D.E.V.I.L · I.N · T.H.E · D.E.T.A.I.L.S . . . .
O.m.i.c.r.o.n · B.o.t · R.e.v.i.e.w
Date Submitted: 29 Jan 98
Review Written By: Eryk "underscore" Jaegermann
Comments To:
Subject: Omicron Bot v1.01
Subject Written By: Mr. Elusive and H2SO4
Homepage: Availiable from the Ramshackle 
"But First, a Definition...."
bot \baet\ n. [from robot]

1: an automatic apparatus or device that performs functions ordinarily ascribed to human beings or operates with what appears to be almost human intelligence.

2: a mechanism guided by automatic controls.

3a: a machine that looks like a human being and performs various complex acts (as walking or talking) of a human being; also: a similar but fictional machine whose lack of capacity for human emotions is often emphasized.

3b: an efficient, insensitive, often brutalized person.

4: an efficient, insensitive, often brutalized --- and often brutal --- computer program that simulates a human deathmatch opponent and performs various complex acts (as shooting, killing and gibbing) of a deathmatch opponent.

I n t r o d u c t i o n
     Any computer gamer will tell you that nothing compares to playing against a fellow human being. This is especially true with Quake. Sure, SP is pretty cool for a while, but after the first DM game it becomes downright tedious. So why are all the FPS developers toiling over SP mission after SP mission? Beats me, I guess they want to provide people without a LAN or access to the internet something to enjoy as well. In that case, maybe they should be trying to develop better bots. Alas, everything within this area has been left strictly to the amateurs. But, strangely enough, it turns out that the amateurs are much better at AI programming than the pros. You want some proof? Well, just take a look at the latest Quakebot, Mr. Elusive's Omicron.
R e a p i n g · T h e · B e n e f i t s
     For quite a long time the biggest, baddest bot out there was Steven Polge's Reaperbot. It may have been an unfinished beta, but beating up on these puppies was a ton of fun. At the time, the Reaper was clearly the state of the art. Yet, it was painfully obvious that "running Reapers" had little to do with human versus human DM. In fact, the discrepancy was so great that extensive practice against Reaperbots was more likely to throw off your DM game than help it. Many a Quaker has cried, "Damn, too used to them lousy Reapers," after suffering a particularly ignominious frag. But, for many poor sods --- like yours truly, for instance --- Reapers were quite often the best training partners available. Well, Mr. Elusive and his Omicron bot have changed all that.
I t ' s · A n · E v o l u t i o n · N o t · A · R e v o l u t i o n
     Whoah, let's not get carried away here. The Omicron may be a hefty step upwards, but it sure ain't the Second Coming of Christ --- actually, the Second Coming is Unreal... no, wait, I meant Sin... or, was that Daikatana? Anyway, I assure you, dear reader, that the Omicron remains very artificial and very "botty," but it is a definite improvement over the Reaper. So, what new, magical feature does the Omicron possess that sets it above the rest of botdom? Well, it's not a case of one feature, per se, but rather a whole slew of fixes and subtle additions.
R o c k e t · F i g h t i n g
     The most welcome change, for me, is that rocket duels with the Omicron --- every Classic Quaker's favorite pastime --- more or less play like rocket duels with actual humans. First, these bots are pushed around by damage. So, like real players, they can be bounced and juggled by a well-aimed barrage of rockets. A simple improvement really, but it makes a huge difference nevertheless. One could shoot rocket after rocket at a Reaper, and it'd just merrily continue along in its silly side-stepping dance, totally oblivious to the splash damage. Well, that's all well and good, until one switches from Reapers to humans. Its very confusing when your opponents no longer do the funky "Reaperdance," but bounce around the walls and ceiling. One has to make some major adjustment in playing style, to say the least. Well, this annoyance has been solved with the Omicron.

    Not only does the Omicron get bounced by splash damage, but it does defensive rocket jumps like a madman. Shoot its feet, and this baby lifts off as if somebody... well, as if somebody stuffed a rocket up its ass. An excellent feature, and I can personally guarantee that playing the Omicron will improve your skeet shooting abilities dramatically. To make rocket-fighting an even greater joy, the Omicron is very proficient at shooting feet, and nearby walls. In fact, many mezzanines and overlooks are no longer safe, as these guys will have the ability to flush you out with several smartly placed rockets. So, gone are the days of endlessly dodging Reaper rockets; Omicron battles are dogfights that require a good dose of concentration and killer instinct.

E l u s i v e · B u g g e r s
     Which brings me to my next point, dodging. The Omicron has not inherited the Reaper's tendency of simply side-stepping back and forth in a long and boring cycle --- what I termed the "Reaperdance." Its movements are downright tricky. Like any good player, the Omicron is a difficult target to hit at longer ranges, but in close is where it really shines. The Omicron will constantly try to move out of your field of vision, and generally confuse you in any way possible. Actually, it moves with the crazed agility of a tomcat in the midst of an amphetamine overdose (we're not even going to mention the rockets being shot up its ass...). Trust me, when I started with it, the Omicron often left me spinning like a top while it made good yet another escape. But, today, any weakness in the spatial awareness and orientation elements of my game have pretty much been eliminated. Thank you, Mr. Elusive!
S e v e r a l · M o r e · C o m b a t · N o t e s
     Also, unlike the good ole Reaper, the Omicron does not freezes with the shaft trained on him. Another welcome addition, that allows for a little practice with the old zapper. Still, you'll have to be awfully good to beat the Omicron in a lighting gun engagement; it may not be a skill 3 Reaper yet, but it does kicks major ass with the weapon. In fact, like other bots, the Omicron is very, very good with all instant delivery weapons... much better than any humans I have seen. I've never fallen in love with this bot characteristic.

    On a positive note, however, I must mention the Omicron's prediction shooting capabilities. I've actually been surprised a few times by a rocket in the face after stepping through a teleport or coming around a corner. Sometimes, the fast bot reaction times are the culprit, but, sometimes, it's quite clearly shooting on a good "hunch." How do I know? Well, I've had the pleasure of occasionally coming up behind it during 1on1s, as it is taking those prediction shots down some hallway. Naturally, I pounce without mercy, gleefully thinking "Hah! Fooled the bastard!"

P a t h f i n d i n g · A n d · M o v e m e n t
     This is another area where the Omicron really shines. Its pathfinding algorithms are another significant improvement over earlier bots. Once this guy establishes himself within a map, he runs most of them with a grace lacking in lesser bots. The Omicron does not suffer from the Reaper's indecisiveness, for instance. So, it never seems to have a lot of problems in deciding which direction to go, or which items it wants next; its a bot on a mission. Still, it does have familiar pathfinding problems in certain situations. Like other bots, it will window shop at times. Furthermore, it does have a problem with certain elevators, jumping off them before they reach the top. In fact, Omicrons do get stuck in ugly jump-on-jump-off-the-elevator cycles at times. Funny, the Reapers seemed to have less problems in this regard.

    Another cool thing about the Omicrons is their ability to hunt and chase opponents down. With previous bots one only had to evade their LOS, and they seemed to lose interest instantaneously. The Omicrons are much more aggressive, however. Just because you ran away, don't consider yourself safe. In fact, the Omicron will probably be right behind you, or, worse yet, right in front you --- yes, they have the ability to cut-off and trap their prey. Pretty amazing stuff, and it really adds to the playability.

F i n a l l y · A · S p a r i n g · P a r t n e r
     In my opinion, the Omicron is really the first bot that comes close to being a useful sparing partner. This is best testified by the Omicron's 1on1 play. 1on1 is the most straightforward test of a Quaker's skill. It is a game of fundamentals; all other forms of Quake are built around the two player shoot-out. So, someone who excels at 1on1 will likewise excel at the other facets of the game. And, the Omicron plays very good 1on1. In fact, playing against him makes for some valuable practice. This is a drastic improvement over the Reaper, which, even at skill 3, was a poor 1on1 opponent. The Omicron accomplishes this feat not by shooting better, or having quicker reactions than the Reaper --- hard to beat a skill 3 in those categories, really --- but rather because its designer spent more time on the details. The Omicron's new abilities --- such as shooting feet, dodging, defensive rocket jumping, fluid movement, hunting and chasing --- all combine to provide a much closer simulation of a human Quaker. There have even been reports of players fooled into believing that they were playing other humans, when they were actually running against Omicrons. Yes, pretty astounding stories, but I wouldn't discount them off-hand....
B o t t i n e s s
     Nevertheless, the Omicron remains a bot, and quite obviously so in many cases. As I mentioned, its movement and item acquisition code is, for the most part, excellent, and, unlike its predecessors, it spends less of its brief existence within those Quake dungeons doing a series of helter-skelter dances from here to there; it seems have acquired some rudimentary sense of purpose. Still, it doesn't dynamically react to the player, or really plan any strategies --- apart from the obvious juice cycles --- and so it continues to miss that important component: a human brain. For the moment, the art of outsmarting and psyching-out people can only be practiced against, well... other people.

    The Omicron is also a bot in other, equally telling ways. Most notably, it's not very susceptible to ambush. Although in theory its vision is more limited than the Reaper's, and it can be "jumped" on occasion, it is still hawk-eyed and responds to newly discovered threats much faster than humans usually do. On the other hand, really smart players are harder to sneak up on than a bot --- but that goes back to the brain thing. Another major advantage that the Omicron sports --- which contributes greatly to its recovery from ambushes, BTW --- is its inability to become dis-orientated. It may spin, and do a "fall-back" off a ledge, or it may be thrown by a rocket's impact, but its aim always remains true. Humans, on the other hand, find maintaining aim and concentration while performing violent maneuvers a severe challenge. Getting bounced by rockets is a real test for most people, not because of the damage suffered, but because their aim --- and, quite often, their whole field of vision --- is thrown askew, and, to compound the problem, they lose momentary vision as their screens flash red. Omicrons are blissfully unaware of these problems, but they are bots after all. 

R. I. P. R e a p e r
     There are many more goodies and little additions to go along with the basic Omicron --- did I mention deathmatch 3 support? Yay! --- but I won't go through the extensive list here. One caveat, however, the Omicron needs quite a bit of hardware to run it. There is a number of ways to reduce the program's load, but I wouldn't bother trying the patch on a 486 or something; a P166 is probably the recommended system. You can get by with less, however; I'm on a 120 MHz Cyrix, for instance. Which is good news, because everyone should have this bot installed, even if its just there for a rainy day. But, I'm sure that all you Classic Quakers have the Omicron by now, and this whole article is mostly written as a musing for my own benefit. Speaking of musing, I wonder if Mr. Elusive has any plans for Quake2?