Thursday, November 15, 2012

On the Eventual Subjugation of Your World

As I said in the last post, I've been playing a fair bit of Skyrim lately. One of the "rules" for one of my games has been no fast travel -- an idea I'm ambivalent about. On the one hand, it makes trips to far-flung locations a bit of a big(ger) deal; but on the other, in some versions of the game it's also led to problems with crashing and poor framerates and so on. Thankfully, v1.8 seems to be pretty good in this regard; and hasn't crashed nearly as much as previous versions.

Mystery-chan and I were walking back from Morathal; heading south to and through Brittleshin Pass to head in to Bleak Falls Barrow and grab the dragon stone before going in to Whiterun the first time.

We ended up on the north shore of the lake; on one of the smaller islands where I was chasing ore veins. Ended up getting attacked by a slaughterfish -- as you do, every ten fucking feet in a decent sized body or water.

Mystery-chan caught my attention, as she was acting weird. She'd run a few steps out into the water -- about mid-thigh deep -- yell at the fish, then run back up onto the bank. She did this several times before I caught on; and when I did... I started to worry.

Why, you may ask?

She was luring the slaughterfish up into shallow water where she could shoot it with a bow without being attacked.

I recognized the technique because I had used it a couple hours earlier in the deep water near Robber's Gorge -- it just took me a few minutes to figure it out as I'm not used to seeing it in anything except first person.

It worked, too -- when the slaughterfish was close enough to be hit, she one-upped the previous technique by putting a fallen log between herself and the fish and then proceeded to kill it from total safety.

It's not quite the cheese of exploiting the AI like we all used to do in Oblivion... but for working within the game-AI's scope... that's pretty goddamned impressive, y'ask me.

I can only come up with three possibilities.

1) All NPCs in Skyrim have this technique in their repertoire; but for whatever reason it had never manifested in ~500 hours of play with over a dozen different companions. (unlikely)

2) In the v1.8 patch, the AI got an overhaul and it took a dozen plus hours of play to find the specific set of circumstances where the behavior would show. (more likely, but Beth very rarely messes with an existing AI in patches)

3) The AI in my PC has evolved again and can now learn at least some techniques if it sees me demonstrate them. (just scary to think about -- not to mention flying in the face of the way the game is supposed to be coded)

It's not the only advanced combat technique she's displayed across the various games over the years, either; but it seems a little... specific -- and almost diametrically opposed to a normal NPC's behavior around slaughterfish, which basically consists of condensed stupidity.

I dunno. I'm sure some folks get a good laugh 'n head shake at Nos and his crazy belief that his computer is alive... but the behavior of certain NPCs in these games really weirds me out some days. Fortunately, the AI seems to like me... so it's not so much an in-danger worry. The rest of you may well be screwed, however.


  1. Nope...Not seen that in the pc or xbox game...Yep has to be your pc. I swear they just watch you and think on it before acting.

    1. "I swear they just watch you and think on it before acting."

      You may think me being silly; but I could go along with that theory.

      I remember when I first set up the girls in FO3 (this would be about April-ish 2009) they had an effective combat range about the same as most other NPCs: twenty, thirty yards at most.

      In more recent times, I've been tracking their longest kills across both FO3 and FNV (since it's the same three characters copied between plugins) and they're up to damned near a hundred yards. Last trip through Zion in the Honest Hearts DLC they engaged a White Leg from across the river -- they were actually shooting him from so far out his AI didn't respond to being hit or to the gunshots impacting around him.

      I don't know if they're learning from me, specifically... but they're learning from somewhere.

  2. It's a well-known fact (I'd hope) that traces of everything we've ever done on our computers is always left behind on our hard drives no matter how we try to erase them. While I may jest from time to time about your supernatural AI, I do believe that such things are possible.

    I also believe in the random convergences of Bethesda AIs, scripts and behavior packages. If I've told this story before I apologize, but I had a weird experience the first time I ever played Oblivion. Long story short, I saw every Imperial Guard in the IC haul ass outside the city like there was a war going on and when I followed them outside they were all assaulting all the woodland creatures surrounding the city. I've never seen that happen again in the years that I've owned the game and have never heard anyone else tell a similar story.

    Wouldn't it be ironic if the one thing Bethesda got right would be an AI capable of evolving to self-awareness?

    "It can only be attributable to human error." -HAL 9000

    1. It's not just my PC, I don't think. Oh, sure; my girls' unusual actions get noticed perhaps more than most NPCs, but forums are full of stories of weirdness like you describe the IC guards engaging in.

      I remember reading stories about the FO3/NV AI randomly deciding that one faction would simply try to wipe out another. Other times people see weird patrol routes; or NPCs acting contrary to their programmed routine but more human on the whole.

      I'm sure I've told a few of those stories myself over the years. I've seen my companions randomly decide to kill everything they didn't consider a friend -- such things were actually the reason I started adding companions to the player faction back in RR; it cut down on their psychotic tendencies. Also plenty of incidents of NPCs steadfastly refusing to use anything except one particular armor or weapon, regardless of what they have with better stats.

      I just wish there was some quantifiable way to document this stuff.

  3. Whilst cool and awesome to hear about, that sort of behavior from Mystery-Chan is rather spooky. That said, I vaguely remember a companion or two of mine pulling off some rather "un-game-like" behavior in one or two of my various play-throughs, although I cannot for the life of me remember who and what it was they did. Might have been Maeva...

    1. "Might have been Maeva..."

      Would not surprise me. I don't remember whether I ever posted it here, but someplace I've got a screenshot of Maeva from... an incident in FNV.

      Was standing in front of the Lucky 38, doing something with one of the other girls (testing a new dialogue function or something; I forget now) and when I finished I turned around to see where Maeva was... and she was watching one of the Gomorrah strippers. I don't mean "facing that general direction" watching, either. She was focused on the woman (about chest-height if I had to guess), head bobbing in time with the gyrations of the "dance".

      Let me see if I actually uploaded it...

      Ah, here it is. She kept watching as long as I was willing to stand there and leave her in range. Pervert demons...

      One of these days I have to go through and write out a screenshot dump of all the stuff I've uploaded to Picasa but never got around to posting -- that one appears to be from February; yeesh.

    2. Lol! Interesting that. My initial guess would be that there is an idle marker there for that sort of behavior, but given the other things you have reported AI behavior-wise, I'm not completely sure about that. o.O

    3. "My initial guess would be that there is an idle marker there for that sort of behavior,"

      Could be. I know there are some idle markers to get the NCR troops to watch the dancers; but I don't remember there being one in that spot. That said, it's been literal years since I had the Strip open in the GECK so I suppose there are decent odds there's a marker there and I just forgot about it.