. Once you've slowed down enough to recover, the arrows go back to green (or yellow). This simple mechanism is surprisingly useful.

    It's not a big leap to take that data and present it in faux-human form (a voice saying "You're driving into the turns too fast!" and a worried face on your robo-instructor) instead of graphically. So yeah, it's already here.
  • The really, really bad players are either total n00bs, or really don't have an interest in that particular game, in which case, there's no point in going on. In the case of the former, where players are total n00bs, most modern games like Civ IV (or even Chess) have startup tips, which can be turned off.

    I personally have no interest in racing games, sports games, and I'll be totally inept at playing them. No amount of coaching from the AI (or real people) will make me any better, or for that matter, even ap
  • In every online game I've played, people will always ask stupid questions that they could have answered themselves by looking at the manual/FAQ in about 30 seconds. The only thing worse than that are n00bs who don't even ask (in the case of the current game I'm wasting my time with, Tremulous, I often see 'UnnamedPlayer' trying to build a base, which leaves me with the choice of trying to fix his mistakes and getting the base pwned by goons because there weren't enough defences from the two of us fighting f
  • In every form I've seen this, it does nothing but piss me off. Sure, sometimes they have a point, but no one likes a backseat driver, especially when they're dead right. This would probably be hilariously annoying for being dead wrong, and having a limited number of canned phrases.

    "There's some Nazi guards sneaking up on you."

    In real life? My response would probably be:

    "You've only told me this eight fucking times in the past 30 seconds. Has it occurred to you that maybe I'm setting a trap, and don't wa
    • Hell yeah. I remember that shiteating fairy following you around as link (N64 zelda games). "Hey, listen!" "Hey, listen!" "Hey, listen!"
      What happened next [vgcats.com]
    • Then again, if the coach is implemented as a fellow player on your team...

      "What are they doing?"
      "I said, what are they doing now?"
      "God damn, I am getting so sick of answering that question."
      "You have the fucking rifle, I can't see shit. Don't bitch at me, because I'm not going to just sit up here and play with my dick all day."
      "OK, OK, look. They're just standing there and talking. OK? That's all they're doing. That's all they ever do, is just stand there and talk. That's what they were doing last we
    • Sometimes, I visit my parents house. While I'm there I sometimes play games on there computer. Nowadays, when my parents see me, they sometimes say the following:

      "You are low on Mana."


      "All of your creatures are getting slaughtered."

      Of course, they paraphrase, and I paraphrase, but they are pretty close. Anyone who figures out which game has the annoying coach that says those phrases gets an intangible, invisble, and non-existant cigar.

  • You will never see this "feature" in a game.

    Since the development costs of games are skyrocketing and companies want to maximize their profit with little risk, they seek out ways to provide as much pleasure as possible to as many people as possible for the lowest amount of money possible.

    The budget to create something like this could be much more readily implemented into providing better AI for enemies, which is something that more people would appreciate, and get more use out of. Not only that, but it'
  • Not that I like his voice, but pressing the "suggest" key during play choosing in Madden football will cause him to highlight a play and say something like "A good coach would choose this play," or "Great, now run it up the gut with this one."
  • Since this article has mostly funny (yet somewhat snide) comments about its subject, I'd like to mention what it's really about (this poster got it [slashdot.org]) - adaptive feedback AI training. I actually worked on a research project doing this during my last two years of college, where we had an AI model that was studying aircraft pilots flying predesignated courses, and based on the control inputs and eye-tracking data, the system was intended to provide real-time corrective feedback how the pilot was performing.

  • I've been gaming since the Atari days, and I still suck at competitive games. The problem is nobody accepts you because you aren't good enough, and then you can't learn to be good because nobody'll play with you.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes