Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 23, 2010
A real quick development note on Frayed Knights (because I’m about to hit the road again for a few hours):
I’m working on some fairly simple artificial intelligence stuff right now – heuristic / weighting stuff for enemies choosing targets, etc. So they won’t try to, say, heal somebody who is already healed, or anything like that anymore. There’s still a bit of randomness involved in this current iteration, tentatively left in there to do something to keep the AI somewhat stupid.
Face it, if the enemies were really smart, the players would be dead in ANY dungeon delve. All you need is for the enemies to coordinate their defense, focus on the healers first (who effectively make up the “logistics” arm of the party, if you were to use a military analog), then burn down the other spellcasters (the “artillery” in a military analog) and finish off the rest of the party at their leisure. There are some variants (maybe neutralizing the artillery-casters first, if the healers aren’t potent enough to keep up), but ultimately if I were playing the AI with a real desire to win and really, really hurt the party, I’d focus fire on killing or at least neutralizing party members one by one.
Knights of the Chalice – still one of my favorite indie RPGs – had some pretty evil, potent AI. It could get frustrating, but it was fun too. They weren’t exactly 100% optimized, but anybody who has played it knows that the game was all about protecting your wizard(s). One advantage to the AI in a class-based game is that character roles are very nicely defined, making strategy easier to implement.
In a more skill-based game, or a hybrid like Frayed Knights, it’s a little trickier to define. And even so… does it really make sense to make the AI very smart and ruthless? One of the main tricks of a DM in a dice-and-paper game is to have the enemies back off a little on “finishing off” a heavily wounded PC to give the players time to avoid a TPK (Total Party Kill). Nearly wiping out the entire party is fun for all involved. Actually doing so – not so much.
So I find myself trying to put these little heuristics and rules of thumb into Frayed Knights, as well. So, for example, the more wounded a target is, the more likely they are to be zapped by a direct-damage spell, up until a certain point where the weighting algorithm flattens out. Little things like that. Effectively, I am making the AI pull their punches just a little bit to give the player a chance.
But don’t worry about this cheapening victory. But most of the heuristics thrown into the mix are designed to make the AI pretty nasty with its tactics. Damage-over-time spells will be focused on more healthy characters, to maximize their damaging potential. Melee buffs and debuffs get focused on front-line fighters (friendly and enemy sides, respectively). Heals (and revivals) go to them that need it. A battle against a “mixed party” of spellcasters and melee enemies should be should provide an interesting challenge.
At least, so I hope. In spite of my making them a little less ruthless than they could be…
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