Camelot Unchained demonstrates its Terminator-like enemy AI in new video footage

    
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Non-player character pathfinding is one of those systems that you don’t ever notice or think about — at least, until it doesn’t work and NPCs get caught up on the environment and end up hopelessly lost from a whole room away. So it’s pretty essential to get pathfinding down right, especially if it’s part of one of the big setpieces of your game.

That’s what Camelot Unchained is demoing to you this week in a pair of short videos. Both show a player character being relentlessly pursued by a keep lord. The player tries to throw the NPC off several times by moving quickly through the environment and even jumping off ledges, but the pathfinding helps the merciless warrior find the best route to sheer murder.

Check it out:

Source: YouTube. Thanks Rndomuser!
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Bruno Brito

This…does not look like a game that will launch in two years.

I maybe wrong here but…aren’t we at eight?

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dinarian_

According to Wikipedia
December 23, 2012 was when CSE released the first teaser trailer for CU for a total of 8.02 years.

But it is weirdly a touchy subject and some people prefer to use May 2, 2013 which was when the kickstarter concluded as a date for a total of 7.6 years.

Either date you want to use rounds to 8 years so it seems to me that you are spot on.

Side note – Every time I look something up on the kickstarter page I smirk at the Estimated Release Date of December of 2015. – 5 years late and no even estimated release date in sight.

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Bruno Brito

This really doesn’t bode well.

Raleigh-St-Clair
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Raleigh-St-Clair

How can games be made, 20 years ago, in far less time, for far less money and be classics… while with today’s technology, more money and more time, we sit here years and years into a project and it looks like a computer student’s first go at coding something? I am truly perplexed. How? How? How?

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rk70534

Go and play Everquest 1, Meridian 59 and Ultima Online each a few hours, compare them with open eyes to games like CU under development now, and you would likely be less perplexed.

Because you might as well complain that Ultima Online cost far more and took much more time to develop than an earlier offline classic like Ultima V.

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joshisanonymous

Video games are far more complex today. To give a really extreme example, think of what it took to make Donkey Kong or Pacman and then compare that to Cyberpunk. Obviously, that’s about as extreme as it gets, but that’s the general idea. No one at all spent over 5 years making MMOs in 2000, but if you think Ultima Online involved the same amount of coding, art, etc, as something like Elder Scrolls Online, might need to look closer.

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Dug From The Earth

EXACTLY

IMO Camelot Unchained in its current state is so much less of a game than Dark Age of Camelot was at launch.

This is from the Dark Age of Camelot wiki:

“Total development costs excluding equipment leases was about $2.5 million and took 18 months with a team of 25 full-time developers.”

Far less money, far less time, and a much more complete game. Even at launch. Sure DAOC had a TON of work done to it after launch, including expansions, but the game at launch was still a much more complete and solid feeling game than CU is YEARS later.

Now the ONE element I will give MJ and his team credit for is the hard work they have put in making the game run at a decent framerate even with hundreds of units on the screen at once (something that DAOC suffered from.)

So if a base, playable, solid game can be made in just under 2 years, and CU has been in development for 7+, then how much of that time is being spent on things keeping it from being a base, playable, solid game? Its certainly had the time… as well as the money (as of 2018 the game had raised about 17 Million in funding, about 6 times as much as Dark Age of Camelot!!)

So what exactly is the issue here?

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dinarian_

Comments/Likes/Dislikes have all been turned off…again.

But the real question is, are the NPC’s now smart enough to process the refunds people are still waiting on? (Day 298 for me of waiting….I am still waiting.)

Relmharver
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Relmharver

It is gutless to turn these off, truly. Between that choice and the moderation on the official forums, the control the developers are attempting to exert on public opinion is even stricter than what SotA used to do. If you have a quality product, you don’t need to censor public opinion. That’s what you do when you’re running scared.

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dinarian_

I think you are exactly right, and of course no conversation about the lengths CSE will go to to control the conversation is complete without mentioning that there is still and NDA that covers not just the game (which is 5 years late) but also the forums are included in what people are not allowed to talk about.

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Richard Bogart

In MJ’s delusional mind all the dislikes are only from a secret illuminati of dedicated haters who organize “vote brigading”, so they don’t actually count. Thus, in his delusional mind there’s nothing wrong with turning them off.

agemyth 😩
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agemyth 😩

That must be a nightmare to program.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

It’s more or less been a solved problem for 12+ years
https://github.com/recastnavigation/recastnavigation

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Mark Jacobs

PJ,

In our case, some issues were solved, others weren’t because of how the CU is built. We are using Recast (as we talked about) but it’s not a plug-and-play solution for us. We were using something else for a while but we switched to Recast a number of months ago because we thought it would speed development up and work better with our game, which it did. The other system was great for games that didn’t have the challenges of what we’re doing.

I wish Recast was simply P&P and everything is solved but it doesn’t work that way for most games.

Mark

P.S. As per below, if you want to see the full description of the Monthly Update item about pathfinding, let me know and I’ll be happy to post it here as it gives a lot more insight into what we did and why we did it.

PlasmaJohn
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PlasmaJohn

It’s been forever and a day since I’ve touched game programming so I wasn’t even sure Recast was still around (I’m happy they are). Mostly I meant the math was solved.

After reading the other comment I see the wrinkles you guys needed to work around. I could have swore it dealt with navigating around dynamic objects (mobs, player avatars) but I suspect it would get cranky if it had to deal with a large number.

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Mark Jacobs

PJ,

Yep, Recast is still around and does a heck of a lot of things well. It definitely helped us get the system into the great shape it is now. And yes, Recast did get cranky at times, just like our code. :)

The CU world has a number of challenges, as well as advantages, because the world is not only built with a tool that uses procedural generation to save a dev(s) time but we don’t output set height maps for the world at either world building or runtime. While this is great and does allows us to make certain things easy, it can make certain things harder too. And since we want the system to be built into our engine, it has to be able to build/rebuild the paths /navmesh as close to instantly as possible even with 1000s of queries per second coming in.

Here’s the update item:

1) Done – Tech – Unchained Navigation System
The Unchained Navigation System has landed in Camelot Unchained! Lee, Mike D., and Spidey have completed final testing of version 1.0 and have turned it on in CU. The system features a dynamic tiling scheme that divides the world into regions for which the navmesh can be independently built and rebuilt as the world changes. Whether from destruction or the placement and removal of structures and obstacles, the navmesh nearly instantly recalculates the navigable space in the affected areas, allowing NPCs to dynamically react to the changing environment. The NPCs themselves can then make independent path requests that are computed in parallel, allowing for hundreds to thousands of queries to be solved every second during high-traffic situations. Our system was designed specifically for the challenges of a large-scale MMO, with complex user-generated content present in a world with unlimited terrain and structural diversity.

THIS TALKS ABOUT BEHAVIORS
With this system now landed, we can turn our attention to planning and developing gameplay features that will really take advantage of it, including general individual NPC pathfinding throughout the world, patrol routes, hunt-and-kill behaviors, Keep Lord stalking and tracking of players, organized group movement, and so much more. While it has taken a lot of work, we are very proud of the results. Better still, this is merely the beginning of a system that will continue to expand in feature set and capability, all in the service of providing our players with increasingly sophisticated NPC behaviors that bring the CU world to life.
———————-
And one of the cool parts of the system is that all of these NPCs, whether in CU or FS:R, are totally independent agents. We do not use any flocking or squad-based behavior like most other games do when they get to large numbers of NPCs. We might do that at some point but for now, we don’t need to.

-Mark

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Mark Jacobs

agemyth,

The degree of difficulty was a little worse than we expected. OTOH, we also had fewer people to throw at the problem than the typical studio who would be trying to solve this problem. According to Andrew/George, multiple people would be tasked to solve “normal” pathing problems. For us, it was usually one engineer for most of the work and we’d bring in a 2nd or 3rd to help at certain times.

But yeah, having player built structures using a block-by-block system that can change quickly along with droppable items and potentially having to deal with 100s of NPCs added a degree or two of difficulty. That’s one of the reasons we didn’t go with player-built structures for FS:R. :)

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Schlag Sweetleaf

.

I fart in your general direction..gif
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joshisanonymous

This is what used to happen, actually, but would only be possible with the new pathfinding system if there are no traversable paths to that rather rude gentleman on the wall.

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Dug From The Earth

Nice pathing.

Hopefully that will improve upon players cheesing the system that happens in so many other games.

Whats up with the lighting and washed out colors though? Blech.

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joshisanonymous

I found that weird, too. It doesn’t look like that for me in game, so I’m guessing it has more to do with the setting Mike was using than the actual lighting system.

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Utakata

…welp, that would be one way to take care of the mob evade/reset issues.

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Mark Jacobs

LOL, thanks Justin! Not sure I’d call it Terminator-like AI but it’s a pretty good demonstration of the new pathfinding code. :)

As yoh_si says below, the key here is these buildings are player-made, can be changed/updated/destroyed during a game and the code needs to adjust on the fly with hundreds of NPCs. 2D pathfinding is one thing with or without preset/burned in paths, but when you add the 3rd dimension and dropped obstacles it becomes trickier of course. And it needs to be performant of course, which it now is, even when we have lots of NPCs and very complex paths in The Depths, caravans, etc.

One of the benefits of this (I covered this in the newsletter) was that since it’s now in great shape for CU, the engineers who have been working on it can now turn to other CU things starting next week. Very happy about that.

Thanks again Justin and MOP!

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dinarian_

Where is the videos showing the npc’s interacting with very complex paths in The Depths? Where is the video showing NPC’s interacting with caravans? Where is the video with lots of NPC’s and players to navigate around?

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rflynn1974

Wait a second, this game is still being made?

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yoh_sl

This is rather impressive. Its one thing to have a AI accurately path find in a complex 3d map. Its another thing for that to happen in free form, customizable maps. Gotta remember that this games structures are not fixed, premade buildings. Which makes correct path finding significantly more tricky.