Fans of the Halo series may remember how the Brutes suddenly got really smart in Halo 3 as a result of a wonderfully improved AI software coding deploy – what does Halo 4’s enemies have to offer in the way of artificial intelligence?
Digital Spy did an interview with Frankie from the 343 Studio which canvases the issue. Frankie must have done a million interviews for Halo by now and he’s seriously a measured pro at talking to the press.
Question: How did you approach enemy intelligence? Because obviously Halo is known for these different enemies and you’ve got these whole new different sort of threat.
“There’s a lot of similarities, but I think the biggest philosophical difference is that the Covenant – if you look at it from 10,000 feet – are very tactical and very aggressive, they will attack you. They do clever things and they’ll flank you, and their levels of aggression change depending on the scenario, but we wanted to make this villain, the Prometheans, feel smarter and feel clever and feel more sophisticated even than you as a player.
“You [are] going into this with some sensibility and a going on of how the games universe works, but we wanted to make them feel clever and… like they could outsmart and overwhelm you. So they’re very strategic and in some ways they’re quite defensive; if you go to the level you’re playing, there’s some spots where you can go and stand and watch them fighting the Covenant. Because you’re watching them do that in third person mode, you can see how careful and diligent the various components that Promethean battles are.
“So you’ll, for example, see a Knight open his carapus and spawn a Watcher, and the Watcher will fly up and basically summons our crawlers to fight these Elites, and the Crawlers will try and overwhelm the Elites, and if the Elites have some success the Watchers will start shielding the Crawlers. While the Watchers are shielding the Crawlers and the Elites are being distracted by that, the Knights are flanking them.”
“So you can actually watch the combat play out in a completely unscripted, organic and emergent way and constantly be surprised by it. Of course, sometimes that is happening to you, you can’t always sit back and observe and it’s only really on [the third mission] where you get that opportunity to watch how they fight, otherwise you’re fighting them and this whole thing changes.
“When I play it, I’m never quite sure how I should be approaching these encounters. Should I take out the Watchers first so they’re not continuously shielding the Crawlers? Or should I try and get the Crawlers first because they’re harrowing me while I’m trying to concentrate on taking out some target?
“So they just feel smart and they feel sophisticated, rather than sort of ruthlessly aggressive all the time… and of course they team up against you – the Covenant and the Prometheans will actually finally team up against you – and that creates another complicated matrix of behaviours and systems.
“Once you get the muscle memory down, these encounters become second nature, but Halo doesn’t…it’s not one of those games that tries to fight you, or you get stuck in a corridor with a thousand bad guys coming at you. It wants you to succeed, but it wants you to be clever about how you do it.
“That’s the pacing and that’s how the AI kind of lures you in a combat situation that you will eventually excel on, but you should be challenged first instance.”
Sounds like Frankie and the crew have put some real thought into the interactions players can have with the Prometheans, which is fabulous news.