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The Current State of the Heroes of the Storm A.I.

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Senior Designer Kevin Gu on the Heroes team talked about three major A.I. improvements that they are currently working on.

  • The Heroes of the Storm A.I. is comprised of the Goal and the Tactical system.
    • The Goal system is responsible for the A.I's movement.
    • The Tactical system provides awareness of the A.I's surroundings.
  • In an effort to improve agent in-combat positioning, Blizzard made it possible for the Tactical system to override the Goal system, exposing several underlying issues that they are fixing.
    • The first priority is restructuring of the Tactical A.I. behavior tree to reduce the frequency of the agents being pulled in two directions at once.
    • The second priority is to improve the A.I. agent's understanding of laning and how the approach pushing and defending lanes.
    • The final third priority is to improve the A.I.'s ability to prepare and "stage" for their assigned Goals.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard (Source)

Hello, and good day to you all!

My name is Kevin Gu, and I am a Senior Designer on the Heroes team. I have been working alongside Jeff Beaudoin, our Lead Gameplay Engineer, on our game’s A.I. We wanted to take a moment to update you all on where we are and how our three major A.I. initiatives are progressing.

Reconciliation of the Goal and Tactical Systems

There are two systems under the hood of Heroes that work together to drive agent behavior: the Goal system and the Tactical system. The Goal system is responsible for determining where A.I. agents should move, while the Tactical system provides agents with awareness of their surroundings so that they use and target their abilities intelligently. Last year, in an effort to improve agent in-combat positioning, we made it possible for the Tactical system to override the Goal system. Although we believe the changes were ultimately a good iteration, they did expose several underlying issues that we are addressing.

Moving forward we will be reverting some of changes made in the last major overhaul and restructuring the Tactical A.I. behavior tree. We are reinforcing the intended separation of the Goal and Tactical systems, and will be paying closer attention to make sure that any future changes do not disturb this delicate balance of power. This will reduce the frequency of agents being pulled in two directions at once, most commonly observed as agents rapidly bouncing back and forth in place. This work will also allow us to more quickly diagnose the root cause of misbehaving agents.

Laning and Defense

Our second priority is to improve A.I. agents’ understanding of “laning” and how they approach pushing and defending those lanes. In the most recent patch, we added logic that allows the Goal system to understand that lanes pushed closer to a core are usually more valuable to defend. Our next step is to include units within each lane to further modify how valuable lanes are to defending agents. Both pieces will ensure that the A.I. will better understand how to defend their lanes.

Goal Staging

Our third priority is to improve the ability for agents to prepare or “stage” for their assigned Goals. Our internal Tactical A.I. tree can now better determine if all assigned agents to a goal have arrived. This allows agents to intuit if they should wait in shrubs because their team members are not yet near their collective objective, and subsequently helps agents work together.

Thank You

We want to extend a big thank you to those who have shared feedback on A.I. We hear you! We are hard at work improving the A.I., and plan to bring the items mentioned above and more into the next major Heroes patch. Again, thank you for your continued patience, and we’ll see you in the Nexus!

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I like that they're giving a detailed explanation on how the A.I. system works. Another proof that Blizzard's "B Team" working on HotS still is one of the most dedicated teams in their company.

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Blizzard developer also made some additional comments in the thread-

Quote

Can you also address AI instantly picking up items from the camps on Hanamura and Volskaya, please?

Yes, this is something that I have fixed for the next release.

Quote

Hey, mynd.

I agree with the frustration of watching disconnect replacement A.I. try to help, but often end up becoming a liability to your team. I want to share with you more details of additional changes related to your feedback that we are hoping to ship in the next release, details that we did not have time to include in my original post or the blog.

When your ally disconnects from the game, their replacement A.I. is put into a precarious position. It’s like suddenly dropping a Silver player into a match with 9 Master players. It’s very difficult for the AI to keep up with humans. In the past we have tried to make A.I. more sophisticated by attempting to capture more and more game context into their decision making, hoping that it would make them react more intelligently. Our collective observations have lead us to accept that disconnect replacement A.I. will never be strong enough in its decision making to play well with human players on their own. Instead, we want to focus on addressing the frustrating aspects of disconnect replacement A.I.

Our plan moving forward is that we will be simplifying disconnected A.I. behavior by decreasing their metagame decision making. We will be paring down disconnect replacement A.I. behavior to two choices: follow the human who pinged you, or return to base if no human has pinged you. This will prevent moments where the lone disconnected AI trying his hardest to win the game by soaking top lane and getting picked off while the rest of your team is fighting at an objective. More importantly, this change will make replacement A.I. much less unpredictable. We feel like this is the best starting point in addressing a lot of the A.I. community feedback on disconnect replacement A.I.

Hope you have a great day!

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AI has a tendency to drop out of team fights very early to tap the fountain, which usually results in the fight turning against the team.

I think this is reasonable, thank you. I will take a look at the health thresholds that govern the healing fountain goal and see if it’s safe to adjust.

Quote

Hey, Stavros. This is reasonable, I can look into Nova (love her) decoy A.I.

 

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