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I'm passionate person, who has been around AI from a long time [1] but never going in deep enough. Now it's time!

I've been really looking for some way to concentrate on AI coding but couldn't succeeded to find an AI environment I can focus on. I just want to use an AI sandbox environment which would let me have tools like:

  • visibility information
  • character controller
  • able to easily define a level, with obstacles of course
  • physics
  • collider management
  • triggers management
  • don't need to be a shiny, eye candy graphical render : this is about pathfinding, tactical reasoning, etc..

I have tried :

  • Unreal Dev Kit : while the new release announce is about C++ coding, this is about external tools and will be released in 2013
  • Cry Engine : really interesting as AI is presents here but coding with it appears to be an hell: did I got it wrong ?
  • Half Life source, C4, Torque, Dx Studio : either quite old, not very useful or costly these imply to dig in documentation (when provided) to code everything, graphics included.
  • Unity 3D : the most promising platform. While you also need to create your own environment, there are lot of examples. The disadvantage is, in addition to spend time to have this env. working, is the languages choice : C#, Javascript or Boo. C# is not that hard, but this implies you'll allways have to convert papers (I love those from Lars Linden) books codes, or anything you can have in Aigamedev are most often in C++. This is extra work. I've look at "Simple Path", the very good Arong Greenberg work but no source provided and AngryAnt work.
  • AI Sandbox : this seems to be exactly what as AI coder I want to use. I saw some preview but from 2009 we still don't know what it will be about precisely, will it be opensource or free (I strongly doubt), will I be able to buy it? will it really provide me tools I need to focus on AI ?

That being said, what is the best environment to be able to focus on AI coding only, is it even possible?

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closed as not constructive by Kylotan, Tetrad Feb 15 '13 at 16:20

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3 Answers

An option if you're not looking for an eventual release are the Quake 3 based open source games, like OpenArena or Alien Arena. You could use any of the pre-built levels and have the other bots in the distribution as examples. I have no idea whether these really do meet your requirements or not, but I know that you can make bots in them, they are free, and they're not on your list, so I'm just tossing them out there.

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Regarding Unity3D, if you're ok with working in a Windows environment, you can compile C++ examples to Dlls (try to use C++/CLI, or make a .NET wrapper to the unmanaged dll using Pinvokes) and import them in the references of the project. More on this here:

http://answers.unity3d.com/questions/8798/interop-with-other-c-assemblies.html

http://answers.unity3d.com/questions/42719/how-should-i-add-references-to-additional-mono-ass.html

http://forum.unity3d.com/threads/32267-How-to-use-custom-compiled-c-dlls-or-assemblies

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The only piece of software that is right for you is the one that you write.

Don't bother searching for this among the options that the market is offering, this are production tools, not research tools, they are geared for production not for experiments, also they are subject to several license terms and optional payment options.

If I was you i would approach this in terms of languages rather than tools, use Python if you want a modern scripting language with more than decent performances without caring too much about the language internal mechanism and design, use C++ if you want ( unlikely ) and if you are ready to take care of all the design aspects and performances issues.

Considering the fact that Python is a really easy language to grasp, at least for a beginner, and considering the fact you can easily find many AI algorithms just searching online, by the time that you will get into the logic of anyone of this engines you are likely to get something up and running coded by you. And the big plus is you don't have to care about legal issues, you can use your code as you want instead of being forced to deal with more than one license and deal for everything you are going to do with this engines.

In the end just searching around you can find a really good amount of Python libraries that are surely more flexible, in every way, when compared to this engines.

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-1 for essentially recommending the OP to write his own engine. Especially when he's specifically asking for a sandbox environment. –  Ray Dey Sep 10 '12 at 3:42
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