Artificial Intelligence: Machine Learning and Playing Against Yourself

Artificial Intelligence in Video Games can make or break a title – but what happens when you are your own worst enemy?

Artificial intelligence is just that. Artificial. Through effective manipulation and coding we can often achieve a convincing illusion of going up against a sentient being – but with the developments of the last few years in the field, we may be at the cusp of truly facing our virtual equals.

In the event that you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of years, let us fill you in: machine learning is here, and it’s here to stay in a big way. In layman’s terms, the technology revolves around giving programs set parameters wherein the program can improve itself over time.

Just as a human improves in a task through repetition, so too do these programs. The more time they spend on running through the motions, the more ways they’ll find to be faster and more efficient. Scared yet?

Both the implications and applications of such tech are huge, but we’re going to avoid sending you down a path filled with visions of a future where all thoughts are controlled by our machine overlords. Instead, we’re opting for a much more fun variant: what does this mean for gaming?

There haven’t been many examples of games employing a “learning”, but a recent release has been paving the way in good fashion: Echo. Echo marks the debut for studio ULTRA ULTRA – and what a debut it is.

At first glance, Echo doesn’t seem to offer much other than a well-polished aesthetic – but how wrong you’d be to write it off at first glance. Echo operates much like the fabled steal games of yore, where the player is tasked with silently dispatching or evading all enemies in order to get to the level’s exit and achieve victory. The catch? Your enemy is you.

Although every enemy is visually a copy of the player character, the similarities go far beyond mere aesthetics. The algorithm which dictates the AI’s behavior is capable of learning from its mistakes and improving itself. This means that if you were to employ the same tactic over and over, the AI would pick up on this and work to create a countermeasure from doing so.

Not only will it attempt to impede you, it will rip your moves right out of your playbook and use them against you. This forces a totally different playstyle from most are akin to – one that forces the player to continuously mix up their strategy in order to not give away too much to an ever-learning program.

Echo manages to tie in its incredible tech with a perfect sans-individualism aesthetic in a gorgeous and glossy neo-tech setting, but the implications of its underlying technology have us far more amped. It feels too monumental to write off as a mere gimmick.

Though it may be in its infancy now, machine learning is undoubtedly a game-changer in the realm of gaming. Now we can all sit back, kick our feet up with a cup of tea, and let ourselves descend into madness at the thought of a Dark Souls game with ever-adapting AI.

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