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Post news Report RSS Report 047: Grunts and Aces

AI Evolved! But also AI devolved! Because it has to give at least some chance to the starting players.

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This time the update is to announce something different.
As it was hinted before, it is about the AI.

It has the expected improvements in making the AI more effective in killing the player; this update is also introduces something in a completely different direction.

But before that, let me confirm, the AI is now smarter with a more fine tuned logic that also fixes one noticeable bug the would result in the AI not avoid crashing to the ground, now if that happens is by their own mistake and not due to bug in the logic.

Also the AI players will now dynamically chose between the special and main weapon by considering the battle condition, ammo and each weapon characteristics, but like everything else, the personality may affect the selection, so it is not really a matter of always selecting the most effective weapon.


And that’s it, now we have an even more lethal AI. Awesome!
But in other hand, this also becomes a problem.

Veteran players or anyone that is skilled enough will probably be able to deal with them on even terms. But what about the players that jump into the game for the first time?
They are almost certainly jumping into a world of pain.

Something I also noticed with the existing AI, it actually does not work well in highly scripted missions, they are too unpredictable and engage the player in their own ways, it is great to create an emergent gameplay, but not so much if you want to create a sequence of well coordinated events.
This is also an issue, as the VT wants the players to create their own campaign, this could limit some scenarios.

For both of these reasons it was made new and alternative type of AI, that from here on it will be referred as the “Grunt type”, and the AI type that was here from the start it will be referred from now on as the “Ace type”. And this new grunt type was made to be used mostly on campaigns and normal missions.

But how different is the Grunt from the Ace type?
Right from the start, this new AI is the complete opposite of the Ace; it is bland, predictable and easy to shot down.
To have a better idea, the grunt type is the regular AI you will probably find in other similar flight games.
They rely on numbers and while they can still harm the player, their lack of skill is used to make the player feel like a true ace always in control of the battlefield.


In short the Grunts are best used for easy levels, large numbers, or heavy scripted levels.
Aces are best for bosses, or dynamic battlefields.

But that is not everything that is added in this regard.
To help the level design it was added two small tricks that can be applied to any unit and both AI types.

One that was inspired by the older Ace Combat, if you played them you probably may have noticed that some aircrafts on the global map simply do not move unless you get too close them. Although this not very accurate, this is very helpful in the level design, otherwise these enemies would simple move away from the area they were supposed to be protecting.
But to better fit VT this trick was been slightly changed from “The AI will only act if they are in the player’s view range.” to “The AI will only act if they are in the enemies’ view range.”
So if you have an AI partner the meets these agents they will fight properly without the need of the player intervention.


Another trick, is the hidden state, this makes any unit even if they are non stealth, hidden from the global map until they have been spotted once. This is great for ambushes, surprise attacks or even eater eggs.

Both these tricks are very simple, but open a lot of possibilities of making missions, something that should be explored not only in future missions, but also to be implemented in all that have been done before.

Something also to be revised/updated, the weapons loadouts.

The new idea is to make conceptual special weapons more likely to be found on conceptual aircrafts, prototype weapons and prototype aircrafts and fictional weapons on fictional aircrafts.
This is not golden rule, is more a guide line for arranging the loadouts for the aircrafts.

Let’s use this as an example, the UA-10D.


The ucav version of the A-10, a conceptual design evolved from the A-10C.


And it will be equipped with the AGM-124 Wasp
This weapon is like a real micro missile pod, it was made to engage multiple tanks at the same time.


And an example of a fictional weapon, it is not noticeable from this screen, but it is armed with a Gatling gun that starts to fire when is close to the target.
Despise the novelty it may have, it is only useful against large targets.

And finally something you will probably hear more from me in the future.
We need more ships!

The problem is not much about quantity, is more about their role in the missions.
Due to all the weapons systems some ships contain, each are like a small boss.
The problem lies in that most modern ships have very advanced Anti-air systems that can track aircrafts beyond visual range, this created a situation where one side we have completely inoffensive ships and the other side highly lethal ships.

So the real problem is that there is very little in between, as a result what is really need is more ships that serve as point defense with different characteristics to help bridge between the both extremes of difficulty.

To ease the content creation the new ships you will see added in the future will likely be either conceptual/speculative or fictional designs.

Here is a preview of you can expect to see in the future:


The STAC is a conceptual Trimaran carrier design; part of the “Avpro project”.

Also, all the ship units will be revised as well in other to have their own sub subsystems be independently targetable and destroyable like a regular boss.
And that’s everything for now.

Stay tuned, more reports will follow.

Comments
SpootKnight
SpootKnight

People at AvPro apparently had a lot on their mind.

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SpootKnight
SpootKnight

A late thought that occured to me, what does this separation in AI do for the unique behavior types? Do Grunts and Aces both have the ability to perform differently, or are Grunts always generic with average characteristics?

I'm wondering how this works with mission design. I recall AI being made to have different traits, e.g.: cowards vs. aggressors, loud vs. quiet, etc. Does the AI split change this?

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bornloser
bornloser

In addition to his questions, can there be an intermediate AI that's easier than the aces but still isn't a shooting gallery target?

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timeSymmetry Author
timeSymmetry

@bornloser
The Grunt type at normal or higher difficulty can kill you if you are not careful. to have an better idea, think that it is similar to the AI of the Ace Combat.

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timeSymmetry Author
timeSymmetry

This new type doesn't change anything in the default AI. The Ace type it is still the same like it was before. For example skirmish mode you still play against the Ace type regardless of the difficulty settings.

The grunt type also has the same difficulty settings, however even on max it is not as challenging as an Ace type. This addition was made for the missions files, it is also easy to change, by default everyone is an Ace but it can be swapped with a single line of text.

Also the Grunt type doesn't have any personally or any distinctive trait, it was made to always act the same every time you play, with no tactics and a lot less reactive.

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bornloser
bornloser

If I want more interesting grunts in my campaign can I dumb down the Ace AI? I'm thinking making them like grunts that know 1 or 2 maneuvers to set them apart from the other enemies on the map (or alternatively to give different countries different tactics and doctrines.)

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timeSymmetry Author
timeSymmetry

Yes! One way could be in a range of [1-25] in difficulty level, set the Grunts on 15-20 and the "better grunts" and Aces with a level between 1 and 5.

At the moment is not possible, but it is planned that the player will be able to configure the strategy(flight level, engagement range, etc), personality and other settings for each unit regardless which AI it uses. (but like I said before, personality traits will be ignored for the Grunts)

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SpootKnight
SpootKnight

What would the intended method of modifying this be? Notepad-style editing like with a FreeSpace table?
Hard-light.net

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Nergal01
Nergal01

Any possiblity of dynamic AI? i.e if you perform well in previous missions, the next missions will throw in better AIs.

Also I think the AI should be named according to rank instead (i.e grunt -> from recruit, airman to 2nd/1st lieutenant and so on, ace/elite -> captain, major and so on). I recall AC2 distinguish the AI according to rank too, with the highest AI rank being 'TOP GUN' (guess guess)

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bornloser
bornloser

I still think a better way to handle the weapon selection would be to give planes every single weapon they are compatible with but unlock weapons separately from planes. This would effectively let you "level up" and entire family of aircraft over the course of a campaign as you unlock progressively more advanced weapons. It would also increas the variety of planes people use in multiplayer (otherwise it will be full of paper planes just so players can access all the exotic weapons.) Of course, this doesn't factor in challenge mode unlocks, although you could have each challenge unlock one plane and one new weapon for it.

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timeSymmetry Author
timeSymmetry

That is something to think about, at the moment I want everything to settle down and be ready for release, so at the present state I want avoid making any drastic changes. But after this phase I want to look at the weapons systems again, I´m especially interested in allowing the player to select multiple special weapons.

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IbizenThoth
IbizenThoth

This'd totally work with a less intrusive version of the tuning system. An A-12 with Phoenix missiles would be pretty intense.

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bornloser
bornloser

Or a delta dagger with missiles that actually work?

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Nergal01
Nergal01

*coughNuclearFalconcough*

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MyHatismyFriend
MyHatismyFriend

We should be able to fly between the hulls of the STAC, btw >:0

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5t3v0
5t3v0

Wouldn't a UAV version of the A-10 be the QA-10?

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Chetech
Chetech

It's kinda of a mess. For example the Predator plane is MQ-9. M Stands for multirole and Q stands for RPA, which itself stands for Remotely Piloted Aircraft. Kinda nitpicking, but it's easy to get that wrong since the whole designation system is a mess.

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Koeben
Koeben

Regarding the hidden AI in the mission editor, would it be possible to make a mission where the AI is hidden, but you can search for it but following a beacon, kind of like the mission where you find Nagase in Ace Combat 5? I have mission ideas where you have to locate jammers by finding the source of its signal.

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Nergal01
Nergal01

Continuing my post about dynamic AI, here's my extra, how about making a special dynamic spawn point where more than one type of unit/plane can spawn there, regarding of specific requirement (mostly difficulty), i.e in a same spawn point a grunt AI can spawn with MiG-21, F-5, or Draken. On higher difficulty, the AI will spawn with better planes in the selection, and aces/elite AI will have its own selection of planes to spawn too.

Plus if dynamic difficulty can be implemented, the grunt AI spawn point will be replaced with ace/elite AI spawn point if the player continously performs well in missions (i.e, mission rank, total kills, etc). And vice versa.

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BravoBigBoom
BravoBigBoom

Guys, If you ever played Warship Gunner 2 on PS2, Then you know what im thinking about that ship : Leviathan Battle Carrier Ship (Boss)

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