AI in MMORPG games

I just got my first go at Lord Of The Rings online. The next day (today) it fails to run entirely, despite a clean boot, and tech support is actively non existant - their forums have actually removed the register button. way to go!)
But what little I played of it reminded me of my old hatred of MMORPG AI.
I may be generalising here, but my experience of SWG, Eve, LOTR and Guild wars is that enemy AI in an MMO is this:

Idle()
if PlayerRange < X or PlayerAttackedMe
{
ChargeToPointBlankrange()
AttackUntilDead()
}

Not exactly emergent genius is it?
have you EVER had an enemy retreat in an MMO when he saw he was losing, but had enough HP to make it out of range?
have you ever had an enemy move back from you to summon help from his friends?
have you ever had an enemy run for cover, or to higher ground when he sense your approach?
or seen them actively keep outside your weapons range?

Despuite huge mega advances in graphics, MMOs seem to have AI entities with the brains of planks of wood. Why? It’s not like the require AI is rocket science I speak as an ex-AI coder myself.

Am I missing something here? or has everyone just got used to the fact that MMO AI is shit?

You should play WoW. A lot of WoW mobs use their class skills fully. Hunters keep you at range, mages root you and run away to cast, warlock classes will summon. Almost all humanoid mobs will run for help, trying to prevent you from chasing you as they do so.

add a if health <5% then run command?

Or at least add a reciprocal If attacked then call for help to the henchmen you just kill off first if you can be arsed

At least in Guild Wars, enemy healers try to run and keep their distance, and monsters run out of area effects. But mostly, I think the AI -or lack of it- is intentional in MMORPGs. I mean, most of them don’t even try to claim that the enemies have any sort of intelligence, on the contrary the simplistic “aggro” mechanics are the core of the combat engine and especially class dynamics. I mean, isn’t at least 95% of WoW’s grouping and raiding about managing aggro?

In DAoC mobs retreat, call for help, and use class skills. The “pet” ai is even better. Your pets use different spells based on the situation, the combat pets use taunt styles and stun styles to hold aggro…the AI is actually pretty damn solid (wasn’t always the case, obviously-they’ve improved it a thousand percent over the years.)

I’m just guessing here but I suspect the big problem is that the more complicated the AI behavior the easier it is for players to find exploits to manipulate it. If you keep it basic it’s easier to tweak to keep combat, relatively, challenging perhaps?

In a singleplayer game players might be more willing to go along with immersion and want to believe the AI’s actually thinking. While folks will doubtlessly figure out ways to manipulate it there’s no great pressure to do so. With a MMO, rapidly exploiting resources (like experience or drops) is a much more powerful incentive as most people race towards the endgame rather than relishing the experience for its own merits. You also have vast pools of players sharing notes and figuring out how to beat things which isn’t so much of a factor in singleplayer games. Sure, you can go to gamefaqs but you don’t have to and most of us won’t unless we’re stuck.

With an MMO, you need to know what you’re getting into and how to most efficiently beat it so you don’t get left behind as others build levels and experience. Look at how raid oriented players in WoW talk about the game? It’s a totally darwinian approach that can lead to entire classes being excluded if they can’t contribute 110%. There’s even less mercy for individual players who aren’t at the top of their game.

That’s a world of difference in motivation right there.

Once we have better simulated and more complex systems in MMOs for warfare, among other things, there will probably be more room for better AI. As it is, though, we’re looking at elaborately choreographed labyrinths of whack-a-mole. Any variations as to when or where a mole’s head pops up will only lead the whackers to fill the forums up, instantly, with tips on how to beat the new system.

In WoW, a lot of enemies will retreat and either aggro other baddies, or make you run through thick clusters so a bunch will aggro you.

Stupid hog-people.

Mobs ran when low on HP in EQ Classic. Hence the need for someone with Snare.

There were some mobs in EQ LDON who would run back through the dungeon calling for help the moment they were agroed, and couldn’t be snared. I can’t remember what the solution was, I think we just got wiped a few times and gave up due to LDON Raids sucking.

which sounds so desperately tragic.
When I encounter a monster in an MMO, i want to have fun, I want a thrilling, exciting, immersive and pleasurable encounter.
I dont just want a beautifully rendered version of “keep hitting the mouse button to score points”.

MMos can be any kind of variation on the general concept of a persistant freeform world. Yet they are all identical. They all have guilds, levelling up, a grind, ‘buffs’, respawn areas, dungeons…
A type of game that had so much promise has become stale and tired.

How many single player games have you seen this in that didn’t involve heavy scripting? Honest question.

That’s what seems to sell copies and retain subscriptions.

That’s prolly also the answer to the original question. Really smart mobs would be too hard and lethal for the majority of casual players out there. Casuals are most of the subscriber base of the average MMOG. If AOL taught us nothing else it was to respect the power of the lowest common denominator, yes?

WoW is a good example. A lot of the mobs out “in the wilds” are not all that keenly clever about using their abilities. Get into bossfights in more advanced instances, tho, and the mobs get much more efficient at using their abilities.

Bossfights in WoW have more in common with sychronized swimming than combat.

Given that I kill hundreds of thousands of mobs on my to max level in an MMO I do not want each fight to be a challenge. I like relaxing and grinding the crap out of mobs.

If I feel like a challenge then I will do an instance where the mobs generally have abilities that make me work harder. Boss fights are also more challenging than the average mob.

Working as intended IMO.

Darkstep has been known to stare at a blank wall all day and be entertained. True story. Do not trust his lies.

That is a true story, but it started by getting paid to do that. Anything can be addicting.

But anyways, I don’t lie and Charles knows this. He’s just a troublemaker.

AI in newer RPG/FPS games is typically some kind of state machine type model (for “smart” foes anyway). AI in MMOs is just a script for the trash and a state machine at best for bosses (although it is more likely just a complicated script).

AFAIK most companies don’t have a dedicated AI programmer, they just tell the gameplay scripter/programmer to whip something up. If they don’t have much experience then it’s probably going to be the lowest hanging fruit.

This hasn’t been true for 4+ years now. Most companies have dedicated AI programmers nowadays. Can’t speak for Blizzard or MMOs though.

SWG had the worst cases. The NPCs in that game just stood like statues. occasionally, they would have a single phrase they would say if you stood within X meters.
I just get the impression that when it comes to creating people to populate an MMO, the developers dont want to put in the effort.
Every MMo seems to be the same. lots of stationary, or prdictable NPCs, and player characters that run everywhere all the time.
Every MMo seems to have some kind of permenant tooltip for everyone in the world telling me their name, which just helps to ruin the immersion even mroe. Do I really give a toss what the name of orc opponent #331 is?
I’m annoyed by it because I really want MMOs to be good fun, and they seem to fail so obviously and tragically.

LOTRO actually has a neat aggro mechanic for animals. If you walk up to an aggressive bear it won’t attack right away. It’ll growl, and paw the ground threateningly, and if you’re still around then it’ll attack. Quite a nice innovation.

But as far as AI goes, no, there isn’t any. Like others have said, there are scripts, that’s it. Some of the scripts are even quite complex. But they go off the same time every fight, there are no decisions being made, no “intelligence” of any kind. This largely removes the impact of player skill from gameplay in favor of simply knowing how the encounter works, rewarding time played (and spent reading spoiler websites) instead. This is of course entirely intentional.