My site for talking about the customization of Windows.

In Galactic Civilizations, Sins of a Solar Empire and Demigod, the difficulty levels of computer players were either hard coded or very hard to access for players.

In Elemental, the difficulty levels are in an XML file called CoreDifficultyLevels.xml

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The game will read from the different difficulty levels and display them in game. Players can create new difficulty levels themselves if they’d like by changing this file.

In Galactic Civilizations, I only had 3 real variables to play with (and were all in a .h file).  They were the AI intelligence, the AI money ratio, and whether the AI had FOW cheats. 

The AI intelligence ratio was how often the AI got to use the “smart” algorithms versus the “normal” algorithms. The smart ones took up a lot more CPU but produced much more intelligent result (they are the halmark of what we used to refer to as the “SDS/AI” back in the OS/2 days).

In Elemental, we have a few more variables to play with such as whether the AI gets to use combat magic, how many points the AI gets to add to their sovereign (compared to the human player) and their starting funds.

What’s nice about a data driven difficulty system is that players can create their own difficulty levels as they see fit very easily.  One of my favorites (that I would do in my personal builds of GalCiv) was to give the AI a ton of money but make it absolutely stupid so that I was just trying to make my way through hordes of poorly designed ships and terrible unit strategy.

With Elemental, I could see players creating all kinds of interesting scenarios because (and this should be remembered because it’s important) the keys are not file based. That is, you don’t have to put things into coredifficultylevels.xml. The game simply looks in directories based on the keys. So you could literally create a new difficulty level in a file called BobsSuperCustomLevels.xml and hand them out.

One AI promise from me personally to you guys

The AI in our games is only as good as I am. The better I get at the game, the better the AI will get.  So while I’m working hard to make sure the AI in Elemental is good, know that it will keep getting better long after release.  In the Starcraft 2 beta, I started out in Copper. Now, I’m in the Platinum league. Practice makes perfect.


Comments (Page 1)
on May 31, 2010

I doubt that anyone will use the handicaps. Most people will only alter the basic difficulty.

on May 31, 2010

I might even make a small Lotus Domino app that will make a randomized crazy file for me before every game. So that I know that I will face some crazy AI, but not what

on May 31, 2010

Very Sweet!!! Even the AI will be "customizable". Love it


One AI promise from me personally to you guys

We'll hold you to that

on May 31, 2010

This will be the first game that I might actually mess with the code for ai then. (But I know I will use the editors a hell of a lot!)

on May 31, 2010

Can we see the full source of the file so we have an idea of what options we are going to have?

on May 31, 2010

nice!  there no telling whats going to be coming down the pipe years from now.

on May 31, 2010

Could we potentially make our own difficulty variables? Like make the AI generate twice as much mana, for instance?

on May 31, 2010

To be honest, I only have one concern. I want an AI that DOES NOT CHEAT. And I want whether or not bonuses / cheating apply at different levels to be clearly documented.

on May 31, 2010

I'd like to see the AI have some intentional personality flaws.  Like maybe an AI who holds a grudge way too much, and expends an inordinate amount of resources just trying to get revenge against an enemy who killed one of his offspring many years earlier.

 

on May 31, 2010

So while an AI might not 'learn' during a game, it would be possible to slowly increase its 'intelligence' by changing this file, thus approximating 'learning'?

Obviously starting money can't change after the game starts, but we can change (either by turn number or by some triggers such as AI or the player reaching some level of tech and/or spell research, or some other measure):

-the points the AI Sovs have

-add in at some point, or increase the use of, AI Sovs using combat magic

-AI intelligence (how often the AI got to use the “smart” algorithms versus the “normal” algorithms.)

-AI money ratio

-whether the AI had FOW cheats (could the range of FOW cheats be increased or is it on/off?)

-whatever else is included that wasn't mentioned or that I missed

If so that would be cool

on May 31, 2010

my only concern is the relience on cheats for the ai to make it a challenge for the player. I'm tired of games where the only way to up the difficulty is to give the ai more resources. i would much rather the ai started on the same level, but was actually good at using the resources it has more ffectively. I'm sure you will do all you can to limit ai cheating, and i am confident that the ai will be good for the task, but with the focus of the game being single player i would hate for the ai to be reduced to petty monetry issues.

on May 31, 2010

I don't care if the AI cheats or not, as long as it's challenging.

on May 31, 2010

my only concern is the relience on cheats for the ai to make it a challenge for the player. I'm tired of games where the only way to up the difficulty is to give the ai more resources. i would much rather the ai started on the same level, but was actually good at using the resources it has more ffectively. I'm sure you will do all you can to limit ai cheating, and i am confident that the ai will be good for the task, but with the focus of the game being single player i would hate for the ai to be reduced to petty monetry issues.

Well yeah, everyone would love it if AI's could actually "think" and play like a human. But AI technology is only so advanced, and it will be many, many years before a computer can successfully replicate a human's intelligence. Until that happens, you're just going to have to live with cheating AI's, because after a point that is the only way to make them more challenging.

on May 31, 2010

Chipwich
I doubt that anyone will use the handicaps. Most people will only alter the basic difficulty.

 

yeah what really bothered me in civ4 was how much stupid was ai and how much cheating it was

 

thats just boring, you can get an achievement like but its not a game anymore

hope in elemental most of effort will go into developing a competitive ai without cheating and then we can adjust it

 

 

also if i can suggest i personally prefer maybe some kind of starting handicap like 50 more gold or 3 fighters instead of 2 then just crap %multiplier like a permanent 10% on production or gold which imo just destroys the game

on May 31, 2010

 I would like to see an AI that doesn't cheat, provide endless competition and ingenuity.  Wish you used a couple other Stardockians to help code though.  For a game of this magnitude(grand hopes) the AI should not be skimped on at the beginning.  I say this as a result of the MoM experience.  We wanted to play MoM badly initially then the game was released very buggy and most left to pursue other gaming options(there were more unique, interesting titles at that time).  After patching the game was playable and very fun but still the AI had(has) problems that needed to be addressed.  Almost every single 4x strategy game has some AI problems that diminish its overall qualtiy.  Its the weak link or the unarmored underside of the genre.

 I'm sure you will do all you can to write/create an excellent AI model from which the rest can be added/altered later.  Thanks again for another wonderful update. 

 

 

 

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