Well, it's that time of the year again. Last year's Civ4 AI Survivor competition was a huge success, drawing dozens of entrants in the picking contest and producing a riveting series of games between the AI contestants. I enjoyed the idea so much that I wanted to revisit the same scenario again this year (2015), while making a few tweaks to improve upon the initial concept. Despite how well things went in the first year, I was essentially making up the tournament as I went along, and not everything was as smooth as I would have liked, especially the first few weeks.
Let's start with the similarities. The basic tournament structure will remain the same: the 52 AI leaders in Civ4 will be randomly drawn into eight opening round games, half of them with 6 AIs and half of them with 7 AIs. Two leaders will advance to the playoff round from each match, the winning leader and the non-winning leader with the highest game score. AIs who survive the game but do not advance will get a second chance in a Wildcard game later on. We will then feed the top two leaders of each playoff game into one final championship round to determine the overall winner of the competition. Here's a picture of the empty bracket:
The game settings will remain the same as last year. We use Deity AIs to speed up the overall pace of the game and reach victory results sooner (not to mention it also sounds cooler to use Deity as the difficulty setting!) The map script is the default Pangaea, designed to keep all of the AI leaders in close contact with one another. I went ahead and tested out some games with Continents or Archipelago setups, and they just didn't work that well. The Civ4 AI doesn't really know how to run naval invasions, and there were lots of wars that just did nothing because the AIs couldn't reach one another. They need to be on the same continent from what I've found, and Pangaea works well enough for that. We use Normal game speed and Standard sized maps, with the one exception of dropping the sea level to "Low" setting for the games with 7 AIs to create a little more room for the extra competitior.
For the game options, the biggest effect on the gameplay is turning off Tech Trading. I'll repeat here what I wrote in the setup phase last year: "When tech trading is left on, the AIs tend to stay bunched together with no one ever getting too far ahead or falling too far behind. With everyone fielding the same units, it becomes difficult for the AIs to attack one another successfully, and generally makes for less interesting games. But when tech trading gets switched off, all of the AIs have to sink or swim based on their own research efforts. This spreads them out much more widely on the tech tree, and once the laggards fall a full generation behind in military tech, they tend to get swallowed up by their more advanced rivals." Trust me, we saw some AIs fall very far behind last year, and that made the games a lot more interesting to watch. You do *NOT* want to fall behind in military tech in this competition - it nearly always ends badly.
Otherwise, we turn off Vassal States to prevent the AIs from surrendering to one another. If they can vassal when losing wars, hardly any of the AIs ever get eliminated, and that's boring. We want to see bloodthirsty games! No escape, no mercy. We also turn off Events because they're kind of a Single Player thing, and the AI doesn't understand what they do. I've debated turning off the goody huts (tribal villages) but they remain in the game for now. We also use Aggressive AI to spice things up and increase the number of wars. The big thing that Aggressive AI does is remove a flag that will stop the AIs from declaring certain wars. Normally they will not attack someone who has more than double their military power. Turning on Aggressive AI removes that check in their coding logic. This leads to occasionally suicidal war declarations based on diplomatic relations, and that's exactly the kind of thing we want to see!
First of all, two minor changes. To fit the season theme of the Australian Outback, the Climate setting for these games will be "Arid" instead of "Temperate". That means more deserts, more floodplains, more jungles, and less tundra/ice. Not likely to have a huge effect overall. Secondly, we had a suggestion to use the "Choose Religions" option to avoid getting the standard Buddhism and Hinduism in every single game, and that sounded like a nice idea. It was getting a little tiresome last season, we almost never saw anything beyond the first two or three religions have an effect on the gameplay. At least now we'll see some different religious icons on the map.
More important are the structural changes to the reporting and the picking contest. I won't be writing reports for the AI Survivor games this year. It's simply not possible for me to do another 13 reports while also working full time. I actually think the written reports are better for these games, but it ain't going to happen, sorry. In lieu of that, I'll be streaming the games this time around, and then archiving the recordings on Twitch so that anyone can watch them later. This has the advantage of making the games interactive, allowing viewers to watch in real-time and interact with the gameplay. The downside is that the reports are summaries that can be read in 15 minutes, while the recordings will last for three to five hours. It's a tradeoff. Regardless, we're switching to the video format this year for better or for worse.
We're also going to switch the picking contest entry system as well. Rather than making forum posts at Realms Beyond (and then relying on me to combine them all into an Excel spreadsheet), this year I'll be putting everything online using Google Docs. The current bracket will always be visible online, and to make an entry for each game, contestants will fill out a short Google Forms document. Of course, there's still a Realms Beyond form thread to discuss the competition as well. I will update this webpage as well as my Twitch livestream throughout the season after each game. Here's a big list of the relevant links below. Enjoy the new season of AI Survivor!
Sullla Twitch Page
Final Bracket and Standings
Conclusions Page (Spoilers)
Schedule: Concluded on Saturday, 30 May 2015
Championship Game Map Setup
Championship Game Picking Contest Entry Form
Opening Round Livestreams
Game One: Elizabeth, Hammurabi, Mao Zedong, Pericles, Victoria, Zara Yacob
Game Two: Boudica, Churchill, De Gaulle, Huayna Capac, Montezuma, Stalin, Wang Kon
Game Three: Asoka, Darius, Gandhi, Gilgamesh, Roosevelt, Saladin
Game Four: Bismarck, Catherine, Charlemagne, Justinian, Louis, Peter, Ragnar
Game Five: Frederick, Hannibal, Isabella, Shaka, Tokugawa, Willem
Game Six: Alexander, Augustus, Brennus, Hatshepsut, Mansa Musa, Mehmed, Ramesses
Game Seven: Joao, Julius Caesar, Kublai Khan, Lincoln, Qin, Sitting Bull
Game Eight: Cyrus, Genghis Khan, Napoleon, Pacal, Suleiman, Suryavarman, Washington
Opening Round Writeups
Game One Summary
Game Two Summary
Game Three Summary
Game Four Summary
Game Six Summary
Game Seven Summary
Playoff Round Livestreams
Playoff Game One
Playoff Game Two
Playoff Game Three
Playoff Round Writeups
Playoff Game Two Summary
Playoff Game Three Summary
Championship Game Livestream
Championship Game Written Report
Conclusions Page (Spoilers)