Howdie masses! This might start on a bit of a tangent but I’ll get to my point soon enough.
I’ve been playing a lot of Forza 5 lately and its started me thinking about just what this console generation is going to be all about. Now if you’re toodling around on some other system than the Xbox One you might easily think that it’s just going to be about more online integration, fewer walls between console functions, and better graphics, but being the cultivated sort that’s had the taste and civility to buy into Microsoft’s latest cash generator I can snootily point out that’s all BS.
What it is all about (to me) is the AI. In Forza 5, for anyone who isn’t fanboy enough to have followed along with its PR or simply have bought it, the game tracks your racing data to develop an AI which mimics your playstyle. It then inserts this AI into other people’s games, and likewise populates your races with other people’s AI’s. Now the PR line is that you have “Real” people in your races, but I think this falls short of describing just what’s best about this system.
The AI is incredibly VARIABLE. You approach someone and you don’t quite know which direction they’ll move to block you, how they’ll take that turn, or in some cases even if they’re going to make it. At a stroke, IMO, it’s resulted in one of the very best games I’ve ever played, never mind that my usual stomping rounds are sci-fi shooty games or the other criticisms you can level at Forza 5 (ex. not enough Jezza). They’re all moot when such a FUNDAMENTAL shift in gameplay has taken place.
Now (this is where the above tangent is leading up to) just think of what a shooter, namely Halo 5, could do with this sort of not “real” player mimicry but this almost randomly variable AI characteristics. One pack of grunts isn’t going to respond in quite the same way as any other pack even if all other factors are held the same. Charge forward and you might have a reciprocal push back, a retreat, or an awe inspiring mix of everything running at not only the probability of each response in the AI repertoire but also how those probabilities are varied according to my proposed random-characteristic generator. Vaguely similar attempts were made in Halo 3’s development to push more variable AI behavior (by simply working at the base number of responses) but because the AI was still consistent across all encounters the variability Bungie put in there could easily be washed out by 1.) a consistent playstyle on your part and 2.) how the AI’s quite simply all died too quickly for their AI behavior to flush itself out.
For Halo 5 I hereby propose that 343 spends MOST of their effort (for the campaign but I’d say multiplayer can suck it too to bring us this upgrade) into developing a smarter (ie. more capable), AI whose “personality” is varied randomly on an individual basis, and that in some way or another can maintain presence on the battlefield through greater numbers and/or through greater resiliency. At a stroke this builds in a huge amount of not only replayability but depth because of the building levels of complexity in more dynamic AI responses across all encounters and more importantly between playthroughs.
They could keep all else equal, level deisgn, the sandbox, ect. (though needless to say these should be improved as well) and you’d still have a radically improved campaign/co-op that could easily support whatever else 343 did to Halo 5 because even something as unambitious as knocking out a copy of Halo 4’s SOPS mode could be made intensely playable with this sort of improved AI behavior. Added with somewhat random AI spawns and somewhat randomized AI equipment sets and you could easily have a game to finally put Combat Evolved to shame.