Tomáš “Vegeta” Plch is the Senior AI Programmer at Warhorse Studios and he was born in Slovakia.
He studied Computer Sciences at Charles University and joined the Studio in 2012, shortly after it was created. His PhD thesis is based on the work of the Kingdom Come Deliverance’s AI Engine.
Do you have any additional questions regarding him and/or his work? Just aks here!
1) Where can we usually find you lurking in the holy halls of Warhorse?
AI Department, almost at the edge of known space. We are the ones everybody blames for everything going wrong
2) How did you hear about Warhorse? When did you join?
Actually everything started as a collaboration between the AMIS research group I was part of and Warhorse back in 2012. Warhorse hoped to do most of the open world stuff with the CryEngine’s AI and we were called in to do some “academic based enhancements”. There were 4 of us, doing different fields of research. One of us departed to IBM, the second one went to do more research in his field, and only I stayed, later joined by another colleague who did his research and went on to do brain scans on rats. So after doing some research on site at WH, I came to the conclusion that doing a high level resource distribution system was not the thing they needed to make the world look alive. CryEngine AI was simply too FPS oriented, not being very life like.
So I offered WH to stay, got my PhD thesis based on the work at WH approved and started to build the later called “Inception” AI Engine. Most of the core ideas went from my master thesis, but we put a lot of novel stuff (there are even articles about it) into Inception. Anyhow, building an AI Engine from scratch is a pretty insane task for one person, so we started to build a dedicated AI team. Now we are at 5 people strength trying to get all those NPCs under control.
3) Describe your position. What is it about being a AI programmer?
A lot of programming, a lot of meetings about ideas and issues. A lot of blame for stuff not working as “expected”. In the earlier days, it was a lot of meetings and a lot of programming, now it’s less meetings and more programming.
4) Ever worked on videogames before?
Before I joined WH I did only smaller games, either for my own entertainment or just to get some skill. Some projects were for research. During my studies, I made like 2-3 games but then went for a year to do research for IBM on Skype (voice recognition and synthesis). Anyhow, after that, I did some software that possibly landed somewhere in a Sun corporate repository. It was about tracking and logging servers on a large scale. After that, I ended up in serious games research, we did some connecting Half Life, Unreal and VBS (serious version of Arma) into one interconnected world. After that, I started a drone research program at the faculty doing some haptic responsive controls and immersive flying for Quadrotors. But the academic will to do research in this area was not that big and so it went dormant. The military was interested, but they tend to avoid paying any good gold. Anyhow, after that I got into a different area of work which where I met various people and traveled to interesting places. When I got back from, the WH opportunity appeared and the rest is history.
5) Which job would you not want to do? Why?
Any form of repetitive and boring job. Boredom drives me crazy over time.
6) Please describe Warhorse Studios:
That depends on the day and stress level. Most of it is collaborative and productive. But when some nasty bug goes around it gets stressful and people tend to be more short-fused. Doing stuff with some people for several years day in and day out shapes some of the relations like in a family. Anyhow, working at Warhorse is to work with a lot of enthusiastic people who want to do their job as best as possible.
7) Please describe one of your colleagues or your department:
They do an amazing job at what they do. Every one of them. They are very motivated and well skilled.
8) What is your favorite team activity?
There are not many, we go play soccer once a week, sometimes go to a pub. We also went to a gym with some guys to put the stress into some metal, but you know, getting up at 6AM to get to the gym is tiresome.
9) Describe your usual day at the studio?
Come to work, have coffee, fix stuff that is broken, think of new stuff to break, go to lunch, break some stuff, put new stuff in, test it, argue about some stuff on a meeting. In the early days, a lot of my time was about meetings, mostly to argue about how to do something in a certain way. Now days it’s more or less about getting things optimized, making stuff work for the final game. Its less experimental and more to the point.
10) What are you currently working on? (please describe)
A lot of stuff, I alternate between our Asynchronous Animation System for NPCs and Combat Movement. Recently we added Adaptive Animations so NPCs are more fluid in their actions in respect to the environment. Also doing some low level optimizations. The Combat Movement is a constant struggle to get it to look good, be tacticool and be computable.
11) What are some of your notable accomplishments?
Most of the stuff we do is a collaborative effort, so I’m really proud on how “the AI Team” managed to get a completely new AI Engine up and running within the game in like 2-3 years. It’s a huge amount of work that works most of the time. Personally, the biggest accomplishment is to not go crazy from all the work.
12) Why do you think it’s the most important part or thing in the game?
To be fun and rewarding for the player. Boredom is the worst that can happen.
13) What do you like the most about Kingdom Come: Deliverance?
The idea of an open world that is filled with NPC that are adapting to the situation the player creates. I like the idea of NPCs having a personalized agenda that can be explored by observing them.
14) How, when and with what game did you first get acquaintedwith videogames?
I think it was 1988 on a ZX Spectrum. I remember playing the Pooyan game a lot. I still can remember the music from it.
15) What was your best/saddest/happiest, most touching video game moment?
Best moment was to see the intro to Dawn of War 1, because Im a W40k fan. Saddest moment was when my Dungeon Keeper 2 crashed in the final mission. Happiest moments are when I play Heroes of the Storm with some of my colleagues and we steamroll it.
16) Which videogame character or figure is the best? Why?
Reaper from Dungeon Keeper 2. Horns and Scythe…
17) Which class, gender, or type do you usually pick?
Paladin, Male, either tank or armored character. Never liked squishy characters.
18) Which videogame character are you?
Assault Terminator Space Marine in Dawn of War 2
19) Are there any videogames you repeat playing over and over again?
Heroes of the Storm and Dawn of War 1 & 2
20) What would a perfect game according to your wishes look like?
Dawn of War 3
21) Most hilarious bug you have ever encountered or worst video game experience?
The Sins of Solar Empire game did slow down over time. So when we played during the night into the morning, it got desynchronized and it ruined the multiplayer…
22) What game have you been really looking forward to but turned out to be a total disappointment?
I never ride the hype train…
23) How do you relax after a hard day at work?
Go to the gym with my GF, read a good book or go to my workshop and fiddle with my guns.
24) A personal story?
I tell all my stories after a good set of beers.
25) Your favorite music/Spotify playlist
Broad music spectrum, Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed, Lindsey Stirling, M83, Aurora, Sia. Heavily depends on the mood,.
26) Your favorite movie/book?
Books – Snow Crash, Diamond Age, Neuromancer, Flight of the Eisenstein (all of Horus Heresy series), Guards!Guards! (all of Discworld Series), Foundation series of books…
Movies – Apollo 13, We Were Soldiers, Matrix, New Superman and Batman movies, Garden State, Underworld, Forest Gump
27) What species is your spirit animal?
28) Your travel tip?
South East Asia, if you wanna do some nice diving do to Malaysia.
29) Sport is:________?
30) What’s your guilty pleasure?
Cordite, also known as smokeless powder.
31) What was your greatest mistake?
Not confronting some people about stuff that need sorting out.
32) Do you have a Bucket List? (things to do before you die)
Sure, everybody does.
33) What will be your famous last words?
No last words…
34) Do you believe in aliens?
NASA did already find some evidence of microbiological life on Mars, so aliens are a fact.
35) What is your kryptonite?
Blunt and sharp objects to the head. The most common thing.
36) How do you like living in the Czech Republic?
There are worse places to live, places where a human life has no value. In Prague, beer is good, girls have short skirts and people are relatively careless about what you do.
37) What is your weakest trait?
I hold grudges
38) If you could fight 100 duck-sized horses or 1 horse-sized duck, which would you choose?
Depends if their strength would change proportionally with their size.
39) Who is your favorite historic character?
Never had one. Is that mandatory?
40) Which is your favorite historic event?
Apollo 11 landing on the Moon.
41) You have to fight in medieval times… who are you? Which weapon do you choose? Why?
German Merceneries were cool with their halberds. They were very effective.
42) Knights or Samurai?
43) What was your favorite subject and your most hated one at school? What were your grades in history?
School was long ago and fun…
44) If you could say something to the fans of Kingdom Come: Deliverance, what would it be?
Do not ride the hype train…on any game.
If you have any question for Tomáš “Vegeta” Plch and/or his work, please ask here.