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AI, strategy and tactics
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kinoko_otoko
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Joined: 25 Jun 2007

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 7:00 pm    Post subject:  AI, strategy and tactics Reply with quote

First, a comment about AI. I made a post saying I think you shouldn't change the rules of the game, but I consider AI to be separate from rules - AI is an entity whose purpose it to play according to the rules. That said, I still think it should be designed with modding in mind, whether that means soft coding or generic behaviour (I don't know which would be harder...).

Second, a word about the difference between strategy and tactics.

In real life, strategy occurs before battle. It is the planning stage. An example would be as follows: You know where an enemy base is located, and you must attack it. The strategy would be in planning from what direction to send your troops in, what kind of troops to send, where and how to attack the base; for example, attacking their power plants to disable defenses and then moving more powerful but more vulnerable units in once the defenses are down. This is strategy.

Tactics occurs after the battle commences. Tactics consist of decisions made in the heat of battle. Examples would be groups of units concentrating their fire, individual units choosing to fire at the target most vulnerable to their particular weapon, or a medic retreating or taking cover when under fire. Another good example would be disruptor tanks holding their fire when friendlies are in the way and, conversely, friendlies staying out of a disruptor tank's line of fire.

The blurring of tactics and strategy is a fundamental pitfall that most RTS games fall into, including Warcraft/Starcraft and all of the C&C games (possibly excepting Generals and TW, which I haven't played yet). Games that implement tactical gameplay well are team based FPSs, squad command FPSs, and some MMOs. In all of these games the player either commands a small group of AI characters, or more commonly works in concert with other players.

There is not, to my knowledge an RTS that handles this well; there is a good reason for this: RTS games are, by definition, strategy games. In real life, a high ranking officer who plans a strategy for a given operation is not concerned with tactics at all; the burden of tactical command falls to squad leaders and, of course, to each soldier. This invites an MMOFPS/RTS hybrid with players acting as strategic commanders to other players that fight in an FPS perspective - but I think that, for the moment, that is beyond the scope of this project (although it is another good reason to include first person control support).

...

The suggestions by Yuri 07, DragonFly and Pynk in the wishes thread reflect a general awareness of a problem with tactics, as well as an obvious solution: Make the infantry handle tactics automatically. The problem with this is that it would drastically alter gameplay; the way TS is designed, a player who micromanages his troops has a huge advantage over one who doesn't. This is most obvious in a single player game against the AI, where a player controlled force will always overcome an equivalent AI controlled force as long as the player concentrates his troops' fire on one unit at a time.

For this reason, I would say that troops tactics should be supported by the engine, but not used in the initial release, to allow modders to use it without changing the original gameplay.

Alternatively, you could use a tempered approach to automated tactics. Two ways to do this easily come to mind.

One is by requiring the player to define tactical behaviour ahead of time. This would be the equivalent to real life training where you are actually taught tactics; in-game this would require a special interface for selecting different groups of units and defining behaviour. A useful option would be to define blanket tactics for units at different levels of abstraction: General behaviour for all infantry, for instance (like avoiding being squished), behaviour for specific infantry types (medics should always heal the worst wounds first) and even for specific groups (group A consists of attack buggies, cyborgs and light infantry and should target primarily enemy infantry, and avoid certain enemies altogether, while group B consists of cyborg reapers, rocket infantry and attack cycles and should concentrate fire on one armored unit at a time, and group C is a group of tick tanks that will charge in and take out embedded defenses like juggernauts, artillery or defensive structures).

The other, simpler way is simply to make tactics an investment. This would be something that the player could buy that would cause his troops to use smart tactics (incidentally, I believe there was originally to be a threat-assessment upgrade for the GDI upgrade center which was dropped). Or (and I really like this idea) you could have a special unit with weak armor and little or no weaponry to act as a squad leader. This unit would have an AOE ability that caused all units near him to utilize smart tactics.

...Still, this would mark a major change to the gameplay, so again I would recommend supporting this type of logic without featuring it in the initial release.

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Judeau
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Joined: 28 Feb 2004

PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2007 9:48 pm    Post subject: Re: AI, strategy and tactics Reply with quote

kinoko_otoko wrote:
First, a comment about AI. I made a post saying I think you shouldn't change the rules of the game, but I consider AI to be separate from rules - AI is an entity whose purpose it to play according to the rules. That said, I still think it should be designed with modding in mind, whether that means soft coding or generic behaviour (I don't know which would be harder...).

Second, a word about the difference between strategy and tactics.

In real life, strategy occurs before battle. It is the planning stage. An example would be as follows: You know where an enemy base is located, and you must attack it. The strategy would be in planning from what direction to send your troops in, what kind of troops to send, where and how to attack the base; for example, attacking their power plants to disable defenses and then moving more powerful but more vulnerable units in once the defenses are down. This is strategy.

Tactics occurs after the battle commences. Tactics consist of decisions made in the heat of battle. Examples would be groups of units concentrating their fire, individual units choosing to fire at the target most vulnerable to their particular weapon, or a medic retreating or taking cover when under fire. Another good example would be disruptor tanks holding their fire when friendlies are in the way and, conversely, friendlies staying out of a disruptor tank's line of fire.

The blurring of tactics and strategy is a fundamental pitfall that most RTS games fall into, including Warcraft/Starcraft and all of the C&C games (possibly excepting Generals and TW, which I haven't played yet). Games that implement tactical gameplay well are team based FPSs, squad command FPSs, and some MMOs. In all of these games the player either commands a small group of AI characters, or more commonly works in concert with other players.

There is not, to my knowledge an RTS that handles this well; there is a good reason for this: RTS games are, by definition, strategy games. In real life, a high ranking officer who plans a strategy for a given operation is not concerned with tactics at all; the burden of tactical command falls to squad leaders and, of course, to each soldier. This invites an MMOFPS/RTS hybrid with players acting as strategic commanders to other players that fight in an FPS perspective - but I think that, for the moment, that is beyond the scope of this project (although it is another good reason to include first person control support).

...

The suggestions by Yuri 07, DragonFly and Pynk in the wishes thread reflect a general awareness of a problem with tactics, as well as an obvious solution: Make the infantry handle tactics automatically. The problem with this is that it would drastically alter gameplay; the way TS is designed, a player who micromanages his troops has a huge advantage over one who doesn't. This is most obvious in a single player game against the AI, where a player controlled force will always overcome an equivalent AI controlled force as long as the player concentrates his troops' fire on one unit at a time.

For this reason, I would say that troops tactics should be supported by the engine, but not used in the initial release, to allow modders to use it without changing the original gameplay.

Alternatively, you could use a tempered approach to automated tactics. Two ways to do this easily come to mind.

One is by requiring the player to define tactical behaviour ahead of time. This would be the equivalent to real life training where you are actually taught tactics; in-game this would require a special interface for selecting different groups of units and defining behaviour. A useful option would be to define blanket tactics for units at different levels of abstraction: General behaviour for all infantry, for instance (like avoiding being squished), behaviour for specific infantry types (medics should always heal the worst wounds first) and even for specific groups (group A consists of attack buggies, cyborgs and light infantry and should target primarily enemy infantry, and avoid certain enemies altogether, while group B consists of cyborg reapers, rocket infantry and attack cycles and should concentrate fire on one armored unit at a time, and group C is a group of tick tanks that will charge in and take out embedded defenses like juggernauts, artillery or defensive structures).

The other, simpler way is simply to make tactics an investment. This would be something that the player could buy that would cause his troops to use smart tactics (incidentally, I believe there was originally to be a threat-assessment upgrade for the GDI upgrade center which was dropped). Or (and I really like this idea) you could have a special unit with weak armor and little or no weaponry to act as a squad leader. This unit would have an AOE ability that caused all units near him to utilize smart tactics.

...Still, this would mark a major change to the gameplay, so again I would recommend supporting this type of logic without featuring it in the initial release.


again, you're quite right, however, try and act less condescending, some people might find your way of speaking inflammatory.

I do have one thing to say, I think it would be a very bad idea to limit the ai opponents by not allowing their units to think tactically.

I would also think setting your units to guard would automatically have them acting in a more useful way ( in context ), as to indeed, guard an area.
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kinoko_otoko
Vehicle Driver


Joined: 25 Jun 2007

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 3:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm sorry if I sound condescending, I just like to be very clear. I'd be excited to use this engine if it's developed through to completion.

Also, Tiberian Sun Rising is a project to remake Tiberian Sun on the SAGE engine as a mod for Generals; if you ask really nice, they *might* share their graphics with you... But I wouldn't even ask until later in the development cycle, so you have something significant to show them. Merging the projects might not be a bad idea either.

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Judeau
Commander


Joined: 28 Feb 2004

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 7:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

kinoko_otoko wrote:
I'm sorry if I sound condescending, I just like to be very clear. I'd be excited to use this engine if it's developed through to completion.

Also, Tiberian Sun Rising is a project to remake Tiberian Sun on the SAGE engine as a mod for Generals; if you ask really nice, they *might* share their graphics with you... But I wouldn't even ask until later in the development cycle, so you have something significant to show them. Merging the projects might not be a bad idea either.


Aye, it would be, there's a few problems with it though, i'm trying to outdo the SAGE engine for example.
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kinoko_otoko
Vehicle Driver


Joined: 25 Jun 2007

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 2:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, I didn't mean to merge the projects; that was the wrong term. I meant to combine efforts on the graphics - that is, supposing you have some graphics talent that was going to try and produce art for OTS, they would instead join TSR's effort, but in return those graphical resources would be made available to both projects.

...Of course, that's a moot point unless you have some graphic talent lined up for this project.

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Kiith-Sa
Rocket Cyborg


Joined: 26 Oct 2004

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very good post.
I think, in AI, strategy should be definitely handled more-less separately from tactics. I think (in my engine), the best idea is to let the strategy handle the big orders and tactics micromanage the unit groups. And any RTS with mostly-hardcoded AI can outweigh TS/RA2 with their (badly designed) scripting system, but modders should still have the ability to strongly influence the AI. BTW, just one thing that could make AI stronger is to realize that this attack is totally futile (doesn't have a chance of heavily damaging even one of the main targets, based on both computation and record) and keep the units until later.

Also, I think that AI should be done as the last thing, maybe even after online support, and should be one of the main things to work on after the first working release. I'd like to help writing the AI for this project, but my knowledge is mostly modder/theoretical level.

I also think that making AI totally not cheat (even invisibly) or not giving modders the ability to make it cheat would not be the best idea since RTS AI is one of the hardest things to make.
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Judeau
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Joined: 28 Feb 2004

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Kiith-Sa wrote:
Very good post.
I think, in AI, strategy should be definitely handled more-less separately from tactics. I think (in my engine), the best idea is to let the strategy handle the big orders and tactics micromanage the unit groups. And any RTS with mostly-hardcoded AI can outweigh TS/RA2 with their (badly designed) scripting system, but modders should still have the ability to strongly influence the AI. BTW, just one thing that could make AI stronger is to realize that this attack is totally futile (doesn't have a chance of heavily damaging even one of the main targets, based on both computation and record) and keep the units until later.

Also, I think that AI should be done as the last thing, maybe even after online support, and should be one of the main things to work on after the first working release. I'd like to help writing the AI for this project, but my knowledge is mostly modder/theoretical level.

I also think that making AI totally not cheat (even invisibly) or not giving modders the ability to make it cheat would not be the best idea since RTS AI is one of the hardest things to make.


as i said, i'd like the TSO AI to evaluate all units, see what they can be used for
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kinoko_otoko
Vehicle Driver


Joined: 25 Jun 2007

PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ideally, your AI is going to be a simulation of a player. Therefore, it should be smart, but not perfect.

Although, keep in mind that if you make your AI too smart some people won't play it...

...

Incidentally, you might consider making the game - inasmuch as it is a remake of an EA game - require a valid Tiberian Sun CD key to work. This wouldn't really stop people from playing it if they didn't have TS (it doesn't stop people from downloading TS and using someone else's key in the first place) but it would be a nice gesture that could make EA less likely to send a C&D order.

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Judeau
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 26, 2007 10:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

kinoko_otoko wrote:
Ideally, your AI is going to be a simulation of a player. Therefore, it should be smart, but not perfect.

Although, keep in mind that if you make your AI too smart some people won't play it...

...

Incidentally, you might consider making the game - inasmuch as it is a remake of an EA game - require a valid Tiberian Sun CD key to work. This wouldn't really stop people from playing it if they didn't have TS (it doesn't stop people from downloading TS and using someone else's key in the first place) but it would be a nice gesture that could make EA less likely to send a C&D order.


I'll say this simply, NO, EA has no rights to the engine, it only has rights to the content, and even that, can easily be circumvented, by simply not having a substance called tiberium, and simply not calling it C&C or tiberian/tiberium.
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Audiopulse
Railgun Soldier


Joined: 08 Jul 2006
Location: in your closet... Post = true

PostPosted: Thu Jul 12, 2007 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Agreed xD

Kinoko, I love you! I was just about to post nearly the same. But I wasnt happy by thinking of how long my post wouldve become. Thanks for doing the work Smile

Just my Suggestion to the "Strategy"-part again. But there is one thing Id like to state here for once: My knowledge is limited about how things like Softwareengineering works. Ill just have to try to understand how AI and such works - until then it may happen that my Ideas or Suggestions are crap and non-realisable.

Dont take me wrong - but Kiddies are everywhere and I wanted point that out just before anyone starts yelling at my foolishnes Smile

Anyways:
Since it seems youre working more often with such things, you might know this:
http://z.cs.utexas.edu/users/nn/nero/download.php
Its an, in my opinion, interesting link that leads to a site where you can download a - lets call it "freewaregame". That game is all about AI. Youve got a group of robots with barely any AI. Theyre running circles and do nothing else. Now you got to use your Panel on the bottom of the screen to tell your robots which actions are good, which not and which are even bad. So, you can reward them for - lets say walking towards an enemy.
The Robots will now "recognize" walking towards enemys as "good", and good things got to be expandet. If youre waiting about five Minutes, every robot shouldve learned that already. The Robots AI learned something and wont just keep on walking circles anymore.

The very same thing works with "firing at enemies", "Avoiding getting hit by enemies", "staying together with friendly bots" and one or two other things I probably forgot.
That sounds just very interesting - if it would be possible to link that to OTS` Infantry somehow, theyd probably start to act like kinoko wants them to.

The only thing I am stuck about is, how to link that. Every single Bot would need to know, what is a "good thing", and what is a "bad thing". Back then at that Freewaregame you just pressed the Buttons and "told" your bots what theyre supposed to do, and what not, but this is supposed to become an RTS-game. The players got no time to press Buttons and train every single Infantrysquad. It _is_ possible to tell them getting hit by enemy fire is bad, but what then? The Bots will start getting out of enemy-fire by running simply away. Not very usefull.



Just about the part with the Strategy.
At generals you got to "tell" the AI where its supposed to send the tanks to. You got to define routes for an easy opponent, an medium one and the hard opponent. But what about defense? The AI is building the Basedefense-structures just all over the place. Wethether its sensefull at that spot or not seems to be of no matter to them. Is it possible to make the AI recognise, where e.g. the tanks are coming from, where it got to expect planes from and from which direction Infantry appeared, so it could react on the aussaults the player started? The AI could just divide the surrounding Area in several "areas" round around the base, like shown at my - I guess it is a Picture...

The more Tanks (Red Squres symbolize defeated enemytanks at this spot, the smaller dots are the same for infantry) approached from the north, the more RPG-sites the AI deployes at this side of the base (Inner circle). At the western side of the base is unpassable terrain, a mountain in that case. The AI probably wont be able to recognise that, but by that way it would be capable of "learning" that there hadnt come any tank so far from that direction - ergo: no RPG-site necessary. (Hard or Medium AI could build one or two there anyways, just in case Wink )
If Infantry tries to sneak up from the eastern side, so the AI builds Gattlings at the eastern Square.

The color of these "Ring-areas" just indicates for the AI, how dangerous it is there. Meaning, it tells the AI where it got to expect an attack. Red zones are dangerous. It is only a question of time when the next tanks will come. So, instead of leaving tanks in the middle of the base (as it happens in Generals), where probably wont occur any enemy (but possibly a nuke), the CPU would just spread its tanks at the red areas, and use tanks from there, if some are needed for a counterattack.

As you see - there is a blue zone also. Down just under the base is the map-end. There wont be any Enemys able to approach from, so the AI never registrated any enemy-unit at the squares down there which makes it rating those areas as blue, as safe. But if a human player would start to try to outrun the strong fortified red areas. Using Helis for example, the trick would work only once. As soon as the Attackchoppers arrive at the southeast/southwest the AI registrates their presence and changes the areas rating from blue (no danger) to green (low danger) or even yellow, if the player used alot of choppers.

The key is: The AI counts _what_, and _how many_ of it attacked from _which direction_. It also remembers those stats - maybe even for future matches. Kinokos saveable AI that improves with every match against the player could come in here.

My thougts...



Sorry for anything foolish or any horrible grammars - it is just very late here and that post exhausted me. Im out, good night...
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