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Monday, October 29, 2001

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Civilization III - AI Focus
9:53 AM | Eddie Park | Comment on this story

Civilization fansite Apolyton recently received the chance to interview Soren Johnson, AI programer for Civilization III, and focused their questions on his area of expertise. As followers of this game are most likely aware, Civ III is a single-player only title, and thus it will be very important to players to have a highly-tuned AI with which to match wits.

Each leader of each civilization will have their own personalities. As the leaders are based off of real-world characters, most of their personalities should be familiar to people. Ghandi is peace-loving, Elizabeth is cautious, and Shaka is blood-thirsty. For those that wish to have a blood-thirsty Ghandi and a dishonest Abe, the personalities are fully customizable through Civ III's editor. Furthermore, it is also possible to turn off all personalities and force each leader AI to start with a blank slate.

Players of the previous Civ titles will be happy (or not) to hear that the AI has been rewritten to better manage naval and air units. The scripts for city governors have also been rewritten to make them a little more intelligent, though Johnson notes that "a city governor will always be of limited use if the user cannot provide feedback to improve performance. Therefore, a learning algorithm was implemented to allow the user to train the AI by either accepting the governor’s suggestions or making different choices."

Perhaps most interesting of all is Johnson's own surprise at some of the decisions the AI makes:

[Apolyton]: During a game, has the AI ever surprised you (pleasantly, of course)?

[Soren Johnson]: The AI has pleasantly surprised me many times. I have often jumped back into the code, asking myself, “did I really program it to do that?” The academic term for this phenomenon is “emergent behavior,” which describes unscripted, intelligent actions resulting from simple, effective sub-systems.

Because Civilization III is an open-ended game, emergent behavior is very important for sustaining replayability. Thus, all of the AI sub-systems have been made as general as possible to encourage this type of behavior. Hence, the city AI is not based on pre-scripted patterns, such as Spearman, Temple, Spearman, Granary, Archer, etc. Instead, each available build item is given a value depending on the AI’s environment, and the city simply builds the item with the highest value.

It's always nice to know that a game's AI has been tweaked to even more effectively stomp human players into the ground. For more information on Civ III's AI, be sure to check out this latest interview at Apolyton.

Apoloyton - Soren Johnson Interview
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