Suggestions on how to improve allied AI in coop campaign

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Suggestions on how to improve allied AI in coop campaign

Postby Alaric83 » 23 Feb 2020, 18:06

Hello everyone,

I am a new member in the FAF community. Very excited to see what you guys are doing!

Being a casual player, I usually focus on skirmishes against computer and, most of all, replaying the campaign missions.

It is amazing that you guys made the campaign playable in coop! There are two ways I see to make the coop campaign even better, especially when you don't have 3 friends ready to play it with you:

1) Allow bots to play instead of humans in coop.

This is the big one. I know, this sounds difficult, and maybe it is, but hear me out. Most of the campaign missions, regardless of the name, are either "attack this place" or "defend". No excessively complex task. Could it be possible to add basic skirmish AIs to bots in coop campaign, with standard build order ? And instead of aiming their attacks at the main enemy bases, they try to attack at the objective location. When the map expands, this shifts their priority.

This possibility would be amazing as it would allow to play coop campaign in solo, and increase the epicness of the battle. Especially in Forged Alliance, you could feel being part of the Coalition by bringing other faction Commanders to fight next to you.

2) Add the Enhanced Campaign AI mod.

This one should be easier, I think. Someone made a quite amazing campaign mod. It is called an "AI mod", but it actually barely changes AI routine. It just updates the script of the AIs in Forged Alliance missions. This is amazing, as it gives you more allies to help, and makes the story more coherent. For example in mission 2 of FA, you have a real allied Aeon loyalists base to help you, not just a couple of T1 factories. Or in mission 4 of FA, you actually see Dostya fighting alongside you in the first part of the mission, which is more coherent with the dialogues.
The mod basically changes the script in the mission folders, for exemple: "X1CA_002" for mission 2.
If this mod could be integrated to the coop campaign, even optionally, I think it would be amazing.

What do you guys think? Would you enjoy filling up the Commander space in coop campaign with bots if you don't have a team of 4 ?
Would you like to have better allies, more coherent with the story, in Forged Alliance ?

Thanks for reading, and thanks in advance for your answers!

Edit: Enhanced campaign AI can be found there:
https://www.moddb.com/mods/forged-allia ... ign-ai-v50
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Re: Suggestions on how to improve allied AI in coop campaign

Postby armacham01 » 23 Feb 2020, 22:40

TLDR: Basically everyone who COULD do what you want has been bitten by the "multiplayer games are more fun" bug. So no one is going to help you with this.

Apart from some casual players, most people are not looking to play alone, with AIs, especially on campaign missions. Also, the people who put in the most work tend to be non-casual players.

The work on campaign-type missions is primarily people like speed2 making missions that are actually very difficult for all but the top 20% of players. The content does not appear to be intended for casual players at all.

So I doubt you will find someone interested in doing the work that you would like to see.

As to #2 (enhanced campaign), it would be controversial to change the campaign missions. It is one thing to have an optional modification that a player could use if they wanted. But what you are talking about is changing the campaign missions such that the "original" versions would not be available. I understand they are not truly "original" because by nature, they incorporate changes that FAF made to the vanilla game, but my point is that your changes would make the campaigns even more different from original versions.

If the admins adopted these changes (in terms of changing the mission scripts), they would be blocking people from playing with less AI assistance. Perhaps a lot of the people who play campaign missions solo have a preference for being the center of attention rather than wanting to have strong AI teammates. Also, the more that is done by AI teammates, the less people learn to do for themselves. If there's an AI teammate spamming units and sending scout planes around the map, what does that leave for the human player? Just sit in base, eco, make some game enders? I totally understand that a lot of casuals like to play that way (you don't have to explain the appeal to me, in my life I played hundreds of solo skirmish games like that). But I don't think the FAF administration wants to push people in that direction. If they changed the game to encourage people to play more solo, I think that would actually be a bad thing for the community.

The admins are very busy with other stuff. The changes you want to see are, if not outright disfavored by the current admins, not a priority. Any work on this would have to be done by a volunteer. The FAF administration is not going to push for this to happen. If you can find a volunteer to help you (or if you can learn how to do it yourself) that's great, but I doubt it will happen.

For me at least, if I'm not playing with other people, the game doesn't matter. It's just flat. I played Supreme Commander back when it first came out. I played FA when it came out. For years, I never played online. Only campaign missions and skirmishes with AIs, mostly with AI allies. In hindsight, I look back on that as a giant waste of time. So I am biased somewhat against what you are saying.

From my POV, the campaign exists as a tutorial and the point of it is to push people to play online multiplayer. If the campaign is changed in a way that encourages people to spend more time playing solo, then the campaign is actually objectively worse for the community.

For me at least, having an AI teammate that HELPS me to play the campaign mission (REDUCING my role in the story) would actually make me want to play the campaign missions even less than I already do.

The stories I am interested in are not the scripted campaign story, but the stories that arise naturally from people competing with each other. The stories told by Gyle, Jagged, and Narteck are so much more interesting than scripted story of the campaign missions. The stories from games that I participated in are (sometimes) even more meaningful to me. The campaigns are not very interesting. I like Die Hard, but I don't want to re-watch the movie once a week. That story has been told. For the same reasons, I'm not interested in replaying the campaigns.

Also, the kind of gameplay that you want (solo missions with replayability) already exists in terms of: set up a skirmish, put in AI allies and AI opponents. Change it up by picking different maps (or even using the Neroxis map generator) and different spawns. Dial in the difficulty by making one or more AIx opponents and changing the AIx multiplier. Or you can play that way, but with human teammates.

That's just my perspective. You have your own perspective and I'm not trying to control how other people play the game. Since you asked what I think, I wanted to share.
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Re: Suggestions on how to improve allied AI in coop campaign

Postby Alaric83 » 24 Feb 2020, 13:59

Thanks for your detailed answer! Did not expect that much.

Glad to see that you understand my point of view. It is indeed quite fun and relaxing to play with AI support, so that you can focus more on micro, while still enjoying larger battles.

I also hear what you say. Changing the missions themselves to add this Enhanced Campaign AI mod requires to change the missions for everyone, and many might dislike having more help. If it is an option, like a tick box or a new version of the map then yes, but as it is, it cannot be done. Oh well.

It is not surprising that all the community leaders are focused on the multiplayer aspect of the game, which is its heart after all. Indeed solo-focused players are a minority, I'm sure, so having bots for coop is far from a priority.

All I can say is that bots in coop would only "improve" the replayability of the campaigns. Indeed, even if you want to play with only one or two of your friend, you will always be able to play with a team of 4 commanders, which is cooler and more epic.

I sincerely believe that allied bots are what miss to make the coop campaign from a nice side-line option to multiplayer games, and to make it into an epic feature in its own right. That is only my opinion.

Plus, it can be a good challenge. An AI bot will always be less efficient than a human teammate. Playing on Hard with 3 allied bots is going to be quite challenging, as you have to synchronize with your allies but you don't have any discord or text message to send.

Thank you anyway for your answer! It was a very interesting read.
If anyone else wants to share his/her opinion, please do so. :-)
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Re: Suggestions on how to improve allied AI in coop campaign

Postby speed2 » 24 Feb 2020, 19:46

Extra friendly AI can't be simply enabled in the campaign missions. That AI is designed for skirmish and works reliably only there. It's much more complex issue than just pinging it a location to attack.

Few years ago Enhanced Campaign was integrated (so we're speaking some very old version, well up to date in that time...). Anyway when I took over Coop I removed most of it and restored the missions to original state as I didn't like the direction they took with them. Not to mention the bad code that would be hard to maintain.
To the design part I didn't enjoy just throwing randomly some AI player next to your base to "help" you with the mission. It felt completelly out of place, as the missions were never designed for that. To the difficulty, the friendly AI's got much more love then the enemy. So instead of making the missions more interesting to play, you could actually just sit and turtle and your friendly AI would win on it's own. That was the case for the Coalition base in the first FA mission easily beating the Seraphim. Celene killing QAI in second mission, and so on...

So all of that got removed and won't be reintroduced. I went ahead and made my own adjustmenets to the missions. But every change I did was to make the missions actually more interesting to play and with that ofc harder. Im confident to say I have a pretty good feel on how the enemy attacks should be balanced to provide the most fun as I used to be pretty good at the game on the PvP level.

Im not against a friendly AI in general, but it has to be part of the mission and well balanced. As an example I would point out my mission Novax Station Assault, where you play with a friendly AI if you play solo (with more ppl, the AI is replaced by the player (and newly Operation Trident, released soon™, same case)).

Anyway the FAF idea (well or mine as Im the main contributor to coop) was never to keep the missions untouched for the original experience, but to expand it while keeping the original feel. If you played the original Supreme Commander campaign, you can compare the Aeon campaign with the one we have on FAF. As I reworked the missions to make then much harder, while keeping the mission design as original as possible. Only small adjustments to the enemy bases were done, but mostly rebalance of all the enemy attacks, improved timers, adjusted unit restrictions and so on. A lot of small details that in my opinion improved the missions a lot.
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Re: Suggestions on how to improve allied AI in coop campaign

Postby Alaric83 » 25 Feb 2020, 11:59

Thanks for the detailed answer Speed2.

First of all, thanks for the great work you did with the coop campaign. It is amazing and will make me play FAF for a while!

I definitely hear what you say. The Enhanced Campaign AI did make the game much easier, so much that turtling every mission and waiting for it to play itself was a viable strategy. It is fun to play it once, but then it takes all the fun away.

About the allied bots, it is a shame they won't work efficiently. It would have been fun. What I did like about this idea was that:
You could play with UEF/Aeon/Cybran fighting side by side every mission from start to end, fulfilling the "Coalition" fantasy,
And having these bots would ensure they send constant attack waves left and right, thus making something happening all the time across the might. So, while you are building your base, there is always an engagement happening somewhere for you to see while you have a 15 seconds pause.

Where I definitely agree with you is that the AI needs to be balanced into the mission. I never tried a fan-made mission, but I will definitely try yours. Your idea that you have AI allies if you play solo, which get replaced by players if more people join, is simply brilliant. I love that. It will allow me to enjoy the mission casually while allowing coop. Looking forward to try your Operation Trident when it is released!

Thanks for the feedback.
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