Look to LucasArts adventure games for exploration cues, Blizzard AI engineer says

When designing artificial intelligence, developers should look to classic LucasArts adventure games for inspiration and avoid Sierra adventure games, Brian Schwab, senior AI/gameplay engineer at Blizzard said today at a GDC 2013 talk.

Schwab believes that artificial intelligence needs to give players options, not confound them.

"Asserts are not cool," Schwab said, referencing a programming function that stops code from running if certain conditions are met. He gave a real-world example of the Compact Disc market, which he said almost died because early CD players would cut audio if they missed any information while reading from the disc.

He used an example of two old-school adventure game developers to show how this relates to current strategies in designing AI in video games.

"To go back to the game metaphor, think about the difference between Sierra adventure games and LucasArts adventure games," he said. "Sierra adventure games had a concept of arbitrary death. There'd be a tree, and you'd touch a tree, and a bear would come out and kill you. And then you'd go, 'Okay! Reload! Now I'm going to past that tree, and I'm going to touch the hedge right next to it. And a pile of bees would come out and they would kill you. It's was more about arbitrary death - about learning what not to do.

"LucasArts' adventure games were the exact opposite. They fostered a spirit of exploration by never actually killing you. Horrible things might happen to you, but it was more comical and it would reset you right back to where you were so that you never felt like you couldn't push anything without having fun."

The illustration is also a metaphor about what creates good gameplay. Despite his role as an AI designer, and despite all the things he may be able to do, they must all all in service of the game.

"Remember, gameplay first," he said. "Your beautiful snowflake is not the game."

More from Polygon

The horror of Five Nights at Freddy's

  • Dark Souls 2: Crown of the Old Iron King Overview

  • Spacecom: a fast 4X built for multiplayer

  • Pillars of Eternity builds on role-playing classics

  • Tour the 1 KB hard drive built inside Minecraft

Latest Discussions

Log In Sign Up

Log In Sign Up

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior users will need to choose a permanent username, along with a new password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

I already have a Vox Media account!

Verify Vox Media account

Please login to your Vox Media account. This account will be linked to your previously existing Eater account.

Please choose a new Polygon username and password

As part of the new Polygon launch, prior MT authors will need to choose a new username and password.

Your username will be used to login to Polygon going forward.

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

By becoming a registered user, you are also agreeing to our Terms and confirming that you have read our Privacy Policy.



Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.