The 13th October launch date for The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition on PS4 is drawing near and with that we wanted to pull back the curtain a little bit on the award-winning philosophical puzzle game. Making a game is hard, and making a puzzle game might be harder because it requires finding a fine balance between challenging players on an increasing difficulty curve while always being fair with the logic and reasoning required to find the solutions.
At a certain point during the development process, we realized that we need to test gameplay on daily basis, as minor design changes could break carefully planned puzzle concepts very easily. We just couldn’t afford manpower for that purpose, since The Talos Principle was shaping out to be very, very long, so we had to think of something completely different. And what better way to test a game about sentient AI than with AI? Thus – The Bot was born. His purpose was to play through each new game build and solve all puzzles, reporting ones that couldn’t be solved (due to errors in mechanics, obstacles etc.).
To be able to do this, Bot got a set of navigational and behavior markers, telling him what to do on specific spots, like pick up a hexahedron or connect a red emitter with a red source. Using this basic programming and advanced path navigation, he was able to solve puzzle after puzzle, until the whole game was tested, which would take average human around 4-5 hours. Once the logic for automated bot testing was there, we could actually skip the rendering part and do the time-lapse, so that it took him only 20 minutes to go through entire game, and report all bugs that he could find.
This helped us tremendously as we could sleep peacefully knowing the game could be played from start to finish. We estimate that Bot spent equivalent of 80,000 human hours of pure playtime to test The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition completely as well as the included expansion Road to Gehenna.
While there will always be a place for standard human testers in games, advances like the Bot in The Talos Principle provide developers like Croteam hundreds of hours of human playtesting time compacted down to just a day or so. By utilizing several of these bots testing simultaneously, Croteam can comb through the game in a few hours and repeat with each adjustment made by level designers in order to create a nearly flawless experience for the fans.
The Talos Principle: Deluxe Edition launches on PS4 13th October via PlayStation Store. This PlayStation-exclusive edition includes the original award-winning game and the massive Road to Gehenna expansion for more masterful players.