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RobertDonald

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Secrets and Secrecy (also: Brigand AI) Reply to this Post
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I'm the sort of person who doesn't believe in strategy secrets. While I value being the best, what I value more is playing as close to optimal as humanly possible. Keeping secrets might widen your advantage over people, but discussion leads to much better play as a whole.


There's always been an unspoken agreement to keep things like brigand AI secret. Sure, tell your crews. Don't tell the ocean! There are many reasons for this. If you know how to max brigands consistantly and others don't, you make much better money than other people. It's a good economic advantage.

There's also a battle between the developers and the players going on: players figure out how to max brigands, developers change AI, players figure it out again, over and over and over. The players work a lot faster than the developers, of course. The developers never have the upper hand for more than a day or two. But revealing the secret knowledge definitely gives the developers an advantage.

Anyway, recent conversations, plus everyone blabbing the Secret Knowledge on the forums in vague references make me want to just openly discuss it. So here's some stuff from my mailbox on the subject of brigand AI. Note that it doesn't conform to my usual forum post standard of testing, experimentation, and avoiding namedrops; private communications aren't held to that.


[size=9]EDIT: The following strategy is now defunct. The new strategy for consistently maxing brigands will be discovered a few days from now, and kept secret for between two and six months.
---

From: RobertDonald
To: ______
Posted: 18 Jun 2004 15:33
Subject: Re: Yer next project?
While many people have alluded to the secrets of battle nav, it's something that we have an unspoken agreement to, well, keep secret. But since you asked so politely I'll tell you.

I do not fight anything below Sea Lords and I usually fight Imperials. So this theory may not work for brigands below that level; I don't know. It's nice to have a high sea battle rating because the brigands you get when you're high are so easy and so predictable.

Brigands follow the same rules as us. They start the round with 2/4/2 tokens, and generate tokens. Shooting them full of holes slows down their token generation.

Imperial brigands are stupid. Incredibly stupid. The algorithm is this: the brigand will find the path which grapples you in the minimum number of moves, then it will do that path. It will read your moves in advance and calculate out what it has to do. BUT there is a delay on reading your moves; any moves you enter in the last second are not read. This leads to the following algorithm for beating imperials, used by Whitefire, Hatcher, and many others.

0) Don't put down any moves yet.

1) Figure out the minimum path to grapple you. This is what the brigand is going to do.

2) Enter the moves at the last second to get out of the brigand's way and get in position to shoot it. Shoot it to death.

3) Repeat until max damage is achieved. 6 shots against a sloop, 8 shots against a cutter, 12 shots against a merchant brig.

Note that you can also put in moves in advance to force the brigand to make certain movements.

On a final note, it's useful to figure out when a brigand is "dead in the water," i.e. not generating any more movement tokens because it has been shot too much. Of course you can tell it's not going to make any moves because the white bar above its head is empty.

----

From: RobertDonald
To: ______
Posted: 21 Jun 2004 23:54
Subject: Re: Yer next project?

 

Do they have a preference for moving straight vs turning first?
Also ? do they use wind/whirlpools to their advantage or steer around them or ignore them altogether? (I believe the last of the 3 is true)

They use whirlpools and wind to their advantage. They know exactly what they do, and if the minimum path involves going through a whirlpool, they will use it.
 

Finally, you?re saying that unless I steer myself into a position where they are able to hit me, they will not attempt to damage me before grappling?

Imperial brigands go straight for the grapple. If, during the minimum grappling path, there is an opportunity to shoot you, they will take it. Generally there is not. Also, if they cannot grapple, they will take a path which allows them to shoot you.

Also note that once you've maxed damage them, their behavior changes. They no longer go for grapples, and try to max damage you instead.
 

Related question ? is there any way to determine when they?ve run out of shot?

Brigands do not ever run out of shot.

-----


Ok, those were from my mailbox. I'd also like to comment that brigands psychicly go for the maximum number of cannonball hits, in the case that they cannot grapple you with their current move tokens.[size=7] And some basic information excluded from that post: look at the white bar above their head for how many moves they're making. Note that cannon shots also fill this bar up, but they won't shoot unless they think they'll be in a position where they hit you.

-----

So now that I've bored you all with such technical information, tell me: is it better to keep the strong techniques and strategies in the game secret? Do you think they should be openly discussed, or not? Why?

[size=7]Note: maxing brigands was just one example of secret technique.
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Quizzical wrote: 
If winners and losers are arbitrarily chosen by ringers or OM's, then it is no longer even a game. It's just clicking random buttons hoping to be arbitrarily chosen, which becomes stupid really fast.

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[Edit 1 times, last edit by RobertDonald at Jun 23, 2004 12:40:56 PM]
[Jun 23, 2004 12:40:56 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
bokodasu



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Re: Secrets and Secrecy (also: Brigand AI) Reply to this Post
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I think it's interesting you chose now to bring it up.

I also don't think anything you've said is a "secret", unless you mean "secret from the people who think you should target hats first in the swordfight". Which I guess is the point - the people who pay attention will always have the advantage over the ones who don't.

(Which is why I think it doesn't matter if it's openly discussed or not. Most of the people in-game don't read the forums. There are 5000 subscribers - how many of them do you talk to every day? Good information stays in little pools, and some of the stuff that does manage to get around is crazy, and easy to refute with just a little experimentation.)
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[size=9]Tomyris, Cult of the Red Mantis, Looterati
Bonnie, Octafish Dream, Viridian
[Jun 23, 2004 1:09:48 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
ivazquez



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For me it depends on the secret. There are some which are just behavior of the AI which the devs won't be too concerned about, and then there are those which can be seen as "exploitative" which the devs are more likely to make unusable.
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Indeed wrote: 
You people are like hare krishnas. What do i have to do , beat you over the head?

[Jun 23, 2004 1:14:18 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
54x

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I think the manner in which you explained it is too "spoilery." I've often simply told people to look at how the brigands move and adjust their moves accordingly. Also, most navvers don't have the reactions or connection to put in their moves last second.

It's not so much an unspoken agreement as a sort of sense of respect for the game balance. If you put this information out in the form you just did, it usually results in people trying to game the brigands instead of playing the game, (which is the way a lot of your analysis is heading towards. I guess this is your decision, but I don't think this is a fun way to play the game, nor do I think it is how it was "intended" to be played) which saps the fun out of pillaging for everyone.

At least, as above, you chose the right time to make this post. When the devs were already making changes.
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Diamondblade, Cartographer, Crimson Tide.
from Midnight.
Dear sir or madam can you read my book, it took me years to write, will you take a look?
[Jun 23, 2004 1:21:00 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.mjwhitehead.com/    raasike54    secondlight5454    32987700 [Link]  Go to top 
Shuranthae

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Re: Secrets and Secrecy (also: Brigand AI) Reply to this Post
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RobertDonald wrote: 
There's also a battle between the developers and the players going on: players figure out how to max brigands, developers change AI, players figure it out again, over and over and over. The players work a lot faster than the developers, of course. The developers never have the upper hand for more than a day or two. But revealing the secret knowledge definitely gives the developers an advantage.


I disagree with this. I don't think the Developers have a problem with players figuring out how to max brigands so much as players figuring out ways to exploit brigands, which is a different story.

I don't believe in telling people things because I believe true skill comes from people figuring out things for themselves. I didn't come looking at tutorials or playing guides until after I figure out everything there is to figure out. That is the kind of person I am.

If you really want to trace where everyone starting putting down tokens at the last second from, I'm betting it started sometime soon after my 24 hour pillage. A few people knew of it long ago and I had just figured it out myself after the Blockade patch when I noticed the brigands seem to know exactly where I moved. I became rather annoyed about this exploit as it does subtract a lot from Battle Naving brigands, which is why I made no move to keep it secret and even hosted a rather large pillage to show anyone who wanted to pay attention how it's done.

Now I'm just hoping the Devs will hurry up and fix this. I don't expect brigands to be near as good as humans, but the current state of things really is ridiculous.
[Jun 23, 2004 1:41:06 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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Shuranthae wrote: 
I don't expect brigands to be near as good as humans, but the current state of things really is ridiculous.


Wha?? I always thought that the ringers hired a team of people that sat infront of rows of computers and played as brigand navigators all day. I guess that's why Sly Xanthe never replied to my tells.
/me thinks he stumbled upon the perfect solution to make the brigands as good as players...

Anyway... back on topic.
I really do think posting information like this does take away from the game as people begin to play the brigands instead of the game. It's nice the devs are going to be fixing this. It really takes away when things like this happen, or like when people use a bot to do drinking tournaments so it's hard for them to lose...
[Jun 23, 2004 1:54:00 PM] Show Printable Version of Post   [Link]  Go to top 
ayli



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As far as I'm concerned, knowing what you posted is only a minor part of what constitutes skill against brigands, and can be quite easily observed and picked up in one or two battles, just by watching someone use the technique. The technique was demonstrated quite effectively on Whitefire's pillage, so I expect soon it would've been quite commonly known, even if you hadn't posted anything, although perhaps not in such great detail.

The other part of skill comes from being able to figure out exactly what the brigand is going to do (yes - it's going to grapple you with the minimum number of moves - but what specific tokens out of the 256 possibilities is it going to play?), then figuring out what you need to do to get some damage on it, all of this while accounting for currents/whirlpools, possible ramming, and the ending position (do I want to end up with only one possible move that doesn't result in ramming a rock?). And you have to do it in ~20 seconds, on top of that (30 seconds per turn, minus a few seconds for the previous move to play, and you also need time to put in the move and glance at the chatbox). Now, if only the latter part were as easy to master as the former.
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[size=10]Ruby: because telling your grandkids how you singlehandedly beat those three light blue brigands just isn't the same
[Jun 23, 2004 2:02:59 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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/e looks down at his watch...

and with 15 seconds to spare

From my experience in naving, it takes much less time to do that all a dozen times over than it took you to write out that message

Thats why PvP is the nav of champions. On top of it all you have to guess your opponents move in accordance to what you guess that their guessing your move would be based on their guess of your guess of what your move will be. Huzzah!
[Jun 23, 2004 2:08:48 PM] Show Printable Version of Post   [Link]  Go to top 
Aur

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If people didn't know that this was happening, then they didn't really pay attention to the game. Especially after the 24-hour million poe pillage that went on. If you didn't notice that there are a handful of battle navvers out there that can 24-0 imperial brigs every single time, then you just weren't paying attention. If you thought it was based on skill and not just figuring out basic brigand AI, then you are naive. I'm sure that there is some skill to figuring out how brigands think, but that is more a nerdy, computer hacker type skill than a piratey puzzle type skill. If you skill doesn't come from being good at puzzles but rather that of figuring out game mechanics, then it is border line exploit.
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~Aur
Original Riot Starter

"So now you know, and knowing is half the battle. The other half is HWFO." -Hermes
[Jun 23, 2004 8:11:29 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
ikajaste

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About secrets - I don't think figuring out bits of information should be the key to being good in puzzles. Information about how the puzzles work should public knowledge, or not known at all.

I've noticed that there is some of the learn-the-hidden-rules secrecy in the puzzles of YPP, and though I don't know whether it is intentional or just a result of insufficient documentation, I don't like it at all. That is actually why I started the Puzzle score affectors thread [size=10](which needs some updating). I think people should know the rules by which they play - not the exact ones, but at least a general idea what should be done, and what shouldn't. A game that is about figuring out the rules of play can indeed be fun - but I don't think YPP should be about that. At least not when some can get an advantage over others simply if someone tells them additional knowledge of the rules.

But that is the case here, as apparently somewhat technically oriented inside knowledge of brigand behavior helps you fight them. I don't regard this as skill, it's simply using inside knowledge. I think such knowledge should not be secret. It should be openly discussed about, so that it is the skill of actually using that knowledge that makes the difference.

Figuring out that the brigands try to grapple you can be interpreted as true skill, because it can very well be applied to pvp battle. Learning what your enemy wants to do is one of the key elements to victory. And at least using this to knowledge efficiently to your advantage is true skill indeed.

However figuring out that the brigands mindread your moves, only not in the last second, is only inside game tech stuff and this game shoudn't be about figuring that out. However this is hopefully more a bug than an intended rule.

In any case keeping things like this public knowledge makes this game depend on skill, not information. I think that is a very important goal. Of course if a found bug is exploitable (this is to some degree), the devs should be informed first and they should handle the situation. And if the devs say they are going to fix it and ask not to tell the public about it, this should be respected. However if the knowledge of this bug reaches a point where enough people know of it, it should be made public knowledge. Which is now done here.

Well, as the devs are apparently going to change the behavior, I'm happy. I hope the next generation of brigands won't mindread - or if they do I request that it is actually told in the documentation, as that small knowlegde very much affects how you should play and probably how well you fight against them.
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- Ilari (Artias of Revontuli, Mignight Ocean)
[Jun 23, 2004 8:15:03 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://iki.fi/ilari.kajaste [Link]  Go to top 
lianossi

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I do read tutorials - not always before i start a game, but i do. And i love to figure out things on my own. It's rather annoying to come behind something finaly, and the very next day you find this posted in the public -at least i would feel like this.

There are basics, ye should know, and there are the tricks you have to figure out - i see it like a riddle: ye can look up the solution, or ye can find it for yourselve. I enjoy much more to find it myselve and would kill anyone who gives me - unasked! - the solution! Thats me
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~ freebooter ~
[Jun 23, 2004 10:57:51 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
54x

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In any case keeping things like this public knowledge makes this game depend on skill, not information.


Yes and no. The problem is, I think, in this case, keeping it public knowledge takes the fun out of pillaging for most of us. I deliberately didn't want to learn EXACTLY what the trick was, because that would have stopped the game being fun- it would've removed the uncertainty, the guessing, that combines with the real game. This is why I feel, IN THIS CASE, making the system public knowledge hurts the game.

Especially seeing it makes pillage, for some people, become a game of maximising profit instead of maximising fun. I feel often situations can lead to these two being mutually exclusive, and wouldn't want players to feel forced into learning this knowledge if it didn't suit them.
----------------------------------------
Diamondblade, Cartographer, Crimson Tide.
from Midnight.
Dear sir or madam can you read my book, it took me years to write, will you take a look?
[Jun 23, 2004 11:09:35 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.mjwhitehead.com/    raasike54    secondlight5454    32987700 [Link]  Go to top 
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I agree with DB. Knowing what the brigands are doing based on their AI settings takes a lot of fun out of the game. It's like reading a strategy guide and/or using cheat codes. Ye may get better results, but you don't get much satisfaction out of it. I'll go out pillaging with me crew, take on imperials, dance around em a bit, fill em full of blam, win most of my battles and take the occasional loss (though, I have a tendency to immediately reengage and stomp on any brigands that do beat me).

When a game becomes a math equation, it ceases to be fun.
[Jun 23, 2004 11:34:39 PM] Show Printable Version of Post   [Link]  Go to top 
ikajaste

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54x wrote: 
 
In any case keeping things like this public knowledge makes this game depend on skill, not information.

Yes and no. The problem is, I think, in this case, keeping it public knowledge takes the fun out of pillaging for most of us.

I deliberately didn't want to learn EXACTLY what the trick was, because that would have stopped the game being fun

True, that is a good point.

However, if the effect the information causes is significant (in this case it is), I think it tips the scale to the reaveal-it-to-public side. The exacts of mechanics should not be known, but the basic pirnciples should, because they have such a large effect. For example I think knowing that "brigands try to grapple you" would be great, but knowing "brigands will always choose the shortest path available" does remove some of the fun. Same thing applies to puzzle scores - I want to know what affects them in what way, but not exactly how much.

54x wrote: 
Especially seeing it makes pillage, for some people, become a game of maximising profit instead of maximising fun.

The thing is that this sort of thing shouldn't have gotten into the game in the first place. I classify it as a bug, or an easy code shortcut to be replaced later. The game shouldn't be designed in a way where knowing some information (especially tech information) can cause a huge impovement in results. That way if someone learns such information, there is no need to share it to the public as it doesn't create an unequal position.
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- Ilari (Artias of Revontuli, Mignight Ocean)
[Jun 23, 2004 11:57:19 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://iki.fi/ilari.kajaste [Link]  Go to top 
Rubby



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Wait, that was a big secret? It's a bit jerky to just flat out say what's going on rather than letting people figure it out for themselves. I know it's a lot more fun to do so.'

On the other hand, no one had to click on this topic to read it. So i'm filled with a giant feeling of... meh.
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wnorman



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I think this is flat-out broke. Since I figured this out, I've found that Imperials are far more easy to fight than any "lower" level of difficulty. The lower levels add in that unpredictability factor that makes it harder to fight them. It's really backwards from how the brigands should think. A difficult brigand shouldn't drive straight for us, and grapple as soon as possible - that's exactly what we'd expect a brigand to do. If anything, the easy brigands should do that, while the difficult ones should out-maneuver us.

I don't entirely agree with making it public, but it will hopefully encourage the devs to fix it as soon as they can (although it sounds like they are already). And this is not an exploit, so I don't think the solution should involve removing the delayed reaction to our move-placement. The whole AI policy is flawed in my opinion.
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[Jun 24, 2004 2:49:56 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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wnorman wrote: 
the difficult ones should out-maneuver us


/me would absolutely love to see black ship AI on imperials
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basam



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I see this behavior as an exploitable bug (two, really: predictable pathing and last-second token dropping,) and hope you filed it and went through proper channels, giving the developers any assitance necessary, before going public with it. On the other hand, all this information has been posted to the forums previously, in bits and pieces, just not so nicely summarized.

Obviously, making an AI that is both "close to optimal" and "unpredictably challenging" is extraordinarily difficult. And ideally, the brigs would determine the possible places you can go and plan based on the most probable path, not your actual path. That would make timing irrelevent, as they'd no longer be "psychic".

My humble suggestion to the Ringers? There are a lot of software developers that play this game... rig up a Java test harness and have a little programming contest for writing a battle nav AI. Rank the programs against humans in a competition, and then assign the best ones to Sea Lords, second to Imperials, etc. Each time a brig is encountered, pick from the list of AIs, to make things less predictable. Offer a "code monkey" as the prize.
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fabel

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basam wrote: 
Offer a "code monkey" as the prize.


Bahahahahaha that would rock. I woul definatley find myself firing up eclipse for tha chance at a code monkey.
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-- Dib
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I don't think this is a revelation of secrets at all, since anybody that goes out battle navving a few times is going to notice how brigands move. When the AI was most recently changed, I went out, fought a few brigands and basically thought, "Gol ding it! They read my moves and cut the minimalist path to engage me immediately!" and from there it was only a matter of trying to time the delay time, and then train myself to put in moves that would either mislead them, or at the very end when they couldn't react. It took me longer than it takes other people, probably. I'm rather slow. :D

I like it because it's forced me to read the board and really study how a ship can cut a path as quickly as possible from point A to point B, but I dislike it on the grounds that I think it discourages creative battle maneuvers. One of the things I love is weaving through rocks and whirlpools to basically end up in a spot (I'd like to think) a player wouldn't expect. The problem with the brigand AI is that it already knows exactly where you're going to end up, so any finesse you used in finagling your way to that spot is irrelevant if they can maneuver into a position to grapple you. I think it actually forces one to think in patterns, which can be detrimental/exploited in PvP.

As for what can be done, I guess I'm pretty neutral. There's a lot of features that are being worked on in the game, and people have told me that it's basically hell in a box to create a good AI, especially with such an adjustable and brilliant set of minds on the other side working to decipher it. In my perception, the AI would have to be updated, extensively studied, and worked on consistently, as people continue to come up with ingenious ways to figure out its patterns. It seems like a very involved project and may take more time away from many other anticipated features of the game?

Well, the current system of 'Oh, I figured it out and have myself trained now! Oh, they changed the battle nav again! A:FOIEHLIUHLDKSJHGIPUEWH!!! Must... train... harder! Oh, I figured it out and have myself trained now!' isn't too bad. ^_^ I just wish it didn't take me so darned long. Damn my non-analytical mindset!
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Pierut of Crimson Tide, formerly Looterati, not dead.
 
Shinrai tells you, "zomg u r an om i meen loot"

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wnorman



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basam wrote: 
Each time a brig is encountered, pick from the list of AIs, to make things less predictable.


However it is created, this seems like it would be a real benefit to the system. If possible, pick and choose from several styles of AI. That would make them entirely unpredictable. However, each AI would still need to be individually effective and random enough that we couldn't figure it out. Randomizing the AI behaviors wouldn't help if we could figure out the current scheme being used after a couple of moves.
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Shark
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[size=9]Greenie says, "are you a rael shark/"
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basam wrote: 
I see this behavior as an exploitable bug (two, really: predictable pathing and last-second token dropping,) and hope you filed it and went through proper channels, giving the developers any assitance necessary, before going public with it. On the other hand, all this information has been posted to the forums previously, in bits and pieces, just not so nicely summarized.

Obviously, making an AI that is both "close to optimal" and "unpredictably challenging" is extraordinarily difficult. And ideally, the brigs would determine the possible places you can go and plan based on the most probable path, not your actual path. That would make timing irrelevent, as they'd no longer be "psychic".

My humble suggestion to the Ringers? There are a lot of software developers that play this game... rig up a Java test harness and have a little programming contest for writing a battle nav AI. Rank the programs against humans in a competition, and then assign the best ones to Sea Lords, second to Imperials, etc. Each time a brig is encountered, pick from the list of AIs, to make things less predictable. Offer a "code monkey" as the prize.

Good post. I agree that the current behaviour is an exploit, one that I believe will be fixed quite soon. I strongly encourage everyone to report exploits and bugs, as they should. The forums are a little public for such an imbalancing bug, but it's still reasonable to report such things here. What is not fair to the game is to keep such matters a secret and not report them... but I don't expect all players to always act in the interests of what is fair to the game or other players, which is a shame.

Over time we would love to encourage programmers to work with our code and make the game better. When we can, we'll be opening such initiatives.
[Jun 24, 2004 6:19:32 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.puzzlepirates.com/ [Link]  Go to top 
LongJohnGrey

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In the meantime, I think that giving imperials a random factor in their move is a good idea. No matter how good your movement algorithm is, if you are 100% predictable then there is an exploit for it.

Briggy's need some randomness. Meanwhile, since I'm pretty good (always on the winning side :-), I'm gonna go hunting.

p.s. First thing to verify: If the best way to grapple me involves a direct straight move up my broadside, are they really that dumb? (I.e. -- no penalty for being in firing range if rocks/winds are in the way?)
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Re: Market on Scurvy Reef:
Hypnos wrote: 
I didn't realize it was such a hot forage spot until I dropped it and three pirates showed up on the island in quick succession.
And it wasn't even 9 spaces from the arrow :-).
[Jun 24, 2004 8:04:28 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Vurogj

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LongJohnGrey wrote: 
p.s. First thing to verify: If the best way to grapple me involves a direct straight move up my broadside, are they really that dumb? (I.e. -- no penalty for being in firing range if rocks/winds are in the way?)


Yup, that's the impression I got from both Shuranthae's and Whitefire's 24 hour pillage runs, and have seen repeated on me own pillages since. They rush up to ye, ram ye and grapple. Far too easy to deal wi'.
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[Jun 24, 2004 8:09:52 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    vurogj    vurojg [Link]  Go to top 
Silverstar

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wnorman wrote: 
I think this is flat-out broke. Since I figured this out, I've found that Imperials are far more easy to fight than any "lower" level of difficulty. The lower levels add in that unpredictability factor that makes it harder to fight them.


I didn't actually consciously realize this until recently - although I knew it subconsciously. We didn't used to have the sailor/mostly harmless ... imperial rankings that we do, now. As far as I know, the changes have been mostly minimal since the start of Midnight, but not we can see the rank of the brigands. Back when I was active in the PPA, and did a lot of pillaging and memming, I remember I generally did okay - but I did really well in Ruby when I was memming there, regularly taking on and defeating yellow, orange and red brigands - 90% win rate for my trips through Ruby, yet in other areas of the ocean I had a lower win rate - 70-80% in general - and by Cleaver, cyans scared me! Once they started shooting back, cyans would turn me ship into swiss cheese, yet reds never phased me.

At the time, I just chalked it up to balance of players onboard and having greenies or not (except I usually did have greenies, everywhere). For months, I didn't do much battle naving of my own - stayed landside, or jobbed, so I didn't really pay attention to the brigands and their moves, but that changed and when jobbing with Whitefire, Kuibbles and Shur and paying attention to them, I realized the Imperials are incredibly predictable, and I used to always drop my moves at the last moment (or, atleast one move that would change everything) simply because I spent the time studying the board, the possible routes the ships could take, etc. What I didn't realize was that I was gaming the system without even planning to. Looking back, now, though, the brigands that I was able to max easilly were most likely Imperials or Sea Lords, and the brigands that would turn me into swiss cheese were most likely lower levels.

This leads me to two points:

Learning to battle the brigand AI as it exists now can be profitable, but does not necessarilly train someone to battle another player - indeed, players used to brigands may potentially make easier targets by being too predictable if the follow the same strategies.

Difficult brigands should be random whereas easy brigands should be chaotic. The difference here is minor, but important - a low-level battle naver isn't skilled. Their moves are almost entirely chaotic - they get confused by whirlpools, run into rocks, turn into dead ends or put themselves in an obvious line of fire, etc. Their cannon shots are just hoping for luck. High skilled navers understand the board - the know how to use winds, whirlpools, what moves will put them in danger and will avoid danger, and can maneuver in such a way as to draw a less skilled naver into a vulnerable position. Their moves are generally well thought out, and not likely to put them into significant danger, but they will also vary their tactics to throw their opponent off. Yes, even the best naver will booch - screw up a whirlpool, run into a rock, put themselves in the line of fire - but much less often.

The difference between chaotic and random is a chaotic naver will make moves ignoring whether it's a strong or weak move, whereas a random naver will make apparently random moves, but they will generally be the most advantageous of the available moves at the time.

A chaotic naver may appear tougher to fight at first, but they are less effective, and If they hit with cannon shot, it's mostly luck. A random naver may be more predictable - but their moves will be more effective, keeping them out of range, putting you in their range, and when they get you, they'll load you down. If you make a mistake and end up facing the broadside of a chaotic naver for two moves, you might take a shot or not - if you do it with a random naver, you have a good chance of taking most or all available shots.

One thing that makes the lower ranked brigands so difficult is their tendency to shoot as many cannons as possible, and when you combine that with totally chaotic moves, it's harder to avoid entirely. Imperials tend to be a lot more conservative with their cannons, it seems like.

Oy! I rambled.

Even bad navers don't generally shoot when you're obviously too far away to be hit, but bad brigands do.
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[Jun 24, 2004 8:38:59 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.livejournal.com/users/chirik    Chirik    yppSilvermoon [Link]  Go to top 
Silverstar

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Vurogj wrote: 
Yup, that's the impression I got from both Shuranthae's and Whitefire's 24 hour pillage runs, and have seen repeated on me own pillages since. They rush up to ye, ram ye and grapple. Far too easy to deal wi'.


Oh, brigands love to sail straight at your broadside. I used to s-loops with them coming at my alternating broadside, at the same time I was telling myself 'this is sooo stupid and wouldn't work on a player'

Imperials seem a little smarter about broadsides, but still they will happily sail towards your broadside in the right conditions.

I'd actually love to see the AI smarter, moving based on strength of the potential move instead of the straightest line towards a goal, plus adding some random factors to it

A good implementation might involve scoring all the possible moves, and then weighting them based on strength (protected, low likelyhood of damage, high likelyhood of damaging the other ship) and achieval of goal (run, engage, shoot, etc). Low level brigands would have a skewed weighting - heavilly weighted towards goal or heavilly weighted towards strength (actively engaged, but taking a defensive approach) High level brigands should be relatively equally weighted - paying attention to both goal attainment and strength of move.

Once all the possibilities had been calculated and weighted, the brigand would select one of them entirely randomly and perform that move. Visible changes to the tattle bar would affect the weightings (ie: empty bar to full bar does convey information, even if it's imprecise) Invisible changes (adding action to an already lit segment) should not affect the weighting.

Time should affect this, too - if you start planning moves at the beginning of the round, you can analyze them pretty deeply - programmatically, you could recurse through all possible moves of both ships, potentially. The less time available should restrict the depth it looks - a last second change should only allow the brigand to analyze only the first turn of moves on each side, perhaps - just enough to change one or two tokens in a route if another ship goes from no move to one or two moves. (ie - getting out of the way if you were counting on them staying still)

As for goals ... they should also be on a scale. Low level brigands would probably have a high run value if they were attacked (and especially if they are rich), but it'd drop as the other ship is damaged, and a high engage value if they initiated, but lowering as they take damage. Low level brigs should usually have a low aggression value, though - navers that don't understand what they are doing generally go for the swordfight to minimize cannon damage to them. At the higher end of the scale, though, their run rate should be low, even if they were attacked, as they are skilled and confident. Their engagement value should be low-moderate, and probably increase as they deal damage, and decrease as they receive damage, and their aggressive value should generally be moderate-high, decreasing as they deal damage out, as they want to do damage using the cannons before the swordfight.

Months ago, I thought about coding this up in perl simply to compute probability and strength matrices for two ships based on given starting conditions, but never did get around to it. Partly, because I realized that it wouldn't model the movement of brigs at all at the time, and partly because if I'm coding, I'm not playing. ;-) The routine itself wouldn't be too complicated - it's actually a relatively simple function to recurse through all possibile moves, scoring them along the way.

The complicated part is determining when to stop - you start by computing the moves of the other ship assuming you stay still, then using that data, you do it for your own ship based on the path projection of the other ship ... but the other ship wouldn't assume you're staying still, so do you now take your data, and feed it in as a projected path to the other ship, and and then recompute the data for your ship using the new data for the other ship? Lather, rinse and repeat - at what point do you stop? (Actually, I am curious how much this would change the predictions, and at what point would the returns be too minimal - but then again, this could also be a factor that differentiates good and bad navers - how deep they recurse into the moves, and how many times they feed the data back into the routine - really good player navers project moves well beyond the four per turn)

Right now, this isn't much good to spend the time writing, but maybe if the brigand AI is changed, it could be relatively useful. While using this routine might be simple, it may be a non-trivial amount of overhead, compared to the current routine - even with early abandonment of certain paths.
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[Jun 24, 2004 9:29:07 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.livejournal.com/users/chirik    Chirik    yppSilvermoon [Link]  Go to top 
Silverstar

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Oy!

Okay, that's enough from me for now.
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[Jun 24, 2004 9:30:13 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.livejournal.com/users/chirik    Chirik    yppSilvermoon [Link]  Go to top 
matiano



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This almost sounds like we are in sin city and are trying to break a casino. Cept for the fact that we can the casino.
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rotharios



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(Disclaimer: SHould be in Game Design, but it's somewhat in line with this thread)

Solution 1: Blind PvP

Essentially, PP can rank and simply match up two crews that have attacked/been attacked so that they are in essence having a PVP battle. This is already facilitated by the coding used to generate the might rings and whatever calculation is used for the toughness of a given crew (I assume it's based mainly on seabattle ratings)

Simply by masking the vessel names prevents "scoping" the competition. Once SF hit, the names can be either blindded or not, depending on the Payout chosen (explained below) All moves of course will be the lovely "random" moves you see from other players that seem erratic when you've geared yourself to manipulate/respond to the AI. It will simply appear that the brigands are suicidal, for those that would rank as Mostly Harmless, or that the Imperial is godlike <bows to Shuranthae>.

This allows the better players to actually play against the better players without actual PVP. It also allows for the current code of a Black Ship swooping in to save a strong ship attacking a "bluey" when needed or in the case of bad timing, the occasional AI can be thrown in if there are too few ships at sea to sync the battles together. Or perhaps coding that scales the token generation/repair efforts if two slightly mismatched crews are synced

*****The above paragraph assuming green might vs. green might, attacking above your might rating just gets riskier!!!*****

The first solution here also has the added bonus of CHOICE in battle payout. On one hand, the option can be to win BRIGAND PAYOUT or PLAYER PAYOUT. If Brigand payout is chosen, the normal payout that ship would have provided is paid. If Player payout, you're stuck with whatever might be your cut from the players ship whether it be a minimally stocked memming ship or a fully stocked forage ship running home! Of course, your choice of payout would affect what gets taken from you also, so if there is a conflict in payouts, they would both default to Brigand payout so that the Player Payout would not be abused for higher gains with less risk



Solution 2: "Play as Brigand"

This is counter to the current culture which is to make soloing less attractive, but it can be quite popular. It does require more coding but is viable as well. Randomly assigning a player to a brigand crew based on the station chosen prior to boarding the brigand ship. Player may be assigned a name randomly as is already handled by PP and will be required to remain at the chosen station for a specified time period or distance, participating in battles or whatever comes along. All ratings will be able/novice unless the coding normally allows for differences. No gain need be made from this other than practice in different stations anonymously. This may be ideal for the casual player as the brigand AI can take over if a player disconnects or goes idle(and gets booted from the ship) Anyone could play a few puzzles rounds and then disconnect without worrying about the social puzzle, or even pay. While this doesn't appeal to me, it may allow PP to reach a broader base of people who do not want to do anything more than puzzle.



From a coding standpoint, either of these would be actually easier than trying to improve the AI in the usual manner of any player vs. computer game.

Just my 2 cents, and yes, I know this should be in Game Design
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[Jul 30, 2004 9:29:47 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Shuranthae

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I don't even look at the ship name or anything else. I can tell what's a Player ship or not simply by the way they move, and I imagine others can as well. I'm also thinking that half the people who can't tell also wouldn't even notice it's a player ship via other means (names, vessel, flag, whatever) to begin with as they somehow often manage to always attack me.
[Jul 31, 2004 4:24:00 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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