How to think like an Admiral - Part 1
Sabotage or how to live with the Big Bang!
Commerce Raiders or what if Al Qaeda learnt to swim?
Current Limitations 9th June, '13
(ERM) 'Higher Production Cost' option doesn't work (unable to fix until next ATG patch)
Due to some lateral thinking and a clever programming approach (thank Vic, not me) I've been able to add significant capability and functionality to the AI's ability to wage naval and air warfare. At present the player owns the oceans and air space. Any attempt by the AI to contest either is quickly and easily overcome. Not so now. To do this I've switched off certain aspects of the inbuilt AI and replaced it with my own, Enhanced AI.
Importantly, the Enhanced AI uses actual units that utilise the ATG combat engine with results showing up in the in-game history replays (F4). There is, by necessity, a little bit of abstract behaviour but not much.
The Enhanced AI doesn't cheat. It plays by the same rules as yourself. There are a few areas where this isn't possible due to programming limitations but the practical effect is no different. The AI's production capacity (or the equivalent) will be focused, laser like, on the things that matter. It will continue to spawn endless factories and produce all manner of units it can't properly utilise - this won't change. However it's assumed level of industrial capacity will be harnessed, by my 'EAI' to give it vastly improved capabilities. Production improvements, though, are only a small part of the story. Most of the enhancements come from expanding the AI's range of potential activities.
The AI's abilities commence at a low, barely noticeable, level (assuming a 'one town' start) but increase over time. The longer you leave the AI, the more formidable it becomes. Rest assured that it doesn't morph into a cyber-superman as it's capabilities are capped at reasonable levels.
As the prime focus of the mod is to improve the middle game experience (I made a post about this which you can read, if interested, here ATG Single Player Experience) a lot of the enhancements aren't designed to kick in until the early game phase starts to wind up. This is the case if you have chosen a 'one town start' option but if you commence with the full monty you can expect to be in the thick of it earlier. The enhancements give the AI a significantly greater ability to prosecute the naval and air war by ways and means currently not available to it in the standard ATG game.
There are eight or so, specific areas that the AI has access to. Submarine warfare, for example, is one of them. The AI will utilise all available avenues but it will place a stronger emphasis on certain, related, strategies that will vary from game to game. For example in one game it might go big on submarines, in another it will take a very different approach.
The EAI isn't in anyway scripted. It's probability based. You can, as a result, expect a wide range of behavior. Wimpyness isn't one of them. Nor is it a gentleman. This is an AI that will, given the opportunity, take you around the back and break both your legs before stomping on your head.
It won't, however, try and hunt you down until you are cowering helplessly in your capital. It has zero ability to wage an offensive, strategic campaign. It is a rabid, junkyard dog ferociously defending it's own turf. Which is why you should choose the 'IRON MAN' option.
What, exactly, does that do? Well you may ask.
It's going to take me a week or so to knock out some documentation which I'll post in the appropriate section of the forum but you don't really need to know any of that. The mod does a good job of explaining things. I'd recommend, if you're interested, downloading the mod now and taking it for a run. Probably best to do so before reading about the nuts and bolts. Like the Teddy Bear's picnic, you may find yourself in for a big surprise.
One thing worth mentioning is that naval warfare now requires the AI to find your units before they can attack them. Previously, with the standard ATG game, the AI had perfect knowledge of your naval positioning. Not now. Weather and a range of other factors can restrict their ability to locate you and vice versa. I own a copy of 'War in the Pacific' and I've borrowed a lot of ideas while keeping with the fun, streamlined approach. Pay attention to the weather as it's effects are woven into just about every aspect of the mod. It matters.
The mod has it's own inbuilt weather system that will happily work alongside the ATG snow/mud/clear system if required.
In an effort to raise the interest and tension levels of the middle game I've implemented a couple of new features that aren't directly AI related. You'll know them when you see them.
The mod can handle any combination of starting options ('Higher Production Costs' being the sole exception - can't fix this until I get some help, probably when the game is next patched) and happily scales with differing map sizes. As the land side isn't yet implemented (the standard ATG land AI still works fine), aim for a map with water, the more the better.
If there is less than 50% ocean on the map you'll get a stern finger waved under your nose and it won't let you play with all the new features. Choose 'Big Oceans', 'Oceania' or 'Water World'. Everything is keyed off enemy ports so if you have a map with no port cities (cities bordering the ocean) then nothing exciting will happen. Similarly, if you want to give the AI a bloody nose, capture it's ports.
The Enhanced AI option is standalone. You can use it as is or in combination with the Enhanced Resource option (you have to connect up your resources to your Capital before they can be used). If you choose both options then you can expect the AI to come a'gunning for your resource convoys and you'll have a tougher game (build and transfer Destroyers into your POOL to escort your cargo ships). I've posted about this part of the design here ERM - Plans for Stage 2
The Iron Man option works in conjunction with the Enhanced AI. You can play with it or without. Iron and fortitude are what you gobbled down for breakfast this morning. Tick that box, fella.
The difficulty of the mod ramps up in direct proportion to the number of port cities on the map. If you opt for a large 'water world' map and tick all the option boxes, then you'd better be prepared to hunker down and fasten your seat belt. Options such as 'Costly Research', 'No roads' and 'Stone Age' do their usual job of ratcheting it up even more.
Choose bog standard AI for your opponents (as many or as few as you'd like). You can also play MP, cooperatively against the AI. If you're silly enough to load yourself up with AI+, then consider yourself a dead Commander walking. I jest not.
But hey, it's only a programmed robot after all. What the heck does it know about fighting a war? Saddle up your horse, buddy, and ride out there and teach it a lesson. Uppity bloody robots, strutting around like they're the brand new sheriff in town. They need to learn their place in this world and you, sir, are just the man to do it!
Tips? Group your naval SFT's into single unit Task Forces and think like a WW2 Admiral. If you wouldn't have done it floating around the Pacific then don't do it now.
There are a few things that I've been unable to program around . No big deal as the application of a few house rules solves the problem. You are under no obligation to adhere to the house rules but, by not doing so, you will be playing a diminished AI. Kind of like climbing into the boxing ring and facing off against a one armed man. OK if you like to win but not much fun if you prefer a challenge.
The house rules apply only to naval units in the following situations;
1. If you bombard with a naval unit you must stop moving that unit once you have bombarded.
2. If you launch an airstrike you must stop moving that unit once you have conducted the airstrike.
3. If you attempt an amphibious invasion you must move your cargo ships into position and then launch the invasion the following turn. Eg. you can't move into position and invade in one turn, it has to be a two turn process.
Consider the invasion restriction as necessary pre-invasion preparation. The airstrike and bombard restrictions are no great hindrance as you can still move your naval units their full allowance and conduct your business at the end of their turn. What you can't do is launch your airstrike, or bombard, at the start of your turn and then get out of dodge before anybody wakes up. A bit more thought and planning is required.
< Message edited by lancer -- 7/5/2013 12:00:33 PM >