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Starsector 0.97a is out! (02/02/24)

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Author Topic: Why don't my ships follow orders ?  (Read 5072 times)

Hiruma Kai

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #15 on: July 30, 2021, 07:50:25 AM »

I think part of the issue is ships in general will turn to fight enemy ships that are engaging them from a flank.  Especially if said flanker is smaller or locally less superior as calculated by the AI and there's no larger threat nearby.  This is the same reason enemy AI ships will turn towards the player ship when it's off isolated from the rest of the fleet doing a deep flank solo, trying to hit ships from behind.

Engage doesn't override the fundamental AI, not nearly as much as say an Eliminate or direct retreat order.  It's the "fight, but don't die while doing it" command.

As it says, "Order your fleet to engage the target and any nearby enemy ships, without exposing themselves to undue danger".  You could imagine it adding an additional "weight" to move in the direction of the target, but that weight is not very strong compared to other things it is being weighed against like nearby enemies.  Retreat does the same - it adds an additional weight towards the retreat side.  Eliminate and direct retreat I believe start to make more drastic changes to how enemy ships are weighted, which is why your ships will dive deep into enemy lines and get themselves destroyed with those types of orders.  They're essentially ignoring most of the enemy fleet for position purposes. The weight that Engage adds also doesn't change with the number of times you've issued the command.  The AI has no concept of command history, and Engage is essentially a toggle.  Given the exact same command 3 times isn't increasing the likely likelihood of the ship behaving you way you want.  If it's on, it's on.

Imagine you've given no orders to a Falcon, and a Tempest engages it from a flank.  The Tempest gets into firing range, and the Falcon is going to turn to bring weapons to bear, and fight it.  The Tempest perhaps runs up it's flux and starts to back off.  Now the Falcon is nearby a high flux enemy it's been engaging with, and instead of letting it just run away and vent, tries to pursue to finish it off.  Which is presumably the behavior most players would want in that case - finish off high flux nearby ships.  Problem is the Tempest is too fast, backs off while being chased, and gets it flux down, and dives back in.  Thus you have a frigate distracting a cruiser an entire fight.

Now imagine that same situation, but you issue an Engage command to the Falcon to fight another target elsewhere.  Since the underlying AI doesn't change, and it's got a clear and present danger here, it is going to follow the same behavior.  It's going to do what it thinks is best for it locally to not die or take significant damage.  That generally means engaging nearby enemy ships instead of ignoring them and letting them flank the ship.  If there's no other pressure, the Falcon will follow the engage command, but if the ship itself is being engaged by an enemy ship (imagine the enemy ship has been given an engage command against your Falcon), it's not necessarily possible to extricate itself.  It's going north because it's consistently winning the flux war and the harassing enemy ship has to back off briefly, but if the Falcon doesn't finish it and turns towards the cruiser elsewhere, the enemy ship is going to be right back on it in 5-10 seconds and hitting it from behind, forcing it to turn back again.  The issue is in the AI's assessment of the Falcon's ability to finish off the target quickly and the default underlying behavior of trying to finish off "inferior" targets.  Or in the assessment of how dangerous the target is and whether it could be ignored, which the AI is understandably not nearly as good as a human at doing.

If the not important ship the Falcon was engaging was slower, and the Falcon had no flux issues, I presume it would finish off the unimportant ship and move on. The fact it was being distracted long enough for 3 Engage orders to be issued suggests to me the other ship was faster (or potentially a Monitor).  If the other ship is faster, the Falcon can't control the engagement, the enemy ship does.

As it is, there are plenty of posts where players are unhappy with how unaggressive ships can sometimes be against an overloaded or high on flux ship.  So tweaking how much ships backoff for the overall AI is potentially going to have undesired side effects for more general cases.  Use of "stronger" commands like eliminate, and applying selective avoid commands, which change how ships are weighted and so forth are likely to be more helpful in situations like this.  Of course, the physical capabilities of the ships may still result in a situation that doesn't go as planned.  Avoid doesn't work when your ship is an Enforcer and the enemy is an Aurora plasma jetting in.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2021, 07:52:39 AM by Hiruma Kai »
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Amoebka

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2021, 08:04:26 AM »

I guess "defend a rally point" and "normal retreat" commands need to be stronger then. What a player wants to happen when giving a "move there" command is for the targeted ship to start moving in that direction, while turning to face and fire at nearby enemies. The problem is, in addition to that they also CHASE these enemies, even if it means going further away from their goal. So if the enemy is faster, the ship will keep trying to chase it down and not really move to where it should despite the orders.

Ships should be agressive when they are on search&destroy. When they have a move command they should freaking MOVE.
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Megas

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #17 on: July 30, 2021, 08:20:50 AM »

I guess "defend a rally point" and "normal retreat" commands need to be stronger then.
Like... MUCH stronger.
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Yunru

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #18 on: July 30, 2021, 08:50:58 AM »

Like, currently it feels like the AI's priorities are:
1. COMBAT!!!!!shift1
2. Orders

Rather than:
1. Orders
2. Combat

Igncom1

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #19 on: July 30, 2021, 09:43:57 AM »

The first times I tried to play this game using the AI was an experience in nightmarish cat herding.

But since then I've kind of had to adjust my fleets to how the AI reacts and now I feel like the AI is pretty much perfect. Yeah they'll often ignore their orders and do whatever they want anyway, but they'll often at least try when there aren't many threats around. Self preservation of their goal so they will focus crazily on any nearby threats even to their own expense in the grander picture.

Never give the AI control of anything you can't afford to lose and see orders as more 'suggestions' to the AI rather then hard-line commands like in a RTS game. Anything to avoid pulling your hair out!

“Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength. Soldiers in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is no place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in the heart of a hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers will be constantly on the alert, and without waiting to be asked, they will do your will; without restrictions, they will be faithful; without giving orders, they can be trusted.
Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts.
Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.” -  Sun Tzu, The Art Of War

Or something like that  :P
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Yunru

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #20 on: July 30, 2021, 10:07:52 AM »

“Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is noample escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength. Soldiers in desperate straits lose the sense of fear. If there is noany place of refuge, they will stand firm. If they are in the heart of a hostile country, they will show a stubborn front. If there is no help for it, they will fight hard. Thus, without waiting to be marshaled, the soldiers will be constantly on the alert, and without waiting to be asked, they will do your willtheir want; without restrictions, they will be faithfulchaos; without giving orders, they can be trusted.
Prohibit the taking of omens, and do away with superstitious doubts.
Then, until death itself comes, no calamity need be feared.”

Fixed it for you :P

DatonKallandor

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #21 on: July 30, 2021, 11:37:45 AM »

Like, currently it feels like the AI's priorities are:
1. COMBAT!!!!!shift1
2. Orders

Rather than:
1. Orders
2. Combat

The latter would result in a lot of dead ships and a lot of complaints about how there's no point giving the AI a ship to fly because they'll just get it blown up.
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intrinsic_parity

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #22 on: July 30, 2021, 12:32:21 PM »

The AI is set up so that you don't need to give it orders for it to be reasonably successful, rather than set up so that you can maximize your effectiveness by using orders. That's to ensure that you are not obligated to play the game like an RTS to be successful. There's a trade-off between having an AI that can successfully operate independently of the player and having an AI that can effectively follow the players orders. In the end you strike a balance between those things.

I think most complaints that the AI is bad are really complaints that the AI doesn't meet some expectations about what it should be able to do. If you instead try to figure out how you can maximize the effectiveness of the AI with your orders and loadouts, you will find the AI is quite good at utilizing the game mechanics.

That being said, in my experience there are long-running issues with over-pursuit and order-ignoring. They've been improved upon, but there's still room for further improvement IMO. I do wish the AI had more high level situational awareness, like understanding relative values of ships and that bigger ships often need to prioritize engaging the enemy bigger ships rather than pursuing smaller ships. Also understanding relative speed and when aggressiveness will be effective vs. when it will get kited easily.
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Null Ganymede

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #23 on: July 30, 2021, 03:22:54 PM »

It does come down to helping the AI rather than fighting it. Fighting it leads to suffering.
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Yunru

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #24 on: July 30, 2021, 04:03:03 PM »

Like, currently it feels like the AI's priorities are:
1. COMBAT!!!!!shift1
2. Orders

Rather than:
1. Orders
2. Combat

The latter would result in a lot of dead ships and a lot of complaints about how there's no point giving the AI a ship to fly because they'll just get it blown up.
Yeah, and it would also end in a lot of otherwise dead ships actually retreating, and a lot of otherwise lost locations being held rather than the defenders *** off to go fight.

I'm not saying survival should be moved down the list, just that they should value their assigned orders over just chasing whatever enemy happens to catch their eye.

Gothars

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #25 on: July 30, 2021, 11:52:26 PM »

I think a lot of this really is just failing to set expectations for the player.

Very true. Considering that Starsectors AI/command style is extremely uncommon in video games in general (I have to think all the way back to the creature control in the godsim Black&White to find something somewhat comparable), the game goes over it far too quickly. I think the mantra of "orders are tasks, minimize them, let the AI do its thing" should be repeated again and again to have a chance to sink it. It would also be helpful for your ships to communicate their intent more clearly to you.
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Null Ganymede

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #26 on: July 31, 2021, 12:06:44 AM »

I'd like a video conference HUD of my officers, especially the reckless one screaming something about driving closer to hit stuff with a sword.
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Deshara

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #27 on: July 31, 2021, 12:38:23 AM »

I think a lot of this really is just failing to set expectations for the player.

Very true. Considering that Starsectors AI/command style is extremely uncommon in video games in general (I have to think all the way back to the creature control in the godsim Black&White to find something somewhat comparable), the game goes over it far too quickly. I think the mantra of "orders are tasks, minimize them, let the AI do its thing" should be repeated again and again to have a chance to sink it. It would also be helpful for your ships to communicate their intent more clearly to you.

arma 3 does a really neat trick in that the first of the 3 chapters u spend all of your time that you arent alone, under the command of an AI squad leader who commands you inside of the squad the same way that the enemy units are commanded by their AI commander, with a dot on the ground where you're expected to be to maintain formation & with the game putting a red circle around the enemies your commander orders you to target making them the most visible enemy to you (u dont have to look for him like u do all the rest of the enemies) which causes you to focus on them usually to the exclusion of all others.
and what this does is, it really helps to contextualize for the player not just what the player should be doing as a commander but also what the enemy is doing as a commander and what your AI expects you to be doing. It's the game's very explicit way of saying, "hey, if u want your RPG soldier to hit the enemy vehicle, you need to tell him to hit the enemy vehicle".
I think starsector would benefit tremendously from some sort of gamemode where the player pilots a flagship & nothing else while inside an ally's fleet, getting orders from the ally AI commander as if the player were just another AI ship in the AI fleet, so they can get a feel for what the game expects of them as a commander
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Amoebka

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #28 on: July 31, 2021, 07:00:53 AM »

I really hate it when people say that you just need to adapt to the AI. No, you shouldn't. An ORDER should be considered an ORDER, not a suggestion. AI can be as cautious and self-reliant as it wants when left on autopilot, but if the player felt the need to issue an order, that order needs to be respected. If following said order gets the ship killed, THAT'S FINE. The player made a bad order and got punished. You don't like it - you don't use orders.

Right now, the game has "soft" and "hard" orders. The latter get your ships killed sometimes, the former don't. Search and destroy is soft, eliminate is hard. Retreat is soft, direct retreat is hard. The issue is, there are no hard alternatives to capture/hold and rally. You literally can't order a ship to move somewhere, you can only suggest it does so and watch it ignore you completely. Imo, the game would benefit from adding hard move and hard defend commands, and clearly marking soft and hard commands differently in the UI (soft is yellow buttons, hard is red, or something).

The player should have at least an OPTION of giving direct and indisputable orders, no matter how risky they are. If they don't want their ships blown up, they can always use softer orders or no orders at all.
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FenMuir

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Re: Why don't my ships follow orders ?
« Reply #29 on: July 31, 2021, 08:19:25 AM »

The AI does what it thinks is best for the ship at any given time unless you override that with an eliminate order, which effectively removes other ships from consideration.

You may not realize it now, but a frigate that is kitted out properly can be an extreme threat to a capital that lacks an omni-shield. See Anti-Matter Blasters on Afflictors, for example.

There is evidently a bug that locks a ship into attacking a single ship. This can evidently be circumvented using 1) Direct Retreat, 2) wait until it disengages, and 3) give new order.

In warfare, orders are given, and the ordered's officers are allowed to best decide how to follow those instructions. If you need a single ship to stop pursuing A and instead pursue B, you may just want to field more ships. I recommend Afflictors with Anti-matter Blasters.
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