Using Advanced AI for Single Player Games

Thoughts on all the people saying they should put OpenAI and Deepmind into single player games to make the enemies smarter? https://www.theverge.com/2017/8/11/16137388/dota-2-dendi-open-ai-elon-musk

This entire line of discussion of is stupid. You can’t compare AI beating humans at multiplayer games with AI used in singleplayer games. The two are trying to accomplish fundamentally different purposes. AI in single player games is a Game Design issue, not a Technology issue. Developing AI that will beat players every single time at a multiplayer game usually isn’t a process of making the AI smarter the same way a human opponent can improve, it’s usually a matter of the AI having better timing, reaction speed, and knowing the best decision to make for each situation. AI doesn’t play the game the same way humans do, with our slow reaction time, our ability to only keep like 9 things in our head at maximum, our limited ability to simulate and predict what the game state will be. If you want to build a perfect AI that always wins at say, street fighter, you could just make it uppercut when you attack, throw when you block, and block when you uppercut, and the game is over. There’s already a number of bots like this at the top of the SFV leaderboards and the only reason they don’t win every match is because of netplay lag. Continue reading

Tabletop RPGs & Play Without Games

Are tabletop roleplaying games like dungeons & dragons games? How about ones that de-emphasize rules-based play & focus on the improv aspect, like ones based on apocalypse world?

Usually, yes, but not always. They’re games paired with Roleplaying, or Communal Storytelling. Depending on your group, the amount of game and amount of storytelling can vary. Some groups play tabletops as straight-up games, some of them use the systems as ways of mediating communal storytelling and generating interesting outcomes for the story. Within the framework of communal storytelling success or failure isn’t so important, it’s all about working together to make an interesting story. To this end, DMs rig outcomes, fudge die rolls, and don’t stick to strict game rules, they don’t (usually) compete with the players and the rules are set up to where most of the interactions between DMs and players are indirect, facilitated through impersonal die rolls. There’s even one tabletop RPG called Dread, focused on horror, which features no stats or dice of any kind. Instead, situations are resolved by pulling a block from a Jenga tower, and if the tower falls over, you get caught by the monster or whatever.

In the transition to digital, the meaning of role playing game changed. It stopped being about communal storytelling, with everyone making up a bit of the story, and started being about stats (which even relative to tabletop roleplaying games makes a bit of sense, since the innovation of the earliest Tabletop RPGs over the war games they were inspired by was the addition of stats tied to a character that grow over time). This is why a lot of discourse on RPGs is so confused, because people take the name of the genre literally. See all the people arguing about whether Legend of Zelda is an RPG or not. It fit right in next to the action RPGs of its original time period, but in retrospect it’s very clearly not in the same mold, and some people argue, “but it’s still a ROLE-playing game, I’m playing the ROLE of Link,” or worse, get confused and ask how any game can be a role-playing game since you play a character’s role in practically every game. Some games still try to fit the mold of communal storytelling by having branching storylines and letting players pick dialogue or characterize the character through personality scores that change over time (like fable’s good and evil points, or mass effect’s paragon and renegade points), but in my opinion you can’t meaningfully roleplay without other people, so RPGs on computer systems will always be a misnomer.

There are types of play that aren’t specifically games, like playing Doctor, or a tea party, or the role-playing exercises in improv groups. These don’t have any form of goal or objective, They’re just intended to produce interesting outcomes rather than establish winners or losers.

Tabletop roleplaying games can run the gamut here, it depends on your specific group.

Comparing Stylish Action Games

What are good criterias to analyze and compare hack’n slashes (Bayonetta, DMC, MGR, NG etc)?

I’d say the big fields are, attack design, enemy design, and defense design. Level design doesn’t tend to be a big factor, though enemy composition could be.

The big things in attack design for me are, how many command attacks are there and how varied in function are they? How many strings are there and how varied in function are they?

Platinum style games really emphasize strings on their characters over command attacks. Only DMC and to a lesser extent God Hand emphasize command attacks. The Platinum design ethos seems to be: here’s a bunch of strings, memorize them and perform longer or shorter strings based on the situation. Dodge enemies in the middle of your strings and use dodge offset to keep the string going so you can get to the wicked weave at the end. And maybe some strings have particular launching effects or something. Performing strings gives you magic points which lets you do powerful command attacks to get a wicked weave without doing a string.

DMC meanwhile has a ton of moves you can use at any time, and they have different area coverage, damage output, and combo potential, so their use can differ a lot based on the enemies you’re facing and the current situation.

God Hand sort of strikes a medium by having the customizable combo that acts as filler between everything else, and you also can bind moves that launch in various ways, guard break, dodge highs, hop lows, or other wacky effects.

NG has a lot of strings. I don’t really know why. Most don’t seem very useful really. You can get long combos by doing the right strings to launch and throwing shuriken at the right point in the combo to keep the juggle going.

In terms of defense design, DMC wants you to commit to moves, not allowing attacks to be canceled into defensive options generally. Also you generally jump for defense, though you can roll or trickster dodge too.

Bayonetta wants you to dodge and do it at the last moment for a big bonus, and it makes everything but wicked weaves cancelable, so nothing feels like it has much commitment except wicked weaves. They want you to juggle between doing combos and dodging at the same time without picking one or the other.

Ninja Gaiden uses a block, but the block can be broken, so you really want to block and then dodge out of block usually. And similar to DMC, attacks cannot be canceled, so an attack or string is a commitment you need to weigh carefully. There’s factors that help differentiate block from dodge so each are useful and exclusively dodging will usually get you killed.

MGR really wants you to parry correctly in the right direction the enemy is coming from and then forward dodge and BM cancel out of the parry block. Plus it had ninja run versus bullet attacks.

God Hand lets you dodge out of any attack like Bayonetta, but its dodges are much more constrained, giving a higher feeling of commitment. Plus there’s the differentiation between sidestep, weave, and backflip dodges.

In terms of enemy design, enemies can be more aggressive or passive. More mobile or static, they can be melee or ranged oriented. They can control space or time.

Enemies in DMC tend not to control space very well, being purely about timing really. DMC1 did something really clever and gave all the enemies a mix of close range and long range attacks, making up for the inability to combine enemy types together in the same room. DMC3 enemies especially were very one-note frequently, only having 1 or 2 attacks.

My gut tells me Bayonetta enemies are good, but honestly I haven’t played in long enough to really remember. I’m honestly blanking on NG enemies too. I remember them varying between clean solid design and being gimmicky bullshit a lot. Both games have extremely aggressive enemies however, which is generally nice considering how mobile the protagonists of these games tend to be.

MGR enemies were okay. Camera issues hurt some of them like mastiffs, who are great except for getting obscured off camera especially during their jumping attacks. Generic soldier enemies were a bit weak design-wise.

God Hand enemies are excellent for their ability to threaten different spatial zones, making each of your dodges differently effective versus each enemy type and their various attacks. They also used team tactics and had special quick but escapable throw moves that could vary the pacing of combat a lot. They used things like projectiles, whips, AOE attacks, multihitters, vertical and horizontal swipes, and lunging attacks to seriously vary what tactics were effective against each of them.

Nioh’s not technically in the canon, but I think it did an excellent job of combining all these factors, having a wide variety of moves, interesting and varied defense, and great enemy design.

Also I object to the name hack and slash, because that tends to describe Diablo style games more frequently, and not all stylish action games even feature swords, such as God Hand, or Bayonetta, which is primarily punching and kicking.

Absolver Impressions

What’s your take on Absolver? It’s an online brawler with big emphasis on customization, reminds me of God Hand:

It’s interesting, and manages to make single and multiplayer combat work fairly well in the same system by taking a lot of the lessons from dark souls and increasing the pace slightly. It’s just kinda simple because you don’t have access to that many attacks at any given time, and can’t switch stances very quickly. Continue reading

First Impressions on Icons: Combat Arena

What do you think of Icons: Combat Arena?

Literally everything about this game looks bad.

The name is bad, coming off as generic or misleading. The characters aren’t iconic, they’re unknown. The name doesn’t sell the unique premise of the game or stand out in any way.

The character designs are bad, looking like bargain bin MOBA characters. The only one that stands out as being distinctive or identifiable to me is The Kidd and I dislike the way he looks. They lack personality and a big part of making a fighting game appealing to people is giving the characters personality.

The sound effects are weak, sounding like someone punched a pillow while wearing mittens. The particle effects are lacking, using the same hitspark for practically everything. Attacks don’t seem to have any hitstop, especially not smash style hitstop where the character will vibrate for a bit before being sent outwards.

The animations are especially bad. They have extremely weak or non-existent anticipation phases, and almost no followthrough. The biggest problem is just that the posing is weak and not exaggerated nearly enough. The lack of hitstop doesn’t help. Most motions just go straight from A to B with no breakdown or anticipation, sort of just popping into place. People tend to underestimate the amount of exaggeration you actually need to make an animation look impactful.

As for the moveset design, I’m seeing Fox, Captain Falcon, Ganondorf, Marth, and an original character. If the game is just going to be practically a carbon copy of melee but worse, why the hell would anyone play it?

This is the problem with Smash Clones. Smash Bros is an extremely detailed game, in every facet of it. It has detailed models, animations, mechanics, sound effects, and more. Smash Clones don’t put in the work to recreate all of that. They don’t put in the work to develop new systems that have as much detail as smash’s systems. There’s a ton of traditional fighting games out there, and they all have very different plays on what you can do with that control scheme and game mode. We have a few smash clones, a few platform fighters, and they all have very samey plays on smash mechanics, with a little extra. Rivals is smash except without grabs, with parries, and no ledge, plus ridiculously broken recovery. Brawlout is smash with no blocking of any kind. PSASBR is smash except no DI, and only supers kill.

If Smash Bros is Street Fighter, then we’re not seeing KoF, we’re not seeing Guilty Gear, we’re not seeing Marvel 3, we’re not seeing Samurai Shodown. Smash Clones aren’t very good at copying smash and they aren’t very good at making their own appeal. Project M got all this stuff right, but it also inherited a lot of its backbone from Brawl.



Consistency of Skill in Fighting Games

What do you think of consistency in fighting games? If fighting game players are consistent/not consistent with their results in tournaments, is it necessarily a bad thing?

It’s tough. Consistency is a mixed blessing is about all I can say after some deliberation on the topic.

We have two case examples, SFV where players are allegedly really inconsistent, and Melee where players are super consistent. Continue reading

Can Large Scale Games Foster Depth?

Is depth possible for big colossal games like destiny, beyond good and evil 2 ( https://youtu.be/M8IguhQqhAg ), and star citizen. Or depth can be only be done in small focused games like thief or DMC 4?

Alright, I’m sorry because I’m gonna be a bit pedantic here, because people keep asking me questions like this. I define depth as literally having states. The depth of a game is the number of states a game has that are not redundant, or irrelevant to play. A coin flip has a depth of 2 states. A coin flip is not deep, but it has depth, the smallest amount of depth possible in a game. Deep means that a game has a relatively high amount of depth compared to other games.

Big colossal games focus a lot of their attention on creating content. This means that level design typically takes a back-seat and you end up playing through very similar encounters. Another trend with these types of games is that the combat systems, which are the primary systems of interaction, tend to be below average. Continue reading

What’s different about Fox and Falco’s shines?

What do you think of Fox and Falco’s shines? How do they differ? Some say the ability is overpowered. Is it?

Fox’s is a lot bigger. Falco’s is much smaller. Fox’s hits at a horizontal angle. Falco’s hits straight up. Fox’s has fixed knockback. Falco’s has knockback growth.

Both come out frame one. Both are invincible frame 1. Both have the reflection hitbox come out frame 3. Both slow down the character’s fall speed in the air. Both can be jump canceled on frame 4. Both allow the character to turn around during them.

Basically, Fox’s is way better. It allows him to shinespike people, and its fixed knockback means it always combos regardless of percentage. Plus, he has a 3 frame jumpsquat, so his pressure with shine can be a lot tighter than falco’s 5 frame jumpsquat. And waveshine combos into up smash. Continue reading