Re: Smartest way to populate a large scene with many moving characters?

We are making a serious game level. The end result is an online business-to-business presentation of a proposed leisure facility. In reality it should have about 1000 characters in it engaging in various activities related to the facility. I have thought of 2 ways of approach to populate the scene with some activity.

A) Puppets and some animated characters. Use 750 or so still characters in seated/standing positions, groups etc. 250 animated (that is still a lot) in-between to make it look busy. Local looping animations per zone. Some ambient general animations (standing looking around, walking around)

B) AI option Is it an option to use AI for this kind of project? Where characters are allowed to animated within a zone with a limited number of animation options.

What would you advise?

You should look into Behavior Trees for controlling the actors, which you can implement in Unity using AngryAnt's Behave. You could use a Finite State Machine to control their changes between states, as it doesn't seem that you're going for too complex a behavior.

For steering I'd use UnitySteer, but depending on your timeline you may want to give it a couple weeks, as it's currently being overhauled (development branch) - particularly the neighbor avoidance code.

Bear in mind that getting a crowd of 250 actors to behave realistically in such a scene will be non-trivial. The more you can constrain them (for instance, not having them walk around) the better.