Monochrono Development Blog: AI (Part 1)

So, I’ve been hard at work on Monochrono™ basically ever since getting back from E3 (what an amazing experience that was. I might write more about that in a separate blog post, maybe on my Tumblr,) because everyone I spoke to about the game seemed super excited about it, including representatives from all three console platform holders. I basically came back, stretched, and got back to work with a renewed vigor.

The smart thing would be to work on art and animation on the title, but that’s the part of the project that’s a slog for me since it takes me so much time and I almost universally end up unhappy with it. The game design is actually almost finished, too, in a really cool way! I have on paper the exact design of the finished product that I hope to put out in 2017. So that leaves coding – specifically, a lot of the AI behind the scenes.

 

Monochrono’s AI works in an interesting way. I want it to feel human – by that I mean, I want it to be able to learn what you do and how you play, adapt to it in real time, and provide you with a challenging AI that challenges you as a player specifically, like playing against humans might. Learning to read your tells, learning to adapt to cover its own weaknesses – such that the player cannot coast on one strategy throughout the entire game (in Story Mode. Other modes feature different AI designs, but I’m not talking about those right now.)

Initially this led to a trial where I put very few restrictions on the AI and its abilities – I gave it starting abilities, and I told it to make itself stronger as it saw fit (essentially.) What that led to in practice was I completed an early stage no problem, and then the next stage, where it would adapt, the AI gave itself every weapon and power-up in the entire game, including 10 1-second invincibility weapons. Because I have the AI middleware from I’ve Got to Run! implemented, wherein it tests stages and layouts to make sure that it’s playable, it completely broke down and crashed the game before I could even attach a debugger. I had to retry it and set the process speed to 1/1000th so I could see what it was doing at a sub-frame level.

 

Clearly that sent me back to the drawing board – I couldn’t just make AI without restrictions, but I do not want players seeing the mechanisms at play. I want the game and its challenge to feel completely organic in every way. I also want to be able to play the game as a creator and experience a similar level of strategic requirement as a player playing it through casually on launch day.

 

I’ll share more about what I came across and decided on in a future blog post (largely because I’m still implementing it and if it goes terribly wrong, I want to do a postmortem on that, too.)

I don’t think blog posts on the topic of the game are going to always be in this postmortem format – I’ll probably just use this as a way to get across thoughts on the game and its development on a regular basis.

 

Finally, before I sign off, some bullet points!

  • Thank you to everyone for their kind words during and after E3. I was terrified to reveal the game after two years of working on it in silence, so to get a generally positive reaction in response was extremely heartening.
  • I made a booboo with my E3 trailers. I had made three trailers for contractual reasons – a trailer with an Xbox One endslate, a trailer with an endslate without listing platforms (that had PS4, PS3, Vita, and Wii U in the video title,) and then a Platform Agnostic trailer, that ended up with the announcement of Monochrono Prologue. Clearly that’s the one I wanted people to focus on, but…YouTube auto scheduling uploaded the PS4/PS3/Vita/Wii U trailer 30 minutes early…so that was the first trailer, thus the trailer that got all the retweets and news posts. Outlets got confused, too! My apologies. Game is coming to all platforms.
  • Monochrono Prologue’s Chapter 2 update failed Apple certification for containing inappropriate material that they don’t want on the App Store, which is fair. I’m working on a different version of that chapter, which will sadly delay it slightly.
  • Monochrono Prologue is STILL COMING OUT TO ANDROID. I’m just having a tough time developing for the platform without any device to test it on, and emulators are only so helpful. Please look forward to it.
  • Finally, question of the month! Please tweet @Monochrono on Twitter (or @MonochronoJP if you speak Japanese!) with the answer to the question: Would you like to see in-progress builds be streamed on Twitch throughout development? Please be honest with your answer (as in, would you watch live or as a VOD, not just ‘would you like to have the option to see it,’ and include the hashtag #MonoQ. I look forward to your response!

 

Thank you all so much for your support! Happy gaming!

Syrenne McNulty

4 Corner Games

Posted in Development Blog, Monochrono, Monochrono Prologue