Sunday, October 16, 2016

AI War 2 Kickstarter

This post has nothing to do with RPGs, except inasmuch as people who like ACKS sometimes like the sort of niche videogames that I like (Dwarf Fortress, Crusader Kings / EU4, Mount and Blade...).

AI War: Fleet Command is one of those niche games that I think ACKS people might like.  It's a campaign-scale, highly asymmetric real-time strategy game.  It is always played as a human (or cooperating human team) against two AIs.  The AIs start with control of most of the map, and a very strong numerical advantage that only increases over time.  The humans control the tempo of the game, and do a lot of scouting and raiding for capturable resources.  They must achieve superior local concentrations of force in offensive operations, which must be quick enough that the AI's reserves cannot arrive before the objective is accomplished.  On defense, human players often rely heavily on traps / static defenses.

The human win condition is the destruction of both AI homeworlds, while the AI wins if the human's home command center is destroyed.  A typical map is 60-80 star systems, one of which is the human homeworld and the rest of which begin under AI control, and a typical game lasts 8+ hours.  Taking worlds from the AI increases the AI's perception of human threat, which increases its tech level and available reinforcements, so it is critical to take only the worlds that you really need while bypassing the rest (or destroying their fortifications to make them reasonably safe to travel through).

This is very much a game about picking your battles, both tactically (pulling the fleet out if too much heat starts to arrive) and strategically (only taking the planets that are worth the increase in AI tech).  Of all the games I've played that were billed as "real-time strategy", this one has the greatest strategy component.  And the AI design is notably distributed and devious.

Unfortunately, the graphics are terrible, and over the seven years since its release there have been a bunch of expansions, which present a dizzying array of configuration options and units if not disabled.

But recently there is a kickstarter for AI War 2, with 3d graphics (actually for performance reasons - turns out modern graphics cards like rendering 3d objects in realtime better than they like rendering sprites in realtime) and a return to the roots.  It may or may not make the funding goal; it's looking like a close thing.  So maybe go take a look.

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