Bonus Feature: 'Creating All Humans: A Data-Driven AI Framework for Open Game Worlds'

Populating an entire game world with characters that give an impression of life is a challenging task, and it's certainly no simpler in an open world. In this techn
Though a sandbox-style open world game gives players a sense of immersion -- the freedom to do what they want and create their own experience within the world that developers provide -- it also reduces the ability of developers to control, limit, and pre-script scenarios: "The AI code needs to be built on a foundation that is flexible enough to respond to any eventuality. It needs to handle a domain of gameplay that is broader in scope than a linear title and react to situations that might not have been anticipated. In effect, the AI needs to have a strong emphasis on breadth of behavior over depth. That is, the architecture must promote the ability to create large numbers of behaviors and make applying them to characters as easy as possible. One solution to this challenge is to make the behaviors data-driven. They should be created without requiring changes to code, pieced together and reused as shared components, and substituted out for specialized versions. Ideally, the developer should be able to tweak not only the settings of a behavior, such as how long a timer lasts or how aggressive an enemy is, but also the very structure of the behavior itself. For example, what steps are needed to complete a given task or define how those steps are performed? By allowing our behaviors to fit into multiple situations, be reusable, and be quick to create and customize, we can more effectively create all the actions that the characters will need to give the game life." The basis for the behavior system in Destroy All Humans 2 is a hierarchical finite state machine (HFSM), in which the current state of an actor is defined on multiple levels of abstraction: "At each level in the hierarchy, the states will potentially use sub-level states to break their tasks into smaller problems (for example, attackenemies is at a high level of abstraction and uses the less-abstract fireweapon below it to perform part of its function). This HFSM structure is a common method used in game AI to frame a character's behaviors. It has several immediate benefits over a flat FSM. (For current information about HFSMs, see Resources) In our implementation, each state in the HFSM is called a behavior and makes up the basic architectural unit of the system. Everything that characters can do in the game is constructed by piecing together behaviors in different ways that are allowed by the HFSM. A behavior can start more behaviors beneath it that will run as children, each performing a smaller (and more concrete) part of the task of the parent. Breaking each task into smaller pieces allows us to reap a lot of mileage out of the behavior unit-reusing it in other behaviors, overriding it in special cases, dynamically changing the structure, and so forth-and spend more time making the system intuitive and easy to modify." You can read the full feature, which goes more in-depth on the data-driven AI architecture and sophisticated behavior system employed in Pandemic Studios' open world title Destroy All Humans 2 (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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