The Talos Principle on PS4: Designing AI to Test a Game About AI

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The Talos Principle on PS4: Designing AI to Test a Game About AI

The October 13th launch date for The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition on PS4 is drawing near and with that we wanted to pull back the curtain a little bit on the award-winning philosophical puzzle game. Making a game is hard, and making a puzzle game might be harder because it requires finding a fine balance between challenging players on an increasing difficulty curve while always being fair with the logic and reasoning required to find the solutions.

At a certain point during the development process, we realized that we need to test gameplay on daily basis, as minor design changes could break carefully planned puzzle concepts very easily. We just couldn’t afford manpower for that purpose, since The Talos Principle was shaping out to be very, very long, so we had to think of something completely different. And what better way to test a game about sentient AI than with AI? Thus – The Bot was born. His purpose was to play through each new game build and solve all puzzles, reporting ones that couldn’t be solved (due to errors in mechanics, obstacles etc.).

To be able to do this, Bot got a set of navigational and behavior markers, telling him what to do on specific spots, like pick up a hexahedron or connect a red emitter with a red source. Using this basic programming and advanced path navigation, he was able to solve puzzle after puzzle, until the whole game was tested, which would take average human around 4-5 hours. Once the logic for automated bot testing was there, we could actually skip the rendering part and do the time-lapse, so that it took him only 20 minutes to go through entire game, and report all bugs that he could find.

The Talos Principle

The Talos PrincipleThe Talos Principle

This helped us tremendously as we could sleep peacefully knowing the game could be played from start to finish. We estimate that Bot spent equivalent of 80,000 human hours of pure playtime to test The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition completely as well as the included expansion Road to Gehenna.

While there will always be a place for standard human testers in games, advances like the Bot in The Talos Principle provide developers like Croteam hundreds of hours of human playtesting time compacted down to just a day or so. By utilizing several of these bots testing simultaneously, Croteam can comb through the game in a few hours and repeat with each adjustment made by level designers in order to create a nearly flawless experience for the fans.

The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition launches on PS4 October 13th via PlayStation Store and at retail. This PlayStation-exclusive edition includes the original award-winning game and the massive Road to Gehenna expansion for more masterful players.

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  • Behind-the-scenes stories like this are fascinating to me :-). It would seem time-prohibitive to spend resource making an AI bot like this, but if it produced 80k hours of gameplay feedback I’d say it was well worth-it! In a not entirely dissimilar way, folks at Hello Games have the intractable problem of an near-infinite universe, so they’ve created AI players to visit the furthest reaches of their galaxy and report back.

    I wonder if any QA companies out there could (or already do) specifically focus on developing game-playing AI, and if more people could use these techniques they’d ship higher quality games that require less patching down the line.

    Congrats on your upcoming PS4 launch!

  • I’ve really been looking forward to this game! I can’t wait to get it on PS4!

  • Cool concept. Thanks for sharing! Really looking forward to The Talos Principle on PS4.

    • I already bought this game, but I haven’t played it yet ( i did play and love the demo though! ) I have been waiting to play it on my tv, because I don’t like to hook up my stuff to my computer to play on my tv. This and The Witness are my two most anticipated games! :)

  • I think it’s great that game devs are putting more focus on testing, and coming up with solutions like this (which in the non-game industry parlance I suppose would be called automated functional testing). Games are getting inherently more complex and it is increasingly not possible to expect to have the ‘perfect’ release that many have come to expect from the simpler games of yesteryear.

    Thanks for sharing this, it’s always informative (and cool) to hear about stuff like this.

  • That AI stuff sounds cool, but that AI playing the game looked very boring

  • Will the Deluxe pack for PS4 include the soundtrack? If so, will it be available for both physical and digital purchases? Very stoked to play this game. Thank you.

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