Solo games can have completely different systems for players and the bot. In effect the bot needs to do things that are challenging to the players, that cannot be gamed and that can be interpreted as being realistic.
So while as a player I like the challenge of assigning ever too few operations to my columns, the agony whether I want to press my attack on the left flank but leave my right flank woefully unprepared or whether I want a more balanced approach, the bot does not need to care about these things at all. The bot just does things that have effect.
To put it short and simple: the bot produces results instead of simulating a mind that takes choices. If the bot is in fact not playing the game but just a way to build the game for the player most of the challenges with “making the bot play well” disappear.
Instead the problem of making the bot “feel realistic and fair” take the forefront. My experience tells me that most players have more difficulty accepting the actions of a bot if the bot does not seem to play the same game. In the coinseries, for example, bots play pretty much the same game as the player – controlled by an elaborate decision making flowchart. I tend to interpret these flowchart-bots as challenging and “fair”. There is after all no point in the flowchart which says:
3 divisions magically teleport to Milan*
But what I can do though is deconstruct the way the bot works. Analyze its flaws and strongsuits and “game the system”. The bots in the coinseries are clearly built with a lot of care and thus are not easy to game, but for me as a player the experience shifts. The goal for me as a player moves from “winning the game” to “learning how to game the bot”. Not something I want to fill my little gaming time with.
1944 race to the Rhine on the other hand works quite differently. The appearance of German troops follows a system uniquely for this specific task. This system is random and behaves somewhat erratic. I feel a lot less inclination to learn the subtleties of this bots behavior. But, and this is a big but, I tend to interpret the results as unfair, because they do not conform to the same rules that I as a player conform to, but they are the outcome of a distinct and recognisable subsystem:
What would have happened if I had drawn a different card right now. Oh my I surely am unlucky today.
The challenge for me is thus to create a bot that is interwoven so deeply into the games core systems that I as the player cannot interpret it’s actions because the
- underlying logic is not apparent
- There is in part no logic at all
… gotta go. I wonder whether this will become a blog of half finished posts 😁
*All my thoughts are still firmly set on the Italian theatre of war even though I am currently playing the defense of northern France in 1814.