Hi, I’m Mark Williams, Technology Director at VooFoo Studios, developers of the soon to be released Hustle Kings for PSN and PS3. We really wanted to make sure Hustle Kings was something special right from the start, and the response from the unveiling at E3 has exceeded all of our initial expectations.
Everyone who has seen and played Hustle Kings so far has been incredibly impressed, and one of the things that many people have commented on is how brilliantly the AI plays. We have such a comprehensive selection of online and multiplayer game modes in Hustle Kings, I was keen to ensure that our single player career campaign was just as challenging and enjoyable. I initially sat down and played a lot of other pool and snooker games, and it really struck me as to how tiresome and predictable the AI generally was. I found myself wanting to skip past the shots played by my computer controlled opponent as they just weren’t fun to watch. Hustle Kings needed something different, I thought, we needed to make our AI both challenging and entertaining.
Pool, and snooker probably even more so, are not games simply about potting balls. When lining up to pot a ball, you ideally want to leave the cue ball in a position that makes your next shot easier. Conversely, if you’re not able to pot a ball, you want to make the next shot difficult for your opponent, and in games such as Killer, this is even more important because the next shot will always be taken by your opponent. When a computer controlled opponent is lining up its shot in Hustle Kings, it can read where all the possible pots are within an instant, but instead of always opting for the easiest and most obvious shot, it will consider the alternatives, and how different shots will affect the table.
In Hustle Kings, bonus credits are also awarded for skillful shots that involve swerves or jumps, and pots that include plants or banks, so the AI is always trying to look for the best shot possible, to leave the cue ball in the best possible position, and earn as many bonus credits as possible along the way. But this is only the beginning. At the top end of our difficulty scale we are able to entice it to go much further, to attempt crazy and seemingly impossible shots. Try leaving the insane-level AI tight up against a cushion, awkwardly snookered on its only remaining ball, with no possible path of escape. Somehow, more often than not, it will manage an escape. It’s quite a sight to see the AI smash the cue-ball into the jaw of a pocket so hard that it bounces up along the rail, rolls past the obstructing balls, spins back down onto the table, pots the remaining ball and leaves itself perfectly positioned on the black – and you know that it was all planned. Some AI opponents will even show off and purposely leave themselves in these tricky situations, only to make the next shot appear just as trivial as the one before it.
There’s no cheating here – the AI is in no way defying the laws of physics and every single shot the AI pulls off is one that any human player could also pull off. When watching the AI play Hustle Kings, you get to see how much spin and power is being applied – trying the same shot yourself will yield exactly the same result.
There is one problem with this AI though: as it stands, it’s pretty unbeatable. It might be entertaining to watch, but if you can’t beat it, then where’s the fun in that? Thankfully we have a variety of AI characters in Hustle Kings, at various skill levels, all set to play in different ways. Some make occasional mistakes, others are fiendishly difficult, but whether you’re a beginner or an expert pool player, you’ll find a suitable opponent for an enjoyable game. Once you’ve conquered the easy, difficult and expert level career modes, you get to play against the incredibly challenging insane-level AI. Even the most hardcore pool players will have a tough time completing the insane career mode!
Keep your eyes peeled for more Hustle Kings news coming your way soon.