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View Full Version : Thoughts on the AI/Dredge/Balance etc.



Catic
03-31-2014, 02:14 PM
Hey folks!
Long time lurker, first time poster here. I have just finished a Banner Saga playthrough and I friggin adore this game! -Like a lot. I can't thank the devs enough for being awesome and putting out this incredible piece of work that I've become pretty attached to.

I've played factions before this and have gotten the combat mechanics and strategies down pretty well before playing the actual saga, so I went with the hard difficulty. And having gone through the whole game by now I have to say, there were a few things that mired the otherwise exceptional combat. For me it was mainly the odd mistakes of the AI (specifically with the dredge) and the fact that the difficulty seemed to really steep down towards the end.

What sort of disappointed me about former issue was that the AI doesn't seem to always understand that it needs to break an enemy's armor before being able to deal an effective amount of damage. There are many occasions where every single unit in the opposing team will spend their entire turn hacking away at a single opponent's strength - or where they won't use their high-break units to break and instead use the low-breakers to break a measly 1 armor, etc. At times (this happens often with dredge slingers), enemies will move to try to get to one of your units and then just end their turn even is there are some of your other units in range - or they'll just wait and not move at all. These issues aren't too bad when you're fighting non-dredge armies, as many of their abilities (bloody flail, run through) deal break damage and allow them to knock down your armor enough for their strength attacks to be a threat.

The dredge have no such ability - save for the stoneguard's kindle ability, which is often hilariously used. There have been times when a stoneguard will target my unit while he is backed up against another, doing only 1 armor damage but then at the same time doing 4 armor damage to 4 of his allies (game over). In fact, they don't seem to take their allies into account, and I'd almost say more frequently than not manage to do more damage to their own team than to your units with that attack.

The fire slingers will often throw bombs at inopportune times - when they have the potential of doing heavy strength damage to a unit that's about to take its turn for example. Or in places that will do far more damage to their allies than to their opponents. In general, the move seems to only be a threat towards the end of a match, when it doesn't take as many turns for the bombs to explode.

By the end of the game, these issues, along with the fact that your team will likely have several level 5 items, makes the combat a bit too easy. I do understand that this stuff is very difficult to program and that the number of enemies you have to face and their incredible strength and armor stats are meant to pose the challenge rather than an incredible mastermind of an AI. I guess the bottom line is that the combat is not as engaging as it could be when it's so easy to anticipate these battlefield mistakes on the part of the AI, or when the AI doesn't take advantage of the opportunities it has during its turns (often just skipping them entirely).

Anyway, I think I went on a lot longer than I had intended. I don't want it to sound like I disliked the combat. It was very enjoyable from beginning to end - my favorite part of the game in fact. Everything else about it is exceptional. It's just that there are some things I think could have been a bit more easily avoided as far as ability design and AI goes. And I'm wondering if anyone else has had these or similar (or different) experiences.

Again, thanks for the incredible game!

John
03-31-2014, 07:39 PM
Hey folks!
What sort of disappointed me about former issue was that the AI doesn't seem to always understand that it needs to break an enemy's armor before being able to deal an effective amount of damage. There are many occasions where every single unit in the opposing team will spend their entire turn hacking away at a single opponent's strength - or where they won't use their high-break units to break and instead use the low-breakers to break a measly 1 armor, etc.

The decision to break vs. strength damage is based on a simple weighting formula, which may be weighted too heavily to strength damage. I'll see if we can tune up this aspect a bit in the future.


At times (this happens often with dredge slingers), enemies will move to try to get to one of your units and then just end their turn even is there are some of your other units in range - or they'll just wait and not move at all. These issues aren't too bad when you're fighting non-dredge armies, as many of their abilities (bloody flail, run through) deal break damage and allow them to knock down your armor enough for their strength attacks to be a threat.


Yes this issue came up when we were polishing the final game and we decided to just leave it as is for now. We'll definitely make sure we address this moving forward.

Catic
04-01-2014, 11:43 AM
Great to hear! I look forward to seeing how you guys wind up further developing the combat.

Aleonymous
04-03-2014, 02:41 PM
I'll see if we can tune up this aspect a bit in the future.
We'll definitely make sure we address this moving forward.

You surely know what's going on. I'll agree with Cactic that vs-Humans battles (and training-tent ones) are usually harder and more fun than vs-Dredge battles. For me, the biggest overall issues with the AI are:

(A) Yielding first-hit by moving in-range of a high-STR enemy

(B) Yielding turn-advantage by killing instead of maiming

(C) Conveniently ignoring SW and RoA.
I am sure that all of them are design choices and not bugs. Perhaps you could implement a "hardcore" (i.e. Factions) mode where these issues are taken into account by the AI.

Now, let me recap my own AI-experience for specific unit problems:

Stoneguard -- Aye. Kindle is often weirdly used.
Scourge -- Tremble is nice, but it *could* summon random (more powerful) Dredge, especially on harder difficulties.
Grunts -- The mentioned move-but-not-attack issue (even where there's a perfectly hittable adjacent target)
Fire Slingers -- Yup. Choice of grenade-throwing (instead of AB or STR) is often unfortunate. Perhaps if the bombs went off at once, but did less damage? (e.g. 1ARM/1STR on target + 1STR on four adjacent units, like rank-1 Factions SnB)
Thrashers -- Usually well used, but sometimes they can kill but go BF instead... =/
Raidmasters -- They sometimes go SW without obvious reasons, effectively "losing" their turn, whereas they can do more useful stuff.
Bowmasters -- They are kinda reckless for my taste, spending a lot of WP on movement early on to come up and do a minor "maim"...
Stonesinger -- Not knowing which active (Umbrage=STR-Buff or Rupture=KamikazeExplosions) he is "casting" is intentional?

Most other units and abilities (Backbiters, Varl, Slingers, Raiders, Archers) are used fairly well, imho.