AI War: Fleet Command

http://www.arcengames.com/aiwar_features.php

This is a 2d space RTS, which boasts a heavy duty AI, and 8 player co-op! It feels odd, slightly, but it supports the tactical level zoom of SupCom. The tutorial levels are quite easy to breeze through, but the last tutorial is a small 10 planet scenario, and it looks like its about 3 hours to complete. I’m about half way through, and the AI is giving me a good slapping at the moment. When you’re on the strategic campaign level, 2d icons is all you care about, so there really isn’t a lot lost in terms of graphical wow. It would be nice to see these Sins of a Solar Empire style 3d graphics, but I think this game is all about the strategy and less about the oohs and aahs of space loving visuals. Its only $19.99 on Impulse, and they are claiming more free DLC to come.

I checked it out. Played through the 1 hour demo time. Feels like an indie Sins of a Solar Empire. If I didn’t already have Sins I probably would pick this up.

Hey there, I’m actually the dev for AI War – thanks for trying out the game, but I’m sorry to hear it wasn’t to your tastes.

I’m a little bit surprised by the comparison to Sins of a Solar Empire, though, since aside from the fact that they are both RTS games and the controls and basic mechanics are thus fairly similar, they are really different. And honestly, I think it’s closer to Supreme Commander than Sins in the first place. Did you get a chance to try the intermediate tutorial? That takes you through things like gate-raids, planet hopping, wormhole defense, ion cannon raiding/flooding, and a variety of other things that make the strategic elements of AI War so different.

Plus, if you’re into co-op at all, I’m pretty confident there is no better AI around. Check out this post, which goes through what makes the AI so unique (something that is hard to see in a 1 hour demo, unfortunately): http://arcengames.com/forums/index.php?topic=24.0

Lastly, the unit counts (and, to an extent, unit variety) in AI War are just off the charts compared to most other RTS games. In your average game, you will commonly command multiple fleets of several thousand ships each, against thousands of enemy ships. Common games have 30,000+ ships in them.

The intermediate tutorial is really self-directed (it’s instructions are “scaffolding” for you to do your own thing, to use – and probably mangle – the teacher-lingo from my wife). A lot of the strategies and techniques it shows you how to do don’t have a counterpart in any other game, and they are things that took our alpha testers months of playtesting to discover. If you’re looking for a strategically-rich grand strategy game with really great AI, I think this is one of the best offerings you’re likely to find.

I don’t expect to convince you to buy the game with explaining why it is so great (if you don’t like it, you don’t like it – not everyone is going to be into this style of game), but if you think it’s that similar to Sins of a Solar Empire, my impression is that you missed some of the best parts. Spelk seemed pretty skeptical at first, to be honest, but once he did that intermediate tutorial he became a surprisingly huge convert. :)

Either way, thanks for taking a look!

Well the heavy AI focus has me interested (and the approach itself, sounds interesting), the second I get a chance I’ll be grabbing the demo.

Here’s hoping AI levels are fully documented, I hate being left guessing about that. I suspect restricting the demo to lower AI levels will prove to be a mistake, don’t expect people to take the quality of your AI on faith.

Still, we will see.

EDIT: Urgh, and at some point Impulse needs to get a real system for demos so it can host a meaningful number.

Oh, all 10 levels of AI difficulty are available in the trial version. Just not all of the AI styles are available. There are 26 AI styles which have different bonuses, superweapons, general playstyles, etc – such as Raider, Turtle, etc as seen in most other games; but also more esoteric stuff like Backdoor Hacker, Technologist Homeworlder, etc.

Some of those styles are harder than others, and so they are grouped into three overall difficulty tiers in addition to the explicit difficulty setting (1-10) that works with any AI style. Sorry if that’s confusing, it makes the most sense when you look at the lobby screen (it’s the same as most any other RTS in how that is set up, except that we have so many AI styles that we had to group them into difficulty tiers). I definitely don’t expect anyone to take the strength of the AI on faith; I’ve been burned by too many other RTS game demos in the past to do that to other people.

The AI difficulty levels are documented in hovertips in the lobby. 1 is very weak, almost a sandbox mode, while 10 is so hard that no one I know can beat it (there are many players better than anyone I know, so I wanted there to still be a challenge for them). I tend to play on level 7 with my alpha testers, and level 4 or 5 is generally the recommended starting place for experienced RTS players that are new to AI War (but who have done the tutorials).

You can also get the demo from here, if you don’t like the Impulse method: http://www.arcengames.com/aiwar_buy.php

If there are any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Chris

In that case I’ll STFU until I’ve played it. Demo downloaded and I’ll try it in the next evening or two.

Hey, no worries – it probably wasn’t clear. Let me know what you think if you get a chance and are so inclined. I’m running a free DLC campaign at the moment, with new ships and such every week, but a big part of that is also responding to player requests for additional control mechanics, options, etc. There are so many other RTS games out there that there are a lot of differing expectations that new players bring to any new game in the genre. I’m trying to be as accomodating as I can, without changing the fundamental nature of this game.

I really want to try this out… but for some reason .NET 3.5 hates my system, or the other way around. Gets to a full installation bar and then just sits there forever.

<sigh>

Oh… bugger. I can’t install the demo because there’s an error with Games Explorer (probably because Games Explorer is buggered on my PC for whatever reason, the list of games is empty) and the installer insists on rolling back the entire install. Eh?

Product: AI War – Error 4130. There was an error during the Game Explorer configuration process.

20 bucks, 200mb…sure…what the heck. I like large scale battles.

Are you killing it before it has a chance to finish? I’ve noticed that on some systems, usually XP SP3 and sometimes Vista versions, it can take like an hour when it sits there like that. I don’t know what MS is doing, but it’s crazy. You might try just leaving it while you eat dinner or sleep or something, and see if it eventually finishes. If that doesn’t work, if you tell me a bit about your system (OS version, service pack version), I’ll see if I can’t find out something for you. That is a pretty frustrating issue, I imagine – I’ve only seen it very rarely.

You might try checking out this thread, which is about the same issue with Bioshock: http://forums.2kgames.com/forums/showthread.php?t=12251

I’m using Advanced Installer for the installer, so unfortunately it’s not like I can just put in a try/catch or something. However, if the games explorer thing is being that much of a pain, maybe I just will remove support for it. I’ll put up a new build later tonight, which will actually be the 1.004 version of the game – it will probably be in around 4 or 5 hours from now.

I hope one of those works, let me know if not.

Awesome. There is a demo you can try first, though! But I know what you mean, I bought Gish the same way.

Unfortunately not:

vLite - I didn’t use this I did a fresh install.

Classic Start Menu - I use the new Vista Start Menu

Launch direct - The installer rollsback, removing all files.

I should note that this isn’t a problem with the installer it is strictly a problem with my PC. Games Explorer IS broken (for reasons I have been unable to identify) on my PC.

Oh, sure – thanks for making that clear for everyone, but I knew that’s what you meant. However, doing a search on google seems to indicate that the Games Explorer breaks an inordinate amount of the time. If that’s going to be commonly broken on some minority Vista machines, I don’t want that included in my installer. I’m not going for Games For Windows certification, anyway. So I’ll put up a new version once I have it all together for the release in 4 or 5 hours, and will post a direct link here. Hopefully that will then resolve your issue. Thanks again for your interest!

Yeah I left it for 16 hours (sleep and work) and it didn’t finish. I’ve got Vista Home Premium SP1, Intel E2180 2 gigs of RAM.

Any help is appreciated, I probably need to reinstall windows at some point anyway.

Thanks for the info. I only made it through the first few tutorials and played a 1 hour session. So, that was where I got the impression. Those other features you mention sound interesting.

I really like what I’ve seen so far. The scale and pace is perfect. And if the AI is as good as you say then I am already sold. I do plan to dig a bit deeper when I get the time.

Sorry, first my post was short, because I was in a rush when I made it. So, don’t count me out yet. :)

Oh, okay – yeah, that’s plenty long to wait, haha. Jeez. :)

Okay, so the version of the .NET Framework 3.5 that is being installed by my installer is the web-based SP1 version (it’s a much smaller download for you, because it only downloads the version for your specific OS instead of every version for every OS – like 40 megs instead of 300). Doing a bit of googling, I found this help topic on the MS boards: http://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/netfxsetup/thread/a7d3f3b2-46e9-4d0f-b5ea-b0f25a4ca1b7

So, looks like on a minority of machines, there might be issues with their web-based SP1 version. There are two options that hopefully would work for you.

OPTION A: The best option would be to download the full, giant version of .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and install that. Here’s the link: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=ab99342f-5d1a-413d-8319-81da479ab0d7&displaylang=en

Once on the MS page, scroll down until you see a link called “.NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 (Full Package)” It’s about 3/4 of the way down the page. That’s a big download, but supposedly if the MS support guys are right, it should install fine.

OPTION B: If for some strange reason windows still won’t install .NET Framework 3.5 SP1, you can try the original release .NET Framework 3.5. The game is technically compatible with either, but some minor performance improvements in 3.5 SP1 are worthwhile if that version works for you. If not, don’t sweat it, the regular 3.5 version should be ok. Throughout all our alpha testing, we had one tester on regular 3.5 and the rest on 3.5 SP1, and there was only a minor difference.

Here’s the link: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=333325FD-AE52-4E35-B531-508D977D32A6&displaylang=en Same deal, scroll down and find the “.NET Framework 3.5 full package” link to be on the safe side, unless you want to give their web installer another go. ;)

If neither of the above options work, please do let me know and I’ll see if I can find anything else. But my best guess is that option a should do it. Thanks again for your interest in AI War!

No worries about the brevity, I understand how that goes. :)

Also glad that you like what you see overall, thus far – if the intermediate tutorial doesn’t sell you on the game by the time you finish it, then nothing will. It doesn’t show off the AI too much, but if you want to see that in action then you could try playing another regular campaign on, say, difficulty 7. If you haven’t done the intermediate tutorial it has a good chance of wiping you out – or if that seems to easy (because the AI does get harder as the game progresses), then try playing a difficulty 10. Shouldn’t take but 5 or 10 minutes of your time, unless you’re a way better player than me. ;)

But in all seriousness, if you want to see the tactical side of the AI in all its glory, play on level 7 or up – below that, some tactics are held in reserve, and below level 5 it does some intentionally-stupid things (human-style-stupid things, not like most other AIs) to make things easier. On level 7, you’ll have to really do effective wormhole defense in order to prevent them from killing all your harvesters during each raid – depending on how you play, the AI will also visibly use different tactics, splitting up its forces and doing different things to flank you and do as much damage as possible.

Some of the really awesome stuff only shows up later in when there are larger unit counts (larger unit counts = more emergent behavior), but if you want to see that in action you can also send some bomber contingents to nearby planets and kill AI command stations. There’s about a 50% chance that guards at planets where you kill the command station will abandon their posts and come after you (or they might bypass your local forces and go straight for your home planet, even). Do that on a couple of planets at once, and you’ll get to see a few hundred ships at once as they (most likely) rip you apart. For extra fun: find a nice Mark III or IV planet and do it, and they’ll absolutely eviscerate you. To avoid the ion cannons you’ll need a lot more bombers, though (maybe 100-150 or so).

Anyway, the general points being that:

  1. The intermediate tutorial has a seriously neutered AI for the purposes of learning, but it shows you what is strategically unique/cool about the game.

  2. The hour of in-game play can be used however you want to mess with the AI and see what it does to you. You don’t have to play as if you were really trying to win, since you are limited to an hour, anyway. If you stir up some trouble, you’ll get a good idea of what you’ll be facing later in the game.

Glad to hear that you’re still potentially interested in the game, anyway!

ADDED NOTE: The level 10 AI has higher-tech ships than you, and gets more of them, in addition to playing smart. If you’ve read the AI article linked further up, you know that the AI is asymmetrical in how its economy works. I do not consider this a “cheating AI,” but everyone may not agree, since it does not follow the same rules. My inspiration for how the AI economy works was actually the Tower Defense genre, believe it or not. The important thing is what the AI does with the units it receives through its asymmetrical economy: it never cheats, it follows the same rules as you, and it actually adapts to what you do. So the more difficult you make it for the AI to smack you around, the trickier it will get in response. This military aspect is why the AI that is so good, to me the economy was secondary and not really worth simulating. If you (or anyone else) takes philosophical umbrage with this approach, I’d be happy to talk to you in more depth about my reasoning on that point.

Theoretically, I would dig this, however, after playing a little bit and fiddling around with my ships, the ai was able to instantly spread out and attack, while i was left with having my ships being manually ordered to chase every single little crap scout out there.

Thus, the AI’s ability to move all units at once, versus my inability to do so, left me feeling a bit tired.

Am I missing something here?