Bad Guy AI In Dungeon Sagas

753ac589e0aa4aa66c5b475a7cc1c194_largeI’ve had a few questions about this, mostly focussing on whether the different factions in the expansion packs will have different AI behaviour or not.

The answer is simple: yes, they will.

Don’t worry about that. Goblins will be sneaky and cowardly, zombies will be dumb, the guy at the top of the page will be burny. It would be strange if they weren’t.

I’m not entirely sure how this will work in detail, so I can’t tell you for sure yet. However, I can say that I won’t be happy with AI being the same for everything. Getting the character of the different races in there is important. Essential, in fact. For me, being able to add more character into the faction is the main benefit of an AI deck. Might as well turn that one up to 11 😉

MortibrisNow there are a number of approaches I can try for this. Some involve more stats, most involve being clever with cards. (Well, the latter could be replaced with tables in the book, though I think that’s a second best option.)

At the core is likely to be a deck of cards to turn one/some of when it is the AI’s go. This will define its reaction(s). At least, this will be the core piece of working out its reaction(s). The clever bit is in how the different types of model interact with the different cards, and this is where the important design choices come in. It’s tempting to get complex with this, and so I’ll be resisting that urge and searching for a more elegant way to get varied behaviours into a simple process. Having just done zombie and Martian AIs for Deadzone and Mars Attacks I have an idea of what I want to do here. The DS AI is rather more complex than either of those systems in what it needs to simulate as they were both monocultural systems. Still, they were useful practice.

In order to decide which if the options fits best I’ll try several on the table. There’s no substitute for playing these things through. And, being AI, I can always be sure of an opponent when I need to test something 😉

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19 Responses to Bad Guy AI In Dungeon Sagas

  1. Danny says:

    Very interesting read, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’ve been thinking about how you were going to tackle this myself. It’s an enormous task, and its getting bigger with each model stretch goal reached and if we end up funding a third expansion (which may be very likely in the last 48 hour cash rush), it will be a massive workload to take on. Without any doubt though, the ability to play in this mode is well worth any effort required to get it up and running.

    My initial thought was that perhaps some hard guidelines in the rulebook on how ALL creatures with certain attack modes would act (melee, ranged, magical etc) and then mix that up with race cards specific to each expansion/model so that the basic rules would be mutated in some way to give a different playing experience for each individual model. Having the hard guidelines in the rulebook would free up more space on the cards.

    This is certainly one of the many aspects of the game I am looking forward to seeing in what direction you develop it and I truly hope that we will get regular kickstarter updates over the next year to keep track on any progress and for you to share your thoughts if you can’t officially share them on your blog here.

    Of course, I once again offer my services as a playtester if you ever feel the need to increase the size of your current playtest group 🙂

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks Danny, I’ll certainly bear you in mind.

      Keeping stuff in the rules is good for freeing up space, though it is often quicker to play when everything you need is on the cards themselves. Again, something to balance.

  2. eriochrome says:

    In the D&D Coop games, each monster and villain has an “If-then-Else” type list on its card which generally goes something like if you are next to a hero attack, if you are near a hero move next to him and attack, else move toward the nearest hero. There are some distinctions like moving toward hero with least life remaining, using ranged attacks, or doing nothing if no hero is close.

    Of course the monsters there move by whole 4*4 tiles and there are no attacks of opportunity. Your correct bad guys mechanics were pretty interesting since you have to select which models to activate each turn and you have the necromancer deck cards to choose from. The AI might also have to vary by mission if the missions have interesting goals for the side other than just kill the heroes (which they should).

    This is definitely going to be a big job. Probably the hardest part of the whole game design.

  3. maxstyles417 says:

    Thanks again for posting your thoughts on this. I am very much a fan of the Deadzone AI because of its simplicity and dependence on the play to make the reasonable decision. This approach has the advantage of keeping the player involved while the AI moves by forcing him to act as he would were they playing a person. It seems like it could be easily adapted to any skirmish level game although I haven’t tried to adapt it yet.

    I wonder if you could set up a troop behavior type for each model? Something like orcs will melee if within 1 move of enemy model, else will use bow. Zombies will always move to the nearest enemy and chomp. You could even break it out like DZ by using the line, support, and command types.

    One thing is for sure — I am excited for this game.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Troop behaviour per type is what I’m aiming for. Not necessarily per individual model, but certainly per family of models, if you see what I mean.

      • Danny says:

        I think this is certainly the way to go. Having a basic guideline as a set rule in teh rulebook for all Troops type would save space on any race or miniature specific AI cards that add flavour/abilities and a change of tactics to those specific models…and if blank AI cards were provided in the Advanced Rules for photocopying, then it would provide a good base for players to tinker with other races and/or models that they may like to create themselves.

        • Danny says:

          That is, having the basic set rules for troop types would provide the good base to create other race and specialty models…

  4. Jason MacDougall (Bookkeeper) says:

    Hi jake,
    Really enjoying the alpha rules, and am interested in your current approach to AI
    Will your AI cards occasionally thematically break the normal rules ie the necromancer AI have one of the cards (so a low probability per game) for each bone pile roll a d6 on a 1-2 raise a skeleton, 3 an armoured zombie, 4 a skeleton archer, 6 nothing, do not discard the bone piles when using this card. To help counter predictability and raise the threat level. Also have you considered making AI cards be numbered, so you can increase/decrease difficulty or specify particular configurations for a mission?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Definitely considering numbered cards so I can define a specific set per scenario. Numbering cards is not a very complex thing to do and has a number of uses.

      I was going to mix up the raising thing slightly differently, though definitely that sort of idea.

  5. Frank Hartmann says:

    Hi Jake,
    thank you for giving us some ideas about your plans.

    What came to my mind when thinking about the AI was something they talked about at beasts of war. Why not offer an App (smartphone and / or tablet) to handle some parts of it?
    That would be very innovative and I think you can do many things with this that would be too complicated with cards.

    As not everyone has such a device or doesn’t like the idea of combining electronic stuff with a nice board game evening, it may not be for everyone.

    As I am an iOS / Android developer I may be able to help you 🙂

    • Quirkworthy says:

      An app is certainly an idea worth exploring. It’s been mentioned in discussions at Mantic, so I know it’s on the radar. Not sure if one is actually in development or not though.

      Personally, I’ve yet to find an app for any game which was so compelling that I felt I had to have it. The ones I’ve seen and used myself (and this goes for many “revolutionary new developments” over the last couple of decades) have always been an amusement for 5 minutes, and have been abandoned by the end of the first game. This may be a generational thing though, and with the ubiquity of smartphones it may well be that their time has (finally) come. We’ll have to wait and see.

      • PikaRapH says:

        Someone did that kind of app for the Deadzone AI deck :

        This works well, I think Mantic should dig in this direction, it’s really helpfull.

      • Frank Hartmann says:

        I agree, it really is a challenge, as…
        – the App shouldn’t draw attention away from the board (I myself play boardgames / tabletops to get away from electronics)
        – must be easy to use. While it would be great if the app knows about the current state on the board, I wouldn’t like to enter every move of heroes into the app. At least it must be easy to do so.

        I am very curious about the coming game “X-COM” from FFG. As far as I understand, they are doing something like this in there.

        Looking forward to the plans of Mantic

        • Quirkworthy says:

          As you say, inputting the info for it to react to can be a pain. Too much of that and you’re playing the app, not the tabletop/board game. using an app to resolve specific self-contained elements is possible though. I think that’s the way forward.

        • No apps!! That must be the worst idea ever. I’m 32 and i remember games from ’90 w. vhs tapes (supposedly interactive w. AI) even now FFG now is releasing x-com board game with AI app, and i tell you in two years time there will be nothing to run that app on as technology is constantly changing. So i prefer dice, cards or even simple tables.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          There’s nothing wrong with having them available for those that want them. The problem with future proofing always comes when they are a requirement rather than an add-on. That will not be the case in DS.

  6. Danny says:

    I’m not really feeling the love for an app, to be honest. I don’t mind an app to be used in a game if it is something **very** incidental, like say the timer app for Space Hulk (which is essentially just replacing the egg timer with a like functioning app that also has cool sounds), but if it becomes more a part of the game than something as simple as that, then the game has failed to be a board game/tabletop game and it really detracts from the gaming experience itself. Just my opinion, others will disagree of course 🙂

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