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The ATG Single Player Experience

 
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The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/15/2013 3:09:09 AM   
lancer

 

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The ATG Single Player Experience

Note

This post talks about what it says it will but through the prism of my mod, The Enhanced Resource Mod (ERM). Not much I can do about that as the two are, at least from my perspective, intertwined. I’ve endeavoured to keep it as general as I can and, without any knowledge or interest in the mod, you should still find it a thought provoking read.

Introduction

The conversation is about single player ATG random games. I’ve focused on this as it is here is that the game really shines as an every changing, operational level war game. It’s also, by far, the area of greatest use for owners of the program.

In purely self-interested terms ATG likely won’t be given much in the way of further development attention unless there is some growth in the user base. While not denigrating the small, but enthusiastic, MP community here in anyway it is the single player experience that sells this, and most other, games.

Before anybody gets on their high horse and starts yelling at me I’ll point out that I’m agnostic. Both forms of the game are good. In the last three years there have been a number of interesting surveys done by game companies to evaluate the relative importance of MP & SP experiences. Turns out that lots of game players like the idea of MP features but surprisingly few of them actually use it beyond, at the most, a cursory initial look.

As mentioned it is the quality of the Single Player experience that gets them reaching for their wallet and it is here that the overwhelming majority of game owners spend their time.

Anyway, enough of that. I’ll talk about the limitations of the AI, the chances of it ever being officially improved and analyse what else can be done to improve the gaming experience.

Why can’t the Developer fix the AI?

I’m sure that he’d like to. He’s an obliging gentleman. Lots of people here on the forum have asked that he does. Even something straightforward like a sliding difficulty scale for the AI (rather than the fixed AI, AI+, AI++ levels that currently exist), which has been suggested by just about everyman and his dog at one time or another, has yet to be implemented. So what’s the problem?

Rather than me talk about an area that I know little about I’ll paraphrase from the words of the developer himself, Vic (you can find a more detailed version on his blog).

“For a game to feature a decent AI opponent you need to build the game from the ground up around the requirements of an intelligent AI.”

“Like most things in life you don’t get it right the first time. The more games you make, the better you get at it.”


The core code base for ATG is old. Vic has made several games since with much improved AI. Which pretty much sums up why the AI isn’t going to ever be magically fixed by requests for the developer to do so. It is what it is.

I don’t in anyway speak for the developer and the above comments are my educated guess as to the why and how. If I’ve got it wrong it would be appreciated if he could step in and correct me.

From a more holistic viewpoint writing an improved AI for random games would be extremely difficult, even assuming it was technically doable.

Historical based games (eg. the DC series) have the advantage of fixed geography whereas random games could range from anything from totally flat, land based worlds to scattered archipelagos of mountainous, jungle clad islands. Imagine trying to write generic AI rules to cope with such overwhelming diversity?

The best example of a Single Player computer AI that I can think of is the Stardock game, Galactic Civilisations. If you translated this to the ATG format it would consist of nothing but cities in a sea of nothingness. There aren’t any mountain ranges, deserts, forests, meandering rivers or vast oceans to take into account, just a collection of cities, each a certain distance from the other.

Even without the encumbrance of a complicated random geography the GC AI has required multiple iterations to get to the point of being challenging. Add onto this the complexity of the ATG combat system compared to the simplistic rock paper scissors approach of GC and you can get an inkling of the size of the task.

Galactic Civilisations is inherently a collection of simple game mechanics dressed up in chrome to appear otherwise. It’s an excellent example of building a game from the ground up to cater for a decent AI. The simpler it is, the easier it is to code the AI and the more manageable the task. ATG is a collection of relatively complicated game mechanics, with minimal chrome, conducted on a randomised, complicated game board.

The surprise is not so much that the ATG AI is bad, rather that it is as good as it is despite all of the above hurdles.

Analysing the AI

The limitations of the AI are legion. It doesn’t know how to utilise the more specialised units. It ability to wage naval warfare wouldn’t qualify it to conquer your bathtub. It’s flaky about building effective units. It builds lots of factories but doesn’t know much about using them. It’s blind, deaf and dumb when it comes to the big strategic picture.

On the flip side it’s O.K with its tactical implementation. It’s good at sneaking units round your flanks and it will swarm you into extinction in the opening stages of the game if you aren’t paying full attention.

It’s easy to poke fun at the AI when you aren’t the person who has had to write it. I’m confident that if I had to put one together it would be dramatically worse.

The AI doesn’t exist in isolation. Supply is a significant limiting factor. Because only cities with a like people/culture to yours can produce supply there is a defined ceiling which limits the overall size of your armed forces.

This is a great design feature. It prevents the player from generating an overwhelmingly powerful force able to steamroll their way all the way to the far map edges in short order.

Once you start playing on large maps or upwards this becomes an issue as you attempt to conquer the farther reaches of the known realm. Unfortunately, if you’re like me, you’ve usually got bored (the challenge is gone) and stopped playing long before you get to this point.

The other stand out design element is the inclusion of resources. Pure genius. These only apply to the player (the AI gets resource handouts) and provide an immediate strategic focus. The location of the mines and oil wells on the map become increasingly important in direct proportion to your need for them. Without resources you would focus only on capturing cities. With resources you have a much broader appreciation of the world.

Locations with resources are strategically important. With the mod the transport routes from these outlying places become equally vital. Imagine if Japan in WW2 only had to capture Burma and the Dutch East Indies to have all their oil magically transported back to the Home Islands. Without the hassle of safely getting vulnerable oil tankers across vast ocean distances it would have made their job of conquering the Pacific basin magnitudes easier.

The Typical Game Arc

Goes something like this…



It varies considerably depending on how you have set up your game. The overall arc, however, is similar, all that changes is the time involved for the different stages. As can be seen the AI is at its best in the opening and tapers off rapidly during the middle game.

But while the AI’s performance is important it’s the challenge of the overall game that is probably more relevant to a player.



Challenge drops off faster than the AI’s performance. You can get a sense for this yourself. It’s easy to tell when you are at the apex of the graph - you have survived the initial AI ‘swarm’, you have established a strong foothold, have a factory or two starting to tick over and you are, for the first time, starting to think about where you will launch your first big offensive.

Once that gets under way the challenge aspect drops faster than the AI’s performance for the simple reason that you begin taking ground and cities. Slowly and painfully at first but there is a definite snowballing effect that kicks in and it isn’t long before you breach the ‘threshold’.



That’s the point where you are no longer making interesting decisions. You’re thinking, ‘I got this game beat, from here on in it’s only a prolonged, increasingly easy, mop up’. If you’re like me this is the point where you stand up, bow gracefully at your computer, mutter muted thanks for a great game and be done with it.

Enter stage right the Enhanced Resource Mod.



The effect is to increase the size of the initial challenge (‘cause it makes the game harder). In short, the challenge of the opening game is enhanced and extended. Doesn’t do anything for the middle game but it pushes the point where you stop playing further down the time scale.

The idea of the second stage of the mod is to do something about the middle game.


How best to improve the AI


While ATG’s AI isn’t ever going to take out ‘Opponent of the Year’ it does have one huge advantage over AI’s found in other games – the ATG editor. This is surprisingly powerful and allows anyone who is willing to invest a bit of time to add significant functionality to the game.

If you are going to do this with the intention of improving the AI you have a couple of options. The first is to pull the various hardcoded levers that manipulate the AI’s behavioural profile, the rulevars. There are also a few AI parameters that you can tweak via the scripting language.

I’ve looked at these, as have others, and come to the conclusion that, while you may well be able to optimise certain aspects of the AI in certain specific situations, none of what you can do would be enough to overcome the AI’s myopic view of the strategic situation. In short, it isn’t going to make much difference.

If there were any major gains to be had here I’m sure that the developer himself would have adjusted the settings long ago.

Another approach is to program the game such that the AI gains bonus units. Not so much more battalions of grunts but the special SFT’s such as aircraft and naval units. You can set it up such that the AI gains a new airfield of fighters, attached to the appropriate Headquarters, near a key city. Or perhaps insert a squadron of torpedo bombers in a coastal city to project airpower over the nearby sea lanes.

I’ve tried this and it’s eminently doable. The problem, however, is that once the AI has the extra units it struggles to use them in any manner other than in a purely reactive one. A good example is that I wanted the AI to wage a submarine war against my merchant shipping. I gave it whole flotillas of submarines, fully supplied, in its frontline coastal cities.

What I found was that I know more about waging a trade war (I have a whole shelf of books on the battle of the Atlantic and the War in the Pacific) than the AI. Heck, my daughter knows more about it than the AI and she can barely spell ‘submarine’.

So both the obvious approaches to improving the AI are dead ends. What does that leave?

Well one thing you can do is, rather than tweak the AI, make the player’s job harder. Give him a task that the AI doesn’t have to worry about. The net result will be better game.

This is tricky. Doing it is easy. Throw a bunch of random events at the player that nobble him one way or another, an approach that is commonly taken in a lot of 4X strategy games.

The downside to this approach is that the player has no control over what happens. You can dress it up as an essential part of the ‘backstory’ but all you are actually doing is getting people annoyed and frustrated.

What works instead is a game mechanism that handicaps the player, relative to the AI, that it is both enjoyable and allows the player a high measure of control over the process. You also don’t want to introduce any additional micromanagement.

Which is what I’ve done with the Resource Mod. The game mechanic introduced is that resources are only useable if the player can connect them to his capital via a series of rail and sea links.

Does the player have control over the process? Yes indeed. Is it fun? Who doesn’t like connecting stuff up and getting a ‘resource rush’ when that final piece of track is laid? Does it handicap the player compared to the AI? Yep. No additional fiddliness? Tick.

Should I give myself a pat on the back for being a great mod designer? No. I wasn’t thinking about any of this when I first wrote the mod. The only thought in my head was that it was pretty hooky being able to use resources if they weren’t connected.

It’s only recently that I’ve started giving the AI some serious consideration. It turns out that my approach was probably the right one but that was purely dumb luck, not good management.

Regardless, it worked out well and I’ve got a solid foundation to build on. Now that I’ve lucked my way into the finals and have my baseball cap on backwards I’ve figured out a few things.

I can both further handicap the player in the right way (eg. challenging and fun) and improve the AI at the same time. The key piece of the puzzle to enable all this to happen is to set up an off map ‘transport pool’ of trains and cargo ships that are dedicated to moving the players resources. You can read more about this in the Mod section of the forum if you’re interested.

The pool subtly increases the player’s handicap and provides a means for me to program the AI to attack it in an intelligent manner.

As the player is dependant on the trains and cargo ships within his transport pool to ferry his resources back to his capital any impact on the pool has significant repercussions in his ability to wage war.

Let’s say you generated a random game with the parameters of a large map with an ocean geography (e.g. islands in amongst a lot of ocean). The capital may as well be called Tokyo because your task is identical to Japan’s in WW2. You have to conquer distant lands for their resources and transport them back to your industrial homeland in the face of an unrelenting submarine campaign.

The only part that is missing is the submarine campaign. Well I can program the AI to wage one better than it can do so itself (which isn’t saying a lot).

All of this would be abstract. The transport pool is abstract, the AI submarines and their movements would be abstract. It would be a game mechanic that exists only in the form of reports and information updates.

Which is, by the way, pretty much how the two major submarine wars (Atlantic and Pacific) were fought. There aren’t any Panzer divisions that you can point to on the situation map and outflank in a submarine war. It’s a war of shadows. One that is conducted largely based on incomplete and inaccurate information.

Still, abstract game mechanics aren’t very satisfying. But what if you could somehow tie the abstract to the reality of what’s happening on the map?

Any participating units by the player, such as cargo ships and destroyers, would have to be built. Because transport pool assets now can’t be used for anything other than resources there is a distinct trade-off that the player needs to negotiate. Do they build cargo ships to put in their pool or, instead, cargo ships to move tanks across the oceans?

The vulnerability of a players convoy routes would be a function of their actual length. Short ocean crossings are easy to protect whereas running convoys from distant lands is going to be more problematic. There wouldn’t have been a Battle for the Atlantic if America’s industrial output derived from nearby Scotland.

The AI’s ability to support a submarine offensive would be in direct proportion to the number of coastal cities they own. The U-Boat offensive only really took off once the Germans gained access to the French Atlantic ports. The more coastal cities you let the AI take over, and the longer they control them, the more submarines they can field.

Then, of course, is the inevitable consequence of the player neglecting to tend to the protection of their sea lanes. Most of their cargo ships are going to be sitting on the bottom of the ocean with ragged holes in them. All those foreign resources. They’ll still be there, but they won’t be making it back to your capital where they can be utilised to feed your war machine.

That’s not abstract. That’s real. It’ll hurt.

I’m also confident that I can program the mod such that the general level of the AI submarine threat could translate to attacks against any of your on-map cargo ships. Due to the AI’s current lack of naval aptitude, sending assault formations to land on distant lands is a no-brainer. Load ‘em up and sail ‘em off.

Might not be so easy if there was the risk of being torpedoed en-route. Better send a destroyer, or two, with your cargo ships.

The above brief outline of the submarine war is just one aspect of the second part of the mod (not done, but underway). The Land side (rail) will work very differently along with a further mechanic to mesh both the Land and Sea aspects together into a coherent whole. I talk more about this below.

The key point is that by tying resource availability to a transport pool enables an AI that can target that same pool in an intelligent, proactive manner. The abstract nature of the ‘trade wars’ can be offset by heavily entwining the whole process with the on-map situation.

Finally the effects of the second part of the mod, eg. the ‘Trade Wars’, are designed to kick in just at the point where the player has got on top of the early game.

That’s the plan.

The aim is to provide the player with a roughly similar level of challenge that exists in the early game and continue it on through the middle game.



The end game is tricky. I don’t know of any game that has managed to keep the end game challenging. Usually you are either overwhelmingly ahead or likewise behind and on life support. It’s extremely difficult to put into place any balancing mechanisms that keep the player in the sweet spot where they are forced to make tough, interesting decisions. Not much I can do about this.

However, with a buffed up early game and challenging middle game, ATG could become a real contender as a single player experience. Fingers crossed.


Note

The following post refers specifically to the mod and my plans for it. The general AI discussion part is finished so if you’ve got no interest in the mod, now is a good time to stop reading. If not then follow the link as the following is more suited to the Mod section of the forum.

ERM - plans for stage 2

Cheers,

Lancer

< Message edited by lancer -- 1/15/2013 11:12:30 PM >
Post #: 1
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/15/2013 9:18:41 AM   
Josh

 

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Impressive stuff Lancer, very well written. And I think most seasoned players would have to agree with you. Except maybe that the AI challenge in the middle-late game isn't always dead, but sometimes comes flaring up again. I mean I've played quite a few games where I've beaten the initial onslaught (say in turn 30 + or so) only to find another major part of the AI force waiting for me somewhere. Hundreds of Inf and planes you get the idea. Usually that is because, like you say, the AI is dumb blind and deaf sometimes, or because it outproduces it's supply (low on readiness). In my last game with the previous patch I *thought* I had soundly beaten an enemy AI.. only to find myself suddenly in a Stalingrad scenario. Only careful manouvering (hmmm tricky word) on my side kept me from being surrounded and being cut off from my supplies, which would have meant the end of the whole of that Army group. Ofcourse the AI had troops aplenty, but too low on supply...

I welcome the idea of upgrading the convoy aspect of it, as it is I already play that way, but AI interception of Supply, Oil and Ore are still non existent. Alhough I have played games vs the AI where it *did* build ships to intercept my supplies.

Oh, and maybe one word of advice if I may? Please write the keywords in your post in bold so the reader knows wich words really do count.

Maybe you should work together with Vic to implement this seemless in AT Platinum?

(in reply to lancer)
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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/15/2013 11:58:38 AM   
Jafele


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Yes, to improve the old AI of ATG will be extremely difficult. Vic said his mystery project will include a new more powerful AI. I would be happy with a non-cheated AI capable to buy/use ships decently, also (if possible) an AI able to make alliances.

quote:

ORIGINAL: Josh
Maybe you should work together with Vic to implement this seemless in AT Platinum?


+1. This would be the perfect team

< Message edited by Jafele -- 1/15/2013 12:00:29 PM >

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/15/2013 8:10:36 PM   
Madlok


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It is not possible to make a complex wargame with good non-cheating AI. Galactic Civilization has cheated AI.
And for games like ATG with random scenarios it is even more impossible XD.
Best AI are for mathematical or logical strategy games like TripleA, Legio (from Paradox Interactive), checkers, chess.

< Message edited by Madlok -- 1/15/2013 8:15:39 PM >


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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/15/2013 9:11:10 PM   
ernieschwitz

 

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The problem about the AI as I see it is that ATG is designed to make basically anything. You can modify anything, and create almost anything. AIs work best when they are designed to work within a ruleset that is very simple. The more options you add for a game, the more complex the AI has to be, and thus the programming of it will take longer, and the execution will take longer as well.

The simple way around it is to cut corners. I hate it when the AI gets to do stuff you can´t. But, then again, if that is what it takes for an AI to be challenging, then it is a neccesary evil. IMHO.

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/15/2013 9:12:43 PM   
Jafele


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Madlok

It is not possible to make a complex wargame with good non-cheating AI. Galactic Civilization has cheated AI.
And for games like ATG with random scenarios it is even more impossible XD.
Best AI are for mathematical or logical strategy games like TripleA, Legio (from Paradox Interactive), checkers, chess.



That´s simply not true. Somebody (called Qantomas) published a mod for the fantasy wargame Heroes V based in a non-cheated AI. I´ve played for years to this game and I noticed the difference playing with the mod from the very first day. This is a strategy game (not chess kind). Of course it´s uncommon but not impossible (Qantomas is a great AI programmer). By the way Heroes V have a random map generator and the mod works like a charm on it. In a few weeks a new update for the mod will be released, he has been working on it for one full year. Take a look at this:

http://www.bonddisc.com/ref/h5/ai.htm

< Message edited by Jafele -- 1/16/2013 11:49:54 AM >

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/16/2013 1:56:05 AM   
**budd**


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I agree with the OP, as a single player i don't think i've ever finished a game of ATG or any variation of Civ either. Anything that interestingly drags out the challenge is good. I love the beginning and mid game, i usually call it quits late mid-game or beginning of the end game. Thx for your effort to improve the single player experience. When i swing back round to ATG i will defiantly give this a go.

_____________________________

Enjoy when you can, and endure when you must. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

*I'm in the Wargamer middle ground*
I don't buy all the wargames I want, I just buy more than I need.

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/16/2013 12:08:39 PM   
Madlok


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Unfortunately I don't have Heroes V. But maybe someday I'll play and I'll make a test: if this AI beats me in my first and second game (in a row), before I familiarize with the game, I find out that AI is not bad. In skirmish mode or fair even scenario.

< Message edited by Madlok -- 1/16/2013 12:10:37 PM >


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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/16/2013 12:50:24 PM   
Jafele


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Madlok

Unfortunately I don't have Heroes V. But maybe someday I'll play and I'll make a test: if this AI beats me in my first and second game (in a row), before I familiarize with the game, I find out that AI is not bad. In skirmish mode or fair even scenario.



If you´re going to buy it don´t forget to get the expansion "Tribes of the east" (it´s required to use the mod). Listen to me Madlok, this is the most powerful AI I´ve never found in any wargame. It´s very common to lose games against the computer (and I´m experienced player) even though it doesn´t cheat. Not recommended for fanboys or people who love gameys.

< Message edited by Jafele -- 1/16/2013 7:37:03 PM >

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/16/2013 7:02:19 PM   
Jafele


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I have a theory about single player games. ATG is a special game because it has a ramdon map generator. I think a ramdon map is the best scenario to test any AI.

Why this feature is not common in other games? A poor AI. Wargames include a number of scenarios with a preplanned setup (fixed position), the first time you play is quite challenging (you can even think it has a strong AI), after several games you know what to do to win. Once the computer lose the position starts to make bizarre and stupid movements. Developers of games with a poor AI are not interested in random maps because it discovers what kind of AI (or bullshit) are they selling, also random maps have a replayability that keep customers to buy more games. A kind of ripoff, that´s real life.

Vic made an island on an endless ocean, if he gets a challenging AI wihout cheats in random maps (it won´t be easy) I´ve no doubt that Advanced Tactics will become a classic. The base rules of AT are excellent, basically it only needs to improve the AI. It will require hard work for a long long time. The more time he works on his mistery project the best will be the AI. A bit of patience is neccesary.

That´s my theory.

< Message edited by Jafele -- 1/16/2013 8:22:58 PM >

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/16/2013 7:56:50 PM   
Jeffrey H.


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I cringe at the thought of being a broken record but I have to say it anyway, the Empire Deluxe AI did a much better job and was more open to modding that really adjusted it's behavior than the AT AI ever was or will be.

Not so say the overall experience of playing AT cannot be changed as suggested, just making a point about a better example.



< Message edited by Jeffrey H. -- 1/16/2013 7:59:37 PM >


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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/16/2013 8:41:16 PM   
Madlok


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If I have to choose: simply game with superb AI or complex game with crappy AI, I choose the latest and I play multiplayer.


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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/17/2013 3:39:33 AM   
Meanfcker


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I find that even on AI++, I have trouble keeping the AI alive long enough for me to conduct Mobile Operations Practice against.
The AI's biggest weakness lies in not being able to smell a trap. The AI also fails to concentrate sufficient resources to a single attack HQ and attacks in too many places at once.
Come to think of it Vic, your AI is very human and plays uncannily like a lot of the quys I play against online. :-)
Harnassing the awesome AI production into Combat HQs, and coming up with better Unit composition is probably the easiest and quickest fix. Teaching the AI to at least be aware that there is a stack limit would greatly reduce the staggering amount of free casualties you can inflict on it. Just a couple of thoughts off the top of my head.
Meanie.

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/17/2013 8:30:47 PM   
Jeffrey H.


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Madlok

If I have to choose: simply game with superb AI or complex game with crappy AI, I choose the latest and I play multiplayer.



Opposite for me.

_____________________________

"Games lubricate the body and the mind" Ben Franklin.

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RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/18/2013 4:43:02 AM   
Zaratoughda


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For me, I play with the one town start and the shroud... I like the challenge of having to deal with a developing situation.

The AI, first off, always gets beat at exploration. For me, you put some rifle on trains and down the track they go as fast as they can. The AI doesn't do this. Then, if you have a port the first turn you build cargoships with like 3 infantry units in each of them, maybe one train with inf in each, and send them out to sea... landing everywhere possible so you get the auto-explore. I am not sure how realistic this is but the AI doesn't do this. It WILL, eventually and sometimes even at the start, build cargoships with small amounts of infantry but only rarely has the AI managed to take a town that I own. It will take neutral towns but usually lands next to a city when I own it. It will sometimes land along the coast also... didn't do this in the original AT but it usually does not amount to much.

In short, I really beat the AI bad at exploration.

Then, eventually I will come to grips with the AI and... like picking cherries. The AI's biggest problem is it builds a lot of infantry and infantry is only good for garrisoning cities. I instead build armored cars and they eat the infantry alive.

Once the AI sees that I have a lot of armored cars, it will build a lot of anti-tank guns and you gotta give it credit for that but... it does not handle them that well. My strategy is usually to bombard them with artillery until their readiness is real low and then take then out with my armored cars.

The AI also makes very poor use of headquarters and concentric attacks.

The bottom line is the AI very rarely presents any kind of significant challenge.

The only time I lose (this against normal AI... would use AI+ in the original AT but twice production is too much for ATG), is when I get a really bad starting position. I remember once I got a port and the only direction led directly to an enemy and I had no raw resources so couldn't really build armored cars. Sent ships overseas but everything there ran into other AI and, well, had to throw in the towel. But, this is the exception rather than the rule.

There is a challenge in this in responding effectively to the situation but, once I get to a point with that, especially when I take the first AI capital, it is really no challenge after that other than execution of the plan.

With the setup I use, there is a lot of exploration and planning... gotta get all those oil wells up to at least L2 and usually L3 is needed... but when I come to grips with the AI, usually no challenge in wiping them off the map.

Still, one of only 2 or 3 games that I play right now.

Hmmmm.. I should say here that... there have been times.. when I have run into an AI that has itself decided to build a lot of armored cars, or armor otherwise. This is more of a challenge but it is pretty rare. I guess this means that you might be able to tweek the AI rulevars and get more aggressive AI. I have tried this in the past with not good results.

Lastly... the tendency of the AI to make random declarations of war... against others that it has not even run into yet... seems to be kinda silly but, I usually have no need to make declarations of war myself.

(in reply to Jeffrey H.)
Post #: 15
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/18/2013 8:33:46 AM   
Josh

 

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'..Lastly... the tendency of the AI to make random declarations of war... against others that it has not even run into yet... seems to be kinda silly but, I usually have no need to make declarations of war myself..."

Indeed, that's why I proposed to intoduce a system more like the Strateic Command series has or Civ if you like, a chance in percentages that in- or decreases. SC has a simple system, the Civ series is much more complicated.Then maybe you could buy an alliance this way with PP's.

(in reply to Zaratoughda)
Post #: 16
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/19/2013 4:18:08 PM   
danlongman

 

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I really like to play the Bombur mod and I liked the old one best. My problem is resources. I know this is an AI issue
but in the mod I have just too many resources and presumably the AI does too. The idea of building an infrastructure and
developing resources and transportation systems is important to me and if you do not have to develop mines etc and connect
them to the transportation system that is missing. You can have a great tactical war but if resources are never an issue
and there is always plenty of raw and oil with no effort that whole aspect of politics and warfare is not there. It is
tough when you do not have enough raw or oil but that is all the reason to seize that rich mining area or that oil field.

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(in reply to Josh)
Post #: 17
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/19/2013 6:29:07 PM   
Jafele


Posts: 427
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From: Seville (Spain)
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quote:

ORIGINAL: danlongman

I really like to play the Bombur mod and I liked the old one best. My problem is resources. I know this is an AI issue
but in the mod I have just too many resources and presumably the AI does too. The idea of building an infrastructure and
developing resources and transportation systems is important to me and if you do not have to develop mines etc and connect
them to the transportation system that is missing. You can have a great tactical war but if resources are never an issue
and there is always plenty of raw and oil with no effort that whole aspect of politics and warfare is not there. It is
tough when you do not have enough raw or oil but that is all the reason to seize that rich mining area or that oil field.


But you have to think that the scenario beguins in 1900, most of resources were connected at that time, this is not a random game that starts from zero. For a more challenging game using resources try to play with minor countries, major countries like Great Britain, Russia or USA obviously owns lots of resources.

Just imagine Bombur mod with the resource mod... Players would be forced to think more before declaring the war, also road construction becomes the core of your strategy. These kind of global maps are excellent for Lancer´s mod.


< Message edited by Jafele -- 1/19/2013 7:53:22 PM >

(in reply to danlongman)
Post #: 18
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/30/2013 5:14:17 PM   
wodin


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Madlok

It is not possible to make a complex wargame with good non-cheating AI. Galactic Civilization has cheated AI.
And for games like ATG with random scenarios it is even more impossible XD.
Best AI are for mathematical or logical strategy games like TripleA, Legio (from Paradox Interactive), checkers, chess.



Wrong..check out Command Ops BFTB..damn fine AI and one of the most complex wargames (under the hood) out there..

It may be difficult with Grad Strat games that cover large timescales, but I think we should be now at a point where we can get decent AI's for tactical and grand tactical wargames.

< Message edited by wodin -- 1/30/2013 5:15:47 PM >


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Post #: 19
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/30/2013 5:18:46 PM   
wodin


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Your correct sir, just like Combat Mission 2 games. Scenarios made by scenario designers can be superb to play against the AI..and so can the campaigns..some of the designers have superb skill at getting the best from the game. However play against the AI using quick battles then it's pointless.


quote:

ORIGINAL: Jafele

I have a theory about single player games. ATG is a special game because it has a ramdon map generator. I think a ramdon map is the best scenario to test any AI.

Why this feature is not common in other games? A poor AI. Wargames include a number of scenarios with a preplanned setup (fixed position), the first time you play is quite challenging (you can even think it has a strong AI), after several games you know what to do to win. Once the computer lose the position starts to make bizarre and stupid movements. Developers of games with a poor AI are not interested in random maps because it discovers what kind of AI (or bullshit) are they selling, also random maps have a replayability that keep customers to buy more games. A kind of ripoff, that´s real life.

Vic made an island on an endless ocean, if he gets a challenging AI wihout cheats in random maps (it won´t be easy) I´ve no doubt that Advanced Tactics will become a classic. The base rules of AT are excellent, basically it only needs to improve the AI. It will require hard work for a long long time. The more time he works on his mistery project the best will be the AI. A bit of patience is neccesary.

That´s my theory.


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Post #: 20
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/30/2013 6:46:24 PM   
Jafele


Posts: 427
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From: Seville (Spain)
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Agree with Wodin. Command Ops is one of the few with a strong AI, this is the reason why I wish one day a random map generator could be available for this game. On the other hand the updated AI mod for Heroes V is about to be realised according to Quantomas words in this interesting extract:

Regarding the current status, I have finalized the AI design. Most people are probably not aware what that means. What I am doing is to develop a universal AI, i.e. algorithms that can deal with forces, strategic leverage and actors in an abstract way. Technically, it is an AI that recognizes what matters on an abstract level, it is not tied to any game at this stage. This AI can adapt to mostly any gameplay rules, and Heroes V is figuratively speaking attached on the top of the AI, so that the AI knows about the specifics of Heroes V and do its magic based on the data fed to it by the game.

This is very much in contrast to what mostly any other game production does. Typically, you have game designers do their creative work and as a result come up with specific gameplay rules. Then programmers write the required code to implement the game mechanics (gameplay rules are a part of this), and any AI work is typically addressed by writing heuristics that deal with the specifics of this particular game design. That's the reason why modding is limited the way it is in Heroes, if the AI is central to the gameplay and tied to specific game mechanics, you can only bend the fabric so much, i.e. what mods are allowed to change, without breaking the game and its consistency or creating insane overheads. I don't know of any game that ever attempted to include a universal AI to go beyond this limitation. The reason is simple, the publishing model is based on budgets and maximizing profits for shareholders. Apart from that a truly universal AI is not an established technology, it needs to be researched, prototyped and made into an application.

This is the reason why this milestone is so important. When I say finalized AI design, it signifies a truly big step that we now have every constituent of AI, a magnificent machine (organism is possibly a better term) that is up to the challenge. That isn't to say that the algorithms that form this machine are refined in every detail, but I have solutions for every component and everything is in its place. It's actually desirable this way because some solutions are heuristics and can be implemented rapidly that way, and refined later. What I am doing now is implementing the prototype and attaching it to Heroes V, once done it's proof of concept and application in one.

The implications are far reaching. Sometimes I have the impression that actually nobody bothered to grasp the consequences that such an AI advancement represents. It means that we can design, adapt and change the gameplay rules any way we want during the project. Because the gameplay rules sit logically on top of the AI, we can make their design entirely open, that modders can modify the game's rules to their heart's content if we provide the proper tools for it. With other words we are free to play with the gameplay rules as we see fit. This is a big freedom and the reason why I can rightly say it's feasible to implement the game mechanics fairly abstract, refine them to create a game to match my vision, and at the same time allow any of us to experiment with their own set of gameplay rules; that we can establish best use cases and advance our game design methodically and empirically. Think about it.

It's also the reason why I think that the AI will advance the art of writing for games. Technically, the AI acts for computer players, who in turn act accordingly to any rules in the game, expressed in actions that match their goals. As a human player you have your own motivations and goals, and the gameplay merges these realities. If you imagine this game world in its entirety, all its inhabitants, places, forces, objects, these are logically tied together by the game's rules and how the AI can make use of these. As a writer you will then be able to author your own rules and add these to the game world. Rules that define what interactions can happen between different actors, in different places and at different times, rules that can alter the gameplay rules themselves, locally, temporally, permanently. With other words, as a writer you gain the power to define what can happen, the actions and how the world will change accordingly. The actors, both the human players and computer players, will play on this stage. The AI will make its actors play to the rules you define. This is a considerable power, you can define the plot and interactions and the world will adapt to it. The word will hold new power.

(in reply to wodin)
Post #: 21
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/30/2013 9:53:36 PM   
Josh

 

Posts: 2266
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From: Leeuwarden, Netherlands
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@ Jafele; wow that sure is some statement there... an universal AI, grasping strategic choices etc etc...? That's quite something.
But as usual I'm a bit sceptical here, so let's see how things work out okay?

(in reply to Jafele)
Post #: 22
RE: The ATG Single Player Experience - 1/30/2013 10:35:53 PM   
Jafele


Posts: 427
Joined: 4/20/2011
From: Seville (Spain)
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: Josh

@ Jafele; wow that sure is some statement there... an universal AI, grasping strategic choices etc etc...? That's quite something.
But as usual I'm a bit sceptical here, so let's see how things work out okay?


I´m also very skeptic with companies promises about AI improvements. However, this is a free mod (no ****ing interests on it) and this is an update of a succesful mod published one year ago, so I´m quite optimistic. Anyway I´ll inform you once it be realised. IMO it´s a very important issue for any wargame community.

(in reply to Josh)
Post #: 23
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