Space colony sim MMO SEED offers a look at how its AI operates


Alessia Nigretti, one of the AI engineers of the in-development space colonization MMO SEED, seems pretty happy about her job and eager to share her work. In a thread on Twitter, she offers some insight into how the game’s Utility AI system steers the characters in the game.

The AI logic of SEED can be broken down into three parts: Discovery, Selection, and Execution. During Discovery, items in the game world are effectively asking to be interacted with, but filters need to be applied via Selection, which takes into account whether a task is impossible (ie. You can’t eat an apple that someone else is eating). Even after that filtering, there are still a lot of tasks left, so a scoring system is then factored into each task, with the highest scoring one being Executed. Each activity isn’t scripted, but is made up of simple atomic steps that the designers of SEED can pick and choose to create new behaviors to simply let colonists flourish.

“I didn’t know about Utility AI before joining my team, but now I’m a huge fan!” Nigretti writes. “Utility is the perfect type of AI for games that are expected to be highly scalable and data-heavy, and that plan to put some focus on emerging behaviors in rich and complex environments.”

The whole thread is worth a read for armchair devs as well as to bask in the pure happy nerd energy, but what also might be interesting for MMO fans is that Nigretti gives thanks to talks from AI developer Dave Mark, who many readers might remember was one of the AI authors of EverQuest Next. Mark was struck by a car at GDC 2018 and nearly killed, but is now working as a game AI consultant. As for SEED itself, the game is expected to kick off alpha testing at some point this year.

source: Twitter

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Isn’t that basic coding stuff that all online games use?

Robert Mann

Actually, no. Most things are hard scripted in our games. This could be highly variable, depending on how it is put in.

For example, the priority behaviors could all change based on distance to object, day of week, month, time of day, weather, etc.

So instead of every day in game you watch NPC X walk the same path, they instead go wandering around doing various things. At least, that’s what it COULD be. Usually games don’t do what could be, and simplify with AI behaviors. It is why the rare innovators that make NPCs feel more like they have lives are noteworthy (and even those studios often fall back on strict scripting).

There are many games that use this, but instead of decisions like Seed is talking about it is more things like “Do I reload, shoot, run to a location, etc.” The uses for controlling behaviors outside that… well, the Sims is about the closest parallel to Seed for this, from what I could find. The choice numbers there aren’t as high if they really have as many as indicated with these posts, but that’s a grain of salt required part imo.