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Development Diary #2: Houses, Characters, and a Multi-axis AI

Discussion in 'Development Diaries - Written' started by Texashawk, Sep 21, 2015.

  1. Texashawk

    Texashawk Developer
    Staff Member Developer Forum Admin

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    Greetings everyone! Sorry it's been a while since the last DD but trust me we are still working on this beast, and progress is coming along nicely! I wanted to put these thoughts on paper (ink? pixel?) as a result of a forum post I saw discussing strategic AI on another forum. Basically, the argument was that most AIs that operate run on a 'one axis' (like/hate) or 'two axis' (like/hate, fear/dominance) state. As I thought about it, I realized that Imperia runs on at least a 'five axis' state for each character, as opposed to just a few top-level personalities, which will hopefully be responsible for some incredibly emergent gameplay. Here's what I wrote in response:

    Instead of playing against a handful of rulers, you will be playing in a sandbox with dozens of active characters with their own goals and ambitions, which will change and adapt due to similar factors (you as the emperor's ideology - good, evil, or pragmatic, fear of you, love for you, anger over what you've done to them/their allies/their pops in their holdings, their own personality traits, how you have treated their House and/or opposing Houses, how you interact with their culture group (yes, characters will have distinct Cultures), and to some extent what their House ideology is and what their rank is in the House).

    These 'axes' will weigh against each other differently in large part depending on the situation of the Empire at the time, your power as an Emperor, and the character's own personality (for example, each character has a Will, an Intelligence, a Greed, and an Influence rating, among others, that depending on the character's traits will be more or less important to them when deciding what they want and what they will do to do/get it.)

    We have the data model more or less written out; frankly the challenge is to keep the game moving at an acceptable level and not to process 10-minute turns! We have some abstraction strategies that we think will work; we'll find out over the next few months! :-D

    That, in a nutshell, is how Imperia's AI will work. Empires will be run by an emperor/leader who will have the same goal system, but obviously their goals will be much higher. Here's an example of how the AI is set up to work, and represents one possible outcome.

    A viceroy in a frontier province has a primary goal of Move Up In Rank (to either a nicer planet or get their own system governance) and a secondary goal of Acquire Wealth. These goals are dynamically derived from their traits and attributes (high Greed and Ambition scores, medium Will score) as well as their House attributes (House Kiraly-Finn has a high Expansionist rating).

    So they don't have a lot of autonomy, so they can't do much to change their situation other than running their planet as well as they can and hope somebody notices (i.e. you). But one month, there is an Edict that needs their support - you are trying to build a starbase on a new colony to send a mother lode of rare materials that were found there, and the viceroy happens to have a high Admin rating, so you are looking at making them your administrator for that Edict. At this point, the viceroy can give this support in exchange for a Favor: to be promoted within the next 15 turns (months). This is the easiest way for a character to create action. But what if you're not willing to play ball? Well...

    The character could start a Plot against the system governor of the system, especially if they are not of the same House, to get them removed for 'corruption', or simply try to have them killed, or...

    The character could offer their planet's full resources for a proactive Edict to survey a nearby system, with the provision that they be given the system afterwards, or...

    The character could (if their Ambition was high enough) attempt to gain control of any military units on the planet to force you to either give the character what they want or send the military to regain control (and most likely kill Pops in the process), or...

    The character could ask someone in their House to intervene, and possibly reduce support for an existing Edict or a annual Budget change, unless the character gets a promotion.

    But remember, you don't have to give this character the best system! You can stick them out in the middle of nowhere on a barely-colonized gas giant if you want. Just keep in mind that they will know you gave them a crappy system, and they (and their House) will remember. If they get powerful enough, they could cause a lot of problems for you down the road. Now you have several options....

    As you can see, the opportunities for gameplay with so many axes are both exciting and terrifying as a game developer, which is one reason why we are taking our time with the implementation. The biggest thing is really how to represent these axes and opportunities for action to the player. Obviously, intel will be a part but how do you make the repercussions of decisions accessible to the player? Do you make them keep notes? Do they have to keep track of everyone's relations and favors owed, etc? It's a new game design, and thus one where we don't have a lot of 'old games' to fall back on.

    What are your thoughts?

    -Steve
     
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