Welcome to some more Star Citizen, Star Citizen’s AI in Alpha 3.5 is not the best, it’s kind of bodged together at this stage as there has been a new flight model for them to follow and really the current AI is placeholder.
Most of the Improvements are just being combined and listed in the PU roadmap for Q1 2020 (Alpha 3.9) as Flight AI / FPS Combat AI Improvements and Polishing (This polishing pass contains final work on behaviors and balancing as well as bug fixing. Goal is to improve the look and feel of flight combat for the release) BUT this is actually finishing off a massive amount of improvements that SQ42 & the PU Roadmap lists, some of which may make it before that stage. So today I wanted to look in more detail at major AI / NPC features that are listed in Squadron 42s Roadmap that will be coming to Star Citizen’s PU over the next 12 months or so, in Addition to Flight & FPS AI we’ll also talk about Social AI too.
Let’s Start with a key piece for the Ship AI: 3D Pathfinding v2
Building the foundational technology that allows AI to navigate in 3D space by utilizing the physics grid. The path search will be hierarchical and will use other factors alongside the physical data, such as the graph connection of QT points. The system will scale to the size of the universe and accommodate all content, including asteroid fields, planets, and space stations.
This is needed for AI Ships to sensibly move around the Verse with the new flight model and is planned for Alpha 3.6
They are building out Pilot Behaviors Standard – Ace
Improving the baseline behaviors for 1v1 dogfighting situations for a pilots of a standard, veteran or Ace skill level. These behaviors will appropriately use all basic ship functionality like engaging afterburners, g-force reactions, and various offensive and defensive tactics and maneuvers.
More experienced pilt behaviors will include decoupling, ship loadout-based behavior, or cleverly using the environment in their tactics. They do list the Advanced Gunship AI in the PU Roadmap defensive maneuvers that gunship pilots will perform on detecting fire to prevent extensive damage to their vessel.
AI don’t really have the knowledge to fly in atmosphere at the moment, Atmospheric Combat AI is coming Giving AI ships the proper functionality and behavior to navigate and fight in atmosphere by using lift, drag & energy potential in their flying. It will also allow ships to correctly handle the terrain layout and objects on planets. This will enable AI ships to actually participate in Missions planetside and make use of the Hover (VTOL) System.
Again currently AI Ships can’t currently land we need them to be able to Land, Take-Off & Travel – we will see them Utilizing the new flight model to improve spline-following functionality and allowing for AI pilots in ships to land on and take off from carriers, hangars, or landing pads, and perform basic non-combat maneuvers, like patrolling.
AI Spline Paths v2 also aide with this as well as general navigation.
AI ships will be able to follow spline paths using the new flight model. Use cases include following splines for takeoff and landing, landing in a moving ship’s hangar, stunt splines around intricate environments, and ship puppeteering for accurate control of the ship and its thrusters.
Another major addition is Functionality to allow AI spaceships to fly as part of a Formation, as well as the player, both as leader or follower. These flight patterns will adjust according to the participating ships’ specs, such as speed, agility, and size.
For SQ42 they are Implementing functionality for a wingman to receive and handle the player’s commands. The different commands will result in modification of the systemic behaviors or their execution, so that the wingmen will be able to correctly help the player and match their play-style. I suspect this will also be used for mission NPCs and hired NPCs in the PU as well.
There are a couple of AI features that will also allow for more AI Flight Behavior.
Flight: Mission Improvements v2 – Implementing advanced mission-related functionality for AI NPCs. This will include behaviors like docking, radar usage, or anti-personnel protocol for combat ships & Flight: Mission logic additional controls
Implementation of basic functionality allowing mission designers to impart commands to an AI spaceship crew as a player would. For example, we will implement interfaces that allow designers to request ship AIs to defend other ships or lead/follow another ship while flying over user-defined splines. We will also implement abilities for designers to specify dangerous areas the AIs should try to avoid.
There are a lot of FPS AI features under the umbrella FPS: Combat Behaviors v2
Improvements to FPS combat to enable NPCs to fight in a more believable way – The AI will not only use a variety of weapons to create different combat situations but will have different ways to engage the player, whether in groups or solo. This task also includes creating varying levels of combat training and skill sets for specific areas or situations.
This actually includes a load of features from Squadron 42s Roadmap which we will go over.
Updates to NPCs Navigation will allow them to construct paths for traversing the environment utilizing multiple types of navigation. For example, NPCs will understand how to move from the internal part of a spaceship to open space and then traverse a zero-g environment. In this scenario, the path will be constructed in different sections: one to reach the airlock, one to navigate through the airlock using the correct actions, and one to EVA to the final location. The basic functionalities include locating potential connections provided by elevators, transit systems, and airlocks and allowing the pathfinder to automatically use those elements.
They also are adding the The ability for the combat AI to engage the player using a wide arsenal of weaponry, Improving FPS combat behaviors so that NPCs will choose appropriate weapons and tactics. Adding the ability for NPCs to evaluate their proficiency with different weapons, use the one best suited to the situation, and employ appropriate tactics when facing the enemy and managing ammunition & Adding grenade combat and reaction mechanics to enable AI to use grenades strategically (clearing out areas, creating diversions, crowd control, etc.) and react when players use them as such. This is a combination of implementing core functionalities, like predicting the strength and direction the NPC applies to the grenade throw, along with incorporating this action into their behavior so they can anticipate the right moment in which this attack should be used.
AI are getting a couple of major cover usage updates starting with Expanding the cover system to correctly evaluate dynamic cover in environmental queries used by AI behaviors. Dynamic cover could either be destructible objects or environmental elements that can be manipulated to be used as cover. Players will also be able to destroy objects in the world while NPCs are using them as cover, and this work will implement specific behavior to detect these situations and react accordingly.
This will then get further additions to allow for When no viable cover is available, NPCs will also attempt to search for potential objects that can be used as cover. For example, panels that can be raised from the ground and used for protection. This feature will also include new ways for characters to enter/exit cover locations, such as sliding when sprinting, or vaulting over a low cover object.
We are also getting Improvements to AI stealth protocol while hunting and pursuing players who are hiding or retreating, so we can more effectively employ Stealth as a tactic.
They are Developing the ability for the player to fight alongside a companion NPC. The goal is to create a system in which you will be given the chance to have a companion that you can actively direct, but that is also smart enough to guide the player, support them in firefights, and potentially provide ammunition or health packs, to lead the mission to success. This sort of AI will potentially be used in the PU in the form of hirable NPCs & Crew.
To flesh the world out more there is social AI features planned too, Populating the game world with NPCs who have different behaviors, resulting in a living and breathing environment. They will be able to interact with complex objects like food machines, carts, or airlocks, and each other. They will also keep track of their relationships so that a player can behave differently and influence their reactions and decisions.
Characters will be able to use more dynamic conversations between each other and with the player, and those conversations will be influenced by player actions. NPC behaviors will also be influenced by dynamic events in the world. For example, if an electric panel fails, engineers will organize a repair.
Civilian, Shopkeeper & Bartender NPC AI will be getting various Improvements & additional functionality to be able to interact with players and other NPCs.
The Walk & Talk Feature is tech & animations needed to support NPCs being able to walk alongside the player or other NPCs and maintain a believable conversation while traveling to a destination. This feature will create the ability to mark animations so that AI can restart them from the appropriate section or avoid obstacles. The same functionality will be extended to on-foot or in-ships patrols, guarding behaviors, and more.
There are Improvements to the Core AI are a base for the rest of all AI Systems to come together. Core underlying systems for every AI in the game, from combat, to standard NPCs, to ships. This includes optimizing the current system by speeding up the navigation mesh generation, supporting complex objects to navigate throughout the world & transit between areas.
All of these features together should be able to allow for actual AI working as intended, providing appropriate difficulty to missions
Something that’s not mentioned more specifically is Defensive/Security Force AI for the Law System (part of which is coming in 3.6), we know they want to phase out No Fire / Green Zones with security, there are features in the PU that imply it like the Security Gameplay System in Alpha 3.8 & the Law
With the AI built out this is also the potential start of being able to having NPC crews in the PU worked on.
And that’s it for today’s video but please tell me what you think? Do you think CIG will be able to pull off their plans for the AI in Game for Squadron and the PU as per the roadmap, do you think they will hit roadblocks or delays beyond Q1 2020? Whatever your thoughts I’d love to hear from you.