Killer Instinct is building the fighting game AI of the future

3 min read

Killer Instinct

Fighting game AI is…predictable to say the least. Most of the time, it’s a reactive artificial intelligence that always responds with specific moves to certain scenarios. Moves that can easily be countered and worked around, especially if the AI is a cheap hammer-tossing bastard who pauses every five seconds to gloat. Shao Kahn, I’m looking at you. But AI in fighting games are evolving. They are adapting, and resistance may soon be futile, as Killer Instinct has one hell of an idea being worked on.

Killer Instinct, the best fighting game around that honestly deserves more of your love, has an idea. An idea for Shadow Brains that is. Announced earlier this year, the new AI system being worked on for Killer Instinct involves the AI fighting back with a combat system based on your own moves and techniques. “Everything your shadow does in a fight is something you’ve actually done before,” Iron Galaxy’s Bruce Hayles said to GamesRadar.

If you never block while training your shadow, then it will never block. If you historically stop [attacking] on wakeup after repeatedly being punished, your shadow will adapt in the same way.

It’s an idea that improves on ideas introduced in other, older fighting games. But instead of adapting to use some of your techniques, the shadow system will use all of it instead. “When you play against your shadow, it can get really spooky,” said Microsoft Studios design director James Goddard.

I guarantee at some point when you’re fighting your shadow in a mirror match, you’re going to do a move at the same time as your shadow. The two will trade hits, and you’ll be like ‘Whoa.’ Bruce and his team have created what may eventually become Skynet. It really gets in your head.

Shadows will be created on a per-character setup, allowing players to train with them on an individual level by fighting them or uploading gameplay data generated from fighting other AI, shadow, or human opponents. This all feeds into the shadow brain, which analyses your particular fighting style. Mine is, I’d imagine, Soft chin hard fist.


Once you’ve trained a shadow up, you can then send them into the wilds of the net, where they’ll fight for you. Should somebody mess your shadow up, a shadow bounty will be placed on the head of the culprit. Which means that you’ll be able to hit the dojo again and send your doppleganger out for a rematch. “There’s definitely a nostalgia for the super hard AI of the ’90s,” said Hayles of the old school inspiration.

The traditional AI can be fun and challenging, but in many ways you’re playing a different game compared to fighting another human. It’s the difference of fighting what the developer wants you to fight, versus the unpredictability of a live opponent.

And it’ll still be better than that Shao Kahn AI. Blerry bastard.

Last Updated: June 1, 2015

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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