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Adam Beckett
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A Photostory about Game AI (Part 1)

Example: Codemasters FIA F1 2013

While making screenshots, I took a plunge and started the campaign mode. Usually, I only drive the tracks solo, to get a sense of the tracks, their apex and breaking points, for my FIA F1 viewing pleasure on Sky Sports F1.

When I see the live TV moving pictures during Practice, Qualifying or Race, or Ted Kravitz, Martin Brundle or Anthony Davidson explain something, I get a better sense of what is going on, being familiar with the tracks. So, I would recommend this for Formula 1 fans, who usually don't 'play' video games.

Starting the campaign mode in Codemasters official FIA F1 2013 game. I barely qualified. I was last. 6 seconds slower than P1.

My task, as the 2nd Renault/Williams driver, was beat my team mate, Maldonado. My goal was, to make it to the end of the race.

After the first pit-stop, the leading car, Alonso, was on my tail. I was shown a blue flag and drove to the side to let him pass me. A few seconds behind him was Kimi's car.

The second to last corner - one (if not 'the') slowest corner of the whole season - I made myself small, driving to the edge of the track, driving in 2nd gear, when Kimi's NPC car (NPC = Non Playable Character: in this case, a car, which is handled by the game's AI) drove into me, nonetheless, ruining my front wing, making me have to pit.

After that my race was ruined. I was not able to keep up with the pack, nor to close the gap.

I failed my objective. I failed my team.

This is what happens in a virtual world and it is dramatic, like it would be in a real life scenario. While there is a lot of enjoyment - which I had - even in losing a race, the trouble is, how can the game developers allow 'bad' players to progress through the campaign?

How realistic can you allow the Game AI to be?

If you tweak it towards realism - which all the F1 players "obviously" want, after all, that is why they buy and play those games - you allow for a certain aggressiveness. Player punishment is the price. The game would be over quick. What player say they want and what they really want are two different things. Most often, they don't really know
- it is the game developer who has to think it through for them.

And if you allow a more forgiving setting, you lose the sense of reality and simulation and players would start to complain about the "unrealistic handling" of the cars and the "fake" realism of the representation of this sport. The game loses it's most valid selling point - the 'official' license comes with a burden. It has to 'look' right.
It has to 'feel' right.

Whatever you do, as a developer, you lose either way. To find the right balance for the majority is the only answer to this. Having an official license gives you even less room to wiggle.

And even if the player is not completely new to video games, the different skillset each and every of the millions of players bring to the game, is impossible to account for. Especially, in sports or racing games, which have to follow very strict rules. The track time has to reflect the real times. Everyone has to drive 'fast', which means the AI cannot be that forgiving.

Furthermore, the AI has to react to the player input. And players are unpredictable.

To have a video game race, which reflects the back and forth of real drivers, which all are trained professionals, having driven cars before they could walk, who are capable of reacting 'properly' in milliseconds, while normal mortals would panic - all these things have to be balanced and accounted for, when making a racing video game which has an official FIA license.

There is not much room left for resiliance. Something, I find fascinating, is how Rockstar Games Grand Theft Auto series allows driving fast in traffic, without getting hit so many times. It often feels, like the player miraculously avoided a crash and was able to 'squeeze' his fast moving car, between those others.

The probable answer to this is: the game ignores its own set of fake physics rules. You can get passed 'close encounters' in GTA, because the developers just turn down collision detection, unless you drive way too close,  towards the car next to you?

In Codemasters games, all cars have their set proportions and collision is 'always on' and simulated (simulated, to a degree. Some of us - including me - would even want more simulation, and breaking parts, but that's another discussion). When you don't brake, as accurate as the car in front of you or behind you, a collision will occur, something will happen. Something bad.

I cannot speak how these effects work in the game when assists are 'on', if this affects the races the same way. I always turn all assists off (no brake assists, no ABS, etc).

Am I complaining? No. Not at all.

I am able to use a mid-season save file and repeat the race as many times as I like. Getting better at it too, hopefully. This incident, I just experienced, made me think, how hard it is to pull this off. Rigorous simulation promises vs game/play/ability, otherwise there is no 'fun'.

Being able to lose in video games and still progress, is something I applaude. Not having to win every race as first. Having a campaign goal like "beat your team mate", "finish 10th or better" is more reasonable, than having to pretend to be superman. Although video games, in general, are all about you, doing things you would normally never be able to do ... like driving a F1 car in the Australian GP.

#GameAI #gamedev #f12015 #SkyF1
Codemasters F1 Video Game with ReShade & SweetFX (...and excessive usage of Chromatic Aberration)

The power of modern graphic cards, combined with modern technologies of graphics rendering, allow for post-process effects on real-time videogame images, just like professionals of similar fields are using it for photography or in movie production.

SweetFX in combination with ReShade can alter the original image often dramatically. The key is to know, when to use which effect to what purpose.

I have become quite fond of something called "Chromatic Abberation"* which was used in recent games, such as Alien Isolation, to give it the 'old movie' or rather worn out VHS tape look, and in Dying Light.

Out of curiousity, I slapped those tools on Codemasters F1 racing series. The official FIA F1 games.

While I love the games for their great accomplishments, and the graphics are really good, the 'look' of the games was always too 'clean' for my taste. I wanted more of the gritty, washed out, 'bad CRT TV set' look, of older footage. The 1980s are still vivid in my brain.

Here are some screenshots I made today, though the effect is far more impressive in moving pictures. I might make a few 1 minute videos to show off the effects.

#f12015   #SkyF1 #Formula1 #formula12015 #ReShade #videogames   #SweetFX  

Adam Beckett

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February 1988. Angola, Africa.

The People's Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA), with help from their Soviet, Cuban, and East German friends vs Armed Forces for the Liberation of Angola (FAPLA), vs National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) & the South Africa Defence Force (SDAF). Not to forget the CIA involvement since 1975.

This was one of the biggest proxy wars during the so-called 'cold war'.

"The South African Border War, commonly referred to as the Angolan Bush War in South Africa, was a conflict that took place from 1966 to 1989 largely in South-West Africa (now Namibia) and Angola between South Africa and its allied forces (mainly the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola, UNITA) on the one side and the Angolan government, South-West Africa People's Organisation (SWAPO), and their allies (mainly Cuba) on the other. It was closely intertwined with the Angolan Civil War and the Namibian War of Independence."

Graviteam Tactics: Operation Hooper
(strategy video game for PC by Graviteam - Kharkov, Ukraine)

US Documentary on the Angolan Civil War (old VHS tape)

Adam Beckett

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currently playing:  Total War Attila by The Creative Assembly.

Adam Beckett

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What you non-German speakers are maybe not aware of, Merkel is a horrible public speaker in her own, native language. Her rhetorical skills are way below the average German politician, which is a constant source for mockery among political journalists. Her interviews and Q&A sessions from the podium are filled with short, tight-lipped answers. She knows that and found strategies to counter this with a sense of humour. Not to mention, that this does not reflect her sharp wits. She is the "Black Widow" of her CDU party, because every serious challenger over the last decade, who could have been a threat to her, was sacked by her.

#Germany #Merkel #Euro #Politics  

Adam Beckett

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#HomeworldRemastered 3360x900px ultra-widescreen screenshots ... with ReShade & SweetFX.

Adam Beckett

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#Homeworld Remastered with ReShade & SweetFX
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Steam Thread

Adam Beckett

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#Homeworld de-mastered?
Total War: Attila

Some screenshots from the latest game in the series from The Creative Assembly.

Just like Total War Rome II¹ before, the further improved rendering engine is creating the most beautiful war paintings, coming to life.

The battles are spectacular, even though the Game AI sometimes still refuses to work or gets confused. But this game is still absolutely amazing. Just like the recent Assassin's Creed Unity², this game is a great technical achievement of many single parts, from animations to DirectX/OpenGL features to sound design... and yes, even the Game AI is great overall, since it has to deal with so many complex, moving parts.

The achievements in 3D rendering over the past 30-35 years have been mind blowing, if you remember how our eyes used to bleed, starring at those 30-50Hz CGA CRT monitors, doing basic raster or vector graphics.

¹) Some examples of Rome II Animations & Game AI (YouTube Playlist):

²) Assassin's Creed Unity Rendering Examples (Screenshots):

#totalwar   #totalwarattila   #Siggraph   #totalwarrome2   #acunity  

Adam Beckett

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