AI & Game Mechanic Testing Project

Original Team Size:
Gameplay Designer

Project Overview

     This project is a testing ground for 3rd person game mechanics and AI behavior. I originally made this for my game design studio class, which was taught by Professor Borris Willis at George Mason University. I learned how to implement AI and custom 3rd person character controllers using Unreal Engine 4's behavior systems.

     After learning the basics, I started to experiment using these systems to test out variations of gameplay (e.g. stealth, theft, health, ammo, group AI, random patrol and fixed patrol). When I wanted to design a new game, I often times would program the mechanics in this project before building a new game. This allowed me to critique, edit or even scrap the design concepts for new games.

About The Mechanic

    The life-steal mechanic is an ancient mechanic found in various types of games like Pokemon, Infamous, Terraria, and League of Legends. In this version of life-steal, called stealth life-steal, the players must knock out the enemies, approach them, and then steal the health before the enemy can wake back up.

   Stealth life-steal plays with the risk and reward scale, trying to pull the player away from safety. It is important to force a player out of their comfort zone, playing with tension. However it is important to give the player a break from this kind of suspense. So risk and reward mechanics like these should not be the only means to reach vital resources.

    In the case of restoring life, medic packs should be placed before highly dangerous areas, and after extremely dangerous areas. No one likes to beat a giant boss and then die immediately afterwards to a grunt because healing resources were not available.

About The Mechanic

    The third person to first person mechanic is a rising trend in action games lately. The mechanic allows players to see what is happening around them and also take out threats using first person precision. Gamers who play first person shooter games often times increase field of view (FOV) to help them see what is happening around them. The cost of this is a warped view.

   The third person view gives players a similar effect to increased FOV, but without breaking immersion through distorted visuals. One of the more recent games to implement this mechanic especially well is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

About The Mechanic

   Climbing transforms gameplay and gives the player an extra dimension of freedom. The next best thing to giving players more freedom is flying. However with mechanics like flying, players no longer have height challenges, a staple in third person games.

   Height challenges prove to be less effective in first person, but have great results in third person. With third person climbing, players are excited when they see towers or high areas. It has the classic "I climb it because its there" effect. With first person, the lack of visibility makes it difficult to implement, without allowing unrealistic view mobility.

About The Mechanic

   Helper AI is by far one of the most difficult mechanics to implement due to the high levels of polish that is needed. If helper AI is not polished up enough, it leaves players hating the helper AI. In some cases players will even kill off helper AI (if they are that bad you should let the player kill them).

   There are some important rules that I strive to follow for making helper AI. Number one, do not let them impede the players progress or abilities. Helper AI getting in the way is one of the main causes for player frustrations with AI.

   Number two, the intelligence of the AI should match the character's role importance for the story. If soldier grunt A isn't all that useful, thats okay. The player doesn't expect them to be anyway. If it is the main character's best friend, and a driving force in the narrative, then he should be top of the line AI, with plenty of barks to entertain and immerse the player.

    Number three let the AI fail, but gracefully fail. Games are getting more and more complex, and bugs will find there way in to the game. It is almost unavoidable. I make it a point to create fail-safes for AI, so that even if there is an anomaly with their behavior, they will at least return to the default behavior.