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Feature: The Technology of F.E.A.R. 2: An Interview on Engine and AI Development

What puts the F.E.A.R. into game technologists? In this Gamasutra interview, Monolith's engine architect John O'Rorke and senior software engineer Matt
What puts the F.E.A.R. into game technologists? In this Gamasutra interview, Monolith's engine architect John O'Rorke and senior software engineer Matthew Rice discusses F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin's tech underpinnings, from workflow to AI and beyond. O'Rorke says that developers tend to overlook the balance of technology with art and design, forgetting that they need to support new features with an adequate overflow. He argues that technology development may be expensive, but it's not nearly as expensive as content creation: "There have been techniques, and research, and prototypes that have been done, that we've had to scrap just because there's no way in the world that we could create a workflow that would allow our artists to populate that and still stay within timeframe and budget -- but, I say that, though there are also a lot that have panned out, and resulted in some pretty cool techniques. One of the things that we did for F.E.A.R. 2, for example, was textured volumetric rendering, and we were able to come up with a nice workflow for that, that was pushed by engineering -- just something that the graphics engineer and I were playing around with, and we came up with a technique, and we prototyped it, it turned out really well. We pushed it to the artists, and then they started incorporating it into a lot of spaces. They really help pull out the atmosphere. And then there's always the converse, of course, where the artists say, 'Well, what if we can do this,' and then there's back and forth about, 'Oh, okay, here's what you're really trying to do; here's a solution that we can put in there for that, and see how you'd like it to work for your workflow,' and so it's very much a two-way street in terms of ideas and stuff like that." Discussing recent AI advancements, Rice believes we've seen huge improvements in AI in the current generation, and that there will soon be a "big leap" with small-scale tactical AI being applied to larger crowds. "I think you've seen a couple different things that have happened in this generation, and they'll continue on. In terms of smaller, tactical scale AI, you've seen mild improvements in terms of the way they plan, and the way they challenge you in combat. But even more than that, they look better while navigating, and they look better while moving through the space. Navigation has increased across the board, and the way they interact with the environment has improved across the board. Globally, across the entire games industry, you've seen more AI in games. Games like Assassin's Creed. We're getting to that level where you're moving through large throngs of crowds. You just didn't see that before; in previous generations, you'd step into a nightclub and it's be barren, devoid, but now you're actually seeing fully populated cityscapes. So there have been big improvements in AI, in general, this past generation. There's only so close that you can get before you get to the uncanny valley, in terms of games, and I think we're approaching that right now. So, there will be a big leap at some point soon, when things such as the great small-scale tactical AI that a lot of games currently have, gets integrated with the crowd AI that you're seeing. And you're also seeing other things, like people are experimenting with AI spawning, and spawning dynamically based on the player's condition and health, to try and tempo the game differently every time you play it ... We've talked about that here at the office, and that's some place where we see an aspect of AI developing." You can read the full feature, which also talks about F.E.A.R. 2's destructible environments, the AI's goal-oriented action planning system, and more (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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