The enemy AI in MMOs can be downright pitiful, and one reason I’m getting excited for the Elder Scrolls Online is what they’ve done to innovate it. Questing in MMOs is made a grind because, let’s face it, enemy mobs are a face-roll. Aside from the occasional elite monster you don’t find yourself using much brainpower when approaching a fight. In real RPGs like the Elder Scrolls you are usually forced to strategize; whether that be supplementing your weaknesses with potions, or tipping the odds in your favor with a well-placed stealth attack. At the moment leveling in an MMO has me doing other things, like watching Game of Thrones, on my other monitor, but I’d love to see that change. Aside from what most game developers think now-a-days we do want challenge in our games. It’s what keeps us engaged from start to finish.
Enemy AI, for those who are not familiar, is what controls a non-player enemy during combat. How is the Elder Scrolls Online going to mix things up for us? In Jesse Cox’s (long time WoW commentator) recent trip to Zenimax Online Studios to test the Alpha version of ESO, he was happy to report one of the reasons he is now excited for the Elder Scrolls Online. He talks about his experience with a tone of excitement:
“I want to stress something about combat that blew me away. The mods in this game are smart. Very smart. While early on one or two enemies is pretty standard MMO fare; later down the line it’s a totally different story. Enemies have skills sets, just like in all games, but they take into account other enemies around them and decide what to use based on the likelihood of their success. For example, say [there are] two dwemer mechanical spiders in a room, and you approach them. They’ll instantly decide any variable of options and mount an attack. So for example, one might attack you as a tank while the other stays behind to do a ranged attack. Or, one might use a power-up aura, and the other might stay inside that aura and range attack you depending on if you are a caster or not. Another example that we found was that a monster would use sticky oil that he threw on the ground and if your character got caught in it, any monster that was nearby that had a fire spell would ignite the oil on fire and burn you alive. This means that each time you meet a group of enemies, depending on your character and the ones with you in your group, they’ll use different tactics on you.”
So where normally in an MMO the same enemy mobs will always attack you in the same way, Zenimax Online studios has made it their mission to spice things up considerably by scripting the enemy AI in such a way that will make it present itself as a different challenge when facing different situations. I see this as adding a much needed layer of authenticity to combat. It is most welcome and I can’t wait to see it in action. Dynamic and engaging combat is what separates the epic adventure from the tedious grind.