Gamers versus bots, making games more challenging has been a true dilemma for game designers. Short of making AI opponents invulnerable, human players will eventually conquer AI counterparts. All it takes is time and some practice. Before you know it, players will have a game’s computer opponents dissected and exploited. Makers of 4x and turn based strategy games tend to put large amounts of effort into making their AI challenging. Considering how much time players dedicate to beating their AIs in single player modes. Galactic Civilizations has the reputation of fielding some of the better CPU combatants around. When GC3 released, it appeared very little had advanced in terms of AI effectiveness, at least until this latest update.
At harder difficulties, AI opponents have a technological and production edge, along with an all seeing “eye” with regards to your resources and available planets. This isn’t exactly “smarter AI” as mentioned, it’s an artifical bonus meant to compensate for true ingenuity. Astute players pick up on this, and play it safe while they build specialty worlds and immense production centers. Once they have attained that edge, they obliterate AI civs with ease. That can also lead to a loss of interest from players in the long run.
Developer Stardock has observed those same obstacles. They stated in their recent patch notes, “how do you write a computer AI that provides a challenge to players without making it cheat like crazy? When GalCiv III shipped, the AI was “pretty good” but it didn’t take long for expert players to find ways to crush it.” So how did they go about improving? By watching expert players, play their game.
By datamining great players, the development team was able to counteract AI exploits and pitfalls. One of the biggest areas of focus was how AI opponents built worlds. AI players would simply build repetitive worlds as they conquered, failing to take advantage of any natural bonuses or benefits available. Now, AI planets begin to specialize worlds depending on their characteristics. Making it that much harder to sit back and turtle early, and march towards victory late game. AI economic spending has also been revamped, it will aggressively decommission ships in order to build newer efficient fleets. AI opponents used to build thousands of assault frigates and dreadnoughts, with only a handful of planetary invasion vessels. This patch balances that, so get ready to lose colonies. How does this all play in game? In a word: ouch. In three words: My ass hurts. GC3 was built from the ground up as an x64 bit multi-core game with plenty of power to push towards AI. Now that they’ve seen us play, they want to make us pay.