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I'm curious about the finer functions of Super Mario Kart's AI and similar AI's. I know that they are waypoint based, but how do they actually deal with waypoints and driving lines? How do they handle combat?
Is there only a single predetermined route through the track and the AI can deviate from it a little? Are there multipe predefined driving lines and the AI chooses one randomly? Does every AI kart have its own route?
When do they pick up weapons? How do they know when to use them?
I've seen videos on Youtube about custom tracks for Super Mario Kart with custom AI, so I figured there should be at least one person here who knows how the whole thing works.
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I have no idea, but perhaps these articles might be interesting?

Double Dash Post Play'em
Rubberbanding
I really hope it is not waypoint based. Waypoint means the AI is set on rails; those rails may branch at some points, but they ares till rails. That may be fine for simple 2D games or heavily scripted 3D games, but not for somehing as emergent as a racing game. If you throw and obstacle on the rails the AI won't know what to do, so trying to get the AI to do something sensible is a very hacky process.

Instead what's used is nav meshes. Basically the entire walkable area is covered by polygons and the AI first figures out through whih polygons to go. Figuring out the way inside a polygon is simple, especially if the polygon is convex (for any pair of points inside the polygon you can always draw a straight line that doesn't leave the polygon).

The difference between waypoints and nav meshes is that once you thow an obstacle into a polygon you just need to change that one polygon and the AI can figure out the rest without extra coding effort. Another advantage is that meshes completely cover areas, waypoints can only come close and if an object ends up between traveling lines it's lost to the waypoint AI.
I know for a fact that early racing games used waypoint based AI due to lack of processing power. Since we are talking about the SNES here, I'm pretty sure Super Mario Kart uses waypoints.
I can't say for sure, but it does seem waypoint based.

As for when the AI picks up weapons? It does not. It never picks up anything, all the cart drivers have their own weapons (and most of them work the same, only Mario & Luigi are given weapons that work differently. Toadstool's weapon will shrink you, unlike all other weapons, but it is still used the same way). The AI will try to use its weapons against you if you are within range. Mario & Luigi will try to run into you if you are close in front of them, as they have stars rather than generic throwing weapons.

These are just my observations from playing the game.
Post edited May 03, 2013 by AFnord
I don't have a clue about technical details but I remember reading complaints before that the AI in the Mario Karts was given advantages. If the player got too far ahead the computer basically teleported the AI closer behind them. Not sure if that helps.:/
You may read this interesting article from AI Game Programming Wisdom. It's a bit old but the principles are still actual
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NerdKoopa: I know for a fact that early racing games used waypoint based AI due to lack of processing power. Since we are talking about the SNES here, I'm pretty sure Super Mario Kart uses waypoints.
Ah, I'm sorry, I missed the "Super" in the title, so I thought it was Mario Kart in general.