Clumsy Ninja is remarkably engaging, and it's fascinating to read how it had its genesis in building AI-powered synthetic actors for Hollywood blockbusters:
The decade-plus effort that resulted in the believable joys of Clumsy Ninja started, curiously, in a land of pure fantasy. In January 2004, WIRED covered an ambitious startup that was using AI to create digital stunt doubles for Peter Jackson’s The Return of the King. That young company was NaturalMotion, recently founded by former Oxford researchers Torsten Reil and Colm Massey.
Today, Reil says the plan was always to apply the technology to games, but at that point, the videogame world wasn’t quite ready. “The consoles back then weren’t fast enough,” he explained in a visit to the WIRED office last month. “We always wanted to do all of this in real time.”