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Raising the IQ of Games
Author: Lee Runyon       Date: March 26th 2001
Page: 1

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 first shipments.

The above is my personal opinion, and may or may not represent the opinion of Glide Underground. All copyrights used in this article are copyright their respective copyright owners. Comments are always welcome.

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Raising the IQ of Games

Added:  Monday, March 26, 2001
Reviewer:  Lee Runyon


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