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Old 10-11-2010, 11:23   #1
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Default Soren Johnson does Google Tech Talk on Civ AI

For Google Tech Talk Soren Johnson did a presentation on AI design for games back in August. He talks about the Civ III/IV AI quite a bit, which makes it especially interesting for us Civ geeks.

The whole thing lasts about an hour but I thought it was really interesting. Comes highly recommended.

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Old 10-11-2010, 23:22   #2
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Thanks for posting this vid.

It is indeed very interesting. One thing that amazed me is the fact that the AI code represents only 2-3% of the total in Civ4. But when you think of it, the AI just needs to know what to do with this unit, this city, this opponent, etc., hence the scripting Soren talks about : the temple gives more culture and happiness, do I need it, am I at peace or at war ? etc., and eventually the decision is taken, based on an overall value.

I think that Soren is a very good game designer, and his work on Civ is amazing. Too bad he left but I guess the guy likes challenge.
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Old 11-11-2010, 00:20   #3
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What I really liked was the 'good' AI vs 'Fun' AI comparison combined with the typing of civ players in3 categories. For me that explained a lot about the design choices behind civ. What struck me is that he characterised Civ as a single player game 1st and a multiplayer game (a distant) second, and consequently needing some 'fun'AI design choices over 'good' AI choices.


Looking at Civ V while keeping in mind the points Soren made, I can't help but think Firaxis moved more towards the 'fun' AI side for Civ V. This means multiplayer and 'Challenge gamers' are less catered too and that's probably what bugs me about the game. It's a fun game but from a competitive MP PoV it's a huge step back from Civ III/IV.

Another point that struck me was the fact that sometimes good ideas get tossed because the AI can't handle them. 1UPT should have had that faith I think, comp is just not able to handle it at all.

And I totally agree that Soren is a good game designer, pity he left to make games like Spore (which for me was a huge disappointment) and the Zynga Facebook games.
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Old 11-11-2010, 04:24   #4
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Another point that struck me was the fact that sometimes good ideas get tossed because the AI can't handle them. 1UPT should have had that faith I think, comp is just not able to handle it at all.
There have been a ton of computer games over the years that handled 1UPT just fine. That part of the AI should have been allowed to bake for another month or 2 before the game was released. I'm sure that, as patches go by, it will gradually get better at it. Right now, they should be running simulations endlessly, AI vs AI, to see how it acts and make iterative improvements (I'd be surprised if they weren't). I believe this is how a small, 3 man team made the AI in Sins of a Solar Empire so good right out of the gate.
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Old 11-11-2010, 10:16   #5
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Looking at Civ V while keeping in mind the points Soren made, I can't help but think Firaxis moved more towards the 'fun' AI side for Civ V. This means multiplayer and 'Challenge gamers' are less catered too and that's probably what bugs me about the game. It's a fun game but from a competitive MP PoV it's a huge step back from Civ III/IV.

Another point that struck me was the fact that sometimes good ideas get tossed because the AI can't handle them. 1UPT should have had that faith I think, comp is just not able to handle it at all.
I don't think the specific traits he described for the AI have actually changed. The AI isn't totally stupid, and it will definately beat you if you're not aggressive. It's only that they're on a very singleminded path to victory, being domination and histograph, with space and diplo that could eventually turn up as a result of pursuing the histograph victory. And the point is that in Civ5 they're just very bad at the aggro game. But it might've been that they're bad in the previous versions as well, but with huge stacks small favors (or cheats) add up quickly. The AI doesn't seem to value its units properly in Civ5, and with lesser units you have to cheat more on combat odds to compensate for that. Apparently (or: luckily) they didn't do that.
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Old 11-11-2010, 14:25   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ProPain View Post
What I really liked was the 'good' AI vs 'Fun' AI comparison combined with the typing of civ players in3 categories. For me that explained a lot about the design choices behind civ. What struck me is that he characterised Civ as a single player game 1st and a multiplayer game (a distant) second, and consequently needing some 'fun'AI design choices over 'good' AI choices.
I'm definitely a challenge player, like most of our community here. Chess club as a kid, heh. I also found it weird that he thinks of Civ as a single player game first, given that his baby Civ4 was designed as a multi player game at first ; but then he explains that the large majority of Civ players don't play multi.

Quote:
Looking at Civ V while keeping in mind the points Soren made, I can't help but think Firaxis moved more towards the 'fun' AI side for Civ V. This means multiplayer and 'Challenge gamers' are less catered too and that's probably what bugs me about the game. It's a fun game but from a competitive MP PoV it's a huge step back from Civ III/IV.
I threw the word "arcade game" for Civ5, just by reading about it on the forums. See the pattern :
- Find the city states
- Sell your resources to the AI
- Use the money to befriend the city states
- Get so much food and culture from them that you needn't worry about it anymore
- Get more production, gold and science now that food is not an issue
- Use the gold to maintain the cycle
- Smash the AI
This seems to be a strong and simple strategy to use game after game, no matter the level difficulty, the map, the opponents, etc. But it can't be done in MP. So Civ5 seems to be a single player game primarily, and the player is encouraged to pursue small missions in order to win. Heck, the city states themselves ask the player to do stuff !

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Another point that struck me was the fact that sometimes good ideas get tossed because the AI can't handle them. 1UPT should have had that faith I think, comp is just not able to handle it at all.
From what I read of Sullla's games, it looks like the Civ5 AI is neither good or fun.
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Old 11-11-2010, 16:53   #7
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I don't think the specific traits he described for the AI have actually changed.
I'm not just referring to the actual 'normal' player AI, but also to the addition of the City States. These CS are AI be default and are clearly a 'fun' AI factor, they don't play to win, in fact they can't play to win. And on a more fundamental level they changed Civ from a symmetric game to an asymmetric game I think as the CS don't have the same means as a 'normal' player.

I can totally understand that the sandbox/narrative players totally dig this change but by the challenge inclined player this 'civreving' trend isn't really perceived as a step forward. Especially not by the MP crowd. I'm thinking Firaxis and 2K chose this direction hoping to reach a bigger crowd and make more money. And if the reality will be according to their hopes I fear that we challenge players need to find our fix elsewhere. Not saying Fir/2K are wrong to do this, can't blame em to wanna make money. Just a pity for us.
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Old 11-11-2010, 20:42   #8
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Well, city states aren't players, they only look like players. The AI abuses city states just as you do.
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Old 12-11-2010, 04:41   #9
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Well, has anyone tried a game with the number of CS's set to 0? I'd imagine it would make the game more challenging.
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Old 12-11-2010, 09:17   #10
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havent tried that yet but I do think that's the only way to go for MP. In the ood old civ III days we had discussions if goody huts we're imbalancing, CS are a sort of out of control goody huts. Just to illustrate

I started a game of civ V, king level, Egypt, in order to see how easy culture vic was after with Egypt after reading a post from Shabba. Next to my capital are 3 CS in a row. Outer ones are cultural, center one was militaristic I believe. So after a few turns suddenly both cult CS turn on their middle neighbour and both ask me to solve their problem for them. I conquer the militaristic CS and instantly gain two cultural CS as allies netting me +16 cult a turn iirc.

This would obviously ruin any MP game as the bonus is just too OP. So much more culture in the early game means getting policy advancements much more quickly, which in turn means even more perks.

Should this happen in a mp game that basically means an instant win.
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