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 3)
on Apr 24, 2012

Kongdej

Quoting Frogboy, reply 4My opinion is that champions and sovereigns should BECOME titans of power. But they should start out pretty ordinary.

Funny, I would rather see them in a "leadership" position, so it weren't so beneficial to bup them together lategame.

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

 

With Pariden, my current sovereign is a background type who's got the clumsy trait, but has all the spellbooks, is an evoker, and hastes everything in sight unless she's needed to administer direct damage.  Earlier on, I had a sovereign who into the thick of things, spelled herself up, and got into the thick of things.  Pariden lets you do either.  Magic's malleable.  It's a very finite resource, but you should be able to use it to do so many things.

 

on Apr 24, 2012

Glazunov1

Quoting Kongdej, reply 26
Quoting Frogboy, reply 4My opinion is that champions and sovereigns should BECOME titans of power. But they should start out pretty ordinary.

Funny, I would rather see them in a "leadership" position, so it weren't so beneficial to bup them together lategame.

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

 

With Pariden, my current sovereign is a background type who's got the clumsy trait, but has all the spellbooks, is an evoker, and hastes everything in sight unless she's needed to administer direct damage.  Earlier on, I had a sovereign who into the thick of things, spelled herself up, and got into the thick of things.  Pariden lets you do either.  Magic's malleable.  It's a very finite resource, but you should be able to use it to do so many things.

 

While that is true, it have little to do with heroes and sovereigns being rather mighty when u just mop them up together and lead them run carnage on some other faction, I never feel to build troops up to mid-game since I can bush-wack most of the monsters until my heroes come to the point where they mash up all the monsters, well usually only my sovereign that gets the ability to solo huge dragons and wildlands bosses as of 0.91 (had to have mana burst or help in 0.86). That is what I mean in the  fact that I would rather see heroes have less powerfull abilities, but ones that boost the abilities of "trained" units too.

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

on Apr 24, 2012

Kongdej

While that is true, it have little to do with heroes and sovereigns being rather mighty when u just mop them up together and lead them run carnage on some other faction, I never feel to build troops up to mid-game since I can bush-wack most of the monsters until my heroes come to the point where they mash up all the monsters, well usually only my sovereign that gets the ability to solo huge dragons and wildlands bosses as of 0.91 (had to have mana burst or help in 0.86). That is what I mean in the  fact that I would rather see heroes have less powerfull abilities, but ones that boost the abilities of "trained" units too.

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

 

Don't we have that now, though, by choosing other traits on level-up?  Granted, we can't really see the hero well enough when making a selection: like the city level-ups, we're locked into making a choice without being able first to examine the screen that shows what makes that hero/city distinctive.  But I've been offered (and in one or two instances accepted) abilities for my heroes that would improve the entire stack they were in, in a small way.  I usually prefer giving those kind of traits to follower heroes, though.  I'd like my leader to stand out more.  Or am I missing what you're saying, here?

on Apr 24, 2012

Getting a bit off-topic Glaz, but you are

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

on Apr 24, 2012

Kongdej
Getting a bit off-topic Glaz, but you are

Sincerely
~ Kongdej

 

Nonsense, no one does that, here.  That said, I'll take your word for it that we're talking at cross purposes.



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.

The problem I see with spells that scale with shards, is that their power also scales with the size of the map. I like to play large maps, and large maps contain many, many shards. With a +4 bonus, it can build really high. So if you're not going to cap them, I'd rather have smaller bonuses.

In your last battle, is that Othollo still? I don't think so. What hero was that? What did he have?

on Apr 24, 2012

I'd like to see a user option for the amount of shards: sparse, moderate, or heavy.  With "magic strength" already present, that should make for some interesting combinations that could range from extremely easy for magic users to extremely difficult, and different means of dealing with the result.  A lot of magic shards but little strength to magic would lead to a free-for-all for shards among those who use them regularly.  A lot of magical strength and very few shards would make their capture and continued control a primary goal.

on Apr 24, 2012

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

on Apr 24, 2012

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

 

If that was aimed at me, I lack any experience.  My last and only video-making occurred back in college, in 1972.  I think the technology has moved on, since then.

on Apr 24, 2012

I was aiming at Brad, but I have the Clumsy Injury, so sometimes I strike the wrong unit.

on Apr 25, 2012

Colbert30

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.

The problem I see with spells that scale with shards, is that their power also scales with the size of the map. I like to play large maps, and large maps contain many, many shards. With a +4 bonus, it can build really high. So if you're not going to cap them, I'd rather have smaller bonuses.

In your last battle, is that Othollo still? I don't think so. What hero was that? What did he have?

Yes, I think less scaling is the solution. How can you possibly balance a spell that can have anywhere up to 5 times as much bang per buck, with others that don't scale at all?

But the game also needs to have SOME way of allowing people to cast really powerful buffs and direct damage spells. Very few games attempt to scale one spell through the entire game. Even the designers on Skyrim realised you couldn't make one Lightning Bolt spell scale for the entire game. If you can win a lategame battle by using a cheap flame dart spell to deal godlike damage, why bother using your expensive firestorm?

It would all be much easier to balance with less scaling, and “greater” versions of these basic spells. Say Stoneskin as 4+2/shard and Ironskin 6+3/shard. That gives people an incentive to aquire shards, and to improve their spell selection. Right now all the later game spells have very specialist functions. If improving your spell selection doesn’t improve your bread and butter direct damage and buffs, then there’s not much reason to pursue it, other than vanity.

on Apr 25, 2012

Maybe there is a problem between the linkage of spells, equipment and technology level?

I currently employ this strategy:

  • Explore with your sovereign. If you happen to get a good champion, explore with that too. However, the champion isn't important.
  • Kill everything you can, steal loot from those monsters you can't kill.
  • Research shard harvesting early, conquer all shards found.
  • It isn't that important what you do with your city.
  • When leveling up, pick spell mastery.

Using this strategy you will have soon enough a sovereign with level 5 spells and killer equipment. You will have enough mana to cast any spells you want to.

Why does the strategy work? First, stealing loot is too easy, and many easy monsters give powerful loot. Second, it is too easy to keep shards you have no hope to guard effectively. Just build outpost and more that likely the shard will not be attacked, especially because you can sweep off most of the easier monsters in the beginning of the game.

I hope the first issue will be solved by balancing and making the monsters better at protecting their loot. Second issue might not need solving at all if the monsters were a little more aggressive and a little harder to kill. This might be fixed in 0.911 already.

The third reason why the strategy works is that you don't actually need technology at all. The sovereign will be powerful enough with just shard harvesting, spells and equipment found. To balance this it might be a good idea to unlock certain spell and equipment abilities with magic research - you found the Sword of Flames, but you can't lit it before you have researched Fire Mastery. You have Stone Skin, but it gives only +3/+1 per shard defense until. You get +2 per shard if you research Earth Mastery, and +5 base if you research Master Spells. And so on.

The effect would hopefully be that you could not concentrate on the sovereign alone. Your strategy might be exploration and conquest by using champions and your sovereign, but you would still need to research magic technology to make the hero-units really powerful. The pacing of sovereign power is synchronized with other avenues of power. Most of all, you actually need to concentrate a little in building your civilization, it is not enough to just build up your sovereign.

on Apr 25, 2012

seanw3
It 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.

on Apr 25, 2012

Colbert30
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.

That sounds like a very good idea. It would give Stardock a cross-section of strategies being used by people.  It would also show them if there's any broken tactics, so they can balance things out.  And it should give Frogboy a good idea of what players are doing so the AI can either implement or counter it.

on Apr 25, 2012

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.