Professional Services
Order outsourcing

Exploring Kythera AI's Toolset for Unity Game Development

The Kythera AI team has shared their AI development journey, discussed their comprehensive AI toolset for Unity and its features, and provided real-world examples of successful game integrations with Kythera AI.


At Kythera AI we develop middleware that brings advanced and powerful AI to games or simulations. Our team is made up of dedicated specialists and AI Engineers, each accomplished in their fields with years of industry experience. Our team is one of our key differentiators and we’re proud to be expert voices in the field of AI within the Games Industry. 

We work closely with a number of international partners, which have included high-profile names covering the whole range from AAA to indie. We’ve had the privilege of working with great studios including FragLab, Blackfoot Studios, Digital Arrow, Apocalypse, Still Alive Studios, and lots more awesome names. 

We’ve had the pleasure of being involved in some fun and groundbreaking projects like Ground Branch, Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem, DeadHaus Sonata, and Carbonated Games’ Mad World, to name a few. 

Kythera AI

Kythera AI – then called Moon Collider Ltd – was started in 2010 by our CEO, Matthew Jack. It was initially providing AI Development to the Games Industry as a service, consulting for clients like Xaviant, Crytek, and AiGameDev.com. The pivotal moment for the company happened after its work on Star Citizen, the record-breaking crowd-funded game. The first gameplay release was a single-player combat against AIs powered by Kythera, with behaviors authored by our team, and was released to backers in June 2014. As the game progressed, this became the central element of gameplay that helped attract an additional $50 million in crowdfunding.  

When Kythera started working with Cloud Imperium, the team behind Star Citizen, it was a small studio with just a few developers. The role our technology played in allowing them to demo the unique RPG became the central element of gameplay that helped attract an additional $50 million in crowdfunding at the very early stages of the project – and they’ve now grown to a team of more than 700 developers across five studios!

This is really what led to the realization that there’s a need for a complete and reusable AI toolset for games. Matthew started working on what would become the Kythera AI Toolset, moving away from consulting in 2018 to focus on productization.

Since then, we’ve grown to a team of AI specialists and developers who brought the highly complex Kythera AI Toolset to maturity, and who continue to develop additional products, like Surface Navigation and City Life.

Kythera AI's Toolset for Unity

We’re a complete AI solution for game development. Currently, there’s a lot of focus within the industry on generative AI-based solutions. While generative technology is useful, it only scratches the surface of the achievements that can be made when AI is fully integrated into a game. Building engaging AI for games is hard, and the tools provided by engines and plugins only solve a few problems. Kythera AI is different – our products go beyond generative AI and built-in AI tools, and we work closely with our partners so they have the full expertise of our team behind the success of their game. 

Kythera AI middleware allows developers to inject intelligent behavior into their game, creating agents, NPCs, and overall gameplay that are adaptive and evolving.

Unity provides its own ground navigation solution, but compared to Kythera AI’s feature set, it is limited. The new Unity Muse Behavior helps by providing a tool to help create behavior and logic so that the agent can use the NavMesh effectively – but that’s only useful if you’re using that limited ground navigation system. 

Before this, Unity required that developers control the AI through C# scripts and build loads of decision-making logic from scratch to create believable AI agents that do more than move from point A to point B. So Unity Muse Behavior is more correcting an initial drawback of the engine, as opposed to providing new and groundbreaking AI functionality. 

Our Unity package not only replaces Unity’s ground navigation solution with a more feature-rich, scalable framework, but it also integrates the full suite of Kythera AI features – features like Flight navigation, the new Surface Navigation, behavior tree authoring, automatic markup generation for cover, jumps, vaults, and climbs, and rich debugging tools. Our deep knowledge of the industry gives us an understanding of the issues studios face during the development process, so we built our AI toolset to solve them – it’s, data-oriented, highly scalable, and built for performance. You can find out more here

Surface Navigation is a unique feature we’re really proud of. It’s a groundbreaking solution providing AI-powered navigation for any geometry – automating NPC and agent navigation across complex, three-dimensional surfaces, like walls and ceilings. The tool ensures agents move smoothly on and around the surfaces of any 3D environment, so it unlocks a lot of options for greater immersion in games and unique gameplay creation for studios. There’s nothing else like it out there. 

How Kythera AI Streamlines Unity Production Processes

The key to Kythera AI’s ability to streamline and speed up production is in the quality tools it gives developers. It’s built with a comprehensive set of AI tools that work smoothly together and are fully integrated into Unity, enabling designers to create, edit, and debug complex behaviors in an intuitive, straightforward way. 

Take Automatic Markup as an example. It’s an innovative feature that automates common-level design markup tasks. The AI automatically generates consistent, high-quality cover rail markup along terrain edges and automatically creates links between areas of NavMesh. The markup also dynamically regenerates – automatically keeping up with terrain changes. So, if a player ditches a car in a battle zone, your AI NPC instantly understands that they can take cover behind the car, or use it to climb up and vault onto structures.

What used to be many hours of work for a technical designer can be done by defining some parameters and letting Kythera do the work. 

By automating the more laborious parts of level design, Kythera ensures your markup is absolutely consistent and frees your designers to put more time and attention into creative work. All of this adds up to smarter, deeper, more immersive games.

Game designers are often held back by the tools available to them – we think it should be possible to realize their ideas in hours, rather than months or years. What’s more, when designers are equipped with the best tools, we believe whole new experiences become possible for players. That’s the crux of our mission at Kythera AI: we’re creating a toolset that breaks barriers for both game creators and players. We’ve consciously developed Kythera AI to ensure consistency, eliminate errors, and save incalculable hours of designer time. 

Navigation Tools

While Unity includes a basic navigation mesh and 2D pathfinding, Kythera AI’s Ground Navigation features allow you to make your ground-based AI agents move and maneuver as true characters, whether they’re lone explorers, army squadrons, or hordes of monsters.

Our navigation features empower AI characters to fight and move confidently in rich 3D environments. Most modern games use NavMeshes to define areas where movement is allowed. Kythera AI’s NavMesh solution is dynamic and performant which enables it to automatically respond and reshape based on environmental changes in the game world. It allows Kythera AI to easily generate navigational paths for characters and vehicles over vast areas.

We led the way in developing a way for areas of NavMesh to be generated and regenerated on the fly, giving designers the option to skip pre-processing entirely by generating the mesh around your characters – achieving instant turnaround, simplifying designers’ work, and enabling fluid new gameplay.

Behavior Trees

Behavior Trees (BTs) are a powerful and intuitive way of visually scripting AI agents’ responses to the situation around them. Kythera AI’s BT Editor supports signal and exception handling, and finite state machines, which can be placed in BT nodes.

Our behavior trees come with an extensive range of nodes covering things like ground and flight navigation, movement, tactics, and combat. A wide range of flow control nodes enables your AI to make decisions as complex or subtle as you need. You can also create custom nodes to make interactions between AI and the rest of your game more streamlined. Behavior trees can even be assembled and linked to agents at runtime, allowing a game environment to affect the behavior of characters who enter it.

Unlike separate BT tools, it’s not just a framework. It links with Unity and with all our other AI features so that designers can jump right in and start creating new behaviors immediately, without lots of integration work from coders.

Developing our behavior trees to enable non-developers to easily define the behavior of agents is a key part of the intention behind the design. It democratizes AI creation so that less technical designers can create, modify, and debug behaviors.

Adapting to Multi-Platform Compatibility in Unity

We have Kythera AI packages for Unreal Engine and custom engines as well, not just Unity. In developing these packages it was essential to ensure our middleware would be compatible with the platforms the games were likely to be deployed on as well. We also work closely with our clients throughout the development of their games so we can make sure any additional needs are met for a smooth multi-platform release.  

Kythera AI has been successfully used in games that were deployed on Xbox, Playstation, PC, Linux, OS X, Android, and iOS.

Stillalive Studios used Kythera AI in the development of their award-winning third-person action game Son of Nor, developed for PC, Linux, and OS X. 

The accomplishments of Son of Nor largely hinged on the players’ ability to drastically affect their environment. The gameplay allows players to bend the dynamic surroundings to their will with real-time terrain terraforming and pathfinding. With dynamic terrain as a core gameplay mechanic, Stillalive Studios chose to use Kythera AI’s powerful and versatile navigation system – delivered as a custom Unity integration –  to achieve their vision for the game. 

Carbonated Games uses Kythera AI in MadWorld. Currently in closed beta and early access in some countries, it’s an action strategy game for mobile that was deployed on Android and iOS – a crucial platform for Unity developers. In addition to pushing the boundaries of mobile graphics, Carbonated Games placed a lot of focus on multiplayer AI – leveraging AI-driven gameplay to allow anyone to be competitive, not just hardcore players. They wanted to be able to use AI to enhance the user experience – no matter if it’s on PC, console, or mobile.

The Kythera AI team worked with the developers to bring our AI tools to mobile platforms. Alongside Carbonated, we were part of a team that set a new standard for mobile games with compelling gameplay in an immersive, believable world.

Games with Successful Kythera AI Integration

We’ve been fortunate to have been trusted by so many great studios and the use of the Kythera AI toolset has made a huge impact on the success of the games. 

Wolcen Studio is one of our longest-standing partners and we’re really proud to be part of their story. Wolcen was a fledgling studio when we worked with them during the development of their open-world horror-fantasy RPG Wolcen: Lords of Mayhem, which is available for PC. It was a  highly successful debut game, topping Steam’s best-seller list for two weeks after release and went on to sell more than 1 million copies in the first month. 

Wolcen melds much-loved hack-and-slash gameplay with state-of-the-art graphics, and underpinning it all is a truly modern AI. Kythera AI empowered the indie team, one of our longest-standing partners, to work more efficiently and achieve more with fewer resources. They used core Kythera AI features including behavior trees, dynamic navigation, instant NavMesh generation, and AI-powered formations to bring their vision to life.

Ground Branch from Blackfoot Studios was also successfully deployed on PC, but their story is slightly different from Wolcen's. The Ground Branch team chose Kythera AI mid-development, with the game already in early access. Changes like this are usually a significant strain on studio resources if they are possible for the studio at all. But Blackfoot was able to make use of Kythera’s seamless interoperability with their engine’s native tools for smooth integration with their existing work.

Future Plans for Kythera AI for Unity

We’re excited to soon be releasing the Moving NavMesh feature. Traditionally, NavMeshes have always been static, so if you move the terrain, the NavMesh is left behind and must be regenerated. The new feature untethers the navigation mesh.

The kinds of workarounds often used to emulate this functionality in Unity are very constraining and manually-intensive for designers, so we created a dedicated feature. The feature is completely supported, so all of our features – like automatic markup generation, dynamic NavMesh generation, and more – work exactly the same on a floating island as on the ground, with no performance impact.

We’re enthusiastic about it because it opens new, previously impossible, gameplay options – like AI-powered combat onboard moving ships, or characters that walk on the shoulders of giants – while still being easy and accessible for developers. We’re looking forward to seeing what studios make with it!
We’re also excited to be offering a new pricing model that tailors a Kythera AI solution to suit your needs. Now studios can customize a solution to choose only the features they want to use, and pay for them in a way that works for them. To start, we’re currently offering our Flight Navigation as an individual module. We encourage small to medium studios to reach out if they want to know more about it!

We’re always enhancing our toolset and developing new features and we’ve got lots on the horizon for Kythera AI for Unity. Other than Moving NavMesh, studios can expect new AI features for development at scale, industry-leading improvements to perception and signal APIs, and enhanced performance.

Kythera AI's Role in Shaping Game Development's Future

Kythera AI isn’t alone in being an AI built for the specific needs of the games industry, but it is one of the few that actually plays a role in bringing intelligence and life to a game. We aim to build tools that allow designers to push boundaries in the games they create and that’s where we see our role in the future of game development. 

But, really profound gaming experiences aren’t created solely during development. They stem from the interaction between the game and the player, with each player bringing something unique to the experience – and able to get something unique in return. Technology like Kythera AI acts as the conduit between game and player, allowing developers to move beyond rigid and linear behaviors and storylines, to create a reactive world for the player to make their own. The industry is barrelling down the path towards this type of immersive gameplay and we see Kythera AI as holding the key to making that accessible to many studios. 

Our products are designed for studios and larger teams and, unfortunately, we're not quite ready to roll out Kythera to individuals or smaller indie teams, but we're working on it. We hope to be introducing this in the coming months, and that the new pricing models will make our products more accessible to everyone. 

If you’re a studio looking for behavioral or navigational AI middleware for your next game, you can head to our website to check out our work and get in touch. 

Join discussion

Comments 0

    You might also like

    We need your consent

    We use cookies on this website to make your browsing experience better. By using the site you agree to our use of cookies.Learn more