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E3 2006 Announcements from LucasArts: Euphoria Jones
posted by: Jeremy Kauffman
date posted: 04:31 PM Sun May 14th, 2006
last revision: 04:28 PM Sun May 14th, 2006

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Click to read.New systems, new interfaces, new online applications: there was a lot to see at E3 2006. There was much to be excited about in the LucasArts booth, as they announced that they have taken up residence with Industrial Light and Magic and are now able to share technology in order to better integrate their film and game properties. Technology such as the lighting models used in the upcoming film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man\'s Chest and particle effects from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire can now be used to render LucasArts\' video games. Most impressive, however, was the demonstration of their exclusive Euphoria Engine, which is set to revolutionize the way developers use AI in games.

Euphoria will first be seen in the next Indiana Jones game for the Xbox 360, PS3, and PC, due out in 2007. The demonstration took Indy to Chinatown and San Francisco and, without exaggeration, changed the way I look at AI in video games. Euphoria is able to do two things previously impossible: make each and every computer-controlled character in a game aware of their environment, and realistically portray the behavior of different surfaces as the characters interact with them.

Simply put, Euphoria removes nearly all pre-programmed interaction between computer-controlled characters and their surroundings. The characters perceive their environment through what the Lucas Arts representative called a \"centralized nervous system.\" This affects the way the characters behave in several ways. For instance, there are no pre-animated falls or reactions. When a player interacts with a computer-controlled character, you will never see the same thing twice. When punched in the face, they may take it right on the chin and stumble backwards, or may pull away in time to lessen the blow and remain standing. When shoved into a car, they may slam into the driver\'s side and fall forward, hit the hood and roll across, or loose their footing and stumble head-first into it. The point is that they react in relation to how they collide with the car, rather than how they are animated, and they even behave in such a way as to try to avoid it and remain on their feet.

When standing on an unstable surface, characters will shift their weight realistically to try to balance, and even grab onto whatever they can to try to keep from falling. There was a demonstration separate from the gameplay, showing Indy on a rope bridge. As the bridge was shaken violently, he fought to keep his balance, and even grabbed the rope railing in order to save himself when he tumbled off of the bridge. None of this was pre-animated. During gameplay in Chinatown, Indy destroyed the supports on one side of a fire escape, causing everyone on it to have to grab on for dear life so as not to fall onto the street.

During the San Francisco level, Indy rides atop a trolley as enemies pursue him in Jeeps. The level of awareness shown by the AI during this pursuit was astounding. First of all, the characters are driving the jeeps in real time, reacting to their surroundings. As enemies jump from the jeep to the trolley, mistakes made by the AI driver will cause them to fall. As Indy attempts to throw them off of the moving vehicle, the characters will grab onto anything to keep from falling. During one interaction, an enemy was thrown off of the trolley onto an oncoming truck. Not only did the driver of the truck attempt to swerve out of the way, but when the enemy hit the hood and rolled off, he grabbed the grill and hung on to save himself until a bump made him lose his grip and fall under the tires. During another part of the chase, the driver of one of the trucks swerved into an oncoming trolley while trying to get closer to Indy. When the henchman in the back of the truck saw the impending accident, he jumped onto Indy\'s trolley, not in order to get the jump on his foe, but to avoid the crash. AI characters will even grapple with the player while trying to hold their footing.

This level of body physics and awareness succeeds in making AI characters more human than ever before. But in addition to this, Euphoria is able to make the surfaces of the environments more realistic as well. Using digital molecular matter technology, a fence in an environment \"knows\" that it is made out of wood, or steel, et cetera, so that they behave with the same properties as that substance. In the demonstration, when Indy shoves an enemy into a wooden door, it cracks and splinters more or less like real wood, in relation to the where and how contact is made. The same holds true when Indy picks up a wooden chair, breaks glass, or interacts with any surface.

Never before has the behavior of characters in relation to their environment and one another seemed so real. Currently, games are animated beautifully, but the repetition in the animation of events in the game creates a very noticeable gap between the way we perceive reality and the way we perceive our games. One of the best parts of the demonstration was how, even after three days of playing the same two demo levels, the reps would stop and chuckle as the outcome of various interactions within the game still managed to surprise them. The AI was doing things that they had not seen before. With the creation of the Euphoria Engine, and the upcoming release of Indiana Jones in 2007, AI characters will interact with us in much the same way we interact with them. And since it\'s exclusive to LucasArts, you know the force will soon be with Euphoria.

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