Brad Wardell's views about technology, politics, religion, world affairs, and all sorts of politically incorrect topics.
http://www.galciv2.com
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 3)
on Jan 24, 2006
Because on a tiny galaxy where I only have a few planets, I don't want to specialize that much in the event I lose the planet.
on Jan 26, 2006

Update from tonight:

The AI continues to improve though it still hasn't come very close to beating me yet at the "intelligent" setting (its best game without getting any bonuses).  Part of the problem is that I get better too as I play more games and I know precisely what I'm going to do. On Civ 4, I can usually win on Monarch if it's a 1 on 1 game on Great Plains so when you have a "build order" down and you're playing against an opponent who doesn't, it does make it tougher.  I should start it out with both of us at war to be more fair.

But lots of bugs fixed and the AI did indeed get better.  At this point it's really down to having it intelligently figure out what tech it should get next and how to make use of it.

Drengin vs. Human. The final battle.

How close: This was the only ship left on either side.  It was its heavy mass driver defense. It's the first build of the AI that the game went far enough that I had to actually counter the AI rather than the other way around.

Why did the AI lose the big battle?

1) Too spread out in its ships:

Look at that, he's got wonderful Singularity Drivers on there, really deadly stuff but then eats up a ton of space with a lame Particle Beam.

2)  Over-reliance on fighters with too low of a logistics rating.  Result, he can only put 3 of these ships together.

3) AI was too slow to research Invasions this time. This was caused by a bug in how it calculates which technology to research.  It was in good shape in terms of offensive tech (Singularity drivers were well ahead of me). 

on Jan 26, 2006
Very cool, Brad! Good to see that the Drengin are catching up....sort of.

So were my eyes deceiving me, or did the Drengin actually have a Frigate or two in that final battle? And if so, was that the result of further tweaking/bug-fixing on your part? I just ask because in none of your previous wars (that you've posted anyway) did the Drengin build anything large than Heavy fighters. Great post-battle report either way, though!
on Jan 26, 2006

Well I didn't get a chance to do a real play by play but I did have the AI play itself and watched the Drengin ships evolve:

Drengin Empire:

"Kir'ah" Mark III Heavy Fighter

Model Year: 2228

 

Equipped with 2 Plasma cannons and Titanium armor with a +1 to its overall attack because of their Weapon's ability:

Gives it a total offensive capability of 5 beam and 1 armor (Titanium based). Cost 123bc per unit.

 

"Xin'Rah" Mark IV Heavy Fighter

Model Year: 2229

Same as the previous generation except that new Miniaturization techniques allowed them to fit an additional layer of Titanium-based armor. Cost 135bc per unit.

Overall 5 beam attack and 3 armor based defense.

 

Yil'Kathar

Model Year: 2234 (State of the art)

The advanced plasma weapons bristle on its wings letting enemies know what they have in store for them at a glance.

This model makes use of the new Plasma III based technology.

This is the death knell for any who get in front.  Armed with FOUR Mark III Plasma fusion beam canons and defended with their favorite Titanium Armor, this fighter can dish out 11 attack thanks to the Drengin's astounding 41% Weapons technology ability:

The Yil'rath is almost as powerful as the Drengin's main line Destroyer the Vinth:

The Vinth class destroyer has much longer range and some protection from missiles but otherwise isn't any more powerful in a fight than the Yil'rath.

 --

I think the AI is probably well beyond the point where it "needs to be" to ship.  It's just that for me, computer AI is the whole point.  The rest of the game is just an eye-candy wrapper for it.   i might be a little biased on that though. 

on Jan 26, 2006
It's just that for me, computer AI is the whole point. The rest of the game is just an eye-candy wrapper for it.

That's the spirit!
We'll sue you then when the game gets too hard...
on Jan 26, 2006
I think the AI is probably well beyond the point where it "needs to be" to ship. It's just that for me, computer AI is the whole point. The rest of the game is just an eye-candy wrapper for it. i might be a little biased on that though.



I actually agree with that statement as well. (Not that I believe that pretty graphics aren't really really nice to have. )

I admit I'm starting to worry a little bit, though! From everything I've gathered, Brad, you sound like you're probably among the 100 best strategy gamers in the world, at least with certain games/franchises. So I can't help but wonder: If the AI reaches a point where it can beat even *you* (or even just give you a good run for your money), then what chance does an average strategy gamer like little ol' me stand against the computer? At the rate you've been tweaking the AI, I may never wind up daring to try the "Intelligent" difficulty level--a problem I'm most happy to live with.
on Jan 26, 2006
You might not stand a chance right away, but its still an AI. I better not win my first try on Intelligent, I will be very disappointed.
on Jan 29, 2006
I wouldn't worry about it. When GC1 shipped, being the cheesemaster I am, I found tons of ways to dog the AI into oblivion within a few days. In fact, if I recall correctly, Brad got a little upset at me for then pestering him to improve certain key problems with the AI.

Thing is Brad is good, but he's one persepctive on tactics and strategy. His is not the way of cheese. I don't *think* mine is... I just play to win sometimes- and when a certain weakness in an opponent shows up, it's all too simple, since our opponent in GC is "AI" and thus non-adaptive, to pull the AI into the noose again and again at key points in a game.

I say more power to the AI! GC is a game with plenty of room for the human to take it down- diplomacy, and consistent focus on goals are the two main ways thet come to my mind.

In fact Brad sorta got to one of the points in the ship design thread: the AI was reactive. To *win* or at least scare the pants off of a human player, a really COOL AI would decide, screw it, I'm going to design ships in order to LEAD the human player to be the passive partner in this game dynamic. If I can't, I need to do something in order to be ABLE to. IMO this is the key component to the tactical game of GC2. If the human has to *react* a few times to the AI rather than always take the lead, the game will be a lot more fun.

The key component to the strategic game is, of course, in the diplomatic exchanges. Win those and you will close the deal. And make no mistake, each diplomacy encounter is either won or lost. Until the AI gets this... it hasn't a chance. The tired method of approaching it as a sum game has been proven by years of games not to work. GC is the epitome of the best at using the sum game well (IMO), but another model of how diplomacy works should be used sometime in a game, simply this: what is on the table this time and why (not everything is on the table at all times- repeat encounters should not change this), and what is the goal of this encounter as it fits into a greater overall strategy... (only when the goal changes do the items on the table change).

I love designing games and thinking about strategy. Brad is a rare game designer, IMO, who understands that the *design* of the game can define whether or not the AI can play it and how... (hardly any game player gets this- in fact that last sentence probably made little to no sense to most gamers). However, Brad is also tempted to put cool things in too- and THAT is where the AI's Achilles heel will be- mark my words.

Brad can expect a few posts from me delineating how the AI "needs help" with such and such I'm sure... But I never post my crits without also posting as simple a solution or two as I can come up with.

-cheese out
on Mar 17, 2006
after playing for awhile the game crashs goes to a error report and debug . this has happened many times during game play . its very irratating and has destroyed the gameplay. im pretty upset about this i hope you guys are working on fixing this .
MtO Retread/sarg7714
on Mar 17, 2006
MtOo Retread

If you are having problems, I suggest you start a new thread in the bug report forums instead of making a post in an old journal entry. Regarding your game crashes, you should post the debug.err file that is in the galciv 2 directory in a new thread so that we can help you troubleshoot the issue. Just open the file using notepad and then copy and paste it.