Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Blood Bowl Achilles Heel


I have moved from "it's ok" to "it's not very good."

I am reading other forums and some seem to notice this brain dead behavior while others don't -- I suspect players new to the game aren't noticing some of the oddities, but if you know BB--it's pretty blatant.

I am now 11 games into my campaign with the Skaven and we're 10-1. The one loss coming in my 2nd game. and it was due 100% to exceedingly bad die rolls and not brilliant (or even solid) AI tactics. Since then, we are on cruise control. It is *very* rare that the AI scores on me.

And that's the #1 issue -- offensive AI is *abysmal*. Last night I was playing against the humans who had a good shot at scoring. A big scrum broke out at midfield and somehow the AI Human Blitzer emerged with the ball and I had a lone Skaven Lineman trying ro run him down. I was able to get into his Tackle Zone but that was it.

The Human player was about 5 paces from scoring so I knew I was in trouble.

In this situation, the AI has only two real options.

1) Try and get another player to assist block so that the Blitzer can "blitz" and use 2 dice and then run into the end zone.

2) If no help is nearby, simply blitz my Skaven lineman, and then move toward the goal. Human Blitzers have the Block skill (the Skaven Lineman do not) so the ONLY result on the die that hurts the Human is the Single Skull. ANY other result = TD for the Humans.

What does the AI do?

It tries to DODGE out of my Skaven's Tackle Zone. And fails. And its turn ends. I scoop up the ball and the half ends.

This is BASIC Blood Bowl principles, not some tricky nuanced maneuver. The AI MUST be able to handle that situation. EVERY time.

So today I continue the campaign and play an Orc team. The Orcs hire Star Player Varag Ghoul Chewer. This is a brutal player -- an Orc Blitzer with skills like Jump Up and Mighty Blow.

I would say for half the game Varag was on his back. Why? Well, the AI INSISTED on lining him up across from my Rat Ogre, the now star studded Wildrat Ivan. Ivan now has Juggarnaut as well as Piling On. He's a tank. Every turn Varag would get up, and Ivan would clobber him. It was a huge waste for 300K or whatever it costs to hire that guy.

However, near the end of the game, the Orcs down 2-0, they had a REALLY good chance to score. By now a had a few players KO'ed and 2 Badly Hurt so the Orcs were winning these final 3 turns via simple attrition. I was retreating with my Gutter Runners and trying to form a wall to prevent an easy score.

I made a tactical error, leaving a clear path for the Orcs to get a late game TD. Below is a picture of the setup prior to the Orc's FINAL move.

As you can see, the Orc Thrower has the ball -- Varag -- that Star Blitzer is next to him. The AI again has only 1 option -- hand the ball off to Varag and let him rumble -- he'll have to Go For It (sprint) but odds are good that he's gonna score.

What does the AI do?

It sends Varag on a Blitz move and blocks my lineman. The Thrower then moves as far as he can near the goal and the game ends.

Again, BASIC stuff. And the AI simply cannot handle it. And truth be told it's starting to make the Solo Game pretty stale.


Jason McMaster said...

I just put a sessions up of a hard game where my dwarf teams plays against another dwarf team - I win handily. It certainly isn't a challenge once you figure it out. However, at least playing against people will be fun.

Rob said...

I haven't got the computer game and am probably going to wait for the Xbox version (I'm not sure if my computer will run the game smoothly). I hope they get this AI issue figured out by then because I don't see this getting a whole lot of action on Xbox Live especially past its initial release. What action it does get will probably be from Blood Bowl novices and not the hardcore players. I was counting on good AI. Usually I don't feel like dealing with the denizens that inhabit much of the Xbox Live world anyways. And the solo league play sounds like it could be so much fun, but not without challenging AI. Are there different levels of difficulty in the computer game?

Didn't I read in an interview with the designers -perhaps even originating from this site- that they were going to focus heavily on AI and they were going to use a bunch of "expert" Blood Bowl players to help them program the AI?

bill abner said...

Yep Rob that was indeed the plan.

How much attention has been given to the AI? Will it put up a good fight – and will it use each race’s abilities to its fullest? Will we see the Dwarfs passing all over the place or will they just try to beat people into the ground?

"The AI has been one of our top priorities in the development of Blood Bowl. The development hasn’t been just a matter of adapting rules and artworks. We also had to code all those rules and subtleties of the game, and make them work. Since the first day of development, we have a dedicated programmer who works on it and he himself is a strong Blood Bowl fan. The AI is a topic that Games Workshop follows particularly close. We did our best to make each race have a specific AI and level of reaction. At the moment, it is put to the test by the worldwide best Blood Bowl players who have been part of the beta program for over a year now."


Rob said...

OK, so what gives? Do you still have a pipeline to the developer to ask them in a nice way what happened with the AI and if it will be something addressed later on in a patch (and hopefully fine tuned for release to the consoles)?

bill abner said...

Trying to touch base with them Rob.