Author Topic: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?  (Read 3780 times)

Offline Cyborg

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Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« on: August 27, 2016, 05:30:40 PM »
* Asymmetric war
* Extremely tunable difficulty, including incredible challenges in the expansions
* Huge number of ships. Actually, before the unity version, one of the original trailers for this game looked like a tech demonstration of just how many ships you could get on the screen having a gigantic battle at once.
* The feeling of Ender's Game
* Huge variety: things to build, things to buy, enemies to encounter, candy technologies
* Challenging AI
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Offline Castruccio

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2016, 05:46:36 PM »
For me it is mystery.  Never knowing exactly what the AI is going to send.  Never knowing exactly what kinds of ships lie out there for me to make and use to my advantage.  The mystery with respect to my own strategy (as I find new ships and have to adapt), and the mystery with respect to the sorts of ships the AI will send, are what keep the game exciting for me.

Offline Coppermantis

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2016, 08:49:07 PM »
Other than the things you mentioned, to me it's a consistent feeling of dread. This is related to the asymmetric warfare concept with the enemy constantly having you outnumbered and outgunned, but extends to things like the soundtrack and artstyle as well. Not only is your enemy vastly more powerful than you, but you also have the music mostly conveying an atmosphere that changes between solemn, like a funeral march, and a more frantic "last stand" sort of sound. Then you have the more powerful ships like golems, spirecraft, motherships, and so on that resemble eldritch monstrosities and are intimidating to behold. The main menu theme will always be the first thing I think of when talking about AI War.


Another point, and probably more important, is replayability. The wide variety of tools, enemies, and so on combined with the game settings and the random maps makes the game immensely replayable, with no two campaigns being identical. Even in the case of an identical scenario, there are multiple viable strategies, so you won't necessarily see the same game play out if the map, AIs, etc. are the same. Even just trying out all the different AI types would last you a long time, and combine that with all the minor factions, map types, bonus ships, different victory conditions...
I can already tell this is going to be a roller coaster ride of disappointment.

Offline chemical_art

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2016, 09:54:37 PM »
I have heard AI War mentioned in another game once: It was on t he concept that the "neutral" faction would have its power increase exponentially based on the words lost.

In other words, a power that had no trouble increasing to the player. So every strategy is based on minimizing that impact.
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Offline Timerlane

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2016, 06:06:14 PM »
It's also a game with less emphasis on unit micro than a typical RTS, including using 'fixed' turrets to contribute significantly to defense, leaving most of the player's mobile units free for offensive purposes.

Hostile planets, on the other hand, can present something of a puzzle to unravel. Ion Cannons, Orbital Mass Drivers, Guard Posts, Fortresses, Forcefields, etc. require the player to decide what needs to be taken out, in what order, and what ships should(or should not) be used/present, until the time is right.

Offline Cyborg

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2016, 06:32:03 PM »
It's also a game with less emphasis on unit micro than a typical RTS, including using 'fixed' turrets to contribute significantly to defense, leaving most of the player's mobile units free for offensive purposes.

Hostile planets, on the other hand, can present something of a puzzle to unravel. Ion Cannons, Orbital Mass Drivers, Guard Posts, Fortresses, Forcefields, etc. require the player to decide what needs to be taken out, in what order, and what ships should(or should not) be used/present, until the time is right.

Yes, I think it used to be said by the developers to be "peeling the onion" or something like that.
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Offline Dominus Arbitrationis

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2016, 06:40:06 PM »
"peeling the onion" or something like that.

Well, it certainly makes us all cry.
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Offline Captain Jack

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2016, 06:58:56 PM »
Two things: the options and the sense of isolation.

From a gameplay sense, I like I can customize my play experience. If I want to rampage across the galaxy with unstoppable superweapons I can add Golems and the Champion. If I want a much more aggressive opponent there are options for that. Precision customization of the game experience I guess you'd call it?

The sense of isolation is... hm. A combination of the music, the scenario and the need to react to changing circumstances while planning an overarching strategy sells the premise.

"peeling the onion" or something like that.

Well, it certainly makes us all cry.
Heh.

Offline Pumpkin

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2016, 02:33:58 AM »
For me, the core of AI War is (below PvE RTS):
* Emergence
* Freedom
(and by "freedom" I mean "playstyle freedom": many different strategical approaches are viable)
Please excuse my english: I'm not a native speaker. Don't hesitate to correct me.
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Offline Draco18s

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2016, 11:13:48 AM »
I'm going to add in:
  • The ability to nuke the entire galaxy if you really want to

Offline tadrinth

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #10 on: August 29, 2016, 05:31:19 PM »
AI War is a massive optimization puzzle, to me.  One with a lot of layers; for me, the optimization goes all the way up to 'what themed campaigns with what settings should I play to maximize fun, flavor, and efficient achievement acquisition?'.  And then to 'what starting ship is both flavorful and effective for this campaign?'.  And then to what planets to take in what order, and how to capture each one, and all the way down. 

It has staying power because there are so many factors to include, and just the right amount of monkey wrenches getting thrown into your plans. 

On the other hand, one of my friends mostly likes the explosions. 


Offline Cyborg

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #11 on: August 29, 2016, 07:08:26 PM »
On the other hand, one of my friends mostly likes the explosions.

Once the mantis category opens up for AI war 2, I'm going to submit a suggestion about this item. There's a certain kind of firework that has a reverb, a very deep bass boom. This particular firework doesn't look the prettiest, it's rather small, but displays will often send them up to increase the volume of the typical flower fireworks. It reminds me of a kind of cannon but with some reverb. Anyway, I wonder if we can get that sound into the game for some of the explosions or weapons.
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Offline chemical_art

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2016, 08:40:12 PM »

Once the mantis category opens up for AI war 2, I'm going to submit a suggestion about this item. There's a certain kind of firework that has a reverb, a very deep bass boom. This particular firework doesn't look the prettiest, it's rather small, but displays will often send them up to increase the volume of the typical flower fireworks. It reminds me of a kind of cannon but with some reverb. Anyway, I wonder if we can get that sound into the game for some of the explosions or weapons.

I remember that cannon, or at least there is one I like. The one for Artillery golems and...mass drivers. Yes, those grab my attention.
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Offline x4000

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #13 on: August 29, 2016, 08:45:27 PM »
Very fascinating topic, thanks guys.  The sense of dread is a really interesting aspect that I had not considered fully.  So basically my idea of going to anime cel-shaded designs is a no-go?


...(hopefully you know I was kidding)


In terms of unit counts, one of the biggest things that I want to change is relating to squads.  I'll bring that up separately, though.
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Offline Misery

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Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
« Reply #14 on: August 29, 2016, 09:11:16 PM »
To me, a few things, not in any order of importance, just in order of me thinking them up:

1.  It's an RTS with no set maps.  I never know what kinds of setups the whole thing is going to fling my way, so there's no way to go into it thinking "Well, okay, that place over there did me in last time, so I just wont go over there yet".  You cant beat a map in this game by just memorizing it, which you can in other RTS games.   The fact that it's an RTS with LOTS of sub-maps then crowded into that overall "map" is another huge aspect of this.

2.  Lack of micro.   I'm sorry, but I look at something like StarCraft and I do not see "strategy", what I see is players trying to see who can hit buttons the fastest.   Hell, it almost looks like they're trying to play a fighting game on a keyboard.  Ridiculous.  But with AI War, even when I want to be in direct control of a fight (and with my playstyle, this is pretty frequent), even then, I can pause at any time, and look around, and give orders while paused.  Or just slow down time and do it that way.  It remains apparent throughout the entire thing that no matter what, the strategy always comes first.

3.  Possibilities, and the way things affect them.  It's one thing to have maps that are overall randomized.   But then you have things like the AI choices... just choosing different ones, that thing alone causes huge changes within the game.  It can affect what goes into the maps, it can affect how those things are used by the AI, it can affect how the player approaches those things... it's one tiny selection on the starting menu, but it changes so very many things.  There's a lot of options that do this, with this game.

4.  Lots of approaches.   This honestly is something that I've found true about all of your games, for the most part, is that there's usually tons of different ways to approach any given situation.  There's rarely one "right way" to do something, with Arcen games.  Or at least, that's been my experience.  With a lot of normal RTS games, when you're playing in singleplayer, there often IS a single "right" way, and then tons of "wrong" ways.  Even just when fighting against the AI in a skirmish mode, since the mechanics and such are usually very stagnant, there's still often just not that many possible approaches.   In your games though, this is rarely the case, if ever.  Even something like the first Valley had this, which I think is one of the things that brought me here.   AI War is particularly good at it.  I have my own unique playstyle (very defensive, with a high focus on using Champions to augment my fleets when attacking), and the game supports the possibility of all sorts of playstyles.  I know I'm listing this at number 4, but this is a really huge thing for me.  It's something often seen in roguelikes too, which is where I got my appreciation for it, I guess.  In AI War though, it really shines.  BD is another one that's just fantastic about this.

5.  LOTS of things to do.  There's all sorts of goals to go after, all sorts of enemy installations to attack.... and each one of these things to go after or do is DIFFERENT.  And then each has it's own strategic impact.   With a lot of RTS games, they honestly lack this.   You go through a "get resources" phase, a "build up the start of your base" phase, and then a "destroy the enemy base" phase.  Well, it doesn't work like that in AI War.  Hell, when you "destroy the enemy base" you then realize that the enemy still has 79 bases remaining.  So that alone is not going to be enough, and you CANT just clear all of them.  So it leaves you thinking, what do I do next?  Do I go after this thing over here?  How about that special research thing, that has a particular tech that I already know I find useful with my playstyle?  Or should I hit this system over here, that's starting to look like a real danger to my own that borders it?  Or do I try to do some hacking, and the setup that this entails?  Or maybe send out my Champion to one of those special zones to level up, to support future attacks?    And then even better is the fact that you can do multiple things at once.  I don't JUST have to focus on one thing at a time.  I also don't have to do any of them in a specific order.   Again, all of these things are things I associate with Arcen games as a whole.  Regardless of which game of yours I'm playing, it has this to some extent.   Well....  Shattered Haven may be the exception since that was more about figuring out very specific solutions.  But other than that, pretty much all of your games do this in their own way, and it leads to them fascinating me to no end.   I like it when games force me to make interesting decisions that really affect things from a strategic/tactical point of view, rather than just saying "go do these things in these orders, and here's some Goombas in front of you to be annoying".

6.  LOADS of content.    Seriously, there's a really stupid amount of content in AI War.  Even just the base game... you're given a zillion things to play around with.

7.  .....but you don't HAVE to use any of it.  Like those Champion units, I really like those guys, that's one of my favorite things from any of the expansions.  But like absolutely everything else in the game, they can be turned off if the player doesn't want to use them, wether they don't like them whatsoever, or just want to try a particular run at the game with some changed options from what they usually do.  This also really helps for learning the game at your own pace.   You can keep the crazier-sounding things off, and then slowly turn them on as you keep learning and playing more.

8.  The AI does really interesting things.  I never know what it's up to.  It's not going to be at all predictable, which it is in most RTS games.  This seems to be one of the things that this game is most known for.

9.  LOTS OF UNITS.  I never feel like I don't have enough units or structures to accomplish stuff.... other RTS games ALWAYS give me that feeling, but not this one.  I can have a zillion different things at once.  It ends up becoming a question of SHOULD I build such and such thing, rather than CAN I build it.

10.  Asymmetry.  I really wish more games of this sort did this.  This makes things extra fascinating to me, and it means that it wont feel like a "mirror match" also.  I'm not fighting against JUST the units that I myself can also use.  Sure, I'll definitely see some of them on the enemy's side... but at the same time the AI has it's own unique threats that I cannot use, and the same the other way around.

I'll stop rambling here.  But I think you get the idea.  Probably.
« Last Edit: August 29, 2016, 09:15:09 PM by Misery »