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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."

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