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Thread: Another Difficulty Experiment

  1. #1

    Default Another Difficulty Experiment

    Another Difficulty Experiment

    This test is not definitive proof, but an example of one of the problems that prevent the human player experiencing sufficient challenge when playing the game on its hardest settings.

    What I did was start a game as Sicily on VH/VH, took all my force over to Ajaccio, captured the settlement. and then changed it to a city. I then allowed my un-garrisoned starting settlements of Naples and Palermo to rebel leaving me with just one settlement. I disbanded my navel. The garrison was adjusted to maintain PO and keep my finances below 50,000. The only interaction I had with the game was with my starting Princess Matilda who negotiated trade agreement, alliances and swapped map (did not sell map) with my neighbours
    I then kept pressing end turn.

    The purpose was to see how the AI coped on its own and who, if anyone would win.
    I used the faction ratings graph, set to territory and top 5 to monitor the AI factions progress.

    Results

    Number of turns, followed by faction (territories owned).

    40 = Poland (9), Egypt (8), France (7), HRE (6), Turks(6)

    60 = Egypt (11), Poland (10), Denmark (9), England (8), Hungary (8)

    80 = Egypt (12), Poland (9), England (9), Hungary (8), Spain (8)

    100= Spain (10), Denmark (10), Hungary (9), Poland (9), Egypt (8)

    120= Mongol (17), Denmark (13), Hungary (13), Spain (7), Venetian (7)

    140= Mongol (23), Denmark (15), Hungary (12), Portugal (10), Venetian (8)

    160= Mongol (22), Denmark (14), Portugal (12), Venetian (8) Scotland (7)

    Initially all of the original factions expanded into rebel owned territories then started squabbling amongst themselves. With no faction taking much of a lead.
    By turn 100 Egypt had been the most successful faction, by taking over 9 other territories before being knocked back by the arrival of the Mongols.
    The Mongols took over their first territory, Antioch, in turn 97 then quickly expanded to all the surrounding settlements. They were the only faction that looked like they had a chance of achieving the victory condition. But then by turn 152 the Timurids had arrived went to war with the them and things started to go downhill for them.
    The promise of these two strong factions taking over the world was not to be as they dissipated their initial strong position by fighting each other.

    This experiment illustrates one of the main problems that the human player has when looking for a difficult campaign. There is no strong opponent to challenge him.
    CA did too good a job when balancing the various factions.
    The computer factions waste a lot of time and resources fighting amongst themselves, with no faction able to develop their empire to a size large enough to offer a threat to the human player.

    The best results were achieved by the Mongols, whos empire got to 23 territories, (twice as big as anyone else had achieved) before the Timurids arrived.
    But this was after about 160 turns. Human players that tend to blitz would own most of the map by this stage.
    Players that take a slower turtleing approach would still have a far bigger and better developed empire by (turn 160) and would have the infighting between the Moguls and Timurids to help weaken their enemy whist they sat and waited.
    Im not saying that the game does not any challenging times. The start of any campaign when you have few resources and many enemies can be quite hairy at times. But if you dont make too many mistakes, even these usually just slightly delay rather than prevent your inevitable victory.
    Fighting the Mongols and Timurids is a challenge to even the most experienced player. If the other AI factions could field, regularly, this level of force, the game would really get interesting (in M1TW they did, by the re-emergence of destroyed factions well behind your front line). Yet they dont, and these invasions occur too late and geographically too close to offer a serious threat to any well planned campaign.


    Slightly off topic - a few tip-bits
    The moors were destroyed by turn 90, Turks by 110, HRE by 120 and France by 130.

    Occasionally the Moors, Venice and Portugal (ally) landed a small force on the island but never attacked.

    Princess Matilda was sent to the monastery at age 40 after forming alliances with Spain, Milan, Scotland, Byzantine, Portugal, Poland, Papal Stated, France and HRE. My reputation with each of these was very trustworthy and my power supreme (despite only having one settlement with full stack and no navy).

  2. #2
    Member Member Maelstrom's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Difficulty Experiment

    You haven't got territory map screenies at these checkpoints have you by any chance? - It would be interesting to see who was competing with who....

  3. #3
    Village special needs person Member Kobal2fr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Difficulty Experiment

    I'd say it's both predictable and a good thing.

    It's predictable because of the way the AI is coded to react - both sides of a border will "understand" a given situation in the exact same way and react to it by taking comparable steps.
    The AI will levy more troops to be able to conquer their neighbour, the neighbour will levy more troops to prepare their defense, rince, repeat. The only breaking point here is financial might, diplomatic situation, terrain, faction-specific troop imbalance (re:autocalc) and only the actions of the player introduce a variable in the equation. Oh, and starting positions but those are pretty much balanced (factions who start with smaller lands start with more soldiers, on the whole).

    And it's a good thing, because should a clear superpower emerge in an AI vs AI game, it would emerge ALL THE TIME. Mechanically, à la Hojo, and that wouldn't be much fun for the player. Might as well reduce the number of factions to two.

    (BTW, I believe the Power statistic is a function of military power/total frontier space, makes sense that a fortified island would make you Supreme there , and since the AI bases its invasion decisions on how well the frontier is being defended, it also makes sense they'd leave you well alone)
    Last edited by Kobal2fr; 07-05-2007 at 13:12.
    Anything wrong ? Blame it on me. I'm the French.

  4. #4

    Default Re: Another Difficulty Experiment

    Did you try (just out of curiousity) adding money to the AI factions via cheats?

  5. #5

    Default Re: Another Difficulty Experiment

    Original quote by Maelstrom
    You haven't got territory map screenies at these checkpoints have you by any chance? - It would be interesting to see who was competing with who....
    I made a save every 10 turns. If I have time later I will try to sort them out


    Original quote byKobal2fr
    It's predictable because of the way the AI is coded to react - both sides of a border will "understand" a given situation in the exact same way and react to it by taking comparable steps.
    I dont have a great understanding as to the mechanism involved, but can accept that any faction would react in exactly the same way given the same set of inputs. Except that, I think (cannot prove), that a lot of the decision made involve a random factor that will give some variety to the outputs of the decisions made.
    You have already listed a few other variables that can alter the balance of power, I could give you a dozen more.

    Original quote byKobal2fr
    And it's a good thing, because should a clear superpower emerge in an AI vs AI game, it would emerge ALL THE TIME. Mechanically, la Hojo, and that wouldn't be much fun for the player.
    This is true, but it doesnt have to be.
    For example.
    If the faction King purse was determined from a random number at the beginning of the campaign then each campaign would have a different set of superpowers. And /or the amount could be adjusted, proportional to the number of territories, during the game to reward expansion. But only for the AI.

    Currently the philosophy of the AI seem to be Lets make it a bit harder for the human to win rather than each AI faction trying to achieve the victory conditions for itself.
    Trying to win should be the goal of all the players human or computer.

    Original quote byKobal2fr
    since the AI bases its invasion decisions on how well the frontier is being defended, it also makes sense they'd leave you well alone.
    You are probably right but why do the bother to land a force of only 200 and leave it there for 10 turns, in the first place.

    Original quote b Lupiscanis
    Did you try (just out of curiousity) adding money to the AI factions via cheats?
    No. The objective of the experiment was to see how the AI reacts with minimal human input. Although your suggestion would increase the challenge.

  6. #6
    Village special needs person Member Kobal2fr's Avatar
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    Default Re: Another Difficulty Experiment

    I don’t have a great understanding as to the mechanism involved, but can accept that any faction would react in exactly the same way given the same set of inputs. Except that, I think (cannot prove), that a lot of the decision made involve a random factor that will give some variety to the outputs of the decisions made.
    You have already listed a few other variables that can alter the balance of power, I could give you a dozen more.
    Well I've worked with the AI files, and the only things they take into account are not random at all but rather a combination of set factors (like target's total power, theirs and ours numbers ratio in region X, how much of target's military power is "tied down" in other wars and in garrisons etc...), the only thing random about the AI was included in version 1.2 and it's about alliances (namely : that allies make a random check at the beginning of each turn, if they "pass" then they won't consider their allies as possible targets no matter the other factors, if they "fail" then their allies will be factored in the global "where to defend, and who to invade next, how and when ?" thought-process like they were in 1.0 and 1.1. Essentialy this gives AI factions a 50% chance per turn to be irrationally trusting of their allies.).

    What gives the illusion of randomness is that most of these factors are not readily apparent, or connected, to the player. The HRE could invade Metz because Hungary has declared war to the Turks for example. Or because Arhus has built Large Stone Walls. What little randomness there is lies in the result of autocalc'ed battles that can dramatically switch the previous balance of factors in one roll of the dice.


    This is true, but it doesn’t have to be.
    For example.
    If the faction King purse was determined from a random number at the beginning of the campaign then each campaign would have a different set of superpowers. And /or the amount could be adjusted, proportional to the number of territories, during the game to reward expansion. But only for the AI.
    That's also what I came up with when trying to figure a middle-ground between "one faction to rule them all and in darkness bind them, the rest is just background noise" and "petty kingdoms über alles" : factions taking turns being the Top Dog, behind the scenes, at the start of every campaign. Or, to put in another way, one mechanical and predictable over-faction chosen at random. Or more than one, you could give 10k King's Purse to 3 or 4 to make it a bit more random.
    But that's the only thing I can think of, and it's not even that good a solution :/

    Currently the philosophy of the AI seem to be ‘Lets make it a bit harder for the human to win’ rather than each AI faction trying to achieve the victory conditions for itself.
    Trying to win should be the goal of all the players human or computer.
    Oh I do believe they all try to beat each other senseless and "win", they only go out of their way to be nuisances to the player on VH. The problem is that since they are all equally "strong" and use the same overarching strategy, in effect in trying to win for themselves, they just all lock horns while the player nibbles at their butts.
    Another issue is that the AI is very, very conservative in its defensive decisions, and very confident in it's offensive ones. It will try to keep in every province an army that can beat its strongest neighbour should they invade. Meaning that it'll tie down a LOT more forces than the average player, who'll think nothing of leaving a city crewed by 3 Town Militias because "the army can come back if need be, but it probably won't need to and it's more profitable to take another province right now". By comparison, the AI doesn't gamble, and doesn't take risks, ever.

    Which is why the player will *always* be faster than them in seizing rebel regions in the early game, for example.

    OTOH, it will think nothing of attacking with 1,000001:1 odds, because that's better than 1:1 and thus victory is possible, failing to realize that "possible" is not exactly the same as "likely" .

    Play a passive game as Spain to see exactly what I mean : Portugal starts with a large-ish army in Pamplona, more than enough to seize Zaragoza in one go.
    Yet if led by the AI, Portugal will attack it piecemeal with just as many siegers as there are defenders in Zara, because "Spain could attack us", and thus they keep most of their forces in reserve back in Pamplona to cover this eventuality. The end result is that it takes them 10s of turns to eventually capture Zaragoza because they're beaten back time and time again by the defenders, and because the Spanish player/AI builds-up troops to take Valencia/to defend itself against the Moors/to spend cash ; meaning Pamplona needs even MORE men tied down to keep it "safe".
    Whereas a human player will have taken Zaragoza, built it up and mustered enough defense in both Pamplona AND Zaragoza to free the original army to attack somewhere else in the same time.

    You are probably right but why do the bother to land a force of only 200 and leave it there for 10 turns, in the first place.
    I have no idea, because I really can't figure out how naval invasions work at all, and they don't seem (to me, at least) to follow the standard triggers and logic. For example, absolutely nothing had changed in the AI files between 1.0 and 1.1 - yet 1.1 made naval invasions commonplace, somehow. And I've yet to understand that somehow
    Last edited by Kobal2fr; 07-05-2007 at 18:29.
    Anything wrong ? Blame it on me. I'm the French.

  7. #7

    Default Re: Another Difficulty Experiment

    Interesting description of the game mechanics. It helps me to understand some of the thing I have seen.

    What I have seen is
    Taking an infantry unit out of a stack.
    Spying on a settlement.
    Assignation attempt.
    Sabotage attempt.
    Trying a heretic.
    Gifting money
    Merchant acquisition
    Auto calculating a naval battle.
    Auto calculating a siege.

    All use random numbers to determine the results and there are many more. If you load a game and carry out all the above in exactly that order you will get a certain set of results. If you reload and do it again you will get exactly the same results. But if you reload and skip the first action all the subsequent actions will be seeded with a different set of random numbers, which can make a big difference to the results. You may find that this time the siege is lost rather than won. When these differences are then fed into other calculations that dont use random numbers the outcome from these decision can also change.
    The AI is poor at introducing variables, but it can rely on the human to do that for it.

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