Designing AI Side Kicks that Don’t Suck

AIGameDev talks about the heroic task of creating AI side kicks. Whether it’s the the Arbiter in Halo 3 or Fable 2‘s dog, a good side kick is in high demand these days, yet still elusive.

Non Player Characters with the life expectancy of the Star Trek “Red Shirt” aren’t very difficult to program for. They don’t stick around long enough to become annoying. However when you have an NPC who sticks with the character for most of the game, it becomes more difficult to make them useful without being a nuisance. This is especially true in RPGs that can play for 40 plus hours. It’s the ultimate design challenge and can make a great deal of difference in the player’s enjoyment of the game.

You have some annoying, mildly useful person circling you like a small moon, kinda holding his own in a fight – maybe enough to allow you to step back and toss down a sports drink, but whose true calling seems to be making repetitive and vaguely helpful comments that, at times, cause you to pause for a moment and ask “what the heck did he say that for?”

Wow have I been there and done that. Read about “The Art of AI Sidekicks: Making Sure Robin Doesn’t Suck” on

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3 Comments on Designing AI Side Kicks that Don’t Suck


On June 15, 2008 at 4:24 pm

The solution, as demonstrated by Valve, is to make that AI side kick invincible. Problem solved!


On June 17, 2008 at 11:20 pm

Superfly Johnson



On September 24, 2009 at 2:33 pm

The companion cube from Portal was the best sidekick ever. I felt so bad when I had to kill it.