[RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by cim » Thu Mar 07, 2013 9:53 pm

Svengali wrote:Hmm. Wouldn't it make more sense to leave custom roles untouched? In my eyes these entities shouldn't be touched at all if they don't state it explicitely. Using a 'include me' approach (e.g. via script_info key) means that these OXPs are prepared and (hopefully) tested to work with the mechanisms they are using...
Okay, 1.1 now does this. Custom roles are completely unaffected, unless the option to do so is enabled in the script at the user's own risk.

Additionally, the script_info key skilled_npcs_role can be added to a ship, and its value will be used in place of the ship's primary role to determine what accuracy changes to apply. The special value "off" will mean that no changes will ever be applied to that ship, regardless of settings.

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by Svengali » Fri Mar 08, 2013 2:41 pm

Sounds good, cim. Muchas gracias.

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by Shipbuilder » Fri Mar 08, 2013 11:29 pm

cim - I just thought that I'd drop you a quick line to say how great I think this OXP is.

You're right in that it is certainly not for a beginner however for those pilots with a good level of experience it really does make for a more realistic and challenging game.

Deciding whether or not to ambush that trader you can see in the distance is a much more difficult decision.

I had a great tussle with a group of 3 pirates yesterday. The first 2 I dispatched of reasonably quickly but the third flying a sidewinder proved very difficult to destroy. He'd certainly been well trained in evasive manoeuvres.
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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by UK_Eliter » Sat Mar 09, 2013 2:33 am

Yes indeed: it's good - although I think that for the sake of my sanity (/survival/profits) I am going to change (in the 'skilled-npcs' script)

Code: Select all

this.$boostAliens = true;
to

Code: Select all

this.$boostAliens = false;
in order to make witchspace battle easier. . .

EDIT: OK, that did make things easier. I think; I got into a massive fight . .

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by cim » Sat Mar 09, 2013 9:28 am

UK_Eliter wrote:Yes indeed: it's good - although I think that for the sake of my sanity (/survival/profits) I am going to change (in the 'skilled-npcs' script)
*laughs*

The rate of fire as well as aim of the Thargoid laser depend on the accuracy. By accuracy 10, they're firing about twice as fast as usual, and never miss. If you try to missile or Q-bomb them, they will shoot it down. It certainly gets them back to being a truly scary opponent...

The accuracy -5 to +5 range roughly simulates the random rate of fire they had in 1.76, so no change there.

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by Cody » Mon Mar 11, 2013 5:19 pm

I'm liking this OXP too. I just had a very entertaining duel with a [EliteWiki] Fair Cobra III - a good combination.
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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by mandoman » Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:31 pm

Please, I don't mean to be inflammatory, but could someone explain to me why it has become so incredibly important to hand NPC ships such extreme capabilities? The game, and computer AI, is the player for the NPC ships, right? The problem with giving computers that much control, is that they never make mistakes, can react to situations in a heartbeat, and from what I can tell, they never miss their target. Add to this Military Lasers, and extra heavy shields, and even just one ship becomes devastating. I found I could beat them, but when I was ganged up on by four, or five of these ships, they blew me to the river Styx, and beyond. Maybe I just like the sense of having power to make a difference, which is how I felt about the game before 1.77, but 1.77 makes me so defensive, no matter what system I'm in, that it's hard to focus on any other part of the game, like trading. Has Oolite suddenly become a "shoot-em-up" game, instead of the "you know, you just fly around the Galaxy from planet to planet, buying selling, trading". In 1.77, if you can make it to your next port with your whole load, you have accomplished something.

Someone said to me that I have too many dangerous ships in my AddOns folder, which is why I was getting hit so hard. Well, one of the things I loved about Ooliite is the presence of ALL those ships. If I want to use 1.77 with a bit less intensity, I have to get rid of most of my favorite part of the game? Is the game about equal rights for NPC ships, or about the player. Myself, I would say that 1.77 is for the former.
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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by Disembodied » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:21 pm

mandoman wrote:Please, I don't mean to be inflammatory, but could someone explain to me why it has become so incredibly important to hand NPC ships such extreme capabilities?
The [wiki]Skilled NPCs OXP[/wiki] isn't part of the core game, and is separate from any ship OXP. If you want to have big, dangerous ships, but don't want deadly pilots to go with them, you don't have to install it. Personally, I like the core ship set, with a few "expanded-Elite" (and Griffified) ship types added. With this OXP added, I can find myself having really challenging dogfights with small fighters like Mambas and Sidewinders, not because those ships are beefed up with shields and weapons but because their pilots are better. For me, that's a lot of fun, so I (when not playing Jamesons - I'm not crazy ;)) have this OXP installed.

I honestly can't say that I've found the basic game to be any harder under 1.77 than under 1.76, despite going back and starting again as a Jameson. I have some well-aired issues with how hard the game is for Jamesons to get into, and the likelihood of meeting pirates in the "safer" systems in general, but that's been an ongoing issue for some time and several versions now.

It might be that your preferred ship mix though is giving you some problems due to the changes between 1.76 and 1.77, although the only combat-realted changes are:
  • More consistent missile explosion behaviour
  • Smarter Thargoids
  • Smarter use of turret weapons
  • Better reactions against cloaked opponents
  • Better reaction to deployment of Q-mines
  • NPCs can now use side weapons
  • NPC lasers now equivalent to player lasers in terms of rate of fire and overheating.
The last one, relating to rate of fire and laser overheating, would seem to be the most likely culprits. Maybe you have too many NPC ships armed with military lasers? If you trimmed some of them down to beam lasers, that might make things less frantic.

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by mandoman » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:28 pm

Disembodied wrote:The last one, relating to laser overheating, would seem to be the most likely culprits. Maybe you have too many NPC ships armed with military lasers? If you trimmed some of them down to beam lasers, that might make things less frantic.
Genius! I never thought of messing with other's oxps, but I guess since they are in my Ooniverse, I can do so. That may make all the difference. Thanks, Disembodied. :D
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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by another_commander » Tue Mar 26, 2013 5:38 pm

mandoman wrote:Please, I don't mean to be inflammatory, but could someone explain to me why it has become so incredibly important to hand NPC ships such extreme capabilities? The game, and computer AI, is the player for the NPC ships, right? The problem with giving computers that much control, is that they never make mistakes, can react to situations in a heartbeat, and from what I can tell, they never miss their target. Add to this Military Lasers, and extra heavy shields, and even just one ship becomes devastating. I found I could beat them, but when I was ganged up on by four, or five of these ships, they blew me to the river Styx, and beyond. Maybe I just like the sense of having power to make a difference, which is how I felt about the game before 1.77, but 1.77 makes me so defensive, no matter what system I'm in, that it's hard to focus on any other part of the game, like trading. Has Oolite suddenly become a "shoot-em-up" game, instead of the "you know, you just fly around the Galaxy from planet to planet, buying selling, trading". In 1.77, if you can make it to your next port with your whole load, you have accomplished something.

Someone said to me that I have too many dangerous ships in my AddOns folder, which is why I was getting hit so hard. Well, one of the things I loved about Ooliite is the presence of ALL those ships. If I want to use 1.77 with a bit less intensity, I have to get rid of most of my favorite part of the game? Is the game about equal rights for NPC ships, or about the player. Myself, I would say that 1.77 is for the former.
There is nothing forcing anyone to install this OXP on their game. If you feel that it gives too much power to NPCs, then all you have to do is not download it.

However, since I read your post as a more generic complaint about the game's difficulty, I would also like to go on for a little longer.

Nobody is handling extreme capabilities to NPCs. This has never been the intent of any of the developers who have worked on the code since the conception of Oolite. The actual intention has been to make the player just another entity in a dynamic universe that proceeds with or without them. This is one of the key elements of addictiveness in the game and that is how Oolite has always been advertised.

Unfortunately, up to now, this has not been the case. In reality, the player had a lot of advantages over the NPCs, which made life easy for him/her, but did not exactly correspond to the premise that the game is not player-centric. What was done in 1.77 was to even the odds a bit. Now the player is no longer superman compared to NPCs and things have become more or less equal. And that is the key here: equal. No one is better than the other in the core game. If there is an impression that things are now so much more difficult, it is mainly because OXP ships up to now were made to balance NPCs as they were in the previous versions, i.e. weaker and limited. Obviously, making the NPCs more similar to the player may require adjustments for re-balancing. However, properly designed and well thought out ships will not normally require any adjustment. Only the uber-killer ones will, because they were uber to begin with and now are impossible to handle. This is not bad design on the part of the core game, it is bad design on the part of the OXP.

One important thing to note here: When we develop Oolite, we do so by trying to balance it in the best possible way in its unmodified incarnation, without any OXPs. If you play the game without any OXPs, you will probably find that even though it might be more difficult now than it was w/o OXPs before, it is by no means unbalanced. OXPs are meant to follow the core development, not the other way round (otherwise Oolite would have to become an I-do-it-all engine and thus turn into an umaintainable monster), so this would probably be a good time for the creators of the earlier mentioned uber-ships to start doing what adjustments might be deemed necessary for making them fit with the new situation.

Also, I would like to add that for every user who complains that it's all so difficult now and it's impossible to play etc., we have at least one who declare themselves happy with the way things are now, the balance between NPCs and player that is finally the way it was always meant to be and who produce or play OXPs that up the challenge still.

Finally, I can assure you that even with the new balance between NPCs and player, we do not allow the computer to be infallible. The AIs still contain code that generates missed shots or non-optimal responses based on chance and in the core game you will not find any intelligence-enhanced pilots. They will be exactly the same AI level as they were until now. As for the too many dangerous ships in the OXP folder, it may not be necessary to remove anything, but certain stats adjustments for some of them may be in order. Otherwise, it is only normal that too many dangerous ships will result in a much higher chance of game over.

Having said all this, I would not generally object to opening up a bit the NPC "cones of fire" so that there is a slightly higher overall chance of a laser miss. But only slightly.

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by mandoman » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:17 pm

I understand your defense of the Core Game, and I probably wouldn't find it nearly so dangerous as it is with the oxps. However, no matter what you say about how oxps should follow the game standards, as long as you give oxpers the ability to go uber, it's going to happen. You are also correct that I could just weed out the more dangerous (uber) ships. That's true, but it's the ship oxps, as well as the stations, and missions that give the game an exttra zest.

If you say the NPC ships are not infallible, okay. However, it's a bit disorienting when I come upon a ship that I created, and is being used as a pirate, and though I'm flying what should be a much more powerful ship, I'm attacked and blasted out of the game before I can even react. This has not happened just once, but many times. There are several NPC ships I have always had a healthy regard for due to the danger they represent, but when one of my little FireAnts can start blasting away with it's two turrets at my four times bigger, much faster, and more heavily armed Mantis, before the turrets on my ship even show signs of being activated, something is wrong. I don't know what. The Mantis I fly has the enhanced ability to immediately target the first ship to hit it with any kind of weapon, so as soon as the FireAnt hit me, it lit up as a target. Technically, the Mantis should have opened up on the FireAnt immediately, since it HAD to be in range, but it didn't. Before I could line up lasers, and the ball turrets on my ship just began to open up, I went boom. Impossible. There is no way a ship the size of the FireAnt should be able to take out one the size, and power of the Mantis in a head on dogfight, but that is exactly what happened. There have been other instances that were very much the same. Oh, and the NPC versions of the FireAnt should NOT have Military Lasers.

Why does the NPC ship open fire on me, take my shields down, and blow me away, when I should have the shields to withstand it's shots for much longer than they are lasting? Why does a ship with ball turrets start firing at me, but my turrets don't even begin to fire back for several seconds, which has become the difference between life, and death? What good is enhanced Naval Shields, Iron Hide, and Enhanced Energy Recharge if the enemy can take them down faster than I can react?

You say others have expressed their enjoyment of these changes, and I have seen several of those endorsements. I would be interested to know what is in their AddOns folder. No matter what you say about oxps, and their inferior standing to the Core Oolite, the impact they make is huge, to say the least. The way you put it is that the game is what it is, and is not really much different than what it was, and if people like me don't like it, we can shove off? So, in other words, the only comments about the game that you consider worthy of notice are the compliments.

It was pointed out to me once, that when I release one of my ships, and someone makes a snide remark about it, that I have to suck it in and take it, as well as enjoy the compliments. I didn't like it, but it made sense, and from that experience I have been a bit more careful about how my ships are Textured. That person is one that loves 1.77 so much. Maybe you should learn from his words, as I have tried to do.

I could go on all day, and it wouldn't change a thing.
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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by cim » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:49 pm

Disembodied wrote:when not playing Jamesons - I'm not crazy ;)
At difficulty setting 0 you might find it actually beneficial to a cautious Jameson who sticks to the safe systems: it won't do much to the pirate AIs, but will significantly increase the hunter and police AIs in those systems.
Disembodied wrote:The last one, relating to rate of fire and laser overheating, would seem to be the most likely culprits.
Yes. Here's the 1.76 weapon statistics.
  • The pulse laser would deal an average of ~250 points of damage in ~5.5 seconds before cutting out for an average of ~8 seconds.
  • The beam laser would deal an average of ~250 points of damage in ~4 seconds before cutting out for an average of ~8 seconds.
  • The military laser would deal an average of ~250 points of damage in ~2 seconds before cutting out for an average of ~12 seconds.
There was very little difference between the three weapon types (and arguably the NPC beam laser was better than the NPC military laser, too ... I wonder how many OXP writers realised that?)

1.77 has more variation possible in laser strength which should in the long-term be good for OXP writers and users because of the greater possibilities. In the short-term there will be some adjustments needed.
mandoman wrote:my four times bigger, much faster, and more heavily armed Mantis, before the turrets on my ship even show signs of being activated
"Four times bigger" ... I wonder if this is the problem? Your turrets have to track and lock a small target moving at a high relative speed - its turrets have a much easier job. And if it was firing with turrets at you, you could have a whole field of plasma inbound before that first hit registered and your own turrets slowly started to lock on.

*downloads FireAnt, tests fight, gets an iron-ass Boa II blown to pieces*

Okay, so it's by a fair margin a smaller and more difficult target than any core game ship, and it moves faster than an Asp. It's also got two beam lasers and two turrets, and with the guaranteed shield booster it's got more shield energy than a Thargoid warship (it'll take a full military laser blast and still be standing). To be honest, I'm not at all surprised it's making mincemeat of anything that comes near it...

The big thing that might be making it more dangerous though than in 1.76 is its aft laser. In 1.77, it'll switch to using that once its fore laser overheats, which not only means it can keep firing, but it also means that as it turns to use it (and then turns back to use the fore laser) it dodges out of your line of fire. Try removing the aft laser from it (1.77 design principle: the OXP writer wouldn't have given it one if it wasn't supposed to use it) and see how much easier a fight that makes it. As it is it'll be looping about too much for your own turrets to reliably track a target that small until it's far too late.

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by CmdrLUke » Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:56 pm

The actual intention has been to make the player just another entity in a dynamic universe that proceeds with or without them. This is one of the key elements of addictiveness in the game and that is how Oolite has always been advertised.
I read this a lot here, and I think there is one aspect where it does not hold. The player I believe does remain to be very special in one regard -- in his potential to become a fully elite combateer. Except in the very early game, the player is usually by leaps and bounds better equipped and a more talented pilot than the encountered NPCs (thus the OXPs that increase difficulty for seasoned players). In the core game I haven't seen NPC pilots that match the dangerous and above skilled pilot flying a fully iron-assed cobra mark iii. If the player frequently encountered NPC ships and pilots truly his equal, the player would die a lot more and the game would be less fun, as mandoman describes. Otherwise the player would frequently die in seconds without time to react as an NPC with quad-mounted military lasers opened up at 25km in rapid succession (just like I do :) ), which would not be fun for the player, as it would remove the suspension of disbelief that the player is a special, pre-elite combateer on the rise, and it just degenerates into an arcade shoot 'em up.

So on the one hand, the 1.77 changes bring NPCs closer in line to the player in terms of equipment and damage-dealing ability, but on the other hand, if the player actually encountered true iron-assed "deadly/elite NPCs" (or heaven forbid, 2 or more) other than once in a blue moon, the game would suffer IMO, as mandoman notes.

To mandoman, I think really the only solution is to mod the ships you like to make them less strong, since as others have noted, the load-out of the ships is based on the core game being different.
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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by spara » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:11 pm

Maybe it's the turrets? I'm one of those who enjoys the extra challenge and use this oxp. I have not found the game to be that much harder with the shipset I'm using. I just took down Griff's Wolf mk 2 in an Adder with a pulse laser. But, I think, I don't have a single ship with turrets. I also don't have any multiple front laser ships, except if there's one in Griff's or Staer's shipsets. Turrets and multiple front lasers are just too much for my skills.

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Re: [RELEASE] Skilled NPCs (1.77 only)

Post by CmdrLUke » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:17 pm

Why does the NPC ship open fire on me, take my shields down, and blow me away, when I should have the shields to withstand it's shots for much longer than they are lasting?
But on the other hand, why are you able to do it so easily to the NPCs (in the core game, once you're iron-assed)? There so many NPC ships, particularly pirate ships which are supposedly entirely focused on combat, that explode within a second or less of being hit with my military laser? Why do they fly stupidly straight at me at long range allowing me to target them easily? Why are their tactics so primitive (I'd imagine real pirates would englobe their target in a spherical net instead of appearing in a tight blob formation every time)?

My answer is that the player does indeed occupy a special place in the game, at the core of a story of a rising potential elite combateer. IMO the (core game at least) needs to maintain that perspective, that the player is typically far more skilled than the NPCs, otherwise the game devolves into arcade.

OXPs are there to enhance the flavor and up the challenge from the core game. If the game is too hard with some OXPs, don't install those OXPs. If you like the OXP ships, but they unbalance the gameplay, then modify the OXPs to balance them. My $0.02.
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