Why use Artificial Intelligence?
by Tony Wilkinson
To begin with, let's establish what we are dealing with. A Player
Killer is someone who attacks and tries to kill other players without
their consent and often causes a lot of controversy in the game world.
Why would someone do this? There are a number of reasons:
Tactics, artificially induced.
Because in general, killing someone else is more profitable than
killing monsters. In games where the victim is fully lootable, it is
guaranteed that the victim will have more loot on him than even some of
the toughest monsters. Even in games where the Player killer gets to loot only one
item, this is still very profitable.
Because the player killer enjoys ruining someone else's game. While there are
definitely some people out there that fall into this category, I tend to
believe it is very much the minority.
To prove they are the best.
Because they are bored with killing monsters.
Other than number 2, each of these reasons can be solved without taking
away player killing completely (i.e. a Player vs Player or PvP switch) but
giving the players other things to do, things that are exciting and
One way to do this would be to have genuinely interesting quests,
including tasks that don't necessarily involve combat. Another way would
be to improve the animal/monster artificial intelligence (AI). The monster
AI on MudS/MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games) is
pretty dire - (well, on every one that I have ever played). They rarely
use tactics, particularly group tactics of any kind. Ultima Online
is a good example of a MMORPG that have had numerous problems with PKers
over the two years it has been in existence. There is no PvP switch and
in order to combat the ever-growing band of player killers, they have had to
and harsher penalties up to a point where it is relatively rare to see a
player killer these days. Why is there this ever-increasing level of player killer activity?
Surely people are not just getting nastier? Are they?
The problem is in the monster bashing. There are only so many times that
you can kill the same monster using the same tactic before it becomes
The monsters in most muds use virtually no tactics (I'm sorry, but
walking slowly towards the player until they are in range and then
swinging is not a tactic) and fighting a group of monsters usually
involves splitting the group up and taking them one at a time. With a
little practice, this is so easy that you could do it in your sleep.
After a while, in order for the experienced player to get some excitement,
some challenge out of the game, he starts to fight other people. Other
human beings use tactics. They don't do the same thing each time. They
Now this is all fine and dandy when the other person wants to fight - a
if you will - but what so often happens is that the veteran player ends up
fighting and killing people who are not interested in fighting back. They
are often inexperienced and are relatively easy to kill. The attackers
become player killers.
Imagine a scenario where killing monsters was both exciting and rewarding,
where the group of Orcs uses tactics. The Orcs, mages, and archers stay
at the back, while the melee fighters charge the group of players. The
would be tricky, as you would have to keep your archers and mages
safe while trying to take the Orc rear guard out. Imagine that grand
summoning an army of skeletons to defend himself from the goody-two-shoes
The same advanced AI could even be extended to animals. Try walking into
the middle of that group of wolves that are eyeing you suspiciously and
attack their leader. The rest of the pack will soon be all over you.
What other methods could keep players on the straight and narrow? How
about special items, items that can only be held by "good" people and
through a virtuous quest? Perhaps a paladin's sword or an axe of double
damage might make Akers reconsider. One of the main ways that RPGs fail in
general with their attitude to player killers is that they make it attractive to
kill other people and then add a heap of restrictions to deter it.
Wouldn't it be better to reverse that and make it a rewarding experience
to be a good guy?
All these methods will help to remove a lot of the need for people to kill
each other for sport. Give the player genuine reasons why it is better to
be good and a truly exciting computer opponent to play against and most
people are more than happy to co-operate with other players. Give the
same players predictable computer opponents and incentives to kill each
(such as copious amounts of loot) and of course, a larger percentage will
enter the dark world...
November 1999 Imaginary Realities, the magazine of your mind.
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