One of the games I play most frequently is an MMO called Guild Wars 2. In this game, there is a personal storyline that only your character experiences which is separate from the rest of the game world. There are multiple missions that you complete within the story arc, accompanied by a cast of game-controlled characters. One of them is the green guy pictured above: a Sylvari by the name of Trahearne.
Usually, when it comes to AI (short for artificial intelligence), I would rather do without it. Many, many missions are spent with me name-calling, screaming, yelling, insulting, and threatening the AI characters I’m forced to deal with. They get stuck. They die way too easily. They rush into bad situations. They leave you behind. They can’t keep up. They sacrifice themselves for no good reason. They leave you dead on the ground and stare stupidly at your corpse. The list of their failings goes on and on, and I find that it heavily outweighs their list of positive attributes. Dealing with artificial intelligence makes me want to rip my hair out, and there have been many a time when I’ve wanted to be done with it altogether.
Trahearne is no exception to the rule. He makes me so mad. He dies faster than a rabbit in a field of lions. He gets left behind all the time and, when he can’t find me, then refuses to go any further. He doesn’t like to revive me, preferring instead that I waste my time running back from the revive checkpoint. And I don’t even really like his personality. He’s kind of strange and distant, and not someone I can connect to at all. Frankly, the name “Trahearne” often comes out of my mouth either in anger or disgust. For the longest time, we weren’t on speaking terms.
Until something remarkable happened.
I was doing a higher-level mission with Trahearne and it was incredibly frustrating. I’d died about a dozen times already and the entire group of AI soldiers I was working with kept getting wiped out. I was in the middle of another attempt to fight off a tough boss, and actually pretty close to killing the darn thing, when I misclicked a skill (the warrior’s skill Rush, to be precise) and ran right off the edge of the platform I was standing on. Not only had I run in the opposite direction of the boss I was fighting, but I had also fallen off the edge of the platform, landing on the rocks beneath and dying instantly.
I was furious. After quite a bit of screaming at the computer screen and clenching white-knuckled fists, I managed to calm myself down. I was so frustrated, having already died so many times in this mission, and I wanted to give up. I was tired of making the long trek from the revive checkpoint all the way back to the platform. It was time for me to quit, I thought, but all notions of surrender were dashed from my mind when I saw something absolutely miraculous.
For some inexplicable, unfathomable, most remarkable reason, Trahearne was kneeling beside my corpse, reviving me.
Trahearne never revived me. He always let me stay dead on the ground, never caring that it was actually me that kept the storyline going. But yet, here he was. He had come all the way down from the platform, interrupting his battle with the boss and abandoning the other soldiers to help me–to revive me. He had gone against the very nature of his artificial intelligence to come to my aid, and I had no idea why. Once I had been revived, now with Trahearne at my side, I did nothing but stand in shock for a few moments. I wanted to sob and apologize and hug Trahearne for all of the insults and threats I’d thrown at him. I wanted to tell him how amazingly wonderful he was, for going out of his way to come rescue me. I actually wanted to keep playing that frustrating mission, because Trahearne had done so much to keep me on my feet.
“You can’t give up yet,” he seemed to be saying in his strange, silent way. “We need you out there.”
So I went back. I went back up to that platform and beat the living daylights out of that boss. I kept fighting that stupid mission until I’d finished it. And I never again thought of quitting out of frustration.
Now, I look at Trahearne a different way. He may still get stuck in annoying places, collapse like a soggy noodle in the heat of battle, and refuse to revive me most of the time, but I’ve realized that he isn’t such a bad guy after all. In fact, I’ve started to look at AI differently as a whole. Sure, it’s super frustrating to work with, but there are still those rare moments when it will surprise you by being a little bit more than just computer programming. Sometimes, AI has a heart.
Adventures can surprise you, and so too can the people around you. Just goes to show that you can never be too sure where your next inspiration will come from.
What are some surprises you’ve come across recently? Have you ever had a similar experience, where AI showed its heart?
May you never take for granted the joys of a surprise and the places they can come from.