Developers didn’t expect NPCs to create super weapons

Frontier pulls new feature after Elite’s AI hunts players

UK studio Frontier Developments has temporarily scrapped a new feature in Elite Dangerous after the game’s AI showed unexpectedly aggressive behaviour.

The bug emerged from the 2.1 Engineers update, which improved the sci-fi title’s NPCs in order to make them more competent in combat, allow them to pull players from jump speed into normal space, and craft new additions for their vessels.

Herein lay the problem.

Kotaku reports that the AI was able to craft ‘super weapons’, which when combined with the improved combat and the fact players weren’t safe at jump speed meant that gamers were being ruthlessly hunted down by foes they could not beat.

Frontier says the designers had never intended for the AI to craft these weapons and has, for now, removed them from the game.

“It appears that the unusual weapons attacks were caused by some form of networking issue which allows the NPC AI to merge weapon stats and abilities,” community manager Zac Antonaci wrote on the game’s forums.

“Meaning that all new and never before seen (sometimes devastating) weapons were created, such as a rail gun with the fire rate of a pulse laser. These appear to have been compounded by the additional stats and abilities of the Engineers weaponry.”

While these weapons have been removed, Antonaci assures players that “the AI has in now way been reduced”, and the Frontier team is attempting to fix this bug.

Improvements in AI open a lot of opportunities for developers to create emergent experiences in their games. Of course, it helps if players can survive those experiences long enough to enjoy them.

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