Author Topic: SMACX Thinker Mod  (Read 12809 times)

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Offline bvanevery

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Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #300 on: March 31, 2019, 09:20:19 PM »
It might also just attempt to connect them to the network nodes.

I saw the AI do that in an AI vs. AI test game.  I was surprised.  None of the AIs are consistent about it either, because I can readily see the AIs hoarding Artifacts even late game.  Sometimes I'm able to take them when I conquer a city.  Other times they just get destroyed.

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I've been thinking about implementing project rushing but it might result in run away AIs accelerating even faster,

It's a certainty.

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and maybe it is also annoying for the players to see the projects snatched away with little warning.

It is.  I already see that in mid to late game.  Secret Projects are born and die like mayflies, and I usually can't do anything about it.  I'm too busy trying to catch up on the most basic production, in the face of all the AI production spam.

I hope some day you accept that your AI has become competent enough, that the buffs given to the stock "stupid" AI, need to go away forever.  It's not an interesting game to be summarily clobbered by an AI endgame when I've only just gotten an empire together.  My current test game, is the last time I'm going to  play on Transcend with cost_factor=7.

It remains to be seen if even cost_factor=10, same as the player, is enough.  The AI still has the eco-damage abuse advantage, and there just might be that much potential in Condensers and Boreholes, even with all the delays I've implemented in 1.29 of my mod.  There's a point at which I can't make it any more painful for players who are only playing the stock game, and don't even know what Thinker mod is.

I could see raising the Weather Paradigm from 400 to 600 minerals, but I can't see moving it later than B3 Ecological Engineering, which is already much later than the stock game.  Half the point of the Weather Paradigm is giving you early access to all the nifty terraforming gewgaws.  600 minerals would make it a "double cost" Secret Project, as all my other early ones cost 300.  Aside from the Ascent to Transcendence, 600 minerals is the highest expense level I have in the game.  It's for the latest game techs, like the Cloning Vats, which I deliberately stuck near the end of the tech tree.

Now I could increase the cost of many Secret Projects, totally recalibrating them to have a much steeper progression, as I've otherwise done with weapons, armor, and chasses.  IIRC correctly Fission Armor went somewhat down this road, and Mart did it in his work as well, although he didn't change when you got the techs.

But if it's only Thinker mod that is breaking the enjoyability of the experience for the usual player, I question whether it's worth going down that design road.  Seems like it would be more rational not to recommend Thinker mod to anybody.  At least, not without huge caveats about what kind of game a particular kind of player is expecting.  People make highly qualified appraisals of 4X TBS games on /r/4Xgaming all the time, and they aren't shy or kind about it.  There's definitely a class of player represented, where right now I'd honestly have to say the experience of Thinker mod sucks rocks.  It's an interesting piece of technology that demonstrates the production potentials of the game, but it's just there to abuse you and make you lose.

The kind of player who wants Thinker mod as it currently stands, is the player who wants "monster" challenges.  I'm not into it, and I never needed an AI for that anyways.  I could have just cranked various resource abuse settings up to Eleven.

I don't like GNU Chess either.  I've never been able to do a darned thing against it, and I'm not that interested in flailing myself with Chess book strategies to figure out why it's beating me.  That's saying a lot because I have played a fair amount of computer Chess, am reasonably competent at it, and have beaten other AIs of lesser abilities from the early 90s.

Offline dino

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #301 on: March 31, 2019, 09:33:31 PM »
Initial 2sq spread hurts early, for benefits later, so I thought getting rid of it completely requires no work and is a slight improvement overall imo.

>Probably this is not even a big issue, but the initial placement could maybe follow 3 tile spread and later (after more bases are built) it could fill the gaps using the 2 tile spread.

That would optimal, but I thought a bit much work just for monsoon.

> I've been thinking about implementing project rushing but it might result in run away AIs accelerating even faster, and maybe it is also annoying for the players to see the projects snatched away with little warning.

Or, eventuall thinker will reach a point at witch you can play on lower difficulty, or less cost_factor cheat and it still will be competitive.
At wich point it will become even more enjoyable and you'll be able to win a race for a SP despite such features, if you sacrifice enough for it.
You can also make an ini switch for it and disable by default, if you are concerned that some gamers would not enjoy that.
« Last Edit: March 31, 2019, 10:03:46 PM by dino »

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #302 on: March 31, 2019, 10:12:34 PM »
> Seems like it would be more rational not to recommend Thinker mod to anybody.  At least, not without huge caveats about what kind of game a particular kind of player is expecting.

Recommend it or don't, it's not really my problem. But if people do mention it, one could link to the earlier screenshot with the Data Angels terraforming efforts. Then the players will know what they're signing up to, at least on the highest difficulty. :D

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #303 on: April 01, 2019, 07:17:06 PM »
When one thinks about the game design, the main problem in SMAC balancing might be the lack of any effective mechanic to stop one faction from running away with the game. For example Civ 3 introduced an important change and made corruption affect the mineral production too. In SMAC, basically only the bureaucracy drone mechanic attempts to limit expansion, but the limit scales with the map size and efficiency, so the empires can grow pretty huge. Some factions can get really high efficiency bonuses too. Late-game features produce so much psych that even the drones can be taken out of the picture really easily.

Another compounding factor is that the tech costs scale only linearly (probably) while the production keeps increasing exponentially. Might be something to think about although stuff like that is pretty much out of the scope for the next release. I'm pretty much doing only bug fixes/some tweaks instead of new features now. At least one of the changes could be to remove Trance ability from the design_units created prototypes. Probe teams are already overpowered enough so no need to stack it further. I think the unit planner should only attempt to add Algorithmic ability on probes, but they can still keep the armor they were using.

Offline dino

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #304 on: April 01, 2019, 08:25:17 PM »
I think it's a problem mostly on big maps, on standard map factions will fill the land around 2200, end exponential growth ends there.

I think tech cost grows exponentially, but exponent is much smaller then exponential growth of competent player, or thinker.
I'm not sure, but I vaguely remember Ytzii posting tech cost formula somewhere, it was pretty complex. I think it wasmore  linear at the beginning and turned more exponential later.
I also remember year having an impact on the cost, the earlier year the higher cost. Thinker could definitely use rebalance of variables in tech cost formula.

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #305 on: April 05, 2019, 03:45:16 PM »
Looks like I've found a solution for the colony pod pathing issue. It seems the original movement logic was still somehow interfering with Thinker's commands but it should be dealt with now. The fix should basically eliminate early AI settlement issues but it might still take a little more testing. It really does seem to have a significant effect on the early game. Anyway, the state of the code is looking pretty good now.

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #306 on: April 07, 2019, 12:15:40 PM »
Thinker mod version 0.9 is now available from the project homepage.

A lot of effort and testing went into this version and the changelog reflects it too. Changes are listed relative to version 0.8 obviously.

* Thinker now supports formers based on all triads: design_units will also create gravship formers when the techs are available
* AI formers build less roads and other smaller tweaks to former priorities
* AI sometimes nerve staples bases after UN charter has been repealed
* Military unit production priority is notably increased from previous amounts
* Whenever AI loses bases to conquest, this also triggers an extra priority to devote more resources to building new units
* Tech balance prioritizes more early economic techs to ensure important items are not skipped
* Rebalancing of social_ai logic to match faction priorities more closely
* Alphax.txt included in releases to provide optional changes
* Trance ability removed from design_units created probe teams
* Major adjustments to faction placement to improve starting locations
* Possibility to select custom factions in smac_only mod
* Added command line parameter "-smac" to start smac_only mod
* New option: nutrient_bonus for use with faction placement
* New option: hurry_items allows AI to use energy reserves to hurry production (excluding secret projects)
* New option: cost_factor allows one to change AI production bonuses
* New option: max_satellites specifies how many of them AI will build normally
* Fix spawning issues on Map of Planet
* Fix sea bases sometimes not building enough transports
* Fix colony pods freezing in place or being unable to reach their destinations
* Fix stuff being built on volcanoes
* Fix smac_only showing the expansion opening movie
* Fix custom prototypes having incomplete names

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #307 on: May 18, 2019, 10:51:09 AM »
Not much has been happening since the last release. There has been some requests in that the smac-in-smacx mod could be bundled with the release for easier installation. Maybe even dino requested it earlier in this thread, and it's also a good idea to include the other fixes in the smac-in-smacx alphax.txt. It's only going to require minor documentation changes anyway.

As far as the code base goes, I don't see it needing any major changes since v0.9 unless somebody reports something unusual. I'm not sure how much I'll be developing new features from scratch anymore but some bugfixes (if any) could be included. Long term I'm kind of wondering how this mod could be included with OpenSMACX. It would basically require OpenSMACX to provide a patched exe which keeps many offsets at their original values so it wouldn't break Thinker's patching method. It might still require some code rewriting but I haven't looked at it in detail. I would like to see OpenSMACX repo to include a clear build script to replicate the exe patching part, but I'm not sure what other plans Scient has here.

Offline dino

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #308 on: May 20, 2019, 09:19:50 PM »
Inspired by this project, I've returned to learning C++ and will try to implement few ideas I have, sometime next month.
If you are going to put this project on hold, or abandon it, it would be great if you could make your hooks to the exe Scient's way before you let it go.
So even unexperienced coders could continue to develop it and hopefully be able to port thinker to new opensmax releases without touching the exe.

I'm not even sure, if what I wrote makes any sense, I just want as much source code as possible to play with ;) while assembler and RE in IDA is out of my league.

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #309 on: May 23, 2019, 07:40:06 PM »
Inspired by this project, I've returned to learning C++ and will try to implement few ideas I have, sometime next month.
If you are going to put this project on hold, or abandon it, it would be great if you could make your hooks to the exe Scient's way before you let it go.
So even unexperienced coders could continue to develop it and hopefully be able to port thinker to new opensmax releases without touching the exe.

It's good to have others looking at modding as well, but as a word of caution it's not very simple to go on patching binaries without source code. That's why very early on I decided the project must be done in C++ for it to be maintainable except for some bugfixes that were done earlier. The code is still heavily coupled to the way game binary operates. Otherwise it's pretty standard style C code with the more complex C++ features used only sparingly (no heavy templating used here etc).

Now it's possible to override many parts of the game logic without having a deep knowledge of assembly, but if you need to go anywhere beyond the stuff Thinker currently does, then reversing game code with IDA is most certainly needed. There's no formal API when it comes to binary patching so it's hard to say at this point how easily this stuff could be ported to OpenSMACX without significant rewriting efforts. I don't consider this project abandoned or anywhere close to it, but sometimes one just has to do other stuff in the meantime.

Offline dino

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #310 on: May 23, 2019, 08:46:45 PM »
Good to hear you are going to return to this project at some point in the future.

Offline PvtHudson

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #311 on: May 24, 2019, 03:54:44 PM »
I don't consider this project abandoned or anywhere close to it
Ooh, a great weight off my mind. You are a real knight of progress, good sir!

Offline Liebestod

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #312 on: June 16, 2019, 02:54:40 AM »
I made an account here just to comment on this mod.

Especially because there seems to be some negative feedback, I want to express my opinion. This mod is awesome! The AI is so much better!

My game was a normal world size on Thinker level. 70% land and average everything. I played a "balanced" Consciousness (no techsteal, -2 growth instead of -1, +1 research instead of +2).
Using Thinker mod and PRACX mods together. No crashes experienced and secret project videos play.
Usually I crush the ai and their empires are quite sad. Pleasantly, the AI produced empires that had MORE bases than me and even MORE pop than me, EVEN AFTER I POP BOOMED!
The Drones found the monsoon jungle and as of 2200 they STILL have more pop than I do. Zak was able to stay ahead of me in tech much longer than usual.

Of course it wasn't perfect competition. I was able to get Airpower/MMI before the AI and they can't really stop me now. Morgan never really got off the ground, and Yang is lagging far behind even though he has sizable territory (small pop in bases - never boomed).  The AI also isn't ruthless at acquiring secret projects so it's totally possible to get all the ones you want. I understand there's a pro and con there so it's not really a negative. But it does contribute greatly to my advantage that I can get all the good early secret projects.

I didn't find the AI too hard to beat but it's way better than default and thus for me the "fun" level is much higher. Thank you!

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #313 on: June 16, 2019, 11:35:32 PM »
Especially because there seems to be some negative feedback, I want to express my opinion. This mod is awesome! The AI is so much better!
Well yeah, I think we can call mission accomplished on that one. Though it can be seen that most of the criticism comes from one source, so there's that. Beyond a certain point one just can't be bothered anymore.

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My game was a normal world size on Thinker level. 70% land and average everything. I played a "balanced" Consciousness (no techsteal, -2 growth instead of -1, +1 research instead of +2).
Using Thinker mod and PRACX mods together. No crashes experienced and secret project videos play.
Usually I crush the ai and their empires are quite sad. Pleasantly, the AI produced empires that had MORE bases than me and even MORE pop than me, EVEN AFTER I POP BOOMED!
I assume you were using the new worldbuilder settings then. Do you think they made a significant impact on the gameplay overall? The AI is pretty adept now at economy building, so it can be much harder to acquire governorship and so forth. During development the economy building was the main focus in AI improvement, since I figured it was the obstacle that would have crippled AI challenge unless fixed somehow.

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Of course it wasn't perfect competition. I was able to get Airpower/MMI before the AI and they can't really stop me now. Morgan never really got off the ground, and Yang is lagging far behind even though he has sizable territory (small pop in bases - never boomed).  The AI also isn't ruthless at acquiring secret projects so it's totally possible to get all the ones you want. I understand there's a pro and con there so it's not really a negative. But it does contribute greatly to my advantage that I can get all the good early secret projects.
On standard map sizes and below, almost always some faction seems to stagnate because of a lack of space, but probably it isn't a big issue if most of the time the factions develop pretty fast. I would call it an issue if it happened on huge maps instead.

What kind of early projects do you consider "good"? I would think it would be pretty hard to get all of the early good ones, since the player shouldn't be able to easily gain a significant advantage over the AIs early-to-mid game. Sure, it was a design choice not to have the AIs rush secret project production and I'll probably keep it that way. It might have a significant gameplay impact if it were changed from the vanilla behaviour.

Offline Liebestod

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #314 on: June 17, 2019, 06:56:38 AM »
I believe I was using the "new worldbuilder settings". Because the world looks like two giant continents rather than continents and islands of random sizes.

And okay I will try my next game on Large map.

I like the WP, Genome, Virtual World and Empath Guild. Was able to get all of them in my particular game. I don't prioritize Command Nexus, Citizens Defense Force, Planetary Transit System or Planetary Datalinks. (I think Transit System makes more sense for HUGE maps, not normal size). I also don't really start building any wonders until I have 10+ bases, supply crawlers to get 10-16 mineral production at most bases, and a few Rec Commons. So in other words I'm not rushing to get the wonders.

As for planetary council votes, I was able to get the governorship but only because things went my way. Someone voted for me instead of Domai, and then again someone chose me over Lal. I think being second on the power rankings for so long helped.


 

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