NPC AI

Personality_Header

Viewing personality data of an expedition member.

In addition to world simulation, artificial intelligence constitutes a prime focus of Outer Colony. The goal is to build NPCs, especially human ones, that more closely approximate their real world counterparts in the interest of creating compelling gameplay. Humans in OC represent a departure from NPCs in most RTS games. They don’t just blindly follow orders like chess pieces being moved on a game board. They aren’t one dimensional entities that just move and attack things. They’re built to be more like actual people.

They get hungry and need food. They get tired and need sleep. They interact with one another and build social networks. They communicate and spread information. They have memories of their experiences. Their experiences cause feelings and alter their moods. They belong to cultures that define societal norms, and they form interpersonal relationships according to those norms. They have personalities that drive their behaviors. They age and experience an approximation of the real human lifecycle. They have physical and other characteristics that are passed from generation to generation. They can develop skills and learn new behaviors. All this detail is built into the human model to give them the depth and complexity to make them more human.

The ultimate manifestation of this effort is in how OC is played. As a leader of an expedition, you don’t so much tell your NPCs precisely what to do as you would in a traditional RTS game. Rather, you issue high level orders, and your NPCs decide how to carry those orders out…if they feel like it. All NPCs are driven by a goal directed framework that builds plans to attain the NPC’s decided objectives. The orders you issue influence an NPC’s prioritization of goals, but don’t necessarily define what an NPC will do.

As a manager in real life, you can tell someone what to do, but it’s ultimately up to them whether they’ll comply with your directive. If they’re on the verge of starvation, are about to succumb to madness from sleep deprivation, or are generally weary of putting up with your deranged leadership, they’re going to prioritize other objectives over your insane orders to keep building a pyramid. The same hold true in OC, and this can necessitate a different approach from other games.

To learn more about AI in Outer Colony, the links below are a good place to start.