Arcen Games

Games => AI War II => Topic started by: Cyborg on August 27, 2016, 05:30:40 PM

Title: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cyborg 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
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Castruccio 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Coppermantis 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...
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Timerlane 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cyborg 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Dominus Arbitrationis on August 28, 2016, 06:40:06 PM
"peeling the onion" or something like that.

Well, it certainly makes us all cry.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Captain Jack 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Pumpkin 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)
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Draco18s on August 29, 2016, 11:13:48 AM
I'm going to add in:
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: tadrinth 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. 

Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cyborg 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: x4000 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Misery 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.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 29, 2016, 09:40:11 PM
There are a lot of things already mentioned here but I'll add this one. 

Sense of scale.

You can have superbly massive battles raging across any one of a hundred plus systems, or you can take it down and relentlessly raid with handfuls of ships, and it can happen at the same time, in the same game. 

Also, this.  these moments.  Those things that tell you you done messed up.  Stuff like this.

(http://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php?action=dlattach;topic=18954.0;attach=10225)
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on August 29, 2016, 09:45:40 PM
<sense of scale>

The fact that upon reading 800 motherships with 32 AIP and I think to myself NOT "This looks shopped" But "I would love to hear the settings that caused THAT [Champion + 10/10 shenanigans?]" tells me that.

The level of extremes are unreal.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: TheVampire100 on August 29, 2016, 10:01:49 PM
I think what Ai War the game it is, is that the player needs the ability to adapt. Chris stated himself in a very old explanation that AI War originated from him being bored at standard RTS games. Once you found out how the AI worked you had literally the same match over and over. This gave him the idea of an AI that adapts to your playstyle and that you have to adapt in order to beat it.
In AI War it is exactly that. Because there are so many possibilities what you have, what teh AI has, what structures are present on planets, you have to rethink for every single game again instead of having your typical strategy that you simply adjust to the given moment.
Having to adept to situations challenges the player.

That's why Mobas are so popular. While there are always viable builds for a specific hero, the player has to adapt to what heroes the enemy heroes palys and also, what builds they use. That's btw why I hate the Dota Casual scene on lower tiers (where I reside sadly). Players there are dumb as a piece of bread (that got toasted), they have already made up their mind before the match started what items they exactly want to have on their hero. This is most seen on current popular heroes, like for example Phantom Assassin. Every PA player nowadays rushes Battle Fury simply because they think it's a strong item on PA but it isn't, its situational and those people don't even undrstand what "situational" means. They just follow their build and that's why they loose, because the opponent has something that counters their build and they aren't even thinking about doing soemthign different, they walkt the whole road down to hell just because they think their build is awesome.
However, in higher brackets in Dota (and Mobas in general) players think about what to pick at the right time, if your opponent is spell strong, they bick a spell blocker, if your opponent has strong attacks, they get more armor. Having to adapt your build to the situation and to your enemies is part of the fun. It is a mind game with your opponent, who can think of a better build to beat them.

Ai War was always the same for me but instead of an opossing player you have an Ai that throws stuff at you and you have to rethink what to use. I first played AI War like any other RTS, I came up with a strategy, noticed it worked good on some planets and kept using it again. But then you get at the point where your unis are countered by structures or units of the opponent and that's when you learn that you cannot use the same units forever just ecause they are strong.


Another thing I love about Ai War is the attack multiplier system. The thing is briliant designed. Other games don't even bother that units have weaknesses, they just say "Okay, this unit is strong in colse range, so we put in a unit with a high range to counter it. And to coutner his unit we put fast units, that can cross the range real quickly."
AI War however uses this and goes a step further, it also adresses directly what ship is strong against another in terms of multipliers. Ships are more effective against specific types of units, using the right ships at the right moment rewards the player.
This has to be in the sequel, more than anything. Because this is somethign other RTS games don't do, weaknesses.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 29, 2016, 10:14:58 PM
<sense of scale>

The fact that upon reading 800 motherships with 32 AIP and I think to myself NOT "This looks shopped" But "I would love to hear the settings that caused THAT [Champion + 10/10 shenanigans?]" tells me that.

The level of extremes are unreal.

It's real as in it happened in game.  I have several shots like this posted in the AIW forum over the years.  It's my brand of crazy.

I think everything you really need to know about that game is hinted at in the SS itself (the ss is over 2 years old).
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Misery on August 29, 2016, 10:15:38 PM
That's why Mobas are so popular. While there are always viable builds for a specific hero, the player has to adapt to what heroes the enemy heroes palys and also, what builds they use. That's btw why I hate the Dota Casual scene on lower tiers (where I reside sadly). Players there are dumb as a piece of bread (that got toasted), they have already made up their mind before the match started what items they exactly want to have on their hero. This is most seen on current popular heroes, like for example Phantom Assassin. Every PA player nowadays rushes Battle Fury simply because they think it's a strong item on PA but it isn't, its situational and those people don't even undrstand what "situational" means. They just follow their build and that's why they loose, because the opponent has something that counters their build and they aren't even thinking about doing soemthign different, they walkt the whole road down to hell just because they think their build is awesome.
However, in higher brackets in Dota (and Mobas in general) players think about what to pick at the right time, if your opponent is spell strong, they bick a spell blocker, if your opponent has strong attacks, they get more armor. Having to adapt your build to the situation and to your enemies is part of the fun. It is a mind game with your opponent, who can think of a better build to beat them.

Ooh... you know what, you make a really good point here.

I certainly know that feeling from the mobas... worst is being pestered then, if you don't pick the "right" setup.  That it might not be the right setup FOR THE CURRENT SITUATION never occurs to people, they're too bloody busy reciting builds they saw on the internet.  Happens in fighting games too.  People just repeat combos they saw online, from some pro player.  Even if those ARENT WORKING they'll keep doing it, because it's all they know.  They just cant or just wont adapt. 

And I just haaaaaaaate when stuff like that happens.  In any game, it doesn't matter what it is. Singleplayer, multiplayer, whatever.  I always feel that if I've made my decisions BEFORE the game has started, and yet still think that those are almost definitely the RIGHT decisions, something is wrong (part of why I prefer procedural games, too).  Hell, the need to create a build AS I play each match is one of the big appeals of a moba for me.  It makes buying stuff interesting, and each purchase can then affect pretty much everything else.  Roguelikes do this a lot too, you have to make decisions on-the-fly, you cant just go into it with just preconceived tactics.

AI War really is like that.  Every other RTS has specific builds that you follow, because nothing ever really changes.   But with the procedural nature of AI War and the extremely variable nature of the AI itself, you really have to choose carefully what you "buy" with your resources, and you have to make these decisions each time... I never find myself following a pattern of any sort, other than the fact that there's certain units I just plain tend to use as part of the most basic bits of my strategy, but even that's more of a "I just like these units and they fit my playstyle" rather than JUST a strategic choice. 

So yeah, that's a really huge part of this game's appeal.  A very good point.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cyborg on August 29, 2016, 10:21:05 PM
Well, I think it depends if you are trying to play serious AI war to accomplish some goal or just want to go crazy. Sometimes, I will buy the stuff that seems the most fun- whatever creates more chaos. I'm not trying to win, just trying to create some huge space battle.

So yeah, giant battles. Must have.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 29, 2016, 10:33:59 PM
Well, I think it depends if you are trying to play serious AI war to accomplish some goal or just want to go crazy. Sometimes, I will buy the stuff that seems the most fun- whatever creates more chaos. I'm not trying to win, just trying to create some huge space battle.

So yeah, giant battles. Must have.

We will have that feel.  I will hound one developer to the ends of the earth to make sure it's there   >D
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on August 29, 2016, 10:46:11 PM

We will have that feel.  I will hound one developer to the ends of the earth to make sure it's there   >D

Spire campaign:

"You mean the game not only knows, but intends for me to potentially kick the door down on an AI HW so I can blow them to bits before I finish it?"

"lol j/k if you go to far we sick a mothership at you. but we gave you the illusion it was a sneaky path, right? and if you are smart it actually IS a smart path..."

There were many stages in the spire campaign that asked the player: "Do you want to continue down this path, or just use the power you have?".

That is something I missed in the doomsday plot. I keep calling it doomsday plot, but maybe it was shadow plots? Sadly the system was far to binary for me to remember, yet alone pursue.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Draco18s on August 29, 2016, 10:49:54 PM
<sense of scale>

The fact that upon reading 800 motherships with 32 AIP and I think to myself NOT "This looks shopped" But "I would love to hear the settings that caused THAT

Did you read his sig, by the way? ;)
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on August 29, 2016, 10:52:11 PM

Did you read his sig, by the way? ;)

When I read that name, I assume anything is possible  :D
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Draco18s on August 29, 2016, 10:54:18 PM
When I read that name, I assume anything is possible  :D

Funny, I think the same thing when I see a particular super-cat avatar...
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: eRe4s3r on August 29, 2016, 11:02:31 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)



You may be joking, or you think are joking now. But a Kickstarter with stretch goal that lists a famous anime artist doing the artwork for the story (there is gonna be story?) would get you more money and attention than you'd think.  :)

Never underestimate the value of WAIFU trading cards either. That alone can give you more sales on Steam later on.



OR


You go full realism grim dark WH40k style.....  :D

What you should forget though is using the TLF character artists, they really do not incite dread (well, for me) ;P

tis my 2cts

And squads, yeah squads... I still think there must be some kind of "abstraction" in terms of units. Having 1500 ships is fun and all, but it never really makes you feel like you command a real "fleet"

Ps.: I hope you do plan for stretch goals ;P
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on August 29, 2016, 11:04:01 PM

And squads, yeah squads... I still think there must be some kind of "abstraction" in terms of units. Having 1500 ships is fun and all, but it never really makes you feel like you command a real "fleet"

Suddenly champions and command ships take a new meaning.

I like it!
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: eRe4s3r on August 29, 2016, 11:08:18 PM

And squads, yeah squads... I still think there must be some kind of "abstraction" in terms of units. Having 1500 ships is fun and all, but it never really makes you feel like you command a real "fleet"

Suddenly champions and command ships take a new meaning.

I like it!

Funnily enough that is exactly what I thought about when I wrote this.... command ships, generally all capital ships, should come with a fleet we can define/build/shape (yes, as in FORMATION look)  and this fleet isn't single units in a group, it's a fleet, the command ship is what you give orders to, the other ships are part of that fleet.

And.. you could go full on with that idea, and put captains with special stat boosts (no active abilities!) that we can assign on those flagships, that level up and which makes losing them all the more sad. And same for your allies obviously, they come with their own captains, and you may wanna keep them alive or something ;P

Dunno.. is that still AI WAR? I dunno.... but it sounds like a fun game to play ^^
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 30, 2016, 03:36:41 AM

Did you read his sig, by the way? ;)

When I read that name, I assume anything is possible  :D

Awww, you guys..

When I read that name, I assume anything is possible  :D

Funny, I think the same thing when I see a particular super-cat avatar...

Heh.  Two players that couldn't be much further apart in their approaches to smashing the AI.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Kahuna on August 30, 2016, 05:03:14 AM
Pretty much everything I can think of has already been mentioned.


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.
Imo this (in addition to the amount of content and ways to approach the game) is one the most important aspects of AI War. The problem with PvE mirror matching is that the AI will never be as good as the player unless the AI is given "unfair" advantages like extra resources, reduced build times etc. which easily make it feel like the AI is "cheating". Thus it feels like the game is no longer hard but "cheap hard".


There are a lot of things already mentioned here but I'll add this one. 

Sense of scale.

You can have superbly massive battles raging across any one of a hundred plus systems, or you can take it down and relentlessly raid with handfuls of ships, and it can happen at the same time, in the same game. 

Also, this.  these moments.  Those things that tell you you done messed up.  Stuff like this.
Or you can build a massive beachhead and nuke hundreds of thousands of ships at once. (https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,16525.0.html) I'd have waited a bit longer and nuked even more ships at once but the game started to freeze after the ~400k ships. Doing crazy things and succeeding against all odds is just something really awesome and rewarding when you manage to pull it off. I don't think you can do stuff like this in any other game so that too makes AI War unique.


Sometimes, I will buy the stuff that seems the most fun
Yet another point for AI War. You can do/choose all the "fun things" and still be successful/effective. There are so many viable strategies and options that everyone finds something they like. In other games I've run numerous times into the problem of liking something that is vastly underpowered or unviable. For example enjoying playing a class in an RPG that has interesting mechanics and playstyle but ultimately finding out that it's underpowered/unviable and that I'd be much better of just choosing another class or build. In AI War I can take pretty much everything the game has to offer and build my own play style/strategy from that.


When I read that name, I assume anything is possible  :D
Funny, I think the same thing when I see a particular super-cat avatar...
I'm flattered.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 30, 2016, 05:16:19 AM

There are a lot of things already mentioned here but I'll add this one. 

Sense of scale.

You can have superbly massive battles raging across any one of a hundred plus systems, or you can take it down and relentlessly raid with handfuls of ships, and it can happen at the same time, in the same game. 

Also, this.  these moments.  Those things that tell you you done messed up.  Stuff like this.
Or you can build a massive beachhead and nuke hundreds of thousands of ships at once. (https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,16525.0.html) I'd have waited a bit longer and nuked even more ships at once but the game started to freeze after the ~400k ships. Doing crazy things and succeeding against all odds is just something really awesome and rewarding when you manage to pull it off. I don't think you can do stuff like this in any other game so that too makes AI War unique.

 :D
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: kasnavada on August 30, 2016, 10:24:29 AM
One of the beautiful thing in AI war is that even when automatically moving around (looking for targets), via X movement, v movement, automatic patrol, every ship chooses its target smartly, calculate kills on the fly and so on.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Draco18s on August 30, 2016, 01:12:22 PM
More hacker uses is always an interesting choice.

Speaking of....

Hacking as a resource has been one of the best things to happen to AI War.  The metal/crystal thing made less and less sense as time went on (it was virtually impossible to create a fleet that required 10 times more metal than crystal, or vice versa, leading to very balanced costs, leading to very balanced income, leading to virtually no distinction between the two).  If resources could run out then it might've made sense to keep the distinction, but again, AI War was like "there's resources here, they're infinite, don't sweat it" and that was good.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cyborg on August 30, 2016, 07:32:17 PM
More hacker uses is always an interesting choice.

Speaking of....

Hacking as a resource has been one of the best things to happen to AI War.  The metal/crystal thing made less and less sense as time went on (it was virtually impossible to create a fleet that required 10 times more metal than crystal, or vice versa, leading to very balanced costs, leading to very balanced income, leading to virtually no distinction between the two).  If resources could run out then it might've made sense to keep the distinction, but again, AI War was like "there's resources here, they're infinite, don't sweat it" and that was good.

There are limited resources in the game, but not crystal, and that was important. I think we got to a good place with the resources after a few years. I don't see any reason to completely scrap that, although I'm certainly listening.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Billick on August 30, 2016, 10:06:21 PM
I don't know if this is a case of people ignoring the elephant in the room, but the core of AI War design, to me, is the AI progress mechanic.  It's kind of the keystone of the whole design.  It's so simple and elegant. 
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: eRe4s3r on August 30, 2016, 11:29:52 PM
That is very true.. the AIP mechanic is the core of AI War, if anything it needs even more reactive AI stuff tied to it because even at AIP 600 I don't really feel the dread (I know how to build a decent defense..)
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Draco18s on August 31, 2016, 12:25:42 AM
==Note: this post may need its own thread==

I suppose I can say the one thing I would like to see changed, somehow, is for games to not take bloody forever.  Three to six hours would be ideal.  And I realized that epicly long games is one of the things AI War is known for, but I don't think it's really needed to make AI War AI War.  Should they be possible?  Sure, there are all kinds of playstyles and some of them favor longer games.  But it's not about the time component, but the nature of progression, the ability to make further gains.

One of the things the game doesn't do well is forcing an end-game.  You can grind to a long, drawn out stalemate easily where it's virtually impossible for the player to progress, but the AI doesn't do anything to actually crush the player.  That is, the difficulty doesn't continue to ramp up when a stalemate occurs (as the player is no longer causing AIP increases, so they languish at defending against a statically sized wave after wave of attacks that cannot breach their defenses).

I don't know what can be done about it.

If we look at the Steam Achievements, we can set a baseline for "how many people have played for more than ten minutes" with the #1 most achieved achievement:
1. Rainy Day Savings: 50,000 Energy

Given that the game is currently "do you have energy? good, you get this achievement" as the 50k value used to be a lot and now it's half what you get for building a single reactor.  Anyway, 28.2% of the people who own the game have this one.  Generally the most common achievement gives you an idea of how many people are actually playing as it tends to be one you get on accident (makes me want to put in a "you ran the game" achievement to a game, just to see the numbers).

But let's look at the "win/loss" numbers.

"1. First Loss" 12.4%

Half!  Half of the people who have played at all have ever lost a game!

"1. First Victory" 3.6%

And only 1 in 8 players has ever won a game.

Even if we add these together, that still leaves 3/8ths of the people who've played the game having not played it long enough to reach a conclusion.  Instead they abandon the game and start a new one (or never come back).  And that drawn out stalemate is likely the problem.  No one is going to let the AI whittle away at their defenses just to have the game tell them that they've lost: they already know it.  So they quit and maybe try again.

A lot of board games don't have this problem, where the end-state occurs right at the moment that its becoming apparent who's winning.  Race for the Galaxy does it perfectly, managing to thread the needle between "arg, one turn!" and a runaway winner.  That is, if there had been one more turn, only one person would have been playing: the guy everyone already recognizes as the winner, but if there'd been one fewer turns, it could be a tossup between Player A and Player B depending on what they did that last turn vs. what they would have done on a one-more.

Other RTS games usually have a tipping point as well, where one player achieves that upper hand that leads to an ever-widening gap in power, leading to a quick loss.  The middle game there isn't a stalemate where neither player can progress, but rather a series of probing strikes, looking for a weakness to exploit, that when found tips the scales suddenly and decisively.

AI War though, I tend to find that if the AI throws a giant wave of ships at me, I can fend it off.  But it leaves my own armada weak and unable to push back and in the time it takes me to rebuild, the AI has rebuilt too and we clash head on and neither of us accomplish anything.  Some players here have found ways around this (cough, nukes, cough) but I tend to be AIP-averse and don't resort to warheads as my policy is "a nuke now means two nukes later" as the AIP rises.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on August 31, 2016, 12:35:18 AM
==Note: this post may need its own thread==

I suppose I can say the one thing I would like to see changed, somehow, is for games to not take bloody forever.  Three to six hours would be ideal.  And I realized that epicly long games is one of the things AI War is known for, but I don't think it's really needed to make AI War AI War.  Should they be possible?  Sure, there are all kinds of playstyles and some of them favor longer games.  But it's not about the time component, but the nature of progression, the ability to make further gains.

One of the things the game doesn't do well is forcing an end-game.  You can grind to a long, drawn out stalemate easily where it's virtually impossible for the player to progress, but the AI doesn't do anything to actually crush the player.  That is, the difficulty doesn't continue to ramp up when a stalemate occurs (as the player is no longer causing AIP increases, so they languish at defending against a statically sized wave after wave of attacks that cannot breach their defenses).

I don't know what can be done about it.

If we look at the Steam Achievements, we can set a baseline for "how many people have played for more than ten minutes" with the #1 most achieved achievement:
1. Rainy Day Savings: 50,000 Energy

Given that the game is currently "do you have energy? good, you get this achievement" as the 50k value used to be a lot and now it's half what you get for building a single reactor.  Anyway, 28.2% of the people who own the game have this one.  Generally the most common achievement gives you an idea of how many people are actually playing as it tends to be one you get on accident (makes me want to put in a "you ran the game" achievement to a game, just to see the numbers).

But let's look at the "win/loss" numbers.

"1. First Loss" 12.4%

Half!  Half of the people who have played at all have ever lost a game!

"1. First Victory" 3.6%

And only 1 in 8 players has ever won a game.

Even if we add these together, that still leaves 3/8ths of the people who've played the game having not played it long enough to reach a conclusion.  Instead they abandon the game and start a new one (or never come back).  And that drawn out stalemate is likely the problem.  No one is going to let the AI whittle away at their defenses just to have the game tell them that they've lost: they already know it.  So they quit and maybe try again.

A lot of board games don't have this problem, where the end-state occurs right at the moment that its becoming apparent who's winning.  Race for the Galaxy does it perfectly, managing to thread the needle between "arg, one turn!" and a runaway winner.  That is, if there had been one more turn, only one person would have been playing: the guy everyone already recognizes as the winner, but if there'd been one fewer turns, it could be a tossup between Player A and Player B depending on what they did that last turn vs. what they would have done on a one-more.

Other RTS games usually have a tipping point as well, where one player achieves that upper hand that leads to an ever-widening gap in power, leading to a quick loss.  The middle game there isn't a stalemate where neither player can progress, but rather a series of probing strikes, looking for a weakness to exploit, that when found tips the scales suddenly and decisively.

AI War though, I tend to find that if the AI throws a giant wave of ships at me, I can fend it off.  But it leaves my own armada weak and unable to push back and in the time it takes me to rebuild, the AI has rebuilt too and we clash head on and neither of us accomplish anything.  Some players here have found ways around this (cough, nukes, cough) but I tend to be AIP-averse and don't resort to warheads as my policy is "a nuke now means two nukes later" as the AIP rises.

Will echo this. There have been improvements in this regards in terms of salvage, but I feel like a more intense factor unique to late game needs to occur. There is a definite "listless" factor to the mid game, where there is simply to little direction on what to do, so it feels like a list of "do this, then this, except for this." After this mid game list has been done, you are stuck with "either I can kill both AI HW, or I cannot and get bored"

So as the game reaches its close, both the AI and the Human need to be more exposed. "Plays" [sidebar, I NEVER expected to say that about this game] need to occur. Either the player or the AI makes a meaningful, purposeful gain that forces the game to end.

The game has to FORCE games to end. Not die in the stalemate. That also means if the player is using there is a very real hope that one successful defense can turn the tide.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 31, 2016, 12:41:13 AM
I find stalemates and acceptable endgame.  And I like that I control the pace.  I like being able to invest over 100 hours (game time) into one match.

Though I will say that usually when I stalemate, it's because I made a mistake somewhere along the way. 
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Steelpoint on August 31, 2016, 01:02:33 AM
I'm pretty sure why the energy achievements are more unlocked is because years ago you got points or something for unlocking the achievement with one of the earlier Steam Summer/Winter Sale events.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on August 31, 2016, 01:10:02 AM
I find stalemates and acceptable endgame.  And I like that I control the pace.  I like being able to invest over 100 hours (game time) into one match.

Though I will say that usually when I stalemate, it's because I made a mistake somewhere along the way.

I highly respect you Cinth but I have to ask:

Just how many players invested 100 hours in their_total_career of AI Wars?

5.5% of players did 10 hours in one game.
3.0% of players did 15 hours of a game.

For me, the norm should be closer to 5 hours per game given the new medium. Yes, I know that means the average number of worlds decreases. It is a shocking idea. But I am challenging basic facts.

WHY does a game need to be OK with 100 hours. I cannot think of any modern game except an hardcore GSG going for that long! Yes, by choice someone can have an 100 hour game. Just like some players can take 120 worlds in one game.

That does NOT mean the game should ever be designed where such a thing is the norm. For it is frankly not, in the current game environment.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 31, 2016, 01:18:21 AM
I think it's a great part of the scale of this game.  I can play my way, and you yours and it's all possible. 

And let's remember that Steam isn't the only means of acquiring the game.  I got mine off D2D back in the day :p   It might provide a metric, but it isn't the only metric.

Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on August 31, 2016, 01:23:37 AM
I think it's a great part of the scale of this game.  I can play my way, and you yours and it's all possible. 

And let's remember that Steam isn't the only means of acquiring the game.  I got mine off D2D back in the day :p   It might provide a metric, but it isn't the only metric.

True enough, but steam is the most "mainstream" method of acquiring the game. I doubt other sources provide sources of less skilled players with greater sales, so they would only skew the results about the average skill level of players.

AIW never proposed playing 120 planets for the sense of scale, but it was provided so that the few who had the means and will to enjoy it could. That does not have reason to change.

But for most players, the ideal of 70 worlds needs to be cut radically down. The overall time scale needs to drop dramatically. Players cannot drop 10's of hours into a campaign. It seems 10 hours should be the max for new players.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: kasnavada on August 31, 2016, 01:24:51 AM
Quote
I suppose I can say the one thing I would like to see changed, somehow, is for games to not take bloody forever.  Three to six hours would be ideal.  And I realized that epicly long games is one of the things AI War is known for, but I don't think it's really needed to make AI War AI War.  Should they be possible?  Sure, there are all kinds of playstyles and some of them favor longer games.  But it's not about the time component, but the nature of progression, the ability to make further gains.

This.
Really, this.

It's one of the design flaws of SBR & bionic dues too. A game of bionic dues take forever and more, and SBR was designed from the start to start for thousands of turns...

Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 31, 2016, 01:29:59 AM
Actually I would say that the player driven pacing (part of the whole AIP thing) is a big deal.  Now how to cut out netfix time?  That's been asked and debated for a loooong time.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Kahuna on August 31, 2016, 01:39:03 AM
That is very true.. the AIP mechanic is the core of AI War, if anything it needs even more reactive AI stuff tied to it because even at AIP 600 I don't really feel the dread (I know how to build a decent defense..)
Time to increase the difficulty level then, no? I'd get bored on sandbox difficulty too.

One of the things the game doesn't do well is forcing an end-game.  You can grind to a long, drawn out stalemate easily where it's virtually impossible for the player to progress, but the AI doesn't do anything to actually crush the player.  That is, the difficulty doesn't continue to ramp up when a stalemate occurs (as the player is no longer causing AIP increases, so they languish at defending against a statically sized wave after wave of attacks that cannot breach their defenses).
Perhaps the auto AIP increase could be tied to the difficulty level of the AIs?

Now how to cut out netfix time?
Some things that increase netflix time:
-Waiting for resources for refleeting
-Grinding through AIs' brick wall defenses (I think this makes up the biggest portion of the nextflix time)
-Having to wait for a wave/CPA/whatever to hit just in case before the next (player's) attack
These are things that also deter new players from getting into AI War. Not sure how to fix them though.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on August 31, 2016, 02:10:36 AM
Now how to cut out netfix time?
Some things that increase netflix time:
-Waiting for resources for refleeting
-Grinding through AIs' brick wall defenses (I think this makes up the biggest portion of the nextflix time)
-Having to wait for a wave/CPA/whatever to hit just in case before the next (player's) attack
These are things that also deter new players from getting into AI War. Not sure how to fix them though.

#3 is an easy fix.  #2 is half the fun for me.  #1 will probably always be an issue. 
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: ISJ-311 on August 31, 2016, 11:37:20 AM
Personally, the uniqueness of each campaign and extremely flexible multiplayer support makes this game great for me.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Draco18s on August 31, 2016, 11:57:44 AM
One of the things the game doesn't do well is forcing an end-game.  You can grind to a long, drawn out stalemate easily where it's virtually impossible for the player to progress, but the AI doesn't do anything to actually crush the player.  That is, the difficulty doesn't continue to ramp up when a stalemate occurs (as the player is no longer causing AIP increases, so they languish at defending against a statically sized wave after wave of attacks that cannot breach their defenses).
Perhaps the auto AIP increase could be tied to the difficulty level of the AIs?

I'm not sure that'd be enough.  It's certainly worth a try, I suppose.  But I don't think it'd have enough of a "kick."  Rather, I think it would accelerate the game towards the stalemate position (if instead of gaining 1 AIP per half-hour, I'd gain 7, right?  Well, if it takes me ~5 hours to reach Stalemate, then I've gained 60 additional AIP over that time: 3 planets worth, so I probably hit the threshold of stalemate a planet or two earlier and it won't be several more hours before the AI can actually crush me).
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Tridus on August 31, 2016, 12:26:12 PM
Now how to cut out netfix time?
Some things that increase netflix time:
-Waiting for resources for refleeting
-Grinding through AIs' brick wall defenses (I think this makes up the biggest portion of the nextflix time)
-Having to wait for a wave/CPA/whatever to hit just in case before the next (player's) attack
These are things that also deter new players from getting into AI War. Not sure how to fix them though.

#3 is an easy fix.  #2 is half the fun for me.  #1 will probably always be an issue.

Just throwing it out there, but what if resources were changed more to an "X resources per second = Y maximum ships" style thing? That is, instead of having 300/second from 10 collectors (or whatever) and having to wait 30 minutes to get enough to build your fleet, those same collectors mean that you can support 300 points of ships.

At that point, there's no particular need to wait forever to get the resources to rebuild after a fleet wipe. You already have them available, and can immediately start building again. It has to be delayed long enough that you can't just start an endless graveyard rush style thing where reinforcements are constantly joining the attack after a ship is lost, but it does solve the problem.

One of the things I really liked about Fallen Spire is that this problem was somewhat negated by the sheer number of systems you could/had to conquer to see it through. You would start gaining resources so fast that unless your Spire ships got taken out, you could rebuild everything at lightning speed. As an added bonus, it made some of the stuff from the Zenith trader actually viable, whereas it was utterly impractical to ever build it in a game where you're trying to conquer as little as possible.

The combination of "you can build anything, no matter how expensive, if you're patient enough to wait for it", and "the AI will wait for you if you don't antagonise it" really led to encouraging Netflix time.

You could probably also achieve something similar by having ships cost a resource upkeep, such that having a big fleet will lower your resource production, and eventually halt it entirely. That would let you still save for something huge (like a SuperFortress) if you wanted to, by running around with a smaller fleet for a while.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Tridus on August 31, 2016, 12:29:55 PM

We will have that feel.  I will hound one developer to the ends of the earth to make sure it's there   >D

Spire campaign:

"You mean the game not only knows, but intends for me to potentially kick the door down on an AI HW so I can blow them to bits before I finish it?"

"lol j/k if you go to far we sick a mothership at you. but we gave you the illusion it was a sneaky path, right? and if you are smart it actually IS a smart path..."

There were many stages in the spire campaign that asked the player: "Do you want to continue down this path, or just use the power you have?".

That is something I missed in the doomsday plot. I keep calling it doomsday plot, but maybe it was shadow plots? Sadly the system was far to binary for me to remember, yet alone pursue.

IMO, the Spire campaign was the single best thing that got added. It changed the game substantially in terms of how it plays, gives a more objective based feel for players that benefit from that, and gives you this constant option of "we always try to avoid pissing the AI off, but the Spire *really* don't get it. Then again, they have fortress like defenses and ships that can tear through fleets in seconds..."

After a couple hundred hours of playing "keep AIP low because the AI will flatten you if it sees you as a real threat", having the option to suddenly switch to "conquer half the galaxy and launch a direct frontal assault" is a pretty great change of pace.

It got kinda laggy sometimes, though. :D
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Vinco on August 31, 2016, 09:01:22 PM
I'm also a big fan of the Spire campaign.  I'm not a "carefully selected series of disconnected planets" player, but rather focus on building an ever-expanding zone of human control with massive fortress worlds at the extremes.  My economy drops to its knees when I push into a new system.  I love the ability to have a long game where I'm carefully pushing into a new area, pissing off the reinforcements, then seeing the devourer running up my retreat path with slobbering jaws.

The interplay of unexpected, unpredictable events laid on top of a very basic goal of destroying two structures somewhere on the map leads to a game I continue to love.

I think one of AI War's strengths is that there's no one way to win on most difficulties.  You can go sneaky and low-AIP, or you can go face first.  Either way can work if you do it right.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Kahuna on September 01, 2016, 12:30:37 AM
You could probably also achieve something similar by having ships cost a resource upkeep, such that having a big fleet will lower your resource production, and eventually halt it entirely. That would let you still save for something huge (like a SuperFortress) if you wanted to, by running around with a smaller fleet for a while.
That can already be done by rebalancing the energy costs.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on September 01, 2016, 12:47:56 AM


After a couple hundred hours of playing "keep AIP low because the AI will flatten you if it sees you as a real threat", having the option to suddenly switch to "conquer half the galaxy and launch a direct frontal assault" is a pretty great change of pace.

It got kinda laggy sometimes, though. :D

I do consider the spire campaign my favorite expansion element.

Imagine this description before it came out as a conversation (and for those players, if I misspell there is no malice, just drowsiness) :

"Commander, have you heard of the AI being defeated?"

"Of course. I remember the victory by Cinth. The ambush of Cyborg. The Kahuna gambit."

"But have you ever seen the AI being truly defeated. As in it was wiped out entirely out of a galaxy by a lack of firepower."

"Such a thing is not possible. For the AI is busy elsewhere..."

"What if that elsewhere came here? Would you bring it here of your own will? How far would you go down that rabbit hole?"

...

[Later]

"I did not think the AI would send Hunter Killers and golems at us together! I did not expect we would be winning either!"

I do consider that campaign the ideal of the "branches" that AIW2 can pursue. It's strengths are the story it tells and how it gives many plateaus that allow the play a choice to either go deeper to resume the standard route. It is never all or nothing until the final step.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on September 01, 2016, 12:58:20 AM
Most of the craziness I have shared on the forums comes from blown out Spire matches.  I love watching the Imperial Fleet fight the good fight.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Elestan on September 01, 2016, 11:05:20 PM
IMHO, the distinguishing feature is the premise of the AI's production facilities being mostly untouchable "elsewhere", couple with the AI's preoccupation with "elsewhere" being a resource you deplete (and occasionally gain) during the game.  That's what allows you to have a large strategic game that increases in tension as the computer gets pushed back instead of turning into a boring mop-up, and it's not something that I've not seen in any other game.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: NickAragua on September 02, 2016, 10:44:24 PM
For me, it's the following (the things I enjoy about it):

Huge fleets duking it out
AI that doesn't act retarded (possibly due to asymmetric gameplay)
Coop with friend, trying to coordinate our defenses against a challenging opponent
Storyline that's present but doesn't bludgeon you over the head with endless cutscenes (fallen spire)
Multiple victory paths (especially once the spire and other expansions came out)
Variety of opposition and having to use different tools to defeat said opposition
Difficult decisions with various tradeoffs
Active support for the game by the devs years after it came out - bugfixes and fearless feature changes that you'll never see with any other game

What needs improvement:
Lag in multiplayer (and, uh, single player)
Micromanagement (I lost a couple of fighters here and there, now I have to spend a bunch of time redirecting reinforcements to the main fleet. Also, rebuilding fortifications all the frigging time.)
Irreplaceable captureables located four jumps into enemy territory
Champion missions
Changes to fundamental game systems every other patch (the dark side of active support) so that I have to re-learn the rules yet again
The game looks like a neon colored excel spread sheet with about forty different art styles

BTW, the best solution I've seen to the kind of micromanagement I describe is in Rome 2 Total War, where the units replenish automatically as long as they're within friendly territory and you add units directly to the army (the kind of units you can add being determined by buildings within the current territory) rather than screwing around with building units in a city then moving them to the army. Additionally, the automatic garrisons are nice, although they are pretty useless against significant opposition.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Misery on September 02, 2016, 11:12:29 PM
Quote
I suppose I can say the one thing I would like to see changed, somehow, is for games to not take bloody forever.  Three to six hours would be ideal.  And I realized that epicly long games is one of the things AI War is known for, but I don't think it's really needed to make AI War AI War.  Should they be possible?  Sure, there are all kinds of playstyles and some of them favor longer games.  But it's not about the time component, but the nature of progression, the ability to make further gains.

Oh, yeah, this is a really good point.   I don't mind long games, with procedural stuff.   Some games are meant to be that way.  But some things in AI War do take a bit too much time.

For me, it's not so much the stalemate aspect of the game that does this.  It's the fact that sometimes I run into a single system that just takes what feels like a million years to finally conquer.

Like, last night I ran into a situation with a rather nasty setup that involved a Gravitic Command Station combined with other things that just made it pretty mean (I forget exactly what those were), and it just took freaking forever to finally drill into this place fully to take down that station.  I had to try a few different approaches, and each of those was sloooooowwww because of the gravity effects.  And then I finally had the "ah-HAH!" moment, figured out how to do it.... but that, too, was slooooooowwww.    And the game just does stuff like this sometimes.  Like when I find those systems with stuff like Superfortresses and their kersquillion HP, yet I have at the time no good way of dealing with them (and even when I have the right ships to deal with them, they still take ages to drill through).  It's fun and interesting to try to come up with solutions to complicated system layouts that the game generates (plus whatever loopy things it may try with it's ships while you're dealing with the installations), but it's less fun when it takes a silly amount of time to do it.  Instead of additional challenge, you just get an added bit of tedium where you're essentially waiting for your tactic to finish it's execution without having to think on it any further.   With the scale of the battles and stuff like this, this will always happen to some degree, but it's when the game really goes overboard with it that I find it to be a problem.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: zharmad on September 03, 2016, 04:20:12 AM
To me, the main motivation of AI War is the attempts of humanity to claw back from the edge of extinction. To begin from zero and end with a decent chance at winning (or on easier difficulties a guaranteed final riposte). The expression "your final mistake was not finishing the job properly". So,my expected scale of the game is similar to XCOM or a Battlestar Galactica campaign.

This motivation drives the overall mechanics/progression of the game, which draws out abilities that humanity are collectively proud of (in their faulty imaginations):
- that we are supremely adaptable (player ability to change strategies and even win conditions. Here I'd like to examine scorched earth and refugee endgames, for example, which can resolve stalemates somewhat.)
- that we are resourceful (hacking and capturing as the situation offers themselves, hand in hand with above).
- that we are willing to sacrifice, and take mad risks (not very successfully explored in classic except by the players themselves. Dark Spire mechanics didn't appeal to me. We could not intentionally goad the AI into overcommitting against us, or critical human colonies/settlements).
- that we have hope in the face of dread, which is slowly built up over a well-played session (that the AI is overwhelming, but ultimately exploitable. Having said that, the actual AI is admittedly a paper tiger in classic, 90% of the time, right up until you make a series of bad mistakes).
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Orelius on September 03, 2016, 07:57:24 PM
Here's what I like:

-Huge fleets smashing into one another
-Asymmetrical warfare, needing to fight against a stronger opponent by taking advantage of terrain, positioning, using force multipliers to overcome the strength difference
-Generally speaking, streamlined macro gameplay, being able to churn out ships en masse and having reserves

Issues in AI War:
-The importance of micro - certain kinds of micro are way too good in some cases and pretty much necessary in others, the ship AIs are pretty dumb in general.  Critical targets like hunter/killers and EMP guardians need to specifically be focused down in every single engagement if you want to keep your fleet alive.  Plus there's no real way to know if your ships are doing things efficiently, if they're getting their bonus damage in, etc.  It's practically impossible to play the game in real time.

-The blobbiness and mish-mashiness of fleets - your fleet always composes of every single ship type you can make - there's no way to specialize.  Your fleet will always be stronger if you add more things to it - there's no way to make your fleet stronger against golems or whatever in a reasonable time scale.  The best way to do things is either go on a thirty minute quest to find additional ship types to use or to just smash your entire fleet into it

-Lack of actual strategic or tactical options.  Blobbing is way too effective, there's no collision, there's no real way to actually implement strategy.  Flanking is pointless, surrounding is impossible, etc.  There's no actual way to 'take advantage' of the AI.  You just see if the AI has lots of ships in an area, and if you're stronger, smash them, and if you're weaker, send things elsewhere.  It throws a wave at you and you stack turrets there.  Oh?  An exogalatic strike force is coming?  Better reinforce that chokepoint with more stuff.  There's just not really much that actually encourages real tactics.

-On a similar note, the AI hardly ever does anything or any action that is actually exploitable.  I never really feel smart and think 'Aha! I got them there!'.  The AI is way too predictable but also way too cautious.  There's no way to actually goad the AI into attacking you, they just mass up in overwhelming force and take you out.  There's no way to intelligently assault a fortified planet, etc.  I think the game would stand much to gain from a more predictable AI that can be exploited.

-Turrets and mines.  It's extremely tedious to plop down an your entire planetary quota of turrets and mines.  There really should be an easier way to do this.

-Turrets and mines.  They're stationary, but do they really need to be?  It just makes things more of a hassle than they need to be.  Just make them mobile defense bots that don't have warp drives or something so they can't cross wormholes.  They'd be more effective obviously but I think they'll feel better if they were weaker but were actually more consistently useful.  Often, enemy ships will just break through your line and run right past the turrets, making them pretty much pointless.

My (pretty radical) suggestions:
-Improve ship AI (this will probably happen anyway, obviously), make sure important things actually get attacked first.  I don't want to have to target fire snipers with my own every single time I encounter them.

-Maybe remove the ship cap and put in some other system?  The ship cap system is pretty emblematic of AI War, but I really don't think it does anything better than just having a supply system.  It just means that your fleet will always be diverse and never specialized.  Perhaps there could be a compromise, maybe you get a smaller cap for each ship, then some extra supply that you can then spend on any type of ship.  So if I unlock mark II fighters, instead of being allowed to build 96 markII fighters, I can build 48 mark II fighter and 48 of any other mark II ship.  This still keeps the whole 'ship cap' idea while allowing us to tailor armies to different circumstances.  Maybe I want to go knock down a fortress - I'll just use my excess ship cap to mass bombers.

-Add some sort of collision?  Currently, your ships can overlap with eachother infinitely, having a large fleet is pretty much the exact same to having a small fleet except you have more firepower and durability.  Then, things like flanking and encircling might actually mean something tactically.  There should be a meaningful way to make your weaker fleet be capable of defeating a stronger fleet due to certain circumstances.  Things like an encircling or flanking bonus would be great.  Maybe even a sneak attack bonus or something for ambushes!  I think it'd be pretty cool to just power down your fleet and hide them, wait for an enemy fleet to fly by, then wake up in the middle of them and catching them with a surprise opening volley.  I want to feel like I'm playing as an insurgency, fighting against a superior force with an inferior army and still coming out on top.

-Maybe change turrets into something like a defense fleet - they're local to a planet because they can't cross wormholes, they're stronger, slower, and have a per planet cap, and are less energy intensive compared to your mobile fleet.  Defending should be easier than attacking, and having a large empire should be meaningful to stopping an AI advance.  Currently, once the AI defeats your main fleet, you're completely defenseless while you're refleeting because turrets are completely incapable of dealing with anything in decent number alone due to their immobility - they just get killed from outside their range or ignored entirely.  They're also entirely too weak to actually deal with anything other than small raids.

-Make mines a lower cap and just make it an attachment to a wormhole  - when units pass through, they get damaged.  Line placing mines on a world is a huge pain in the ass, and the worst part about it is that it's difficult to quantify its effectiveness.  I have no idea how much the mines are doing.  They could be doing a lot of work but I have no idea that they are.

-On that note, it would be pretty cool to have a 'kill counter' that tells you how many ships that your different kinds of forces have destroyed - such as your mobile fleet, your defense fleet (or turrets), your mines, your superweapons, etc.

Anyway, these are just some of my thoughts on some of AI War's core mechanics. 
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cyborg on September 03, 2016, 11:11:23 PM

-Add some sort of collision? 

No reason to. There is a Z direction.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Orelius on September 04, 2016, 12:01:51 AM

-Add some sort of collision? 

No reason to. There is a Z direction.

That's true, but I do think there should at least be something to discourage blobbing and promote actual tactics.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Pumpkin on September 04, 2016, 01:31:20 AM

-Add some sort of collision? 

No reason to. There is a Z direction.

That's true, but I do think there should at least be something to discourage blobbing and promote actual tactics.
Blobbing is a tactic, and not a smart one. It's effective when facing smaller enemy fleets to benefit from the protection of long ranged units, but against matching forces, splitting, baiting and interception are much more effective.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Orelius on September 04, 2016, 04:33:27 AM
Blobbing is a tactic, and not a smart one. It's effective when facing smaller enemy fleets to benefit from the protection of long ranged units, but against matching forces, splitting, baiting and interception are much more effective.

Uh, what do you mean benefiting from the protection of long ranged units?  Blobbing is just literally selecting your whole fleet and moving it on top of the enemy fleet.

I find that I never really have the opportunity to ever split, bait, or intercept sizable enemy fleets.  Enemy fleets that invade your territory travel as one large clump and beeline towards your home command center.  If you attempt to intercept them, they just run past your entire fleet and suddenly you can't shoot their fleet because they've gone through a wormhole.  Defense fleets are either scattered around a planet mostly in hibernation and easily picked off piecemeal, or are so overwhelmingly powerful that it's better to just run (looking at you,  37k ship special forces fleet).  There's no way to do any of the things you mentioned in a worthwhile situation.  The AI is practically impossible to bait without actually putting yourself in a compromising position (i.e. moving your fleet significantly far away from the worlds you want to defend, or actually losing your fleet and the AI thinking it can take your chokepoint world), and AI fleets never ever split except to attack your vulnerable capturables.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Pumpkin on September 04, 2016, 06:53:45 AM
Eh, I won't debate AI War Classic strategy here. But maybe you're not playing at the edge of your skill.

I assure you, I was bored at 7/7. I first turned the Golems off and found a new game at 7/7. Once I relearned the basics of the game, I jumped straight to 8/8. First CPA was a steel wall. I learned again and carved my first >7 victory. I then jumped at 9/9 and spent months and many games on the first CPA. I'm currently at the gates of the endgame and I don't know if I'll make it through without starting it all over again.

Trust me, wherever you are on the difficulty ladder, bump it a notch. You'll learn... or die.
 ;D
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Tridus on September 04, 2016, 08:48:35 AM
-Turrets and mines.  They're stationary, but do they really need to be?  It just makes things more of a hassle than they need to be.  Just make them mobile defense bots that don't have warp drives or something so they can't cross wormholes.  They'd be more effective obviously but I think they'll feel better if they were weaker but were actually more consistently useful.  Often, enemy ships will just break through your line and run right past the turrets, making them pretty much pointless.

Tractor turrets, gravity turrets, EMP mines, the Military Command's translocation shots, and those kinds of goodies are there to make this harder. But yes, some stuff is meant to blast through. Turrets aren't a universal "stop everything". I tend to think that's okay. You can stop an awful lot with them once you figure out how to build a strong defense.

It takes away a lot of personality if they're changed into ships that are worse than your other ships, instead of something else entirely.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Timerlane on September 04, 2016, 11:48:31 AM
-Turrets and mines.  They're stationary, but do they really need to be?  It just makes things more of a hassle than they need to be.  Just make them mobile defense bots that don't have warp drives or something so they can't cross wormholes.  They'd be more effective obviously but I think they'll feel better if they were weaker but were actually more consistently useful.  Often, enemy ships will just break through your line and run right past the turrets, making them pretty much pointless.

Tractor turrets, gravity turrets, EMP mines, the Military Command's translocation shots, and those kinds of goodies are there to make this harder. But yes, some stuff is meant to blast through. Turrets aren't a universal "stop everything". I tend to think that's okay. You can stop an awful lot with them once you figure out how to build a strong defense.

It takes away a lot of personality if they're changed into ships that are worse than your other ships, instead of something else entirely.
Yeah; can I just say, give this (https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,13369.0.html) a read. You don't necessarily have to go all out with it, but even the simple lesson (http://i.imgur.com/8VLDIZt.png) of 'concentrate your Turrets near your Command Stations, instead of splitting them up among all the possible wormholes' is very useful.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Orelius on September 04, 2016, 06:38:43 PM
Eh, I won't debate AI War Classic strategy here. But maybe you're not playing at the edge of your skill.

I assure you, I was bored at 7/7. I first turned the Golems off and found a new game at 7/7. Once I relearned the basics of the game, I jumped straight to 8/8. First CPA was a steel wall. I learned again and carved my first >7 victory. I then jumped at 9/9 and spent months and many games on the first CPA. I'm currently at the gates of the endgame and I don't know if I'll make it through without starting it all over again.

Trust me, wherever you are on the difficulty ladder, bump it a notch. You'll learn... or die.
 ;D

I mostly play 9/9 Random Harder Fallen Spire games on honeycomb maps.  I also fail to see how the difficulty level is of relevance here, the AI uses the same general tactics for difficulty 7+.  Again, my issue is that I never get to do cool stuff with my fleet aside from hurl it at the other fleet.  I don't get to split the enemy fleet, or ambush them, or intercept them.  I mostly just either fight them on their planet or have them smash their heads on a brick wall on mine.

I think that a couple of interesting ways to fix this could be, for instance, to introduce new warhead types.  Perhaps a a blackhole warhead that disables wormholes for 30 seconds (so new ships cannot enter or leave)?  That would be pretty interesting and allow for tactics at a steep price.

-Turrets and mines.  They're stationary, but do they really need to be?  It just makes things more of a hassle than they need to be.  Just make them mobile defense bots that don't have warp drives or something so they can't cross wormholes.  They'd be more effective obviously but I think they'll feel better if they were weaker but were actually more consistently useful.  Often, enemy ships will just break through your line and run right past the turrets, making them pretty much pointless.

Tractor turrets, gravity turrets, EMP mines, the Military Command's translocation shots, and those kinds of goodies are there to make this harder. But yes, some stuff is meant to blast through. Turrets aren't a universal "stop everything". I tend to think that's okay. You can stop an awful lot with them once you figure out how to build a strong defense.

It takes away a lot of personality if they're changed into ships that are worse than your other ships, instead of something else entirely.
-Turrets and mines.  They're stationary, but do they really need to be?  It just makes things more of a hassle than they need to be.  Just make them mobile defense bots that don't have warp drives or something so they can't cross wormholes.  They'd be more effective obviously but I think they'll feel better if they were weaker but were actually more consistently useful.  Often, enemy ships will just break through your line and run right past the turrets, making them pretty much pointless.

Tractor turrets, gravity turrets, EMP mines, the Military Command's translocation shots, and those kinds of goodies are there to make this harder. But yes, some stuff is meant to blast through. Turrets aren't a universal "stop everything". I tend to think that's okay. You can stop an awful lot with them once you figure out how to build a strong defense.

It takes away a lot of personality if they're changed into ships that are worse than your other ships, instead of something else entirely.
Yeah; can I just say, give this (https://www.arcengames.com/forums/index.php/topic,13369.0.html) a read. You don't necessarily have to go all out with it, but even the simple lesson (http://i.imgur.com/8VLDIZt.png) of 'concentrate your Turrets near your Command Stations, instead of splitting them up among all the possible wormholes' is very useful.

I'm very aware of how to make a strong defense.  I just think that the current way of doing it is really really tedious and boring, it could really benefit from being streamlined.  Do we really have to place all of the mines and turrets and position the gravity turrets just right?  Why can't we just do something like upgrade the command station to do these things, like create a planet-wide gravity field, long range tractors, etc.?  Why not just place a booby trap right on the wormhole that damages passerbys in a certain area around the wormhole, instead of having to place mines manually using line place?

I'm not really sure about the whole 'personality' thing here.  Though now that you say it, replacing turrets with new kinds of ships is kind of an asinine idea.  However, do the turrets really need to be completely stationary?  Even if they have a movespeed of 1, I think it would be fantastic if it were possible to reposition them without having to tediously tear them down and build them again. 
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cyborg on September 04, 2016, 08:18:43 PM
Do we really have to place all of the mines and turrets and position the gravity turrets just right?  Why can't we just do something like upgrade the command station to do these things, like create a planet-wide gravity field, long range tractors, etc.?

The reason is, placing your turrets, choosing which ones to buy, and having range limitations gives meaningful decision points to the player. That creates a game.

That being said, I think the line place tool is hidden from the average player who doesn't even know it exists because the GUI needs improvement. And I think we'll get that GUI improvement.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Elestan on September 05, 2016, 12:40:01 AM
Do we really have to place all of the mines and turrets and position the gravity turrets just right?  Why can't we just do something like upgrade the command station to do these things, like create a planet-wide gravity field, long range tractors, etc.?

The reason is, placing your turrets, choosing which ones to buy, and having range limitations gives meaningful decision points to the player. That creates a game.

That being said, I think the line place tool is hidden from the average player who doesn't even know it exists because the GUI needs improvement. And I think we'll get that GUI improvement.

I think the problem here is not mines and turrets per se, but the UI for placing them.  When placing a single unit, the forbid zones of all units should be visible, and the placement shadow should always stay in the closest legal location to the pointer (it should never turn red).  That way, it's really easy to put a new unit flush to an existing one, and the player always knows exactly where the unit will appear when they click.  The UI for mass placement should (IMHO) be:  First click sets your center point, hold and drag to expand the area, release to set the area, then one more click to set the rotation.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: tadrinth on September 05, 2016, 06:40:55 PM
On memorization:
I remembered another thing I like about AI War, but that probably isn't something that needs to be emphasized in AI War 2. A quote from HPMOR:

"One of the requisites for becoming a powerful wizard is an excellent memory. The key to a puzzle is often something you read twenty years ago in an old scroll, or a peculiar ring you saw on the finger of a man you met only once."

AI War is FULL OF THIS.  The enormous amount of organic complexity means that remembering all the little details can be extremely powerful, and there's a part of me that LOVES THAT.   On the other hand, having to read through 6 volumes of patch notes to understand all the game mechanics is really brutal to newcomers. And, applying those details is often more gap-in-the-wall; bullheaded targeting on carriers makes them vulnerable to photon lances, for example. Or splitting the graph to counter Special Forces. 

On tactics:
I also fail to see how the difficulty level is of relevance here, the AI uses the same general tactics for difficulty 7+.  Again, my issue is that I never get to do cool stuff with my fleet aside from hurl it at the other fleet.

I think the tactical/puzzle aspect comes through more in the very early game, and in the AI HW assaults (at least in low AIP/no superweapon games). 

Fallen Spire seems like it erodes the mechanics that give rise to tactical play; exos don't vary in speed, photon lances don't care about hull type, etc.  But, some people still really love doing Fallen Spire. Fallen Spire probably needs its own thread to dig into what people like and don't like about it.

Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: zharmad on September 06, 2016, 04:37:16 AM
Fallen Spire seems like it erodes the mechanics that give rise to tactical play; exos don't vary in speed, photon lances don't care about hull type, etc.  But, some people still really love doing Fallen Spire. Fallen Spire probably needs its own thread to dig into what people like and don't like about it.

Fallen Spire exchanges tactical play for strategical play, specifically on open maps such as Simple and Realistic. It gives you multiple-front conflicts as well as the means to defend them via Spire Cities. For example, I run about 4-6  navies in a FS+Golems game, divided by role: main, reserve, starship, rapid response, carrier, engineer corps, and botnet, and there might be three separate routes of defence due to the layout.

Commanding at that level, one no longer cares as much about tactical details. It's more about how long your reserves will delay and attrition an incoming force, priorities for your raiding fleet, etc. I would argue that this is still core AI War, and is part of what enables a conventional war instead of guerrilla war.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: Cinth on September 06, 2016, 03:05:16 PM
Yep.  Those major factions literally change the way the game is played.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chemical_art on September 06, 2016, 03:28:42 PM
I will tomorrow make a thread for Fallen spire, because I need more time myself to identify with what makes it so special and also to hear from others what make is so.

For myself:
1) It presents a story not limited in scope. The more you learn, the more you learn about how the AI is attacking other galaxies.
2) It provides scale. You think the AI is oppressive in this galaxy? The AI is devoting far more resources in other galaxies, and they still cannot compete in scale.  Our galaxy may (emphasis: may) be the origin of it, but other forces are taking it to a new scale. A bit humbling.
3)If you finish the campaign, seeing a force greater then the AI is among the most intense and unique moments in AI wars you can see.
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: skrutsch on September 10, 2016, 01:05:30 AM
The reason is, placing your turrets, choosing which ones to buy, and having range limitations gives meaningful decision points to the player. That creates a game.

I don't see meaningful decision points in AIW Classic. Since a defense has to be able to handle "everything" and all planets are similar, the best defensive placement is always going to look pretty much the same.  Just follow Kahuna's great guide and you have a fine defensive setup.  But anything this micro-intensive that has one optimal solution either needs to be done automatically (like Orelius mentioned above), removed entirely, or made more interesting to provide meaningful choices to the player. 

Some possibilities for the latter, too low-level for the main discussion:
Now that we are considering more planetary "terrain", maybe make different-shaped gravity wells, "unstable" areas where turrets can't be placed (or ships can't enter and/or be fired on or out of), restrict or increase the number of turrets (maybe by less/extra planetary power available), maybe say "gas planets interfere too much with grav turrets" or "cloaking doesn't work near a white dwarf", all sorts of things that could encourage player thinking.

Also, why not give the AI some options better than a beeline blob to your home command system?  Perhaps you make the AI eliminate some "core shields" on the same planet before it can assault the home command center, but it gets multiple (or random?!) entry points into your home planet?
Title: Re: Core design: What makes AI war, AI war?
Post by: chow404 on September 10, 2016, 06:43:36 PM
My favorite was the ability to do insane tactics and strategies, and them being occasionally effective, i.e. hacking every hackable target at the same time (the retaliation can be punishing, but you can defend it. Occasionally), or neinzul attrition wars.