Courtesy of Amit Patel

From: (Andrew Luppnow)
Date: Fri, 2 Dec 1994 10:10:50 +0200 (SAT)

This document proposes an approach to the problem of designing the AI routines for intelligent computer wargame opponents. It is hoped that the scheme will allow the efficient, or at least feasible, implementation of opponents which are capable of formulating strategy, rather than behaving predictably according to fixed sets of simple rules.

In the text below, "DMS" is an abbreviation for "decision-making-system". I use the term very loosely to denote any programming subsystem which accepts, as input, a "situation" and which generates, as output, a "response". The DMS may be a simple neural network, a collection of hard-coded rules, a set of fuzzy logic rules, a simple lookup table, or whatever you want it to be! It's most important feature is that it must be SIMPLE and TRACTABLE - in particular, it must accept input from a small, finite set of possible inputs and generate output which belongs in a similarly small, finite set of possible outputs.

Some time ago I asked myself how a programmer might begin to implement the AI of a wargame which requires the computer opponent to develop a sensible military strategy. I eventually realized that simply feeding a SINGLE decision-making system with information concerning the position and status of each friendly and enemy soldier is hopelessly inefficient - it would be akin to presenting a general with such information and expecting him to dictate the movement of each soldier!

But in reality a general doesn't make that type of decision, and neither does he receive information about the precise location of each soldier on the battlefield. Instead, he receives strategic information from his commanders, makes strategic decisions and presents the chosen strategy to the commanders. The commanders, in turn, receive tactical information and make tactical decisions based on (1) that information and (2) the strategy provided by the general.

And so the process continues until, at the very bottom level, each soldier receives precise orders about what he and his immediate comrades are expected to accomplish.

The important point is that the whole process can be envisaged in terms of several 'levels'. Each level receives information from the level immediately below it, 'summarises' or 'generalises' that information and presents the result to the level immediately above it. In return, it receives a set of objectives from the level above it and uses (1) this set of objectives and (2) the information from the lower level to compute a more precise set of objectives. This latter set of objectives then becomes the 'input from above' of the next lower level, and so on. In summary: information filters UP through the levels, becoming progressively more general, while commands and objectives filter DOWN through the levels, becoming progressively more detailed and precise.

I decided that this paradigm might represent a good conceptual model for the implementation of the AI procedures in a complex strategy-based game: a "tree of DMS's" can be used to mimic the chain of command in a military hierarchy. Specifically, one might use one or more small, relatively simple DMS's for each level. The inputs for a DMS of level 'k' would be the outputs of a level (k+1) DMS and the information obtained by 'summarising' level (k-1) information. The outputs of the level k DMS would, in turn, serve as inputs for one or more level (k-1) DMS's. Outputs of the level zero DMS's would be used to update the battlefield.

                                        "Top brass" - fewer,
                                        MORE GENERAL options
                                        allow lookahead and
Level 3        ^              o         "what-if reasoning."
              /|\            / \
Level 2      / | \          o   o
               |           /|\  |\
Level 1        |          o o o o o
             \ | /       /| | | | |\
Level 0       \|/       o o o o o o o   Individual soldiers -
               V                        many options, but
                                        decision-making is
         As information                 simple and doesn't
         filters UP the                 attempt "lookahead",
         tree, it becomes               "what-if reasoning",
         more general. As               etc.
         objectives filter
         DOWN the tree,
         they become more

The main advantage of this scheme is that it allows the "higher levels" of the hierarchy to formulate strategy, without being overwhelmed by the immense and intractably large number of possibilities which the computer AI would have to consider if it possessed only information about individual soldiers. Indeed, at the topmost level, decisions would involve rather abstract options such as

  • "direct all military activity towards seizing territory X", or
  • "conduct wars of attrition in territories X, Y, and Z", or
  • "buy time - stick to diplomacy for the time being", or
  • "avoid direct military engagement - concentrate on disrupting enemy supply routes",
  • etc.

Under these circumstances, it would be feasible for the computer to attempt a certain amount of "lookahead", or to consider "what-if" scenarios - something which would be out of the question if options were presented in terms of the actions of individual soldiers.

At the time of writing this, I haven't yet had the opportunity to explore an implementation of these ideas in a working game, but if anybody DOES enjoy some practical success with these ideas, I'd be interested in hearing from him/her!

--- Andrew Luppnow

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Date this article was posted to 9/7/1999
(Note that this date does not necessarily correspond to the date the article was written)

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