/tg/ Station 13 - Modules - Types

Learn AI

In ye olde days, we designed mob AI, and we built it into simple animals as they were the "non player controlled" mobs. Made sense at the time. But by coding AI directly into the mob, there was so little ability to make unique or complicated AI, and even when it was pulled off the code was hacky and non-reusable. the datum AI system was made to rectify these problems, and expand AI beyond just mobs.

AI Controllers Attach

Any atom can have an AI controller, I'm choosing a basic mob for this guide, because basic mobs stand as a nice "blank canvas" for AI on mobs. Simple animals come with AI built into the mob, basic mobs don't, which is great for us adding AI on top of it.

Anyways, we just define the type of AI this mob has on the ai_controller var. It starts as a type, but is turned into an instance once the mob is instantiated.

	name = "butterfly"
	desc = "A colorful butterfly, how'd it get up here?"
	// a lot more variables defining for us what a butterfly is

	ai_controller = /datum/ai_controller/basic/butterfly
Controllers Themselves

First, let's look at the blackboard.

	blackboard = list(
		BB_TARGETING_STRATEGY = new /datum/targeting_strategy/basic/allow_items(),

Think of the blackboard as the unique format for variables. They are set initially, or by behaviors, but never in subtrees. Because we check blackboard[BB_SOME_KEY] instead of a variable, we can wipe out variables and slap new ones onto the AI as it runs. For example, this cow uses BB_BASIC_MOB_TIP_REACTING and BB_BASIC_MOB_TIPPER because cows can get tipped, and the AI needs to know that in the subtrees when it plans behavior. And in fact, those two keys aren't required to be defined initially, it's just for clarity that they are.

Speaking of subtrees, let's look at that now.


	planning_subtrees = list(
		/datum/ai_planning_subtree/tip_reaction, //<- goes first
		/datum/ai_planning_subtree/find_and_eat_food, //<- goes second
		/datum/ai_planning_subtree/random_speech/cow, //<- goes last! But at any point, a previous subtree can end the chain. If a cow is tipped over, it shouldn't make random noises or try finding food!
	//and by the end for however many subtrees ran, each one that did may have planned behavior for the AI to act on.

AI's work by planning specific behaviors, and subtrees are datums that bundle the planning of behavior together. From top to bottom they run, and they can cancel future subtrees. As an example, cows have their very first consideration be tip_reaction, a subtree that prevents further subtrees like eating food and random speech, as well as planning out how the cow reacts (looking sad at the person who tipped it).

	ai_traits = null
	ai_movement = /datum/ai_movement/basic_avoidance
	idle_behavior = null

Finally, we have some more minor things.

  • ai_traits are flags for the AI, things like "STOP_MOVING_WHEN_PULLED" slightly modifying how the AI acts under some situations.
  • ai_movement is how the mob moves to its movement target. ranges from simple behaviors like ai_movement/dumb that awlays move in the direction of the target and hope there's nothing in the way, all the way to ai_movement/jps that plans and occasionally recalcuates more complicated paths, at the cost of more lag.
  • idle_behavior is just some simpler behavior to perform when nothing has been planned at all, like idle_behavior/idle_random_walk making a mob wander passively.
Subtrees and Behaviors

Okay, so we have blackboard variables, which are considered by subtrees to plan behaviors. Let's actually look at a subtree planning behaviors, and behaviors themselves.

/// this subtree checks if the mob has a target. if it doesn't, it plans looking for food. if it does, it tries to eat the food via attacking it.
/datum/ai_planning_subtree/find_and_eat_food/SelectBehaviors(datum/ai_controller/controller, seconds_per_tick)
	//get things out of blackboard
	var/datum/weakref/weak_target = controller.blackboard[BB_BASIC_MOB_CURRENT_TARGET]
	var/atom/target = weak_target?.resolve()
	var/list/wanted = controller.blackboard[BB_BASIC_FOODS]

	//we see if we have a target (remember, anything can be in that blackboard, it's not a hard reference)
	if(!target || QDELETED(target))
		//we need to find some food
		controller.queue_behavior(/datum/ai_behavior/find_and_set/in_list, BB_BASIC_MOB_CURRENT_TARGET, wanted)
		return //this allows further subtrees to plan since we're doing a non-invasive behavior like checking the viscinity for food.

	//now we know we have a target but should let a hostile subtree plan attacking humans. let's check if it's actually food
	if(target in wanted)
		controller.queue_behavior(/datum/ai_behavior/basic_melee_attack, BB_BASIC_MOB_CURRENT_TARGET, BB_TARGETING_STRATEGY, BB_BASIC_MOB_CURRENT_TARGET_HIDING_LOCATION)
		return SUBTREE_RETURN_FINISH_PLANNING //this prevents further subtrees from planning since we want to focus on eating the food

And one of those behaviors, basic_melee_attack. As I have been doing so far, I've dumped in a bunch of comments explaining how this one behavior gets mobs to chase a target and slap it if in range.

///this behavior makes an AI get close to their movement target, and attack every time perform() is called.
	action_cooldown = 0.6 SECONDS
	//flag tells the AI it needs to have a movement target to work, and since it doesn't have "AI_BEHAVIOR_MOVE_AND_PERFORM", it won't call perform() every 0.6 seconds until it is in melee range. Smart!

/datum/ai_behavior/basic_melee_attack/setup(datum/ai_controller/controller, target_key, targeting_strategy_key, hiding_location_key)
	. = ..()
	//all this is doing in setup is setting the movement target. setup is called once when the behavior is first planned, and returning FALSE can cancel the behavior if something isn't right.

	//Hiding location is priority
	var/datum/weakref/weak_target = controller.blackboard[hiding_location_key] || controller.blackboard[target_key]
	var/atom/target = weak_target?.resolve()
		return FALSE
	//now the AI_BEHAVIOR_REQUIRE_MOVEMENT flag will be happy, we have a target to always be moving towards.
	controller.current_movement_target = target

///perform will run every "action_cooldown" deciseconds as long as the conditions are good for it to do so (we set "AI_BEHAVIOR_REQUIRE_MOVEMENT", so it won't perform until in range).
/datum/ai_behavior/basic_melee_attack/perform(seconds_per_tick, datum/ai_controller/controller, target_key, targeting_strategy_key, hiding_location_key)
	. = ..()
	var/mob/living/basic/basic_mob = controller.pawn
	//targeting strategy will kill the action if not real anymore
	var/datum/weakref/weak_target = controller.blackboard[target_key]
	var/atom/target = weak_target?.resolve()
	var/datum/targeting_strategy/targeting_strategy = controller.blackboard[targeting_strategy_key]

	if(!targeting_strategy.can_attack(basic_mob, target))
		///We have a target that is no longer valid to attack. Remember that returning doesn't end the behavior, JUST this single performance. So we call "finish_action" with whether it succeeded in doing what it wanted to do (it didn't, so FALSE) and the blackboard keys passed into this behavior.
		finish_action(controller, FALSE, target_key)
		return //don't forget to end the performance too

	var/hiding_target = targeting_strategy.find_hidden_mobs(basic_mob, target) //If this is valid, theyre hidden in something!

	controller.blackboard[hiding_location_key] = hiding_target

	///and finally, we're in range, we have a valid target, we can attack. When they fall into crit, they will no longer be a valid target, to the melee behavior will end.
	if(hiding_target) //Slap it!

///and so the action has ended. we can now clean up the AI's blackboard based on the success of the action, and the keys passed in.
/datum/ai_behavior/basic_melee_attack/finish_action(datum/ai_controller/controller, succeeded, target_key, targeting_strategy_key, hiding_location_key)
	. = ..()
	///if the behavior failed, the target is no longer valid, so we should lose aggro of them. We remove the target_key (which could be anything, it's whatever key was passed into the behavior by the subtree) from the blackboard. Couldn't do THAT with normal variables!
		controller.blackboard -= target_key