WOW: Artificial Intelligence, state machines


Aw, the Three Stooges, idiots in space, wasn’t there another movie by the Three Stooges called Three Stooges in Space?  Oh well…

Artificial Intelligence, if we divert our gaze from the science of searching, which is where most AI gets into, but move our gaze toward the science of games.  I am going through the architecture of games, and working with my buddy John Nordlinger who is the Senior Researcher in Games or something like that up in Redmond.  Smart guy that John.


In my previous post, I discussed the use with Autonomous Avatars, which if you make a game that is totally Autonomous, most people would find it boring.  A good example is the Project Hoshimi that was used by the Microsoft Student Contest: Imagine Cup, which this year has over 330,000 student participants worldwide!

Well since I am fixated on the Mars Orbital Dynamics (See my research blog by clicking this link), I will eventually lead this discussion on artificial intelligence into the realm of autonomous vehicles in my various blogs.


Ok, let’s take a look at state machines, what are they? Do they produce the name of states? No.  State machines show conditions and as Tim Buxton pointed out at Mix09 transitions, the transition part is important and often overlooked.

So let’s make a transition table for an avatar in a game like World of Warcraft, it is more important to make sure you do this type of design work prior to writing code, it might be best if you use paper and pencil:

Current State


State Transition
Attack Weaker enemy Win

Gather goodies



Threaten weaken enemy Attack
Attack Stronger enemy Lose
Patrol Threaten stronger enemy Runaway

Lose goodies

Return to quest starting point

In the next blog post, let’s take a look at the code to examine some of the concepts of finite state machines.

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