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Civilization V: When AIs rule the world

Civilization V is coming!

For those of you out there who don’t play a lot of videogames, don’t worry, I don’t either. In fact, you can tell it by the fact that the review I’m about to cite comes not from the explosive panoply of video game blogs out there, but from the WSJ’s Speakeasy blog:

[Question:] My 12-year-old son is among those who almost always turned to warfare as the way forward in Civ IV. How have you tweaked the AI to punish those who rely too heavily on one development strategy?

More than just a tweak, we have dedicated an entire software subsystem to scrutinizing the actions of the other players in the game. This “diplomatic AI” makes sure that each AI civilization performs a full assessment of each of its neighbors. Each turn this analysis includes noticing which players are trying to grab open land, which ones have particularly large armies, and also making a guess about which type of victory each opponent is pursuing. So your son’s warmongering will be noticed by the AI right away. This information is then critical to how the AI chooses its friends and enemies and also to how it picks its own path to victory.

They just keep making it harder! The article talks a bit about changes to the war-fighting mechanics – but the interview is with the game’s AI Programming Lead – so AI is a primary focus. And it’s fascinating!

Reading this I couldn’t help but imagine a future in which Civilization 10 actually just runs the same AI engines behind the foreign policy of small nations. That that was Firaxis’ twenty year corporate plan: building the diplomatic advisory algorithms for developing nations. (“Yes General, I’m sure your half-brother has a natural talent for diplomacy, but you might want to consider our product as a back-up.”)

From there it’s just another few iterative steps to the backrooms of power in the developed world.

And then?

I love the idea that sports provide an outlet for regional rivalries played out without bloodshed (British hooligans aside) – perhaps diplomatic games will provide the same. We’ll cheer on our national foreign policy AIs at the Global Civilization Olympics. All that friction of competing ideologies dissipating in the cheering throngs while the computers quietly negotiate the climate change treaties and free trade agreements.

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