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2010-02-19 Planning Failures Explained, Dutch army and air force units added Zoom

For a long time, I considered the game AI problem of "automatically explaining why no plan can be found" a much harder problem than just "automatically creating a plan" (to attack or defend a position). My assumptions were based on my planner being similar to a path finder; Writing a path finding algorithm to find the shortest path to exit a maze is easier than writing an algorithm that explains why it isn't possible to escape the maze and where best to modify the maze to enable escape.

 

However, the good news is that I was wrong, and PlannedAssault now offers an explanation and recommendations when it fails to find a plan for the given input. The solution is fairly simple and elegant, and I'll explain it below:

PlannedAssault planner providing explanation and recommendations when unable to generate plan/mission

PlannedAssault's planning works by taking a high-level plan and asking AI Commanders to refine this plan into more detailed variants. AI Commanders do this by adding to the plan new lower-level tasks to implement an abstract high level task. This process is repeated until either a plan is created that doesn't need further refinement (in other words, the plan has been fully translated into low level concrete tasks), or when the AI Commanders are unable to refine the incomplete plans further.

 

In PlannedAssault's planning, each of the AI commanders covers a specific scope and maneuver type. For example, one commander translates 'transported movements tasks' for a transporter unit and a cargo unit into pick up locations, drop off locations, vehicle movements and instructions to mount and unmount. Another commander refines tackles 'combat team attack' tasks into main and flank attacks, assembly areas and fire support needs.

 

It is not unusual that a partial plan cannot be refined by any of the AI commanders. Typically, there will be another variant of the overall plan that can be successfully refined, and the problematic partial plan simply is one of the discarded options. For example, when the terrain does not offer sufficient space to attack with a single large formation (one AI commander's specialty), a two prong flanking assault with two small formations (another AI commander's specialty) might succeed.

 

Planner failures thus occur when none of the plan variants can be refined into a more concrete plan by any of the AI commander. Why exactly does that happen, and what do we tell the user so he can work around this? Only the AI commanders know!

 

The solution then is simple: upon a planner failure, collect the tasks which the AI commanders failed to refine, and ask all AI commanders covering that task why they failed, and what they recommend to change in the input (selected units and their positions, selected objectives and their positions). Above, their advice is shown.

Dutch air force AH-64D engaging

Dutch L16 mortar team awaiting missions

Dutch F16C firing missiles

In PlannedAssault's supported Arma II mods, the Dutch are now represented with infantry (by Aeneas2020, Binkowski and friends), fighter jets (VXR F-16C reskin of Myke's F-16C Falcon mod) and gunships (NCS's AH-64D reskins). With a bit of scripting I've added a Dutch mortar team to PlannedAssault's unit database.

 

The planner and website now run versions 1.06 and 1.16.

2010-02-10 Arma II mods: Mando Missile initialization added, IslaDuala terrain updated to 1.3 Zoom

PlannedAssault's Arma II mod database has been updated with Mandoble's 'Mando Missile ArmA for A2'. Furthermore, mission planning for IslaDuala is now done based on the IslaDuala 1.3 terrain.

 

Supporting Mando Missile is as easy as placing a few modules in the editor or, alternatively, calling three functions from init.sqf. The latter option coincides with per-mod init commands supported in PlannedAssaults data model, and has been chosen. To enjoy Mando Missile behavior in your mission, simply select the mod in the mod selection screen.

Mando Missile init in PlannedAssault mission

Mando Missile init.sqf initialization in PlannedAssault's mod database

2010-02-03 Isla Duala: beautiful missions Zoom

The 'community' Arma II map 'Isla Duala' (v1.2) by IceBreakr offers breathtaking sceneries and great tank country. Below some results from play-testing PlannedAssault generated missions for IslaDuala:

The Bolabongo area (African plains, two cities and an airstrip) and the jungle near Larenga have been added as maps for mission generation. Please keep in mind that the Larenga area isn't very suited to vehicles (which tend to get stuck on trees) and infantry may loose its weapons when crossing rivers.

As a result of this update, the planner and website versions are 1.05 and 1.15.

2010-01-31 Splash splash: Arma II artillery and Forward Observers Zoom

PlannedAssault missions now use Arma II's artillery units and the artillery module logic for the following:

  • AI manned and operated howitzers and mortars;
  • pre-planned artillery barrages for the attacking force, taking into account gun range;
  • player planned fire missions using the radio and map;
  • AI defense fire zones in front of the defensive positions, where enemy presence triggers artillery missions upon detection;
  • artillery mission progress calls from artillery units.

Fully manned howitzers in action

Artillery missions on call in the player's radio menu

Stopping an hostile attack with a SADARM mission

To enable proper use of artillery in mission generation, PlannedAssault uses the configuration data including ordance and range data. Below, this configuration data is shown for a USMC howitzer battery with crew:

Howitzer battery configuration data as used for mission planning and mission generation

To enable use of LASER targeted ordnance, all (light) snipers and spotters in the unit database have been issued a laser designator and a battery pack.

 

The planner and web site/unit database haven been upgraded to versions 1.00 and 1.1 respectively.