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Towards a better AI...


John DiFool
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Yeah, I know, most everyone plays online (I would

if certain play balance issues were ever addressed).

But for those who would like to see a better AI, I

will discuss some of the AI's shortcomings, and

suggest some possible remedies.

Problem: The AI is always attacking-even

when it should be on the strategic defensive. It

thus will often do you a big favor by softening

up its own troops for you to eliminate.

Solution: Use the summary screen and/or any

visible enemy units to check for whether any

general attacks should be attempted this turn. In

other words, the AI shouldn't launch any attacks

(on full-strength units-see below) unless the

following conditions apply:

* The enemy has less land strength than the AI (as

revealed on the summary screen), adjusted for

such things as second fronts (which would naturally

drain off manpower from the other front-such as an

Overlord). Basically this will reflect the level

of reserves [units and/or MPPs]-don't attack if

your reserves are too low to replace losses! And

an enemy which has reserves will be able to yank

the unit the AI just attacked, and send in say a

full-strength armor to kill the now-weakened AI

attacker).

* The AI has other full strength/powerful

units nearby (safety in numbers). Likewise if

some powerful enemy armor units are nearby, then

don't attack either.

* The enemy unit in question stands a good

chance of being eliminated, OR, the attack is at

such good odds that the attacker likely will lose

very few or no points in the attack. Essentially

the general threshold for launching an attack

should be quite a bit higher than it is now.

Problem: The AI often overextends itself,

making it easy to cut off its units. I once

nailed 2 German armor in the opening days of the

'42 scenario because they went ahead without

support.

Solution: Make sure any exploiting units

have support, typically a chain of unbroken units

leading back to an HQ (and said chain should have

no "weak links", natch).

Problem: The AI launches its Overlord

invasions prematurely, often without HQ support.

Landed units are then quickly eliminated.

Solution: Stupid Human Tricks aside (like

the French Conga Line, that unbroken series of

corps which keeps shifting back and forth from the

North Shore to the West Shore, keeping the AI in

perpetual check), the AI should wait until

sufficient masses of troops have been accumulated,

air superiority attained (3 German L3 jets in

France is a no go), and the Russians have succeeded

in bleeding the Wehrmacht dry (as told by the

summary screen pie diagram-a steady or sudden

drop in same is a "go" signal). It goes without

saying that HQs are a prerequisite...

Okay, that's enough for now. These are

probably the three biggest issues I can think of

(of course there are more).

John DiFool

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One thing I may add to this topic is the Allies AI "D-Day"... My problem is not the way it do it or when... It's if it's successful or not...

If the AI "D-Day" is successful... That is, it has a good foothold on France, pouring troops often and slowly (or quickly if you're unprepared ;) ) driving Germany/Italy back, then everything is fine...

On the other hand, if the AI initiate a "D-Day" but for whatever reason (Good initial defense... Quick operation of troops fron Russia to France... etc...) it is due to fail, it keep pouring troops into France to die, one by one...

It should learn when to quit... Fall back to UK and wait, preparing another "D-Day"...

For example: If the AI have 4 or less troops/tanks in France and no troops in UK/USA to reinforce, then it should turn into 'retreat & rebuild mode'...

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A lot of these are good ideas for improving the operational-level AI - how the AI optimizes moves and attacks during a turn. As Shaka points out, this is largely a matter of style. The AI actually works fairly well here, but can be improved. There are distinct differences between defensive and offensive operations, and maybe the AI can be tweaked to recognize which mode its in and act accordingly. Too often it does silly things when it's on the strategic defensive, like attack when it should be holding, or buying and reinforcing expensive air fleets and HQs rather than cheap ground units it really needs to hold a line. I'd really like to see the AI disband air and HQs at some point in its final defense, rather than treat them like sacred cows to the bitter end.

What we really need is an improvement to the strategic-level AI. A general list in no particular order:

- German U-boat strategy, both to buy some and use them effectively.

- German invasion strategy for Norway.

- German strategy for Sealion and realistic trigger for attempting it based on the known situation. (Lots of Brits in the Med taking advantage of the AI is a good sign there aren't a lot of Brits defending the home island. But we should be careful that Germany is not easily suckered into doing a stupid Sealion either.)

- British strategy for reinforcing North Africa via the South Atlantic loop. (And perhaps an exit strategy, for fleets and transports to leave via the South Atlantic loop?)

- British strategy for Iraq. (Or just make this a random event for Iraq to enter as a minor ally?)

- German/Italian strategy for the Med (including seaborne invasion strategy for Greece, air/naval support, and German reinforcement of North Africa.)

- British/US strategy for the Med (like an Italy-first invasion plan rather than D-Day in 42/43).

The AI needs to consider all these options, but not be locked into any particular strategy. Some high level grand strategy decision-making could be worked into the AI, very much like human players already do. For instance, should the Med be a priority or should the North Atlantic campaign be a priority? Obviously you must react to whatever your opponent does, but given a choice you either make it a priority or you don't. The computer could also make these choices based on the situation and some random element, and its decisions could then drive operational strategy until something triggers a change in the grand strategy. This is probably easier said than done, but if SC2 can make it happen then we'll have a very respectable AI opponent. :cool:

[ February 23, 2003, 09:52 AM: Message edited by: Bill Macon ]

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A few points on the lack of an agressive AI...

Has anyone seen a successful AI invasion of France? In all the games I have played, no matter the level, the AI continuously invades along the same Normany beach area, and I am able to simply bottle them up in the peninsula. Over a few turns, I manage to weaken them to a point that they pose no threat. Once in awhile, a single transport may probe down around southern France but it is never an actual threat.

Regarding Norway...I know if I capture Oslo and do not take Bergen quickly, then the AI will move a unit into the city...that's nice to see, but if I have both cities, how about the UK invading and attempt to retake Norway? All that happens for me is a naval unit reducing the Bergen army a point or two each turn.

I have also played a few games, where on purpose, I ignored the western desert front. I found that as the axis, if I'm not agressive, than the AI will completely ingore the front as well. At one point, I captured Tobruk and then just sat there. The AI would launch a probe attack or two then call it a day. Just once, I would like to see the AI launch an end around invasion on my exposed western flank.

British naval units in the MED need to be more agressive too. They should not only counter what the axis do. How about a combined UK naval attack on a Italian fleet still at port? Now that would be nice to see....has anyone in fact seen that?

I have yet to see the AI invade Italy/Sicily, even when I have the country lightly defended. I do not know what parameters may trigger the AI to do this, but when I have a fight on my hands in Russia, and the AI simply launches their Dieppe raids on France, I wonder what the AI needs to see in order to attack the soft underbelly.

For me, the AI is still too cautious and reactionary...it needs to take the same type of gambles and risks that a human player does, though that may be difficult to program effectively...Perhaps some of you could post the type of agressive AI activity that you have seen, which I still have not...

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Originally posted by J P Wagner:

Has anyone seen a successful AI invasion of France?

Yes... My first Axis game... Not enough research...

For USA - Army & Corps, Tanks (lvl 2), Plane(lvl 5) & HQ (Eisenhower)

For UK - Army & Corps, Plane (lvl 4)& HQ (Monty)

Even the famous Free French Air Fleet!...

Originally posted by J P Wagner:

Regarding Norway... how about the UK invading and attempt to retake Norway? All that happens for me is a naval unit reducing the Bergen army a point or two each turn.

Indeed... A direct amphibious assault to Oslo may be too dangerous because it is too close to the german Fleet/Air Fleet... But an aphibious assault to Bergen, then a land march to Oslo (don't forget an HQ!) may be possible...

I think AI is too focused on preparing the "D-Day"...

Originally posted by J P Wagner:

British naval units in the MED need to be more agressive too. They should not only counter what the axis do. How about a combined UK naval attack on a Italian fleet still at port? Now that would be nice to see....has anyone in fact seen that?

No, never... As Italy, as soon as I destroy the Egyptian Fleet(turn 5-6), it seem UK abandon the Mediterranean theater completely... Even the battleship in Gibraltar quit to the UK...

They could also use the help of French ships to remove the Italians fleet... They have time before France Surrender...

Originally posted by J P Wagner:

I have yet to see the AI invade Italy/Sicily, even when I have the country lightly defended. ... I wonder what the AI needs to see in order to attack the soft underbelly.

It needs complete control over the Mediterrannean... A thing it seems unable to do...

Axis or Allies, I always seems to take control of the sea there...

Originally posted by J P Wagner:

Perhaps some of you could post the type of agressive AI activity that you have seen, which I still have not...

The only Aggressive AI activity I witnessed is: As the Axis, if I take too long to declare war on Low Countries, the Allies will do it!... With a catastrophic result for them... I had enough time to build up my forces and I can move beyond Brussels... It's already mine and defended by a friendly Corps that I can reinforce at will!...

All in all, the AI is great on a turn to turn basis... It only lack the potential to plot some sneaky grand strategy...

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