Report 029: AI evolved

This report contains the changes of the 0.2130 update.

It has become noticeable last updates are breaking the routine of (almost) weekly updates.
In order to prevent bigger delays between updates, this update was initially proposed to be a quick improvement by setting up to date some details in the AI.
However, the list of desired improvements quickly grew, resulting in this update missing the intended release date.

Just to warn , before start to talk more about this update, most of the improvements are related to code, so this report will rely a bit more in text than usual.

Also, a quick context to these improvements and about the AI in general..
As it was mentioned before, one of the design goals is to make the AI be able to accomplishes any mission just like the player, this with the flexibility of being capable of adapt to any unit and weapon regardless of the specs without the need for any additional tweaking.
In the addition to this, the AI should follow the same game play rules as the player, behave as natural as possible with a reaction time similar to any human and more importantly, never use any 100% accurate calculations.
But all this requirements should be accomplished while computation required should be light as possible to the CPU, allowing to be used many AI units as possible in a low specs PC.

There is a lot more to talk about the design philosophies and goals regarding the AI development, but explaining it all here would probably divert the attention from actually matters, the update.
Sometime in the future it can be made an article explaining in detail the thoughts, steps and goals of the development of the AI for those who like to read articles about game design.

But going back to this update. What was improved in the AI? Here are some examples:
-Now when engaging a group of enemy units that greatly outnumber your team, some of them may not take your team seriously and drop their guard, other however, may be more moralized than if they were facing a equal number, as result they will pilot with more confidence.
-However,if you kill many, you see they will start to be more cautious when engaging you.
-Some of them may flee to regroup with their allies.
-Others will provide assistance to any team member in need.
-Some may like to face head on while may pass trough you to later flank you.
-Other are more interested in pursuing targets, but ignore them if they are too fast to catch up.

This are just some examples, but this is best to be experienced, so I’ll refrain from telling all what they can do, so you can be surprised by some unusual behavior.

Also, while the AI before this update was ok, in scenario where it was 1-vs-1 it behaved too mechanically to be interesting, now the AI will try different approaches to catch the player.

Just so you can be aware while this is a significant improvement, currently the AI is only roughly 40% of the development done
Also, these changes do not affect the difficulty in a noticeable way, while they are more intelligent and more effective in some situations, it may actually have become a bit more easy because they have now a less mechanical and not always use the optimal behavior.

As soon the update becomes available, I look forward to hear your opinion about these new AI improvements.

As for other changes in the game code:

-Improved collision avoidance routines
As mentioned in the last preview, the collision mechanics have been improved and it is a more evolved than it was previously showcased, but is still possible to AI to crash, although now that situation is more related to the AI personality than the actual coded script.

-Fix bugs
Several bugs that could result in game crashes were fixed; these bugs were more prevalent in Campaign and Battle Scenario mode. An additional attention was given to the testing; all the bugs encountered during the development of this update were fixed.

-Descriptions in external files with multi language support
Thanks to the MyHatismyFriend’s descriptions packs, it raised awareness to an issue related how the descriptions were being managed. Because this information was contained in the same file as the game play information, anyone that downloaded MyHatismyFriend’s packs and then updated the game, could potentially lose this custom pack due to the overwriting of files. To prevent this, is now possible to add the descriptions and other informations in an external file and also link them to an aditional language, so now it is possible to custom weapons/units descriptions for other languages.
In future updates, the same method will be used for missions and campaigns to allow custom translations of future missions to other languages.

Also, regarding to the MyHatismyFriend’s descriptions, they were integrated in the default version.

-Fixed electronics not working the exact same for AI players
A little detail, but to make the gampleay more even, now the AI players follow the same rules as the player, before this update the there some new mechanics that not properly affect the AI players

-Show blur effect only at a relevant damage
Another little detail, but before this, the radial blur was used even with very light damage, it was even more awkward when it was use due to stress damage. It has been fixed, so now it is used in accordance with the relative damage received.

-Adjustable Camera Shake effect
Yet another simple detail, but it really helps anticipate when it is about to reach the point it starts the stress damage.

-Configuration option for radio chat
There were quite a bit suggestions regarding to this, some of them actually had opposing views, so the best way to make everyone happy is to add in the options menu the possibility to configure the way they like.

Also thanks to BAF staff for providing their own voices to the game, with this update was added ten new voice packs.

-Save Last skirmish configuration and the option of adjustable AI skill level
This improvement is only a matter of usability, but now it is automatically saved the last configuration in the skirmish menu. And also, it was added the option to configure the skill level for the AIs.

-Delayed action
This improvement is more related to the mission creation, but as the game editor is coming soon, the more features the game has before the Editor development, the better.
This feature allows setting a timed delay for action to be played. It is useful when a single trigger may activate multiple actions that the creator does not wish to be activated at the same time.

-Random actions
This one was requested in the forums some time ago. It is the ability to trigger a random group of defined actions. If used it can add replay value as the mission maker can for example, define it to randomly spawn different squads or spawn in different positions.

-Improved campaign/battle scenarios menus
Both game modes menus had some slight improvements

And that’s all for code improvements, as more additional content. In this update it wasn’t added much, just a single big unit.

In the last preview it was shown this picture:

Now it is time to reveal to who belongs that big shadow in the ground:

For quite some time there was a big interest in adding some huge unit full of turrets and special weapons, something that could be used as a really interesting boss.
While in theory this was already possible to do that right from the first release, it was never tested, so it possible could had some unforeseen issues.
Because of that, it was decided that someday this type of unit had to be created to properly test this idea.

And that is way is the reason this unit was created, the EOS-01 Ziz is the prototype fictional unit and it will be used to help the development of colossal type units.
It is already planed several variants to test different mechanics, this version is unarmed and it was used to test the fight behavior of this kind of aircraft.

A comparison picture so you can have the awareness of his humongous size.
The units in the comparison are Karen doorman, B52H, Su-47,F-16.

After the success of the first unit, it was created the first variant, the EOS-01T Ziz, the “T” stands for turret type, as this variant has multiple turrets of various roles scattered around the upper section of the aircraft.

Like it was stated above, this unit was created as a proof of concept, to be a weapon test bed and finally to be used for the development of other large type of units.
But with this said I’m sure that most of you don’t really care and are more interested in fighting against this unit, for you, it was added a new battle scenario mission where you can face off against this monster.

But other thing to be aware, because it was developed as the primarily objective to be used as a test, there are several gameplay elements that require tweaking.
To mitigate some balancing issues, only just a few turrets are enabled for now, otherwise it would be too overkill and deadly.

And that’s all for this update, the next it will bring the promised Jaguar and the addition more weapons that was not possible to include in this update. There were also some improvements that were requested, like the gun aiming system and some issues with the bomb drop that can be addressed in the next update.

And after that it will be rereleased the initial version of the game editor.

  • Improved collision avoidance routines
  • Improved AI
  • Improved campaign/battle scenarios menus
  • Fixed electronics not working the exact same for AI players
  • Fixed show blur effect only at a relevant damage
  • Added descriptions in external files with multi language support
  • Added adjustable Camera Shake effect
  • Added configuration option for voice chat
  • Added auto save last skirmish configuration and the option of adjustable AI skill level
  • Added delayed actions
  • Added random actions

  • Added EOS-01P Ziz
  • Added EOS-01T Ziz

Special thanks to :
MyHatismyFriend for the aircrafts and weapons descriptions.

And also to:
Kilel (Kyle “Kilel” Quibel)
Mannie (Emanuel Dowell)
Cayce ( Cayce “The Baron” Grissom)
FlyAwayNow (Matthew “FlyAwayNow” Nguyen)
Laz (Francis-Santo Viola)
For providing their voices to the game.

Stay tuned, more reports will follow.

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