Strategy Game AI

I'm getting a little jaded by the technical limitations of my favorite game genre, strategy games. I've probably missed a few gems because they were too indie and not marketed or just weren't my aesthetic tastes, but I'm wanting a more engaging experience from my allies and opponents. The easiest thing to do would be to only play multiplayer but that's a bit too much time commitment for me for the grand strategy games like the Total War series. It's worse than coordinating a Risk board game. So the alternative is beefing up the AI.

I would like an AI that is challenging that has the same limitations as me (not insane economic or military growth), that is as weak as me in the beginning and the potential to grow as strong as me in the late game. Generally when I play, I am either crushed immediately or make the AI my chew toy and get bored in the late game. The only time it seems to get interesting is when it becomes a tug of war between two empires and a lot more strategy is required to overwhelm and disrupt your opponent, as opposed to one pitfall early game.

What I would like to know is what everyone thinks can be done to craft a better strategy game experience. Do we have to twiddle our thumbs until we have Skynet to play chess with? Do they require better diplomacy or economic systems? Less focus on historical fiction in favor of more fantasy/sci-fi elements to provide more freedom? What will it take to build a better chess player?

i would suggest heading over to matrix games and checking out the combat ops: battles from the bulge and its expansion command ops: highway to the reich. simply put the AI in the game it the best i have ever seen bar none and doesnt cheat. be aware though its getting more into hard core wargame territory than alot of people are comfortable with

Really, it's less of a technical limitation and more of a programming/design limitation. In order to make a great AI you need to spend quite a lot of time on building said AI. In comparison, it's usually much easier to make a merely good AI, so you'll see designers typically build just the good AI.

For an example, Starcraft (the first) has a pretty decent AI. It knows how to build, attack, and defend. For a standard player who's not doing any hijinks, it will work just fine. A good player won't be fazed much by it, and any player doing funny stuff will beat it pretty easily. IIRC though, there was a seperate AI designed by a college team that was very good at playing, though designed after all the patches. I don't remember the name of it though, otherwise I'd link it.

Strategy games also usually have the problem that you "win" about halfway through when you start amassing that unstoppable advantage, but you're unable to actually win and force the victory until much later, making the AI seem particularly weak, while with a friend you'd be able to fairly easily convince them that they've lost and it's time for another game.

I'd like take this opportunity to recommend Frozen Synapse, if you haven't already played it. Not the best AI really, but an engaging take on squad based tactical/strategy games that combines turn-based with real-time. Put it inside your computer.

If you are looking for a recommendation I really like AI war: fleet command, its a RTS grand strategy hybrid where the enemy starts out with total control of the map and as you start to destroy their stuff and expand the AI "progress" goes up which means more, stronger, and greater variety of attacks

Galactic Civilizations 2 has probably the most impressive AI I've seen in a strategy game. I love how rather than it being the AI vs. the player, the game instead has an isolated AI for each computer controller opponent meaning that there's no distinction between the player and AI races. That leads to brilliant matches like this. Check it out, it's a fun read!


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