XCOM creator Gollop voices concern over “paper-thin illusion” of weak AI

Tuesday, 23rd April 2013 10:47 GMT By Dave Cook

XCOM creator Julian Gollop has discussed the pitfalls of weak AI in games during a new interview. The developer has voiced concern that visuals are becoming the main focus of games, rather than intelligent enemies or NPCs, creating what he called an “elaborate paper-thin illusion”, of a believable world.

Speaking with PC Gamer, Gollop said attention has turned to visuals because, “It’s the thing that immediately impresses people. As soon as you start interacting with a world of pretty graphics then you realise that actually it’s not really that interactive. It’s always bugged me about the way computer games developed over the years.

“Even if you take Assassin’s Creed, which is a phenomenally complex game with all these NPCs wandering around, it is nothing but an elaborate paper-thin illusion, to be honest. I mean, computer games didn’t develop really in that direction, and I guess what people enjoy and what they like at the psychological level is more to do with having their own ego massaged in certain ways through these very simple reward cycles.”

Gollop also explained that while his AI in XCOM was emulating intelligence – due to a lack of power back then – there was still more believability due to the unpredictable nature of the game’s alien enemies. Leaving some things to chance – rather than setting everything in stone – is the key, he said.

But this also stems to the marketing machine and design process, he stressed, “I think stuff today is so overdesigned, it’s unbelievable. There are people obsessing about tiny details about stuff. Especially when you have marketing people involved so how your main character is presented suddenly becomes a huge PR and marketing issue.”

“I really like games that generate stuff for you rather than have everything over-designed. My obsession was always with scenario generators, if you want to call them that, where things are generated for the player to explore and it may be something nobody else has ever played because it’s pseudo-randomly generated.”

What about you? Do you like your gaming experiences to be randomly or procedurally generated? Does weak AI break immersion in a shiny world with insane visuals? Let us know what you think below.



  1. TheWulf

    A lot of the problem is that consoles just don’t do so well with great AI, yet. The next generation is going to pull it off with aplomb, but right now, if you try to go too far with your AI then consoles tend to get… buggy. It’s a lack of processing power that’s the main concern.

    For example, look at Mass Effect 3. ME3 won awards for its AI. Playing platinum in multiplayer on the PC, you can understand why. But if you play it on the console (as I have, as well) then you get all sorts of bugs. The enemy AI derps out in ridiculous ways, and occasionally even more ridiculous stuff happens — like drones you’re escorting falling out of the level due to pathing bugs.

    It’s a shame, really. ME3 pretty much hit the roof of what console AI is capable of, and then pushed that little bit further that the consoles couldn’t handle.

    Hopefully with the next generation of consoles, though, this will be a thing of the past.

    #1 2 years ago
  2. Cobra951

    @1: Bugs are bugs, anywhere. Something “derping out” says nothing about the power of the system running it. It says a lot about the people who developed the “derpy” software. NPCs or drones falling out of the world can’t be blamed on anything but bad programming.

    I agree with Gollop to a point. The focus is visual for most appeal to the mass market. With the heavy emphasis on graphics, the resources left for behind-the-scenes smarts become more limited. But I don’t believe it can’t be done. I do believe that it often isn’t.

    #2 2 years ago
  3. DSB

    Sing it Jules!

    #3 2 years ago

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