Blizzard updates how AI works in Heroes of the Storm
I like playing Heroes of the Storm. But I’m atrocious at PVP, which many consider the whole point of the game. So what am I doing? Versus AI matches, and a lot of them. Heroes of the Storm has put a lot of time and effort into working on its AI. While I’m not arguing that it’s perfect — I’ve had matches where the AI just couldn’t stop feeding — it’s a much more important part of the game than many players realize. Heck, even if you only play vs. other players, there’s AI involved in various maps.
Blizzard decided to take a look Under the Hood to explore how AI works in Heroes of the Storm. As Blizzard works to improve AI via new systems, it’s telling to read what they consider to be good AI in a Heroes match.
What makes good AI?
There are many ways to define “good” AI, but from our perspective it’s an AI that closely matches players’ expectations. Minions and bosses need to be predictable. AI Heroes need to be very skillful. Players expect their AI Hero allies to stay safe, but also engage in team fights at the right time. There is a delicate balance between staying safe and capitalizing on opportunities. We also try to ensure the AI supports human players a little more than AI allies.
Making good AI has its challenges. Many situations are complicated enough to have several valid strategies, and expectations can vary from player to player. We work closely with the game designers on our team to develop AI that models all the factors they consider important in decision making. And although we are trying to make the AI as smart as possible, we only give them access to information a regular player would have so they don’t get to cheat!
So good AI for Heroes isn’t necessarily the best play possible. Rather, it’s play that matches player expectation for a challenging match. Allies should act to support you. Minions and bosses should be enemies you can learn and create strategies for. AI Heroes need to be convincing both as allies and enemies. It wouldn’t be hard to create an AI that’s much faster and knows more than you. But that wouldn’t make for fun or engaging gameplay. There’s no point to making it utterly impossible or you wouldn’t ever want to play.
The improvements being made increase the AI’s speed. This allows them to improve framerate and overall quicker use of abilities, to the point where lower difficulty matches need significant restraints on their ability to chain abilities. Likewise, tactical and strategic actions have been improved. Specific Heroes will use tactics that suit their individual toolkits, and can respond more quickly to situations. For example, Stitches will use his hook to save wounded allies. Azmodan will try and finish off weakened enemies with Globe of Annihilation. This is because there’s a new behavior tree that gives AI characters a lot more options depending on the conditions they encounter. While all Heroes introduced since Garrosh started play with the new system, you’ll see more and more older Heroes updated to using it as time passes.
Head on over to the official site for details and remember to give feedback as this new AI system rolls out. It’s always a work in progress to design AI for games like this. Even if you primarily play against other players it can greatly affect your game.
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