Paper: Building an AI Diagnostic Toolset

Building an AI Diagnostic Toolset
Paul Tozour [2002]

This paper explains one of those things that are rarely planned when developing an AI system: the diagnosis tools.

The author explains that having a good set of diagnosis tools can save a lot of time when trying to figure out what is the AI trying to do, plus it makes it easier for non AI-developers to understand and tweak the system if needed.

Two types of tools are proposed: AI Commands and AI Diagnostic Tools. The former can be used to change the state of the system and the latter can be used to view the internal state of the system.

Here are a few examples of the proposed tools:

AI Commands
  • Destroy (Eliminate a number of AI-controlled units).
  • Insensate (Make AIs unaware of sensory inputs).
  • Forget (AI forgets current target and loses all knowledge it possesses).
  • Modify State (Force the AI to excecute a specific behavior or tactic).
  • Switch player control (Allow user to take over an AI unit)

AI Diagnostic Tools
  • Unit AI state (If the system is a finite-state machine, display the state of any given AI subsystem).
  • View Pathfinding search (Show nodes looked at and the order they were searched).
  • View Current Target (Display arrow from selected AI unit to it's intended target).
  • View Sensory Knowledge (Draw a line from selected AI to any stimuli it notices, changing colors depending on the intensity of the stimulus).
  • View Past Locations (Draw connected lines indicating locations an AI has visited).

Aside from being useful as debugging and tweaking tools, they can also provide interesting functionality if implemented as game mechanics in a game where the player can "program" their units, for example, being able to analyze what's going on with Diagnostic Tools in-game and being able to alter part of the programmed behavior with AI Commands could make the game more active and less "program and wait too see what happens".

The paper can be found on the book: AI Game Programmming Wisdom
Tozour, Paul (2002). Building an AI Diagnostic Toolset. In Steve Rabin (Ed.), AI Game Programming Wisdom (pp. 39 - 45). United States, Charles River Media, Inc.

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