I agree with Jim_H on that for all the complaining of AI, MOST gamers find the AI's in MOST games to be a perfectly good enough challenge. I suspect there's a small but noisy minority of virually 'full time' gamers who use every gamey device they can find to beat the game in a day. If you don't live on the forums and don't play 40 hours a week just play most games for pleasure, you'll get months before you can beat the AI on maximum.
Yes, that's exactly my point. I really do think (and would like to be persuaded otherwise) that the majority, not all, but most of those gamers who moan about AI use exploits of some description if they are being totally honest. They may play a scenario ten times and eventually win. Or quick save/quick load to get past a boss. Once they figure out that standing in a certain spot and firing at a set interval, they can kill it easily. I've done it lots of times and then thought to myself "well, that was easy. what crap AI this game has!". Take wargames. How many RW commanders have the luxury of sitting there with a cup of coffee and unlimited goes to take the next ridge or gain a beachead? We take it all for granted and what about intel? We are spoonfed all the info we need and probably vastly more than anyone really gets.
[Edit]Here's a perfect example...I know, because I've done this myself and other people have posted about it. At the beginning of a game of AT, you can use trucks or armoured cars as single units to expand your territory. You capture cities by just driving a single unit onto them and you get lots of production and research bonuses for doing that. Vic has addressed this with an option to have these existing town/cities already populated with a "neutral" AI opponent. But, to do this with trucks is simply exploiting the game mechanics in order to give yourself a better chance of winning. So, when you've beaten the AI on turn 15 after taking almost the whole map in the initial few turns through this exploit, do you remember this point? Or, do you sit back and think that it was just too easy to beat and that the AI must therefore be rubbish? Memory is very selective. Try beating the game without doing this and you have a much more difficult task on your hands. How many people, being totally honest, have done this at least once? I'm willing to bet the majority have.[/Edit]
And for historical games, do we really want the best AI or one that makes the same mistakes as the original commanders?
That's a brilliant question and one I can't answer! The best AI on a computer with the amount of power we have today would beat most/all humans hands down every time. To make the same mistakes as the RW counterpart would probably be boring. What's the point of knowing in advance exactly what's going to happen? I wouldn't spend money on the game that does that.
For wargames/strategy games, something Veldor said on another thread springs to mind. Too paraphrase: "developers spending 2000 hours researching the uniforms then cobble together an interface in 2 hours". Some truth in that, so again we get the games we deserve. The devs are doing that knowing that someone will nit pick the game (or should that be 'historical recreation') to pieces. So to achieve an OCD level of replication, the AI suffers, the GUI suffers and worst of all the whole game design suffers.
Which is my biggest bugbear with wargamers. I don't think there's anything wrong with trying for accuracy, but too many wargamers get all anally retentive about it and the devs would rather waste these 2000 hours researching the correct colour socks of a particular historical regiment than spend that time making a better game experience. Sure, some will argue that the wrong colour would spoil said experience, but where do you draw the line? It's a bloody game when all's said and done! You want real life? Go join the military. This aspect of wargaming really gets on my nerves. Can you tell? [;)]
In contrast to overly complex, tedious, 'chore-ware' games with a customer base barely in 4 figures, there are many strategy games that are good quality and selling by the bucketload. Games like Advance Wars on the DS & GBA, Memoir '44 board game, Total War series, even the original Panzer General (wasn't this the biggest selling war game of all time?), many of the 'new wave' of Euro-boardgames - all of them good strategy games.
My point is that these games have serious strategic elements, but they succeed because they "Keep it Simple Stupid". They have accessability designed in from the start. IMHO too many of the strategy and especially wargames aim for 'bigger is better', because this is what their fans are shouting for. The most common repeated statement on AI in any forum is that "you shouldn't expect a decent AI because AI is too difficult to program and you should be playing online anyway". So why bother with AI.
Again, I agree with you. Panzer General was a great wargame, as is Memoir '44. Some say Memoir is too light and fluffy. But, at the same time it's games like this that keep the wargames on the map, so to speak. If there weren't lighter games than WitP, we'd have no wargame genre. Panzer General was very simple, but had some depth and appealed to players at all levels. Bigger isn't better, it's just more space with nothing in it.
I think one of the best AI's I've encountered in any wargame (recently or in the distant past) is Advanced Tactics. Set it to AI+ or AI++ and it's very, very hard to beat. I know Vic is putting a lot of emphasis and work into tweaking the AI for this game and that's precisely how it should be. If he can do it on his own, why can't other devs who have millions of pounds (dollars, whatever) and a team of other devs do it?? Because they go for eye candy, or a thousand scenarios, or perfect historical accuracy or whatever else the crowds are clamouring for, instead of concentrating on the rounded quality of the experience of trying to beat something with artifial intelligence.
2nd Lt. George Rice: Looks like you guys are going to be surrounded.
Richard Winters: We're paratroopers, Lieutenant, we're supposed to be surrounded.