Hey everyone! My name is Matt Brand. I work at GameTheory in Burlington, VT, and I am the primary developer on the digital version of Dominant Species by GMT Games. I am finishing up the Artificial Intelligence (AI) portion of the game right now, and wanted to give a little window into the creation of the AI. I’m going to give a little summary of the complex nature of the AI for this game, and then some of the strategies that Kai Jensen (Developer of the Dominant Species boardgame ) and I came up with in order to facilitate an interesting and fun play experience.
Dominant Species (DS) is a game with a lot of complex decision points. It may not seem that way when playing the game as a human, but the ways in which some decisions are made as a player involve a lot of underlying logic and assumptions that need to be taken into account when making an AI come to similar conclusions. Even some seemingly simple moves take layers of analysis in order for the AI to arrive at a similar decision that a human player will make.
The main reason for the deep complexity in DS is the breadth of types of actions that the game involves. For example, choosing and placing an element in Abundance, which really comes down to what elements can support the player the best on the board, is relatively simple, while moving animals around during Migration in order to maximize different results gets way more complex. Both involve a basic goal of maximizing the amount of tiles on earth that the AI desires to dominate, but the ways that is accomplished in each of those 2 types of actions are very different. And those are only 2 actions out of the 12 types, not to mention the Dominance Cards, which involve another entire range of different types of behaviors and decisions.
Another reason for the complexity is the turn structure. DS is unlike most other games. Generally in a game each player takes one turn, does an action, and the game advances to the next player. There are the same number of turns per round per player, and the actions done in each turn are relatively similar. DS is very different because it has varying amounts of actions per player, which changes over the course of the game. It progresses in Initiative order in the Planning Phase, each player taking a turn to place an Action Pawn on the desired action. But then once it gets to the Execution Phase, the turns are made in the order the players have designated, so the same player could take 2, 3 or even more turns in a row. (This also presents a big challenge as we design the multi-player functionality we’re adding to the game later this summer, but that’s another article.)