Author Topic: SMACX Thinker Mod  (Read 32943 times)

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Offline dino

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #195 on: February 15, 2019, 07:14:15 AM »
Magtubes allow to snowball through enemy picking with overwhelming force severeal bases one by one in a single turn, so at least a rule to treat magtubes as roads on enemy territory should help AI with defense.
Not being able to use enemy magtubes also makes sense from simulationist pow.
With roads, I'd consider making them cost 1/2 movement points on enemy territory, not being able to use them at all would be too much of gimp for assault forces.

Depends, how much it'd take to do and how much you like this feature, you can be the only judge. I'd certainly try it if it was made.
The mod is singleplayer focused, as long as it's optional no consensus among the players is necessary imo.
If we were concerned about "fracturing community", than by this logic no one should make any txt rules editing either.


The other modding feature, that could be really useful in improving game balance, would an option to change [1,2,3,4] reactor constants in unit hit points and cost formulas.
Both are already identified in the code, so unless it's impossible to use floats as these exponent values, should be doable.

I'd suggest just implementing two separate tables of four values for cost and HP, configurable in thinker.ini
There is no way you would reach consensus about these formulas and yet most experienced players would like them adjusted, so making it completely configurable is the only way.
I personally, if given such a feature, as first experiment would make reactor reduce unit cost, but by a smaller factor and remove HP increase completely.

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #196 on: February 15, 2019, 08:20:35 AM »


There has been some tragic examples of calling the mission accomplished too early on... But in all seriousness, the majority of stuff that will get added in this mod is already done. It probably wont become one of those "forever" projects until I move on to something else.

I agree how the magtubes provide excessive bonuses for the attackers as they are currently implemented. This is not mentioned in the docs, but currently Thinker does not build any magtubes on its territory precisely for that reason. Magtubes don't provide any particular economic benefits either. About the feasibility of that reactor modding, it might be kind of hard to do when the reactor values are referenced hundreds of times in the game binary. It's probably a lot easier to change the movement cost function.

Offline bvanevery

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Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #197 on: February 15, 2019, 01:32:35 PM »
Not being able to use enemy magtubes also makes sense from simulationist pow.

It doesn't make any sense at all.  What would Lawrence of Arabia do?  Blow up Turkish railways, because he can freely move there.  Why not deny the use of roads entirely?  Because roads are roads, they are not turrets or troops.  Roads are what you fight over, they do not defend themselves.  Why not deny movement over enemy terrain entirely?  Because the ground doesn't magically inflict pain upon enemy troops, unless it's Elvish fantasy root grabbing stuff, a Russian winter, or an African disease.

Mag tubes are definitely overpowered, but artificial limits on the ability to use them is a cheap shot.  Nobody's empire has an expenditure for "implicit defense", representing some kind of intangible of fortifications spread everywhere.  This is a game where you move all of your military units one by one.

Some games have taken the approach of a rail allowing faster movement than a road, but it still costs movement points.  I don't have an opinion on the enjoyability of that as a game mechanic.  Call To Power 2 may have done that, but it's been eons since I played that game and I have no clear memory of it.  My concern is, SMAC is tedious enough to win already.  Making long distance map movement even more difficult than it already is, strikes me as heading towards The Very Dull.

Some games don't allow terrain improvements to be built on your same turn.  This prevents a rail from appearing instantly, without the AI having any chance to react to it.  However it also burdens the player with a lot more planning and mouseclicking.  There's a very basic challenge vs. usability tradeoff here.

I am pretty sure Freeciv has that "no instant improvements" mechanic.  All you really end up doing is putting a good piece of armor at the tip of your rail head, like a Mechanized Infantry.  You may be slightly slowed down by having to drive your Howitzers over roads, only knocking off a "front" of cities instead of all of them.  It doesn't greatly change the human ability to wipe the AI out. 


Offline dino

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #198 on: February 16, 2019, 12:55:33 AM »
Steam/Diesel locomotive carries it's own source of energy. You can cut power from magtube, sabotage electric grid. We can also imagine whole infrastructure being automated / remotely controlled.

Being able to use enemy infrastructure and potentially strike any city connected to tube network deep into enemy territory is not realistic.
Unit in transport is vulnerable and not combat ready, you can't just uninterrupted carry your army on a train up to enemy gates even now.

Half, or third of a road movement cost, instead of infinite range would be nice too.


Offline bvanevery

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Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #199 on: February 16, 2019, 03:19:42 AM »
Being able to use enemy infrastructure and potentially strike any city connected to tube network deep into enemy territory is not realistic.

Look, roads were great for Rome projecting force outwards, but they were also great for enemies swarming inwards.  "All roads lead to Rome."

Quote
Unit in transport is vulnerable and not combat ready, you can't just uninterrupted carry your army on a train up to enemy gates even now.

"Instantaneous" travel is not realistic for us now.  But if you accept that as a basic part of the game on its timescale, then the tactical consequences are realistic.  The US Civil War for instance saw a great speeding up of troop movements compared to previous eras of combat.

The "interruption" problem is basic to IGOUGO game mechanics.  If you want realistic interruption, you have to use finer and finer grained timespans to do the simulation.  If you're not willing to simulate by the hour or even the minute, then you have to accept that something is not realistic.

Lacking realism, one worries about whether systems are game mechanically fair, and whether they are cumbersome.  These virtues and vices cannot necessarily be satisfied at the same time.

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #200 on: February 16, 2019, 02:11:24 PM »
Those bigger features might need a little more evaluating before implementation.

Anyway, today develop version 20190216 is available from the downloads with a couple of other changes:

- New parameter: cost_factor allows one to change AI production bonuses
- New parameter: max_satellites specifies how many of them AI will build normally
- Config file format reorganized
- AI now sometimes nerve staples bases after UN charter has been repealed
- Possible to select custom factions in smac_only mod
- Command line parameter -smac added

I estimate that nerve stapling can have a big impact on AI bases if the charter gets repealed. Funnily enough, you will get a message each time AI staples one of its bases. Post here any observations on how this will affect the game balance.

Offline BFG

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #201 on: February 16, 2019, 06:08:57 PM »
Thanks for your continued work!  It has to be rather tedious on such an old game.

Did I catch that the AI will not build mag tubes?  I know they are OPd but personally I don’t like blocking things the AI is supposed to have access to.  Is there anything else in that category?  Is there a complete list of changes somewhere?

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #202 on: February 17, 2019, 02:29:39 PM »
Complete list of what kind of changes exactly? Maybe source code... Thinker doesn't build every single thing that is available, e.g. mag tubes, bunkers and echelon mirrors are some of the things that are not built. Hard to find good use cases for those, although mag tubes could be implemented, but then I certainly wouldn't want the formers building them on every possible square. It would have to be more selective in some way.

Offline BFG

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #203 on: February 17, 2019, 11:30:00 PM »
Personally I would prefer if it could build those, IF doing so would further strengthen the AI competitiveness.  I’m sure it’s a lot harder to implement than it sounds, but perhaps the AI could start building some of those when it would otherwise run out of instructions to execute.

I don’t mind if the AI is able to build overpowered improvements, is what I am trying to say.

Offline bvanevery

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Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #204 on: February 18, 2019, 06:21:20 PM »
Not building Bunkers is an extremely good call.  In my own mod, I've disabled Bunkers entirely.  All they provide is a ready invasion route for the human player.  They are of no tactical value to the AI at all, they are a liability.  I don't really know what the original authors were thinking, implementing that.  I believe they were not thinking, or rather, not playtesting enough.

In my mod, mag tubes are available rather early.  It's a Tier 2 tech, you are expected to get it at the beginning of the game.  To actually build a meaningful mag tube network, takes a lot of Formers though.  I find there are many competing needs for quite awhile, even potentially to midgame, depending on your circumstances.  I have the bias of assuming a Huge map with deliberate extra land mass, to give AIs room to grow real empires.  YMMV if you are playing Standard maps that are more like island water worlds.

The stock AI builds acceptable if somewhat wasteful mag tube systems on the maps that I've given it.  I seriously doubt the AI makes good tactical use of such systems.  Rather, they end up being networks for me to use in my conquest.  The stock AI mainly just builds large numbers of units that mill around between cities, as though they're afraid someone's gonna sneak up on them, and that defense by lotsa trip wires in the field is a good idea.  It isn't.  Conquering the stock AI is mostly about whacking a city, watching lots of units going out of support due to loss of minerals, and cleaning up after collapse.  A proper AI would use a mag tube as a combat spearhead, the way I use it against the AI.

I consider roads and mag tubes to be Conquer technologies.  My tech tree is weighted accordingly.

Offline BFG

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #205 on: February 18, 2019, 11:11:35 PM »
What’s your opinion on Echelon Mirrors, out of curiosity?

Offline bvanevery

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Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #206 on: February 19, 2019, 06:20:05 AM »
In general, that it's a dumb game mechanic.  You stress about where to place these things "perfectly" in order to get some kind of bonus.  The randomly generated terrain never gives you a natural perfect layout.  What I actually do, is plant all my forests on flat terrain that's devoid of minerals.  And I plant my farms with solar collectors on rolling terrain so that they all get +1 mineral.  I think that's 2-1-2 most of the time, and ok for an early game tile.

I manually terraform everything.  Around midgame, I've probably finished doing all those farms.  Tree Farms are starting to become available.  If there's any rolling, moist terrain I haven't finished up yet, just sticking a tree on it is starting to look like a better idea.  Tree farms aren't just for happiness, money, and minerals.  Every square of forest, also staves off global warming some.  Planting more and more trees helps you.

In midgame I've probably had a war concern.  I've probably built a mag tube to someone's front door and invaded something.  Fighting wars is a major distraction from tooling around with Echelon Mirrors.  I think it is a piece of gratuitous content, in search of a real need to use it.  I think I've actually Drilled To Aquifer more than I've bothered with Echelon Mirrors, and [Q] is a truly obscure command.  I think that has tended to happen more on my Enormous maps, where I'm not in ready contact with enemies.  On Huge maps, by midgame I'm probably invading someone somewhere.

So let's say that despite every other demand on my attention, I actually get around to placing Echelon Mirrors.  Where will they go?  Well, I look for natural clusters of solar collectors, where I've already built them.  I don't like tearing up existing terrain to do this.  Consequently, there don't end up being all that many natural Echelon Mirror spots.  It's all random, and I developed what was there.

I don't believe in raising altitude either.  All it does in my experience, is mess up my weather patterns.  What's the point of working all these farms, only to have them suddenly go Arid?  Thanks for nothing.  I'd rather just keep working with what I've got, and not have it all fry as land gets raised.

Some people build high altitude energy parks and then put lots of supply crawlers on them.  I say, why not get all the energy from the oceans?  It's cheap and plentiful out there.

Offline Induktio

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #207 on: February 19, 2019, 08:11:48 AM »
The main use for echelon mirrors is really to build an energy park for the super science city, otherwise there's not much use for them. The way to get most energy is to build alternating rows of solar/echelon at max altitude, but the problem is usually finding enough terrain that is high enough. Usually the land raising part tends to make it not worth it, but at maximum each solar panel could yield around 10 energy which can be crawled.

Then if we look at this from the AI perspective, coding a behaviour like this would get pretty complicated since it requires so much coordination from multiple different units. The AI would need to preallocate terrain for the energy park and not build any bases there, etc. Things like that seem to make implementing land-based energy parks not worth it. There are also many other easier things to add to the AI.

Offline PvtHudson

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #208 on: February 19, 2019, 11:27:52 AM »
Things aren't helped by the fact that nearby forests do spread into echelon tiles, and then mirrors (unlike boreholes) stop working.

Offline BFG

Re: SMACX Thinker Mod
« Reply #209 on: February 23, 2019, 06:20:45 PM »
Interesting. I didn’t realize that regarding echelon mirrors and forests.  Probably yet another bug or at least an oversight.

On a different topic, I have been testing various base units to see which can boost AI and which are useless.  I would be interested to hear thoughts or feedback.

Significant boost:
Needlejet Colony Pod (or any Aero Pod)
Probe Foil

Small boost:
Gravship Formers (AI can only use on land)
XX Missile (Not sure it’s better than vanilla missiles)
Aero Transports

No boost / detrimental:
Supply Foil (AI doesn’t know how to use)

To test:
Gravship Supply
Enhanced probes and various other enhanced units

 

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