One of the first things we're going to be beta testing for Elemental is a new way of doing computer AI. As some of you know, the main reason I got into development in the first place was to write computer AI for games.
Elemental is an opportunity to try some new things. For example, the initial betas of Elemental are going to require the user to be on the Internet to play. The reason is that the computer AI won't be inside the game itself but instead be implemented as AI players on the Impulse game cloud that we're building.
So you would, in effect, start up Elemental like you would a multiplayer game except that the people joining your game wouldn't be people. They would be AI people. And the AI work won't just be in how they play the game but how they behave -- in the lobby and elsewhere with the goal to make them feel like real people (except not jerks).
These AI players will have their own Impulse accounts with their own standings in the rankings, their own achievements, etc. The code won't execute on your machine, it'll be all server-based.
The final version of the game, of course, will not require the user to be on the Internet. We will bundle a number of the AI players in with the game to play single player, off-line games.
But what I hope to do is to build a cloud of multiplayer AI players that I can constantly be updating and enhancing in near-real time based on the data I get back from them on how they were beat, what exploits were used against them, what chat messages were sent to it that it needs to respond to (I'll probably have it respond "no speako English" for the most part).
In the final version of the game, these AI bots will be out there ready to join on-line games. We will give players the ability to discriminate against the robots if they have some sort of anti-robot issue and don't want them joining their multiplayer games. But the match-making system otherwise won't know which players are controlled by humans and which are controlled by the robots.
The nice thing is that for people who are used to playing with strangers on-line, the robots will help fill out the on-line community with people to play against who are explicitly designed to play like people (well like decent people not the people who drop immediately).
I expect the first version of this to be included with Beta 1 of Elemental (i.e. this isn't some "future" thing) which we expect will be out this Spring.