Petr Smrček, was born and got to university here in Prague, this are excellent conditions if you want to work for Warhorse Studios. As a AI Programmer, his job is to take care of the behaviour of the entities and NPCs in the world of Kingdom Come: Deliverance. Creating virtual brains for the characters.
Do you have any questions for Petr Smrček? Just ask here!
You can find a Spanish translation of this interview here.
1) How did you hear about Warhorse?
I first heard of it about 5 years ago when I randomly met Martin Klíma at university and he gave me a business card for some unknown company called Warhorse. A few years later KCD went to kickstarter and I backed it, since I liked the idea. Finally, when I was picking my Master’s thesis I asked Tomas Barak to be my advisor and I discovered that he was actually working there! After successfully graduating, I realized this couldn’t be a coincidence and destiny wanted me there. So here I am!
2) Describe your position. What is it about being a AI Programmer?
There are 4 of us currently in the position of an AI programmer. Apart from generally making things work a bit smarter, we mostly cooperate with scripters and create a high level interface into game features for them. E.g. when they want some dude to go somewhere, they just specify a destination. Our part of the job is to get him there – to find a correct path and make sure he won’t bump some passersby to death.
Latest improvement on pursuing. Henry hid behind the wall and the NPC trying to find him is just estimating where he could go.
3) Which job would you not want to do?
Have you ever heard of magic? It’s a real thing. Must be. Because it is happening in our physics system. It’s probably the worst feature in our version of CryEngine and I admire those brave enough to peek into it.
4) What are you currently working on?
I’m tweaking formation movement. We call them “formations” since the system is used during battles and also, in fact, used anytime we want multiple NPCs to go somewhere together. I really feel like I could work on it and improve it forever. The NPCs can’t be perfectly accurate or they will look like robots. They have to make room for each other and flow through other NPCs and obstacles, go through doors etc. When fighting, they can change formation shape or regroup as some of them die. And all this must look natural.
Combat in formation.
Formations are sometimes used when you would not expect them. Do you recognize this quest?
5) What are some of your notable accomplishments?
We have a quite big living world with hundreds of NPCs. They are simulated at all times so their lives are realistically affected by your impacts in the world. However, when we tried to really fully simulate them, we got a smooth 2 FPS on consoles. Eh. Big surprise. So we cheat a little bit. We still run all of their brains so everybody does what they should do, but the other stuff like movement, clothing, animations, physics, etc. is computed just for the ones near player or in a simplified manner. I was working on this cheesed version of NPC simulation for correct switches from and to it as the player moves through the world. We call it NPC LOD.
Henry is standing in the middle of Skalitz. Only NPCs close to him with the green UFO above their head are fully simulated.
In cities, there would be too many simulated NPCs close to Henry to compute. Thus we use more detailed distinction of what can be seen and can switch more NPCs to LOD.
6) What do you like the most about Kingdom Come: Deliverance?
I like that most of the stuff that we do, others don’t. We make NPCs really live their lives. We make the horse throw you off when you treat it like a pig. We don’t show crosshairs, since Henry is not a cyborg. I really love all those features that other games feared to implement because they make the game more real. Yeah, it can be challenging and many people might actually hate it. But it is something new and inspiring and I’m really glad I’m a part of it.
7) What was your most touching video game moment?
I felt the strongest emotions during the final part of Planescape: Torment. I was really pulled into the story and its many often horrible secrets. If you like storytelling, I strongly recommend this game. I’ve never played a game with a better one (or one better implemented).
8) Which class, gender, or type do you usually pick?
I mostly play agile types, sneaking around and killing enemies silently. Or smart guys deceiving and persuading others. Often combined . I don’t really like mindless hack and slash games.
9) What would a perfect game according to your wishes look like?
I dream about a MMORPG without NPCs. Everybody would be a player. Players could build, create, teach each other new skills (those would be procedural e.g. like Borderlands weapons). They would have to eat and defend themselves against each other – they would probably group into cities or factions. Justice would be at least partially achievable (to mitigate trolls), probably with some karma system. It’s just a dream.
10) Most hilarious bug you have ever encountered or worst video game experience?
I once uninstalled Blood & Magic twice, when the first uninstall didn’t seem to do anything. It wiped Windows from my computer. Yep, hilarious.
We had a bug where you could meet guys sitting in the air on roads. When they switched to NPC LOD, their invisible horse without physics could no longer carry them and let them stranded.
11) What game have you been really looking forward to but turned out to be a total disappointment?
I was looking forward to Pillars of Eternity and Torment: Tides of Numenera, since Planescape: Torment is my most favorite game. But PoE turned out to be more about mechanics rather than story and after some time playing it I just gave up. I now put my hope to ToN but I sadly haven’t tried it yet because lack of time (I can’t risk getting addicted to it right now).
12) How do you relax after a hard day at work?
I go out with my dog, smooch my girl, play sports, guitar, Dungeon & Dragons and some computer games. Or board games. Magic the Gathering, lately.
13) Your favorite movie or book?
I mostly read fantasy. Recently I discovered Patrick Rothfuss and his The Kingkiller Chronicle which made me drool for the latest anticipated book. I like when the story, character decisions and world laws make sense in books and movies. That’s why I actually don’t really like superhero movies. I can watch that to turn off my brain and relax but I prefer things like Sherlock Holmes (the Cumberbatch version).
14) Your travel tip?
Mountains. Since my body relaxes when I’m at work, I need my mind to relax on vacation. I enjoy going somewhere without civilization and everything I need for a week or two. With friends of course. It makes you feel truly independent and free. You have your own food, accommodation (tent) and transport (legs) and you can just simply go wherever you want without needing anyone or anything. There are beautiful views, lakes for baths and berries to eat. And last but not least, climbing the hills with stuff on your back will get you into shape .
15) Sport is…
Volleyball. I played competitively for about 12 years and I still play it recreationally now. But I like most of the sports, preferably team ball games. Haha, very mature.
16) Is it possible to buy you with candy?
Not really. I’m salty man.
17) What is your weakest trait?
I’m too kind and altruistic. I sometimes have to forcibly make myself more evil since we don’t live in an utopic world.
18) What was your favorite subject and your most hated one at school?
I’m good with natural science stuff and math. I don’t think I hated any class. Or even disliked one- I had a great high school. I really like history, but unfortunately my brain refuses to remember dates and names. And faces. And anniversaries. But back to history – I actually had good grades, because I was able to learn all the stuff, but in a week I forgot most of it.
19) If you could say something to the fans of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, what would it be?
I’m really glad you like this game and support us. And that there is quite a lot of you. It gives me hope that the world is not yet completely drowned in Hollywood brainwashing productions and one button games where you kill without even looking at who the enemy is. I hope you’ll enjoy playing KCD and be brave, only few months remain!
Do you have any questions for our AI Programmer Petr Smrček? Please ask here!