Author Topic: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)  (Read 1928 times)

Offline doctorfrog

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AI War "Brave Newbie" Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)

What this is: An explanation of starting game options relevant to an inexperienced, but bold player. Potentially, this could be developed into a lobby script (or a short series of them), or integrated into the forum/wiki. If it's necessary at all, that is.

Issue: There are a baffling, yet tantalizing array of options available to the new player in AI War, potentially causing the new and ambitious player to avoid the beginner script settings and go for settings that end up overwhelming them. Their experience now with the full game is crucial: it will determine whether they push through with a campaign and become a fan, or simply abandon it as too opaque or difficult. Maybe it's their own darn fault, but maybe we can provide a little insight to what these options mean.

The "Brave Newbie":
  • is familiar, but not necessarily overly so, with RTS games
  • owns several of the AI War expansions, but perhaps not all of them
  • has at least started the campaign tutorial, but is likely to have abandoned it by now, hungering for a taste of the real game
  • is resistant to scouring a wiki or forum to learn what the effects of basic game options are
  • is out to have fun pushing ships around and not get curbstomped
  • has too much of an ego to use the beginner scripts as they are presented, and is likely to create a game in which they are in over their heads
    owns dozens of other games with less steep learning curves that he/she also has not yet played (let's give them the best chance to be fans of this great game!)
  • may not have a solid understanding of reinforcements, AI Progress, etc., which can result in the appearance of the game suddenly spiking in difficulty for no apparent reason. (Side point: the game could benefit with an in-game explanation of reinforcements, particularly, that exists outside of the tutorial.)[\li]
This guide assumes that the player is at least reading the little tooltips that you get when hovering over lobby options. Sweet mercy, if you're not doing at least that, play checkers or something.

Preamble: AI War is a daunting game, even starting a game can be intimidating. It's not immediately clear what all these options do, and no one wants to figure out, 6 hours into a campaign, that they have selected options that drastically reduce the amount of fun they're having. AI War is a living game whose continual development is driven, in part, by devoted fans who seek the higher heights of challenge. It's no surprise, then, that many of the new game options are ones that dramatically increase not only the depth and complexity of the game, but also the difficulty. This guide is meant to help a new player pick the right balance of settings for their desired challenge.

One final note:
Ideally, this could be expressed as a lobby script, alongside the existing Beginner scripts. But, since I don't have the chops to write such a thing (looking through the existing scripts caused my head to spin), I wrote this post instead. Suggested settings in bold would be ideally be selections made automatically by a script.

Suggested "Brave Newbie" Settings
To get a good base, go to the game lobby and select one of the two beginner scripts. Modify as you like, or mine this article for guidance.

AI Types selection:
Two random Easier AI types, with "Chivalric" secondary behaviors.
One at difficulty 3, one at difficulty 7.
More: Go with your gut on this one, and pick AI types you'd like to play against, or select "Random..." for a surprise. Avoid the harder AI types, since they get monstrous advantages.
AI tactics are less sneaky from 5 on down, and difficulty mounts starting at 7.  If you don't mind losing your few first games, 7's the way to go, otherwise '5' or lower are much more relaxing choices.
I don't suggest picking secondary AI types for a new player, unless it is "Chivalric," which prevents the AI from targeting certain structures you might consider precious.

Champion Selection:
No Champion
More: Unless it's something you want to micromanage, you can live without it for your first few games.

Map Tab:
Type: Clusters - Simple
80 planets
All available expansions enabled
Start with the Beginner 1 or Beginner 2 Setup Script. It's a good base for a new player, even if you change everything else about it.
Keep the number of planets at 80. This gives you a good distance away from the AI planets, and plenty of land to grab.
Pick any Map Style that you like. Click "Untangle Map" if it's too messed up. The shape that some maps take have some influence on the difficulty of the game. Clusters - Simple, X, and Maze D (untangled) are interesting map generation options that are easy to scan.
The Expansions you select all add options to the lobby. Feel free to select what you like, because you can easily disable many of the options you don't like. The base game itself is still quite full featured if you don't want additional complication, or don't have all the expansions yet. (The tendency of a Brave Newbie is to have all expansions enabled.)

Ships Tab:
Normal Ships
Core Shield Generators Disabled
Fast Drones Disabled
Dire Guardians Disabled
More: Pick whatever you like here, disable what you don't. If you don't like invisible ships, de-select "Cloaking," and so forth. Keeping the selection "Simple" will still give you access to a lot of toys, and "Complex" unlocks a great variety ships, which you might want if you don't mind some unusual ship types.
Disabling "Core Shield Generators" will speed up and simplify the endgame for you by removing some arbitrary barriers to attacking the AI homeworlds. You'll probably want to reach the endgame faster in your first new games.
"Fast Drones" are a challenging class of units that might annoy a new player, with a sort of "stop hitting yourself" mechanic: they can easily outrange you and fire drones that are difficult or impossible to target.
Disabling "Dire Guardians" will remove tough, reactionary minibosses from the map.

Game Options Tab:
More: You might pick "Epic" for your combat style, but AI War is very easy to pause and peruse with, and you may quickly get used to "Normal" speed. Pick whatever you like on this tab, but keep "Show Unexplored Planets" ticked.

AI Options Tab: Minor Factions:
Human Resistance Fighters: 4
Spirecraft: Easy
Dyson Sphere: 2
Broken Golems: Easy

Pick one at random:
Zenith Devourer
Human Mauraders: 2
Neinzul Roaming Enclaves: 2

All others disabled

More: Here's where things can get dicey, and it's not real clear what the impact of your decisions here will make. Accepting the defaults that the Beginner Script gives you is not a bad idea. Left-click to enable a "faction" or increment its presence or power, with "4" being a somewhat moderate level of difficulty. If you want just a taste, a selection of "1" might do it, but some of these options have a... synergistic effect. Here are the relative impacts of the options at their "4" or "Moderate" levels, in short (though I recommend you keep them at "2," except for those in the "easier" group):

Makes the game easier:
Human Resistance Fighters

Increases the game complexity:
Zenith Traders
Zenith Dyson Sphere

Makes the game harder:
Human Marauders
Zenith Devourer
Botnet Golem (depending on your use of it)
Neinzul Rocketry Corps
Neinzul Preservation Wardens
Neinzul Roaming Enclaves

Makes the game much harder:
Zenith Miners
Broken Golems (depending on your use of it)
Spire Civilian Leaders

Don't pick any of these until you're more experienced:
Fallen Spire
Dark Spire
Showdown Devices

AI Options Tab: Other Options:
AI Modifiers:
Reveal Random AI Types
Lazy AI
Auto AI Progress: 1 per 30 minutes

AI Modifiers: It should be obvious that these have a large impact on the game.
The 1/2 Enemy Waves or No Enemy Waves obviously make things easier if you prefer to have your planning phases undisturbed.
Reveal Random AI Types will take the mystery out of who your enemies are, and allow you to read into their strategies and tactics.
Lazy AI, which I strongly recommend for new players, greatly reduces the amount of defense that the AI stacks up against you when you're making a homeworld strike.
Auto AI Progress: 1 every 30 minute, the default, is a very modest setting, and I suggest keeping it. There are plenty of other activities you'll be doing that drive this up much quicker.

AI Plots
All Disabled!
These, for the most part, complicate or increase the difficulty of the game, and I don't recommend any of them for new players.
Hybrid Hives and Advanced Hybrids in particular can reach a critical mass that can seem to come out of nowhere, hours into a game, and suddenly explode onto your worlds in a murderous orgy.
Beachheads and Astro Trains are basically forms of creative harassment that will probably annoy you when you're getting used to things or playing Sim City with your bases.
Given how many of the ideas for AI War come from advanced players craving more of a challenge, it's surprising that AI War has the balance that it does! The Hunter, Shark, and Avenger plots are for people who already have 60+ hours of intimate playtime with the game, and just want more horrors flung at them.

Offline keith.lamothe

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2013, 09:22:40 PM »
I'm quite happy to add a Brave Newbie script :)
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Offline Tridus

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2013, 09:49:14 PM »
Good idea. :) I'm not keen on some of the choices though, see below.

One at difficulty 3, one at difficulty 7.

The problem with one AI at 3 and one at 7 is that they're going to play really differently, and a newbie isn't going to understand why necessarily. AI at 3 doesn't even get guardians IIRC. It's going to declare tiny waves with huge warnings, will get almost no reinforcements, and basically can barely be described as fighting back.

The AI at 7 will... not be that. But since AI worlds tend to be divided between the two AIs such that you see both showing up everywhere, the map is going to get schitzophrenic with some worlds having massively more offensive and defensive potential than others just because of which AI got it (on top of the planet mk and the random chance that already makes some worlds nastier than others).

This could get really silly if the 7 AI is one that doesn't declare waves while the 3 AI is, since the exact same settings with the two AI's reversed would become a much nastier game. (A Shield Ninny 7 / Sledge Hammer 3 is a whole lot different to a newbie than a Sledge Hammer 7 / Shield Ninny 3.)

Alternate proposal: 6/6. I think 5/5 is kind of the newbie level, where the AI has some teeth but there's a lot of margin for error. If we're talking about brave newbies, 6/6 is still more tolerant than 7/7, but the AI will push back.

Core Shield Generators Disabled

CSGs can be kind of confusing, but they're also there deliberately to help give some focus to the game in terms of what worlds to capture. I'm not sure that turning them off is a good idea.

More: Pick whatever you like here, disable what you don't. If you don't like invisible ships, de-select "Cloaking," and so forth.

Does disabling cloaking still disable scouts? I wouldn't recommend that to a newbie, it makes things... interesting. :D

Zenith Devourer

Wouldn't suggest this one personally, it can be a huge PITA, particularly when it's running around eating all your Spirecraft (which can barely outrun it). Keeping stuff away from it while you're looking elsewhere requires a lot of extra micro or knowing how to use things like rally posts, which you can't expect a newbie to be doing.
Auto AI Progress: 1 per 30 minutes

I'd go with 1 per 60, but that's a fairly trivial difference.

Good stuff. :)

Offline chemical_art

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2013, 09:56:03 PM »
If I did such a script, it would be a lot simpler then this. Giving the player options to make it harder or easier seems silly if the goal is so they don't get in over their head anyway. So the script gives a simple set of options.

6.6 / 6.6 AI's, easier primary, secondary AI chivalric.

Normal ships. CSG's off, lazy AI on.

Resistance fighter 4/10
Easy golems, spirecraft, botnet

No plots.

The AI gives a good fight, but does not act devious. There are several tools to aid the player, but no complex AI offense mechanics. If the newbie is savy enough to go underground and hit the AI with a really low AIP, it works.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2013, 10:01:27 PM by chemical_art »
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Offline Coppermantis

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #4 on: July 16, 2013, 09:58:52 PM »
Why do you have Spirecraft as "make the game more complex" but Golems as "make it harder"? As far as AI response, aren't they essentially the same thing? If anything, It seems like they both can make the game easier, more complex, or harder, depending on whether they're set to easy, medium or hard, respectively.
I can already tell this is going to be a roller coaster ride of disappointment.

Offline Aeson

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #5 on: July 16, 2013, 11:14:16 PM »
I agree with Coppermantis - neither Spirecraft nor Golems make the game inherently more difficult or easier or complex just for having them enabled. Unless we're talking about different difficulty settings for the two plots.

My personal view on the AI difficulties is that I'd rather have something like 5/5, 6/6, 5/6, or 5/7 than 3/7, as at less than difficulty 5 the AI isn't really doing much of anything. If you want the average difficulty to be set at 5 and don't want two identical AIs, I'd sooner go for 4/6 than 3/7. Also, usually if I'm looking to see if I want to start playing the next-higher difficulty level, I'll take my normal settings and increase the AI difficulty of one of the AIs to the next notch, rather than having a significant disparity between the two AIs. Plus, keeping the AI difficulties close prevents give the problem of "one wave was a complete pushover but another right afterwards took my entire fleet and all my defenses to just hold the line," for the most part.

As to the question of whether or not cloaking still disables scouts: yes, it does. But for some reason, Scout Starships are still available. Keith, you might want to look into that (either that the Scout Drones are not available, or that the Scout Starships are available, with cloaking disabled). For that matter, Engineer IIIs, Decloakers, and mines are also removed with cloaking disabled, but Mobile Spacedocks, Harvester Exo-Shields, Science Vessel IIs, Assault Transports, and perhaps one or two other things with cloaking are not.

Offline Aklyon

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2013, 12:09:43 AM »
3/7 is a rather stark difference. I haven't played 3, but I've played 1 and the only thing keeping my attention against the diff 1 AI was the hunter plot (set far too highly) and the Dark Spire (general pain in the arse everywhere on an x map).

As for CSGs, this is called 'Brave' newbie for a reason. Turning them off fits that theme much more I'd say than turning them on. Also I'd agree with the auto AIP 1/60min.

Five The Devourer is right out though. That never struck me as anything remotely newbie-friendly.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2013, 12:13:55 AM by Aklyon »

Offline Histidine

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #7 on: July 17, 2013, 01:32:49 AM »
The effect is probably greatly diminished at 2/10, but at 4/10 Roaming Enclaves make the game considerably easier rather than harder (free, powerful homeworld defense and automated response to enemy incursions).

I agree with the others: judging from Diff 5 (see my AAR here), Diff 3 is likely "not even a speedbump" levels of difficulty.

Offline LaughingThesaurus

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Re: "Brave Newbie" Lobby Settings Advisor (and lobby script proposal)
« Reply #8 on: July 17, 2013, 02:54:04 AM »
I'd say 5/7 or 6/6 for a first game's difficulty setting.