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One of the competitors in Dota 2’s championship is an AI team

Perhaps in the future, we’ll all be looking back at the time when e-sports were an actual thing played by humans rather than simply a competition between teams of AI. As the Dota 2 world championships take place this year, spectators will have one team to cheer for that’s definitely not on drugs and has never been suspended for inappropriate behavior, because the team consists of AI players working in harmony. Elon Musk’s OpenAI team is heading to the championships, and it’s not just doing so as a novelty; the team has already won its way in against a team of semipro players.

Of course, it’s an open question whether or not the AI players can match up against the best players in the world, but thus far results are encouraging, and even a hard-fought loss would indicate that the AI in question is approaching the upper limit of what humans are capable of. So keep your eyes peeled, as we may be looking at a line of competition that’s ending remarkably quickly; then we’ll just need an AI to beat the best humans at basketball.

Source: Wired; thanks to Sally for the tip!

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Entropia Universe studio wants to let us live on forever inside an MMO – literally

If you’re a fan of Altered Carbon or Westworld, you’re going to love what MindArk says it’s working on: The Entropia Universe studio aims to use the game as a “potential reality where human consciousness can be inserted into virtual characters, making it possible to continue to live on as an Avatar well after their human body has passed.” I am not making this up.

“Although full realization of transplanted artificial intelligence is still some time away, MindArk is preparing to use advanced artificial intelligence data to create virtual avatars based on the consciousness of real people. MindArk is closely following the work of pioneering scientists within the field of ‘Mind Uploading’ which includes research from Princeton University, Oxford University and other institutions. The company is already testing new technology to create more realistic gaming experiences, and is establishing itself as a leader in the virtual space where digital consciousness can be paired with artificial intelligence. This will open new possibilities for what it means to live on after life is over.”

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EVE Fanfest 2018: CCP Games has big plans for data collection and machine learning

Every day in the sandbox of New Eden, several hundred thousand EVE Online players perform millions of unseen actions. Every item manufactured, module activated, shot fired at an NPC, and stargate activated leaves its mark on the universe, but the granular details of those actions is lost forever. It simply isn’t feasible to record every little thing a player does in-game, or at least it wasn’t feasible until now. At EVE Fanfest 2018, CCP announced an innocuous new Activity Tracker feature that may actually eventually have big consequences for everything from game balance to fighting bots.

The feature will be delivered as a new Activity Tracker window in the game client that will show players detailed stats on almost everything they’ve done in-game since the tracker went live. This in itself is useful, both for helping players set goals and for highlighting other areas of the game they might not have given a fair shake yet and so might enjoy. Behind the scenes, the way that CCP is collecting this detailed data and the implications of its use are really fascinating, and there are even plans to use machine learning to look for patterns in this data that would help identify bots.

Read on for a breakdown of exactly how masses of new data is being captured on EVE players, and how it could be put to use in the future.

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GDC 2018: Yokozuna, big game data, and the future of MMO monetization

GDC isn’t E3. It isn’t PAX. It’s not even what I think stereotypical gamers can appreciate. But I think the Massively OP crowd is a different sort, and because of that, we can give you some content the other guys might not be talking to you about. Like data collection and monetization. They’re necessary evils, in that we armchair devs can generally see past mistakes rolled out again, but know those choices are being made in the pursuit of money.

So how do you make better games and money? Maybe try hiring some data scientists, not just to help with product testing and surveys, but with some awesome, AI-driven, deep learning tools. Like from Yokozuna Data, whose platform predicts individual player behavior. I was lucky enough to sit down with not only Design and Communication Lead Vitor Santos but Chief Data Scientist África Periáñez, whose research on churn prediction inspired me to contact the company about our interview in the first place!

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The gaming community rallies around EverQuest Next AI developer Dave Mark

A renowned game AI designer who worked on EverQuest Next and John Smedley’s Hero’s Song is the focal point of concern following an accident at this past week’s GDC.

Dave Mark was struck as a pedestrian by a car at the conference and has suffered brain bleeds, a pelvis fracture, a hip fracture, and possible brain damage. Mark’s friends set up a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of his travel, medical costs, and rehabilitation. It looks like the campaign has taken off, too, as it raised nearly $20,000 in its first day.

“Please help if you can,” tweeted Star Wars Galaxies designer Raph Koster. “We are lucky to still have him with us, and recovery will be a long road.”

“Please help if you can. Dave is a wonderful guy with a beautiful family and he’s also one of the worlds leading experts on game AI. Send love and prayers his way,” said John Smedley.

Source: GoFundMe

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EVE Vegas 2017: Pirate factions will hunt you down in new EVE PvE

If your experience with EVE Online‘s PvE is of grinding through waves of predictable NPC pirates firing space pea shooters at you, get ready for that to change. CCP Games has been working on advanced AI for the past few years with the aim of turning those mindless drones we fight in PvE into intelligent actors similar to players. The first stage of this was shown off with the roaming Drifter battleships and later with the Blood Raider Shipyard and NPC mining operations that will form up counter-defense fleets and try to drive you out of the star system.

The next step in this plan is landing with the Lifeblood expansion on October 24th with Pirate Forward Operating Bases (or FOBs for short) and a new Resource Wars PvE system. We learned more about these new features this weekend at EVE Vegas 2017, and they’re beginning to sound pretty epic. Read on for a breakdown of both features and details of how the Blood Raider and Guristas pirate factions may soon be actively hunting you down.

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Heroes of the Storm wants to keep its AI smart and adaptive

It’s quite possible you don’t think that AI is a big part of gameplay in Heroes of the Storm, but a lot of the game’s matches are played against AI opponents, and AI takes over when a player unexpectedly disconnects from the game. So it’s important for the game to have AI that is fast, responsive, and satisfying to play against or alongside. The latest development dispatch explains changes made to the AI and gives a broad overview of the way that the game keeps AI heroes engaging.

Rather than scripts, the game’s emerging new AI is controlled instead by coding conditions and scenarios, leading to a more organic experience that keeps the AI heroes putting the emphasis on player-controlled characters. AI opponents should be reactive and dynamic, calculating the safety and range of a given position and moving to better positions as they become available; the same basic process is used for accomplishing each goal on a given map. Check out the full article for more details about how the developers are making sure that AI opponents and allies still feel interesting to play against.

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Citadel: Forged with Fire deployed a patch to finally stop non-responsive AI

In the strictest sense, there’s nothing wrong with non-responsive AI in a game. Even in Citadel: Forged with Fire, it just means that whatever NPC you started smacking will not smack you back. So it technically means you get an easy win… while also feeling like you’ve cheesed the system and not actually won at all. Good thing that the game’s last patch last week was aimed at finally stomping out this particular problem once and for all, right?

The team is also looking ahead to its next Wednesday patch, which promises to add new creatures requested by the community, full WASD rebinding, and corpse markers on the map. Of course, it’s worth noting that those new creatures should all be responding and hitting you back at this point, so just keep that in mind before you decide to prod some kind of burning bird.

Source: Steam page

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EVE Fanfest 2017: EVE Online plans amazing new PvE gameplay

Today’s EVE Online is a far cry from the empty but hopeful sandbox released back in 2003, having constantly re-invented itself for over 14 years and put together some incredibly ambitious visions for the future. Executive Producer Andie “CCP Seagull” Nordgren shared one of these visions in her Fanfest keynote speech four years ago, laying out the long-term goal of having players build their own stargates, explore deep space and colonise previously undiscovered star systems. This trajectory has brought us Citadels, Engineering Complexes, and soon Upwell Refineries, but it isn’t the only plan for evolving EVE and it may not even be the most impressive one.

Last year we heard from CCP Burger and CCP Affinity on some amazing advances that had been made in NPC AI for the powerful roaming Drifter ships, and broad plans to integrate parts of that more widely into the game, possibly even creating something CCP Burger called “PvPvE.” We got our first taste of the end result after EVE Vegas 2016 when NPC mining operations began appearing in certain star systems and mimicking the activity of real player mining ops — They had mining barges hoovering up rocks in the belts, haulers picking up the ore, and even combat ships using PvP setups and strategies modelled on real players that would chase attackers around the star system. This first iteration of the feature was impressive, but at EVE Fanfest 2017 we discovered that an even more incredible future awaits EVE players.

Read on for a breakdown of the next stage in EVE‘s PvE gameplay and an interview with CCP Seagull on how this feature will be rolled out over high-security space and beyond.

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Star Citizen cracks the code of artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence isn’t merely being thrown into Star Citizen because of its futuristic theme but because the tech is essential to how the game will play, from its mission system to ship handling.

In the latest episode of Around the Verse, the AI team engages in a lengthy Q&A session about how this tech will help the game as a whole. Thanks to the AI, missions will be able to vary a bit as you replay them, stations on large ships can function without a human at the controls, and players will be able to develop relationships with NPCs over time.

You can read the full transcript of the show on Relay or watch it for yourself after the jump!

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Self-driving cars are learning to drive with Grand Theft Auto

So it turns out that people were right when they said that self-driving cars were a terrible idea. We were all in favor of them; it seemed like a nice chance to relax, stare at the scenery, and possibly game while three sheets to the wind and without asking someone to pick us up. But researchers from Intel Labs and Darmstadt University in Germany are teaching the vehicles to drive using Grand Theft Auto, which means that self-driving cars will collide with other vehicles, drive on the sidewalk, and attempt to hide from police investigations by parking in a paint shop.

Jokes aside, the system being used is pretty awesome, using the environments of the games as a way to place the vehicles in real-life situations without any risk to human life. It’s a complex process allowing the vehicles to “see” and analyze a large number of objects in quick succession, thus providing valuable data to be used in finished models. If you’ve got any interest in the technology, it’s well worth a read. And if the next time you play Grand Theft Auto Online you notice that someone in your group seems to be moving rather robotically, maybe you should cut that player some slack.

Source: MIT Technology Review; thanks to Stemline for the tip!

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EVE Evolved: CCP Games on the future of EVE Online’s PvE

It’s no secret that EVE Online has always been a primarily PvP-focused game, with thousands of players smashing fleets of ships together on a daily basis. PvE requires a different set of skills and ship setups than PvP and is often seen as little more than a necessary grind to replace lost ships. Even with great PvE additions over the years such as Sleeper NPCs in wormhole space or Sansha incursions, almost all PvE ultimately still boils down to shooting at predictable NPC ships that don’t pose a real threat. Players have engineered all of the risks out of PvE, coming up with optimum strategies and ways to predict NPC behaviour.

Things have begun to slowly change over the past year or so with the introduction of dynamic NPCs like the powerful Drifter menace with its advanced AI, Burner missions that in some ways almost mimic PvP, and new high-level capital ship NPCs. We’ve even had several seasonal events that can be completed in PvP-fit ships, turning the event dungeons into unexpected flashpoints for PvP. At EVE Fanfest 2016 we learned that CCP has begun stepping up these efforts to merge PvE with the rest of the game world and adding some unpredictability and engagement back into the game, and two new PvE dev teams have been formed to get the job done.

In this edition of EVE Evolved, I talk to game designer Linzi “CCP Affinity” Campbell and senior creative producer CCP Burger about two new PvE dev teams they’re part of, CCP’s plans to integrate PvE more closely with the rest of the game, and how the Drifters were developed behind the scenes.

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Landmark’s storytelling system really is incoming

Amid the week’s sad news and uncertainty, one question is getting a happy answer: Yes, Virginia, there is a Landmark storytelling system! And it is coming in the next beta update. Everyone who had big plans for dungeons or other adventures looks to be getting his or her wish granted. Players will be able to collect and place a new type of prop — appropriately called characters — on their claims. Various aspects of these characters can be set, such as respawn timer, pathing, and trigger interactions. They can also be programmed to be friend or foe, with friends fighting foes along side the players.

Of course, we understand that folks may be a tad skeptical; Daybreak is also offering a few clips giving a glimpse of what’s to come that you can watch below.

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