Microsoft's AI Experiments Are Creating Unbeatable Raid Bosses

Illustration for article titled Microsofts AI Experiments Are Creating Unbeatable Raid Bosses
Screenshot: Capcom (Monster Hunter: World)

Raid bosses are the toughest fights in any massively multiplayer online game, but eventually players always find ways to crack them. Now developers are looking at ways to use cloud computing to give raid bosses a way of fighting back.

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During one of Microsoft’s Game Stack developer livestreams yesterday, software engineer James Trott said that as developers are able to use the resources of the cloud to update and improve their games in real time, the real difficulty will be in not making them too hard.

“We worked on a project with Microsoft tech last year for an MMO-like system for bosses that learn player behaviors in raid encounters,” Trott said. “As raids go on and people find dominant strategies, the bosses adapt in near real time [and] detect the strategies players are implementing.”

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Research groups like OpenAI have been looking into how machine learning can be used to help video game AI improve over time, including in strategy games and MMOs, for a few years now. Trott makes it sound like in the next console generation, developers will have access to enough cloud computing to have their bosses and non-player characters adapt automatically without a new patch or update ever needing to go live.

“We’re seeing a lot of interesting things happen with genetic algorithms, where the content evolves based on a few base principles into something new that the developer may have never envisioned,” Trott said.

“Now, the challenge for developers is how to tone back that machine learning and simulation, given the amount of compute in the cloud, so that the NPCs and monsters aren’t perfect,” he said. “Because with enough training and enough compute, they will beat the player every time.”

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We’ve been hearing promises about the magic effects that cloud computing will have on gaming for years. Microsoft spent a lot of time talking about how Crackdown 3 would make use of the cloud to deliver complex, destructible environments. When it finally came out after many delays, this feature was restricted to multiplayer, where it felt somewhat superfluous.

Still, maybe this time will be different. We’ve grown used to players pushing video games to their limits and finding all sorts of amazing glitches and exploits in the process. Maybe in this next console generation, we’ll finally start seeing AI-controlled characters do the same. 

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com

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DISCUSSION

Given that most MMO bosses are designed with the idea that raiders learn the exploitable rules until they can do them perfectly and thus beat the boss, I’m not sure MMOs are really the best use for this. Imagine, for example, a boss that learned to ignore tanks and focus down healers - outside of a gimmich fight, that wouldn’t be fun for many players.

A better use, I think, would actually be to take enemy characters with capabilities closer to those of the player, and let their AI learn. Better bots, in other words.