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AI Game Programmer

The role, salary, software and skills of an AI programmer

AI game programmer job description

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Programmers can be said to give a game its brain. They create algorithms that set the behavior of characters and elements based on the gameplay of the individual player. This is done by customising the reactions of gameplay to the actions of the player. Elements such as pathfinding, group movement and camera control are all embedded into the gameplay strategy. 

In this highly specialized field programmers establish decision trees and design neural networks within the game, creating artificial nerve systems. AI programming is at the cutting edge of game development as it has a deep impact on gameplay that players may not be aware of, this leads to a dynamic and intuitive experience.

Role and Responsibilities

The role of the AI (Artificial Intelligence) Programmer is to cater gameplay to the individual player. This is done by writing algorithms that create a system of action and reaction based on a unique set of decisions made by the player at every stage of the game. 

AI Programming is a highly specialized area of game development, it should be seamless and invisible to the player by enhancing the experience on a subliminal level. This area of development is about providing the game with a ‘brain’ that works instinctively and independently based on the individual player’s gameplay. 

Responsibilities of an AI Programmer may include:

  • Liaising with designers and developers to devise an AI plan
  • Setting patterns and parameters for the rules of the game
  • Creating a framework for artificial emotions and ideas within non-playable characters
  • Researching and developing AI elements that will best enhance the game
  • Creating procedures and production documents
  • Working to tight schedules and keeping on budget
  • Assisting animators and programmers on AI requirements
  • Enhancing the gameplay experience for users
  • Collaborating with game testers to identify bugs and effect changes based on feedback
  • Writing custom code and AI tools to expand the game
  • Brainstorming with designers, animators and developers on AI techniques throughout the process
  • Developing prototypes for testing

Software and Other Tools Used

AI Programmers work with standard computer platforms, 3D animation software, gaming engines, profiling tools and AI software. They will also write custom code for AI tools required by the game. 

Software used by AI Programmers may include:

  • C++
  • Python
  • PyTorch
  • PyBrain
  • STL
  • OpenGL
  • PhysX
  • Perl
  • Perforce
  • Unreal Engine
  • Nuke
  • Maya
  • 3D Studio Max

Skills Required

An AI Programmer must be skilled in AI technologies, techniques and the subtleties of gameplay. They need to have highly developed problem solving abilities and enjoy the challenge of complex computing issues.

Employers may look for the following skills in AI programmers:

  • Trained in computer science, engineering or game development
  • Specialized knowledge of artificial intelligence and its future in gaming
  • Equally creative and critical thinker
  • Abstract thinker, understanding of relational reasoning
  • Strong intuition for how artificial intelligence works
  • Experienced in writing algorithms
  • Background in advanced mathematics
  • Solid understanding of physics
  • Ability to combine computer programming with human insight
  • Advanced problem solving skills
  • Familiar with the game production pipeline process
  • Passion for video games and experience with gaming
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Team player, able to work independently
  • Highly skilled in innovation
  • Understanding of the psychologies of characters and how they are likely to behave
  • Knowledge of automation scripts
  • Familiar with neural networks and deep learning

Average Salary

AI Programmers will earn the same as Game Programmers, however, this is not an entry level position. The average salary of the AI Programmer is between USD $49,000 to USD $85,000. *Source: Glassdoor

To learn more about this field, visit: The Game Development Process: How Video Games are Made or read our interview with Ubisoft AI programmer Firas Hosn.

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