D’oh! What am AI saying?

Nearing the end of a thrill-packed second period, Canada again come rushing down the ice. Germany’s defenders fall back, back … then at the last moment try to pressure the puck carrier. But he dances around them, dekes the goalie, and wrists a shot into the net! 4-0 Canada heading into intermission.

Yup, says the commentator, Germany’s play is certainly earning them a chance to play another day …

What?! But they’re losing. Palpably. Thoroughly. Whatever adverb you want to choose to advertise just how much they’re losing. Maybe the announcer misspoke. Or maybe I misheard it. Surely that was meant to be Canada’s play earning rewards.

But no, five minutes into the third period, now 6-0 Canada, and we get another gem. “Germany are definitely playing well … they must’ve had a note pinned to the board in the locker room saying, ‘Win to play another day.’” (Or it was something equally inspiring … can’t remember the exact quote, just that Germany seemed to be using it to win the game … only they weren’t. At all.)

In the real world, this announcer wouldn’t even be broadcasting at this level. Or wouldn’t be for long. But this is a video game, and the announcer AI seems to have been left out to become delusional in the hot sun. And this wasn’t some small title—this was EA’s NHL 2013, and the announcers make a lot of inappropriate comments, such as

  • in tournament mode, they’ll make comments about how young the ‘season’ is (‘not even played ten games’), when there isn’t a season at all—just round-robin play, which is nearly over.
  • in the same mode, they’ll make comments about living to play another day, or being out of the playoffs, or it being a must-win—again in round-robin play, where records determine seeding in the upcoming tournament playoff, not whether or not the team gets there.

Now, these aren’t exact quotes (I didn’t think to write them down as they happened, since I was busy scoring goals 🙂 ). And they don’t, I’d hope, indicate the level of testing the actual player AI underwent. And ultimately the commentator AI may very well have been little more than a series of if statements, if x are ahead say ‘yea for x’. But it’s this kind of thing that’s both incredibly obvious and throws one out of the gaming experience. It should have been easy to catch and fix. I mean, I’ve played the game a lot, but not as much as it should have been played in development. And if a big company with loads of dev money can miss things like this … well, it’s a cautionary tale for those of us on tight budgets with small dev teams. The moral of which is, be very alert, test EVERYTHING a LOT, and don’t be afraid to come out late if that means catching a few more obvious errors. And playtest EXTENSIVELY.

Or it may be that, like Germany’s EA hockey team, you can’t win for losing.

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