Getting started, need advice on AI mods

Author: rkagerer
Date: Apr 25, 2017 3:21 AM
Category: Spaceport
Posts: 6

I'm getting [re-]acquainted with Space Empires IV. The last time I touched it was years ago, and I'm delighted to find there's loads of user-created content, particularly to improve things like the race graphics and AI.

I've never waded into SE4 mods before and need some advice. I think the combinations of mods I'm interested in are:

1) TDM + FQM + Additional Music tracks
2) ReStock5 (which claims to be the newer TDM ReMod AI’s + FQM + refreshed race and ship graphics) + Additional Music tracks

I like the new graphics added in ReStock (except the new "glass-button" user interface icons, which were simple enough to remove), but I'm not sure about the tweaks Blackadder made to the AI. Has anyone used ReStock, and can you comment on its performance vs. ReMod and TDM?

From what I can tell, the AI files evolved as:

TDM 3.60 (early 2000's, various authors) --> TDM-ReModPack 1.1 (April 2012, by Perimal) --> ReStock Mod 5.0 (June 2014, by Blackadder)

And the post-TDM ones are all optimized for FQM-like quadrants of 10 planets per solar system (rather than the stock game's 7).

One thing in particular I noticed, when Blackadder repackaged the earlier work, he changed several entries from things that looked like this:

Max Ship Size Tonnage From Start 1 Amount := 510
Max Ship Size Tonnage From Start 1 Num Turns := 20

To this:

Max Ship Size Tonnage From Start 1 Amount := 0
Max Ship Size Tonnage From Start 1 Num Turns := 0

That kind of stuck out to me, and some web searching led me to a discussion here where the consensus seems to be that 0's are a bad thing:

Ironically, Blackadder himself commented over here that it can prevent the AI from building colony ships, and that he's "seen this mistake a few times in fan-made ship sets":

So what gives? Could someone explain this to me? Should I just stick to Perimal's work?



Commenter: Blackadder
Date: Apr 25, 2017 5:12 PM
Getting started, need advice on AI mods
Welcome back to SE4!

I changed the numbers you mentioned to zeroes so I could test what ships the AI's were building during the first turn at higher tech levels (if I left the restrictions, they only built smaller ships). I'm afraid you misunderstood my comments in the thread you linked. I wasn't saying the zeroes were a problem, but rather the opposite. If an AI is told not to build anything over (say) 300 kt for the first 10 turns, and colony ships are 350 kt in a mod, then the AI won't build any colony ships for 10 turns. Putting a zero in both places prevents this issue from arising. I have played hundreds of turns of ReStock, plus observed the AI playing for hundreds of more turns, and the settings being all zeroes have never caused any noticeable issues. The settings for the Eee (and I think one or two other races) were already all zeroes in the TDM Mod anyway.

(Where the zeroes could cause an issue for the AI is if you played on medium or high tech. In that case, the AI might be at a disadvantage because it would be trying to build larger ships, which take a lot longer, during the early game. I only ever play with a low tech start, so I don't care about that. If you intend to play with a medium or high tech start, you may indeed want to restrict the size of ships the AI builds for the first few turns.)
Commenter: Skyburn
Date: Apr 26, 2017 3:37 PM
Getting started, need advice on AI mods
The thread you linked to is quite old, so it probably isn't the latest version of SE4 they're talking about. I've also never seen any issues with mods that don't use those settings (like CBmod.)

Careful AI design management can eliminate the disadvantage for medium/high tech starts, if that
should become an issue for you. It would take some modding, but nothing too difficult.
Commenter: rkagerer
Date: Apr 26, 2017 5:59 PM
Getting started, need advice on AI mods
Thanks Blackadder, I was hoping you'd be around and able to chime in here!

So is it fair to say:
1) If you start at low tech, the 0's are fine
2) If "Num Turns" is 0, the "Amount" one has no effect
3) If you start at higher technology levels, you'd want to increase "Num Turns" (e.g. say to around 10) and make the "Amount" one just over the size of a colony ship, so that the computer won't waste resources building giant ships when it should be aggressively sending out little colonizers

Out of curiosity, is there any disadvantage to #3 in low tech starts (as long as Num Turns isn't unreasonably high)? Did you leave it all 0's to make your work more compatible with mods that might jigger with colony / scout ship sizes, or just never bother changing it after your testing was done?
Edited 3 time(s). Lasted edited Apr 26, 2017 6:02 PM.
Commenter: Blackadder
Date: Apr 26, 2017 7:08 PM
Getting started, need advice on AI mods
#1 and #2 are definitely correct. #3 is up to you to decide. Generally speaking, the Construction_Vehicle files of most AI's will prioritize colonizers pretty near the top, behind one or maybe two scout ships. That's why the AI's build a lot of colonizers when it seems like they would be better off building warships (this is especially clear if you run an AI-only game and observe them). This would tend to mitigate the issue of most AI's building a bunch of large warships instead of colonizing. But I suppose it could possibly happen.

ReStock is really my constantly-evolving "house game" which I periodically release in case other people might enjoy playing it. Since I'm constantly testing the AI's, and since I don't care about playing on medium or high tech, I've just never bothered to change the settings back.
Commenter: rkagerer
Date: Apr 27, 2017 3:18 PM
Getting started, need advice on AI mods
Cool. Thanks for your efforts and for sharing!