An AI Created New Doom Levels That Are As Fun As The Game's Original Ones

The technical skills of programmer John Carmack helped create the 3D world of Doom, the first-person shooter that took over the world 25 years ago. But it was level designers like John Romero and American McGee that made the game fun to play. Level designers that, today, might find their jobs threatened by the ever-growing capabilities of artificial intelligence.

One of the many reasons Doom became so incredibly popular was that id Software made tools available that let anyone create their own levels for the game, resulting in thousands of free ways to add to its replay value.

First-person 3D games and their level design have advanced by leaps and bounds since the original Doom's release, but the sheer volume of user-created content made it the ideal game for training an AI to create its own levels.

Researchers at the Politecnico di Milano university in Italy created a generative adversarial network for the task, which essentially uses two artificially intelligent algorithms working against each other to optimise the overall results.

One algorithm was fed thousands of Doom levels which it analysed for criteria like overall size, enemy placement, and the number of rooms. It then used what it learned to generate its own original Doom levels.

GIF: Politecnico di Milano

The second algorithm studied the same man-made Doom levels as the first did, but used what it learned to compare the new AI-generated levels to the originals. The idea is that if you can fool the second algorithm into thinking a computer-designed level was actually made by a real gamer, then it must be as good.

Few gamers are still playing Doom these days, but this approach to AI as level designer is still in its infancy. The algorithms used could also be trained on levels from any first-person video game released over the past 25 years. The more source material it studies, the better the potential results will be.

Procedurally-generated games have existed for a while now, where the software itself continuously spits out unique levels as a gamer plays, but they lack the complexities and nuances that man-made levels deliver. There's a reason monsters were occasionally hidden right behind doors in Doom, to add to the experience and keep players engaged.

But now that an AI can do the same thing, we might one day see games that can generate an infinite number of levels, so they never run out of replay value.

[YouTube via Futurism]


    Of course, the catch to this is: "Garbage in, garbage out."

    I also remember those heady days of Doom custom levels, with CDs being released offering: "1,000 levels for Doom 2!"
    The catch was that maybe only about two dozen of them were probably worth playing, not that anyone would ever find out, because after 200 bad/boring levels, even a Doom-obsessed teenager with all the free time in the world would lose the apetite for searching. God help anyone else.

    You'd really want to feed in only the true cream of the crop for the AI to learn from, and even then - what chance does it have to improve on those? To surpass?

    Still... it's a promising field of study even if only for development of The Elder Scrolls VI.

    One of the strengths of Skyrim is that it's such a vast area that even hundreds of hours into it, you could still find yourself surprised by stumbling across content you've never seen before. It takes a truly insane amount of human effort to build that content... if AI could get it to an almost-working state then have human level designers/artists give it a make-over pass once the bulk of the tedious buildwork is done, Skyrim 2 could blow some minds.

    If by "levels that are as fun as the game's original ones" you actually mean "levels that are as good as the worst crappy levels you'd find developed by ten year olds who knew nothing about level or game design", then I would agree with you.

    While having AI generated levels is interesting, these look like uninspired and boring trashfires of levels - the headline is grossly overselling these their quality.

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