Shadow Empire Poll posted (Full Version)

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Vic -> Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 2:41:59 PM)

Feel free to hop on over to:

https://www.vrdesigns.net/?p=2014

To give me your thoughts.

A lot has been posted here on the forums. Including the Suggestions subforum! I am reading that one when I can.

But a poll allows for a bit more quantitative feedback.

Although employing Democratic means here my Profile will stay mostly Meritocratic and the majority is not going to decide per-se what will happen next :) Just want to form a better picture of what has support and what not.

Best wishes,
Vic




AttuWatcher -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 2:50:04 PM)

Voted!

Stay meritocratic. [;)]




diamondspider -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 3:05:28 PM)

-Adding New Features
-Realism Level (esp. around biohazards and such)
-Diversity in play style (I like the AI quite a bit as is, but this would be super cool)
-Just much more of the existing features, please

Will purchase DLC probably in any case, if it is created.




Jdane -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 3:11:33 PM)

Some hard choices indeed.
I hope many people will participate and am looking forward to the final results.




WeaverofBrokenThreads -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 3:12:08 PM)

I think I should clarify one of my votes, at least. I think on extreme difficulty Minor AI has an overwhelming advantage due to supplies and reinforcement rate, and the Major AI spends like 200 AP per turn to move. I understand the game is probably not tuned for a reasonable increase in challenge, but I think adjusting the AI rules a bit to make it seem like we are at least playing the same game would have advantages for regular difficulty AI as well.




76mm -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 3:28:01 PM)

I've voted, although honestly it was difficult to choose an answer for most of the questions, so while in most cases the majority/plurality chose differently than me, I can't say that I object to their answer either.




Vhalor -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 3:59:11 PM)

I would agree that caution is advisable when trying to make the AI play more with the same rules as Human Majors do. A lot of time and effort could be spend with little to no benefit. Also, great care should be kept to ensure the higher difficulties do not suffer.

Instead a more elegant solution may be in the introduction of more options to fine tune the difficulty and user experience. Then one could lessen or even remove some of these advantages the AI gets over the players. Let's call it "Custom Difficulty" or such. Other games did great with such an offering, especially when it comes to more controversial settings. Let the player have it their way. ;)

At the same time, it could also aid on the other end of the spectrum and allow us to setup a truly heroic difficulty. One where victory itself is but a distant dream and mere survival a monumental undertaking already. An experience in which we'll have to fight for our very existence against all odds, surrounded by truly fanatical enemies hellbent on our annihilation!




Laiders -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 4:06:20 PM)

Done with a very long comment too. I was lazy and logged in with FB so you now all know who I am too.




L0ckAndL0ad -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 4:40:02 PM)

Voted. I'm not ready to provide proper, detailed feedback yet before I've played the game some more, but I do really appreciate all your hard work, Vic. Thank you!




eddieballgame -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 5:36:32 PM)

Air Forces & Navies (especially Air Forces) are not an interest/priority for me, as generally, the AI fails to handle these types of units very well in many war-like games.
In the case of an Air Force, even too well, if allowed to 'cheat'.

Increasing the 'rare %' chances per alien life forms on a Seth Class planet, or at least an option to do so, would be most welcome.
Other than that...the game, for me, is superb.

Oh yea...some modding offerings would be great.




Frostwave -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 6:14:51 PM)

Tough choices. I appreciate a developer who reaches out to his player base to get some input




ramnblam -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 7:16:35 PM)

Would like to see polishing and expanding the game as is. I don't want the AI to strictly abide by the same rules as a human player because that often isn't fun.




Kamelpov -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 7:20:06 PM)

As expected airforce is on par with the navy. Somehow navy is needed for more kind of planet but airforce is used in every kind of planet and is the main damage dealer,support. AI following the same rule as human well it's obvious people won't like playing different rule ( like monopoly vs anti monopoly rule)




kosmoface -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 7:22:51 PM)

Regarding AI: I am also voting for AI personalities like in AI WAR (first game). This was and is always fun and gives personality to the AI, which I really like.

I like it when the AI follows the same Fog of War rules I have to follow - other than that - AI needs sometimes a little bonus here and there to stay competitive. I really don't care as long as long as the gameplay is challenging and not overpowering.




KingHalford -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 9:08:14 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: ramnblam

Would like to see polishing and expanding the game as is. I don't want the AI to strictly abide by the same rules as a human player because that often isn't fun.


Seconded. I completely understand why it is people hate to learn that the AI doesn't play fair and part of me agrees, but I'd much rather the AI was competitive and difficult to beat: I can't think of a single example of a game outside of simple games like Chess where the AI can beat a player well versed in the game consistently without some kind of advantage.




Stelteck -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 9:12:06 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: KingHalford
Seconded. I completely understand why it is people hate to learn that the AI doesn't play fair and part of me agrees, but I'd much rather the AI was competitive and difficult to beat: I can't think of a single example of a game outside of simple games like Chess where the AI can beat a player well versed in the game consistently without some kind of advantage.


True. Also adding rules for the AI increase turn processing time......




Jdane -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 9:22:21 PM)

It's striking me though how much this option of having the AI play more along the same rules as the human is popular.
I personally tend to think it's wishful thinking, and that merely making it look like it does more is a better option, but I'm just a bad person.
It's pretty much tied with « Diversity in personality, play styles and tactics » at the moment though. THAT would be fun. (And I can't be accused of trying to sway the vote since I didn't elect this option either.)




The Gnome -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 9:38:59 PM)

I voted for mostly UI enhancement, but wanted to be more specific here. Unless it's a massive time sink, any improvement to the current font would be received by my eyes with gratitude. An increase in size, and in readability across the board would be fantastic.




Laiders -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 10:09:03 PM)

quote:

ORIGINAL: Jdane

It's striking me though how much this option of having the AI play more along the same rules as the human is popular.
I personally tend to think it's wishful thinking, and that merely making it look like it does more is a better option, but I'm just a bad person.
It's pretty much tied with « Diversity in personality, play styles and tactics » at the moment though. THAT would be fun. (And I can't be accused of trying to sway the vote since I didn't elect this option either.)


Clearly I'm a masosadist [damn dyslexia I inverted the usual order; actually kinda funny but I mean sadomasochist in case that's not clear; god I need a proper night's sleep], I voted for the AI to get deadlier. Maybe, I should play on a higher difficulty, not start scum any more or play on harder planets...

Seriously, more diverse AI, particularly more apparent diversity in majors as minors are reasonably diverse already, more story events with AI, somewhat deadlier AI all great.

AI playing by the same rules as us... If that were easy to do Vic would have already done it. He's spent at least 3 years building this game already. As long the the rules the AI plays by are clearly set out and have good justification, the AI can play by whatever rules make it work. I don't want to end up in a position where the AI plays by the same rules but has to have massive compensatory buffs to accommodate that. I'd rather play on a level playing field, especially economic, where the AI's economy is simplified to the point that the AI can effectively manage it but can also get itself into trouble.

Eg. some players find the AI logistics buffs unreasonable, even cheating. I think the forums over the past few days have pointed out that understanding logistics in this game is not trivial for intelligent, motivated humans with a gigantic manual and the benefit of cooperation. The odds the AI will be able to play by the same logistical system we do and play well are not great. This means we play with an easier/simpler system, something players don't seem to want or are ambivalent about, the AI gets compensatory buffs possibly of the more classical variety (free production, resources, units etc) or the AI becomes less challenging.

I wonder how many players have voted for that option considering those ramifications. Of course if the AI could play by human rules as well as the average non-skilled human at least, then I would want it to play by human rules. I just don't think this is possible and this is why the AI does not currently do this.





ramnblam -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 10:19:29 PM)

Yeah 100% Laiders. My favourite part of this game is seeing the diverse **** it throws at you, I was complaining to my friend on discord for 20 minutes about how these giant carnivores were just wrecking me and my city was on verge of rebellion. Would love to see more flavour of majors with differing motivations.




Jdane -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 10:34:35 PM)

Clearly I'm a softie, I voted for having the option to elope with the opposing major power's supreme leader.




ramnblam -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 10:58:09 PM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: Jdane

Clearly I'm a softie, I voted for having the option to elope with the opposing major power's supreme leader.


One love baby.




Destragon -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/13/2020 11:36:38 PM)

For the "What existing part of the game should have polishing priority?" question, I think a lot of people would like some improvements to the logistics system.
I wrote down my main issues with the logistics system here:
http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/fb.asp?m=4828365
For example, it would be really nice if some automatic traffic light gets placed when civilians attach a building to an existing road network, so that they don't accidentally divert half of your logistics points without even telling you about it.

For what big new feature to focus on, I think navies is probably the biggest thing, since it's going to expand the planet generation process a whole lot and thus probably also the game's replayability.
Besides navies though, I would really like some additional diplomacy options. Especially diplomacy between you and your vassal states is pretty much nonexistant right now, which is kinda disappointing.

Edit:
Here are my thoughts on what I think is lacking about diplomacy with minors right now:
https://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=4833412




eyegore -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/14/2020 2:14:40 AM)

I reject the idea A.I. can't play by the same rules as the player but that comes with a huge "????" because it depends how much time is spent on it and how much the particular developer actually knows about A.I.

In my college days we weren't even to the PC yet (I'm 64) and we programmed in assembly. A.I. was not taught at all even though computer chess was already a thing. And that was a game that played by the same rules as the human and it was capable of regularly beating the player. Nowadays chess programs scale to player ability and teach. So it amazes me to read post after post filled with excuses why all other games have poor A,I, that must cheat to win and how impossible it would be to have A.I. that can play by the same rules and play well enough to win. It is possible, but it will likely never happen by a developer house churning titles out every couple of years. The best usually come from an independant not restricted by some time constaint alloted him by the game's head producer, which in my experience has never exceeded more than 14 days. So no your not going to produced a decent A.I. in 14 days unless the game is pretty simple.

To have any type of discussion about A.I. in a particular game one has to know the approach the programmer took and what type of A.I. is being used. Until that is known anything written is at best guesswork and at worse meaningless fluff based on false assumptions. I can pretty much spot good A.I. after hours of play. It is extremely rare but it does occur. sadly when it does most players miss it. They are used to poor A.I. sending harassing units early (but never formulating a winning strategy) and if they don't see that early on the wrongly assume the A.I. is bad, when in reality the A.I. is good but is playing to win. It isn't attacking early because first it doesn't have to and second it hasn't built up enough to be ready for the conflict. The A.I. may appear to be doing nothing for 50 turns when in fact those 50 turns are being spent doing a lot in getting ready for war.

I would ask then for readers to a take a few moments and read the rest of this post which will explain the different types of A.I. and those with many hours under the belt playing shadow Empires can then assess what's being used and with that knowledge then know what can be improved upon and what can't.

Today in most cases A.I. still isn't taught to any usable degree in the classroom. And no Developer is going to tell one of it's employee's "Gee go take 3 years paid time and learn A.I." If a developer actually understands and knows A.I. he taught himself on his own time just like myself and the truth is most dev houses put little to no resources toward it.

This is the reason A.I. sucks in most single player games- bar none. It has nothing to do with what can or can't be done.

So what generally happens is the programmer uses a bunch of "IF/THEN" statements. This ad-hoc approach can work in simple terms but it gets unwelding past the most basic stuff. It can 'see and attack' for example...but anything more complex and it can get very hairy and even blow up at a certain point.

In 2005 things got shook up. Monolith Productions released F.E.A.R. It blew people away. it wasn't the graphics or some new level design...it was the A.I. It could think. It took cover. It called for help. It worked with teammates. It flanked. frankly it done things no one had ever seen in a shooter. It was a PC game, and it used a full blown language with libraries (they did later port it to consoles via a third party dev but it lacked the A.I. of the computer version and did poorly).

The guy who did that was Jeff Orkin. That's where i started in my own learning of A.I. The guy does a lot of teaching and writing about A.I. and if anyone is interested in learning A.I. it's a great starting point.

So going back to the "IF/THEN" scene we all sorely experience in our games adding a little bit of structure to a bunch of otherwise disjointed rules maps over somewhat to the most basic of AI architectures—the finite state machine (FSM). The most basic part of a FSM is a state. That is, an AI agent is doing or being something at a given point in time. It is said to be “in” a state. The reason this organizes the agent behavior better is because everything the agent needs to know about what it is doing is contained in the code for the state that it is in. The animations it needs to play to act out a certain state, for example, are listed in the body of that state. The other part of the state machine is the logic for what to do next. This may involve switching to another state or even simply continuing to stay in the current one.

Usually state machines employ elaborate trigger mechanisms that involve the game logic and situation. For instance our “guard” state may have the logic, “if [the player enters the room] and [is holding a gun] and [I have the sword of Smiting], then attack the player” at which point my state changes from “guard” to “attack”. Note the three individual criteria in the statement. We could certainly have a different statement that says, “if [the player enters the room] and [is holding a gun] and [I DO NOT have the Sword of Smiting], then flee.” Obviously, the result of this is that I would transition from “guard” to “flee” instead.

So each state has the code for what to do while in that state and, more notably, when, if, and what to do next. While some of the criteria can access some of the same external checks, in the end each state has its own set of transition logic that is used solely for that state. Unfortunately, this comes with some drawbacks.

First, as the number of states increases, the number of potential transitions increases as well—at an alarming rate. If you assume for the moment that any given state could potentially transition to any of the other states, the number of transitions increases fairly quickly. If there are 4 states each of which can transition to 3 others for a total of 12 transitions. If we were to add a 5th state, this would increase to 20 transitions. 6 states would merit 30, etc. When you consider that games could potentially have dozens of states transitioning back and forth, you begin to appreciate the complexity. What really drives that issue home, however, is the realization of the workload that is involved in adding a new state to the mix. In order to have that state accessible, you have to go and touch every single other state that could potentially transition to it.

The second issue with FSMs is the predictability. The player soon learns the behavior and begins exploiting it because the same trigger occurs and always ends up with the same result. A Civ game comes to mind. Can anyone guess which one if not all of them use FSMs? Civs sending a unit or two repeatedly? FSMs. Works great in shooters. Absolutely sucks in strategy games.

At this point, it is useful to point out the difference between an action and a decision. In the FSM above, our agents were in one state at a time—that is, they were “doing something” at any given moment (even if that something was “doing nothing”). Inside each state was decision logic that told them if they should change to something else and, in fact, what they should change to. That logic often has very little to do with the state that it is contained in and more to do with what is going on outside the state or even outside the agent itself.

For example, if I hear a gunshot, it really doesn’t matter what I’m doing at the time—I’m going to flinch, duck for cover, wet myself, or any number of other appropriate responses. Therefore, why would I need to have the decision logic for “React to Gunshot” in each and every other state I could have been in at the time? There is a better way.

The behavior tree.

It separates the states from the decision logic. Both still exist in the AI code, but they are not arranged so that the decision logic is in the actual state code. Instead, the decision logic is removed to a stand-alone architecture called the behavior tree.

The main advantage to this is that all the decision logic is in a single place. We can make it as complicated as we need to without worrying about how to keep it all synchronized between different states. If we add a new behavior, we add the code to call it in one place rather than having to revisit all of the existing states. If we need to edit the transition logic for a particular behavior, we can edit it in one place rather than many.

Another advantage of behavior trees is that there is a far more formal method of building behaviors. Through a collection of tools, templates, and structures, very expressive behaviors can be written—even sequencing behaviors together that are meant to go together.

Now add a Planner. While the end result of a planner is a state (just like the FSM and behavior tree above), how it gets to that state is significantly different.

Like a behavior tree, the reasoning architecture behind a planner is separate from the code that “does stuff”. A planner compares its situation—the state of the world at the moment—and compares it to a collection of individual atomic actions that it could do. It then assembles one or more of these tasks into a sequence (the “plan”) so that its current goal is met. In SE that might be to build it's economy or it's defenses before finally attacking the nearest percieved threat.

Unlike other architectures that start at its current state and look forward, a planner actually works backwards from its goal . For example, if the goal is “kill player”, a planner might discover that one method of satisfying that goal is to “shoot player”. Of course, this requires having a gun. If the agent doesn’t have a gun, it would have to pick one up. If one is not nearby, it would have to move to one it knows exists. If it doesn’t know where one is, it may have to search for one. The result of searching backwards is a plan that can be executed forwards.

The planner diverges from the FSM and Behavior tree in that it isn’t specifically hand-authored. Therein lies the difference in planners—they actually solve situations based on what is available to do and how those available actions can be chained together. One of the benefits of this sort of structure is that it can often come up with solutions to novel situations that the designer or programmer didn’t necessarily account for and handle directly in code.

As I mentioned Jeff Orkin used them in Monolith’s shooter, F.E.A.R. His variant was referred to as Goal-Oriented Action Planning or GOAP.

To sum it up there's a lot to A.I. and I haven't even touched Utility based systems or NNs (neural network) and i'll note my own A.I. also includes personalities (20) that give weight to what the A.I. might do (a janitor will run and hide from a monster but a soldier will attack) but there's a small chance the Janitor is Bruce Willis so I'll give it 90-10 weight. But this way Patton can play like Patton and Rommel will behave like Rommel and everything is much less predictable.

So What does SE use?

I know it's not just "IF/THEN" statements. I know it's not just FSMs. How in depth and then we know what is possible.

What's not there?

In my A.I. you have a blackboard (where all game data is stored) then a Needs section and then the decision section. But in between the Blackboard and the Needs block is an A.I. blackboard section. This section is to keep the A.I. honest. It filters out information the A.I. should not know. --- if the guard didn't hear or see you he won't know your location. If such was in SE the same would be true--but there isn't one. Delete your defending troops in your cities and see how fast ALL the A.I. factions declare war on you. It knows your strengths, position...etc at all times.

But keep in mind everything is checks and balances. Turn times vs what the engine can handle, time wise in terms of development and so on. Often these things would be great in an unlimited engine with unlimited funds and unlimited time. You have to decide what you want in and what you can't do.

Hopefully what's here is very good. What's missing isn't having a huge impact on game play. But I haven't the play hours to determine that but I am working on it.






MC456 -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/14/2020 2:26:29 AM)

Tough choices :P
Naval/Air assets are definitely one of the top things for a lot of people. Having more tools to play with will definitely help all aspects of the game. One of the best parts of Shadow Empire is how the 4X and logistics element tie in directly to the wargaming element too (i.e. attacking your enemy's means of production and their road/rails to disrupt their supply chain). Adding air/navy on top of that definitely extends the strategic depth of war.




Jdane -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/14/2020 2:43:05 AM)

Thing is I would have definitely voted for more Shadow stuff if there hadn't been such strong competition.




t1it -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/14/2020 3:30:14 AM)

I want everything on that list of course but here's my choices and why:

Adding new features
Game is largely bug-free. I've only had a crash once. Still needs more polish and clarity in certain areas like the UI, terminology and the whole logistics system.

AI
Easy one. It needs to be more aggressive in fielding as many vehicles, tanks and artillery as possible so that models like tank destroyers and heavy tanks actually become worthwhile.
More variety and far more challenging that way. I've had young planets with little fuel and old planets with an overabundance of fuel, it doesn't matter, AI fields just a few tanks here and there but never concentrated panzer corps rampaging through my lines.
Also needs significant diplomacy improvements; they need to not start wars on multiple fronts and make peace efforts whatever the cost to end wars in such situations. They just get annihilated when they behave like that. In my current game, an AI empire was trapped between my empire and another AI empire. What does it do? Start wars with both in short order and gets crushed. Alliances and NAP's in general needs to be more common. Of course, victory is the ultimate goal so I personally don't mind sudden backstabbing although that's a very unpopular opinion (most gamers hate it and wants an AI that's *cough* 'role playing'; think Civ 4 AI vs Civ 5 AI...)
More AI personality would be much welcome as well.

Make it play more with the same rules as Human Majors do
Still no answer whether they abide by the FoW rules or not and to what extent. A bit fishy to go through such details in AI vs human in the "AI rules differences" section of the manual but not addressing one of the most fundamental aspects of strategy gaming. My guess is of course, it doesn't abide by any FoW like in most games which is a big weakness to me, but I might be alone on this.

Airforces
This is relevant in all planet types unlike Navies...of course continental/ocean planets would be an entirely new arena of the game where Navies are a must have. It'd add so much depth beyond having navies...so it makes sense to vote for navies here yet I picked airforce... because I think it's less work, and ultimately more important in modern warfare.




Jdane -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/14/2020 3:41:03 AM)

I took the time to read attentively eyegore's very detailed post whose length scared me away at first.
I found it both educative and thought-provoking. (Although I'm not a programmer, so I haven't been training in this.) It deserves to be the opening post of a dedicated topic in my opinion.

Because I'm a silly sod, I will of course remember this quote :

quote:

ORIGINAL: eyegore

there's a small chance the Janitor is Bruce Willis so I'll give it 90-10 weight

[:D]

But thanks for your time and effort in writing this, eyegore, that's not the only thing I will remember from your contribution. (It'll just be a mnemonic trigger for remembering the rest.)




Jdane -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/14/2020 3:47:43 AM)


quote:

ORIGINAL: t1it

Still no answer whether they abide by the FoW rules or not and to what extent.


I'm pretty sure Vic stated somewhere they don't and have a slight recon/spying advantage. I probably could find the source and would, but not just now. My clock is screaming at me.




diamondspider -> RE: Shadow Empire Poll posted (6/14/2020 5:13:54 AM)

Another bit of opinion on air in this game: I am very much a "the more different ways to play the merrier" sort of guy, but after more thought and play, if anything beyond some kind of rickety low tech ornithopter or such, or GR levitation tech that is hard to come by is put into this game for air, I request that this can be disabled entirely as an option.

Why do I feel so strongly about this?
1) I love the interesting recon mechanics. Even though I play with the map showing, the FOW is excellent and a big part of the challenge. Flying around allows excellent collection of recon info, and so I'd think that would kill this aspect of the game for the most part. Sure, you could say with anti-air, interceptors, etc. etc. this could be defeated, but that starts to involve a very complex layer of addition (perhaps like War in the West). Nothing wrong with all of that, but I like the odd setting that includes not going back to WWII or modern to that extent. In any case, if I can turn it all off, no problem.

2) Terrain is the other thing I love about this game. It has very strong impacts on both battle and logistics. Among the best parts of air is being able to ignore terrain. Just bomb them until they glow. So, once again, this works against another one of my favorite aspects of the game.

On navy, that bugs me a lot less. I don't put much ocean on my maps, so that one is easy to avoid. Also, boats are much lower tech potentially than an airforce, so I could see myself perhaps doing something with a low tech navy. Still, about as far from the top of my own wish list as possible.

I realize that there is no point in arguing over matters of taste, and the more features the better, but we should be honest about the fact that if an entire air infrastructure is put into the game that it will probably need to change the rest of it quite a bit to balance for that, regardless of if I can turn it off. So while the poll didn't have a "I really DON'T want this" option, this is my comment on that.




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