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How video games laid the foundation for impressive AI design

6 min read

Video games have always been a testing ground for the development of new AIs. Let’s take a look at six of the most ingenious and breathtaking examples that have shaped gaming history in recent years.

Video games are an important part of our lives and our culture.

They are much more than just a pastime. In terms of industry size, they even dwarf Hollywood. The best part is that they influence our society like works of art.

And not only that: they are often milestones and role models for the development of new technologies.

And no better example in this scenario is “Player 2” – artificial intelligence (AI), which is often used as a testing ground for creating new scripts and algorithms to create realistic behaviors for non-playing characters (NPC). and simulate the environment.

Artificial intelligence, at least simulated intelligence, has always been a buzzword in the gaming industry. With more advanced AI systems being added every day, who knows what the next decade will bring to the playing field?

Until then, we’ll turn our attention to these truly spectacular AIs that have left players breathless with the ingenuity of their developers.

It’s about the moments when the developers experimented with something completely new or when the NPCs were so human-like that they surprised us beyond all belief.

Here are a few examples of scenes and experiences that left us breathless when we opened the packaging and inserted the cassette or CD into the console or gaming device:

Red Dead Redemption 2 and its true-to-life sandbox world

Red Dead Redemption 2

Rockstar Games is one of the strongest software manufacturers when it comes to developing credible and independent sandbox games.

Grand Theft Auto V already demonstrated its potential with a variety of human-like characters interacting with each other in an extremely complex city system.

But with Red Dead Redemption 2 they’ve taken a real step beyond that. The game is a truly immersive historical rendition of the Wild West with thousands of agents acting independently of one another.

One could simply walk through the dirty and noisy settlement of Valentine and watch as the mud-covered townspeople went about their needs and lived their daily lives.

You can grab a pair of binoculars and watch the wild animals chasing each other or foraging for food on the banks of a river.

Horses run away when they see a bear. Deer respond to cougars hiding in the bushes. And opossums feign death when hunted – every NPC shows clear signs of animal intelligence.

And it’s so amazing that to this day, five years later, no other game can offer such a realistic and immersive sandbox experience.

F.E.A.R: the smartest NPC AI in first-person shooters

F.E.A.R: the smartest NPC AI in first-person shooters

First Encounter Assault Recon (FEAR) is a first-person shooter (FPS) from Monolith . The game features brilliant scripts that determine the behavior of opponents during battles.

What’s special about this game is that it was released in 2005 and almost 20 years later it still features some of the most advanced AI ever developed.

Enemy soldiers could evade gunfire, surround and ambush the player, and cleverly use the environment to hide.

Instead of repeating the same actions in a predictable pattern (e.g. raising your head so you can easily hit it on a wall), the NPCs react unpredictably and clever enough to catch the player off guard.

They can sneak up from behind and hide, or ask a comrade to fire on the player while they move into a better position.

FEAR has expanded and continued the illusions of intelligence that Half Life 1 and 2 began with.

The razor-sharp AI of FEAR enemies is an elegant, simple example of clever game design that is still taught in game design schools today.

The monster combat system from Doom

Monster combat is undoubtedly one of the most revolutionary experimental NPC behaviors in gaming history.

If one monster accidentally hits another (e.g. if the second is in the first’s line of fire), the injured one takes offense – and then attacks the other.

This in turn reacts and triggers a fight that only ends when one of the two is dead.

This feature is very important for balancing the game, as it is not just an ammo saving strategy.

Some cards, such as Some games, such as MAP08: Tricks and Traps , were built around this feature and allowed the player to control some of the largest and most iconic creatures, such as: B. to provoke the cyber demon or the barons of hell to fight each other.

Shadow of Mordor’s “Nemesys” system

Shadow of Mordor's "Nemesys" system

Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor is another game from FEAR developer Monolith , released in 2014.

A third-person action-adventure game inspired by the parkour fever of the Assassin’s Creed series.

However, what made Shadow of Mordor unique was its very advanced AI called the “Nemesys System”, which focused on the narrative aspects of the adventure .

Rather than simply scripting an NPC’s immediate behavior during a close encounter, the system focused on guiding the overall development of the game’s villains.

The Nemeses were randomly generated warchiefs and captains of the Uruk-hai army who opposed the player throughout the adventure.

Each nemesis had its own character and could make various strategic decisions, which, combined with those of the player, caused them to rise and fall in the ranks of their army.

Elden Ring: the best (and worst) in fighting enemies

Elden Ring: the best (and worst) in fighting enemies

One of the aspects that has made all of FromSoft ‘s games , from Dark Souls to Bloodborne , Elden Ring and Sekiro , so famous is the unpredictability and complexity of enemy combat patterns.

It is the software house that I personally consider to be the best in gaming history.

The developers have spent their time designing the most advanced, complex and addictive combat a player has ever experienced.

Depending on your point of view, this can be a good thing or a bad thing.

The incredible complexity of enemy behavior is what makes every fight in these games so hard and so challenging at the same time.

What makes the biggest challenges, namely the boss fights, so unique and compelling is the impossibility of truly predicting enemy movements.

It’s unbelievable how much breath a game like Elden Ring can take out of your lungs (through your own screaming). Well, test yourself in a fight against Malenia without summoning spirits.

And remember, the first stage is the easiest!

Defeat Psycho Mantis’ mind reading abilities

Defeat Psycho Mantis' mind reading abilities

One of the most difficult challenges for game designers is developing an AI system that is intelligent enough to provide a challenge to players, but not too demanding that the player cannot defeat it.

In many early games, a common solution was to have the AI ​​”predict” the player’s moves by immediately responding to controller commands .

This was a real cheat mode in every sense of the word. But if used sparingly, it could be usefully used to increase the challenge without destroying the game.

Metal Gear Solid took this idea to the next level when it pitted the player against a seemingly unbeatable mind-reading villain: Psycho Mantis .

This gas mask-wearing villain was able to “read your mind” and dodge any hit a split second beforehand. The ultimate cheat mode, right?

What made this fight memorable, however, was the clever way to prevent the opponent from reading brainwaves in order to defeat them.

And that worked… after a handy tip from the commander, by connecting the controller to the second player port!

The echo of “I can’t read you…” still rings in the ears of most players today.


As a passionate gamer, I can only advise you to try these games if you haven’t already.

Because in one way or another they made gaming history and are now part of the memories.

As artificial intelligence gradually makes its way out of the lab through the fourth wall and into reality, the first taste of what makes artificial intelligence so “lifelike” was delivered on a shiny floppy disk several decades earlier.

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