No equal difficulty??

Field of Glory: Empires is a grand strategy game in which you will have to move in an intricate and living tapestry of nations and tribes, each one with their distinctive culture.
Set in Europe and in the Mediterranean Area during the Classical Age, experience what truly means to manage an Empire.

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lostangelonline
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No equal difficulty??

Post by lostangelonline » Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:48 am

Hi guys. When choosing Easy difficulty it says "AI gets several penalties", on Balanced "the AI will get minor advantages", on Experienced player also gets penalties, and so on. Since these bonuses/penalties are applied only if you are human/AI, they are definitely unrealistic, and I hate to play a history simulation with unrealistic mechanics. So, how can I disable all bonuses and penalties given to either players or AIs when choosing difficulty?

Ideally, in a historic simulation (and maybe all games where AI can be replaced by human players), difficulty should only change how smart is the AI (on Easy will be like playing against a noob player, on Suicidal against a pro player), just like difficulty in all the Chess games. Changing the mechanics, as I see in this game, creates many issues, like:
-I only played on Balanced so far, so when I played on MP on Experienced or harder, with the same nation and generally playing the same strategy, the outcome was different because of the penalties to Progress/Decadence/Loyalty. Now I never create or join a MP challenge that is not Balanced, because my decisions will have different outcome than expected, and might loose just because of that.
-you can not train for MP, against AI in SP, because AI is basically cheating, having bonuses that human player can not.
-even in Balanced, in MP, all AIs are basically cheating, having bonuses that human player can not.
-you can never compare how well you play with how well an AI plays, even if you play the same nation, as you can never advance like the AI does. For instance, I can never know if I win/lost against AI because I/it was smarter, or just because of bonuses/penalties. When winning on EU4(on no-bonuses/penalties difficulty), I knew for sure it was because I was better, but here I do not know for sure, so I do not have that achievement feeling.
-in MP, if a human player becomes idle and is played by AI, will that nation start cheating (if these bonuses apply)?

Can the devs add an "Equal" difficulty, both for SP and MP (also include "AI will reevaluate its objectives more often", as this simulates a more experienced human player)?

PS: as for how difficult this Equal/Historic/Realistic/Whatever-the-name-will-be option will be, it should fall between Easy and Balanced.
Last edited by lostangelonline on Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:39 am, edited 5 times in total.
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by loki100 » Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:57 am

Pocus has offered an answer a few times.

Basically the set of rules around 'balanced' are designed to give a decent game to a player who wants a casual experience but who has some grasp of the basic rules (ie don't need the help that easy gives).

Beyond that, the advantages to the AI are more in the area of faction management - the manual sets out both what the AI gets and if there are any penalties for the player. Basically as you go up the scale the AI gets more help in managing its faction (or is spared some of the trickier rules such as affect Rome).

The AI doesn't cheat, it can't do things you cannot do, it gets no combat bonus, simply that the effect of some rules is set aside or minimised.

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by lostangelonline » Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:24 am

loki100 wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:57 am
Basically the set of rules around 'balanced' are designed to give a decent game to a player who wants a casual experience but who has some grasp of the basic rules (ie don't need the help that easy gives).
Yes I completely agree, I do not imply that Balanced should be removed/replaced. I just want another Fair/Equal/Historical/Realistic option, without bonuses/penalties for AI that you the player can not have if playing that same nation.
loki100 wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:57 am
The AI doesn't cheat, it can't do things you cannot do, it gets no combat bonus, simply that the effect of some rules is set aside or minimised.
Well, by definition, if AI can get those bonuses, and I can not, it can do things I can not, like achieving a better loyalty, resulting in less revolts and better CDR, resulting in better progress tokens, resulting in better government level and related bonuses; even if I play the same nation and make the exact same moves/decisions, it might not be considerable difference at first, but it piles up; and on higher difficulty, it piles up a lot faster. So is cheating. Why did the devs added it if it had made no difference? Or am I wrong?
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by loki100 » Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:00 am

lostangelonline wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:24 am
...
Well, by definition, if AI can get those bonuses, and I can not, it can do things I can not, like achieving a better loyalty, resulting in less revolts and better CDR, resulting in better progress tokens, resulting in better government level and related bonuses; even if I play the same nation and make the exact same moves/decisions, it might not be considerable difference at first, but it piles up; and on higher difficulty, it piles up a lot faster. So is cheating. Why did the devs added it if it had made no difference? Or am I wrong?
No, that assume that even with those advantages the AI can play as well as a competent human player with some experience of the game. All you are doing is compensating it for being an AI.

Its your choice how far you go down that scale, what gives you an enjoyable game. I tend to play on v hard as that suits me, I know enough of how the game works to get away with that but I still don't need to obsess over gaining every possible advantage which I'd have to do on harder levels.

In the end this is what the game difficulty options aim for. The AI doesn't cheat - it gets no combat bonus etc but it gets help in the complex areas of faction management around loyalty and so on.

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by lostangelonline » Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:29 am

loki100 wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:00 am
The AI doesn't cheat - it gets no combat bonus etc but it gets help in the complex areas of faction management around loyalty and so on.
Let's agree we disagree on the definition of some terms :) I agree it plays fair on the battlefield.
loki100 wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:00 am
No, that assume that even with those advantages the AI can play as well as a competent human player with some experience of the game. All you are doing is compensating it for being an AI.
...
In the end this is what the game difficulty options aim for.
Yes, I completely understand the purpose of the difficulty options, and I agree they achieve their aim. If the devs considered adding these bonuses+penalties easier/faster that different levels of decision-making, I can not argue with that. (though, since they already wrote the code/script for "AI will reevaluate its objectives more often" and for the auto-micro-ing provincial regions' development, who builds more buildings at once instead of one for some reason, seems to me -as a programmer myself- they already have more than half the work needed to have decision-making-only difficulty levels. Or they can have both)
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Tanaka » Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:05 pm

Would love an equal difficulty too. Don't really understand why it cannot be an option. As of now balanced gives bonuses to the AI and makes things easier for the player. I don't want either. Would also like to give the AI more evaluation time that it gets on higher difficulties on an equal difficulty. This is everything I can find unless I am missing something:

- In balanced difficulty, players don't pay extra upkeep from veteran units or rare units (with Money Increase Cost)
- AI Dogpiling against player reduced a lot in balanced difficulty (easier game)
- The automatic slave re-assignment routine (6.3.5) may happen 50% of the time on balanced
- At higher levels of difficulty above balanced, the AI will more often calibrate its options and the depth of search for opportunities will increase;

AI Bonus on Balanced:
A progressively increasing bonus in terms of decadence reduction;
It will not lose a unit to lack of supply unless it is besieged or the
faction no longer owns at least one region;
The Administrative Burden (6.6.3) will be progressively reduced;
If it has to call on the Emergency Levy decision (12), it will gain
a progressively better army;
Progressively better base loyalty in its regions (6.4.3);
Progressively better legacy bonus for the more cultured regions
(8.2.1);
An extra slave redistribution per turn even if it lacks a slave
market (6.3.5);

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by lostangelonline » Fri Nov 08, 2019 6:12 pm

And I was complaining thinking AI had only Progress/Decadence/Loyalty bonuses :lol: Clearly it is impossible to play identically as an AI and have identical outcome. This is the most unrealistic aspect of the game for me. I would actually pay for a Fair/Equal option, as I would buy anything that makes this game more realistic (maybe a DLC?).
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Tanaka » Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:17 pm

Love the patch but still hoping for a more even difficulty :(

Or at least take away the player bonuses.

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Bullseye500 » Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:36 pm

There is no such thing as a "realistic simulation", it is impossible to build. No AI is capable of providing anything "realistic". Everything is best guess and mechanically coded accordingly. A well-coded simulation is the best that anyone can do.

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Pocus » Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:36 am

That's a good summary Bullseye500. It has been done in such way not to benefit the player or to have a cheating AI, but because it would require a major effort to have all rules play equally both for humans and AIs. By major, I mean dozens if not hundreds of hours, for something in the end that would feel basically the same as of now to 99% of players. Except that you would get the warm feeling that 'everything is fair and square'? (at the cost of tons of developments hours, that's a steep price) But that's a game in the end. The so called AI is some thousands lines of code, trying to compete with a human brain. So we took a pragmatic approach. In some cases, the player has a benefit over the AI, and in some others that's the AI (admittedly more often the AI than the player).

Lets take one example of each category. In balanced difficulty, a human player will suffer less from dogpiling than the AI, meaning that if you are weakened, then you might be in trouble, but not as much as an AI that will attract others AIs like vultures to reap its body. Historically, and from an efficiency perspective, attacking a weak nation, in these times, was often a viable and profitable method of expanding your empire. But players just don't like to be at the receiving end of this treatment. Most players buy a game to have fun and some challenge, but are not there to be repeatedly beaten by ruthless AIs.

The 2nd example favoring this time the AI, is that an AI is not capable of having a strategic thinking to the level of a human and is often less 'focused', so it reacts in a much less efficient way to drastic changes. Like when you are going in decadence, a player is capable to have his nation do a kind of 180° turn, by re-evaluating all his priorities, changing all his buildings orders, dismantling others, abandoning regions etc. An AI just can't do that, or if it does, then the development team has probably 6 developers full time and 2 are only on AIs. So what is the pragmatic approach? Do nothing and have player complains the game has no challenge? Or favor the AI by reducing a bit the decadence it gains? (more or less depending of the AI difficulty level). And yes, that's 'cheating' if you want to call it like that. Unfair advantage. But that's not done to provide a miserable experience, on the contrary, but to propose a better experience, with decent challenge, but not too much that an average player can't win.

If really you can't win (or gain supremacy) most of the time on balanced difficulty with a nation like Rome or Macedonia or Egypt, then the Easy level is there for you, so you practice and improve. That's ok too if you like a casual level of difficulty; no shame in that. As long as you gain fun that's ok for us.
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Pocus » Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:39 am

Despite how I phrased my previous post, I don't have a 'principle opposition' on having a non default difficulty setting where everything is deactivated, for the few players that would try to play the game like that. As long as most players play in a setting that I feel provides the best experience, striking the balance between fun and challenge, then why not.
It's more about having currently my plate full and that this kind of work would need a decent number of working hours, so is not a priority. But who knows, perhaps when I'm half idle on Empires, I can do that :wink:
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Tanaka » Tue Feb 25, 2020 6:33 pm

Pocus wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:36 am
That's a good summary Bullseye500. It has been done in such way not to benefit the player or to have a cheating AI, but because it would require a major effort to have all rules play equally both for humans and AIs. By major, I mean dozens if not hundreds of hours, for something in the end that would feel basically the same as of now to 99% of players. Except that you would get the warm feeling that 'everything is fair and square'? (at the cost of tons of developments hours, that's a steep price) But that's a game in the end. The so called AI is some thousands lines of code, trying to compete with a human brain. So we took a pragmatic approach. In some cases, the player has a benefit over the AI, and in some others that's the AI (admittedly more often the AI than the player).

Lets take one example of each category. In balanced difficulty, a human player will suffer less from dogpiling than the AI, meaning that if you are weakened, then you might be in trouble, but not as much as an AI that will attract others AIs like vultures to reap its body. Historically, and from an efficiency perspective, attacking a weak nation, in these times, was often a viable and profitable method of expanding your empire. But players just don't like to be at the receiving end of this treatment. Most players buy a game to have fun and some challenge, but are not there to be repeatedly beaten by ruthless AIs.

The 2nd example favoring this time the AI, is that an AI is not capable of having a strategic thinking to the level of a human and is often less 'focused', so it reacts in a much less efficient way to drastic changes. Like when you are going in decadence, a player is capable to have his nation do a kind of 180° turn, by re-evaluating all his priorities, changing all his buildings orders, dismantling others, abandoning regions etc. An AI just can't do that, or if it does, then the development team has probably 6 developers full time and 2 are only on AIs. So what is the pragmatic approach? Do nothing and have player complains the game has no challenge? Or favor the AI by reducing a bit the decadence it gains? (more or less depending of the AI difficulty level). And yes, that's 'cheating' if you want to call it like that. Unfair advantage. But that's not done to provide a miserable experience, on the contrary, but to propose a better experience, with decent challenge, but not too much that an average player can't win.

If really you can't win (or gain supremacy) most of the time on balanced difficulty with a nation like Rome or Macedonia or Egypt, then the Easy level is there for you, so you practice and improve. That's ok too if you like a casual level of difficulty; no shame in that. As long as you gain fun that's ok for us.
I hear you Pocus and I really appreciate the detailed explanation. I decided to move my difficulty level up to experienced from balanced because I mostly did not like the extra player bonuses (too easy for an even level) but was afraid of the extra AI bonuses and player penalties on the experienced level but find I am having a very fun game that is not too overwhelming. So I will play on experienced from now on as it seems fine. Do wish we still had the give AI more time option for any level though!
Last edited by Tanaka on Tue Feb 25, 2020 6:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Tanaka » Tue Feb 25, 2020 6:34 pm

Pocus wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:39 am
Despite how I phrased my previous post, I don't have a 'principle opposition' on having a non default difficulty setting where everything is deactivated, for the few players that would try to play the game like that. As long as most players play in a setting that I feel provides the best experience, striking the balance between fun and challenge, then why not.
It's more about having currently my plate full and that this kind of work would need a decent number of working hours, so is not a priority. But who knows, perhaps when I'm half idle on Empires, I can do that :wink:
Thanks for considering it!

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by lostangelonline » Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:01 am

@Pocus Thank you so much for taking the time to address this issue. Really appreciate it. I agree with everything you said, except the two points bellow.

But before I get to them, just want to remind everyone that this topic is about adding new Fair/Equal difficulty, not modifying existing difficulties (or change which is the default one), because there have been so many comments about their merits even though no one suggested to change them.
lostangelonline wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:24 am
Yes I completely agree, I do not imply that Balanced should be removed/replaced. I just want another Fair/Equal/Historical/Realistic option
lostangelonline wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:29 am
Yes, I completely understand the purpose of the difficulty options, and I agree they achieve their aim.
Hopping we are passed this, let's get back to the topic:
Pocus wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:36 am
it would require a major effort to have all rules play equally both for humans and AIs. By major, I mean dozens if not hundreds of hours [..] at the cost of tons of developments hours
Pocus wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:39 am
a decent number of working hours
Most effort usually goes into implementation and testing. From my programmer perspective, implementation should be really easy if game followed programming standards: at some point you have (something like) a configuration list with all difficulties and with all bonuses and penalties for each difficulty, so just duplicating an existing difficulty and changing AI/Player-only bonuses&penalties values to 0 and name it "Fair" should work. As for testing, out of the box, this difficulty will be between Easy and Balanced (in order of bonus/penalty values), so the matches outcome must be between the outcomes of Easy and Balanced, and never something else, so you should not need more than a few test runs to confirm that this is indeed the case. So what I am missing that needs a major effort of dozens if not hundreds of hours?
Pocus wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:36 am
Except that you would get the warm feeling that 'everything is fair and square'
Oh that feeling also, but, as I explained in the beginning, the feeling of how much better you are than others(in this case: other AI countries) is missing. This feeling is one of the drivers that motivates people to play games (it definitely makes me to play FoGE or Chess, and not Star Craft, EU4, etc.), but is very under-felt currently due to the feeling that everything is not fair and square, as you confirmed (think when AlphaStar AI played on the Starcraft2 ladder, but with cheats/bonuses: players will be outraged). But maybe is just me, as I am more of a rational(not feeling)-person.

Also, regarding:
Bullseye500 wrote:
Mon Feb 24, 2020 8:36 pm
There is no such thing as a "realistic simulation", it is impossible to build. No AI is capable of providing anything "realistic". Everything is best guess and mechanically coded accordingly. A well-coded simulation is the best that anyone can do.
I also agree with you. It just seems to me a bit off-topic, as I've never said I want a "realistic simulation", just a "more realistic" difficulty option (it's a big difference). You are welcomed to argue if you disagree that a Fair/Equal difficulty is "more realistic" than current difficulties.
Pocus wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:36 am
in the end that would feel basically the same as of now to 99% of players [..] that's a steep price
Pocus wrote:
Tue Feb 25, 2020 10:39 am
I don't have a 'principle opposition' [..] for the few players that would try to play the game like that[..] then why not.
It's more about having currently my plate full [..] so is not a priority. But who knows, perhaps when I'm half idle on Empires, I can do that :wink:
I'm really glad you are considering it. I do understand that as more and more players play FoGE, the average players expectancy will change from hardcore to a more commercially "relaxing" game, and delivering what "the few" want is not financially viable. I just hope there are still enough of us who want this option, for it to be eventually added to the game.
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Bullseye500 » Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:58 pm

There is nothing "fair or equal" about it, the game's AI cannot adjust like a human can. A flow chart cannot be written that covers everything that would be required, the overall (unintended) result would be a mode that was easier then the "Easy" setting.

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by lostangelonline » Sat Feb 29, 2020 6:19 pm

Bullseye500 wrote:
Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:58 pm
There is nothing "fair or equal" about it, the game's AI cannot adjust like a human can.
So you are suggesting that, to make the game "fair or equal", the AI (who plays like a noob) should get help/bonuses/cheat? According to this logic all noob players should also get the same help/bonuses/cheat, for the game to be "fair or equal" against hardcore players, right?

I myself hate playing against a "balanced" cheating AI, and prefer to play against noob but "equal" AI (play by the same rules/mechanics), even as a hardcore player, so I can see exactly how much better I actually am than the opponent. I will not get bored after my first conquer of the whole world (which I never came close to do anyway on Balanced), I will just try again with a harder nation, or to achieve it faster; there are always records to break. I always disable "historical lucky nations" in EU4 as well, to make a game more realistic you must not copy reality/historic outcome, you must copy reality "mechanics" (that always allow for an identical historic outcome, but also alternate-history outcomes).
Bullseye500 wrote:
Sat Feb 29, 2020 12:58 pm
A flow chart cannot be written that covers everything that would be required, the overall (unintended) result would be a mode that was easier then the "Easy" setting.
I'm not sure what you meant here, but Easy difficulty says "AI gets several penalties", so removing AI penalties will make the game harder, not easier.
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Bullseye500 » Sun Mar 01, 2020 5:21 am

I am not suggesting anything, I'm saying that "equal" to a human is not possible to program. I think that making an assumption about code that we have no knowledge of, suggesting changes to it without knowing what the changes would entail and what any changes would accomplish especially without testing is a tough sell. It is easy to say that one wants this or that change when one has no idea what systems within the AI would be affected by any such change to any of it's systems. What would seem like a tiny change may affect several other systems within the code. Say the exact changes someone wants are made to the game's code, they may or may not work, they may or may not change enough to be noticeable or make a game play any differently.

AI's are complicated systems that are most often written by those specializing in writing them. Games often contain AIs that are not written by the Game Designer or Coder but by secondary resources. Time and money to make changes that may or may not be worthwhile, may or may not be interesting, may or may not not interest enough people to bother with etc..plus time for testing, that's a big ask. Anyway, those are just my thoughts, mileage of course will vary. Good luck.

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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by Pocus » Sun Mar 01, 2020 12:01 pm

At one point I mention the feature of having a True Neutral level of difficulty costing 12 or so hours (incl. testing) and then I say in another passage it would take hundred of hours. I confused lostangelonline here and possibly others :D

What I meant.

One dozen hours: The time to add a difficulty level, and amend the code so that all AIs or players respect the same exact rules. (Respect, not handle/master!)

Several hundred hours: The time required, once the 'Neutral Difficulty level' is added, to have an AI plays decently enough that it masters and handles with expertise all the rules.

For example you want to remove the minor anti-decadence bonus of AI in the new difficulty level. It means you now have to work your AI in such way it is able to play so well it can steer the anti-decadence boat rapidly and efficiently, using complex overarching mechanisms like analyzing which regions can be abandoned (without weakening you in any significant way, including in a defensive perspective against **potential** enemies). Cost in hours for that only? I would say I need one full week of AI coding and testing to manage this particular aspect.
Rinse and repeat that for probably 15+ complex analysis the AI don't do as of now. Because I don't have 2 full time Ai developers for that and I don't have access to Google AIs :wink:

And so, pragmatism. Players, the vast majority of them, want fun and challenge. But not too the point you trash them too much. The best games are games were you are challenged but where, ideally in the end, get the upper hand because you played well. You suffered, had ordeals and made difficult choices. You had some setbacks, but you prevailed in the end!
And for that, you don't need an AI no game studio can provide anyway, you need a decent AI, but which will probably be helped by a few 'cheats' that will round some angles.

Again here, I'm not saying having a dumb AI is good enough. But lets be realistic, we are nowhere in games where AIs are truly smart. At best, they have the efficiency of an average/decent player. So to challenge good players, you need to help it a bit...

Hope I clarified the situation.
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by lostangelonline » Sun Mar 01, 2020 7:32 pm

Thanks again Pocus for helping me with my misunderstanding. I am really glad that you understood the suggestion I made ("difficulty level" where "AIs or players respect the same exact rules"), and that it is considered to be added when there are no other things more important (also glad it should not take more than one dozen hours). This topic achieved its aim more than I expected.

PS: I also realize I am partly to blame for the topic loosing focus from discussing "adding new difficulty" towards discussing "improving current difficulties/AI", when I said:
lostangelonline wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:48 am
Ideally, [..] difficulty should only change how smart is the AI [..] Changing the mechanics, as I see in this game, creates many issues
So while I still agree with my statement, I completely agree it could take "several hundred hours" to improve AI, and that's why I never requested that (only the much faster suggestion of a new Fair difficulty). I only said that to explain the motives behind my suggestion. I will try to make my future topics more clear.

Thanks to all for your feedback!
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Re: No equal difficulty??

Post by rbodleyscott » Mon Mar 02, 2020 1:21 pm

lostangelonline wrote:
Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:48 am
Ideally, [..] difficulty should only change how smart is the AI [..]
This might sound like a good idea in theory, if it were possible to write an AI capable of matching the best players on equal terms.

It isn't possible because Empires is several orders of magnitude more complex than chess.

However, if by some miracle such a prodigy could be achieved, deliberately dumbing it down on all but the highest difficulty level would mean that the vast majority of players would never see the AI playing at its best, and would talk on the forums and in reviews about the "stupid AI".

From a game design point of view it would therefore be something of an "own goal".
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