Everywhere around me, I see people demanding improved artificial intelligence. Earlier this week Microsoft announced that Halo's Cortana is coming to a desktop near you. Game companies are also seeking better AI to run the NPCs in games under development, from the Kythera engine in Star Citizen to Storybricks in EverQuest Next. So hopefully, the fact that CCP is seeking to make the artificial intelligence in EVE Online a little smarter comes as little to no surprise.
We got a taste of things to come with the release of the minutes for day 2 of the CSM Winter Summit yesterday. Team Space Glitter is in charge of the development of the AI for NPCs and went into some detail about the newest NPC, the Circadian Seeker. I know that some don't like the level of detail coming out of the summit minutes, so I'll post the details as written from the minutes so people can decide for themselves:
"CCP Frellicus started off the session by going over the new behaviour trees being used by the new Sleeper Scouts (Circadian Seekers) to give them some new ways of interacting with players. These behaviour trees are what makes them explore systems and work in groups.
"The Seeker priorities are (in order) Survive, Roam, Scan. If there's nothing to scan, they'll just idle. (though generally they'll just start scanning you).
"Ali asked if these behaviour trees are only going to be used for the new NPCs or if they're planning to backport it to other NPCs. CCP Frellicus replied that it's primarily for the new NPCs, but it may be backported to specific NPCs.
"Corbexx asked how much can it let them do. CCP Frellicus said it depends upon development time available but the system has very few limitations.
"He went on to elaborate that it allows them to do more advanced actions including calling in reinforcements, warping around the systems.
"CCP Affinity asked the CSM how they thought about NPCs podding players. The CSM were open to the idea. Ali added the caveat that it should be clear that these NPCs can possibly pod. The implications regarding implants and the change to pod death costs and loss were discussed.
"CCP Affinity indicated that they would likely introduce it, but with a twist. Mike asked if they plan to announce they're making a change to NPCs to allow them to do so. CCP Affinity answered that no, they do not. (If you're reading this, consider yourself lucky!)
"CCP Frellicus then showed some Circadian Seekers and the Behaviour tree in action. The CSM noticed that when spawned, they all warped to the same location. CCP Affinity pointed out that this was their blackboard in action, they behave like a fleet. (A blackboard is a way for them to share their intentions with each other. They have a shared blackboard where if one of the NPCs posts a location or primary target, they will behave like a well organised fleet following their FCs commands.)"Hopefully everyone noticed that CCP doesn't plan on telling players when the cute little Sleeper scouts will start podding people. Looking on Singularity won't help, because they are already podding people on the test server. But this kind of notice will get players more interested when new content enters the game. Players are already reporting that Sleepers are attacking POS and Reddit threads are springing up reporting new Sleeper battleships and structures.
Don't expect CCP to go back and retrofit the existing rats soon, however. The plans disclosed in the minutes are for those rats to remain fat, dumb, and easy to kill for some time to come. But CCP doesn't plan on relying on 2003 technology to power EVE's PvE content, even though New Eden is famously a PvP universe.