Wired: Wild Things (Excerpt) [2002]

Date: March 2002

Author: Steven Johnson

Source: Wired, p. 81

In Munch’s Oddysee, the latest installment in the Oddworld series, up to several dozen NPCs can accompany the primary character. Oddworld lead designer Lorne Lanning considers the success of those group interactions to be one of the most essential AI achievements of the title. “These seem like really mundane tasks,” he says, “but it’s more like navigating a big class of preschool kids.” Those navigations are coordinated by the game’s new Alive 2 engine, short for Aware Lifeforms In Virtual Entertainment. During a complicated attack sequence, the Oddworld bots have an uncanny knack for protecting the main player, while negotiating dozens of simultaneous challenges presented by the environment: “They’re running all these different series of checks, while still maintaining the sense of life,” Lanning explains. “They’re thinking: ‘Wait a minute, I can’t go into the water; also, there’s an invisible barrier over here that I’m not supposed to get past because it will get my collision code into trouble; and I’ve got to keep track of the distance I’m trying to keep from all the other characters. And at the same time, I’m trying to avoid enemies and protect the main character.'”