emergent behaviour

Lead a child to a sandbox and he’ll dig a hole in the sand. Bring him a playmate and they’ll throw the sand around, put it in their pockets and drive trucks through it.

You get the same scary effect from putting two scripted AI characters in the same room, and making them interact. I just observed the following exchange between two people in Rivet City:

Security guard: “I’m looking for troublemakers, seen any?”
Resident: “Why don’t you look where you’re going!?”

If I hadn’t already heard both phrases before, elsewhere in the game – most of the guards state their own business, and people often complain if you push past them – I’d have written this off as a coincidence, game AI doing something that feels so out of place it breaks that precious fourth wall.

Except these two independent, randomly-governed entities got together and had a conversation – a snitchy, unfriendly conversation, and one that was obviously an accident of programming intended to look intelligent… but isn’t that what intelligence is? Two creatures coming together and becoming more than two creatures?

A lot of behaviour looks smarter than it actually is. Some of it isn’t, but my point is that AI is getting scarily real. Not necessarily in combat – tonight I killed six super mutants at once, because I sometimes hid behind a letterbox and they took too long to circle around it – but just in little interactions between well-meaning folk. It makes the game freakishly immersive.

I need to finish Fallout 3 fast. I’m starting to eye up garbage bins for precious bottlecaps.

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