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About King

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  • Birthday 05/17/1975

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    In Exile
  1. Episode 269: Crisis Management

    If you were doing the Dune Universe I think a Crusder Kings style game might be better. With the Emperor and his various nobles squabbling and scheming. Plus you get the chance to breed a super being which is always fun.
  2. This episode got me thinking about victory conditions. One thing I think we forget here is that victory is as much driven by the designer's point of view. To give this a context here let's think about operation Barbarossa and about the question how do the Germans win? You can take the very fashionable view that to win is take Moscow. It is a huge population centre, it is the main seat of government, the Soviet rail network radiates from Moscow etc. etc.. Capturing this city is game over for the Soviet Union and Germany has won. Then you are very much in the magic hill situation. Moscow is the magic hill you need to take to win the game. You can of course take another view that an all out drive for Moscow would put the Germans in the same situation as Napoleon with the same result and to take this conclusion a step further there is no technical win for a German player in 1941. What the German player would be playing for a is the best position for a 1942 campaign that could be decisive. Then you would be looking not only at multiple objectives but also how many casualties both sides have taken.
  3. I am going to side with Troy here and take a more negative view of kickstarters. I don't think it is the future of funding. Basically because you are giving money for essentially a promise that maybe you'll get something in the future, and I think once enough kickstarters fail to deliver people will turn their back on them. I also do not think the board game example is a valid comparison. When you sign up for a board game, when the numbers are reached the game is printed, ships and you get a game for your money. You may not, at the end of the day, like the game, but you will at least have something for you cash. This is the key difference between the board game model and the computer game kickstarter. I think the future for game financing is the model that Endless Space used, you paid for Beta access. If Endless Space had failed you would have had a beta version for your money. Now you might have never played again, because you were so unhappy knowing what might have been, but you would have something for you hard disk. The strength of this model is that you have to produce something first almost like security before people give you money. Your beta build is an advert which says look how far we've come and imagine how it will look if only we had a little more money to finish it.
  4. Episode 180: Thinking Machines

    This is espeically true in a historical game. The historical outcome of World War II is that Germany loses. So people expect a game where Germany loses more often than not. We are essentially required to write an AI that playes the game in a suboptimal fasion, otherwise people complain that the game is not historical. Then players can take advantage of thier historical hindsight to game the system.
  5. Episode 180: Thinking Machines

    There are a couple of problems here, working for a strategy game developer I get to read our forum. Our fans tell as two things, one they don't want an AI that cheats and two they love complexity. This creates a problem for a developer, your two routes out of the AI conundrum are hit with posts that either say your AI cheats how dare it or you are dumbing down your games. I think the player base needs to think a bit more about what they actually want. At the moment it feels like the players are being unrealistic with their demands for the game. If players and developers can reach an understanding here then we can develop an AI that works with the game, but at the moment you are stuck in a situation were you are simply trying to the best job possible.
  6. Episode 180: Thinking Machines

    Writing a good AI is a very hard thing to do, and even worse to debug. This is because you can have several points of failure. Even if you do develop a system that allows you to identify what the AI is doing and improve it, it is still not a trivial task to make the AI better. I am going to come back to one of the more interesting experiments in AI, which was Hearts of Iron 3. In the game you had a system that allowed you to delegate control of units to the AI. This was brilliant from a testing perspective because we could quickly identify problems in the system. I played a test game as Italy, where after Ethiopia was conquered I asked the AI to transfer most of the troops to Libya, but the AI refused to do it. The system allowed to quickly identify and fix a bug in the naval transport AI. If we hadn't had that system, I would be playing away as Italy, invade Egypt and then find no troops there. Then you start looking for the problems, did it not build enough? Did it not prioritise Egypt enough? Was it prioritising somewhere else too much? These list of questions give you a flavour of what a developer is up against when trying to get the AI to work, all are valid possibilities for why there are no troops there. Of course the best bit of all, was that even with the system we had which sped up AI development dramatically, we still couldn't write an AI that was good enough to please players. In some ways AI development is more like a death march than anything else, it will kill you before you get there. Also AI is a hard sell to players, Hearts of Iron 3 was, without doubt, our best AI to date. How do you sell that players? Telling people that doesn't get people excited, because this isn't something that people can get excited about. Saying it is a better AI while truthful, doesn't generate buzz in the way a game mechanic does. A game mechanic is something people can easily see and get their head around, AI isn't the same. Working for a studio that does put a high priority on AI, we know in a way it is costing us sales, because that same work could be used to do a shiny feature, adding polish or balance work that will give us more sales.
  7. Yes and no, as anyone will tell you balancing is not that easy and the more customisation options you give the harder it becomes to balance. This also doesn't change the fact that some choices are basically crap. In HoI3 you can combine you super heavy King Tigers with Militia but you would feel just a bit silly doing it. So although balancing can make some of the choices more interesting, it doesn't get round the problem that some choices are simply bad and no matter how good your choices become there is always one choice that you will prefer when it is there.
  8. When I think about customisation I have come to the conclusion that in Grand Strategy it simply doesn't work the way you want it. What you expect is to see people with various different types of the same unit all customised for different situations, what actually happens is people find the best unit and stick with that. When you combine customisation and technology what you are seeking to acheive is a sense of progression, but technology does that on it's own, thus customisation is not needed for the purpose. I am more of the opinion that a very limited choice of customisation that ensures that your units can fufill very different roles. When you give very limited but clear choices it is easier for the player to make them.
  9. As the guy who did design Heart of Iron 3 I suppose I should get in first here. First things first, I should hold my hand up and say we seriously overreached with the game deisgn, we simply tried to do too much. The game was designed with the notion that you would focus in one part of the conflict and you would leave the AI to run the secondary theatres. The reason this failed was in information, the AI couldn't give you enough useful information to really make use of it properly. If I had unlimited time and budget I would love to redo the whole information interface to give the player better information to make give the player better information and why, what do I want and why do I want it. Then the player could better tailor his/her strategy better. Well that's my defence.
  10. I have to say this is one of those TMA podcasts that has really stood out, and one I told my friends about. Although I feel that there was one thing missing from the discussion which is the effects that the world place on your game. You can see this best in historical games. Why are Germany and Poland fighting in 1939? Well that's history. The problem is that if you took it as a pure game design problem then you would have Germany versus Poland in 1939 as a balanced fight where it is down to player skill to win, but history demands that Germany wins, and wins quickly so is ready to move on to it's next conquest. Thus a game that is missing the world underneath can leave the player lacking immersion, the same is also true in the case where the story and the game don't match. The classic Civ one, I just got nuked by Gandhi is my person favourite of this occurrence.