Scenario Design

Protected By Neutrals and Other Tricks

This article is an edited version of a post on Valley of Wonders Forum started by Pocus in mid October 2000. The subject of triggers is a great interest among map makers who want to make epic story maps and surprise their players. In this thread, Pocus, Fingers and FFBJ, shares with us some of their tricks with regards to making computer AI do surprising things.

Pocus:

I would like to share with you two tricks for the AI:

Independent AI will protect structure of players adjacent to them if they share the same alignment. You can thus make a one way conquest of sites possible, as this:

- A neutral death node with a black dragon adjacent to it. Evils AI/races can take it but the dragon will be drawn in battle if a good race try to retake it/capture it

- A teleporter arrival in a structure like a tower, with is protected by independent monsters adjacent. Same principles apply here. On arrival only the AI controlling the tower will arrive safely, others that are not of the same alignment that the monsters around will be drawn into battle.

- Creation of reinforcement bound with the conquest of an hex, and arriving in any place you want:

Put a walled village with the stack of reinforcement underground. Adjacent to that, you create a two-way tunnel. This hex has a guard area salamander on it. The hex north is a lava hex that can be traversed by the salamander and that lead to a hex with a teleporter called A. The other passageway (of the hex where the Salamander is) lead to a long (costing at least 30 move points) passage that lead to a teleporter called B.

How it works: With teleporter A (isolated from the reinforcement stack by a lava hex) the salamander will intercept any units coming near the exit of the teleporter, thus freeing the hex she is on. She will not intercept through teleporter B because the path is too long for her to react.

When the salamander's hex is freed, the reinforcement stack will be able to go through teleporter B, set on any exit location you want. They won't go thru A because of the lava hex. They won't attack the salamander because the AI never attacks independent units that are not under a structure.

The Salamander will not attack the reinforcement stack because they are sitting on a WALLED village.

It seems complicated but is not and this can be set in 2 minutes. You can bound the hex the player enters (and which releases the event) an event message set to activate on the next turn. It really shines when set well, you would almost think that AOW possesses triggers!

Fingers:

Interesting. In some old AI experiments I thought a lot about this kind of stuff, trying very hard to devise more elaborate triggers for releasing units throughout the game beyond the simple timed-flame release. I've always kept the notion that someone out there in the wilds is truly interested in better triggers for the game. :-)

In all my time testing, however, I never even contemplated the alignment factor of independents occupying hexes adjacent to battle, nor indeed the significance of walled towns being a component like this. Clever! In my upcoming map, although a few independent units are placed adjacent to structures as you've described, it will now be necessary to make SURE that they are all in keeping with this "rule". :-)

But your "reinforcement blocker" release method is much better than the "triple piggyback" one I was touting around - much easier to visualize and set up I think.

It's important though to indicate a bit more clearly for everybody that the units in the village are owned by a computer PLAYER, and not merely other independents. :-) Also, since the salamander is set on "guard area", having more than one teleporter situated next to (A) could widen the area of the trigger's coverage with multiple destinations, either near or far apart. If the trigger is of crucial importance, for instance, this might better ensure that it operates when a player race moves within a good, wide area, and doesn't misfire because they've managed to "skip" over the guarding range of the Salamander.

Triumph, we do want triggers in the sequel! :-)

FFBJ:

It is also interesting how you can get different results depending on where the guard area unit ends up. If a unit teleports that is on guard area, then survives, it can't return to the area it was guarding, so it becomes a wandering monster.

Fingers:

There's a part of my map where an underground Altar of Death is made to act as a 'cinematic' release trigger for an important enemy hero belonging to the computer. But another computer player is used to set it off.

Here's an example of how it's done...

There's a large, underground gallery divided down the middle by a barrier of solid rock, a reflecting pool on either side. An Altar of Death owned by a computer player is placed on one side, along with a hero (A). Importantly, the hero has a good visual range (vision II or III), is endowed with death immunity, and has no possible way of leaving its part of the chamber. Immediately on the other side of the barrier is a low level independent unit (B) set on guard (Just sits there). And somewhere else, perhaps in an isolated, hidden corner of the map, is unit (C) belonging to a DIFFERENT computer player - and this one is at WAR with the computer player owning hero (A) and the Altar. It is set on guard area and waits next to a teleporter leading to a hex CLOSE to the independent low level unit (B), However, it is stuck behind a fire field that is timed to go out at an appointed hour. Importantly, (C) does not possess fire immunity or concealment, and is of sufficient strength to kill unit (B), the guarding independent.

So....

When the flame dies and (C) teleports to the area just beyond the rock barrier from (A), (B) is attacked and killed. Yeah, big deal.... But, the computer side owning hero (A) unleashes its DEATH STORM on (C) thereby cutting through the solid rock dividing the gallery, and freeing its own hero (A) to move wherever it will. The detonation doesn't harm (A) who's death immune.

As long as (C) teleports and remains within visual range of the Altar (augmented by the hero), and the radius of the death storm's detonation covers the barrier, it works great. :-)

Anyways, having this kind of stuff going on between turns in classic mode might add some fun. The reflecting pools ensure that it's seen, and to the human player the AI would appear to have some real serious intentions. :-)

Pocus:

Thank you all, old guards AOWers for your interest in triggers! FFBJ, Yes it's interesting indeed: guard area>wanderer.

Patrol/scout: I noticed also that there is something to do with these orders. One (patrol) seems to allow less wandering but I don't know if the unit really respects a radius. I tried testing it but I wasn't able to draw a conclusion.

Still: I tested this and I'm sure that Patrol/Scout units target specifically units that are of the opposite alignment, leaving others unarmed. What's better is that they are also joinable! You can nearly set a 13th player by helping/hindering a player with this. If you are afraid of helping too much a player you can set independent units on scouts in an area with a timed fire. They will appear progressively, thus helping the player (kinda like crusade where independents forces wander off). If the player has money, he can even buy them.

Also I made some test about what are the advantages of Emperor/king level. 'Historically' if you remember, they were created after the Lord level. It seems that these two levels don't pay upkeep and don't pay units construction and capture of cities:

I made a test bed with one Emperor, one King and one Lord (aka normal?) AI, they had a lone king and a mere 192 levels 4 units to recruit (seeking refuge units on a node). Emperor and king AI recruited all in one turn (without the money) and maintained the army indefinitely. Lord level AI players never recruited single units.

So: I think you don't even have to put one hundred mines to support the emperor evil AI... He can maintains hundred of timed reinforcements w/o problems...

Fingers:

Just to clarify though, would you say that timing the release of independents aimed at reinforcing AI players is unreliable UNLESS the AI is set on King or Emperor, EVEN when there's sufficient gold on Lord? Seems like I've had scouting or patrolling independents of friendly alignment join the AI on Lord level fairly reliably. Also, in all your observations has the AI on Lord fairly reliably grabbed units of friendly alignment seeking refuge that are sitting on structures, when they have gold?

Emperor setting, hmmmm. I don't know, having the AI players set on Emperor just doesn't seem a like fair thing to do in my map. Instead they are given ample external incomes of gold, and resources in areas where the human player should be very unlikely to reach before late in their game. Also, some are heavily guarded with those adjacent independents. :-) In fact some extra precautions have today been added to the vast wealth given to Morgoth, now hopefully more secure.

In testing a while back, the game slowed way down when the AI players were Emperor, cranking out a zillion units.... But maybe I will try it again on that level just to see how dreadfully my beleaguered Highmen get stomped. :-)

Of course, there are probably some AoW SUPERMEN (and women) around here to whom even the Emperor AI is but a trifle.

Ffbj, units set on guard area do indeed act strange when they can't get back to their hex. I had an Elf AI player's swordsman go through its teleporter and kill a Frog, then go several hexes during the next turn to capture an unguarded independent Altar, but the turn after decide to GO BACK near where it had teleported and made a suicide attack on an independent Syron! It couldn't have reached the Syron the turn it arrived because it was on the other side of a wall of rock, like in the above example of setting an underground Altar to blast through a barrier with a unit release as its trigger.. He was the trigger, poor fellow. The death storm didn't kill him first. hmmmm... wonder how far away he could have wandered off and still been aware of something in the original guarding range.

That was a funny little surprise.

:-)

Pocus:

I don't think you should fear putting an AI on Lord level if you give them sufficient gold. In my test the Lord AI has only his 250 starting GP, this is why she was unable to enlist 8 levels 4 units. But additional test is perhaps recommended.

That's a good idea by the way to replace an emperor AI with a Lord one but with external income.

Fingers:

Here's an example of a trick giving the AI player some wandering gold medal units.

In an isolated part of the map place an "area guarding" stack (A) of eight level 3 or 4 units belonging to an AI player of either the Highmen or Undead. None of the units may possess fire immunity. Within (A)'s range have a level three or four city belonging to the same player, but be sure the inhabitants are of an alignment OPPOSITE to that of the player's race. If the AI player is Highmen, then the inhabitants should be Undead, and vice versa. Make the terrain upon which their city is built a type that is DISLIKED by the inhabitants of the city. Place a teleporter’s a few hexes away from the "area guarding" stack (A) leading to a timed fire hex. It can be anywhere on the map. Set it to go out after at least 20 turns or so. Also near the teleporter’s destination and within (A)'s range, place an independent unit (B) set on "guard.

Here's what happens...

Before the level 3 or 4 city can be migrated by the AI player, the unhappy inhabitants will REVOLT. Independent units of the city's own racial composition appear on one of its hexes, prompting stack (A) to attack. But since the stack doesn't STAY in the city, the inhabitants can manage a revolt every couple of turns. The terrain unfriendly to their race helps push them over the edge. And before long this gives the units of stack (A) silver and gold medals, since they of course have to keep coming BACK to kill the independents and retake the city.

But then, after the flame on the other end of the teleportal dies, (A) passes through and kills unit (B). But, NOT being able to travel back, (A) becomes a wandering, gold medal stack. :-)

It has worked very reliably with Highmen and Undead AI's owning cities of opposite alignments. Occasionally the AI player's city will have 'bad luck' and revolt infrequently enough to be migrated after a dozen turns or so. Wouldn't bother trying it with neutral races - being that they've a better chance of 'tolerable' relations with races that are at most, two alignments from their own.

Bear in mind that stack (A) should be powerful enough to easily kill the three or four independents that will pop up every few turns in the city. It works great with a mix of level 3 and 4 units.... Like several doom bats and a dragon.

What's more, this can come across as 'great theatre' with the placement of reflecting pools or an alliance.... On Tol Sirion my black dragons kill some of the inhabitants of Minas Tirith every couple of turns, circling the central peak of the island that has erupted with death. Morgoth doesn't as yet have a presence that can ENTIRELY keep down the Elves.... For it is not until Sauron's blasting of the rock with his Altar that Finrod meets his doom!!! But since Minas Tirith is Elven, they occasionally are migrated a little early.

Ah well, silver medals, and a slightly less memorable entrance by the future Dark Lord.

Pocus:

I don't know if this is the same concept, but you can put battering rams from an AI in the same area that another AI. The two AI are at war and this ensure (add 100 battering rams) that the first gets many experience points.Then put the 'medalling' stack behind a fire timer for timed release.

FFBJ:

Good ways to create gold metal units Fingers and Pocus II. The method I use is to give units with magic strike, Yaka Avatars for example, some incarnates to destroy. I usually assign the Avatars to the Lizardmen and put the Lizardman leader in an untenable position where he will die sometime during Turn One, usually near the end. Since stacks attack in order of precedence, the largest stack attacks first. The Avatars will get to silver or gold shield before the Lizardman leader dies. Also the Avatars have Dominate ability so they take over some of the Incarnates. Sometimes the Incarnates succeed in possessing the Avatars, so you get some unusual stack mixes.

I used this treatment extensively in my Heaven and Hell map, and in Conquest of Zanid. Fingers. Interesting reaccount of what can happen to a unit set on guard area that can't get back.


- This article was originally posted as a discussion thread on the Valley of Wonders Forum. And reproduced here with permission.

Background: Pocus is a long time member of AoW community and has been involved in many discussions on Strategy in the Valley of Wonders AoW forum. Fingers is the same guy who contributed to this site the article: Finger's Triggers. FFBJ is the creator of the maps such as Conquest of Zanid and Necrophose.

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