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Custom battle AI - 12/1/2018 10:58:32 AM   
Ekaton


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I really like this game, there aren't many good real-time games that offer a more realistic and in-depth experience.

I've noticed that one of the selling points of AB is its AI. So far I've only played custom battles of various sizes, always against a much stronger opponent, and I have several points to make:

1. The AI does a decent job on the defense. Its units are deployed really well - I was especially pleased to see how well it uses forests to hide its tanks which opened fire from the flank on my unsuspecting tanks traversing a plain.
2. On the offensive, however, it performs far worse:

- The artillery strikes are very well placed and shattered my static forces more than once, but are not timed properly at all - smoke starts popping from the beginning of my scenario, way before the advance group arrives (it took the first enemy tanks more than 20 mins to arrive), which could be a distraction, except for the fact that the artillery smoke support actually got less effective just prior and during the enemy assault itself. This is a minor issue as overall the artillery was quite effective.
- Far more profoundly, however, I've noticed that the enemy tank groups are too far apart and don't concentrate fire properly. It's all too easy to set up your tanks on a hill overlooking the road where the forest ends, the tanks which passed the forest road would only then be visible to my units and vice versa. The result is predictable - a whole group of tanks on the hill will start shooting at a single Soviet tank the moment it exits the forest, following the road. No enemies attempted to drive through the forest to attack me from multiple spots at the same time, covered by the trees - they all followed the road to their doom. It could be understandable if one unit tried this, not knowing about my trap, with the next company attempting to do something different, but in larger scenarios, there is a company after company doing the exact same thing. To sum up, the enemy forces never arrive in any significant number, and their moves are never coordinated in any meaningful way, making it all too easy to achieve a very local superiority of fire with 5 tanks vs just one or two enemy tanks at any one time.
- Suicidal mechanized infantry - Soviet forces that contain both armoured and mechanised units don't minimize the risk faced by the weak armoured cars - instead of attacking tanks with tanks, they will push dozens of armoured cars and infantry against my tanks, resulting in a massive slaughter. At times tanks would attack somewhere else (which would make the mechanised attack understandable as a decoy, although usually overly costly and even reckless, resulting in unnecessary losses), but more often than that, the tanks would attack alongside the armoured cars, and often would not be present in the first wave (arriving a few minutes after I was able to destroy a dozen or so defenceless BRDMs).
- Infantry AI seems to be too careless - it would often attack much stronger entrenched mechanised infantry, resulting in a predictable slaughter. On occasion, it would repeat the attack, with the same result, fully knowing the size of my forces in the area and the overwhelming odds.

So there you go. I was, at times, really impressed by the AI, but the lack of any coordination, especially when there are multiple obstacles along the way like forests or water, means that the enemy never arrives in overwhelming numbers, even when he has as many as 10 times more tanks than I do. It's way too easy on the defensive.

< Message edited by Ekaton -- 12/1/2018 11:01:18 AM >


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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/1/2018 11:26:31 AM   
kevinkins


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Very accurate summary of the state of dynamic AI 2018-19 irrespective of the individual game itself. I think most players of AB are noticing the exact same thing. AI handling of mech/armored infantry has been a problem in all sorts of wargames over the years. It's one of the holy grails for developers.

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/1/2018 12:51:49 PM   
altipueri

 

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To get enjoyable single versus AI play you have to be the attacker in almost all wargames that I've played. There are too many variables and approaches.

The alternative is to have personal house rules be that missing a turn, letting the game run for a minute with out doing anything (say the general sneezed or went for a pee).

It is daft being critical to a point of dissatisfaction with something as complex as wargame AI. Look how much effort it took to get a computer to beat a human at chess where the entire enemy's disposition is known and there are no probabilities.

Regard play against the AI as practice for against a human if that is your thing (I only play solo).


I'm really enjoying what still little time I've been playing this game. It would be great to see some simple player made scenarios put up - especially ones for getting people into the game. I only got a win against the AI at the fourth attempt at the first scenario by changing the settings to maximum for my benefit. So for me the AI is still a challenge.

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/1/2018 4:35:45 PM   
Veitikka


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The dynamic AI sucked in all the classic wargames I played. And I played them single-player almost exclusively. Perhaps eventually we will be able to make something that has never been made before (a good dynamic AI opponent). First though, we need to plan how the AI should be like. Perhaps post screenshots or videos showing what the AI is currently doing, so we can analyze why it did what it did, and then we can discuss what it should have done instead and why?


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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/1/2018 11:29:12 PM   
kevinkins


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Perhaps increase the file size we can upload and widen the types of files we can post directly to the forum. How is it we can't post a zip file with a save game ? We can't help those who don't want to help themselves. I am sensing a lot of good will going away after only one week. When the developer admits their AI sucks, then their franchise is in jeopardy.

Kevin

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 12:27:02 AM   
demyansk


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I do the same thing at times with house rules. AI will not be better than a competent human player but solo is still good to have. Black Sabbath

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 1:21:03 AM   
Veitikka


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quote:

ORIGINAL: kevinkin

When the developer admits their AI sucks, then their franchise is in jeopardy.


Did I say that the AB AI sucks?


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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 1:35:50 AM   
kevinkins


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Yes, you did. Please get us the tools to help make this franchise a success. You can't ask us to post videos and screenshots when the forum does not allow for that. Without PBEM, AB will be an afterthought in a month.

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 1:52:08 AM   
Centurian42

 

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The AI in this game is a real problem. But isn't so much a problem for this game as it is for the whole wargaming genre. I have noticed the same problem in Combat Mission (although CM somewhat mitigates this by putting more responsibility on the scenario designer to hold the AI's hand, but that obviously doesn't help when auto-generating a dynamic scenario). The AI in most wargames can put up a competent enough defense. But attacking is hard enough even for a human commander that knows how to adapt. So far it has proven a virtually insurmountable task for most AI in most wargames without overwhelming numerical superiority.

I don't believe it's an impossible task. I assume it must be more complicated than just trying to convert a tactical manual into code (say, build the Soviet AI using "FM 100-2-1 The Soviet Army: Operations and Tactics, Chapter 5: Offensive Tactics: Division and Lower" as a reference) or else someone would have done it already.

If you can figure out how to do it one thing that would help would be to teach the AI to either stay concentrated while passing through difficult terrain, or to reform after passing through difficult terrain.

Another breakthrough that I am looking forward to is someone figuring out how to teach AI to recognize and respond appropriately to fire superiority. The basics of course are that you should never be in a rush to die. So you don't advance at all when the enemy has fire superiority. In fact if the enemy has fire superiority you need to withdraw. If you have fire superiority then you should advance (if you are on the offensive and advancing won't displace so many weapons systems that you lose fire superiority). If both side have fire parity then you might want to sit and try to build up more fire on your side. I have yet to learn anything about how to program an AI, but I imagine that somewhere in the code there might be a bit that looked something like this:

if (attacking() && haveFireSuperiority()){
     advance();
}
else if (!haveFireSuperiority() && !haveFireParity()){
     withdraw();
}
else{
     buildBaseOfFire();
}

Of course I also imagine digging up this comment in a couple of years after I have learned something about AI and instantly realizing why the actual code wouldn't look anything like this.

< Message edited by Centurian42 -- 12/2/2018 1:56:09 AM >

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 1:54:37 AM   
Veitikka


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My point is that in games like this there never has been a "good", human-like AI opponent that some players seem to be expecting.

I don't know why this forum has very limited attachment sizes.


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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 2:02:44 AM   
Centurian42

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Veitikka

My point is that in games like this there never has been a "good", human-like AI opponent that some players seem to be expecting.

I don't know why this forum has very limited attachment sizes.



Yes, that is certainly true. I certainly can't think of a game that has managed a better dynamic AI than AB so far. So perhaps we are being overly harsh in our criticism.

But I do honestly believe that wargame AI's will get better in the future.

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 2:16:51 AM   
kevinkins


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quote:

I have noticed the same problem in Combat Mission (although CM somewhat mitigates this by putting more responsibility on the scenario designer to hold the AI's hand, but that obviously doesn't help when auto-generating a dynamic scenario).


All CMx2 scenarios, including Quick Battles, have scripted AI. They have to. CM has both a scripted and dynamic AI. The scripted AI handles operational movement which is lacking in every other tactical wargame title. The dynamic, or what is called the Tac AI, handles the nitty gritty of keeping the squads and AFVs alive. They are two separate AIs. The scripted AI can access triggers which can trigger counter attacks and all sorts of devilish things. Believe it or not, the CM designer can defeat a human with the AI not needing a huge numerical advantage unlike the wargames we grew up with.



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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 2:22:57 AM   
kevinkins


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Joined: 3/8/2006
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quote:

I don't know why this forum has very limited attachment sizes.


If you can find out Monday morning it would be a huge positive to this endeavour. Just mirror the Command forum re: file types and sizes.

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 7:53:24 AM   
varangy


Posts: 91
Joined: 11/1/2018
Status: online

quote:

ORIGINAL: altipueri
I only got a win against the AI at the fourth attempt at the first scenario by changing the settings to maximum for my benefit. So for me the AI is still a challenge.



Good for you, my first ever attempt at the first scenario resulted in this (I didn't change any settings):




Attachment (1)

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 10:47:21 AM   
altipueri

 

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Ah yes. One of the benefits of not being very good at wargames is that the AI provides a challenge.

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/2/2018 3:22:27 PM   
dox44

 

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+1

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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/3/2018 8:23:22 PM   
Veitikka


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From: Finland
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quote:

ORIGINAL: demyansk

I do the same thing at times with house rules. AI will not be better than a competent human player but solo is still good to have. Black Sabbath


A couple of recommendations: Do not give orders to individual units, but always to formations. Use the 'round' mode, to prevent the player from pausing the game all the time.


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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/3/2018 10:31:48 PM   
CCIP-subsim


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Personally, while I am no proponent of bad or lazy AI, I would also point out that the criticisms that players often level against AI in wargames/simulations is a little unfair - because players often come into a match against the AI as a challenge/competition in a game, whereas the AI is designed to approximate realistic (rather than match-winning) behaviours. Neither of those things is bad, but I think it's good to take a step back and realize that even if you haven't played AB before, you're probably here as a pretty experienced player of computer games, playing a familiar type of game through a (generally) very user-friendly interface that gives you very fast and effective decision-making tools... whereas in the real world, even in the best of times you'd be potentially drowning in a mix of information overload and procedural problems, particularly in respect to intel and communication. So when the AI's behaviour seems disappointing and not challenging enough - yeah, that may be true, but I'd not solely blame it on just the AI. There's always going to be that contradiction in wargames between simulating reality and playing a computer game competitively, because even if an AI behaved 100% like a real-world commander in a real war, in most cases an experienced player would easily beat it in a computer game because it's the nature of our hobby to learn how to game systems (often in totally unnatural ways).

All that said...
I think where AB's AI could do better is in terms of doing a few extra steps to behave "more like the real thing". There are two main things that it could do better, in order to feel more like a real-world opponent:
1) Discipline and formation-keeping. Right now the AI seems to get very scattershot and, paradoxically, also rigid at the same time. In general, you expect a trained military force to coordinate, stick to formations, and react to events rapidly by changing postures. I don't tend to see a lot of behaviours from the AI in terms of things like guarding vulnerable flanks, or keeping an overwatch behind advancing forces. Even with things like "move to contact" or "unload when fired on", its reactions often seem a bit disorganized - it'd be great to have an AI that can do more dramatic things, like automatically assume defensive formations when attacked, or send forward reserves if a unit is in trouble.
2) Self-preservation. This one is near-universal in wargames - but it'd definitely be great if the AI could be "taught" to be more survival-oriented. It has some rather suicidal tendencies at the moment. This is not a problem unique to AB by any means, but it sticks out!

Otherwise, honestly, I have no huge qualms about it. It is possible to get a challenge out of it (even more so if one does some DB edits to suit their preference), and it is possible to get more reasonably realistic results out of it as well (by making house rules etc.)


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RE: Custom battle AI - 12/4/2018 6:41:38 PM   
varangy


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quote:

ORIGINAL: CCIP-subsim
I don't tend to see a lot of behaviours from the AI in terms of things like guarding vulnerable flanks, or keeping an overwatch behind advancing forces.


In my last game the AI did exactly that, kept his tank platoon in an overwatch position behind while the infantry advanced together with the APC on the town I was defending.

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Post #: 19
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