The one drawback

After working for Gas Powered Games for 11 months I have found only one drawback to this job. While patching Supreme Commander 2, there have been many times when the game is so much better on my dev machine than the version installed at home. This was especially true back before the first AI patch was released. I wanted the patch to be released as much as any of the Supcom 2 fans just so I could have the improved AI on my home machine. The same is true of the upcoming patch. There are so many game improvements that I can't wait to be able to play with at home.

Recently @squareenixdave posted that some new news regarding Supreme Commander 2 should be released soon and I truly can't wait. We have been hard at work doing all sorts of things I wish I could post here. For me, the news can't come fast enough.

Over the past month I have been writing down ideas that I would like to implement for the Kings and Castles AI (assuming I am in charge of it). I have a habit of keeping a notebook nearby and just writing down any wild idea I get. Lately, I have been taking those ideas and trying to form them together into a cohesive plan. I still have a lot of refining to do before I actually put it all into a document.

In Supreme Commander 2 the addition of neural nets gave the AI some tactical thinking capability. It could decide if a single platoon should run or engage and, if it chose to engage, which target to focus fire on first. For Kings and Castles I not only want to improve upon that, I want to focus on the AI's strategy game. I don't want the AI to decide it has enough troops to send out and then send them somewhere solely based on threat values. I want the AI to keep track of enemy threats on the map and when it finds one that is a high priority I want the AI to grab nearby platoons, already in the field, and send them to take the threat out.

Having the AI oversee its platoons, rather than having the platoons basically doing their own thing as they are now, would allow the AI to react faster to high threats. If the AI found an group of enemy long range artillery in range of it's main base it could find all of its nearby platoons that are on lower priority missions and redirect them to this new threat. If the AI sent out a platoon on a low priority mission and suddenly found a large group of incoming enemy units, it could immediately bring that large platoon back to take up a defensive position.

I also don't want to the AI to see threats as single places on the map. I want to improve the AI's threat map by giving units a threat range. That way, those long range artillery (using SupCom 2 as an example) can not only be seen as a large static threat, but as a threat with a long range. Using the threat map for this purpose could give the AI a much better sense of safe and dangerous areas, threats that are very dangerous, and a better sense of who has the better map control. Best of all, it would be cheap to implement performance wise.

Next on my list is to give the AI the concept of front lines. This would also help give the AI a sense of map control as well as allow the AI to post units near the front lines in an attempt to hold them. I want to move away from the AI hording units in its base before sending them out onto the battlefield and instead have the AI build units, send them to forward position near the front line, and send attack waves from there. That way, the AI is not constantly fighting to retake land it had under its control just a minute ago. It would also allow the AI to easily implement advanced tactics such as PD or TML creeps (again, using SupCom 2 as an example) without having to code anything specific to handle it. Just defend the front line.

My goal is to make people say "Wow, I can't believe an AI just did that." I don't necessarily want the AI to wipe the floor with average joe player by default, that isn't any fun. But, I do want the option to make the AI very hard to be there for the hardcore players. It would make my month if Mike Swanson walked into my office and said that they need to give the normal AI a handicap to make it accessible by average joe player. Hell, it would probably make my year.

This is just a small sample of the ideas rattling around in my head. I hope to, over the next few months, refine more ideas and get a battle plan together for truly improving the AI system. Chris seems to be on board with it so far. I can't wait to see some of these ideas in action.