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WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum")

 
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WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 1:12:47 AM   
Bullwinkle58


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With apologies to the two copied posters below, I wanted to transfer this thread into a non-OT one in case any interested forumites were not following it due to its previous title and topic.

I realize that WITP2 is of little interest to a great many in the forum, and of no interest to newbies struggling to form their first TF, but there is a wealth of great ideas on the issue submerged in the hundreds of pages of this forum. Perhaps, someday, Matrix will delve into them in the course of creating a design document for WITP2.

I personally hope to see not only -2, but -3, -4 and -5. (There were nine "Ultimas" and nine "Might and Magics", not to mention seven "Harry Potters", so one can hope.)

As I've read some old threads on WITP2 it's easy to see that appetites tend to grow exponentionally as the discussion progresses, ending up in the thread referenced by fcharton at a discusison of modelling the entire human brian in an AI. As I've said before I think in business, not in tech. I can't follow the math discussed by some of the posters in that thread. I fear that when the sand gets that deep Matrix might be scared off, thinking they could never fund such an effort. They'd be right. The business case for WITP2 is much simpler, much easier, and much less costly: just make it better than AE. Save perfection for WITP6.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 1:14:00 AM   
Bullwinkle58


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This post was by janh, originally in the other thread.


quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58

I started to write a long, detailed business plan-type post to yours, which I think asks the correct quesitons. But then I figured why bother? Matrix will either continue to progress its strongest franchise, or it won't.

...

The AI improvements, global set-up variables, coupled with the graphic and UI improvements talked about here many times (zooming map, TF templates, easier industry interfaces, etc.) would allow Matrix to re-market the WITP core one more time to current fans like us. It would remove the need to fund a clean-sheet stab at a new engine, which is possibly a seven-figure budget proposition. It would stay away from at least part of the spaghetti code problem by working on the periphery of the engine. It would leave the currently awesome OOB alone.
..... END Bullwinkle58 material.

Ah, I recall, yes. I guess in principle you are right. It would be interested in a questionaire, maybe with the possibility to rate the items one would like to see improved or expanded, or removed. Just out of pure curiosity to see what the majority would like. And ideally also those who do not regularly read or participate in the forum, and are part of the silent single-player audience.

I would dare to bet that AI and use of AI to automate some micromanagement or delegate some local commands (china ground, rear area ASW and convoys, etc) would rate high. And UI probably too. Not that I dislike the present UI, but the more Michaels adds to it (*, #, ...), the more it appears to slowly be overloaded. Also a zoom and unzoom feature would be extremely welcome.

Regarding the AI work I think you are speaking of Herwin. He studied that. I have been working only little with neural networks, although they are nowadays also being used in my field (theoretical/computational chemistry) to speed up codes. They are not very common, though, and also not meant to be "learning" in a larger sense. I have some experience with AI design, but mostly self-tought in my leisure time. In the past years I have been very busy writing AI enhancements and an "operational" AI for ARMA2, which is awfully modder-friendly with only very little hardcoded functionality not exposed to modding. It requires C++ knowledge as both the objects and the scripting language (with a special precompiler) are C++ based. With almost 1300 commands, local and global variables and various namespaces, you can do almost everything. The only limit is the CPU load, since in contrast to something like WitP it matters how fast your scripts are executed, and how many scripts run at any moment. The latter part is actually the bigger challenge, to avoid any overhead, unnecessary loops and so on. Often a look at the "numerical recipes", smart tricks/approximations and optimization is necessary.

I recall Herwin was of the opinion that an AI could never be as good as a human, and I know from other people in that area that there is a lively debate about such arguments. Part of it is due to the problem what "good" is? Behavior by the book? Learning behavior? Ability to improvise? Ability to make mistakes? And how something that in one outcome would look like the most brilliant, improvised, unconventional move might be bone-headed in another.
Herwin was probably right, we won't get AIs that will be on par with a good or poor human player -- not so soon, at least. There is many groups working on this general area, be it in the context of drones, industrial plants, robotics or whatever. They are making progress, some even in the area of learning codes (which gets back to the basic idea of neural networks, if I understood it's origins correctly). But no matter what would be doable in games with that today, I don't think any gaming company would invest that much yet. Not if a lot lesser investment gives you the same sales volume. And AI just is "just not a visible advertisement" (such as the graphics polishing of so many titles in the past 10-15 years, which somehow led to ignoring the further development of the game idea, features, AI etc.).

In contrast to Herwin I believe that AI can, nonetheless be a lot better than most games show. WiTE, for instance, I find shows that. It is at least smart by the book, and does all the routine stuff very well. And it could certainly improved to also react even better to unusual situations, i.e. what for a human would be called improvisation. Also there we follow rules, and those could be implemented as well. Just at what cost, what time and efforts would it take? Too much for a company.
Pretty much the same holds true for the ARMA series. Pretty good already as vanillia, it is amazing to see how much potential was opened up by just making this code to modder friendly and adding some many scripting functions, and more with each sequel and with each beta patch every month. Look at mods like ACE2, ACRE or so many others, they more than double the game content and not only fine-tune the AI, they really add new functionality to it. It took a long time, but since code is easily portable between the sequels, it gets carried on, improved and extended with every sequel.

With scripting functions and codes analogous to ARMA2, you could expect the community to squeeze out a lot more from games like WiTE or AE. You would have to rely on static scripts, which say "trigger the invasion of Nomuea on a fixed date, or when a given base falls". You could make that a separate function to be called with arguments (containing the exact LCUs or selected them based on a HQ, add LBA or Naval assets and whatever parameter you might want), and have it called from a parent thread that for e.g. check the force dispositions in that region first (BB, CV, B-17 or Bettys or LCUs with AV>y detected in the past X turns within a range of N hexes from ...), or whether there was a decisive carrier battle preceding it as requirement, and making sure it fits into the global strategy. Then you have this function in each turn put out some status variables to the parent threat, e.g. checking whether force allocations were to little, too much, whether supply is needed or whether a sudden development rendered this move totally stupid for some reason (and then perhaps spawning a function that could organize an evacuation, reinforcement or whatever you wanted the AI to be able to do). Some scirpting might need a little bonus for AI, for e.g. letting it occasionally peek through fog-of-war a bit or so, but if done correctly, it would still look natural/normal to a player.

I imagine in the beginning it would be a huge lot of work, but you could write such dynamic functions either for each set of targets, India, Adamans, OZ, DEI, Mariannas etc. taking into a account that way the peculiarities of the region a bit. Vanilla could be just about on par with the present AE AI, maybe with an additional check for naval assets before starting any of their scripts to avoid wasting CV or other capital ships against well-known player strongholds or such. The rest might be up to the community. And if you look at the DaBabes or RA modes, not to mention others, and perhaps a few of those silent single players who would be interested in a more flexible AI, I am sure after some 2 years all the vanillia scripts would have doubled in refinement and functionality -- after having seen how this scripting grew with each ARMA2. There would be a huge potential and I wouldn't want to imagine what someone like Andy Mac with his mean spirit might be able to do with such a toolkit at his hands -- he might be able to give even the most gifted PBEM players a hard time.

I think this would be a better way for Gary and his crew in designing new AIs for their games, more efficient than hardcoding and testing every bit of AI code on their own. Not to mention that this level of mod-ability appears almost a selling reason by its own right nowadays. I would be very happy one day to browse the forum and to see the announcement of a WiTP2 with such features, but well, it may be long before that.

< Message edited by Bullwinkle58 -- 7/31/2012 1:18:18 AM >


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 1:17:24 AM   
Bullwinkle58


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This post originally by fcharton

This is probably the thread you were referring to, in memoriam.

http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=2895125&mpage=1&key=

Francois


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 2:05:52 AM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58

This post was by janh, originally in the other thread.


quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58

I started to write a long, detailed business plan-type post to yours, which I think asks the correct quesitons. But then I figured why bother? Matrix will either continue to progress its strongest franchise, or it won't.

...

The AI improvements, global set-up variables, coupled with the graphic and UI improvements talked about here many times (zooming map, TF templates, easier industry interfaces, etc.) would allow Matrix to re-market the WITP core one more time to current fans like us. It would remove the need to fund a clean-sheet stab at a new engine, which is possibly a seven-figure budget proposition. It would stay away from at least part of the spaghetti code problem by working on the periphery of the engine. It would leave the currently awesome OOB alone.
..... END Bullwinkle58 material.

Ah, I recall, yes. I guess in principle you are right. It would be interested in a questionaire, maybe with the possibility to rate the items one would like to see improved or expanded, or removed. Just out of pure curiosity to see what the majority would like. And ideally also those who do not regularly read or participate in the forum, and are part of the silent single-player audience.

A questionaire could be done by Matrix pretty easily. I think to be useful in stratifying features, rather than open the floor, they could comb the forum for past ideas and put them into three budget buckets: Expensive, Moderate, Cheap. Then let responders "chose one from Column A and two from Column B." IOW, if AI were the top request of that responder give a weight to its development cost (maybe 80% of total) and only let the responder have a few other choices. OTOH, if AI is not important to that responder let him choose many Cheap upgrades to go with a Moderate. That type of thing. The objective would be to impose some discipline on responders who otherwise would want 100-man-years of new game for their money, while giving Matrix some idea of the heat behind each request topic.

As I said in the first post, the objective is incremental improvement over time, not one massive leap to perfection, whatever that is. To begin to see WITP as a living product that need never end, one which can grow on the success of the last, re-using material when appropriate and keeping up with advances in PC hardware.


I would dare to bet that AI and use of AI to automate some micromanagement or delegate some local commands (china ground, rear area ASW and convoys, etc) would rate high. And UI probably too. Not that I dislike the present UI, but the more Michaels adds to it (*, #, ...), the more it appears to slowly be overloaded. Also a zoom and unzoom feature would be extremely welcome.

The map zoom in WitE was among the best features of the game., Given the size of AE LCU and other icons a zoom would be a huge boon.

Automating in-game systems would be a feature in the quesitonaire. Or several. I think that having the AI manage geographies is very much harder, due to hand-off events and multiple demands for the same asset, than closed-end game functions like pilot management, fatigue management, or strategic movement behind the lines (how many times must I tell asets arriving at EC to get themselves to SF when that's what I always want them to do?)


Regarding the AI work I think you are speaking of Herwin. He studied that.

I read the thread suggested by fcharton. I read some of Herwin's posts, but I confess I stopped as his points often related to his work and only tangentially to the game. From your comments below I believe I was thinking of you. You are too modest.

I have been working only little with neural networks, although they are nowadays also being used in my field (theoretical/computational chemistry) to speed up codes. They are not very common, though, and also not meant to be "learning" in a larger sense. I have some experience with AI design, but mostly self-tought in my leisure time. In the past years I have been very busy writing AI enhancements and an "operational" AI for ARMA2, which is awfully modder-friendly with only very little hardcoded functionality not exposed to modding. It requires C++ knowledge as both the objects and the scripting language (with a special precompiler) are C++ based. With almost 1300 commands, local and global variables and various namespaces, you can do almost everything. The only limit is the CPU load, since in contrast to something like WitP it matters how fast your scripts are executed, and how many scripts run at any moment. The latter part is actually the bigger challenge, to avoid any overhead, unnecessary loops and so on. Often a look at the "numerical recipes", smart tricks/approximations and optimization is necessary.

I recall Herwin was of the opinion that an AI could never be as good as a human, and I know from other people in that area that there is a lively debate about such arguments.

It is, but I see the business case here as making that debate largely moot. As before, Matrix is never going to design a top-flight AI for a game when the best labs in the world are still struggling in ways detailed in fcharton's referenced thread. And it doesn't have to in order to come up with a saleable product. It just has to be better. There are ideas in that thread which piont the way towards making that happen. But as the old saying goes we must be careful to not ask Matrix for something which results in perfect being the enemy of good enough.

Part of it is due to the problem what "good" is? Behavior by the book? Learning behavior? Ability to improvise? Ability to make mistakes? And how something that in one outcome would look like the most brilliant, improvised, unconventional move might be bone-headed in another.
Herwin was probably right, we won't get AIs that will be on par with a good or poor human player -- not so soon, at least.

Not the goal. However, as far as WITP2 goes I think the problem space is smaller than free-ranging discussions of AI theory make it seem. We don't need a general AI whcih can play out any battle or campaign. DoD might need that, but we don't. We need a custom AI which can play out the boxed war found in WITP. A defined time span. A very defined, immutable map. A semi-fixed OOB known to the AI in advance. And, at this point, hundreds of AARs which detail the most common campaign moves, objectives, and techniques pounded out by thoughtful humans who have detailed their pros and cons to each in exacting (and free to Matrix) detail. All of that can be used to refine the current script skeleton to a next-generation.

There is many groups working on this general area, be it in the context of drones, industrial plants, robotics or whatever. They are making progress, some even in the area of learning codes (which gets back to the basic idea of neural networks, if I understood it's origins correctly). But no matter what would be doable in games with that today, I don't think any gaming company would invest that much yet. Not if a lot lesser investment gives you the same sales volume. And AI just is "just not a visible advertisement" (such as the graphics polishing of so many titles in the past 10-15 years, which somehow led to ignoring the further development of the game idea, features, AI etc.).

In the general sense you're correct about AI not being sexy in ads. But this is a specific case, with a defined target segment of AE players. We know the AI's limits and we know how important it is to imporve it if the game is to have future legs. We're an odd, niche-cubed target market (wargames-PTO-WITP) who are very different than a new mark who wanders into Matrix's sales site with no pre-knowledge.

In contrast to Herwin I believe that AI can, nonetheless be a lot better than most games show.

I agree.

WiTE, for instance, I find shows that. It is at least smart by the book, and does all the routine stuff very well. And it could certainly improved to also react even better to unusual situations, i.e. what for a human would be called improvisation. Also there we follow rules, and those could be implemented as well. Just at what cost, what time and efforts would it take? Too much for a company.

In contrast to my comments on WitE elsewhere, I agree with you that the AI is pretty good. I played four scenarios, never a GC, but in general I was pressed by the AI in each one. It seemed quite confident in forming combined-arms attacks, exploited my mistakes instantly, and was also very good at behind-the-lines marshalling and strat movement. It did not do suicide attacks, worked with supply and fuel constraints well, and in general did what it needed to do to manhandle a newbie who didn't know all the rules. In particular, and of parallel importance to WITP2, it didn't ever get tired or forget steps. This is a great advantage AIs have, and in a mega-game it is magnified. AIs can simply outwork a human mind over the long haul.

However, to be fair, WitE is a 2-D problem--land and logistics. The air model is castrated and a shadow of the complexity found in AE. There is no naval element to speak of. There is a defined front line in most moves unless a general rout is achieved. And terrain is somewhat less a factor than in the AE map where it ranges from deep ocean to Himalayas. But in general I never got the feeling it was working to scripts. Maybe it was, but they were more behind the curtain than in AE.


Pretty much the same holds true for the ARMA series. Pretty good already as vanillia, it is amazing to see how much potential was opened up by just making this code to modder friendly and adding some many scripting functions, and more with each sequel and with each beta patch every month. Look at mods like ACE2, ACRE or so many others, they more than double the game content and not only fine-tune the AI, they really add new functionality to it. It took a long time, but since code is easily portable between the sequels, it gets carried on, improved and extended with every sequel.

With scripting functions and codes analogous to ARMA2, you could expect the community to squeeze out a lot more from games like WiTE or AE. You would have to rely on static scripts, which say "trigger the invasion of Nomuea on a fixed date, or when a given base falls". You could make that a separate function to be called with arguments (containing the exact LCUs or selected them based on a HQ, add LBA or Naval assets and whatever parameter you might want), and have it called from a parent thread that for e.g. check the force dispositions in that region first (BB, CV, B-17 or Bettys or LCUs with AV>y detected in the past X turns within a range of N hexes from ...), or whether there was a decisive carrier battle preceding it as requirement, and making sure it fits into the global strategy. Then you have this function in each turn put out some status variables to the parent threat, e.g. checking whether force allocations were to little, too much, whether supply is needed or whether a sudden development rendered this move totally stupid for some reason (and then perhaps spawning a function that could organize an evacuation, reinforcement or whatever you wanted the AI to be able to do). Some scirpting might need a little bonus for AI, for e.g. letting it occasionally peek through fog-of-war a bit or so, but if done correctly, it would still look natural/normal to a player.

I understand your enthusiasm for player-led AI modding, but I'm doubtful of it working here. First, Matrix is institutionally very close-hold with releasing any details of executible code. The degree some games, especially shooters, open their code base up to fans must make Matrix managers cringe. Second, I was initially hopeful that AE would be modded to a great degree and argued hard to doubters on Usenet that this would be the case. And there have been some very good to great mods. But the clunkiness of the editor combined with so much being embedded in the EXE, as well as the player community here tending to older and less technical than in many other gaming communities I think it's hard to expect many AE-ites to learn to mod AI. Some would take to it, but most of the players here want to play, not mod.

I imagine in the beginning it would be a huge lot of work, but you could write such dynamic functions either for each set of targets, India, Adamans, OZ, DEI, Mariannas etc. taking into a account that way the peculiarities of the region a bit. Vanilla could be just about on par with the present AE AI, maybe with an additional check for naval assets before starting any of their scripts to avoid wasting CV or other capital ships against well-known player strongholds or such. The rest might be up to the community. And if you look at the DaBabes or RA modes, not to mention others, and perhaps a few of those silent single players who would be interested in a more flexible AI, I am sure after some 2 years all the vanillia scripts would have doubled in refinement and functionality -- after having seen how this scripting grew with each ARMA2. There would be a huge potential and I wouldn't want to imagine what someone like Andy Mac with his mean spirit might be able to do with such a toolkit at his hands -- he might be able to give even the most gifted PBEM players a hard time.

I've read a lot of threads on AI theory and I confess I don't know a thing, really. So my ideas come at it from a non-technical POV. But I agree that scripts have to remain in the near-term. There simply is not the funding on any level to go into some of the techs expounded upon in those threads. But that's not to say a scripted environment can't be improved.

Referring to what I said above, that WITP is a box of known size, shape, and duration, I think script structures could use that more effectively. I was struck by something fcharton said in one of his posts in that thread about the difference between error from bias and error from noise. That seem to offer a "place to stand" as an AI designer seeks to find a better way to fire scripts. One big problem now is that scripts are chosen up front and then If-Then-Elsed as triggers are hit. Perhaps there would be a way to "chunk" the map into geographic pieces, using the accumulated learning from the AAR library, and periodically snapshot the situation in each chunk, derive an objective value for criticality and progress toward macro objectives (remove the "accumulated noise" based on objectives achieved in the chunk as well as presence of OOB assets), and then at those periodic intervals fire new scripts, or acceelerate those already in the queue. IOW try to overlay a strategic schedule on known game-winning or losing objectives and periodically measure progreess based on best practices from AARs, and tell the AI to go faster or slower based on map state at that game date.

As to the scripts themselves, I see them as largely still human pre-written, but perhaps with more flex (teleporting too) to re-cast themselves based on the aggression coefficient calculated as above. Plump up naval TFs when the next objective is critical, and meld this with LBA assets somehow to make it look like a combined-arms move. I don't exactly understnad how much flex is in formation creation now, but my impression is the naval formations at least are pretty strictly defined by class and number, with only the specific ships teleported in to form them as needed by the script.


I think this would be a better way for Gary and his crew in designing new AIs for their games, more efficient than hardcoding and testing every bit of AI code on their own. Not to mention that this level of mod-ability appears almost a selling reason by its own right nowadays. I would be very happy one day to browse the forum and to see the announcement of a WiTP2 with such features, but well, it may be long before that.

As above, I'm skeptical that modding is the way to go, and from a business perspective quite risky if the modders don't step forward, but anything which could be done to make the script-writing process less opaque I'd be in favor of trying. I've poked around in the editor a little, but I find it very hard to grasp compared to developer tool kits released for other games I own. Andy Mac continues to be the main source of scripts, and while his are excellent and often devious, it's still one man's approach.



< Message edited by Bullwinkle58 -- 7/31/2012 2:47:35 AM >


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 2:12:25 AM   
gradenko_2000

 

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On the topic of a hypothetical War in the Pacific 2, I'd like to share some thoughts I had on what the interface would need to be like:

"I think it's really just a matter of UI. If this game's interface was as slick and streamlined and responsive as, say, that of Endless Space or Civilization 4/5, it would be so much better.

It should be using a true windowed-interface.

I click Sydney and a window pops up along the SIDE of my screen, with a tab for Base Info, Airgroups, Land Units, Ships-in-Port and Task Forces. I can drag these tabs out to their own separate window if I choose.

I click on the Land Units tab and Ctrl-click an Australian infantry division, a tank company and an engineer company to cherry-pick-select them out of a list of 10 different units. I then click-and-drag the selection, bring the mouse over to Gili-Gili and release. This brings up a new window to form a task force. There are ships already pre-selected which are enough to carry all the units I picked. Since Gili-Gili is an enemy base, it defaults to Amphibious mode so the pre-selected ships are the ones that would unload the fastest. Switching to Transport mode just picks whatever will carry them efficiently.

When selecting additional ships to add to the new TF, it should be like selecting files from Windows Explorer, with customizable filters. Maybe I would even click a base, bring up the Ships-in-Port tab, shift-select all my cruisers and some destroyers, right-click, expand the Form TF sub-menu, and left-click the Bombardment TF type. I'd then click-and-drag the new TF into the other Amphibious TF I just formed and it'd give a quick confirmation if I want to combine the TFs or have one follow the other.

Finally, all of this needs to be happening near instantly. There's no reason for mouse-clicks and menu selection to take longer than a blink to register unless there's some processing going on. Try playing something like Unity of Command or Panzer Corps - the UI is extremely responsive and you go from menu-to-menu and from unit-to-unit without feeling like you're swimming through jello."

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 9:32:40 AM   
JeffK


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Given that AI is a major hurdle, one question which could be asked by the "Matrix Poll" could be would players be happy with no AI for a Grand Campaign but well developed AI for scenarios?

I've played so many games head to head that it used to be the only way.

Plus developing AI for smaller campaigns might see breakthroughs in making it work in the GC.

Keep asking questions Guys, it will only see the product developed further.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 10:03:57 AM   
JocMeister

 

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I think a working AI for the GC and not just the smaller scenarios is a must or it would certainly hurt sales. Matrix already knows the vast majority play against the AI and in order to get sales they need to focus on that group.

I´m not so sure doing a WITP 2 is doable from an economic standpoint. Making a game of this scale from scratch is a major undertaking that would probably take years even for a big company. Testing alone would take years! For it to work economic wise I think Matrix would either have to continue using the AE engine and build on that or find another engine that would work. Buildning a new engine I think would be too much of an effort for a small company like Matrix. Especially considering sales won´t be very high. They won´t do it unless they think they can make money of it.

I don´t how much could be done with the WITE engine but that could actually be a solution. I guess WITW will show what can be done with it since they will add a airmodel inspired by EDTBR (Good thing!) and a naval system. If it could be used to do a WITP2 I think there is a chance we will see a WITP 2 in the next decade or so.

Actually, the more I think about it the more sure I am that this is the only hope for it. It would also be the logical expansion for WITE once they are done with Europe. I can´t remember from my head what the plans were but I think they have said the plan is for it to span all of Europe and North Africa from 39-45. Going Pacific after that sounds logical IF the engine can do it.

Sorry for the spelling and grammar. In a bit of a rush!


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 10:41:02 AM   
fcharton

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: JocMeister
I´m not so sure doing a WITP 2 is doable from an economic standpoint. Making a game of this scale from scratch is a major undertaking that would probably take years even for a big company. Testing alone would take years! For it to work economic wise I think Matrix would either have to continue using the AE engine and build on that or find another engine that would work. Buildning a new engine I think would be too much of an effort for a small company like Matrix. Especially considering sales won´t be very high. They won´t do it unless they think they can make money of it.


I have the impression that Bullwinkle's point is that WITP2 should not be a total rewrite, but a big overhaul of the user interface and AI, keeping the engine pretty much as it were. This makes a lots of sense, as the engine can probably last for a while (esp once one adds in the improvements brought in by the Da Babes people).

As for economic feasibility, I believe WITP2 is typical of niche markets. The overall market is small, but very dedicated, and Matrix can probably find a lot of help from the peanut gallery. I don't know exactly what was the economic model behind AE, but I believe this is the direction to follow.


Just one comment on modding, I think mods play a very special role in AE. The complexity of the game, and the quality of the research behind it, make most mods irrelevant. There is just too much knowledge to be had, too many tests to be done, to achieve something significant. So it gets confined to specialist teams (RA and DaBabes), built around former members of the AE project group (JWE). Same goes for the AI, as far as I know, everyone can write their scripts, but only Andy Mac does.

Yet, I have the impression that modding is the way to go because it would allow Matrix to tap into the fanbase, people ready to play with the system, and improve it in ways similar to what stacking and engineer types did with DaBabes.


Francois

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 1:56:13 PM   
Mundy


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My $.02...

I would hope that the next version would do away with "hard coded" dates and locations. Stuff like these can be kept in an external .ini text file. There you could set new dates, values, or if events occur at all (like the Japanese Invasion bonus).

If you do this, I would think designers would have a better time with mods like War Plan Orange, the current War in the West mod or the previously attempted War in the Med mod.

Having variable stuff like this embedded in the code takes away a lot of flexibility.

Ed-

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 2:00:24 PM   
gradenko_2000

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: JeffK
Given that AI is a major hurdle, one question which could be asked by the "Matrix Poll" could be would players be happy with no AI for a Grand Campaign but well developed AI for scenarios?

I would be pretty well opposed to this - a significant number of players probably play single-player versus the AI exclusively, if not concurrently with their PBEM games, and removing the ability to play the GC by yourself, even against a comparatively "bad" AI would lose a lot of the game's appeal.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 5:13:06 PM   
Dili

 

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No AI No sell.

The AI needs to be
- geographic and weather aware.
- hierachically aware
- be able to measure and give values to results or lack of results that might imply action or no action.

Let's imagine the Mediterranean theatre. The Allies took all North Africa. Now there are roughly 3 alternatives: Sardegna/Corse , Sicily , Greece. How the AI would choose one over another?

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 6:15:05 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: JocMeister

I´m not so sure doing a WITP 2 is doable from an economic standpoint. Making a game of this scale from scratch is a major undertaking that would probably take years even for a big company. Testing alone would take years! For it to work economic wise I think Matrix would either have to continue using the AE engine and build on that or find another engine that would work. Buildning a new engine I think would be too much of an effort for a small company like Matrix. Especially considering sales won´t be very high. They won´t do it unless they think they can make money of it.


Hey, Debbie Downer! Take a break!

Kidding. Mostly. I'm trying to avoid falling into groupthink that a WITP2 is just too big, too expensive, and has too little sales upside to ever happen. Let's review:

"Pacific War" on a couple of floppies is done 20+ years ago. Some of the basic ideas, formation structures, OOB, and turn phases are devised. It's a different era n PC gaming. Wargames are a viable genre in B&M retail (as are flight sims.) Lots of boardgamers are shifting over to the PC in order to play at home in odd hours and not need a group of friends and dedicated house space for maps and counters. An A-grade PC game goes for about $50. There are no CD-ROM drives yet, the PC world is running DOS and beginning to notice this thing called Windows (kludgy and with a most unhelpful file management system.) "Saving Private Ryan", Burns' "The War", the WWII monument on the Mall, Ambrose's books, and the celebration of the Greatest Generation are years in the future.

Matrix publishes UV. It builds on PacWar's ideas, shrinking the map but expanding the gameplay. New UI is introduced. Better graphics. It's $60; A-grade PC games are about $40 at big box retailers. WWII pop culture notice is growing. The US economy is booming with the Dot Com bubble. Matrix is an established compamy known to wargamers in general, but largely invisible to general PC gamers. Wargames are headed out of big box retail due to demands for market development funds, slotting fees, and competition from newer games with superior graphics, sound, and action. Shooters reign; flight sims are dying due to feature creep making them unplayable by anyone but grognards as well as massive bugginess in long-awaited titles. CD-ROMs are on most PCs, and Windows is in the midst of a transition, although many games still use it as a platform from which to launch DOS.

Based on UV's sales, and also still-secret negotiations between Matrix and GG & Co., a decision is made to develop WITP. Think about that leap for a minute. Think about it in terms of assuming WITP2 is too expensive, or too hard. Relatively speaking the jump from UV to WITP was Alan Sheppard to Apollo 11. A massive risk in terms of OOB development, AI development, map creation, Japanese industry creation and integration, air model robustness spanning five war years instead of the Solomons campaign alone. On and on. It was a big, honking bite of raw meat and Matrix did it. And GG & Co. delivered. The price point (circa $70 USD) was a huge risk; mainstream PC games had gone to a $40-$29.99-sale bin model in B&M retail. The Internet was riding high and piracy was rampant. Windows 98 was stable, had high ease-of-use, and supported more RAM than ever before. CD-ROM was standard. Graphics card wars had boiled down to two tech lines which were compatible more or less. Sound was a non-issue. And digital download had proven itself as wargames had been driven completely from B&M retail. Paper magazine games titles were limping along, and Matrix used them to get the word out. Despite all this WITP was a big risk. Yet Matrix took it. I believe this was due primarily to GG's rep plus his team and not UV's sales records. GG is a good risk. This wasn't his first rodeo. Yes, he built on UV and PacWar, but WITP, when reviewed from ten years out, was a stunning escalation in size and scope. It was a huge leap of faith to market a game whose core campaign took multiple RL YEARS to play, and charge double what a gamer could get Starcraft for. When WITP2 is discussed I think it's importand to remember what the terrain looked like when WITP was green-lighted. Yet it was.

Then AE. Matrix IMO got a gift. AE is at least as big a jump over WITP as that was over UV, albeit in different ways. The core OOB, phases, UI, and AI architecture was done, but the number of new systems and in-game models (ship repair, pilot management, waypoints and routing postures, etc.) added was stunning. By the time AE was green-lighted, and given the economy at that point as well as Matrix internal conditions which led to the Slitherine merger and leaving DR behind, things were pretty rough. And GG had moved on. Add to that the need to price AE at even higher retails than WITP. At that point Matrix got a gift in Henderson Field's doing the thing as a volunteer effort. Kinda changes the break-evens. HF managed to bring together a team which will probably never be matched. Coders of great skill able to pierce the old, legacy code dating back to PacWar's algorithms in some cases. Able to write new modules like ship repair. And designers and subject matter experts like the Elf and JWE who flat know what they're talking about in terms of weapon modeling, RL tactics, and physics. Without them AE would have been a chrome job. With them, and to a degree at least as major as GG & Cos. efforts, there would be no hope of a WITP2.

AE was not an update. It finished WITP. WITP2 does not need to be an "AE" scoped project. It needs to be a true update, not a re-imagining. It needs to focus on a few areas--AI, UI, what-if modeling allowing replayability flexibility--and get out of town. It needs to target current players, not newbies. It needs to announce that WITP as a franchise is not going away. It needs to become the leading edge of a ranked WITP portfolio of products positioned and priced to serve different business needs. It must incorporate the WITP past, add learning from WitE's experience (PBEM server?), and be done on a tight budget and feature leash to keep break-even low.

The question is can Matrix still do this kind of thing? Does it want to? Has the Slitherine merger and announced forays into tablet-based games inalterably changed the company to an extent they can't do a major mission anymore unless GG's name is attached? Time will tell. I hope they can and will.

< Message edited by Bullwinkle58 -- 7/31/2012 6:30:58 PM >


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 6:53:54 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: fcharton

I have the impression that Bullwinkle's point is that WITP2 should not be a total rewrite, but a big overhaul of the user interface and AI, keeping the engine pretty much as it were. This makes a lots of sense, as the engine can probably last for a while (esp once one adds in the improvements brought in by the Da Babes people).

Exactly. In my other post today I didn't mention DaBabes improvements (flak alone makes it a different game, and I'm only playing BabesLite.) They should be incorporated in a WITP2.

As for economic feasibility, I believe WITP2 is typical of niche markets. The overall market is small, but very dedicated, and Matrix can probably find a lot of help from the peanut gallery. I don't know exactly what was the economic model behind AE, but I believe this is the direction to follow.

I think price sensitivity in the current user base is low. Anyone who plays AE can easily understand the per-hour argument. Some might need to save to buy a WITP2. But I believe many would.

Just one comment on modding, I think mods play a very special role in AE. The complexity of the game, and the quality of the research behind it, make most mods irrelevant.

Agree. Many mods I have played in real-time games focus on graphics, texture overlays, music, avatar animations, etc. and not on core game concepts. The current editor allows a lot of OOB mods to be done by the dedicated, and I don't think that should change in future versions. But for easy, non-pro WITP2 variability I would advocate a "bolt-on" front-end addition which didn't get into the EXE code much or at all. This is the basis for me proposing a larger, more robust front-end set-up experience. It would affect both AI and PBEM play. I'm not proposing going off into la-la land either. No making the Zero fighter the Sword of Everlasting Dominance a la RPG games. More allowing mathematical tweaks to some game aspects, to be imposed up-front by the player in set-up choices and used by the code as a last minute modifier to current algorithms, the modified results to be loaded into the same, existing variables for downstream use or display. So a player could, say, use some of his up-front budget to "buy" a 10% reduction in fatigue accretion in malaria zones, while someone else could use those same points for something else which fits their play style, such as a 60-day improvement in Hellcat introduction. These "buckets" would be pre-defined (maybe by forum vote?), and cost varying amounts of points depending on the degree of alteration to the core model. Also, some aspects of the model could be made worse or harder in order to add back to the points budget. So making 8-inch CA main battery chance-to-hit 15% worse might get you a point back to use elsewhere to shore up another game area you prefer. If you want to understand what I mean, look at the front-end set-up for "Master of Orion 2", one of the most classic of all PC strategy games.

This idea works even better in PBEM games. In a "Turn Zero" pre-turn, each player fills the other's budget with an agreed upon points budget. Newbies get more, vets fewer maybe. Then they secretly deploy their points, using psyops and e-mail perhaps to try to fool the other guy. In AI games the player might be able to tell the AI where to put its points, or leave it secret as well. In this way the AI achieves added randomness in each game. And all from a bolt-on module which doesn't require digging deeply into the core engine code.


There is just too much knowledge to be had, too many tests to be done, to achieve something significant. So it gets confined to specialist teams (RA and DaBabes), built around former members of the AE project group (JWE). Same goes for the AI, as far as I know, everyone can write their scripts, but only Andy Mac does.

I know. If the script-writing tools could be made easier to wield I think more scripts would be done by the community.




< Message edited by Bullwinkle58 -- 7/31/2012 7:17:38 PM >


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 9:18:31 PM   
Andy Mac

 

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There is just too much knowledge to be had, too many tests to be done, to achieve something significant. So it gets confined to specialist teams (RA and DaBabes), built around former members of the AE project group (JWE). Same goes for the AI, as far as I know, everyone can write their scripts, but only Andy Mac does.

I know. If the script-writing tools could be made easier to wield I think more scripts would be done by the community.

I was so hoping for players to write scipts so I could play v AI but no one has

AI editor is there to be used but no one does


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 7/31/2012 9:45:21 PM   
fcharton

 

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Hi Bullwinkle,

A few more points I thought about today at work.

The economic part of the problem is relatively simple. There are two sides to it, revenues, and costs.

A limited rework, and user contributed specs and tests would reduce the costs, but one must keep in mind that improving on an already good game (and working on old code) cannot be a small endeavor. If I understand correctly, AE was made possible because a dedicated group of users absorbed most of the cost, by working for free, or very low cost. I don’t know whether this route is still possible, but it needs to be considered at some point.

On the revenue side, we all agree that the regulars would probably fund a new version, and anyway, a new WITP will prolong the product shelf life, ie more revenues. Another possibility would be if some of the new concepts (AI/UI) could be adapted to other games, or serve as the base for a new series.


Now for the technical aspects… I imagine WITP as a set of four parts.

At the core is the “model”, those are the game file, the OOB and various datafiles, plus the map, and whichever parameter the game uses.

Then you have the “turn engine”, a machine that runs, and “plays” a turn, ie changes the model for today into the model for tomorrow, producing reports and a combat replay on the way.

In between, you have the user interface, which serves as an editor for the model. It allows the player to visualize part of the model (limited by FOW) and to update it (before sending it to the opponent and feeding it into the engine to get the model for tomorrow). Note that Tracker acts like a “semi-editor”, in that it allows one to visualize a turn, but you have to turn to the original UI to input your orders;

What about the AI? Well, the AI is just an automated version of the editor. It takes a turn, visualizes it and inputs changes, just like a player does (but without the wide screen, the cursing, the beer drinking, and the unhappy spouse).

In my opinion, WITP2 is about redoing the two last parts, while keeping the two first unchanged. Note that this could be done on top of the current game, but having some sort of Tracker-like tool which could not only visualize, but also edit turns. You would just use the old AE for turn processing and combat replay. (I am not advocating that. I am giving this example as a proof of concept that this four part model works)


It is probably good (although not quite correct) to picture the UI as two different subsystems. You have a visualization tool, and an “input tool” to give your orders.

At the heart of the visualization tool would be a better, zoomable, easier to search, map, and a series of user customizable reports, with data intensive reports like tracker, and more graphic visualization. I believe modern UI frameworks can handle this. One point I would really like to have is a report generator, something where you build your own dedicated screens. Something I don’t like with the current UI and Tracker is that you can’t choose what gets displayed and what doesn’t. Also, I’d love the UI to allow for “historical reports”. This would be practical for AAR, but also to keep tracks of past information.

The input tool would be much linked with the “auto input tool”, aka the AI. Players would be allowed (under certain restrictions) to script and delegate to the AI some repetitive chores. Note that the AI already handles such tasks, like moving units, loading and unloading, scheduling bombardments and landings. I like to think of that scripted input as a batman. The actual AI would be made of two parts, a full fledged batman, and a scripted master plan.


One new thing the batman would make possible is multi-turn orders. This already exists, in the form of patrol orders for subs, auto-convoys, ship movement with waypoints, refuel and follow orders. You mentioned something similar for pilot training, but you could also delegate some tasks (besiege Yenan, sweep Manila, bomb Tokyo), and perhaps even have the quality depend on the ratings of your local commander.

I believe this could improve the game in several ways. First, multi turn orders would allow for better handling of three day, or even longer turns, therefore shortening the campaign. We all love our one day turn, I’m sure, but some of us would love to see what 1944 is like before Alzheimer sets in and we all forget how to spell Babeldoab (or is it daob?). Also, this might help reduce the control players have on their troops. You could very well decide that some orders can only be input every other day, or take a while to implement (à la Gamers/MMP). And then, initiative (the ability to countermand previous orders) could be decided by game parameters, leader ability and so on.

Finally, such multi turn orders could be a game balancing factor, and boon for the AI. Just imagine an AI like the current one (ie slightly dumb) but reacting on a much faster cycle than the player. For instance, the player would be on three day turns, but the AI would react on a daily, or lower, basis. To some extent, such a use of multi turn orders would serve as a “poor man improved AI” (and would be a perfect illustration of OODA and other cycle based warfare models).

And this is how, dear reader, I spoilt what looked this morning like a perfect day of work…

Francois

< Message edited by fcharton -- 7/31/2012 11:12:53 PM >

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 1:11:18 AM   
Dili

 

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In 3D animation there are two programs that have a node based animation system. Houdini and Softimage. I am familiar with later. The system is called ICE. The interface are nodes, math "scalar" "integer", logical "if" "and" "true" "false" and even have a f-curve editor node, forces: wind, turbulence... , a bunch of nodes making an effect or various is called a compound ...why i am telling this, what about a nodal language for games? wondering also if looking at particles/fluids effects can drive some logic. After all the units are like particles or like a crowd system, attraction and repulsion, destruction...

Interface look: http://vimeo.com/1392786

This show what data types it has: http://softimage.wiki.softimage.com/xsidocs/ICE_basics_ConnectingICENodes.htm#Rer77341

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 4:21:22 AM   
oldman45


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From: Jacksonville Fl
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quote:

ORIGINAL: Andy Mac


There is just too much knowledge to be had, too many tests to be done, to achieve something significant. So it gets confined to specialist teams (RA and DaBabes), built around former members of the AE project group (JWE). Same goes for the AI, as far as I know, everyone can write their scripts, but only Andy Mac does.

I know. If the script-writing tools could be made easier to wield I think more scripts would be done by the community.

I was so hoping for players to write scipts so I could play v AI but no one has

AI editor is there to be used but no one does




I wish I could write scripts Andy. I have stared at it more than a few times and just don't get it.


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 5:03:46 AM   
jeffk3510


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If I would like to see anything, it would be more scenarious at various stages in the war.

An early and late start date for each year of the war for example.

A start date of all of the major offenses of the war.

Just a thought..

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 6:09:40 AM   
Fallschirmjager


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I want War in the Atlantic. 1939-1945

The map stretches from Tierra del Fuego to Nova Scotia to Murmansk to Capetown

The U-Boat war is covered in full. Land combat is upgraded but still a side show. The war in the Med would be incredibly interesting.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 9:39:39 AM   
Commander Cody


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Some excellent thoughts, Moose. I agree that AI, GUI and variable start conditions are good focus points. To expand on the starting conditions, perhaps some variability in terms of CV vs. BB vs. LBA vs. LCU pre-war building priority could be allowed. I'd also like to see Allied production as an option.

Anyway, gotta run. Will ponder some additional ideas.

Cheers,
CC

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 11:21:05 AM   
janh

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Andy Mac
I know. If the script-writing tools could be made easier to wield I think more scripts would be done by the community.

I was so hoping for players to write scipts so I could play v AI but no one has

AI editor is there to be used but no one does


I played around with the scripting of the Scen1 variants for a while, initially just to remove the CV raids and bug up the group size needs to make AI go for safer runs. Your devious raids and such are a fun things -- nothing teaches you more than to be caught off-guard. But after that happens twice, you'll even against the AI start to provide better rear area security. After that, it would be best if AI could "see thru fow" before starting such a script, else...

If the editor and scripting structuring were a bit more user friendly, i.e. if one could for instance easier catch with prior or subsequent script depended on a particular one, or what other scripts used a certain base as trigger, this would make things surely more comfortable. Right now one best has to dig through one script set and try to understand all you implemented first before changing anything (or take the risk and screw them up). And that takes a lot of time.

Beyond that, improving of creating scripts that would make AI really smarter and prevent it from suicidal raids, piecemeal invasions, amphib or naval ops against player stronghold just isn't possible with the functions there are. You cannot teach it to add more LCU's to a script if say the first AI landing wave hitting Fidji's beaches is whipped by much superior player forces than usually there. You cannot teach it to postpone the date for a (counter-)invasion until the IJ/Allied CV are spotted elsewhere, far off. You cannot teach it to postpone a landing to wait for more assets, more CV, or until the 4EB flattened Guadalcanal's airfield. The assets it waits for need to be predetermined, and are not determined based on how the AAR plays out and what enemy opposition that is, has been spotted or can expected to be there based on previous moves in that region. One a particular script runs, and no trigger condition or date cancels it, it will keep feeding stuff into its ops more than often in small TFs coming one by one or in small groups, rather than doing what a player would do: retreat, regroup and come again with a concerted effort and enough to get the job done.

Without a more powerful scripting toolkit, I couldn't see how to systematically improve on your scripts. One still needs to pick dates, base triggers, LCU, LBA and naval group size requirements. One still needs to "guess-timate" the typical course of a game, maybe close to historical, and hope the player also sticks to a historical course for your guess-timates and scripts to make sense. One the player deviates too much from that course, we all now how AI winds up.
I came to the simple conclusion that one could come up with more surprises and raids (which is of course less surprising to play oneself...), or for sake of safety request AI always to create largest possible TFs -- which in the end would work best with the Ironman Scens -- but other than that Andy already has squeezed pretty much all out the scripting engine there is.

But just as a word of caution -- even if there was a scripting engine with some 1000 different commands like ARMA2, which would let you test/check or modify/adjust anything from the parameters of any LCU, LBA or ship, via any production/research facility up to the force distribution in a theater via macros, functions, or triggered functions ("event-handlers"), it would still be a long way of creating an AI that could maybe even properly handle an invasion of OZ or India, or adapt to the players habit of using his CVs (as one group versus splitting them).

Yet there would be the possibility to systematically do so, which would hopefully interest more people for modding the AI. There are so many knowledgeable and very skilled people here, it would probably make big leaps forward. Just imagine if Andy had had the ability with his scripting to include if-tests for his raids that selected the raid target from all bases in range from the present position of the raiding TF, testing (a) that the player CV are distant or weaker than the participating AI ones, (b) LBA is weaker within in a circle around the target, and importantly: (c) some juicy targets are there, be it LBA overstacking, merchants and tankers or damaged ships in habor or whatever he could have devised for that particular raid.

One other benefit I want to mention towards those would ask for a better AI on a smaller operational scale would be that those scripts/functions in the GC governing that particular area/time interval could then be extracted to use as AI core for small scenarios -- basically try to create an AI code that is as much as abstracted as possible, very object-oriented, and can be tied to together sort of like lego building. All that would surely be doable, but to create such a scripting engine might be an enormous task in itself. And as someone pointed out above, such an approach would not seem typical of G&G games.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 12:43:51 PM   
rjopel

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Fallschirmjager

I want War in the Atlantic. 1939-1945

The map stretches from Tierra del Fuego to Nova Scotia to Murmansk to Capetown

The U-Boat war is covered in full. Land combat is upgraded but still a side show. The war in the Med would be incredibly interesting.



+1 I'd buy and play this as well.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 1:37:16 PM   
vettim89


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I 100% agree that a more robust system could be portable to other theatres and eras. I system with built in flexibility could be used to do a game around the Cuban Missle crisis or Gallipoli. Add in a full boonus features and you could do some "What If" Cold Scenarios. How about a game that mirros the "Fleet Series" for the Cold War battles at Sea. Other than Harpoon (which is a completely different scale), no one has created a PC game that truly models that era.

I have bought numerous game titles since I first purchased WiTP. WitP/AE are the only games I still play. I think Matrix needs to realize that a robust system that intergrates Land/Air/Naval combat could not only have a lot of potential for WWII games but open up an entire new area where little work would need to be done to produce an entire series of games.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 4:58:32 PM   
Shark7


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quote:

ORIGINAL: JeffK

Given that AI is a major hurdle, one question which could be asked by the "Matrix Poll" could be would players be happy with no AI for a Grand Campaign but well developed AI for scenarios?

I've played so many games head to head that it used to be the only way.

Plus developing AI for smaller campaigns might see breakthroughs in making it work in the GC.

Keep asking questions Guys, it will only see the product developed further.


JeffK, the problem with that is that there are a lot of casual players that will never have a PBEM and even more like me that will use a game against the AI as a distraction. I'd rather keep the GC with the AI we have than have none at all.

Now that doesn't mean that they couldn't develop a better AI for the smaller scenarios, and if a breakthrough is made patch it into the GC (even though you'd probably have to have a game restart to get the new AI to work).

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 5:54:30 PM   
Nikademus


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58

[The question is can Matrix still do this kind of thing? Does it want to? Has the Slitherine merger and announced forays into tablet-based games inalterably changed the company to an extent they can't do a major mission anymore unless GG's name is attached? Time will tell. I hope they can and will.


Matrix is a publishing company. What it would take is a team of programmers, developers, testers and researchers. Will it happen? Not any time soon if it ever does. It'll also not be done by Henderson Field Designs. One go-around was enough for Gary Grigsby (who has stated he'll never attempt such a mega game again), and one go-around was enough for HFD.


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Post #: 25
RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 8:08:37 PM   
Andy Mac

 

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AE cost mepersonally £2500 and about 4,000 man hours (excluding AI v AI testing)

So I agree with Nik unlikely I would do it again too big an investment.

I am sure others in the team had similar investments so its not something that will happen soon if at all and it will NEVER be economic only a labour of love could do it

Andy


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 10:27:32 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Commander Cody

Some excellent thoughts, Moose. I agree that AI, GUI and variable start conditions are good focus points. To expand on the starting conditions, perhaps some variability in terms of CV vs. BB vs. LBA vs. LCU pre-war building priority could be allowed. I'd also like to see Allied production as an option.


I would like Allied production, or minimally some control over Allied R&D and inter-model aircraft production change control. I have had private conversations concerning some fascinating economic change proposals. I hope they end up here as well. Understanding that these things probably involve digging into the EXE more than an AI/UI thrust, they might be a bridge too far. But still very interesting to ponder.

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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 10:28:41 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: janh

quote:

ORIGINAL: Andy Mac
I know. If the script-writing tools could be made easier to wield I think more scripts would be done by the community.

I was so hoping for players to write scipts so I could play v AI but no one has

AI editor is there to be used but no one does


I played around with the scripting of the Scen1 variants for a while, initially just to remove the CV raids and bug up the group size needs to make AI go for safer runs. Your devious raids and such are a fun things -- nothing teaches you more than to be caught off-guard. But after that happens twice, you'll even against the AI start to provide better rear area security. After that, it would be best if AI could "see thru fow" before starting such a script, else...

If the editor and scripting structuring were a bit more user friendly, i.e. if one could for instance easier catch with prior or subsequent script depended on a particular one, or what other scripts used a certain base as trigger, this would make things surely more comfortable. Right now one best has to dig through one script set and try to understand all you implemented first before changing anything (or take the risk and screw them up). And that takes a lot of time.

Beyond that, improving of creating scripts that would make AI really smarter and prevent it from suicidal raids, piecemeal invasions, amphib or naval ops against player stronghold just isn't possible with the functions there are. You cannot teach it to add more LCU's to a script if say the first AI landing wave hitting Fidji's beaches is whipped by much superior player forces than usually there. You cannot teach it to postpone the date for a (counter-)invasion until the IJ/Allied CV are spotted elsewhere, far off. You cannot teach it to postpone a landing to wait for more assets, more CV, or until the 4EB flattened Guadalcanal's airfield. The assets it waits for need to be predetermined, and are not determined based on how the AAR plays out and what enemy opposition that is, has been spotted or can expected to be there based on previous moves in that region. One a particular script runs, and no trigger condition or date cancels it, it will keep feeding stuff into its ops more than often in small TFs coming one by one or in small groups, rather than doing what a player would do: retreat, regroup and come again with a concerted effort and enough to get the job done.

Without a more powerful scripting toolkit, I couldn't see how to systematically improve on your scripts. One still needs to pick dates, base triggers, LCU, LBA and naval group size requirements. One still needs to "guess-timate" the typical course of a game, maybe close to historical, and hope the player also sticks to a historical course for your guess-timates and scripts to make sense. One the player deviates too much from that course, we all now how AI winds up.
I came to the simple conclusion that one could come up with more surprises and raids (which is of course less surprising to play oneself...), or for sake of safety request AI always to create largest possible TFs -- which in the end would work best with the Ironman Scens -- but other than that Andy already has squeezed pretty much all out the scripting engine there is.

But just as a word of caution -- even if there was a scripting engine with some 1000 different commands like ARMA2, which would let you test/check or modify/adjust anything from the parameters of any LCU, LBA or ship, via any production/research facility up to the force distribution in a theater via macros, functions, or triggered functions ("event-handlers"), it would still be a long way of creating an AI that could maybe even properly handle an invasion of OZ or India, or adapt to the players habit of using his CVs (as one group versus splitting them).

Yet there would be the possibility to systematically do so, which would hopefully interest more people for modding the AI. There are so many knowledgeable and very skilled people here, it would probably make big leaps forward. Just imagine if Andy had had the ability with his scripting to include if-tests for his raids that selected the raid target from all bases in range from the present position of the raiding TF, testing (a) that the player CV are distant or weaker than the participating AI ones, (b) LBA is weaker within in a circle around the target, and importantly: (c) some juicy targets are there, be it LBA overstacking, merchants and tankers or damaged ships in habor or whatever he could have devised for that particular raid.

One other benefit I want to mention towards those would ask for a better AI on a smaller operational scale would be that those scripts/functions in the GC governing that particular area/time interval could then be extracted to use as AI core for small scenarios -- basically try to create an AI code that is as much as abstracted as possible, very object-oriented, and can be tied to together sort of like lego building. All that would surely be doable, but to create such a scripting engine might be an enormous task in itself. And as someone pointed out above, such an approach would not seem typical of G&G games.


The more you post on AI the more I think you should volunteer to be on a team to do this stuff. Very good ideas which keep the script mega-structure but build on the current models.


< Message edited by Bullwinkle58 -- 8/1/2012 11:24:49 PM >


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 10:31:03 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: vettim89

I 100% agree that a more robust system could be portable to other theatres and eras. I system with built in flexibility could be used to do a game around the Cuban Missle crisis or Gallipoli. Add in a full boonus features and you could do some "What If" Cold Scenarios. How about a game that mirros the "Fleet Series" for the Cold War battles at Sea. Other than Harpoon (which is a completely different scale), no one has created a PC game that truly models that era.

I have bought numerous game titles since I first purchased WiTP. WitP/AE are the only games I still play. I think Matrix needs to realize that a robust system that intergrates Land/Air/Naval combat could not only have a lot of potential for WWII games but open up an entire new area where little work would need to be done to produce an entire series of games.


If I were designing a game company from scratch I'd allow for what you say. But I fear that their current vertical walled management structure focused on specific devs and specific products--with the intellectual property issues that brings--would preclude them developing a multi-game, multi-era general case engine and sharing it across many games. It would be nice and it makes a lot of financial sense, but I doubt they're set up to allow this.

< Message edited by Bullwinkle58 -- 8/1/2012 10:55:14 PM >


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RE: WITP2 Ruminations (Was "OT:WitE Forum") - 8/1/2012 10:54:01 PM   
Bullwinkle58


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Nikademus


quote:

ORIGINAL: Bullwinkle58

[The question is can Matrix still do this kind of thing? Does it want to? Has the Slitherine merger and announced forays into tablet-based games inalterably changed the company to an extent they can't do a major mission anymore unless GG's name is attached? Time will tell. I hope they can and will.


Matrix is a publishing company. What it would take is a team of programmers, developers, testers and researchers. Will it happen? Not any time soon if it ever does. It'll also not be done by Henderson Field Designs. One go-around was enough for Gary Grigsby (who has stated he'll never attempt such a mega game again), and one go-around was enough for HFD.


I'm looking for reasons to do this, not reasons it can't be done. Realizing you were on the team are you perhaps being a bit defensive about HFD? I tried very hard to give appropriate praise for what HFD did. It was a remarkable achievement and is still delivering and still being supported. But I sometimes get the feeling that some current devs think that any call for movement forward denegrates the AE achievement. If that is the case I will once again say "not from my corner." However, that said, nothing is perfect and most creative products don't ever have to settle out and die.

I realize Matrix is a publishing company, but that doesn't have to mean just one thing. Many firms in many types of creative industries operate both as fishermen, sweeping up proposals which swim by, and hunters, going out and assembling teams to execute IP they control the rights to. Book publishers do it every day, especially in non-fiction. Few non-fiction authors begin work without a contract in hand. Movie studios do it too, hiring a director to do a screenplay they already own, said director to put together the rest of the team in concert with an executive producer. This is especially true in sequels where the risk is more known and there are financials from the last production in the series to use to set budgets and marketing expenses. TV networks do it to some extent, less than in films, but they do exercise hiring and firing control over show-runners and do sometimes go shopping for a "name" to do a show where the pilot is good but the producers need help.

In the game industry there have been multiple models. Some in-house developers who were also publishers (Microprose for example), some pure publishers (EA I thnk is this), and lots and lots of usually small pure development houses, most of which flamed up and died off quickly in the now 30+ year history of the industry. Matrix could put together a team if they wanted to. If they don't I don't expect to see a clean-sheet PTO game from someone else in my lifetime. They are in a unique strategic position for as long as interest in WWII lasts. That won't be forever, but it'll be for the rest of my life at least.

Last night I found and read an interesting interview with GG, done while WITP was nearing completion. It was interesting in that it reviewed his career in games as well as explored his feelings about Now vs. Then. He confessed to really missing the 80s when he could crank out an alpha--alone--in a month and make a six-figure income from a few such titles per year. WITP at that point was driving him bats, and he swore never again. The team was 2x3 and it was, and is, three guys. Old school, but not capable of spanning all the skill sets needed for a modern, A-class game. But yeah, WITP got finished, it was great, it set a new bar. GG rested, then did the ACW game (no slouch in terms of complexity) and is now involved in a decade's-worth of effort in the current WitE, WitW, etc. product stream. Those are mega games as well. He wasn't done.

However, my point is that GG took WITP as far as he could. He was mentally flat when it shipped by his own admission. And yet a different team, larger, with different experiences and skill sets came together as HFD and took it at least twice as far. HFD did yeoman's work, and I'm not suggesting they have anything left in the tank either. But that doesn't mean WITP needs to be over. It might mean that the next relay needs different skills once again and to work on areas HFD was not tasked to undertake.

If interested, the interview with GG is at

http://www.wargamer.com/article/1383/interview-joel-billings-and-gary-grigsby

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