Monday, February 23, 2009

News Flash: Sleeper AI

Just as I was typing that last post a Eve Dev Blog was posted about the new Sleeper NPC AI. Most of it is not a surprise to anyone following the threads and reports from the test server, but one line really jumped off the page for me:
In very basic terms: modules and weapons generate threat; as the threat goes up and down the NPCs will change targets and allocate secondary targets.
Threat? Threat? Where did I hear that term before...? Oh yeah. And here. And here. You get the idea.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Eve is implementing it because its a successful mechanic as evidenced by how many other games use it for their NPCs in order to create something more than mindlessly attacking the first person on the screen as Eve does now. I'm slightly concerned that having groups manage threat so the DPS and healers don't get aggro from the tanks might create a new "holy trinity" way of running raids into Sleeper space that is far too familiar across the MMO genre. I'm concerned because instead of making PvE more like PvP, they might just make a new form of PvE that is based on the "holy trinity" and "managing threat" mechanics and will not do anything to make players ready for real PvP.

That being said, it remains to be seen what this all shakes out as. Since Eve does not allow third party add ons, perhaps managing threat without them will prove to be too difficult, and the actual mechanics for generating threat might be very convoluted and hard for the average group to control. Perhaps it will be enough of an evolution from old mindless PvE to move players closer to being able to PvP in the same groups and ship fittings.

Regardless, time will tell.


  1. I think managing threat is a basic aspect of combat IRL or IG. If EVE wants to do it but better than everyone else does, it'll all depend on how advanced their NPC AI is.

  2. To have threat does not make NPCs less dumb. We finally have the most simple threat model already now. First in belt, first with threat. Improving this threat model does not change the fact that we will end in same stupid schema later on--tank, healer, dps.

    I came from WoW to EVE and I would say that the most challenging fights been exactly those without threat at all or seemingly non-predictable threat. These fights have been supposed to ressemble PvP fight and focuse on stuff like pacifying crowd controllers and killing healers while ignoring obvious tanks. I woul love to have this in EVE to support dynamic team decisions and improvisation.

  3. Yeah, I think you might be reading too much into the "threat" comment. As PD says, that's how combat and warfare work. Even in my RL job (information security), it's one of our core terms used in nearly every conversation about risk.

  4. My concern is that if they don't make it hard to determine what the threat levels are, it will not lead to PvE being like PvP. Instead it will make a new PvE experience that does not apply to PvP where players have different ways of calculating threat.

    I don't want threat management in Eve. :) I want unpredictability and NPCs that can surprise you even after 100 encounters, much like humans do. I have doubts we will get that.

  5. In most games that use the classic 'Trinity' set up with threat as the NPC motivator there are mechanics/skills/modules that drive it. "Taunts" for a tank. We don't have those in EVE. So just flying your ungodly tanked Nighthawk amidst a group of sleepers won't be enough to capture their attention if you have a Basilisk sending it reps and a falcon jamming targets and a Megathron spewing hate.

    That is the best/most difficult thing about this system: if we have to manage the threat we, as players produce, how do we keep the enemy focused w/o a taunt.

    This alone is what will set the new AI apart from the WoW system.


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