Monday, September 17, 2012

Gridiron Solitaire #22:

Rewriting the AI almost killed me, but in the end, it didn't.

It basically took all week, but by Friday, the playcalling AI was significantly improved. That meant the game became more difficult, which is good, because as I mentioned last week, the wildcard had definitely tipped game balance away from neutral.

Actually, I've never felt like the game balance was quite right. It always seemed like winning with a weak team happened a little too easily.

A couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about difficulty in terms of asymmetric adjustments. Basically, I started looking for situations where changing something would make the game more difficult for the human player, but not for the CPU.

That seems counter-intuitive until you remember that a CPU drive is dependent on field position only in the sense that it affects how many plays the human player has to stop the drive. It's not really easier to stop a four-play drive than a one-play drive (because the number of cards needed ramps)--it just resolves more quickly.

John Harwood had an excellent suggestion, which was to move the starting point after a kickoff from the 30 back to the 20. That's a few more cards for the human player to play to score, but for the CPU offense, it doesn't change anything.

I also realized that punting was asymmetric as well, so I increased net punting distance. Again, that's just a few more cards that must be played by the human player, but it slightly affects the difficulty.

With these changes, plus the new AI, I started a season with a 2 1/2 star team, and I'm having a great time. I'm 4-3 through 7 games, and here are the scores:
31-28 (OT)
38-35 (OT)

In addition to the two overtime games, another game ended on the last play of regulation. So there's been plenty of drama, and while I'm 4-3, it could just as easily be 2-5.

I adjusted the Big Play percentages to be more stingy, and that's helped as well. Using the BP button less (because it's less successful) has also increased the pace of the game.

For the last few weeks, it's been bothering me that there are no sounds associated with the text message events (unless there's a turnover or touchdown). It has created this blank space in the soundscape that needed to be fixed. I also wanted a sound when a Big Play card was dealt that wasn't just a "card" sound, since I used the sounds of a manual typewriter when cards are selected or played.

John Harwood (again) had an excellent suggestion, which was to use a typewriter bell sound (again, associated with a manual typewriter). I found one that is exactly the sound I want, and I added a slightly different referee whistle when the play ends on a text message event, so the game isn't blank (in an audio sense) at any point now.

Unless something unexpected happens, I'm going to add 10-15 beta testers next week.

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