Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on April 24, 2012 By Draginol In Elemental Dev Journals

Update: 

Hour long AI test video for the truly die hards who want to see all the mistakes:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nnPKHQIksrA&feature=youtu.be

 

I see all. I know all. At least, when it comes to this map.

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In the top left we have Markin, leader of the AI civilization of Gilden.

In the bottom right, we have me, Draginol, leader of Pariden.

How many turns will it take me to wipe them out? What mistakes will the AI make that can be exploited (and fixed)?

First…some notes

This build is 0.911 which has some balance updates to make sovereigns and champions a little less powerful. The monsters are somewhat more aggressive and the AI has had some general improvements since 0.91.

Second…help me!

If you see me making a mistake, let me know.

Early Game:

I train up two pioneers and then the tower of dominion. I recruit a champion and send the champion in one direction and my sovereign in another.

(to be continued).

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Othollo vs. Black Widow monster. Othollo has stone skin enchantment on him already.

Othollo wins.

Opinion: Level 1 champion shouldn’t be able to take out a black widow. Suggestion, Stone skin should do +4 defense plus +4 per earth shard.

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Same issue:

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My first level sovereign took out a troll by himself.

Opinion: Troll should get 2X more HP than it currently does.

AI Early game: Meanwhile…

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Lord Markin just did the same thing. However, he isn’t using stone skin.

Opinion: Stone skin should be a “gotta have” for the sovereign.

Let’s look at the code…

Ok, this is where “strategy” comes into play in AI writing.  The code is very conservative about casting spells with regards to mana.  So at the start of the game, it doesn’t cast a lot of spells even though, IMO, it should cast some spells as early as possible even if it means lowering the available mana.

There are a few ways to do this:

1. Have an XML value for “Early Game AI multiplier” which tells the game to multiply the value early on.

2. Have the code take into account that the value of storing mana should be different at different times in the game.

3. Treat certain unit targets different than others (the value of a spell that affects a sovereign is different than a spell that might target a champion that is stationed in a city).

etc.

AIs in the mist

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As you can see, the AI is intent on building a civilization. An admirable goal to be sure.  But not a good strategy.

By contrast…

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My early development has focused on training up pioneers and now soldiers to go out and conquer.

With those units, I go out and level up:

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By contrast, the AI leader is Soloing it:

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Mind you, it’s not that I don’t think about sending units to reinforce the sovereign.  It’s always a balance between how far should it send them and how long should the sovereign wait around? What’s the attrition rate of units getting to the sovereign? Should I send the sovereign home or keep him in the field?

There’s a lot of tweaking that goes into this sort of thing that improves iteration by iteration.

Combining Heroes

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One thing the AI does is that once champions get to a certain level, it will gradually put 2 in an army and potentially 3 or more depending on their level.

This is something I have to tweak almost every build because what is a “high enough” level changes.

Now, In this battle the AI is escorting pioneers with two champions and a Drolgard (a mid level Gildenian unit).

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The AI (bpttp, left) casts stone skin on himself and then gift of iron right off the bat.

Gilden’s Drolgard unit is better than my Destiny’s Guard unit but he only has 1 of them (the other is a scout). But he does have two champions.

Let’s see what he’s done with his champions:

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Yeesh. Level 12.  This is why I get nervous about changing the soloing behavior. Because there is a cost to having the AI wait around for escorts even if he does get killed a lot more often.  If sovereigns got injuries, I’d have to rewrite this.

His other hcampion isn’t that great.

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vs.

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It’s going to really boil down to whether I can take out his units and his extra champion I think.

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On the second round, the AI Markin cast growth on himself. Then his champion cast haste on him. So this is not looking very promising.

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The growth spell AI Markin has is self explanatory. And bad for me.

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So if I should have done something differently there, feel free to tell me.

 

…later, Lord Markin is alone. How powerful is he?

 

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This is a bit of an ambush but let’s see what I can do against him.

His first turn he casts growth.

His second turn he casts stone skin.

His third turn he casts gift of iron. Very wasteful. Will check his mana after the battle. But it’s pretty bloody nasty combo. He has a 63 defense.

Here is how the rest of the battle goes:

http://screencast.com/t/uuG8UvkqKO

He only has 65 mana left so he must have determined that he needed to win that battle.

So that’s enough for today.  Plenty to integrate in for this week.


Comments (Page 1)
on Apr 24, 2012

I usually start with a scout, then tower of dominion, then pioneer. Starting with two pioneers is a waste to me, because you can't really use any world resource, and if you build another city right away your growth will be very low.

on Apr 24, 2012

Why make champions and sovereign less powerful ??? NOOOOOOOOOO

I think they could be more powerful on the other hand ! They cast monstruous spells that's normal that they're powerful !

I still find them pretty weak, especially the champions compared to the world's creatures.

Spells could be more damaging too both for your army and for the enemy at a point that you pay more attention to spells when they're cast instead ofthinking bah it's oKay if I let it pass...

on Apr 24, 2012

Second…help me!

Based on your comments above I believe you are most definitely headed in the right direction!

on Apr 24, 2012

My opinion is that champions and sovereigns should BECOME titans of power. But they should start out pretty ordinary.

on Apr 24, 2012

Opinion: Level 1 champion shouldn’t be able to take out a black widow. Suggestion, Stone skin should do +4 defense plus +4 per earth shard.

 Or make the monsters really powerful, instead? The main issue, as I see it is that monsters are laughably weak. 6 armor + 3 per shard looks fine to me, a giant spider that has as much attack as a peasant with a mace (less, actually) and a low number of HP is the real problem.
 
My opinion is that champions and sovereigns should BECOME titans of power.
They don't - unless they go on the path of the mage with 3 evokers traits, in which case they become living gods.
 
Currently, heroes are strong peasants with artifacts (Sword of the Sun and the Moon, Doom Club, etc.), not Titans of power. Conan isn't strong because he loots artifacts, Conan is strong because he can behead a demon with a rusty sword.
 
Melee heroes that do not loot an artifact from a unique monster are weak, because the traits are weak (well, actually, they can be weak and invulnerable thanks to the unbalanced amounts of armor one can have currently). +1/+2/+3 attack or +1/+2 initiative doesn't make a hero compete with 7 guys with battleaxes. 
on Apr 24, 2012

The issue isn't how powerful the Hero is, but where the power comes from. Heroic weapons and armor found in loot are so incredibly OPed that nothing else can really compete. Traits IMO should be where the Hero's power comes from. A hero with a spear should be as good as 5 men with a spear because he is an expert at parrying blows and attacking weak points in armor. I don't like that a hero simply finds a spear that does 5 times the attack of a normal spear and then has to fight with a crappy one for 10 battles until he learns enough to be able to use it. An epic spear should only do slightly more damage than a normal one, be lighter, have an Accuracy bonus, and do one special thing that changes he unit's tactics in some way. The rest of the power should come from special abilities.

 

Currently the best strategy is to ignore all buildings in favor of spearman on turn one. get 4 of them and your Sov. Go kill stuff and keep making more. Never build Tower of Dom, never have taxes, never lose. The prestige from leveling the Sov will level your city 6 times faster than Tower of Dominion and the Unrest bonus is negligible compared to the power of a spearman. Once in a while get a pioneer out there to plop down a settlement. Rinse, repeat, conquer the world.

on Apr 24, 2012

I usully play medium maps with 8 players, and the AI expands so fast you have to rush pioneers off the start. Your start seems pretty good, I usaully get a workshop second because it allows me to build other stuff faster but maybe that's just me.

I'm glad you see the same balance problems that I do with monsters. Any champion can kill the beginning monsters himself and thus level high enough to kill medium monsters by himself and onward until they can destroy empires by themselves. Pretty much every monster but super high level ones like dragons and elemental lords can be soloed by a champion and exist simply for feed. Monsters aren't a threat to one unit by itself let alone cities.

seanw3
Currently the best strategy is to ignore all buildings in favor of spearman on turn one. get 4 of them and your Sov. Go kill stuff and keep making more. Never build Tower of Dom, never have taxes, never lose. The prestige from leveling the Sov will level your city 6 times faster than Tower of Dominion and the Unrest bonus is negligible compared to the power of a spearman. Once in a while get a pioneer out there to plop down a settlement. Rinse, repeat, conquer the world.

What are you fighting that your Sov can't handle himself so you need spearmen?

 

on Apr 24, 2012

Werewindlefr
Or make the monsters really powerful, instead? The main issue, as I see it is that monsters are laughably weak. 6 armor + 3 per shard looks fine to me, a giant spider that has as much attack as a peasant with a mace (less, actually) and a low number of HP is the real problem.
 
They don't - unless they go on the path of the mage with 3 evokers traits, in which case they become living gods.
 
Melee heroes that do not loot an artifact from a unique monster are weak, because the traits are weak (well, actually, they can be weak and invulnerable thanks to the unbalanced amounts of armor one can have currently). +1/+2/+3 attack or +1/+2 initiative doesn't make a hero compete with 7 guys with battleaxes. 

Yeah, your stoneskin suggestion is great, because it gets not overpowered with many shards and is useful at the start of the game.

I think melee heroes are as powerful as mage heroes if they have a high level (15+), because with the current scaling they hit every low level target, are immune to spells from low level casters, are immune (assassin) to attacks from low level fighters and are immune to the damage of low level fighters (warrior with heavy armor).

That would be no problem if the player and the AI level at the same speed, but with traits like brilliance and the right enemy selection the player can level much faster.

seanw3
The issue isn't how powerful the Hero is, but where the power comes from. Heroic weapons and armor found in loot are so incredibly OPed that nothing else can really compete. Traits IMO should be where the Hero's power comes from. A hero with a spear should be as good as 5 men with a spear because he is an expert at parrying blows and attacking weak points in armor. I don't like that a hero simply finds a spear that does 5 times the attack of a normal spear and then has to fight with a crappy one for 10 battles until he learns enough to be able to use it. An epic spear should only do slightly more damage than a normal one, be lighter, have an Accuracy bonus, and do one special thing that changes he unit's tactics in some way. The rest of the power should come from special abilities.

Exactly, powerful items should require killing difficult monsters.

on Apr 24, 2012

Frogboy
My opinion is that champions and sovereigns should BECOME titans of power. But they should start out pretty ordinary.

I really like the idea of the Sovereigns becoming a titan.  I am less on board with the champions becoming so.  However, as I stated on the other thread, if they are going to become titans then there should be far less of them.  Walking around with a stack of 10 heroes that are Titans, will deplete how important they are.  The game will become a race of recruiting champions just to get the larger stack.  If your attacked by a strong army you should have a feeling anxiety.  If there is a champion leading the army it should be dread.  If the sovereign is there leading the army, it should be utter doom.  Right now, because there are so many champions in the game, it is kind of ho-hum.  Their fun, and the game is fun, but champions feel common just because of the quantity of them.

Speaking about the "other" thread, it should be a major decision to send a champion, particularly your sovereign into battle.  You need to do it, but damn it is going to suck if they die.  Make the consequences of losing a battle with one even worse.  Champion lost a arm, can no longer use two handed weapons or a weapon and a shield.  Champion was defeated in battle, suffered tremendous injuries, loses half of all acquired traits at random (champion can't remember is own name let alone how to do stuff).  The game I am playing I have 5 cities with two champions guarding four of five, plus I still have an army with three champions in it.  Champion suffers broken back, champion cannot be used for 30 turns and then carry capacity cut by two thirds.  Make the punishments hurt.

If they are going to become that powerful, than the punishment for using them foolishly should be equally as powerful.  Make it so if they lose once it would probably be better to just retire them.  Same goes for the sovereign.

 

Just my opinion.

on Apr 24, 2012

seanw3
The issue isn't how powerful the Hero is, but where the power comes from. Heroic weapons and armor found in loot are so incredibly OPed that nothing else can really compete. Traits IMO should be where the Hero's power comes from. A hero with a spear should be as good as 5 men with a spear because he is an expert at parrying blows and attacking weak points in armor. I don't like that a hero simply finds a spear that does 5 times the attack of a normal spear and then has to fight with a crappy one for 10 battles until he learns enough to be able to use it. An epic spear should only do slightly more damage than a normal one, be lighter, have an Accuracy bonus, and do one special thing that changes he unit's tactics in some way. The rest of the power should come from special abilities.

Agreed. Damage should largely depend on weapon type. An arrow is an arrow and a spear is a spear. I hate to sound like one of those "realism" people, but this is important. The problem is one of quality of damage vs. volume of damage. The game makes no distinction between 1 catapult shot and and three swing of a champions sword. Sure they can both be deadly, but one can just about killa ton of people, while the other can kill only a couple (and just kills them really well). Spearmen should be much more efficient at killing other infantry and weak monsters than heroes are, but heroes should be the best choice for taking on those tough enemies like dragons. But the game currently has no way of reflecting this stuff because everything is just rolled into one big "Attack" value. Heroes should also gain an advantage by having better accuracy, but the other side of this problem is that to-hit is under implemented, because (quite rightly) they realised that battles in which half of attacks missed would be lame.

Most other games (like D&D and warhammer) don't just increase the power of the hero's attack indefinately: they give him multiple attack dice and add the resultant damages together (as is currently done for units, with 3 guys firing three arrows quite logically equating to 3 dice). If Elemental gave heroes multiple attack dice as they gained levels (say, from 2 to 5) then we wouldn't need to increase their attack (damage) values to such extremes to make them competetive with units. Heroes would still have marginally higher damage than units, but less attack dice, so they'd have a lower quantity of damage but higher quality. More importantly, giving every unit multiple attack dice would mean that accuracy could be implemented properly, because instead of rolling to hit for the whole attack, you could roll to hit for each dice individually and add them together, so even when one or two missed, you'd still do some damage.

It's not actually that big a change. I wrote a more detailed post on it here.

on Apr 24, 2012

I certainly agree with the steps you are taking in this quick update and the way you are looking at the basics of one particular aspect. I've posted in the beta 3 my comments:

http://forums.elementalgame.com/422922/page/10/#3137496

I do agree on the overpowered item drops (heartseeker gained on level 3!) entioned above though...

 

great start

on Apr 24, 2012

I would like to comment on Stoneskin.  I just hope its not cookie cutter-ish and wish the sovs had other things to use or try than that.  Cause if it its not SS (Stone Skin) there's an armor enhancing spell thats been used and abused to the gazillionth time.

Other thing is that Burning Hand doesn't seem to provide as much attack as SS does for defense.  

 

But I do agree with you on the Hit Points,  I'd like to see higher hps.  Perhaps also as a function of difficulty also.  When burning hands does 7 damage and your mace guys go wha-POW and mow down a mob with 91 damage.  I think why did I even bother with path of the mage?

on Apr 24, 2012

Frogboy
My opinion is that champions and sovereigns should BECOME titans of power. But they should start out pretty ordinary.

 

This is where I come from.

 

I play Pariden a lot at this point--almost exclusively.  I pursue an aggressive policy of pioneer production, because my sovereigns are out to grab every shard they can find.  It's admittedly a tradeoff: spell power (outposts) for research/food growth (cities), but that's all to the good.  As you mention, Brad, it's about meaningful choices.

 

I play conservatively in a combat sense, putting my sovereign, first acquired champion, and a summoned shadow warg in a single party.  That way I can usually clear a path, except when I'm granted an unlucky terrain of a valley with two relatively dangerous monsters nearby.  I look for all the champions I can find, since I know it's a race to grab them, as well.  In large games I like to see them in a reasonable quantity.  I always assume my opponents are doing about as well, and never worse.

 

Stoneskin is a useful spell in the early part of the game.  I wouldn't nerf it, but I would agree that opponents like a troll should have more hit points.  This also adds some tension to combat, as the troll could win by a lucky shot, while the hero could win by dint of regular accuracy and spell defense.

 

 

on Apr 24, 2012

Lord Markin just did the same thing. However, he isn’t using stone skin.
Opinion: Stone skin should be a “gotta have” for the sovereign.
Let’s look at the code…
Ok, this is where “strategy” comes into play in AI writing.  The code is very conservative about casting spells with regards to mana.  So at the start of the game, it doesn’t cast a lot of spells even though, IMO, it should cast some spells as early as possible even if it means lowering the available mana.
There are a few ways to do this:
1. Have an XML value for “Early Game AI multiplier” which tells the game to multiply the value early on.
2. Have the code take into account that the value of storing mana should be different at different times in the game.
3. Treat certain unit targets different than others (the value of a spell that affects a sovereign is different than a spell that might target a champion that is stationed in a city).
etc.

I think the AI should scale mana use Dependant on how many forces it haves on the overall map, and try using more spells to win losing battles.
So if the AI is close to losing and have few forces left, it will burn through its mana reserves (at this point mostly in tactical combat and unit enchants) to win as many combats and kill as many enemies as possible.

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

on Apr 24, 2012

Ok, this is where “strategy” comes into play in AI writing. The code is very conservative about casting spells with regards to mana. So at the start of the game, it doesn’t cast a lot of spells even though, IMO, it should cast some spells as early as possible even if it means lowering the available mana.

There are a few ways to do this:

How about comparing stored mana to the cost of your best spell, and perhaps multiplied by the total spell ranks of your champions?  Early on your best spell would be farily low cost, therefore less need for stored mana, and your champions would have less spell ranks.  Later, your spells are more costly and you have more champions drawing on your mana pool with higher casting abilities.  The mana pool should have an established optimum level at any given time.  More mana than that and you can cast your heart out.  Less, and you should be more conservative and prioritise claiming nodes, or even cancel some enchantments.

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