Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.8

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Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.8

Postby mattsc » August 22nd, 2015, 6:52 am

Hello All,

Updated on 8 November 2017 with release of v0.14.8 for Wesnoth 1.12 and 1.13

As some of you might know, a few of us have been working on custom AIs on and off for several years now. One of the results of this work are the Micro_AIs that were introduced in Wesnoth 1.12. Another are a couple of experimental MP AIs that are part of the AI Modification Demos add-on, dubbed Ron and Fred. Ron is a (comparatively) simple rush AI that was introduced into mainline quite some time ago (he's called the 'Experimental AI' there), while Fred is much more complex and still a work in progress. If you want to read more about the background, there's a rather voluminous thread in the Coder's Corner forum.

A couple months ago I picked up work on Fred again after a year-long hiatus and I believe that he might now be ready for introduction to this forum and more general testing by (human) players. I do not have the time to do a lot of "manual testing", so mostly I watch games of Fred vs. the Default AI. While he does very well in those match-ups, we all know that that is not necessarily an indication that he will also be an interesting or fun opponent for a human player. Thus, I would like to solicit your help with testing of Fred.

Currently, Fred is only set up to play Northerners as Side 1 on the Freelands MP map. Extending this to Side 2 and other factions is relatively easy (and, in fact, mostly in place already), while playing on other maps is a very different story and might never happen. Or it might. We will have to see how he does on Freelands first...

More information on how to use Fred, what kind of testing/feedback would be useful, known problems etc. follows in the sections below. Read at your own risk, big walls of text ahead. ;)

Any testing, feedback, comments etc. would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers and thanks,
mattsc & Fred

---------------------------------------------------

Status as of AI-demos v0.14.8: (this information will be updated as new versions are released)

How to use Fred
Download the AI Modification Demos add-on from the add-ons server. Then you have two options:
1. MP game:
  • Start an MP game
  • Select “AI-demos Experimental AIs” era or modification
  • Select the Freelands map
  • Uncheck 'Use map settings' and 'Fog of war'
  • Select 'Computer Player' and 'AI-demos: Fred - Freelands, Northerners and Side 1 only' for Side 1
  • Select Northerners for Side 1
  • Select whatever you want for Side 2 and enjoy
1. SP test scenario:
  • Start either from the AI-demos campaign’s switchboard scenario
  • or from the command line with ‘wesnoth -t fred’
  • You can choose the enemy faction, enemy side controller and enemy gold.


General remarks and goals
  • My aim for Fred is mostly to provide an AI that is fun to play against and provides an entertaining alternative to the Default AI on at least the Freelands map. I'm not trying to (and am definitely not capable of) making him play as well as a human player.
  • One of the biggest lessons I have learned is that playing a decent Wesnoth game is all about exceptions. There are general rules that we can teach the AI, but the real trick are the decisions when not to follow those rules. So you try to give the AI some set of rules that work pretty well on average, but there will be moves that are too aggressive, and others that are not aggressive enough (compared to what a human player would do). That is pretty much unavoidable, so realistically the goal I have set for Fred is to do decently on average and keep the really bad mistakes to a minimum.
  • On the plus side, these variations add a little bit of unpredictability.


How can you help?
What's useful:
  • Comments on what Fred does well and what he does not do well in general would be very helpful, more so than dissection of individual moves. The guiding principle of pretty much all of Fred's move evaluations is whether a certain action is expected to result in more damage to the enemy than to Fred. If so, do it, if not, don't. I find quite often that a move that appears quite strange at first glance actually is rather logical - from Fred's perspective, at least. As such, comments on what Fred does consistently well, or consistently screws up, are probably more useful than comments on individual moves. However, the latter is definitely needed too, esp. when he does something really stupid.
  • Send me replays of human vs. Fred games, ideally with a few comments on what's good or bad or ugly or fun or not... As I said, my testing has been almost entirely against the Default AI, and while it is fun to watch Fred trounce the Default AI time and again, it's not necessarily an indication of how he does against a human player.
  • Play with fog off: What matters (to me, for this stage of the work) is to get some feedback on how Fred is doing. That's much easier to do if you can actually see what Fred is doing. Besides, Fred plays with fog off himself too. ;)
  • Report long evaluation times: I have not optimized Fred for speed in a while and I know that some of the recent code is somewhat inefficient. So it is possible that some evaluations might take a long time. This doesn't happen very often against the Default AI because it is so aggressive (meaning that there are never all that many units on the map), but in a more defensive battle against a human player, it might happen. If you encounter Fred taking really long (say, more than 10 seconds or so for an individual move), could you send me a replay of it, please?
  • Report Lua errors: Obviously, I try to fix all errors that I am aware of, but some situations occur so infrequently that I might never encounter them. If you see an error message on the screen, please send me a replay and a note at which turn/move it happened. I need to be able to reproduce the error, otherwise I cannot fix it.

What not to do: (Well, let me rephrase that. If you think these things are fun, by all means go ahead. But they are not as helpful for my personal selfish purpose of testing and improving Fred as the stuff above.)
  • Pounding on the biggest weakness: I know this is how you’re supposed to play against a human in order to win and it’s fun to do so, but all it will tell me is what this biggest weakness is. Instead, identifying that weakness, telling me about it and then ignoring it, is much more useful for an overall assessment of what needs improvement, and what is going pretty well already.
  • Don't check out the code. The code currently is a horrendous mess. I throw out at least 10 times more code than I keep, and I never know in advance what I'll end up keeping and what not, so I won't bother cleaning it up until I am pretty sure that it is good (enough).


Known issues and future work
See also the open issues on the AI-demos github site.

Issues that will get worked on soon(ish):
  • Distribution of units between the three zones of the Freelands map, and in particular also re-distribution when the situation changes, is currently sub-ideal.
  • Attacks by several AI units against the same enemy sometimes leave units too exposed (e.g. if the enemy is killed before all attackers have been used).
  • Add preferred trapping of enemy leader when he's off keep.
  • Add small bonus for attacking from/moving to keep hexes near enemy leader, to block him from moving there.
Issues that will probably get worked on sometime:
  • Actively try to protect weak, valuable units
  • Leader does not need to return to keep if there's not enough gold for recruiting (but he needs to be kept
  • Refine current metrics of unit power and unit value
  • Continue refining how counter attack stats are calculated; current method has many issues; need to balance between accuracy and speed
  • Enable trapping by means other than a unit on either side
  • Enable Fred to play Side 2
  • Enable Fred to play all factions
  • Don't force fog to be turned off for player side
  • Add more trash talk easter eggs
  • Continue speeding up the code
  • Clean up the code

Issues that might or might not ever get worked on: (because I don't have the time or patience or simply because I do not know how to do this)
  • One of the things that Fred (or any AI, probably) has a really hard time with is coordinating different moves with each other. So he might block, or not block, an area that a later move then makes inaccessible to the enemy anyway. Or he does an (in principle good) attack that pulls units away from another area were they are needed. That's really hard to deal with for an AI and while I will continue to work on this, I don't know if I'll ever really solve that problem. [The state space of possible moves is simply too big in Wesnoth to evaluate all possible move combinations.]
  • Enable Fred to play other maps
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Re: Help requested with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom A

Postby Cold Steel » August 26th, 2015, 1:14 am

Here is a replay where I got a long evaluation on the last / second to last turn. This may be not surprising as it is the first time there are so many units in such close proximity during this match.

The only really clear mistake I noticed is that Fred prioritizes the retreat of ordinary units out of attack range a bit higher than using them to protect his leader when the keep is being surrounded. You see a bit of this as well in the replay; there are still units left to surround and protect their king but they are too afraid to do their duty. ^_^
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Re: Help requested with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom A

Postby benjam » August 26th, 2015, 9:08 am

I second that post.

I like how fred operates in teams and does not try to attack in vain. It is really different then the rushing default ai with regards to this.
It occurred to me that once the situation is evaluated to be in favor of the other player, fred switches to be overly defensive, thus giving up
initiative completely (however n=2).

This is outstanding work, and I will play it again sometime.
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Re: Help requested with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom A

Postby mattsc » August 26th, 2015, 9:02 pm

Cold Steel, benjam: Thank you! :) I really appreciate you taking the time to test Fred and writing up your comments!

The replays are very helpful and I must say that I am not disappointed by what I am seeing. I mean, clearly Fred does things that are not ideal. But then, some of those I'm still working on, and overall I am not going for an AI that doesn't make mistakes and can beat a human player on even terms anyway. As long as he provides a different kind of challenge than the default AI and doesn't screw up really badly too often, I'm happy.

Yeah, Fred's still pretty bad at this "endgame" thing (both when losing and when winning, actually). Your replays are going to be great test cases for trying to improve that. As a general comment, I find it very difficult to get the right balance between being aggressive and defensive. The deserting the leader is only one manifestation of that, although it's probably the worst offender.

I'll look into the long evaluation times also.

Thanks!
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Re: Help requested with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom A

Postby Cold Steel » August 27th, 2015, 2:53 pm

Yeah, even after having played a few matches against Fred now, I still see him doing nothing wrong that is not already on your near term known issues list. And he is tremendously more intelligent and fun to play against than any other AI.

mattsc wrote:I find it very difficult to get the right balance between being aggressive and defensive.


You may have achieved that right balance already; it is hard to make a case for Fred being consistently too aggressive or defensive in general. To illustrate, here is a replay of him against knalgans where he is actually a bit too aggressive, at least early on. (This specific case may derive from the known issue with resistances, since knalgans are a very resistance heavy faction in general.)
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Re: Help requested with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom A

Postby mattsc » August 27th, 2015, 7:05 pm

Thanks, that's great to hear!

Concerning the replay: I see what you mean. I don't think it's because of the resistances though, but due to one of those offensive/defensive balancing issues. In brief, when Fred advances, he considers whether the damage he'll receive at a location is acceptable. If so, move there, otherwise find a safer spot. In this case, the threshold for what's acceptable is too high. Problem is that when I set it lower, he becomes very scared and mostly just runs away. I think I need to make this threshold dependent on how far advanced the position is, how isolated the unis get etc. I'm not entirely sure yet how to do that yet, but even before your post this was the highest priority large/difficult item on my immediate task list.

In the meantime, I have fixed (most of) the issues Fred had with resistances, weapon specials like drain and the like. So he should do just fine against undead and knalgans now. Interestingly, he always seems to have the most problems against drakes, although I am not entirely sure yet why. I think it's a combination of the high mobility of drakes and the advancing problem described above.

With that, I have the following on my must-do list for the 0.14.1 release:

  • Fix that advancing problem described above
  • Fix units abandoning the leader when enemy has many units closeby
  • Do something about the long evaluation times toward the end (although I might not fix that entirely for 0.14.1)
Cheers and thanks again.
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Re: Help requested with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom A

Postby Cold Steel » August 28th, 2015, 5:27 am

mattsc wrote:Interestingly, he always seems to have the most problems against drakes, although I am not entirely sure yet why. I think it's a combination of the high mobility of drakes and the advancing problem described above.


Gave the drakes a shot (replay attached); I think I see what you mean, the extra mobility keeps his forces intimidated at a greater distance. Or maybe it's herpetophobia. :D

The next release sounds juicy, definitely looking forward to it.
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI (v0.14.1

Postby mattsc » August 29th, 2015, 8:07 pm

Cold Steel wrote:Or maybe it's herpetophobia. :D

Yeah, that must be it! :lol: And in some previous incarnation he really hated the fishmen. He dropped pretty much every other fight until he had gotten rid of those. :)

Thanks for the replay. One of the things that I would still like to get this AI to do better (and that is quite obvious in all the replays) is avoiding to expose individual units too much and then abandoning them, but I'm not sure if I'll entirely succeed with that. Still, I'm not unhappy at all with what I am seeing, and Fred's already much better at that than he used to be.

Cold Steel wrote:The next release sounds juicy, definitely looking forward to it.

Thanks. :) I'm not sure that I would bet on it though. I think that all improvements from here on will be incremental, but hopefully you'll in the end notice small differences overall due to their combination. Thanks again for all the testing and all the replays, I really appreciate the help!
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.1

Postby mattsc » September 2nd, 2015, 1:40 pm

Fred (AI-demos) v0.14.1 is on the 1.12 add-ons server now with a few significant improvements over the previous version:

  • Units do not abandon their leader when faced with a large enemy force any more.
  • Weapon specials, resistances, traits and abilities are now mostly taken into account correctly. (Of course, approximations need to be made otherwise the calculation time becomes too long, but those approximations should be pretty good by now.) As a result, the warning that Fred does not know how to play the undead has been removed.
  • Many minor (and a couple major) improvements to attack and counter attack calculations that result in better attack behavior. Still some improvements to be made, but in some situations this is now much better than it was in 0.14.0.
  • Some improvements to advancing and defensive holding. This is definitely not done yet.
  • Significantly decreased evaluation time in situations when there are many AI and enemy units close to each other. As an example, the evaluation time for one of the situations in Cold Steel's first replay went from ~20 seconds to ~2 seconds on my computer. I don't know if this entirely fixes all situations, so please continue to let me know about really long evaluation times.
There were, of course, also a lot of minor or invisible changes made. See the complete changelog below for a summary or the github repository for all the details.

Overall, I believe that Fred does play better than in v0.14.0, although a lot of the improvements might not be easily noticeable.

Note that I will always show Fred's current status in the first post of this thread (which will get edited accordingly). In order to keep a record of past status and progress, this post (and any post on future updates) also contains the status of the previous version, with changes in the latest version shown via strikeouts, bold-face text etc.

Batch testing against the default AI
Just for kicks, I did a batch test of 300 (no-GUI) games of Fred vs. the default AI, 50 against each of the 6 default factions. Out of those 300 games, Fred lost 5, 1 each against Northerners, Loyalists and Drakes, and 2 against Knalgans. So he's not quite perfect yet, but it's not too bad either. :)

Interestingly, the game he lost against Northerners ended on Turn 5, when Fred had 9 units and the enemy had 10. I assume that Fred's leader somehow got caught off keep and the enemy got some lucky strikes in. It would be interesting to see exactly what happened, but unfortunately that is not possible for no-GUI games, I only have some statistical information about them. The other losses appear to be more "legitimate", in games lasting 10 - 20 turns and the enemy being much stronger than Fred by the end.


Previous and current known issues and future work (diff between v0.14.0 and v0.14.1)
Issues that will get worked on soon(ish):
  • The order in which several AI units attack the same enemy is currently predetermined and then followed rigidly. Sometimes it is better to change the order or attack hexes of the units if things don't go as expected, or to abandon the remaining attacks altogether.
  • Take resistances into account correctly
  • Take other weapons specials into account correctly (only poison and slow so far)
  • Improve retreating of injured units, both when to retreat and where to
  • Trapping attacks: don't give bonus for already trapped units
  • Poison attacks: don't give bonus for units that regenerate, are already poisoned or are not poisonable
  • Bigger penalty for attacking from next to village
  • Add preferred trapping of enemy leader when he's off keep.
  • Add small bonus for attacking from/moving to keep hexes near enemy leader, to block him from moving there.
  • Advance rating needs to be refined in all zones
  • When pulling units back to protect leader, prefer hexes between AI leader and enemies.
  • New: If severely injured unit cannot run away, put up a last-stand fight
  • New: If not all units planned in for an attack are needed (because the enemy is killed early), this might leave some of the attackers more exposed than planned
Issues that will probably get worked on sometime:
  • Distribution of units between the three zones of the Freelands map, and in particular also re-distribution when the situation changes, is currently sub-ideal.
  • Prefer attacks with fewer units, if expected outcome is similar to using more units
  • Move injured units toward villages if those are out of reach
  • New: Actively try to protect weak, valuable units
  • New: Leader does not need to return to keep if there's not enough gold for recruiting (but he needs to be kept from running off too far)
  • Refine current metrics of unit power and unit value
  • Keep leader from wandering off if own keep hexes are blocked by enemy
  • Well advanced: Refine how counter attack stats are calculated; current method has many issues; need to balance between accuracy and speed
  • Enable trapping by means other than a unit on either side
  • Enable Fred to play Side 2
  • Enable Fred to play all factions
  • Don't force fog to be turned off for player side
  • Add more trash talk easter eggs
  • Good progress: Speed up the code
  • Clean up the code

Issues that might or might not ever get worked on: (because I don't have the time or patience or simply because I do not know how to do this)
  • One of the things that Fred (or any AI, probably) has a really hard time with is coordinating different moves with each other. So he might block, or not block, an area that a later move then makes inaccessible to the enemy anyway. Or he does an (in principle good) attack that pulls units away from another area were they are needed. That's really hard to deal with for an AI and while I will continue to work on this, I don't know if I'll ever really solve that problem. [The state space of possible moves is simply too big in Wesnoth to evaluate all possible move combinations.]
  • Enable Fred to play other maps


v0.14.1 complete changelog
Code: Select all
----- 0.14.1, 2 September 2015 -----

- Fred (Freelands AI for Northerners, Side 1):
  - Refinements to the attack / counter attack evaluations:
    - Most notably, we now take the time when "delayed damage" (poison, slow,
      but also healing etc.) are applied into account correctly, and do not
      double count the chance to die of units (both own and enemy). These
      changes result in a significant improvement of the accuracy of the
      attack evaluation.
    - Significantly decrease evaluation time in situations when there are
      many AI and enemy units close to each other
    - Defend leader more aggressively
    - Add or improve consideration of the following in max damage calculations:
      - Berserk, backstab, drain, magical, marksman, plague
      - Immunities to poison, drain, plague
      - Also apply these to the defender (previously was done only for attacker)
    - Remove enemy starting damage bonus
    - Do not give trapping bonus for already trapped enemies
    - Do not discard a potential attack based on the forward attack rating alone
    - Take fearless trait into account for time of day modifier
    - Take healthy trait into account for delayed damage calculation
    - Stop and reconsider attack combo execution if an attacker dies
  - Do not abandon leader in face of large enemy force
  - Improve advancing (rating and direction) toward own and enemy leader
  - Evaluate acceptable holding/advancing positions slightly more conservatively
  - Add 'remove_MP' candidate action: this sometimes makes Fred execute a few
    more attacks at turn end, as attacks are evaluated differently for units
    with and without MP
  - Fred scenario:
    - Remove warning when playing against undead
    - Use random start time
    - Remove "kill unit" custom menu item
    - No scrolling to Fred for end-of-scenario message
- Miscellaneous:
  - Quite a bit of internal reorganization of functions and tables
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.1

Postby Cold Steel » September 2nd, 2015, 9:26 pm

Nice work!

I tried a few rounds against him with slightly more varied tactics. I feel that overall he did a good job of showing me the error of my ways when I used unusual tactics. In the "fred_vs_rebels" replay on turn 5, you can see him attack against a couple of units with a lone grunt during day, but I think this is because of a known issue you mentioned earlier.

One interesting surprise was his recruiting of naga during one particular match (replay: "fred_vs_courageous_fools") that I don't remember seeing him do before (or since). They were deployed fairly effectively as well.
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fred_vs_courageous_fools.gz
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fred_vs_rebels.gz
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.1

Postby mattsc » September 3rd, 2015, 3:43 am

Oh, wow, that was quick, thanks! I hope that you're having some fun with that too.

Is it just me or is it because I was really hungry (and therefore a bit grumpy) when I watched the replays, or is Fred's performance not as convincing this time? I thought he should be doing a bit better than the previous version, but it almost looks the opposite. Either way, he clearly has a problem exposing individual units too much, not just during the turn you pointed out. As you said though, that part is not new and a combination of several of the known issues. I'll keep working on it...

Cold Steel wrote:One interesting surprise was his recruiting of naga during one particular match (replay: "fred_vs_courageous_fools") that I don't remember seeing him do before (or since).

The whole recruiting code was written by Alarantalara quite a while ago and has been in Fred (and Ron, in fact) pretty much unchanged since then. Since it seems to be doing pretty well overall (and yes, even throwing the occasional naga or other surprise at you), I am treating it as a black box for now and am simply using it as is.

Thanks!
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.1

Postby Cold Steel » September 3rd, 2015, 4:40 pm

mattsc wrote:I hope that you're having some fun with that too.


Indeed, it is actually hard to go back to game types dependent on lesser AIs after you get used to one that plays basically like a person. And multiplayer matches seem to take around ten times longer to complete and cannot easily be saved part-way through for a later blob of free time. So even in a prototype state, I feel Fred currently offers the most interesting game play experience in BfW.

Plus I find AI in games a really interesting subject in general.

mattsc wrote:is Fred's performance not as convincing this time? I thought he should be doing a bit better than the previous version, but it almost looks the opposite.


I didn't want to say after only a few matches, but this is possible. It felt like maybe he is a bit more aggressive in general than the last version, and this may lead to both more units getting isolated behind enemy lines and less massing of forces in strongholds or beyond attack range prior to an advantageous time of day. Additional matches will hopefully help tell the tale though.
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.1

Postby mattsc » September 3rd, 2015, 5:39 pm

Great! I am glad to hear that you're enjoying this.

Cold Steel wrote:I didn't want to say after only a few matches, but this is possible. It felt like maybe he is a bit more aggressive in general than the last version, and this may lead to both more units getting isolated behind enemy lines and less massing of forces in strongholds or beyond attack range prior to an advantageous time of day. Additional matches will hopefully help tell the tale though.

I have actually had this happen to me quite a few times. I've made what I thought were "great improvements", and when it comes down to real in-game testing, Fred ends up playing worse than before. Usually it turns out though that they really are improvements and that simply more tuning of the parameters is needed. I am confident that that is the case this time also - because I know what I changed and if used correctly, it simply cannot be worse than before (on average).

The tricky bit is, of course, figuring out how to tune things and your replays are going to be extremely useful with that. One of the nice things of the Lua AIs in Wesnoth is that you do not need to start from the beginning of the scenario/map in order to test new AI behavior. For example, I can take Turn 5 of the Rebels scenario and see how that grunt reacts to changes in the AI code (and figure out what the root cause of him storming forward like that is in the first place). So as I said, I'll keep working on it and hopefully a version or two down the road, there will be some actual noticeable overall improvement.
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.1

Postby Cold Steel » September 4th, 2015, 11:03 pm

mattsc wrote:Usually it turns out though that they really are improvements and that simply more tuning of the parameters is needed. I am confident that that is the case this time also - because I know what I changed and if used correctly, it simply cannot be worse than before (on average).


Another variable to consider is myself. I actually re-downloaded wesnoth when you announced the next phase of AI testing, following a hiatus of... however long it has been. So some of what you are seeing may not be fred getting worse but just me recalling how to play. :hmm: As more testers come in this kind of thing should be less of an issue though, of course.

Having said that, here are a few more replays from me to further distort the situation. :whistle:
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14.1_vs_knalgans.gz
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14.1_vs_undead.gz
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Re: Help with testing Fred - Freelands MP Custom AI v0.14.1

Postby mattsc » September 5th, 2015, 2:29 am

Cold Steel wrote:Another variable to consider is myself. I actually re-downloaded wesnoth when you announced the next phase of AI testing, following a hiatus of... however long it has been. So some of what you are seeing may not be fred getting worse but just me recalling how to play. :hmm:

Ah, I see, that might be true. Also, you are probably learning how to anticipate Fred's quirks to some extent and are adapting your play to that a little. Human players are very good at that as I have learned. You might want to start giving Fred a little bit more gold than yourself and see how that goes. ;)

Cold Steel wrote:As more testers come in this kind of thing should be less of an issue though, of course.

Let's hope that the word will slowly spread and others will follow your example. These replays are really invaluable for me for figuring out what I need to be working on. I can't say thanks often enough!

Cold Steel wrote:Having said that, here are a few more replays from me to further distort the situation. :whistle:

Oh wow, that was bad what he did with the leader against the Drakes. :lol: But I think overall things are going pretty well for what Fred is at this point. I think it is becoming clearer and clearer that the biggest general mistake at the moment is sending individual units too far forward and then abandoning them there. I know some of the reasons for that, but that's going to be a hard one to get fully under control. In any case, I think that needs to be the main task for me to work on for 0.14.2.

In the meantime, I am running some more tests to figure out whether 0.14.0 was really better than 0.14.1 or if that's just our perception. I'll post about that in a day or two.
mattsc
 
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