(Long Post) Where are games at?

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Unhappy
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(Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Unhappy »

As the year draws quickly to a close I'd be interested to hear people's opinions on the current state of computer strategy/war-gaming. Please note the word 'computer'. I realize there are those of you that enjoy board and card games etc. but I'd prefer to limit this discussion to computer games.

I would especially appreciate insight, views, and opinions on the state of artificial intelligence (AI) in games.

Browsing through the various forums here I've seen many comments on games that have, at least initially, a disappointing AI. Sorry for not quoting examples but it appears to be a pretty obvious, though not universal, trend. I realize there are a whole bunch of caveats that need to be appended to any discussion of disappointing AIs: niche market for these games, small teams of developers, under funded, doing it part time, doing it b/c they love doing it and not to make money etc. Plus, the complexity of the games has increased over the years - so for instance the AI must: control multiple computer 'players' vs. just one, handle diplomacy, production and research considerations and so on. Also, there is a (vocal) group of enthusiasts that are primarily interested in multiplayer or PBEM games. They point out that the challenge and fun derived from playing against human opponents far exceeds that derived from computer opponents. I accept their contentions as accurate despite having little personal interest in playing this sort of game against human opponents. I find that real life (other people's) is far too intrusive to accommodate the manner in which I want to play these games (in marathon sessions unbroken by annoyances like biological imperatives, jobs, or sticky children). Regardless, it is great to accommodate those people that want to play against other humans. However, I am disappointed at the grudging acceptance that multiplayer is the only route by which accomplished players can find a worthwhile adversary. (Note: that comment doesn't apply to me - while I love strategy/war-games I am abysmal at playing them and have yet to encounter an AI so incompetent that it can't clean my clock...I'm only partly joking).

As should be apparent, I am somewhat disheartened by the slow progress in the area of Artificial Intelligence (which I think is a deceiving misnomer in any case - should be called something like 'Programmed Decision Making'). For instance, the first computer war game I played was Chris Crawford's Eastern Front (1941). It was a fantastic game for the time (APX version came out in 1981). It had a built in AI. It was competent for what it had to do. Plus, the turns were executed simultaneously (WEGO) and it was fun and simple to play. That was 26 years ago. Kasparov faced off against Deep Blue in May 1997...over 10 years ago. Yet, often-times, our AI opponents still disappoint us. Or, in the case of some MMOGs, those AI opponents are entirely absent.

My uninformed perception is that progress in game AI has fallen far behind the remarkable advances in other aspects of computer gaming such as graphics, sound, the advent of massively multiplayer online games etc.

After that long rambling intro...my questions are along these lines:

1) Is my perception regarding the tardy progress of computer game AI valid or not? And if not, can you please explain (without using jargon if at all possible) what I am missing. On the other hand, if my perception is valid can anyone offer clues as to why this progress is so slow? (Please try to avoid an obvious response like - "because it's hard.")

2) Are there any games on the horizon that are going to blow my socks off with their super 'Commander Data' like AI?

3) Has the computer gaming industry relegated the development of AI to the back burner because of the, seemingly, current emphasis on multi-player games. (A negative response to #1 may render this question moot)

4) If you accept the premise that the advancement of AI is lagging, do you have any suggestions, brilliant or otherwise, as to how the strategy/war-gaming 'industry' can address this issue and accelerate that progress. For example, would the consolidation of some developers into larger companies help? Perhaps less frequent titles?

5) Finally, and this may seem hard to believe, but I love World of Warcraft. Obviously it is extremely popular and monetarily lucrative. All of which leads me to wonder whether the strategy/war-gaming folks are examining this phenomenon with an eye to jumping on the bandwagon? And I don’t mean with first-person-shooter action games. If we must confront human instead of programmed adversaries I think WoW offers an excellent model. A persistent world, with action happening continuously – sounds perfect for a massively multiplayer online strategy game to me.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Zap »

ORIGINAL: Unhappy


My uninformed perception is that progress in game AI has fallen far behind the remarkable advances in other aspects of computer gaming such as graphics, sound, the advent of massively multiplayer online games etc.

3) Has the computer gaming industry relegated the development of AI to the back burner because of the, seemingly, current emphasis on multi-player games. (A negative response to #1 may render this question moot)


I would agree with your perception.
3 is correct. But add to that . Cost. To improve on an AI takes many man hours (stated here by those who actually work on AI's) . It comes down to fear of not being able to get the money back that was spent on development. Thats my uniformed opion.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Terminus »

It also comes down to the simple fact that programming an AI is very, very, very difficult. That's why TOAW is so famous for its AI/PO/Elmer/Whatever; it's the exception to the rule.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Arctic Blast »

Quite honestly, some of the problem is also gamers. As has been stated already, programming a decent AI is a long, long process. And let's face it, we're not the most patient breed on the planet. Anytime a game is held back to try and make it better, everyone throws their arms up in the air and has a hissy fit. Sometimes, I think more patience from the customer would lead to a better product, since it wouldn't have to be rushed out the door.
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Zap
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Zap »

Not to mention when this type of game finally appeals to the mass market and millions of copies are sold. All that extra money coming in will encourage devlopers/publishers to spend some of it on AI's.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by marcusm »

I think the solution to this issue, is to have a strong scriptable engine (ie with outside scripting like Python).
Civ4 showed what the community can do if just the basics are there. TOAW while not having a real
script system still allowed for scenario specific PO adaption. Works quite good. Still playing that Korean scenario :).

Creating a generic good AI will likely not be feasible but allowing for scenario specific scripting can work.
Advanced Tactics does a pretty good job in my book.

I also think RTS AI has gotten much better lately so something is happening.

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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by ravinhood »

I find the problem with todays AI's is they aren't programmed to win. They are merely programmed to DELAY you to your victory and your victory or demise alone is the only objectives in most games made today. But, todays player doesn't like to lose. They were brought up on Game Genie and/or cheat codes galore and they just can't fathom a game that beats them and then accuse it of cheating or getting advantages they don't get. I find that laughable because even those games that get known cheats an advantages I can usually beat in record time. There's just only a very few games out there in the last 10 years with a decent AI that is actually programmed to WIN, defeat you, and make you quit or resign. The Sid Meier games are like that. Some RTS games are like that. But, for the most part all these strategy wargames we see aren't. They are just delaying toys is all most of them are anymore. How many computer wargames do you know of today that actually have a "winning" objective that they need to reach other than just keep you from reaching yours?? Name em. Then if you can name some, how many actually ever do it? I remember when we played board wargames there were objectives for EACH side. It wasn't just prevent player A from reaching point B either. The other problem with todays games is too much eye candy and not enough gameplay and/or AI improvements. Creative Assemby tells the same lie everytime they make a game now since MTW, "the AI is IMPROVED" darn if that is so. I've yet to see any noticeable improvement in the AI at all. In fact I see the same faults in the released versions as I did with Shogun and Medieval TW1.
 
Thing is it really doesn't do any good to rant about it. They aren't going to put any money into making decent AI's anyore. Money is in the graphics and how fast they can churn them out for $50 bucks. I've ranted for 10 years that the AI's suk in most games released. Hasn't changed anyones bettering of AI's to date. Same developers making the same garbage AI's in what would be great games if they had decent AI's. Look at Triumph Studios. We harped and harped about the dumb stupid brainless AI in Age of Wonder Series. Did they make it better? Hell no it got worse with each sequel actually. I can applaud a small developer like Shrapnel and Mad Minute for putting more emphasis on their AI's than they do on their graphics. Dominions III has a pretty decent AI and MM's 2nd Manassas and Bull Run are right along beside them. Most RTS AI's aren't really that great either they just give them such a fast speed at computing and processing it just makes them look like they have great AI's cause they can beat you so fast cause they don't have to scroll and click and click and scroll and build this an build that like we do. It's just process mathematically and wallah it's there. Slitherine's Spartan game came with a great AI and they dumbed it down because of the whinning QQing noobs who couldn't beat it on the EASY difficulty level. I laughed my butt off when I read that and cried my lungs out screaming at Iain for changing the AI in patch 1.017 to dumbness.
 
It actually is a lot of the GAMERS FAULT that AI's are so easy for many of us. THey've cried and whined and QQed about difficulty for so long an so used to cheating or using cheats and game genies that they can't handle any real challenges in these games and if they can't win they won't buy them. Thus, crappy stupid braindead AI's for us more intellectual and intelligent players.
 
I mean I have to laugh when a game as simple as RISK can't have a decent AI. Even electronic Battleship has a stupid AI.
 
Games with pretty decent AI's:
Battles of Napoleon
War of the Lance
Master of Magic (impossible difficulty)
Civilization II & IV
Alpha Centauri
2nd Manassas (mad minute)
Bull Run (mad minute)
X-Com series (first two games)
Empire Deluxe
Combat Mission (special settings AI defender only)
Medieval Total War origional
Birth of America (though I hate the combat engine)
Kohan II (build your own AI)
Spartan (v1.013 patch)(and build your own AI)
The Seven Kingdoms (origional version)
Panzer General
Galactic Civilization II (13 difficulty levels)
Sacrifice
Masters of Orion II
Dominions III
HOMM II (III is merely ok but II had more AI settings)
 
That's about it from my library of games with AI's I have fun playing against and find a challenge in beating them and don't always do.
WE/I WANT 1:1 or something even 1:2 death animations in the KOIOS PANZER COMMAND SERIES don't forget Erik! ;) and Floating Paratroopers We grew up with Minor, Marginal and Decisive victories why rock the boat with Marginal, Decisive and Legendary?


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leastonh1
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by leastonh1 »

You know, the end of your first paragraph made me laugh. I have read, many times, posts of people who complain and moan and offer constructive criticism of AI in games. Many of these games I either own or have played. Without exception, I have yet to find one title I can beat on the "hard" setting. So, either these people spend far too much time playing games, use the game mechanics/limitations as an exploit to win, learn the behaviour of the AI over many attempts and predict or one or more other things. Maybe I'm completely wrong here, but I'm baffled as to how some people play some of these games on the highest difficulty level and still beat it, seemingly without resorting to a cheat or exploit. I'm in awe as it's beyond me how they do it.

I think there really is a definite move toward online gaming and the days of bots/AI are numbered to some extent. We already have increasing numbers of online only games which have no AI to speak of, so the single player is not catered to at all. Broadband is commonplace, speeds are increasing, bandwidth is cheaper and online "communities" are the in thing. Gaming is ever popular, so why not milk the cash cow and combine them all? It's a great idea and obviously pays well. But, it's not for me.

I rarely play online games of any description any more as it took over my life when I used to. I played America's Army (a lot!) and got to quite a high ranking, was a member of a very good clan and basically spent my whole free time immersed in that game. In the end I uninstalled it and stopped because it was getting too much, almost like an addiction slowly creeps up and takes over you. I can see this happening with some of my friends now with games like WoW and it's not pretty. It's an obsession.

Devs are tied to a time limit by the publishers, who have to justify development time and costs to shareholders/stakeholders/investors etc. So, when 12mths is up and the game is not ready, something has to give. How many games do we see released that aren't even close to being finished? Too many! Ok, all games need patching and adding to once they reach the wider audience as beta testing is by definition, limited. I've seen great looking games released with no depth or substance. Show stopping bugs that prevent the player from progressing before patch 1. Abysmal AI. It seems to be on the increase too as the market is saturated and squeezed. Without the mega bucks of the likes of EA and co, the majority of smaller publishing houses haven't the resources or money to wait for things to be finished completely before release dates, which are also increasingly seasonal! AI is one of those things that is under the hood (as you Americans say) and out of sight of the end user. So a half finished AI can be masked by say clever scripting of events.

I think we, as wargamers, are probably in a slightly better position. Most wargames aren't renowned for their pretty graphics, have no need of 3D and the gui is meant to be functional (allegedly). So, the devs tend to spend more time on historical accuracy and AI behaviour than perhaps would be the norm. I'm guessing, but this seems logical to me.

I'm not sure progress is slow with AI. Looking back over some of the games I've played in my 20yr gaming life, I can bring to mind many of the earlier games that looked great for their time, but the AI was primitive by today's standards. Some of the 1st person shooters now have some amazing AI behaviour built in. Yes, some of it is smoke and mirrors, but if it fools you as a gamer and beats you as a result, then the job is done! FEAR was one of those. I couldn't believe the first time a squad of enemy soldiers pinned me down, while a couple of their group flanked me! Unreal Tournament has great AI bots for a game of that type. They play pretty convincingly. I think AI has moved on a lot, but the gaming industry also has many other slices of pie to serve up to the ever increasingly demanding gamers who have the hardware now to expect the amazing visual and audio experience too.

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Jim
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Fred98 »

The content of you’re post is all about the AI

So I too will stick to the AI.

Playing against the AI is like playing a singles match of tennis against a brick wall

Playing against the AI is like having a date with a cardboard cut out woman

Playing an AI is only for practice so you can learn the game mechanics.

Once I learn a game I only play against human opponents.

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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Veldor »

ORIGINAL: Unhappy
1) Is my perception regarding the tardy progress of computer game AI valid or not? And if not, can you please explain (without using jargon if at all possible) what I am missing. On the other hand, if my perception is valid can anyone offer clues as to why this progress is so slow? (Please try to avoid an obvious response like - "because it's hard.")
You are correct. As it applies to wargames. A primary reason why it is so slow is because virtually all computer wargames are programmed by 1 or 2 people, neither of which is a dedicated AI programmer, and certainly neither of which is trained or otherwise highly experienced at such. That said AI needs ares very different in the average wargame than the type you might use in any other genre. There is therefore perhaps more coorelation to some business AI techniques/needs than certain gaming ones. It's hard to get anyone interested in exploring these areas because of the lack of interest in wargaming to begin with, so even hiring an Advanced Gaming AI programmer might not get you very far with a computer wargame.
2) Are there any games on the horizon that are going to blow my socks off with their super 'Commander Data' like AI?
Nope. It will continue to be more of the same. One thing that might help, which I've posted elsewhere, is my belief that PC Wargame devs don't want to work together. We all arrogantly think we can do it all and that our own programming project/game is the best one. Maybe thats just part of the ingrediants to make someone crazy enough to make a wargame on their own time in the first place (Or live in a foreign country where the cost of living is so low you can actually support yourself decently on wargame income.). I've of course been working on my own wargame and besides the standard dev answer of my AI will be the best ever if I did honestly try to cite a single reason why my #1 would be that its actually my prime area of interest. Thus unlike many devs who may have a primary interest in historical research or whatever no mine is primarily in AI and Network Technological Advancements. #2 is beginning on it day 1 instead of "tacking it on" after the game is basically mostly otherwise done which I think is all too often the case.
3) Has the computer gaming industry relegated the development of AI to the back burner because of the, seemingly, current emphasis on multi-player games. (A negative response to #1 may render this question moot)
That's as good a reason as any. It's hard to quantify the exact quality of an A.I. I, for instance, strongely disagree with some of the games listed as having a good AI. I consider resource/production boosts or anything of that type to be a cheating AI. It doesnt mean that I won't use those settings or even enjoy playing the game. But I dont think its fair to call that a great AI if thats the only real method of balancing things out. Its simply a handicapping system.
4) If you accept the premise that the advancement of AI is lagging, do you have any suggestions, brilliant or otherwise, as to how the strategy/war-gaming 'industry' can address this issue and accelerate that progress. For example, would the consolidation of some developers into larger companies help? Perhaps less frequent titles?
I can only really answer from a wargame perspective where its not practical, at least for non-retired americans, to ever even consider wargame development as a full time job much less as part of a larger company. If you have even half the skills it requires to make a game on your own you could get a much better paying job elsewhere. At least in any major american city.
As far as my "brilliant suggestion" I think at some level server side AI needs to get involved for wargames. Basically that means logging results on each gamers machines and having them sent to a central server for processing into a better "learned" AI. Its actually a ridiculously simple process that is taught but the problem really is first in how most AI's are written in the first place. If there is any sort of scripting that system wouldnt work. It has to be completely weighted so the values are all flexible/adjustable based on the central query results. So, in that way, it takes a more algorithmic approach that is more complicated to implement. 2nd problem is the consumer base itself. How many of you click those boxes to "share your virus data with McAfee" or "share you program crash data with Microsoft" so that they can improve things? Historically speaking the numbers are ridiculously low. Most people are obsessed that there is some sort of security flaw in doing so. Maybe a game where there is a more personalized relationship with the playing community, publisher, and dev would have much better results but like any other AI advancement why put in the time (if not otherwise for pure interest in AI) when there is no guarantee of even getting sufficient participation (or even sales volume) to actually make it work?
5) Finally, and this may seem hard to believe, but I love World of Warcraft. Obviously it is extremely popular and monetarily lucrative. All of which leads me to wonder whether the strategy/war-gaming folks are examining this phenomenon with an eye to jumping on the bandwagon? And I don’t mean with first-person-shooter action games. If we must confront human instead of programmed adversaries I think WoW offers an excellent model. A persistent world, with action happening continuously – sounds perfect for a massively multiplayer online strategy game to me.
Half the Fantasy MMOs can't stay afloat. 75% of non fantasy MMOs die fast. It's not likely it'd even be remotely worth the effort. Also its far beyond what a small dev team can achieve. So the most we will ever see that would be anywhere near a MMO wargame/strategy game would either be something very very simple or just more basic 4-8 player games like we can basically already do now with Advanced Tactics, EiA and such just maybe in a TCP/IP form..
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by marcusm »

The Cost structure issue might change when the games industry in India and/or China takes off.
Especially high potential due to the strong emphasis on Math in schools. Same to an lesser extent in Russia. Also like I wrote in the East/West thread, if there is anywhere where wargaming might see new fresh blood, it's in these countries, there is a foundation for it.

There is definately hope. And whoever said that Ai has stood still, is wrong. RTS AI has improved alot in the later years
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Adam Parker »

ORIGINAL: Unhappy

As the year draws quickly to a close I'd be interested to hear people's opinions on the current state of computer strategy/war-gaming. Please note the word 'computer'. I realize there are those of you that enjoy board and card games etc. but I'd prefer to limit this discussion to computer games.

Where are PC war games games at? I'll give you my .02 from the publisher/designer's point of view:

1. Graphics - use lots of Photoshop, especially bevelling for maps, make art look as close to 1980 as possible and heavy pixelization is a good thing.

2. AI - we honestly can't build one but we'll still use phrases like "dynamic AI" and "challenging computer opponent" in our marketing.

3. Rule books and written material - don't worry about proof reading or grammar most customers can't read anyway, explain the most simple concepts with the greatest number of words, miss out as many useful concepts regarding the interface and engine as possible and refer players to typo-ridden on-map pop-ups.

4. UI - just get it working, forget about ergonomics, click-ratios, wheel scrolling, wheel zoom, clarity etc.

5. Scenarios - man they're really hard to make. Do we really have to include them? Geez.

6. Engine - just get it out of the door fast, people will buy anything that's built - the gullible ones anyway - and we'll look as if we're fixing things that we know are broken as if a shock to us.

7. Feigning shock - announce a "public beta" because "we need your help".

8. Post public beta - give it up (all the money we could ever make out of this one is in) announce "Game Title 2 - "it's not an expansion but a fully stand-alone game, greatly improved over Game Title 1, the game that kicked it all off".

9. Design theory - we have 60 years of retail board war gaming history with sales track records backing it up, let's ignore it all and put everything including the kitchen sink into our design. Hey, we've always got the public beta afterwards.

And I'm sorry Unhappy, I really just can't leave it at that and honor your request regarding this thread. Because PC war gaming aside, war gaming is very alive and well this Xmas Season 2007.

I just drove home with a re-release of the Avalon Hill "Hannibal Rome vs Carthage" beautifully presented in the seat next to me. The original has been selling for over $100 US on Ebay. Well, it looks as if some clever developers have listened and remembered where the war gaming market has been at and still is.

My hobby store had at least 20 copies of the also just re-released Avalon Hill title "War at Sea" today.

It's shelves were packed with new releases from GMT. Avalanche Press too and even those big glossy games we call role playing, fantasy or strategy. The "Memoir 44" boxes and expansions, big boxes of "Command and Colors", "Combat Commander Mediterranean"...

Let's just face it. The developers we know are either dishing out half-finished crap, trying really hard but failing or sticking to their well-coded roots and not moving on.

Sadly, these strategies have created a wary market. Wary buyers hold onto their money longer. No money means designers stick to their day jobs...

That's one .02 anyway.

Happy gaming whichever way you can get it,
Adam.

Edit - Man the Rome vs Carthage remake looks very AH good.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Captain Cruft »

The AI problem is a combination of "it's very hard" and "not enough resources".

AIs in mega-sales RTS games may well have gotten better recently, I don't know, but this is not a valid comparison for wargames. The amount of programming resource that goes into the wargame industry is, in the context of the "real world", utterly miniscule. So, there is essentially no chance of AIs getting substantively better.

The way to approach this IMHO is, if you want to play solo then forget "being historical" and make up some self-imposed rules which create a challenge for yourself given the limitations of the computer opponent. This is what I do in my "AI mode". Whereas for my PBEM encounters I basically try and find opponents who don't erk me too much with gameyness. I am not very historically knowledgable, but there are a lot of things which game engines make possible that are quite clearly nonsense or "gamey". We all have our annoyance threshold on that I suppose.

Both modes of play can be fun, it's just a question of setting the parameters and not trying to re-create history. That isn't going to happen whatever you do. The purpose of the activity is to play a game of complexity while being vaguely immersed in the atmosphere of the events in question.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by marcusm »

I don't agree with all the cynicism Adam Parker but you are correct about one thing.
Why do they insist on fixing stuff that isn't broken? They should keep things from boardgames that work. Especially the clear and nice art. Computer wargame maps always looks so cluttered. Especially dislike those "3d" maps SSG uses.

I had no idea one could get that much money from old boardgames. I bette take a look at what I have in the cupboard.
Are ASL boxes like Yanks worth anything?
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Joram »

Like you I find real life makes it near impossible to play a decent PBEM game unless said opponent doesn't mind playing over the course of a few months. In the few times I've tried it though one or more of us loses interest and all that time is lost. So the "just play PBEM" dribble which I hear so often is a moot point for me and many like me.

I won't name names as there are many games here that I like despite all the issues but in general it seems that more and more stuff comes out that's half-complete with the AI being one of the biggest things lacking. That isn't to say there aren't a few half-decent AI's out there but there aren't really any ones that blow my mind. It may be true that there are quite a few AI's on the top setting I can't beat but that's only because they cheat, not because they are smart and I gleam no satisfaction winning or losing to those types of settings.

Since computer wargames will never be able to replace a live opponent they will always remain a small niche for the dedicated or rich. Computer wargames will fill a small niche for me as something I can pick up and fiddle with on my own from time to time but it won't completely replace board and miniature games that I have been playing for the past 20 years. What I like most about Computer wargames is the ability to pick up and put down over a series of nights or weeks even.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Unhappy »

Thank you all for your replies.  Interesting points to mull over, both depressing and hopeful.  I didn't bring it up before but the popularity of games like Civilization and Master of Orion (the first two) suggests to me that there can be a substantial market for games that require at least a little bit of thought rather than just great dexterity.  So while I have heard the niche market argument repeated to the point where my resistance is almost entirely worn down, part of me still wants to believe that a really well done, "is that the cool light of dawn filtering through my window?", type of game can be a financial and popular success.

As regards a massively multiplayer game, and again without the benefit of evidence, I conceive of warfare as the ultimate group activity.  It requires a vast number of human resources all working to achieve a common goal.  But few games are like that - usually one individual is responsible for all aspects - every battle front, every political maneuver, every production decision etc.  From my point of view, given that the technology for MMOGs is available, the logical progression for a wargame would be to mimic that reality.  So have a whole bunch of players on a single team trying to pursue a common goal – competing against one or more teams of players also pursuing a common goal.  EVE Online works that way to a certain extent, except that there is no ‘end’.  I’d prefer a game that one faction could actually win…and then start the whole thing over again.
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by ravinhood »

ORIGINAL: Adam Parker
ORIGINAL: Unhappy

As the year draws quickly to a close I'd be interested to hear people's opinions on the current state of computer strategy/war-gaming. Please note the word 'computer'. I realize there are those of you that enjoy board and card games etc. but I'd prefer to limit this discussion to computer games.

Where are PC war games games at? I'll give you my .02 from the publisher/designer's point of view:

1. Graphics - use lots of Photoshop, especially bevelling for maps, make art look as close to 1980 as possible and heavy pixelization is a good thing.

2. AI - we honestly can't build one but we'll still use phrases like "dynamic AI" and "challenging computer opponent" in our marketing.

3. Rule books and written material - don't worry about proof reading or grammar most customers can't read anyway, explain the most simple concepts with the greatest number of words, miss out as many useful concepts regarding the interface and engine as possible and refer players to typo-ridden on-map pop-ups.

4. UI - just get it working, forget about ergonomics, click-ratios, wheel scrolling, wheel zoom, clarity etc.

5. Scenarios - man they're really hard to make. Do we really have to include them? Geez.

6. Engine - just get it out of the door fast, people will buy anything that's built - the gullible ones anyway - and we'll look as if we're fixing things that we know are broken as if a shock to us.

7. Feigning shock - announce a "public beta" because "we need your help".

8. Post public beta - give it up (all the money we could ever make out of this one is in) announce "Game Title 2 - "it's not an expansion but a fully stand-alone game, greatly improved over Game Title 1, the game that kicked it all off".

9. Design theory - we have 60 years of retail board war gaming history with sales track records backing it up, let's ignore it all and put everything including the kitchen sink into our design. Hey, we've always got the public beta afterwards.

And I'm sorry Unhappy, I really just can't leave it at that and honor your request regarding this thread. Because PC war gaming aside, war gaming is very alive and well this Xmas Season 2007.

I just drove home with a re-release of the Avalon Hill "Hannibal Rome vs Carthage" beautifully presented in the seat next to me. The original has been selling for over $100 US on Ebay. Well, it looks as if some clever developers have listened and remembered where the war gaming market has been at and still is.

My hobby store had at least 20 copies of the also just re-released Avalon Hill title "War at Sea" today.

It's shelves were packed with new releases from GMT. Avalanche Press too and even those big glossy games we call role playing, fantasy or strategy. The "Memoir 44" boxes and expansions, big boxes of "Command and Colors", "Combat Commander Mediterranean"...

Let's just face it. The developers we know are either dishing out half-finished crap, trying really hard but failing or sticking to their well-coded roots and not moving on.

Sadly, these strategies have created a wary market. Wary buyers hold onto their money longer. No money means designers stick to their day jobs...

That's one .02 anyway.

Happy gaming whichever way you can get it,
Adam.

Edit - Man the Rome vs Carthage remake looks very AH good.

WoW Adam we do finally agree on some things. That's been my thoughts and ME for the last oh 5-7 years now. Crap Crap Crap, that's all developers are releasing is more crap of the same they released in 97 to present day. Same titles with II's III's and IV's next to them now. And this line:
Sadly, these strategies have created a wary market. Wary buyers hold onto their money longer. No money means designers stick to their day jobs...
Been me for a long time now and I preach the gospel of it to get more people to be that way as well in hopes it will change the market trend. If more and more people wait for games to goto bargain bin because people know they are crap out of the box they'll have to change or go back to their day jobs. As they say when you make your bed you must lie down in it. People think I'm harsh and cheap, but, I'd rather see some developers and companies go out of business than waste my money keeping them in business just to make another crap game.
WE/I WANT 1:1 or something even 1:2 death animations in the KOIOS PANZER COMMAND SERIES don't forget Erik! ;) and Floating Paratroopers We grew up with Minor, Marginal and Decisive victories why rock the boat with Marginal, Decisive and Legendary?


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Veldor
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by Veldor »

ORIGINAL: Unhappy

Thank you all for your replies.  Interesting points to mull over, both depressing and hopeful.  I didn't bring it up before but the popularity of games like Civilization and Master of Orion (the first two) suggests to me that there can be a substantial market for games that require at least a little bit of thought rather than just great dexterity.  So while I have heard the niche market argument repeated to the point where my resistance is almost entirely worn down, part of me still wants to believe that a really well done, "is that the cool light of dawn filtering through my window?", type of game can be a financial and popular success.
Yeah but computer wargames were popular years back as well. Not much before the games you mentioned. At the time they were relatively on par with other games graphically or otherwise. They've long since fallen behind and out of favor. Partially they've just become too overcomplicated and monotonous (ie. not fun for anywhere near the average person). I just don't think this was ever true with boardgames. Look at that other thread on Hannibal. When was the last time someone designed a computer game like that? All creativity goes out the window in favor of 100 more levels of historical depth and accuracy. We've forgotton how to abstract, we've lost all concept of fun. We see everything as a straight choice... More Historical Accuracy or a better UI? More Historical Depth or a better AI? More Historical Scenarios or better graphics? Nearly every computer wargame is trying to be that "monster game" while even the simpler ones are mostly only managing to be bland copies of something else. The worst part is there really isn't anyone to blame for this. You shouldn't have to be a computer programmer to get to design a wargame. But unfortuneately its just how it is nowadays so there are probably tons of brilliant ideas and new abstraction styles, gameplay techniques, and lord knows what else out there that will never see the light of day...
As regards a massively multiplayer game ....
What about WWII Online or whatever they call it these days? I think Matrix even still sells it. From what I know they've addressed most of the original issues players had and it simulates all you described about as good as will likely ever be done again.. At least in the near future.
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leastonh1
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by leastonh1 »

NM, I can't find the page now. Move along, nothing to see here.
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Richard Winters: We're paratroopers, Lieutenant, we're supposed to be surrounded.
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JudgeDredd
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RE: (Long Post) Where are games at?

Post by JudgeDredd »

I just wouldn't play a game that required a monthly payment.
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