Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
Published on January 21, 2006 By Draginol In GalCiv Journals

Match #5:

The Settings

The Drengin and I are playing on a tiny galaxy. Just them and me. They are set to "intelligent" which means they play their best game without any advantages.  The goal is to keep tuning the AI so that at map setting that at intelligent they can play a very tough game against experienced players without cheating.

The War has begun..

While I could use a pre-made map, I am also doing this testing to make sure and tune the random map generator so that it creates good maps for all players. This map starts off slightly in favor of the human player.

I concentrate purely on research.  I also put my effort into making my ships faster by getting impulse power and then warp drive.  I used to go for military power early on but found that this didn't really buy me much because I didn't actually get to use that military power until later so better to get faster ships.

One of the things I notice is that the AI is not good at adapting its build strategy.  That is, now that it has to explore the galaxy, it is building things like constructors when it should build colony ships.  It should be able to figure out that there are some good colonies out there it just needs to build colony ships sometimes.

First Fleet Battle

The early fleet battles between the Drengin and Terrans have an interesting design strategy.  I focused purely on offense. The Drengin modified their ships to have countermeasures to my mass-drivers.  But which way is the way to go?  Since I attacked them, I get the initial advantage (it's important to be the attacker).  Net result, I win the first engagement with only 1 ship badly damaged.  But as the M0 indicates, this is the AI's first go at it.

The human race's state of the art ship for the ship at first and what would be the main ship of the line was delicately called "The Clubber"

The Clubber has a crew of 5 and is armed with 3 OTO Smithon Industries Standard Rail Guns that were the result of Mass Driver II technology giving it an attack rating of 3 in the mass-driver category.

It was 15.5 meters in length and 25.5 span-wise.    Engines were standard Hyperdrive issue.

Nothing fancy but it did the job.

The Drengin Reaction

The Drengin reacted slowly but surely to the Clubber.  After some fits and starts, their third generation heavy-fighter class called the "Dra'Hak" which roughly translates to "Human Death Giver" was the ship they hoped to clubber mine with.

Armed with two first generation plasma beam systems of unknown configuration and a 5th generation laser system, it had quite a punch. It also had armor. It was a Clubber-killer in design.

Ironically, the first Clubber vs. Dra'Hak battle took place in a one-on one battle.  The Clubber was our flag ship Clubber, it was rated at level 10 in experience.

The result proves what pilots have said for years -- experience can trump technology -- to a point.

But it was clearly time for a new ship.  Mass Driver IV technology with enhanced miniaturization would bring about a revolutionary new design.

The new ship, the Banger:


The "Banger" was the result of new miniaturization techniques pioneered by top scientists on Earth. 

The Banger has a crew of 6 and is armed with 4 Hyperion Railguns also from Smithon Industries. It has a damage rating of 8 from mass-attack.  Drengin Armor continues to improve but not fast enough to counter it.  The only problem is that the Drengin have a lot more Dra'Haks to throw at me.

While I had the initial advantage in planets, I had not been adapting my own strategy.  For most games I had played so far, the AI was slow to get transports.  This was one of the flaws in its strategies I had tried to rectify -- to have it "think" about what techs it should get a bit more and away from randomness.

So the result was that my strategy largely depended on me rush claiming a bunch of worlds without worrying about defense.  But this time, the Drengin conquered the jewel of the Terran Empire -- Markus V, a class 17 planet.  Worlds of class greater than 10 are rare to begin with, class 17s are incredibly rare. And foolishly I left it undefended.  The Drengin attacked with mass-drivers reducing it to a class 15.  A true pity but a class 15 is still impressive.  Losing such a valuable planet early on would have very negative consequences.  

By the skin of my teeth and thanks to having research shock troops, I was able to recapture Markus V without any further damage to the planet's environment.  By the dawn of 2230, the galaxy was split in half.

The Drengin aren't winning as much as they've claimed more territories thanks to starbases.  They were able to do that because I had to spend so much industrial output making up for my blunder on Markus V.  I have 6 worlds, 5 of which are truly good worlds.  The Drengin also have 6 worlds. But only 3 of them are "good".

But it's not quite as good for the humans as the raw stats imply because the Drengin population is fully developed while I've been struggling to take planets 4 through 6 at the bottom left there.  So the Drengin economy is a bit head of mine because of their population.  With the galaxy split in two the war would change because our ship designs had been short-range.  Now there was some distance between us.

Moreover, new adaptions from the last generation AI had taken effect -- all but one of the main Drengin planets had orbital fleet managers. That means their ships in orbit fight as a single fleet which is much tougher and expensive to take out.  Luckily Xasica is out in front.  And my spies tell me they were building a orbital fleet manager so time is short.

BTW, if my graphics seem blocky, I have it running in the debugger with anti-aliasing off.

The Drengin soldiers are able to withstand my first invasion attempt.  But I have it blockaded with a fleet of Bangers. 

My second invasion was successful and I was able to discover some weak spots in the Drengin AI.

First off, this planet was late colonized but should have been further along.  The AI needs to be able to better focus on planets. On a planet like this that had so many incomplete social projects it should have put more focus onto getting them built.  If Xasica V had gotten its orbital fleet manager built just a few weeks earlier, I may not have been able to conquer it. 

At this point, the balance of the war is in my favor.  And to verify that, the Drengin finally decided I was worth talking to for the first time.

and several months later..


Another issue with the AI is in defense of its planets. Unless they have an orbital fleet manager, having a bunch of ships in orbit doesn't really help it unless those ships are really tough.  Right now, it tends to aggressively defend its planets with 3 or 4 ships.  It would really be better off putting resources into military action and not beefing up defenses to that level until it has an orbital fleet manager.

However, Xasica would change hands a couple of times.  When I sent my main fleet elsewhere, the Drengin retaliated and retook the planet.  I ended up retaking it but it was a sign not to underestimate the Drengin Empire's desire for victory.

Wow. In an amazing turn of events, and something I've not actually seen during the beta:

The Drengin have had an internal revolution in which they have gone from being evil and blood thirsty to kind and gentle.  This is a good opportunity to test out the dialog code for the Drengin..

The battle of the line

The Drengin had gotten better in recent AI updates at putting together fleets big enough to tackle my fleets.  This was to be a 6 on 6 match but the Drengin got the drop on me which is a big advantage. Also, their armor had really advanced so my ships were not nearly as tough as I'd like. The result was a serious defeat with the loss of all 6 of my ships versus only 3 of theirs.

The difference: THIS SHIP:


The brand new K'Zalan (Virtuous Justice -- no doubt based on their new alignment change).  It's the first Frigate class starship we've come across.  Theorized specs:

Level 2 Plasma beam of an attack rating of 10 with Duranthium based armor of level 8.  Crew complement of 35 Drengin.  Length approximately 100 meters by 60 meters.  It can really take a beating while giving one out too.  It was time to look at either producing our own frigates or to upgrade our heavy fighters.

Luckily, the Drengin fleets are still hampered by short-range.  The Drengin have not been research life support systems.  So at the close of 2130, the humans have the long-term edge, but the Drengin have the military might but not the range to make use of it (something to tweak -- AI needs to evaluate its range situation better). 

Speaking of range, I embark on a cross course to improve my range with new life support systems.  Life support technologies improve your existing base range plus give you extended range modules for your ships.  Soon the core Drengin worlds would be in range.

As 2231ended, the galactic balance we pretty even.  But I was preparing my final offensive. I've won the game so you can quit reading at this point.  The AI, while improved, still needs some work.  Its military is too undirected, too unfocused still.  

That means it's time to go into the debugger and figure out what the deal is. 

(2 hours pass..)

The problem is more like a bug.  Two issues in particular.  First, someone changed the way that colonies were being ranked in such a way that the AI no longer had access to the data.  So it was only getting its home planet as a key world.  This meant that it wasn't protecting its key worlds very well -- i.e. it didn't know to send reinforcements to planets under attack.  Secondly, there was an issue where the AI would focus on getting to rally points even if it was plenty tough to do the job.  I.e. it was too conservative in building itself up.

So now to go fix that.

(another hour passes)

Let's see how the AI can recover.  First thing I notice is that the AI has started sending massive forces at the newly identified threat.  My transport has already wiped out most of the inhabitants but it'll take a second one to finish the job.

The numbers look more impressive than they are.  These are units that had been cooped up around their home world (Because they thought only Drengi was worth really protecting).  So these are a bunch of mark 0 (first generation) small fighters. I wipe them out.

But there is wave after wave of these things and my bangers are finally taken out. But not before I take Martzia.  But unfortunately, it's undefended.

The Drengin take back Martzia and are now back at Xasica.    Time to regroup.  The Drengin are using military forces they've had all along but were using them poorly.  The changes made and brought into the saved game have caused them to focus this pent up military power very specifically. Xasica has an Orbital Fleet Manager however.  So a lone mark 6 isn't powerful enough to take out the defending fleet.

A huge battle eventually does take place in which we both militarily take out the trash.  Our offensive capacities have been restricted for a bit.  Still, the AI hasn't sent ships to follow up its attack. 

(back to the debugger).

Fixed another issue with it not going after planets that are outside a few key sectors. Or I should say, not focusing.  Though I am still pretty safe, the AI's range is still terrible and while I've fixed it, it won't be updated in this game.

I on the other hand don't have this problem.  All my fleets go to Martzia. For a huge battle:

After several back and forth battles, Martzia is mine again. Drengin, the capital of the Drengin Empire, is in range now.

Still, the Drengin have rolled out the 6th generation of their fighter:


Advanced Plasma weapons coupled with Duranthium armor give it a beam attack of 7 and an armor rating optimized against my weapons of 5.  In head to head, it is superior to the Banger.  It single combat, it will destroy a Banger and still keep 40% of its hull integrity.  The Banger is getting old.

In the meantime, Drengi has been conquered and the Drengin ambassador, now under the rule of the reformed Drengin ways of niceness (remember earlier event) speaks differently:

Oh boo-hoo.  Sure, I'm evil but whatcha going to do about it?  Another thing I modify is that AI ships need to worry less about maximizing their fleet sizes and go for targets of opportunity more.  They need to THINK MORE and follow scripted directives less.  So this change is in though a bit too late for the Drengin this time.

Which brings me to my war finishing design: Code-named "Pounder".

Armed with 5 twin-Singularity based cannons from Smithon Industries. The projectiles are incredibly high density and travel at near relativistic speeds.  The fighter is 18 meters long with a 12 foot wing span.  It has a crew of just 4.  It is relatively short-range and not as fast as it could be, but it won't need to. This is the mop up.

The knife tip though is the new Frigate called the Crusher.  It's the first Frigate-class ship in the Terran Empire.

Same technology level as the Pounder. But it is equipped with the next generation Warp Drive giving it 3 more parsecs/week in terms of speed.  It has a crew of 50 and is 150 meters in length. It's fairly large, fast, and tough. An attack rating of 12 with a shield defense of 3 should keep the Drengin down for the count. 

The only thing saving the Drengin is that they found a Precursor ship that is of Ranger class. It's tough but it's only one ship. It takes two full fleets of Bangers to take it out.  At this stage, the Drengin are down to 2 minor colonies.

But I don't have to mop them up:

They surrender.

And so ends another episode of Human Drengin wars.  The AI has been improved, tuned up and next time they will probably be even more challenging. 

T-minus 10 days until code-freeze. There is still time to keep improving the AI.  Even though I thoroughly defeated the Drengin (again), it was tougher than previous and it was far far better at playing than GalCiv I was.

Comments (Page 1)
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on Jan 21, 2006
Nice, Brad! Good thing you caught the fact that the Drengin didn't know they should be defending more than just their homeworld.
on Jan 21, 2006
I really really enjoyed the story.. it had me captivated through out. Reading it, I was constantly reminded how difficult it must be to try and get a handle on the AI. I mean the scope at which you must think ahead 20 steps at all times is just amazing. Each action creates many trips and falls down the line. I am surprised that developers are not being rushed to the hospital on a regular basis with exploding-headamus. In laymans terms.. Internal brain freeze.
I am grateful to you and all the other folks that work so hard to bring us a GOOD game. It is nice to know that quality still matters in the gaming industry !
on Jan 21, 2006
That was inceradible!
on Jan 21, 2006
This kind of article is the best kind of advertisement for me.

It didn't come across, maybe because it was a tiny galaxy, but is there a reason to have 'combined fleets'? It seems we may just need 1 top of the line design.

Hopefully if the AI deals with range better they will be tougher. So they can actually have the ability to strike at your other worlds instead of just defending and trying to take back what is lost.
on Jan 21, 2006
Looking at the planet screenshot, the planet is going to build a manu capital on a world with only one factory.There seems to be no logic by the A.I on where these powerfull capitals are built.The A.I should wait untill the planet is developed to a degree and then use a tech capital on a planet with loads of research labs,etc.At the moment the capitals seem random placed.

Nice story BTW.
on Jan 21, 2006
Brad this is what I asked earlier this week. Great thing you already wrote a game story that early. Seems that everyone likes them. Keep up the good work and please provide us with more of these interesting in-dept stories of your struggles against the cpu AI. I love them!
on Jan 21, 2006
Ashberry - the AI didn't do that, I did.  It's a class 15 world, there will be plenty of factories when I'm done.
on Jan 21, 2006

I have noticed the A.I building the capitals in planets with no logic, when i invaded their worlds in beta5.It seemed the A.I placed them random and didn't utilize the power they give.
on Jan 21, 2006
A lot has changed since beta 5.
on Jan 21, 2006

I did not expect the Drengin alignment crossover one bit, Second of all...Are you sure that space bird eggs covered in a light gravy is the most appropriate image for a massive cultural realignment?
on Jan 21, 2006
Fascinating stuff...
on Jan 21, 2006
I did not expect the Drengin alignment crossover one bit, Second of all...Are you sure that space bird eggs covered in a light gravy is the most appropriate image for a massive cultural realignment?

LOL!! Yeah, I was wondering what that was myself....
on Jan 21, 2006
They are donuts! Not Eggs!
on Jan 22, 2006
I did not expect the Drengin alignment crossover one bit, Second of all...Are you sure that space bird eggs covered in a light gravy is the most appropriate image for a massive cultural realignment?

I think it's a random event and beyond direct influence of player or AI, the same existed in GalCiv I already. The picture might really be debatable though.
on Jan 22, 2006
I think the picture of food may be a rare delicacy known as Umfdar egg covered in Jaman sea sauce with Namoopf milk served warm of course. Think ostrich when you think Umfdar . Umfdar are a bird like species that have many of the same characterizations of the ostrich. They live however underground and therefore hatch eggs with a soft membrane rather than the hard calcium shell we are familiar with. Jaman is a special treat. Think octopus when you think Jaman. But it looks and reacts quite differently. It's more like a water slug yet with twelve tentacles. It moves very slow and consumes the waste that has fallen to the deeper regions of the ocean floor. The Jaman sea sauce is basically Jaman blood boiled to a thick consistency then traditionally poured on top of raw Umfdar eggs. The pitcher has a Namoopf milk in it. Served warm and long since curdled it is one of the favorites of the drengin empire. Namoopf are a small rodent like creature that produces a milk like liquid that excretes from the glands just behind their ears. They only excrete this liquid when they are looking to mate.
Traditionally this meal is eaten with great enthusiasm after a particular successful battle though they have been known to partake during other national celebrations also.
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