Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.

imageWhy are computer players so often so dumb? The answer is that we expect computer players to make complex, intelligent decisions super-fast.

When we make computer games, we know that players have a very low tolerance for waiting for computer opponents to “think”. Historically, that has meant that computer players either cheat like crazy or are play terribly (or both).

In one of the minor video game history footnotes, Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations was the first commercial computer game to have a multi-threaded computer AI. This meant that while the player was taking their turn, the computer players could generate their strategy in the background.

The last version of Galactic Civilizations came out 6 years ago and a lot has changed. These days, most people have computers with multiple cores. Dual-core. Quad Core. 6-core, etc. Each core is, effectively, its own CPU. When it came time to design the computer AI for Stardock’s upcoming Elemental: Fallen Enchantress, I had the opportunity to think about how to make of all these cores.

The result is that not only do computer players "think” while the player is taking their turn. It can “think” all the time because each computer players gets its own core (ideally) or at least is shuffled off onto another core. So your animation and mouse input and sound can play on various CPU cores and the computer players are explicitly sent off to other cores so that their thinking doesn’t slow down the game.

This extra CPU horse power matters because Fallen Enchantress is a fantasy strategy game. Fantasy strategy games are notorious for having terrible computer players because the number of choices a computer player faces every move is massive. Fantasy games usually involve having to cast spells, deal with units that have special powers, deal with Heroes/Champions who are leveling up or upgrading.

If you’re playing Diablo 3, or have played some other RPG, you can probably appreciate the challenge in deciding the “right” powers, abilities, and spells to use. Now, imagine having to make those decisions in less than 30ms. Now imagine having to do all that except instead of controlling one unit you’re controlling 1,200 of them.

It seems a bit ironic that it’s not first person shooters or other seemingly cutting edge games that benefit the most from these hardware advances but rather good old fashioned strategy games. Smile


Comments (Page 1)
on May 30, 2012

So The Fallen Enchantress is going to be multithreaded, am i reading this right? And you cant do the same with Rebellion why exactly? 

on May 30, 2012

Timmaigh
So The Fallen Enchantress is going to be multithreaded, am i reading this right? And you cant do the same with Rebellion why exactly? 


Because Fallen Enchantress was designed, from the beginning, to support multithreading. It also has different requirements (e.g. no multiplayer). Implementing a multithreaded program isn't simply a matter of taking a single-thread, sequential program and "multithreading" it.

on May 30, 2012

Hooray for multi-threading!!!  I finally get to work my hexa-core machine with a game.  (Much more enjoyable than video encoding).

on May 30, 2012

Why are computer players so often so dumb? The answer is that we expect computer players to make complex, intelligent decisions super-fast.

When we make computer games, we know that players have a very low tolerance for waiting for computer opponents to “think”. Historically, that has meant that computer players either cheat like crazy or are play terribly (or both).

In one of the minor video game history footnotes, Stardock’s Galactic Civilizations was the first commercial computer game to have a multi-threaded computer AI. This meant that while the player was taking their turn, the computer players could generate their strategy in the background.

                                                                                     o  o  o

It seems a bit ironic that it’s not first person shooters or other seemingly cutting edge games that benefit the most from these hardware advances but rather good old fashioned strategy games.

This is fascinating stuff ... for people like me, who are not solidly, technically, oriented.  I really appreciate being able pick up (learn) these sorts of things, on this site.  As you explain it, it makes perfect sense; but in the absence of your explanation, I really would not have guessed these things.  Thanks for the education !

 

on May 30, 2012


It seems a bit ironic that it’s not first person shooters or other seemingly cutting edge games that benefit the most from these hardware advances but rather good old fashioned strategy games.

This is what I'm saying all the time to my friends. They see FPS games that look amazing and wonder how much better computers we "really" need. But strategy games can put any development to good use. I mean, why 1200 units in TBS and not 120 000 units in real-time? Imho, the future of PC gaming is in hard-core strategy games. There's a reason they're already so much more fun to play than any FPS that has to lower itself to console standards.

on May 30, 2012

I'm going to be building a new pc in a month with 6 cores, 32gigs of ram and a 690gtx gpu with Win 7 (64 bit of course). Happy Brad?

on May 30, 2012

TheProgress
I'm going to be building a new pc in a month with 6 cores, 32gigs of ram and a 690gtx gpu with Win 7 (64 bit of course). Happy Brad?

I don't know if Brad's happy but I'm jealous!

on May 31, 2012

Just makes me want to know when the next GalCiv is coming

on Jun 01, 2012

Indeed, it's about time

on Jun 01, 2012

Why not ask them to make the entire series from GalCiv 4 to 14 while you're at it?

on Jun 01, 2012

zigzag

Quoting Timmaigh, reply 1So The Fallen Enchantress is going to be multithreaded, am i reading this right? And you cant do the same with Rebellion why exactly? 

Because Fallen Enchantress was designed, from the beginning, to support multithreading. It also has different requirements (e.g. no multiplayer). Implementing a multithreaded program isn't simply a matter of taking a single-thread, sequential program and "multithreading" it.

So does Fallen Enchantress have completely new engine from ground up? Is it not reused engine from some older game (Elemental?), just with reworked AI part to be multithreaded? 

I am not a programmer, therefore i ask.  

on Jun 01, 2012

The new GalCiv is being made by Amplitude Studios and will be out this summer. It is almost wholly a sequel. Bought damn time!

on Jun 02, 2012

Timmaigh
So does Fallen Enchantress have completely new engine from ground up? Is it not reused engine from some older game (Elemental?), just with reworked AI part to be multithreaded? 

I am not a programmer, therefore i ask.  


Both Fallen Enchantress and War of Magic use versions of the Kumquat engine. From what I can gather, Kumquat was designed to support multithreading but not to the extent that it's implemented in Fallen Enchantress

Regardless, not all engines are equally suited to support increased multithreading. Depending on the architectures and algorithms used, Sins may be much more difficult to multithread.

on Jun 02, 2012

Timmaigh

Quoting zigzag, reply 2
Quoting Timmaigh, reply 1So The Fallen Enchantress is going to be multithreaded, am i reading this right? And you cant do the same with Rebellion why exactly? 

Because Fallen Enchantress was designed, from the beginning, to support multithreading. It also has different requirements (e.g. no multiplayer). Implementing a multithreaded program isn't simply a matter of taking a single-thread, sequential program and "multithreading" it.

So does Fallen Enchantress have completely new engine from ground up? Is it not reused engine from some older game (Elemental?), just with reworked AI part to be multithreaded? 

I am not a programmer, therefore i ask.  

The FE code is vastly different from the Elemental code. The Elemental code was the basis for the FE code, but so much more has been changed than just reworked AI.

on Jun 02, 2012

Good A.I is about man hours and not multi cores.

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