Boarding Mechanic

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zolobolo
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Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Thu Feb 15, 2018 8:49 pm

There is a mechanic in the game which is (while cool as hell), is not correctly utilized by the AI.
Meaning: they do utilize this "weapon" but only in circumstances where they should not be able to: Yoral destroyers and Human Battleships if I recall the later odd behaviour correctly (both without boarding module mind you :))

So I was thinking what can reasonably done with this as it obviously provides a huge advantage to the player if we chose to use it ourselves:
1. The enemy will unlikely be countering it (not transferring troops to defend vessels or reserving PD against Shuttles)
2. Reverse engineering is a huge advantage a boarding player can have on research front
3. Integrating captured vessels is even a heavier blow on the AIs military capabilities as it not only looses a ship, but we gain that ship - there has been a discussion on this some time ago, and even DEVs admitted is is overpowered as is

So what could be done here without applying MS or Google machine learning?
1. Boarding module restricted to only Human faction. It fits them lore-wise perfectly and we can do away all the navigation and transfer AI issues that come with a close-range boarding module. Now AI would probably still not use them correctly in the end but is only one faction in many
2. Introduce a simple rule for tactical combat for shuttles as weapons:
- Always attack when enemy vessel is in range and shuttles would suffer maximum 40% during the attack (hopefully the AI can calculate this)
- Always select raiding option for assault shuttle attack except if enemy vessel crew is below 50% in which case use Boarding
3. Once AI has captured enemy ships, choose research if technologically less advanced then the player and integration if roughly equal
4. Each ship in the AI fleet should always reserve a single PD hard-point at the end of the turn, except if own HP is below 60%, or enemy ship can be destroyed with the reserved PD shot (this would also make them somewhat capable against player missile and torpedo heavy tactics)

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Arioch
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby Arioch » Fri Feb 16, 2018 12:53 am

Ships can board even without boarding modules if the target's engines are disabled.

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:37 am

Arioch wrote:Ships can board even without boarding modules if the target's engines are disabled.

That explains some weird things I have seen then, like boarding starbase withouth module :)

And what are your thoughts on the proposed changes?
If disabled engines behavior does not change the fact that assault shuttles are currently unused even if the enemy vessel is an assault cruiser loaded with tank and has the module available - in the very least raiding should be a clear benefit for them as enemy fighting capability is reduced by it

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Arioch
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby Arioch » Fri Feb 16, 2018 7:23 am

I don't use the boarding mechanics much, and I'm quite all right with the AI not using it optimally either.

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sven
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby sven » Fri Feb 16, 2018 6:33 pm

Arioch wrote:I don't use the boarding mechanics much, and I'm quite all right with the AI not using it optimally either.


I agree that "optimal" is probably neither necessary, nor, perhaps, even desirable. But, cases where the AI is just obviously failing to use abilities that are available to it are reasonably considered 'bugs'. I haven't checked the AI assault shuttle behaviors recently, but, if zolobolo is right about them not being used at all when the AI has ships equipped with them, that's a bug that needs fixing.

More generally, one important TODO item remains teaching the AI to use more diverse weapon loadout strategies. Ideally, you should see some AIs in a game that are clearly favoring missiles, or energy weapons, or carriers, etc; and right now, that's not really happening. (Or rather, if/when it does happen, it's an accident of a relatively simple AI build strategy, rather than a more intentional bit of custom AI scripting.) One other tech-flavor it could be good to include would be a boarding-heavy strategy -- say by including some script logic that would sometimes cause human AI's to equip most of their ships with boarding pods, and/or favor assault cruiser-heavy fleets. I'm confident the AI wouldn't be clever enough to use such fleets as optimally as a careful human player, but, on balance, I bet you would start to see cases where the AI managed to capture a few opposing ships.

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Fri Feb 16, 2018 9:54 pm

sven wrote:
Arioch wrote:I don't use the boarding mechanics much, and I'm quite all right with the AI not using it optimally either.


I agree that "optimal" is probably neither necessary, nor, perhaps, even desirable. But, cases where the AI is just obviously failing to use abilities that are available to it are reasonably considered 'bugs'. I haven't checked the AI assault shuttle behaviors recently, but, if zolobolo is right about them not being used at all when the AI has ships equipped with them, that's a bug that needs fixing.

More generally, one important TODO item remains teaching the AI to use more diverse weapon loadout strategies. Ideally, you should see some AIs in a game that are clearly favoring missiles, or energy weapons, or carriers, etc; and right now, that's not really happening. (Or rather, if/when it does happen, it's an accident of a relatively simple AI build strategy, rather than a more intentional bit of custom AI scripting.) One other tech-flavor it could be good to include would be a boarding-heavy strategy -- say by including some script logic that would sometimes cause human AI's to equip most of their ships with boarding pods, and/or favor assault cruiser-heavy fleets. I'm confident the AI wouldn't be clever enough to use such fleets as optimally as a careful human player, but, on balance, I bet you would start to see cases where the AI managed to capture a few opposing ships.


Hi all

Please find a test below:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/r2h4o589yyxhc ... t.rar?dl=0

Sorry for the Dropbox, solution, it was the first game I found a good test case in (considering its galaxy and thus file size, this was a statistical certainty waiting to happen)

So in this test case:
1. AI is controlling a single ship equipped with Assault Shuttle and nothing much else
2. Player is attacking with two ships, one of which can be boarded and thus taken out of the battle via a single Assault Shuttle run, and the other completely lacking any sort of PD and having lower crew then the AI ship=AI should be able to clearly win this with the above mentioned logic
3. Do not damage the enemy craft just circle it to see: The Assault Shuttles will never be used (though I didn't get a case yet where the engine has fallen out but the ship survived, though I doubt it changes much on the point)

Also notice that AI controlled empires almost never capture vessels (they do in some cases with transports I think)
Super Dreads also always remain for the player to claim

But I can also tell you: I have never seen an enemy Assault Shuttle making a run and I am clocking 500 hours ;)

Yes, I am not saying, the AI should be adept at using this mechanic - hence my recommendation to take boarding modules away from almost all races in the first place, but I do believe the Assault Shuttles can be made so that they do some basic and reliable damage and in many cases even actually capture enemy ships. Maybe it is just, that their expected casualty evaluation might be off and that is why they never dare to attack?

Currently, the module and ships that rely on them are dead weight for the AI

Here is another test case (still too large for attachments though only small Galaxy :()
https://www.dropbox.com/s/3yacrqj8qmj3i ... t.rar?dl=0

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Fri Feb 16, 2018 10:38 pm

Also lets discuss the behaviour of boarding vessels with disabled engines: the concept sounds great in theory, but according to what I have sees so far it rarely applies and if it does it puts the AI in a disadvantage for the following reason:

1. Boarding destroyers and Frigates is very effective as they can be taken over with one swoop
2. Once enemy craft has been boarded, their engines will be disabled (just like all other systems)
3. This leads other enemy ships to board the captured vessel. Since the later does not pose any combat threat anymore, they are effectively wasting away manpower instead of concentrating on defeating the enemy vessels actively shooting at them

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Wed Feb 21, 2018 8:14 pm

sven wrote:More generally, one important TODO item remains teaching the AI to use more diverse weapon loadout strategies. Ideally, you should see some AIs in a game that are clearly favoring missiles, or energy weapons, or carriers, etc; and right now, that's not really happening. (Or rather, if/when it does happen, it's an accident of a relatively simple AI build strategy, rather than a more intentional bit of custom AI scripting.) One other tech-flavor it could be good to include would be a boarding-heavy strategy -- say by including some script logic that would sometimes cause human AI's to equip most of their ships with boarding pods, and/or favor assault cruiser-heavy fleets.

Yes, currently each faction pretty much seem to fall into the same fleet composition where larger vessels outright replace smaller ones. Once a heavier hull is available the AI does not seem to bother with smaller ones (at least with 2 tiers below that).

Started a game once with 4 Yoral, and one of them actually started to produce the cool Light Cruiser and Tactical Destroyers :) That must have been a result then of some special circumstances as generally they do seem to follow the Frigates OR Destroyers, 1-3 Heavy Cruisers and then Battlecruiser template

This is generally not advantageous for the AI, as it is largely producing homogeneous fleets that aren't very cost effective and are also limited in the way how they can be deployed meaning: a fleet of small vessels is much more effective at covering several systems and attack undefended enemy assets + providing basic defense for all of its systems. A fleet of battleships can be easily outmaneuver and while they siege a single planet, the player can invade and take twice as many for the same cost while also cutting supply lines (removing range).

I hope you can find a way to implement the weapon strategies with a good mix of various fleet elements that are harder to counter.
If you do get around to implement the boarding logic somehow, both pirate ships and Human factions would benefit massively (+ all of the factions that utilize Assault Craft)

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Sat Mar 03, 2018 7:25 pm

Just saw a scenario where AI has used Shuttles:
- Difficulty: Hardest (probably irrelevant)
- AI controlling Marauder Destroyer and Command Cruiser
- Player controlling: Light Carrier, Cruisers, Destroyers, Military Transport
- Reproduction:
1. Player captures Destroyer with Military Transport
2. Possibly relevant: Player positions fleet elements between captured destroyer and Command Cruiser
3. Command Cruiser recaptures its owner Destroyer in the next turn via Assault Shuttle

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Fri Mar 09, 2018 7:50 pm

Hi all, do you need further saves for the showcase, or is it enough what I have uploaded above?

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sven
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby sven » Fri Mar 09, 2018 8:16 pm

zolobolo wrote:Hi all, do you need further saves for the showcase, or is it enough what I have uploaded above?


Just from your description, I'm pretty confident I know what the bug is. The problem would appear to be that the ship is checking to see if its target can be boarded using the standard boarding rules, rather than the rules for a ship with boarding pods / transporters / assault shuttles. So, basically, the shuttles only end up getting launched against immobile targets. It shouldn't be a hard one to fix -- but, I haven't gotten around to it yet :oops:

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Fri Mar 09, 2018 9:00 pm

Ok, just let me know if you need test cases - got a few saves to brows from in my profile :)

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Sat Mar 10, 2018 7:26 am

I do believe the basic boarding mechanic also need a pass:
- Allowing boarding against vessels with disabled engines is not intuitive (do the soldiers waltz over via the doors and windows?)
- Boarding captured vessels to take them back in the middle of an ongoing fight does not hold tactical benefits (until tech is researched that allows using them directly) and is actually detrimental to do - thus the current rule puts the AI in a disadvantage again as captured vessels have "disabled" engines :)
- Boarding is EXTREMELY effective against destroyers - they can be taken out of the battle with a single boarding action ignoring shields! Not utilizing this is also a huge drawback
- Boarding is on the other hand not always the most effective action to take: Raiding capital ships is an extremely effective action to take, which bypasses their shields, armor and even crew in some extent: can easily take out a Marauder Battleship with 2-3 Boarding Cruisers + PD escort

Thus I think the rule would be more effective along following lines:
1. Boarding only available via Boarding Module (makes sure everyone knows when this action is available)
2. Boarding/raiding logic:
IF destroyer OR frigate in range AND "intact systems (ALL)" DO board ELSE
IF destroyer in range AND "intact reactor" DO board ELSE
IF HeavyCruiser OR CapitalShip in range AND crew<30% DO board ELSE
raid

Boarding destroyers first which have intact systems and only afterwards the ones that have intact reactor will make sure that the AI goes for the most valuable target and ignores already captured vessels - this necessitates a change to the engagement-end: the battle should end even if there are captured vessels in the field as long as their reactors are deactivated (health=0) - only complication here might be with EMP missile effect

The point of allowing boarding against capitals in some situations is this: at that point (low crew count) their fighting capacity is expected to be deprecated to the point where AI can risk capturing it

Not only would the above allow the AI to utilize the boarding function effectively, but it would also allow pirates to effectively capture early fleet elements, and if tech is given to them so that they can integrate these in their fleet directly, their pirate base fleets can swell up with the ships of unsuccessful anti-pirate raids :)

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Sat Mar 17, 2018 11:31 am

Here is a save containing a great test case:

1 Cruiser and 1 Military Transport of Colonials (controlled by the AI) facing off 4 Orthin Destroyers.
The result should be pretty clear and the AI seems to think so as well as they themselves initiate the battle

The player only needs to remain stationary and fire rockets on the heavy Cruiser
The Cruiser will naturally start to close in as well as the Transport in Turn 1
At Turn 2 the Military transport besides to bail out of combat without a single shot fired or utilizing its Assault Shuttle which should be able to take out all 4 Destroyers single handily via the Boarding action

So the Boarding action is not used - we already discussed this but:
1. Why does the AI attack then? Seems like the evaluation of the ods is not using the same logic as the tactical combat script
2. Why does the Military Transport turn tail on the second turn, and not right at the beginning? - At turn 1, the AI has clearly something in mind for the transport but gives up on that at turn 2 (still not in range)
Attachments
Meet the contestants.GIF
Meet the contestants.GIF (87.48 KiB) Viewed 1862 times
No Boarding Today.rar
(880.91 KiB) Downloaded 51 times

zolobolo
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Re: Boarding Mechanic

Postby zolobolo » Sat Mar 17, 2018 10:21 pm

This seems to explain why I mostly see either Yoral or the Gremak in the endgame: they both have one thing common and that is that they lack a dedicated transport vessel with Assault Shuttles.

Basically, any AI controlled faction owning such designs currently puts its resources into the sand when producing them. Colonials and imperials seem to have some light on the end of the tunnel if they get to fleet carriers, but Humans cannot rely that much on their battleship to make up for the disadvantage for having their main faction trait based upon this mechanic.

Orthin also regularly end up being eliminated from my games at any difficulty despite their research advantage which might have something to do with this as well


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