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More murmurings have surfaced in the game development sector, this time Ubisoft is stepping forward and publicly admitting that the Xbox 360 and PS3 really are holding up some of the creative avenues they would like to take with some of their games.
According to an interview with Ubisoft’s Yves Jacquier over at Gameindustry.biz, Yves commented that…
"AI has always been the real battleground, " ... "The challenge is that, if you see an AI coming, you've failed. And that's a problem we have to overcome as we create the impression of flawless, seamless worlds."… "Our challenge with the PlayStation 3 and Xbox  is that we're extremely limited in what we can do. It's a challenge for the engineers to provide nice graphics and nice AI and nice sound with a very small amount of memory and computation time."AI has been pretty bad since the PS2/Xbox era, with only a few notable games offering mildly challenging computer-operated opponents. But Ubisoft’s gripes over the AI vs memory conundrum is a valid one. In fact, not too long ago the developers of the upcoming BodyCount expressed the same sentiments about the limitation of computational power and memory size holding back a lot of what they wanted to do in regards to destructible environments and challenging opponents.
Keep in mind that just about every game that has gamers oogling and “ah”ing from videos, commercials and screenshots are all pre-scripted, linear titles (i.e., Uncharted 3, Gears of War 3, Modern Warfare 3, etc.) and the AI on just about all of those titles are about as dumb as a Democrat attending an NRA meeting.
There is some good news, though. Since Ubisoft has to stick it out this generation by basically rehashing sequels from here on until the next-gen consoles appear, they have decided to pour $1 million alone into a design team that works specifically on procedural AI over the course of the next five years. Don’t expect much to come out of it, though, because in order for said AI to really evolve past what we’ve been used to seeing this generation, the graphics and game world would really have to be scaled down in order to get the most out of tactically proficient enemies. 512MB of RAM will only carry your hardware so far.
Yves further mentioned, though, that despite AI being the prime culprit for improving playability it’s not really a design function that you can market to a wide audience, saying…
"In general the industry expects that graphics will not be a strong feature any more... Obviously, graphics are better for marketing purposes because you can show things. AI you can't show."… "We think that the next generation of consoles won't have these limits any more. Games might have more realistic graphics and more on-screen, but what's the value of making something more realistic and better animated if you have poor AI?"Right on, man. It would be interesting to see Ubisoft pour some funds into a low-budget project that specifically has awesome AI in a semi open-world environment. I know gamers would complain to no end about the graphics, but it would be interesting to see just how advanced AI routines could be utilized on current generation consoles. It’s interesting that “smart” enemies is the one thing we’ve been lacking in spades throughout this generation’s cycle.
Alternatively, Ubisoft could always make Assassin’s Creed look like a PSOne title in exchange for making the AI extremely competitive…though I doubt the game would sell very well.