“Talon Tuesdays” is an article series appearing on InsideGMT periodically on Tuesdays. It features articles from the Talon development team regarding the game’s design, development and upcoming release of the Talon 1000 expansion. Since Space Empires:4x Replicators is also releasing soon and there is crossover between the two development teams, Replicator articles will be featured as well.
Issue #39 Talon Solitaire Part 2
As a team, we are really pleased to offer a strong and enjoyable solitaire system for Talon. The solitaire game mode will be part of Talon 1000 – an expansion that is set to ship in the 2nd quarter of this year. This article series explains how we crafted the solitaire system and how it works. Part 1 of this series can be found here.
Last time we talked about how we reduced the decisions needed for the AI. Frankly, just that much alone makes them a playable AI for an experienced solitaire player. However, we added a bunch of other things to enrich the solitaire experience and to make it so that there would be practically no heavy decisions needed for the AI by the human player.
- Brake and Burn – Each AI ship gets a Brake and Burn. One box that lets them move when they are not supposed to (basically an Afterburner) and one box that lets them NOT move when they are supposed to. This allows the AI to make a speed decision when they need to and not at the start of a round (like a player would when setting his Power Curve). The ships do not pay for this ability in their costs. A real opponent could make better decisions with the Power Curve and this is meant to offset that a little (again without a lot of overhead on the human player).
- Variability – We want the AI, as simply as possible, to make some good (if obvious) decisions. However, we don’t want it to be 100% known and programmable. That would give the human too much calculating/planning power. Randomness is inserted in the AI Ships in a few areas:
- The weapon damage is variable – although they will always do some damage. This prevents situations where they get easily routed. Of course, they pay for this in the cost of their ships.
- Since the Brake and Burn abilities can each be only used once, most of the time there is some variability in their use. There are some situations where it is obvious they should be used and, in those, their use will be 100%.
- Sideslips are free for the AI and this allows the AI ships enough flexibility that, when the move is not critical, there is some variability on where they go.
- There is also variability in the AI set up.
- Initiative – This is not handled normally. The AI starts with the Initiative and the Initiative can only be changed ONE TIME during a scenario. The human player can take the Initiative if greater than half of his ships, EACH spend an Available Power to change the Initiative IN THE SAME IMPULSE. Once changed, the human player will have the Initiative for the rest of the scenario.
- Movement – AI ships tend to move to the closest enemy ship. However, there is a mechanism called “Priority Targeting” that will sometimes have AI ships target and move toward ships outside of their frontal arc. A player will not be able to safely sit in the rear of the AI ships. AI ships are also “sticky” and like to move adjacent to each other, if possible. The explosion strength of the three types of AI ships is 0, 1, and 2. Having a lower explosion strength allows the AI to maneuver closer together and effectively ignore their explosion strengths. Importantly, if an AI ship can cause hull damage, it will always make that move.
These things all working together make for a solid AI player (without “cheating”). In a battle evenly matched for ship points, this system will still give even a skilled player a run for their money. Of course, that is just on the “Novice” setting. Better players will want to give themselves a harder challenge than that and other difficulty settings are available.