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The AI and spaceports

 
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The AI and spaceports - 12/19/2012 12:15:50 PM   
Bingeling

 

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Looking at the state of things, there is something that does not sit well with spaceports.

They are a good population/tax boosts through creating happiness bonuses. The AI is not too shabby in spending money, at least while at war, but still does not grasp well the way money is heading due to bonus income. And in war they seem more prone to wanting ships than bases, even if I think base building also benefits from the spending sprees then.

The default policy is to have spaceport sizes set by population levels, which makes the AI put large spaceports everywhere after a while. To balance this the AI got a minimum distance between them, which puts things somewhat in check. The bad part about this is that major colonies end up with no spaceport. In my latest (current) game, I saw an AI regional capital lack spaceport, because a nearby (much poorer) colony had one.

I would think the game would benefit of rethinking what a spaceport is. At least as a colony happiness boost. The AI should also realize that it may be a good idea to do other things than spam only large spaceports after a while.

My current tech is approaching endgame items. Cost of relevant bases are:

Large spaceport: 53k to buy, 10.5k to maintain.
Medium spaceport: 32k to buy, 5.3k to maintain.
Small spaceport: 16k to buy, 3.1k to maintain.
Defensive base: 23k to buy, 4.4k to maintain.

A defensive base has firepower and defenses comparable to a medium spaceport (but a bit less shields). The Small spaceport got about half that.

The AI builds some spaceports, which all end up large (unless the colony is crap), and builds a host of defensive bases. One defensive base does nothing more than a small spaceport in single defense against an AI colony attack: nothing. Both deter pirates well, but the single defensive base is placed wrong and only protects from one direction. And troop transports are not killed that easily, I don't think even a large spaceport kills many at all, since nimble frigates arrives first to eat the shots (and die). The AI also likes to place strike fleets at colonies, which is good protection against small threats like normal pirates or enemy strike fleets hunting a small spaceport.

I would like to change the game so that the small spaceport is smaller, and widely used. It is built for every colony where the AI currently thinks a defensive base may be relevant, and even a bit more freely. More than one in each system should be OK. My small spaceports got 12 lasers, 6 torpedoes, 4 point defense. The numbers could be halved. The research labs could go. This reduces both purchase cost and maintenance. If one also removes one construction yard, one can easily remove a reactor too (and possibly habitation stuff). With these changes the maintenance (the important stat) goes to 2487 in my game, from 3100.

In my current game, the extra small spaceport (weakened) would cost 2500, and the gain in taxes is not easy to calculate (15 happiness), and any gain in population growth even harder (but I figure taxes would cancel that). Comparable maintenance is 3000 for cruiser, 1886 for destroyer, 1288 for frigate. The small spaceport cost the same as half an AI strike fleet. It is small change this far into the game.

The AI could also discover what the enlightened player knows: Cargo bays on spaceports are irrelevant. And they probably should be, because if not resources would be lost on a spaceport destruction, which would cripple an empire massively. I doubt a lot of maintenance is spent on 5 extra cargo bays, though.

Upgrade to medium spaceport at good colonies. And balance a large spaceport minimum distance and a minimum number of large spaceports, reserving them as ship building centers. Maybe a minimum distance for medium as well, since one hardly needs more than one in a system (I upgrade where I want some more ship building ability, defense and/or a long range scanner). Use "increased defense" as a criteria for retrofitting to larger size - if the AI wants a defensive base, prefer to upgrade the spaceport instead. If there is no further upgrade, build the base.

In my AAR game, I got 31 colonies in 25 systems. My AI currently have 8 large, 2 medium spaceports, and 11 defensive bases. If I built spaceports myself, I would probably have 31 spaceports, 3 large, 8-10 medium, and the rest small. And some defensive bases on the most valuable colonies (less than 5). If the AI switched from defensive bases to small spaceports, it would be close to filling the world with spaceports, since most defensive bases are alone at their colonies. This AI is not defensive, though, only the top colony in the galaxy got a defensive base in addition to a spaceport (the capital only got spaceport). Other AIs are different in that respect.

The evil ways of my (and other) AI is seen in the policy screen (it is a mod AI, but this should be similar for all)
Minimum distance between spaceports: 700K.
Minimum population for Large spaceport: 3000M

Some extra logic for upgrade from medium to large would be wise, and scrap that distance limit. But also keep a distance limit between medium or larger, to avoid drowning in maintenance cost. Remember that small spaceports should be cheaper.

And a better AI grasp of spending never hurts, but this is probably a core problem in the game economy. Bonus income is unpredictable in nature. If all AI had better grasp of this, the amount of money sent as gifts should go down, though.
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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/19/2012 4:45:28 PM   
tjhkkr


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Wow, I am such a creature of habit. I generally speaking only build medium space ports unless I have two planets in the same system.
I thank you for sharing this insight into the game.

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(in reply to Bingeling)
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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/19/2012 5:10:29 PM   
Bingeling

 

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If I run manual designs, I have two small spaceport designs, scan and noscan.

Also, I find it annoying to make sure that all colonies in multi-colony systems got spaceports. On the normal map one spaceport per system is easy to see from trade lines, and the spaceport blob in cases where no fleet is present. Whether there are two spaceports is a pain to notice.

And I never build anything but small from scratch, unless it is "mature game" and very central. I want that small up, and then retrofit if wanted. But the above was about AI pains, not my pains. I can manage :)

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/19/2012 6:11:08 PM   
Haree78


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You should be on the testing team Bingeling, I like your insights.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/19/2012 6:45:26 PM   
Bingeling

 

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Also, a fun thing about minimum distances. This is guesswork, though.

In my AAR, I got a northern (east) colony called Utoa (it loses the northern colony status). It was the edge of my empire, and had no spaceport. The AI was ordering defensive bases all around since it had positive cashflow, and built one there. But no spaceport.

Then war came, and the order for LSP at Utoa arrived. In addition to the defensive base built earlier.

The spaceport was later busted by legendary pirates. At the next war the spaceport was rebuilt (due to AI spending saved cash at war).

But why not a spaceport until war? I am guessing it is about minimum distance. The nearest spaceport orbits its star. As do Utoa. At some points in time they are inside the minimum distance, at other time not. And the check for build is occasional, and whether a spaceport is ordered or not depends on the planet configuration in the two systems.

To avoid that oddity the check could be done star to star...

In addition I am pretty sure the AI orders 0 or 1 spaceport when it does its "build check". It would not hurt to start multiple builds at times when there is a decent build budget available (and needy locations). In such a game every single colony not inside the minimum distance should qualify for a small one at least (and I had new conquests at the time).

"LSP for Utoa (50K), we also suggest building ships for 1.4 million." One could imagine the AI could risk a small spaceport for a new conquest, at least (feel free to subtract the sum from the 1.4M build suggestion)...

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/19/2012 11:08:19 PM   
jpwrunyan


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Early in the game, my small spaceports basically have the bare minimum components. I just want to get the medical center and the recreation center as soon as possible.
Later I will add a few shields and weapons (area weapons) to the design. But I want them to be as cheap as possible so they get built as quickly as possible.

THEN, if at war, I will work on defensive bases before even upgrading to a medium space port. YMMV

But yeah, it is crazy the way the AI just sits around with no spaceport at its colonies. Really, why would you ever NOT build one? The game manual makes it sound like a new spaceport is a huge investment that you should consider carefully (like, should I put one here or over here... hmm), but it's not. It's a no-brainer.

Remember Tradewars? Of course not. No one here ever played that game. But anyway, that was a fun game. And building a space port at your planet(s) was a BFD.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/20/2012 1:21:48 AM   
Ponicus

 

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Tradewars, the BBS game? Yes, I remember it. I played it. And also ran it on the BBS I operated in the early 90s.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/20/2012 8:56:07 AM   
Bingeling

 

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Just an example of large colonies missing spaceports. On the galaxy map, the size of influence circle is decided by the "size" of the colony. Huge circle - huge colony.

I point at two colonies with shaky, yellow arrows.



The right one was a regional capital. The upper one was a 93% colony with just below 12000M population at the time.

You can see by the circles generated by the spaceport systems, that the colony in them can not be much higher ranked than the two on the right, near the light brown area. So nothing fancy at all.

The reason for this problem is likely to revolve around the time of colonization, and the right one could be a conquest.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/20/2012 6:44:25 PM   
jpwrunyan


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Ponicus

Tradewars, the BBS game? Yes, I remember it. I played it. And also ran it on the BBS I operated in the early 90s.


Ponicus, you are my twin brother separated at birth. We should team up and join a world terrorist organization bent on world domination. Can you feel it when I do this? How about this? Our special power will feature synchronized surfing.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/22/2012 2:52:21 PM   
Buio


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Haree78
You should be on the testing team Bingeling, I like your insights.


Agree, a well made analysis and post by Bingeling.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/22/2012 3:43:55 PM   
Shark7


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I'd really like to see the AI not go to default on policy when it comes to space ports. I personally set up mine to build a new small star port on colonization. I also set a 0 minimum distance and have a small built at 30m population. Unfortunately, the AI seems to ignore this policy, even though I've saved it to each race's policy settings.

This weakens the AI as it loses out on both trade income and colony quality (which in turn affects tax income). It also doesn't give the AI as many refueling and repair options as I have as a player.

Personally I'd like to the see the default AI policy tweaked to build at least a small star port on every planet, and at least one monitoring station in each system.

And AI designs, unless optimized, are weak. The AI most definitely needs to check the strength of players ships and build to similar specs, or flat out copy the players designs to keep them competitive. Also, optimized designs need to upgrade as better equipment becomes available, until the next optimized design is buildable. That way the AI isn't using tech level 1 stuff all the way into tech level 3, and isn't defaulting to its weaker non-optimized designs.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/22/2012 10:29:19 PM   
Bingeling

 

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A monitoring in each system is waste. Medium spaceports usually carry long range scanners, and they got some range. So depending on the colony density, it could be huge overlap.

I also think that races have different opinions on monitoring stations. I remember my Gizureans building a few "offensive" ones while at war in my ROTS AAR using them.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/24/2012 8:46:49 PM   
jpwrunyan


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I agree, monitoring stations are a bit overkill. In fact, I think the classification could just be eliminated entirely in lieu of star bases and space ports with long range scanning.

I do agree, however, that all colonies should instantly begin building a small space port. Unless of course the AI is low on money. But that never happens.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/24/2012 11:01:32 PM   
Bingeling

 

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I think some safeguards for the very early game should be in place. But in my latest AAR the AI was not exactly stellar in performance while in trouble (one gas mine was all mining stuff, and supplies were at 0 for most important stuff).

But if the small spaceport is made smaller, it would be less of a risk.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/26/2012 4:55:25 PM   
Deomrve

 

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I think the AI should build spaceports under the following conditions. An average of 3-5 freighters waiting to dock, build a small spaceport, 6-9 freighters waiting to dock, build a medium spaceport and 10 or more freighters waiting to dock, build a large spaceport. Also the AI could upgrade the space ports to the next larger size by taking the number of docking bays and multiplying them by 2 and check this number against the number of ships waiting to dock(this is all ships, freighters and warships). If this number is consistently exceeded for 2 game minutes then upgrade. This way the AI builds according to traffic. I would also like the AI to build according to strategic need.

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RE: The AI and spaceports - 12/28/2012 12:35:53 PM   
Jeeves


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I use a simple rule to decide - at 100k revenue upgrade the colony to medium, at 400k medium to large. Otherwise every colony gets a 5k maintenance small spaceport and there is no fee until it actually builds. By then the colony is earning at least 5k unless it is a special ruins world. Sometimes the korobbian or zentabia worlds are low quality but they pay for themselves in resources mined. The key to success is not to overspend on spaceports but to have a good design for the ones you do build. If you have less than one million cash, stop buying unnecessary spaceports. In my current game with hyperinflation on six resources and size 1400 small spaceports it costs a bit more maintenance than my general rule of thumb, but I expect inflation to ease soon. Besides I spend twice as much on military ships as spaceports anyway, so if budget cuts are made the shipbuilding gets cut first.

Lonnie Courtney Clay


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