Raising the IQ of Games
When the GeForce was originally released by nVidia back in 1999, one of the
arguments they used to support hardware accelerated transform and lighting (T&L) on
the video card was to free up the central processor (CPU) to handle more complex tasks,
such as creating more life-like intelligence (AI) in games. Two years later we are
still waiting for those smarter games.
In their quest for better AI, many game designers have chosen to allow the computer to
modify the rules inside the game for its own ends. By tipping the balance unfairly in
the direction of the computer, players are given a harder challenge and therefore a
better gaming experience. Or does it? How many people have been frustrated by a computer
player that will always beat them because it has better firepower, quicker reflexes, or
the raw geometric data of maps and levels? Games like this can quickly lose their fun
factor and become relegated to the dead software shelf never to be played again.
If letting the computer cheat isn't the answer, then what is? Some people are betting
on something called Black and White.
Black and White is the latest creation to spring from the fertile mind of Peter Molyneux.
If that name sounds familiar it is due to the fact that he has also been responsible for
other impressive titles such as Populous, Magic Carpet, and Dungeon Keeper. In Black and
White, you are a god. Same old rehash? Well, this time around your actions have many
varied and diverse consequences. The whole game revolves around what you do as a god, the
tone you take, the example you set, and what happens because of it. You can choose to be
naughty or nice or anything in-between. The game promises to play differently for each
person because no one makes the same choices. The game is designed to learn from what you
do, how you act, the way you interact. Be benevolent and see the beauty in the happiness
of your tribe. Be vengeful and see the world through a haze of darkness. The way the
population of your world chooses to interact with one another will depend on how you
interact with them. In addition to interacting with the population, you also have your own
pet. This pet will be your direct contact to your tribe. It will draw disciples to your
magnificence and punish those who stand against you. If you choose to nurture your pet,
it will nurture your flock. By abusing your pet, it learns to abuse your people. Your pet
will decide how to act based on the way you've treated it. In a way Black and White is
the first commercial parental simulator.
Will creating a game that will model itself after the player lead to a revolution in the
implementation of computer game AI throughout the entire industry? Only through the success
of the game can that be achieved. We can only hope that Black and White's approach to game
intelligence can cause the game community to reexamine how their own games think. Will Black and
White itself be the smarter game we've been waiting for? Although originally scheduled for
a Christmas 1999 release, we will finally know on March 30th when North America receives its
The above is my personal opinion, and may or may not represent the opinion of Glide Underground.
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