Having just opened a new office in America, AI middleware specialist xaitment is continuing to establish itself as a leading force in the market.Keen to find out more, Develop spoke with Markus Schneider, executive vice president, Americas and Asia, about xaitment’s latest developments and the future of AI middleware.
Develop: Starting with xaiment’s modular AI tech, what are the most recent developments offered with the framework you provide?
For only a short time now, we’ve offered our brand new version 2.5 that includes several useful debugging functions. Also for the first time ever, customers can sign up for our new BrainPack bundle on our webpage and use our toolset for free in their development process. We know that budgets are tight, especially during prototyping, and we are happy to share the development risk with our clients.
Develop: What are the most exciting and challenging trends in the implementation of AI in games at present?
For several years now, AI middleware had to fight a battle that graphics or physics engines had already won. That battle is to convince the market of the benefits of real AI middleware. AI was still a part of the development process that many studios would like to see in their own development team rather than using external tools. Or they didn’t care about real good AI at all.
It is most exciting to see a shift in the thinking of a lot of major but also indie studios during the last year who are now considering to use AI middleware.
Develop: How is xaitment responding to developments in AI, and what can we expect to see from xaitEngine moving forward?
We are already leaders in AI middleware development and have one of the largest specialised development teams in this industry worldwide. Moving forward we are focusing on full integration of our tools into leading game engines as well as on a continuous effort to improve the usability of our tools for the non-programmer and designer. We are also focusing on further developing our high level AI specially designed for very complex AI needs in games.
Develop: Why invest in establishing a new office in the US?
Actually, we opened our US office due to customer demand for local service and support. 80 per cent of our worldwide customers are originally based in North America and we would like to offer to them the best customer service available.
Develop: What are the advantages of a modular system over an entire solution for developers?
Our modular solution represents a huge cost benefit to our customers. We don’t want to sell anything that is not needed and does not offer any real value. If you only require a state of the art hierarchical FSM or a high performance pathfinding, why buy a complete AI engine, that no one ever fully uses during the development process?
Our customers can choose out of a range of five specialised AI products to get exactly the tools that fit into their development process and fulfil their needs.
Develop: Is it fair to say that in recent years ‘one size fits all’/non-modular AI solutions provided for game developers have hindered the progress of AI in gaming?
It certainly did, as did the low grade of usability and the high integration costs associated with many tools available. Again it is a budget question; the more complex the solution is the higher the costs for integrating will be. Our modules were designed to be integrated within a day, which is a true benefit and really triggered our success. Training is usually not required and due to our built-in graphical editors, every game designer can create exactly the AI they desire.
Develop: Could you tell us some of the most recent titles and developers to harness the power of your technology?
The most recently released title was Synetic’s Crash Time: Autobahn Pursuit, published by RTL and Crave Entertainment, where our advanced traffic AI enabled free driving independent of set tracks. Among other well-known studios we are very proud that Chris Taylor’s studio Gas Powered Games has recently signed up for our BrainPack bundle.
We are also in a couple of serious development projects and honestly believe that both worlds can benefit a lot from each other. Nevertheless our focus will always be to provide the best game AI available.
Develop: Where can our readers find out more about xaitment, beyond your own website?
I strongly recommend checking out our new AI developer wiki. It is accessible through our webpage and contains a lot of valuable information for studios who are interested and in need of AI.