As you know, there's an option to restrict the range at which you can colonise other planets, and I've seen two or three threads over the last week or two in which it was suggested that the AI cheats. Others said it doesn't cheat, it's just taking over independent colonies (the colonisation range doesn't apply to that).
I decided it's time to find out, or, more precisely, I decided I have time to find out.
One of the problems is that I can only do this test by observation of the game, rather than by analysing the game code, which means I can only prove that it does cheat, I can't prove it doesn't cheat. Like so many things in life, people can always say, "Just because it didn't cheat when you were looking, doesn't mean it never cheats." Ok, whatever.
Anyway, what I did was this:
1. I started a classic game with 1400 systems, 15x15 sectors and 5 other empires set on normal difficulty. I set pirates and monsters to the lowest level, made independent colonies scarce, and left colony prevalence normal. I set the colonisation range at 0.5 sectors. As soon as the game started, I loaded the editor to check where the other empires were, then set it running at x4, coming back every now and again to check on progress. What happened? The other civilisations were totally honest. They colonised planets within their colonisation range; they didn't colonise planets outside their range. Over the course of the game, some empires had colonised half a dozen planets, all within the correct range, and some hadn't colonised any. After about 18 years I got bored and stopped.
2. I decided the first run was too easy. The AI knew what I was up to, and refused to cheat, knowing I was just waiting to pounce and "out" it to the whole world in the Distant Worlds forum. I had to be sneakier. I set up a new game, same as before, but put the difficulty on "Extreme". If that wouldn't tempt it into cheating, what would? I started the game, and went into the editor. I systematically deleted all the star systems within 0.5 sectors of the other empires' planets. Finally, I placed a new star just outside each empire's colonisation range, each star having a nice juicy planet of exactly the right type for the nearby empire. I set the game to run, just like before, and waited to see which empire would crack first ...
... Well it's been 20 years now. Four out of five empires are still on their home system. One of the empires found a lovely independent planet, and took control of it, then managed to colonise another two systems which happened to be within half a sector of their newly acquired planet.
Almost 40 game years of testing, and the AI didn't once breach the colonisation range limit, despite being given every opportunity to do so.
So I'm calling it: the AI does not cheat over the colonisation limit.
But I'm sure it wants to!
PS It occurred to me later than maybe AI aggressiveness would have an effect. Ran that for a few years on Chaos level, but still no cheating.
< Message edited by Osito -- 6/7/2013 5:09:42 PM >