Game Development Reference
a chess move or fighting game attack. The player isn't thinking through
game systems. He's thinking through sentimental values or trying to read
the designer's mind.
Predefined choices do serve a purpose. They allow a player to coauthor
a narrative with the designer in a way that isn't possible with systems-
driven choices. We can't make a system to simulate a human mind or an
entire narrative world, so if the player is going to affect these at all, they
must make predefined decisions. But these predefined choices shouldn't
be confused with the systems-driven decisions discussed in this chapter.
They're authored differently and contribute to the experience in distinct
PReDiCtaBility anD ai
T There's a common assumption that smarter AI is better AI. The reason-
ing goes like this: A game is about simulating some fictional world with
people in it. A more accurate simulation is better. Therefore, more accu-
rate simulations of characters' minds are better. And, since real people are
always smarter than game AI, smarter AI is always better, because it is
more like a real person.
The problem with this is that people in games often shouldn't be
simulations of real people because games aren't simulations of life. Games
are mechanics wrapped in fiction, not mechanics trying to trick you into
thinking they're real. The fiction wrapper enhances and communicates
the mechanics, it doesn't define them.
And mechanics designs are often harmed by smarter AIs, because
smarter AIs are often unpredictable. An AI driven by a few simple behav-
iors can be predicted. The player can plan an approach deep into the future
because he knows what will happen at each step of the way. But a very
smart AI with a complex, layered mind can't be predicted. The player can't
plan around its actions because they're driven by an incomprehensible
mind. The more the AI thinks, the less the player is able to think.
In most cases, AI is best thought of as a mechanic like any other, not
as a simulation of a real mind. A character who follows straightforward,
predictable, consistent rules often contributes more to a play experience
than a realistically chaotic mind simulation.
For example, most soldiers in real-time strategy games act more like
automata than people. Given an order, they carry it out exactly and im-
mediately, and they do it the same way every time. This means that the
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