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AI Game Programming Wisdom

This 672 page hardback book contains 71 AI articles by 48 authors. Contains large sections on practical AI learning, scripting, and pathfinding. Includes CD-ROM. Published March 2002. ISBN: 1584500778

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Reviews from

InnocuousFox (rating 4.5/5.0)
I'm usually not one to bookmark things, highlight them or dogear pages. However, I have noticed with this book an ever-increasing number of paper clips sticking out of the top. Coming from me, that's a testament to how valuable this book is as a resource. One impressive feature is that many of the "gems" use examples from the author's game(s). For those of us that have played those games, it makes for a fabulous way of seeing the specific technique being used - usually accompanied by "so THAT's how they did it!" I recommend this book highly!

Ironside (rating 5.0/5.0)
This is an excelent book, I'd rate it up there with Game Programming Gems 1. It's a must have for the serious game developer. The chapters cover everything from Scripting Engines, Group Tactics, to generic trigger systems and A* pathfinding. It's worth every penny.

Raptal (rating 5.0/5.0)
I Obtained this book, a few weeks back and have been unable to put it down! The Best book I have come accross for Agent Behaviors. Is a good source for A* path finding, trigger systems, Scripting, Genetic Algorithms, Neural Networks, (AI Learning Systems). It's Great.

redigjohn (rating 5.0/5.0)
I received this book yesterday, ahhh, heaven in a cover. This book is awesome!!!! An absolutely awesome reference to the problems AI programmers come across, if you are looking to advance the AI in your game pick up this book, the articles are very thorough and present the material very well. Get this book now!!! What are you reading this for??? Leave now, your nearest mall, borders, barnes and nobles, any decent bookstore. Flock now.....

RomSteady (rating 4.5/5.0)
I just finished reading my copy, and I'm fairly impressed. It's nice that they often give multiple points-of-view on the same subject. Note: Several articles refer back to Game Programming Gems 1 and 2, so I recommend that you get those as well to fully appreciate this book.

Stefpet (rating 4.5/5.0)
I actually haven't got this book (yet) but I was at the snack-party Charles River Media held at GDC and browsed through the book and read some selected chapters. And basically, I doubt there is any other resource packed with that much high quality hands-on no-nonsense not-just-suited-for-beginners information about AI (and related) programming for games. I'll order my copy very soon and I recommend anyone else interested in this topic to do the same.

Review from Game Developer Magazine

Soren Johnson (rating 3.5/5.0)
(Excerpt) So, who should buy AI Game Programming Wisdom? For inexperienced game developers - which describes a bigger portion of our industry than most would care to admit - the book is absolutely essential reading. Nowhere else can so much basic wisdom be found in such concentrated form. The pathfinding sections alone make the book a simply invaluable purchase for beginners.

Reviews from

Amit Patel from Cupertino, CA USA (rating 5.0/5.0)
Lots of useful tips, July 4, 2003
It's hard to find good information about game programming and design. The trouble is that people working in the industry have an incentive to keep their techniques secret -- they don't want their competitors to learn them. The people who aren't in the industry can write about games but don't have the experience to back it up.

Game AI Programming Wisdom gives us wisdom from people who have worked on real games. Each section is a short explanation of a particular problem (like pathfinding, tactical reasoning, or pattern recognition). Since they're short and independent, you can pick the section that applies to the problem you're trying to solve and read that without having to read everything in order. However, each section is written by a different person, so if you try to read the book straight through you will be distracted by the change in writing styles and level of detail.

I'm quite glad to see this book. It's actually the first game programming/design book that I purchased. (I'm quite picky when it comes to books. I'm sure Amazon doesn't like that.) Most of the game books I see go into low level programming details. This book teaches you the principles and techniques that will be useful for more than the specific problems they cover.

Dave Mark from Omaha, NE USA (rating 5.0/5.0)
A fantastic "a la carte" tool kit, March 10, 2003
Being in the game development business, I am always on the lookout for new and different tricks, techniques and strategies. When most programmers go to the lectures, panels and roundtables at the Game Developers Conference, we are looking to pick up this same sort of material... we share ideas and approaches - but rarely get the chance to get down to the code details to make it easy for us to implement those ideas into our own work. This book makes that possible.

Along the lines of the other "Gems" series of books, this collection is filled with ACTUAL techniques and code chunks that are used by some of the top professionals in the industry. Just flipping through the list of the contributors to the book is like going around the room at one of the AI roundtables at the GDC... in fact, Steve Woodcock and Neil Kirby are 2 of the "3 AI guys" that RUN those roundtables! (The 3rd being Eric Dybsand who has contributed to the "Gems" series but not this title.)

Many books on game development are informative. This one is actually USEFUL. I have personally adopted Steve Rabin's source code from the section "Implementing a State Machine Language" into my own game and it has saved me many hours of development and improved the readability and understandability of my code for the rest of the team. Just that section alone has netted at least a 1000:1 return on the cost of this book. Other sections have given me a different approach on how to handle the economic strategy layer that I could have come upon myself... but was able to implement a lot quicker than if I had done it myself. It was definately worth the price.

Are any of these sections worth the purchase price for YOU? I suppose that depends on how much you value you your time. Once you equate the cost of the book to the man hours you save, it's a no brainer!

James Boer from Kirkland, WA USA (rating 5.0/5.0)
By professionals, for professionals, January 5, 2003
Published by the same folks who brought you Game Programming Gems (and edited by one of the more prolific AI authors in that series), AI Game Programming Wisdom provides a wealth of real knowledge by actual game programming professionals, not professional authors. As a game programming professional, the number of game programming books that sit on my shelf is fairly small. Most have nothing interesting or meaningful to offer beyond rudimentary descriptions and concepts.

AI Wisdom is definitely a cut above the rest. The topic selection is intelligent and relevant, and the articles are all of a consistent quality and polish. I've already referenced articles several times when writing production code, and several co-workers have borrowed it when they had a particularly tricky problem to solve. This is simply a must-have resource for any professional AI programmer, period. Or, if you're an amateur or hobbyist looking to see the tricks and techniques professionals use, then this is a book you absolutely can't afford to miss.

Tyler C. Folsom from Redmond, WA USA (rating 4.0/5.0)
A useful collection of AI game techniques, December 16, 2002
"Artificial Intelligence" means different things to different people. One useful application is the control of nonplayer characters (NPC) in video games. This is the first book to address this field. Like any collection of papers, it is uneven and does not systematically cover the subject. It should be read in conjunction with a traditional AI text, such as Murphy "Introduction to AI Robotics", Russell and Norvig "Artificial Intelligence: a Modern Approach", Tom Mitchell "Machine Learning" or perhaps Bruce Blumberg's forthcoming "Synthetic Characters".

I teach AI at DigiPen Institute of Technology and made this one of the required books. It is good in showing which techniques are most useful in games and what you need to consider when designing your AI. Some papers are overly general and some are too specific. That's probably unavoidable, but game programmers can pick and choose the most appropriate ideas. Unfortunately, some of the better introductory articles on A*, finite state machines, flocking and fuzzy logic are not in this book but in "Game Programming Gems".

Once you understand the basics of AI, this book can save some major headaches by helping with the selection of an appropriate architecture. The CD has source code to help you get off to a good start. Reading the appropriate articles will let you anticipate problems before they happen and design around them. Professional game programmers will likely find at least one technique that pays back the cost of the book.

Winchell Chung from Baltimore, MD USA (rating 5.0/5.0)
Absolutely Indispensable, September 6, 2002
This book is solid gold and belongs on the shelf of all serious game designers. Programming an AI for a game is a formidable task. But with the secrets revealed in this book you will have an advanced AI up and running in no time. Logically arranged, and with copious sample code, this book is a powerful addition to your toolbox. Get this book. You won't be disappointed.

Paolo Gaudiano from Cambridge, MA USA (rating 5.0/5.0)
Excellent reference, useful for a broad audience, June 3, 2002
I bought this book because of one particular article on swarm simulations. Once I got the book I was amazed by the breadth of topics and by the quality of the articles. I found myself leafing through the entire book and exploring the CD-ROM. The book is well written and nicely organized into logical sections. Where space considerations prevented an author from going into great detail, the companion CD-ROM and the list of references gave great opportunities to explore the subject further. I should also mention that my background is not in gaming, but more in scientific applications and consulting. This book is an excellent reference even for non-gamers. It is sufficiently general in its coverage to allow me to understand the context of each article, and sufficiently detailed that I would feel comfortable implementing any of the algorithms presented. In all, this is an excellent book that should be equally useful to gaming enthusiasts, programmers, and other technical people looking for a solid reference that covers a number of interesting algorithms, techniques and approaches to some challenging computational problems.

Kam (game programmer) from Sunnyvale, CA USA (rating 4.0/5.0)
Up to date coverage of all things AI. Highly recommended., April 27, 2002
Written in the same format as the Game Programming Gems books this book should be the first thing you buy if you're serious about AI. Well written and edited by some of today's most knowledgable AI programmers the topics covered include path planning, race AI, team tactics, finite state machines, scripting etc. The path planning section of the book alone is priceless. I did feel there may have been a little overlap with some of the AI sections in the Game Programming Gems books and one or two pearls of wisdom could have been expanded upon but other than that it was hard to fault the book. Therefore, get it! Read it! Treasure it!

Reviews from

( from Leuven, Belgium (rating 5.0/5.0)
A superb collection of articles!, May 3rd, 2002
This collection of suberb artificial intelligence articles provides the medium to advanced AI programmer with a great toolset for developing AI solutions. I really liked the book as it touches a lot of interesting subjects. The code which comes with this book is nice too, not ready too use in your all day game engine, but it illustrates the topics really well. I can't wait untill the sequel arrives.

Triston Attridge ( from England (rating 5.0/5.0)
A superb Resource., May 12th, 2002
AI Game Programming Wisdom is a collection of articles relating to the use of Artificial Intelligence in Games, of the same format as the Game Programming Gems series.

The authors of the articles are all of high repute, and the Wisdom in the title is justly deserved. Each article is logically formed, with authors often comparing techniques, and explaining the decisions rather than simply dictating what should or should not be done in a situation. The list of contributors are impressive, and recognisable even to someone not already in the industry. The contributors have all given an email address by which they can be contacted.

An important point to be mentioned is the actual quality and style of the articles themselves. The book in general, and each article, is well edited with a consistent style throughout. If you find one article within the book informative and a worthwhile read, then chances are you will find all of them equally as useful. The articles in general are well put together, with as little error and ambiguity as possible. The concepts discussed are well delivered, and the techniques and algorithms are put across to a high standard - especially compared to your usual text book. The few cases where I could not immediately grasp an idea (which probably arose due to my inexperience in the field rather than any failure on the author's part) were infrequent, and usually with the aid of a pen and pad could be resolved with some thought.

The style of the articles is formal, and in my opinion that is a good thing. As a student studying computer science currently, it would not surprise me to find any article in this book being referred to, or handed out in the course of my degree. The information conveyed within is clear, and the articles all have a clear purpose. Each article contains relevant references which are correctly placed within the text of the main article, which allow the reader to pursue relevant information without being bogged down by it within each article.

Despite this, the formality is not overbearing, and there is a definite character running throughout the book - it is not a stiff or boring read, and the authors often engage or analogies or witticisms to get there point across. Dan Higgins use of Edgar the Chicken for key points in path finding, and Paul Tozour's window bashing blue bird demonstrating the need to understand the reasons for a seemingly absurd action. Though these examples may sound flippant, they fit in well within the text, and do make the read more interesting and colourful.

There is also, not surprisingly, a constant undertone of being related to game development. Authors often refer to games they worked on, and the decisions they made due to problems they faced. Not only does this add familiarity and colour, it also reinforces how the goals of an AI Game Developer may differ from that of the academic.

The authors do not overly hand-hold you through concepts and ideas, the articles are not tutorials on how to create or solve, but a guide or a framework. The articles make assumptions about the general level of knowledge that the reader owns, a complete novice to computer programming, would have difficulty in understanding some articles. The book is aimed at people already in the field, or at least someone who has a general idea of the aspects involved. This keeps the usefulness of each article high, as little time is spent overly explaining an idea which the reader should already know. The book uses source code examples, with a predominate undertone of C++ and some articles make use of UML diagrams. They technical degree of the articles fluctuate slightly, but the source code and diagrams supplement the ideas conveyed, and someone who is not familiar with C++ or UML will gain from reading the book.

The accompanying CD-ROM contains source code listing from the book, as well as various demos. This cd-rom is functional, and is not meant to be a look-at-me-gimmick for the book. This allows interested readers to use the source code provided to expand upon, and investigate the ideas portrayed within the relevant article.

AI Game Programming Wisdom will teach an industry entrant much about the decisions and work of an AI Game Programmer, and offer up many new ideas, techniques and areas to explore to both veteran and wannabe alike. I thoroughly recommend it to someone who is interested in the area.

Reviews from from Germany (rating 5.0/5.0)
Excellent, May 13th, 2002
This book is simply superb and I wholeheartedly recommend it. Though I am new to the world of AI in games I still found most articles approachable. Even after reading the first half dozen articles I had already picked up tips that I could implement in my own projects.

I can't rate this book from the standpoint of an AI guru but I can imagine that the coverage of the various techniques would appeal to all experience levels. Good advice is good advice - it's just that the more experienced developer would probably be able to run with it more than a newbie would.

It isn't an exhaustive reference to AI in games but it wasn't meant to be as far as I can tell. This is more along the lines of the Gems series - but there are heaps of references at the end of each article that allow you to dig deeper where necessary.

Some articles were beyond my current level and even the more approchable ones discussed some things new. That just means this is a book you can grow into as well as one that you use to pick up valuable info immediately.

The CD is "handy" but not a godsend - there are some good code listings and electronic versions of the colour plates used in the book (I'm not sure what that is good for except maybe seeing debug screen text more clearly ??) but that's it. Visual C++ based, but code is code after all.

Bottom line - excellent collection of valuable tips and techniques for both new and old AI developers - definitely aimed at the more experienced but still extremely worthwhile for the inexperienced as a view of a large field distilled into articles of clear and concise information.

Reviews from IGDA Artificial Intelligence forum

I am not a contributor to AI Wisdom but I did write for both the Game Programming Gems books and I have a copy of AI Wisdom. I've already gotten some good information from it. These books are not intended to be manuals or textbooks like AI A Modern Approach but instead offer up examples and cases of the use of AI in games. As such, I believe they provide a different value (as well as an important one) than manuals or textbooks.

Jare from Madrid, Spain
Yes it is definitely worth the buy, in the sense that it is a book well worth having in your bookshelf. If you are an enthusiast, you will learn a lot from it, and if you are a professional, you will quickly get your money's back in the form of saved research time on this or that area of your AI.

It's much more practical than pretty much any other AI book ever written, so as Eric said, it will complement theory books like AI: A Modern Approach perfectly.

kevinmack from Pasadena, United States
I'm currently burrowing through the book, and strongly agree with the favorable reviews posted below - it's an extremely well-compiled, thorough and practical collection of directly applicable concepts and techniques, written by designers and engineers who know what they're talking about. I've recently made the shift from development to game design, and find the work as suited to the latter discipline as it is to developers. I recommend this one unequivocally.

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