|2013-02-14||Better defense: spread out more, concealed better, and covering the avenues of approach (Arma2OA/CO, IronFront)|
The past couple of weeks have been spent improving the AI's defense in PlannedAssault's missions, and now the results are hard to spot!
As the first screen shot makes clear (can you spot the two concealed and spread out M1036 TOW HMMWVs?), attacking a position becomes a lot more interesting when it is properly defended. With PlannedAssault-generated missions now offering stronger defense for Arma2OA/CO and Iron Front missions, I'd like to explain the changes.
The improvements in defense mainly come from a combination of terrain and threat analysis (as performed during mission planning, by PlannedAssault) and better position selection (as performed by a new script during as part of the mission itself), as follows:
Once positioned, a defending group will remain in position until (a) triggered to fall back to a 'GUARDED_BY' trigger position or (b) engaged by an enemy. It retains its traditional dynamic (GUARD) defensive behavior.
With these changes, defenders will occupy better positions offering more visibility and lines-of-fire into potential threat avenue of approaches, while occupying less conspicuous positions and spreading out vehicles better. Also, static vehicles with anti-tank capabilities will keep their crew fighting for longer after being hit.
Please remember, this is still Arma2's AI, which means some things cannot be controlled from my new defensive positioning script. In particular, armored vehicles cannot be told to face a specific direction with their hull and turret, and they risk being recalled into 'formation' if the group's lead vehicle is late moving into position...
However, the script is effective most of the time, an improvement over the vanilla defensive behavior, and a gap filler until the time Arma's AI receives an understanding of battle positions like Steel Beasts does.
Key ingredients in the defensive positioning script are the selectBestPlaces, findEmptyPosition, lineIntersects and terrainIntersect(ASL) commands. They are the reason this improvement is implemented for Arma2:OA, Arma2:CO and IronFront but not for Arma, JCOVE, and VBS2 1.x.
I should be able to make this work for VBS2 2.0 as soon as BI Simulations releases the VBS2 2.0 upgrade for my PE license.
|2013-02-13||More Cold War and Afghan War Units for your Missions|
With this update, PlannedAssault expands its support for generating Cold War era missions. The Arma2CO unit database received significant additions for you to use in your missions:
What better map for Cold War era missions than the actual terrain where NATO prepared to fight Warsaw Pact forces? Falcon & Lancer have recreated real-life's Schwemlitz and its surroundings. Schwemlitz is small village in Northwestern Germany, in the former NATO NORTHAG sector, between the form inner-German border and Uelzen (along the WL-191 road).
The Schwemlitz world stands out because of its details, and of its realistic recreation of small hamlets and farms, with houses and sheds placed and connected together with garden paths and drive ways. See the screen shots on this page.
|2013-01-05||Planning in and for 2013|
Happy New Year! What better way to start the year than by "planning". With "planning" both referring to my plans for 2013 and "automated planning".
For me, PlannedAssault is more than a mission generator (even though I use it a lot myself just to create missions). PlannedAssault started out and still is my test-bed for (automated) planning techniques for problems typical in combat games and simulations. Today, few game use planning techniques, and those that do (F.E.A.R., for example) often use automated planning for single characters and relatively short-term objectives.
However, over 15,000 missions (thus over 30,000 battle plans) generated here by PlannedAssault indicate that automated planning also is suited to (game) content generation and more complex problems.
To promote and discuss planning techniques for games, I'll be participating in the 3rd International 'Planning in Games' workshop, June 11, in Rome, Italy. The workshop is part of the 23rd International Conference on Automated Planning and Scheduling, the conference for academics and other specialists to discuss advances in automated planning.
So, if you're working on planning yourself and want to explore the needs and opportunities of planning in games, or if you're working on games and are considering planning techniques, this is the workshop to participate in! Submit a proposal / position paper for the workshop before March 23, 2013.
Some further promotion and sharing of ideas on planning is done in my (long) chapter in the book game AI book 'Collected Wisdom of Game AI Professionals', edited by Steve Rabin. The book is scheduled to appear in May 2013.
|2012-12-23||Iron Front: honorable mentions in mission making competition, 1.05 patch, D-Day DLC, improvements|
Hurrah! I participated in the December 2012 "Iron Front Mission Maker Competition 2012" with a PlannedAssault generated mission with surprising results. I received honorable mentions, a free D-Day DLC for Iron Front, and the opportunity to include the mission in the next Iron Front patch. Not bad for a computer generated mission, is it? And congrulations to the three winners!
Here at PlannedAssault you now have the same means available as I used to create and submit my entry. The mission I submitted was unedited, straight from PlannedAssault. I've now been asked to edit it slightly to support translations (to German and Russian), and to replace Waffen-SS by Stormtroopers.
This week, I've updated PlannedAssault's support for Iron Front with the following. First, the Tiger Ausf.E tank and the StuG-III capability to transport infantry have been added (as introduced in Iron Front's patch 1.05). Second, I've added the Baranow Gagolin area centered around the ponton bridge across the Wisla river. Although crossing bridges isn't one of the Arma2 AI's strenghts, AI units are able to cross the pontoon bridge, albeit slowly and with some losses.
Third, I've added support for SofD's improved explosion effects, one of the few available add-ons for Iron Front. You can select it from the optional add-ons when creating a mission.
Fourth, since all of Iron Front's Wehrmacht tanks were designed with destructible body parts (notably the skirts and fenders, additional armor plating on the turret, and spare track links on the hull), I've added a script that makes those tanks drop a couple of parts at the mission's start, to reflect wear and tear from transport and combat, and scarcity of spare parts.
Furthermore, I've added support for the new units and terrain from the D-Day DLC for Iron Front. The DLC offers US units, two additional Lend-lease vehicles for the Red Army (the M3 White halftrack and the M4A2 Sherman) and almost all of Omaha beach (beaches Dog White through Fox Red and the corresponding in-land area).
For the US Army I've added all units to the PlannedAssault unit database. I've also defined Ranger squads (see screen shot) with the 2nd Ranger Battailon orange diamond markings on the back of the helmets and blue emblems on the upper left arm. The game solely features the diamond with vertical 'officer' stripe, and lacks the NCO and private variants, so all units currently have the 'officer' stripe behind the ranger marking.
For mission generation, solely the in-land terrain is available. This is because PlannedAssault today doesn't support amphibious landings, and the Iron Front / Arma2 AI vehicles struggle to navigate the beach's obstacles.
Finally, I've fixed a number of bugs that arose from planning missions for Iron Front. Unique to Iron Front is that virtually every tank is also able to transport infantry, which generates way more options for the planner to consider. In some cases, the planner hit its limit (1600 steps) and aborted without an explanation. This is now fixed, both with an explicit message and smarter pruning of bad transporter & cargo combinations.
Another bug caused mission planning to fail when static weapons (such as anti-tank guns) were being placed close to the objective to defend. This has also been fixed.