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AI Game Programming Wisdom (Game Development Series) Hardcover – April 3, 2002
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About the Author
Steve Rabin is a Principal Software Engineer at Nintendo of America, where he researches new techniques for Nintendo's next generation systems, develops tools, and supports Nintendo developers. Before Nintendo, Steve worked primarily as an AI engineer at several Seattle start-ups including Gas Powered Games,WizBang Software Productions, and Surreal Software. He managed and edited the AI Game Programming Wisdom series of books, as well as the book Introduction to Game Development, and has over a dozen articles published in the Game Programming Gems series. He's spoken at the Game Developers Conference and moderates the AI roundtables. Steve teaches artificial intelligence at both the University of Washington Extension and at the DigiPen Institute of Technology. He earned a B.S. in Computer Engineering and an M.S. in Computer Science, both from the University of Washington
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AI Game Programming Wisdom 2 is structured very much the same as the first book in the series. The articles are broken into similar sections, with the addition of a new section on finite-state-machines and splitting the section on learning into two. Having already covered the A* algorithm, its various optimizations, and navigation meshes in the previous books those topics are virtually absent here (though they may be buried as a secondary topic in some of the path-finding articles). I thought that the series had exhausted discussion of finite-state machines, but the editors managed to include a couple of interesting articles. The demand for more realistic AI behavior in character-based games in growing. And while a full simulation of emotions and human characteristics is unteneable, at the moment, there are some interesting ideas in the Learning section of the book e.g. "Motivational Graphs: A New Architecture for Complex Behavior Simulation.".
I can't say that this book is indispensible from an implementation perspective. Most of the articles are simply too vague - though there are notable exceptions throughout the entire series of books. What I found most useful in these articles was that they stimulated thought and helped to generate discussion among the programmers and designers at work.
Since what this book is isn't exactly obvious from the description, i figured i should explain it.
Like the first two volumes, this book is a collection of articles, generally 5-10 pages each. The book is roughly 800 pages long, so that's a lot of articles.
Each article is on a different topic and most are written by different people. A handful of authors wrote two articles, but realize that a *lot* of people contributed to this, and each is an expert in different areas, have different writing styles and represent different games.
i believe most of the authors are professional game AI developers who've worked on big name games. There are also articles by professors and game AI hobbyists (who shortly after writing in this series became professionals). Most write in a way you can understand, a few state things very simply, a few others use math and Greek letters and other things that give me headaches. The vast majority of articles are practical articles, not theory, and there's a fair number of examples (with code) given on the included CD.
Because the articles are small, they tend to be focused on a single topic such as navmesh generation, path smoothing or player prediction through n-gram analysis. Since there are so many, the topics cover all sorts of things, from camera movement systems to baseball games to squad FPS tactics to steering race cars to generating random numbers with a normal/Guassian distribution. My favorites are the ones where a developer discusses some bright idea he had for a game and how it backfired on him.
Given the sheer number of articles, it is almost guaranteed that you will find several articles that you don't like, several you don't understand, several you don't care abot and several you can't believe you lived without. If you're like me, you'll find one or two articles that are worth the purchase price of the book all by themselves.
I suppose i should mention that i wrote a couple of articles in this series (though not this volume), so i'm obviously biased, but this really is a very good series. i probably should give it a 5 but i don't like giving 5s and, besides, not every one of the ~100 articles was excellent, just a lot of them.
Now here's the important part: i teach a video game AI class and i don't use this book. Why? Because this is not a text book on how to write AI. It does not cover every topic a beginner needs to know to write a game. It does not build up a single example, walking you step by step through making a game. It most certainly dosn't teach you how to program. In many respects, this is a book written by professionals for professionals. It's a "tips and tricks" book. The assumption is that you know how to program or design a game. You don't have to be a genius to use this book, but it's not a cookbook or Dummies book either.
There are a lot of other books on AI, most of them all-in-one, how to write AI books. Personally, there's only one or two i'd recommend, and none i couldn't live without. But i really don't think i can stress enough just how valuable this particular series is.