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 4)
on Apr 25, 2012

Colbert30

Quoting seanw3, reply 38It is a little hard to talk about the best strategies in this format. Can you post some videos of your choices?

Or he could give us a day 1 save that we could all play and chronicle sort of like in a PBEM log. The only problem is that it would have to be the same game build or it would be incompatible with ours.

ALOT of game balance is saved in the save file, (I think it was Derek who mentioned this somewhere, or it was a passing goose?, who really knows)

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

on Apr 25, 2012

Colbert30
Yes, we could even post our own save for inspection after each log. I think it would be a great way for all of us to learn, too. I don't know or understand many of the game mechanics yet and the game help is still incomplete.

Thirded.

on Apr 25, 2012

KingHobbit



Quoting Frogboy,
reply 4
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.

 

I agree, if you loose a battle with yur main char you should not be able to use him or her right away. It's like WOW, death has no real penalties. Dies as many times as you want it's matters not.

 

I think that loosing should be something that hurts you a lot.

on Apr 25, 2012

Frogboy


How much damage the spell does is known to the AI via the XML.  When you play, don't use select items and spells based on what they say they'll do? That's what the AI does.

 

Well, that's kind of what I do.  But as a casual gamer, say, maybe I'm retarded because it's difficult for me to tell how much damage a spell is going to do *cough* UI improvement *cough*

 

I know from experience that a certain spell tends to rock-ass.  But the description says something like "8 damage +4 per fire shard"

 

How many fire shards do I have?  I don't remember, at least 1 or 2, or maybe 3?  Can't remember.  And then I have +50%, and another +50%, and maybe another +50%?  I just take the "+50%" whenever it comes up as an option on level up.  So, does this mean that if I have 2 fireshards and 3 of the +50% traits that it does some amount of calculation of damage, but is the +50% stackable?  I, as a player, don't have a straightforward way of seeing/knowing this.

 

(8+4+4)*1.5^3  ?  (=54)  or

(8+4+4) + (8+4+4)*0.5*3 ???  (=40)

 

What would be handy would be when one mouses over a spell in tactical combat that the little window that pops up would say "base damage 54" and possibly a calculation there to show you how it's calculated, and when you click on it and point my little spell wand cursor over the dude that I'm thinking about nuking it would say "37 fire damage" or something, again possibly with a calculation to see why it's reduced from 54 to 37 based upon the dude's resistance or whathaveyou.

 

Again, maybe I'm retarded and this is how things currently are, and I just haven't noticed or something.  And maybe I'm lazy for not looking deeper into the back-end of the operation to figure these things out without dumby alerts popping up and just telling me the answer.  But most players are more intellectually curious about how to take over the world, than figuring out if their flaming dart is going to do enough damage to the MOB left with 23 hp to finish him/her off, or leave him/her with 2 hp.

 

cheers,

 

-tid242

on Apr 25, 2012

Start of the game 1 or 2 pioneers depending on whether there is a shard around, then workshop.  Always get shard harvesting if you don't start with it.

Found a second city straight away.  Try and found one city with max grain, and one city with max materials.  The extra pioneer at the beginning should grab a shard, any shard, its just mana.  The max grain city max out its production and then keep growing it with buildings to make it maximum population, you might need to intermix production increase buildings with food per grain increase buildings.  The max materials city should mix between spamming pioneers and buildings.  I usually do about 3 pioneers to one building.  More pioneers if there's lots of idelal places to grab.

Set tax rate to 0 at the start. do not create troops (pionners aren't troops, they don't have weapons ).  hire champions and go forth and kill as much as can.  If a job is to hard, try a different direction or join forces of the champions for that battle and then split them up again.  If you're nurturing a mage, a high defense summon suffices for a long time before you need troops as well.

Stone skin is a must.

Magic champs are waaaaay more powerful than a melee champ unless they have nature's cloak and 7 or 8 earth shards or other ways to max out damage resistances to fire ice lightning.

I think I've noted somewhere before, that in tactical battles, casting buffs needs to be calculated on reducing time-to-kill.  While checking for time-to-death is more than tim-to-kill after doing any buffs.  ranged units and damag based mages can cause time-to-death be very short, so buffing becomes useless.

on Apr 25, 2012

Brad I like what I see with the AI, kudos to you.

 

It's pretty late here so I'm just going to make a quick comment.

I notice in your vids that you usually take the approach of building 2 pioneers plus scouts before you develop cities - whereas I tend to build the tower of dominion plus the science building as early as possible and I'm quite happy to solo it with my sov for a long time. In a crowded map I can see why you take that approach (grab land before the AI), but I don't place the same urgency on it that you do - there's normally plenty of land to expand into and the monsters act as an early barrier between players - also by not building any units I keep my tax at none which allows me to max production and research. You say that building up a city is not a good strategy but I was able to win games on the hardest settings in the last beta by doing just that so I feel it has some merit to it. Later I move to city buffs and also thins that allow me to raise tax while keeping unrest low (e.g. gallows) which allows me to generate alot of gold - I havent had time to properly try it out in beta 3 - I'm looking forward to doing that next week

Also with regard to the champs, I'd like to respectfully suggest that you consider boosting the monsters instead of nerfing champs again - they had a pretty big nerf last time and a level one sov is now pretty feeble - it's the spells and goodies they pick up that helps in the early stages (thats part of tactical play though).

 

Anyway just my 2 cents

on Apr 25, 2012

Two problems I've had with the AI in recent games:

 

Enemy champions casting stoneskin/flameblade/wither/berserk in tactical combat while I'm hacking at them with my sword.  By the time they are buffed, they are nearly dead or already dead.

 

Early game and I was at war with Magnar and he only had one city.  I had two champions just outside his border, but I couldn't defeat him with Magnar in the city, because he was quite powerful (playing on hard so he had like 120 hp).  Magnar then decided to slip out the back to go exploring or something.  And so my two champions moved in and took the city.  That was the end of Magnar.

on Apr 25, 2012

Suggestion, Stone skin should do +4 defense plus +4 per earth shard.

I'd be a little wary about this.  Earth doesn't seem to have a ton of useful battle spells in my experience...a lot of its value is skewed towards terraforming, which you can't afford early on and can easily recruit a champion for later on when casting the spells becomes practical.  Stoneskin is a big part of the draw of the school right now...if you nerf it too much, you might see Earth becoming a very low priority for sovereigns.  Besides, wasn't one of the many goals of 0.9 to make spells feel stronger and more satisfying to cast?  You don't want to swing too far in the other direction.  Four defense seems like it might be too little to notice, and there's no guarantee of finding a lot of any given type of shard.

Also, the AI casting Stoneskin during tactical battles could be considered a mistake.  If it knows the battle is coming, it can cast it on the strategic map, fight, and then dispel it at the end of the turn if it doesn't expect to need it again soon.  The cost is the same and it saves a turn in combat.  Or maybe the fact that the costs work out that way to begin with is the problem...either way, it's worth thinking about.

 

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

I'd say that a very big part of the problem with sovereigns/champions is the way magic progression works.  It's kind of crazy.  The only thing you need to do to get more spells is to pick new ranks of the spell school when you level up.  The difference between rank 2 in an element and the maximum rank of 5 is potentially as little as three level-ups (in practice it will be more, since you're unlikely to get the option every single time, but it won't take long if you prioritize spell ranks whenever you can).  The result is that your sovereign has become an archmage with access to the most powerful spells their discipline has to offer at a stage where the rest of the world still thinks putting pointy ends on their beating-sticks is a pretty neat idea.  The results are what you'd expect.

This creates the side-issue that the magic research tree doesn't have much to do.  One would expect that researching it would make you better at magic, but it barely gives you any spells; 90% of what you really want to cast you just learn automatically from levels.  As a result its main contribution winds up being magical equipment, which makes it feel redundant with the military tree in a lot of respects.

The natural solution to both of these problems seems like it would be letting magic techs play a much larger role in spell progression in general.  Your sovereign's magic would be limited by the same factors that limit the power of your military, and balance between them would be a lot easier to achieve.  Right now your empire and your sovereign progress on almost completely unrelated paths...having lots of strong citiles, plentiful money and resources, and tons of research has next to no bearing on how strong your champions are or how successful your sovereign is questing out in the wilderness (with the sole exception of the quest/recruiting line).  Was there an explicit reason you guys moved away from a traditional spell research system since War of Magic?

EDIT:  I forgot the most obvious thing: spells that deal their damage to each individual figure are stupidly powerful, and spells that do this while also being AoE are even more stupidly powerful.  If you have any shards at all, it's basically impossible for a base-level stack not to be wiped out by effects like these in a single cast no matter how high-tech they are.  That 70-health squad with plate armor and magical weapons isn't too impressive when you can obliterate the whole lot of them in one turn by dealing ten damage.  Dealing a large, flat quantity of damage would probably be better in the vast majority of situations.  It'd also keep so many direct-damage spells from being useless against the single-figure opponents which make up the majority of what you see in the wilderness.  That would probably make champions too easy to nuke down, though...maybe it'd be easier to have certain spells deal only X% damage to champions instead of dealing multiplied damage to groups.  I'm not sure.  Something about Fireball and Dirge of Ceresa is probably going to have to change, in any case.

on Apr 25, 2012

Y'know, if the game ceases to be fun, people will cease to play it.

It's important to remember that most people -- most potential FE purchasers -- are not going to be sitting around and counting HPs, buffs, etc. They are going to grab a weapon and run around trying to kill things. They will learn quickly what they can kill at level 1 and what they can't. If they stumble across a great weapon that evens the odds a bit, or even gives them an advantage, they'll think it's neat.

But if the game is too tough, if it requires too much micromanagement, if they keep racking up crippling injuries, they'll get bored or frustrated and quit. And they'll complain about the game to their friends.

[Late addition] Along those same lines, remember that beta testers <> customers. I know from personal experience what it is like to spend a few years and a few millions dollars to bring a commercial application to market, only to discover that the things the beta testers did or did not like were not necessarily the same things that actual paying customers did or did not like.

Food for thought.  ..bruce..

 

on Apr 26, 2012

DragonRider862

EDIT:  I forgot the most obvious thing: spells that deal their damage to each individual figure are stupidly powerful, and spells that do this while also being AoE are even more stupidly powerful.  If you have any shards at all, it's basically impossible for a base-level stack not to be wiped out by effects like these in a single cast no matter how high-tech they are.  That 70-health squad with plate armor and magical weapons isn't too impressive when you can obliterate the whole lot of them in one turn by dealing ten damage.  Dealing a large, flat quantity of damage would probably be better in the vast majority of situations.  It'd also keep so many direct-damage spells from being useless against the single-figure opponents which make up the majority of what you see in the wilderness.  That would probably make champions too easy to nuke down, though... maybe it'd be easier to have certain spells deal only X% damage to champions instead of dealing multiplied damage to groups.  I'm not sure.  Something about Fireball and Dirge of Ceresa is probably going to have to change, in any case.

 

I totally agree with your post, but wanted to comment on the bolded part. I think you just identified a use for those +10 spell resist level up skills. At present, I haven't found magic scary enough to care about those options.

 

Frankly, I'm totally great with spells dealing X flat damage, even if those spells become more deadly to champions, and some particularly awesome and powerful ones dealing x flat damage to every member of a group. We just need to make sure that those spells each have a role to play. Single Direct Damage, Group Damage, AoE. All of these are tactically legitimate choices in different circumstances, and deserve equal consideration as avenues for combat spells.

on Apr 26, 2012

I quite like, in concept, the spells that hit all creatures, or an area. They make sense, and they can be balanced with cost, damage per unit, accessibility and most importantly casting time. It's great that high level heroes can wipe out armies of plebs with a spell or two. It would be insanely boring to have to take them out one at a time and wouldn't make for a very heroic game

on Apr 26, 2012

I think that units currently are underpowered. While champions till level 10 or so are still on the same power scale of units, mostly based on which items you found via quests, casters aren't.

When a caster reaches high level and start amassing shards, his power level skyrockets with land and levels. With a couple of water shards, casting blizzard (level 4 water spell, strongest AoE currently since flame wave doesn't work) can easily wipe 5-7 heavy units. Because the damage is per figure, increasing the stack size won't help. Magic resistance won't, either (if it would be some kind of a problem, the caster would have 170 instead of base 120...). With current balance, the only way to stop it is for the AI to counterspell is... which, at-least in one of my games, never did. Against melee champs, it's not better- it gets into a point where the unit 1shot everything, with a good 1-2 counterattacks, and 300 health. These monsters are not so hard to get, currently.

on Apr 26, 2012

Ausland
Enemy champions casting stoneskin/flameblade/wither/berserk in tactical combat while I'm hacking at them with my sword. By the time they are buffed, they are nearly dead or already dead.

But also, isn't that inefficient? Why waste the mana casting buffs each battle if you can pay 1 upkeep and start the battles already buffed (I mean the buff spells like stoneskin and flameblade).

on Apr 26, 2012

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

But at the same time they should not be able to rampage thought the land with no fear. And there should always be something or someone out there that can put your champions and sovereigns down.

on Apr 26, 2012

DragonRider862
I'd say that a very big part of the problem with sovereigns/champions is the way magic progression works. It's kind of crazy. The only thing you need to do to get more spells is to pick new ranks of the spell school when you level up. The difference between rank 2 in an element and the maximum rank of 5 is potentially as little as three level-ups (in practice it will be more, since you're unlikely to get the option every single time, but it won't take long if you prioritize spell ranks whenever you can). The result is that your sovereign has become an archmage with access to the most powerful spells their discipline has to offer at a stage where the rest of the world still thinks putting pointy ends on their beating-sticks is a pretty neat idea. The results are what you'd expect.

Actually there are level requirements on magic traits so you can't get Earth4 until your level 7 for example. You could make an argument for increasing the required levels but personally I find that level 2-3 spells are all you really need to be cheap with magic.