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WIP #5 - The AI

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This is a difficult one to explain, and its a couple of posts. The first is of general interest, for those interested, but also leads into the second, how to set the AI to the difficlulty level you are most comfortable with.


To me the best thing about FE, after all the great models and number of models, is the dogfight experience. And this is largely due to the AI. Its not obvious thats why at first, other than being a challenge maybe (due to TKs great AI stuff), but its also because you can tailor the ai for individual planes. This is not possible at this level in any other game. Its a very satisfying thing when doing the FMs, cos the AI are half of all of it. TK doesn't tailor the AI, except in some minor things. There is variety of course, based on plane performance and skill levels, and that is good, but this is another level. Perhaps TK didn't do this as its not so necessary for Jet Sims (& does take some work), but WW1, where the fighting is up close and personal, to me it adds a lot.


First just some egg sucking, the ai seem pretty good flying generally in my experience, but if you use autopilot or level flight for too long, you will lose your wingmates. If you use level flight, you can time compress, but reduce throttle to about 75% (works in rotaries too), your wingmates will then be able to stay with you. But generally, wingmates do require some management in flight and in combat in this game. Its not a bad thing IMO, tho frustrating at times. But you know all that.


Until the last month or two, the AI I did was developed for 1:1 dogfights (thats how I would test, and I like it too), and of course they work in missions and campaigns, but this time the AI are specifically optimised for campaigns (and missions too by extension). It required redoing some things fundamentally, and when doing that I also think I found a way of easily allowing some choice in terms of difficulty, that should satisfy most. Another factor was also that TK showed in the April patch how Aces actually could be made as good as you, and after some experimentation, that was easily applied to this Oct EP version of the FMs.


Using the Very Hard settings (next post), an Ace AI in the same plane is as good as you - they will shoot you down as often as you shoot them down (at least me, you may be better or less experienced than me, but it will be consistent). A qualification is that in testing I'd call it a draw if we got close to the ground - the AI tend then to just take evasive action. Most planes in Very Hard settings are like this, but capability was reduced or increased then for various reasons ie, not as good or better in the same plane, but only slightly.


BTW, the improved capability is not from improving roll, turn etc, it relates to either being smarter, reacting quicker, more unpredictable and/or tailoring the ai paramaters to that planes strengths. True, some planes especially late war ones are hyper, but so are the planes for the player, so they need to be at the Very Hard setting level to be equal. This was to get them as good as the player, but minimising as much as possible the turn/roll stuff. More on this next post, setting difficulty levels.


I like to think that the performance differences between planes is so finely tuned as well, that if you meet an Ace in a better plane, well he's better. Converse if you are in a better plane. Its the case too, I have tested this a lot... I probably spent as much time tweaking performance differences and AI, as I did the FMs themselves. Its how I want the game for myself at least.


The Vets are nearly as good as the Aces - a Vet in a better plane is about as good as you too! After that their capability reduces, though Regs put up a decent fight.


Okay, so they are tough and capable, but there's more, in terms of variety, unpredictability with different types of planes, different periods, a few other things etc. It means the dogfight experience varies.


Earlier plane AI fly lots differently to late war ones. Mid war are a bit different to both, though not as clearly different. So earlier ones don't roll or jump around as much, not because of the plane itself, but how the ai are done. Dogfights are slower, but just as deadly.


The ZnB'ers (only a few true ones) are different to TnB'ers. Ther are inbetween ones (tranAIs?) like the Albs that can be one or the other depending on circumstance, or opposition.


Even within the same category and in the same period, TNB'ers for example, they will be different...eg N24 and N27s are done slightly differently to one another. Why do this? One is no more capable than another, its predictability/surprise...isn't that what makes interesting AI?


There's one more level too...some planes will be better as a team. Individually they fit performance wise in the greater scheme of things, but in Campaigns especially this means a difference. Its done at a couple of levels. At the highest level, its a tough team, your side or opposition. I think it reflects historical dominance, and if not, think it enhances the game experience anyway - variety, unpredictablity.


Now, having said that, you probably won't notice that much quickly - until you start getting surprised or done (LOL), or seeing some do loops or immelmanns. My experience is that it definitely enhances the game experience.


It may be that I'm the only one that knows all this, and thats a reason I'm elaborating. Its a reason this game is so good in some fundamentals too.


Hope this is of interest?

Edited by peter01

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All I can say is thank you, Peter. I'm very happy that you are using your experience gained fine tuning 1 on 1 dogfights to improve other aspects of the air combat experience. As you know (we've discussed it more than once) I've been keen on the "leapfrogging" advancement of technology in aircraft development from side to side as the war progressed. Your take on this is VERY interesting to me as well as the other improvements in teamwork etc. :good:

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The FMs are written for Hard FM mode. They will not work well, or as designed, in Normal or Easy Mode (Flight Models are completely different and inconsistent). And the FMs and campaigns have been designed with Enemy Skill Level in the gameplay options set to Hard.


Default gundata is with bullet mass at 65%. This makes it harder for you to shoot down planes, and is far more realistic (and less arcadish), but it also means you will survive longer too - the AI are good shots, but you can take some damage, especially if surprised (as you usually will be). On balance, its easier with reduced bullet mass.


Set Hud Display and Visual Targeting to whatever suits - Hard or Normal or Easy.


The default download settings means the AI are difficult, and uses the Aircraftobject.ini titled "Hard" as the default. There are copies of various Aircraftobject.inis including the default and stock ones in the OBJECTS directory. Do not use the stock one, only included for completeness sake, its probably the hardest of all!!


At this level, the game will be a challenge, and if in campaigns, it will vary considerably depending on your plane's capability, your squadrons experience, and the quality in planes and pilot experience of your opposition.


But you can easily enough make the AI harder or easier.


To make harder then the default, use the Aircraftobject.ini entitled "Very Hard". Make a copy of the file entitled "AircraftObject Very Hard", delete the "Aircraftobject" file, rename copied file to Aircraftobject.ini. At this level, Aces are as good as you in the same plane or in an equally capable plane. Of course Ace AI are better, if in a better plane. Its as good as you could want the AI.


As the AI in campaigns often bounce you from above, surprise you from the rear, or outnumber you (and all three together sometimes), and there will often be some Vets or Aces in the opposition, you can imagine it becomes very tough. Its how engagements are designed, in campaigns especially. If the AI have better planes, you could be surprised, bounced, outnumbered and outflown!!!


I don't recommend using this "Very Hard" setting in campaigns, unless you take some time to get positional advantage, pick and choose your fights, are pretty good, and even then........good luck. Its not a instant action type setting. In addition, collisions (AI with AI, player and AI) are reasonably frequent, and later war dogfights are, well, hectic at times.


To make easier then the default, use default settings, but set Enemy Skill Level to Normal. The game is easier than default, but AI are still pretty good, collisons are infrequent. Your AI wingmates also have a better chance.


Obviously there are more permutations, using the above and other things. But firstly, its designed to be quite hard, and secondly, do not use other Aircraftobject.inis.

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Thanks for all this hard work. I know this is an old post but I was hoping if you are still around I might ask a question.


I see where you have many good suggestions about the AI - but are there separate flight model mods that can be downloaded for First Eagles / Expansion Pack?


Thanks in advance.



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