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Preface. I am not the kind of player who can remain engaged for very long with static missions such as offered in the Naval Academy. However, give me a custom battle setup with AI controllable forces and a spreadsheet, and days will fly by. Thus recently with release of the latest Alpha update (Alpha 4 v67) I have been spending a fair amount of time smashing fleets of AI ships together while I patiently await the arrival of the campaign mode. During this time I have observed some behaviours that I feel it would be useful to begin a discussion on. Unfortunately this means a wall of text of incoming, but hopefully someone will find the time to read it and perhaps some useful points to engage with and discuss as development of this fine game continues. Perceived desirable traits. As of the time of writing, this will be a single player game. As such, the AI opponents needs to provide a challenging and engaging game play experience whilst not being so complex as to be to computationally heavy and bogging down the simulation. To my mind, providing this engagement can be done in two complementing fashions. The first of these is verisimilitude. The AI should exhibit behaviours that mimic real world/human behaviours, to provide the illusion that hidden away behind your screen an enemy Beatty or Scheer is directing the opposing forces and doing their damndest to prevail against you. The second element is to provide a challenge. The AI should understand the systems inherent in the game it is playing. It should utilise those systems at the least in a competent manner in order to provide the greatest tactical challenge to a competent player. This includes at least giving the illusion of pursuing a coherent tactical battle plan, with some variety of overall approaches roughly appropriate to a given engagements strategic/tactical considerations. With these traits in mind, I will now highlight what I think are the largest negative factors presented by the AI admirals as currently implemented. Target selection. I have observed ships of all classes primarily engaging the lightest visible opposing elements with all available weaponry unless engaged at very close ranges. This results in some very spectacular explosions when a battleships main battery lands a square blow on a torpedo boat, but is perhaps not entirely desirable and certainly challenges perceptions of verisimilitude with the games gunnery model. I believe that a ships primary and secondary batteries should engage opposing forces with respect to the vessels role within the fleet. Ideally ships primary weaponry should be engaging their opposing class first, engaging down only when no ideal target presents itself, and only engaging up as a last resort. Secondary weaponry should prefer to engage down, although certain classes of secondary weaponry may be optimised for other targets. This assumes relatively historical ship design considerations, although given the design flexibility inherent in this title, perhaps prioritising targets dependent on the calibre of the individual battery would be more appropriate? As a suggestion, perhaps a useful guideline for weapon based target selection would be: 2-5” weaponry would prioritise torpedo boats and destroyers 4-7” would prioritise light / protected Cruisers 6-9” would prioritise armoured / heavy Cruisers, possibly lightly armoured battlecruisers 10”+ should be engaging enemy battleships and battlecruisers as priority. Torpedoes should be prioritised as engaging the heaviest viable targets, though as a weapon of opportunity they should be used against any target that presents itself. Perhaps the margin of allowable error should be judged much more strictly when choosing to engage light manouverable elements such as opposing torpedo boats. Currently an entire fleet will engage a single enemy vessel until its destruction. While probably the correct choice for the damage model as currently implemented, as more gradual reduction in fighting ability from accrued impacts is implemented (through crew casualties and the like), it should become viable to implement a more historically accurate tactic of each ship with in a line engaging its opposing number in the enemy line, only beginning to double up when friendly forces maintain numerical superiority. Formation Keeping. This mostly comes up when a unit tries to fall out of line due to battle damage. Currently a unit seeking to fall back to the end of their squadrons battle line will do a full 180 turn to achieve this via the shortest path for their current relative position (often coming to a complete stop in front of the enemy gun line and disrupting the formation of following friendly elements, also causing them to come to a complete stop). However, ships of the era -should- be aiming to maintain constant speed. The correct course of action for a ship unable to keep pace with their squadron is to pull out of line -away- from opposing forces, before settling into a parallel course allowing friendly units to pass between themselves and the enemy. Similarly, when formations are disrupted, the lead ship should reduce speed to allow the rest of their squadron to catch up, currently once disrupted any lead element that missed the blockage will quickly become isolated and find itself facing enemy forces alone and distant from supporting friendlies. Position selection for supporting units: when given the supporting role (as opposed to follow), squadrons seek to position themselves between the supported formations and the enemy fleet. While this is the correct choice for scouting units before the main battle lines become engaged, this positioning is suicidal once heavier enemy forces are within firing range. Ideally supporting forces should be withdrawing to a position behind the primary gun line once battle is joined, only sallying back through the line should it become necessary to fend off enemy destroyer/torpedo boat attacks. These attacks should also not be the default behaviour for destroyers and torpedo boat, these forces should be held in reserve until such times as the battle lines close to a short distance or to finish off vessels already crippled by gunfire. Supporting units manouvering around primary gun line. This remains problematic and causes many of the formation issues mentioned above. When mixed category fleets are manouvering together, the heavier elements at most should hold their course when approached by lighter elements. A single torpedo boat trying to reach the other side of a battle line should not disrupt an entire squadron of battleships. Heavier elements should hold their course and allow the lighter units to perform the bulk of the evasive manouvering. Similarly, when selecting an appropriate path, unless capable of performing a well timed turn between gaps in a battle line (probably a bit complex to ask of an AI tracking many constantly changing variables of speed, position and tactical situation), the AI needs to be aware of all ships in a formation it is trying to manouver past. Ideally, instead of just trying to avoid the lead ship in a formation and disrupting all vessels trying to follow it, a formation should choose to reduce speed and allow the interceding formation to pass before cutting behind them to reach their intended position. Fleet manouver. Probably the lowest priority to adjust/implement as current, as addressing all previous issues will drastically change the conditions in which the current implementation is working and possibly produce different outcomes. Current observation seems to indicate 3 broad class of AI/AI engagements. The first, and most aesthetic, is when the lead element of each fleet chooses to make their initial turn onto parallel courses, forming something of a classic battle line IF the majority of supporting elements have been set to follow and thus falling out of the engagement envelope of the leading gun line, allowing the classic gun duel to develop. If lighter elements are supporting and thus interposed between the gun lines however, the second type of engagement evolves in which battleships seeking to engage light elements end up clashing at a 90 degree angle at close range, the initial stages of this engagement are often slightly farcical with Battleships within spitting distance of each other engaging distant torpedo boats with everything they have, and as lighter elements succumb finally devolving into a close range slugging match, if one side fit torpedoes they tend to win at 1890s tech, if both side fit torpedoes, everybody dies. The third engagement resolves when lead elements turn onto opposing courses, resulting in a circling engagement that will first slaughter supporting light elements caught in the middle (who often find themselves entangled with their opposing numbers), before falling onto the following support elements at the tail of each fleet, the battleships only finally engaging their opposing numbers when all lighter shipping has been eradicated. Closing Remarks. I understand that at this stage of development, many of the core mechanical systems the AI must utilise and work around are still very much in flux. Thus until the game systems themselves stabilise at some closer to a releasable state, to much work on the AI can be seen as a waste of developer time and effort. However, as we approach the time in which the campaign mode is released to the public for testing and comment, having a functional and satisfying AI opponent will go a long way towards showing the systems in place in their best possible light and allow current and future players to remain engaged with the games future development. This engagement would generate further interest with the titles progress and hopefully contribute towards the success of the final product. All errors and misunderstandings of the systems currently on show are my own and no fault of the development team. Finally, full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes.
Saw a discussion on the "target high speed" gunnery modifiers, so thought I'd bring this one up as well. I've noticed that the "target manoeuvre" modifier appears to be slaved directly to their rudder setting. I say this because an enemy ship doing 1.5 knots can apply the same penalty to hit it as one doing 20 knots. I think that's.....dubious to say the least. Variations in course are most significant the higher the speed as that leads to a greater difference between where a ship was expected to be (gunnery solution) and thus where the shells are intended to land vs. where the ship in fact is when those shells arrive. Even full rudder applied at 2 knots isn't likely to make much difference as the practicalities of gunnery mean shells effectively are raining down in the 'target area', and you're not going to alter significantly that gunnery solution target area no matter what you do at that speed. While it's true you get very large bonuses for shooting at slow speed targets (up to 70% I think), I don't see why putting the rudder over ought potentially apply a significant penalty independently of movement. If it DOES do that, the ultimate case would be that a stationary ship can offset the bonus given to anything shooting at it simply by putting its rudder hard over......and making no difference as it's going nowhere. I'd suggest the potential "target manoeuvre " penalty needs also to be tied in some way to the target's speed. By all means others should look and see if I'm correct.
How it works The chance to be hit is multiplied by approximately 164.2% - 4.15% * speed in knots, but not greater than 100% and not less than 10%. (For the modifier displayed in-game, subtract 100%.) I derived this by watching AI enemies until their Target Fast Speed modifier stopped increasing, then recorded their modifier and top speed. It's possible that the AI runs their ships at cruise speed rather than top speed, but even if so this doesn't change the broad conclusions. I did not record any very slow ships (< 16 knots) but What is going wrong Many people have complained that fast ships are too difficult to hit. It's not hard to see why---the cap is hit at about 37.5 knots, which is attainable by many ships in late game, and makes them 10 times as hard to hit as a ship of 15 knots. Furthermore, the curve has a strange shape. Here is a plot of the hit difficulty (i.e. multiplier to the average number of shells needed to score a hit, which is inversely proportional to the chance to be hit above) versus speed. Going from 16 to 19 knots only makes you 1.15x harder to hit But, going from 34.5 to 37.5 knots makes you twice as hard to hit. But, going from 37.5 knots to 40.5 knots (or even to 49 knots) doesn't make you any harder to hit at all. This is the problem with using negative modifiers to a value whose reciprocal is important; at some point, you get an ultra-sharp rise that quickly either reaches a cap or infinity. How to fix it If we are going to stick with a product-of-factors model of accuracy: rather than using a decreasing multiplier to accuracy, use an increasing divider. For example: 2 / (1 + speed / reference_speed) If you want a stronger effect of speed, you could square this, effectively applying the multiplier twice. For example: (2 / (1 + speed / reference_speed))^2 For example, if you set reference_speed = 15 knots: The square version resembles the current curve up to about 28 knots, but doesn't have the sharp takeoff after that that we currently have.