Ghost Recon Wildlands Team AI

ghost

recon wildlands

team ai

By AI Bluefox

Wildlands team ai

Above : Bluefox with Wildlands Devs and Fans

The team AI in Wildlands does not provide single players with a similar experience to that enjoyed by Co-op players and could be changed.

As well as stopping the player from enjoying simple elements in the game such as shooting from vehicles driven or piloted by the AI team, a potentially rich tactical immersion layer is missing. Not only is this is a key feature of the GR brand, it was also implied in the run up to game release that the single player could be able to control their AI team to approach a mission in the same way that a group of like-minded co-op players could. The El Pozolero trailer at night shows, Weaver being left on over watch. A tactical co-op group can dress the entire Ghost Team in dark combat gear to attack an objective at night from all points of the compass and set an RoE for themselves. The single-player is unable to enjoy this same sense of involvement.

Whilst the decision to avoid players having to micro-manage their AI team is understandable, and a welcome feature for many, it isn’t a design choice that precludes a deeper layer of control in conjunction. This could simply mean turning off or over riding certain autonomous choices that the AI have and replacing them with pathways and decisions that the player has predetermined. Most of the tactical community know this and therefore find it difficult to understand the design intent and why this option is not available for them.

The AI Commandments

When you have a simple set of rules in a complex situation then everything becomes a lot easier. The ancients knew this, as do most dog owners, and so they determined a set of behaviours that were designed to stop people falling into chaos at the drop of a hat or in the case of the dog owners, having shit on the carpet. The ancients made up a back story to give it some gravitas and sell it to the people, but fundamentally they came up with a simple and understandable command structure that gave freedom within a framework. This wasn’t micro-managing people or being cruel to dogs; it was freeing them to live with eachother in peace and with a reasonably harmonious aroma. Really simple.

So whilst wandering around the Wildlands, contemplating why my AI team would sometimes sit on a railway line until a train hit them – hey it’s our choice, boss – or wear their Sunday casuals when we’re up a fucking mountain, I found what seemed like a sensible set of rules on a wall in a cemetery chapel that could possibly do the trick.

From actually doing what I say to not being a dick head about it, more or less everything seemed to be covered including how to dress appropriately for the occasion and actually bothering to learn to drive. Why not implement these into the game I thought. No more face-palming as my highly trained team of Operators stood in front of extremely violent drug criminals, pretending that they hadn’t seen each other in case I got upset.

I wrote down the transcriptions on the wall and asked the guy in some robes who was in there to explain what he thought was meant by them

This report is what he told me. Well actually it’s not, it is just my opinion; but dressing it up in a story, like the time I went up a mountain and came back with the wisdom of God on these here 10 tablets of stone, worked before so why not again.

1. Thou shalt obey no other command before mine

This explained the guy was the fundamental principle to all that follows. Although freedom of choice and expression is felt by the AI team members to be their prerogative, they are not actually as intelligent as they like to think they are. Of course they aren’t, they couldn’t be, they’re artificial, and although they do a very, very good job of creating a believable scenario and dealing with a lot of situations, it doesn’t take much dog shit on the carpet before you start to re-evaluate the whole concept of not quite being intelligent enough to be trusted.

And they are not to be trusted. Although they make mistakes and leave their little presents of turd on the shag-pile infrequently, just the once every now and then is enough to sever the bond of trust with their master. Enough for some Gamer Gods to cast them forever into the depths of hell as it were.

So let their shepherd guide them, let the player choose their path and whether they should kneel and which way they should more or less face etc. For each of them separately and together. That way, and this is the genius of the original Ghost Recon in making dumb as shit AI seem believable and real, was that they took on the intelligence of the player. I guess because they are artificial then Weaver, Holt and Midas don’t understand their own failings nor can they learn from them whereas the players can.

With enough control, the player associates mistakes with their own decisions not those of the game and they can learn and do better. Also of course they associate success and overcoming challenges as something they achieved for themselves and they didn’t just press the “win” button – or “Fire” command as it is known in Wildlands.

We would always set AI Bluefox a special route as he was very fond of seeing the llamas and butterflies on the way to set up his fire arc

Of course, within the current construct of the game there is already the functioning AI control system and there is no suggestion here to replace it. What would be better is to add a layer of control under the existing system that is available to those who wish to use it. The menu system is already there and all the programming needs to do is allow some impulses to be set by the player.

We’re not going to find a convenient WiFi enabled coffee shop to charge up a smart phone so may have to rely on old tech. Besides, I keep most of my valuable possessions safely behind a Zip.

My personal preference is a military style tactical map with contours and features as a control interface for the single player to offer a really in depth tactical overview of each approach. A way that we can share and put notes and graphics on also perhaps?

2. Thou shalt not have an image not graven by me

Probably the most requested feature on the forum and Reddit that I have seen is the request for AI customisation.

Since starting this particular version of yet another Bluefox War and Peace, the announcement that this feature is to happen for Year 2 has come out, so no need to include this section other than perhaps those last features that are often requested for the customisation

  • Working Night Vision Goggles with an animation to flip them down (Damn they put those in too!!!)
  • More tactical gear

BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY

  • A feature in the gameplay that made the clothing choice significant. I understand why it’s important for some fashionistas to prance around the Wildlands looking dope without paying a penalty for it, but I want to pay a penalty for it.

None of my AI customisations should be restricted, but then neither should the consequences for them be either. Nice shoes, there, Holt.

I want to get attacked by Unidad if I’m in combat gear, but have better stealth, and not get attacked if I’m in civilian clothes. But if I’m in a bright red Santa Claus suit (no, that’s not a suggestion), then suffer the consequences.

 

Other things that occurred to me as I was customising was a lack of smaller and more subtle tattoos rather than full on sleeves and I wondered if it would be possible (with appropriate warnings on obscenity) for people to create or upload their own graphics.

Some Customisations should not be available, though. Ever.

3. Thou shalt not take communication in vain

After the backlash against the AI banter, there now seems to be a backlash against the backlash so before there is a backlash against the backlash that is against the backlash, an option to toggle the banter back in may be a good idea. My view is that this could be on a slider to make it more or less likely, but I think the game misses a trick in raising the tension by making some subtle changes to the AI communications. A strong feature in the original was the short, curt and on-point radio messages that give an authentic tone to the dialogue.

Chatter should change when on mission and radio protocol followed. The jokes should go and the voices change to be coming over the headset. This will give the player the sense that something has changed, it’s now tense and the player should feel tense.

4. Remember to Rest

The AI should be subject to stamina and health etc. Perfection would be that this is a function of the load out I give them and also dependent on how hard I work them.

If they are downed they should not revive automatically or teleport around to carry out this function for me. They shouldn’t carry on talking either.

Probably worth mentioning another feature here that could give more depth and that is that the AI team should be able to be killed. Certainly within a mission so that they cannot be revived but also within the overall game. I guess these days and in a game with 100 missions that permadeath will cause too much dissatisfaction in some players, but there could be a less severe system but one which still makes the players feel responsible for and be careful of their AI squad.

As well as having a larger squad to pick from to suit a mission – perhaps picking 4 from 8 as the insertion of a large force into Bolivia is understandably restricted – then wounded members of the team are sent out of Bolivia to recuperate. This could be time based or number of missions based or even depend on how much medical resource is available. Lose a squad member and you need to complete a side mission for med supplies to get them back.

5. Thou shalt honour thy Line of Sight

The AI should only shoot with LoS and request a move command to get it. This is one of those game play cheats programmed in to save the player hassle, and yeah I get it, but it’s still a cheat.

The function is almost there, as the AI will sometimes say they don’t have a shot, but other times they can be clearly seen to ignore a mountain and shoot right through it.

Unless of course you really can see the target

As well as the face palm that this induces in immersion, simply from the reality angle, it also removes some tactical play difficulty and shallows the experience. Some grumpy old men like me are not overly impressed.

6. Thou shalt not kill

Back to the whole “Rules” thing. The game does have the basic Hold or Fire command, but both are pretty much used to either keep the AI out of things altogether or as a last-resort, win button.

Players tend to use the Hold function to either avoid a stealth break or avoid the immersion breaking view of the team staring at an enemy and nothing happening.

They use the fire button to set the AI on a base clearing spree. OK at a certain level of immersion, but this disconnects the single player from that “team feeling” for the players that want to feel like they are leading a team.

I’m not sure we even need any more than the original set of three rules no firing, return fire or fire on sight.

The original had a solid and straightforward RoE system that was adequate in providing a huge amount of tactical variation and depth to the gameplay.

I have never understood why this was taken out of the franchise. RoE is practically synonymous with any game that has “Ghost” and “Recon” in the title; the whole GR concept is around the team being given operational control over their own RoE in the field. It is a feature that doesn’t affect players who don’t want to use it, but is sorely missed by those who do.

7. Thou shalt not commit adultery with thy enemy

Ok, so one of the big elephants in the Wildlands room now …

I get that the AI are very advanced and in my opinion programmed extremely well with the impulse system working as intended, BUT the gameplay choice for the team AI and enemy AI to not see each other is immersion breaking beyond belief. It is like they are having an affair with each other behind my back, and when I see it I feel let down and betrayed. They take no action to protect me as they are still in stealth mode, and they are not detected when they should be. Bastards!

This seems to be a workaround for the autonomy the team AI are given against the limitations to their pathing ability – which I accept will be only as good as the current science allows – but it should be the players control limitation and tactical positioning that is exposed rather than the lack of prescient behaviour in a game AI model.

If I can be seen they should be seen, and be attacked the same way. The gunfights are too Hollywood, by the way, with the AI accuracy being way too low, but that is another part of the inevitable consequence of the “not micro-managing the AI” decision. It is not about micro managing or delegation, in my view, the game abdicates the player from too much accountability and responsibility

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The higher levels of Tier 1 or Extreme difficulty would have been an excellent playground to allow an improved level of tactical freedom and consequence; using a better balance of enemy AI proficiency and player choice.

You can’t see me, the player hasn’t issued a team command yet.

8. Thou shalt not steal

Unless it’s a vehicle …

Perhaps the most obvious difference between the single player and co-op player experience is missing out on operating a gun turret or leaning out of the window and shooting at a convoy truck’s tyres. Just about every other AI character in the game can drive vehicles and fly choppers, but the Ghost team can’t.

The team AI should really be able to control vehicles and route them between checkpoints and follow a target. There are many occasions when I would have liked to have been on the gun or exited the chopper but then have it landed by the AI somewhere without it being destroyed, but this is not achievable.

I don’t know what the limitation was or even if there was one. The closest I can think is that there are some missions where driving is the challenge and setting the AI to drive would have been a win button, but that could have been managed by restricting the driving to the player for that specific instance. I don’t know, but the game will improve with this feature introduced.

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Isn’t it about time that we taught the Ghost AI team to drive

Once this is in the game then the Ghosts can also stop disappearing and then teleporting to me when I drive a solo vehicle. There may be times I don’t want them to follow me into a vehicle, perhaps when I want them to continue a firefight whilst I make good my escape with an HVT

9. Thou shalt not bear false witness

The content of the AI messaging could really do with some improvement.

The positioning intel for enemies that they give you is next to useless and most of the time seems to be there for incidental back ground chatter rather than any kind of useful player info.

The ability to lose the HuD was a welcome improvement to the game before release and maybe there wasn’t time to rethink the team comms, but this could be worked on.

“Over there by the stack of tyres” is of no use to the player at all and becomes annoying over time. “50m to your South 20° West, boss” wouldn’t be too hard to voice in with all the potential distances and compass bearings would it?

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The team AI dialogue could also be used to give even more Intel on Enemy AI behaviour; how good the guards are and whether the day shift is lazy and only runs cursory checks if two vehicles arrive together (giving you that opportunity that you can learn and take forward in the game).

This could also be a source of rebel info, the more rebels you have freed the more intel you get.

10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s weapons

So now that we have the ability to dress our team in the very latest fashions straight out of the military cat walks and seemingly every other Ubisoft game ever released, then why can’t I also programme my team mates to perform some of my favourite routines from Just Dance or play some guitar licks out of Rocksmith?

Oh, yeah, because the primary purpose of Ghost Recon is to shoot stuff, and the primary tool of choice for shooting stuff is a gun.

So why is this vital piece of team AI customisation not in the game?

The massive fan reaction to the AI clothing wasn’t something I was expecting, I wasn’t alone in that, though, but the seeming lack of passion about their weapons is as much of a surprise. Is it only me and a few older or mil-sim fans that would like to alter their team’s load out?

They can wear a T-shirt or a hoodie if the player pleases (with consequence), but surely the most important thing is whether they have an SMG or a sniper rifle, how much ammo they have and what equipment?

You can never have too many Primaries, you know, and I can still run like a rabbit curry.

Apart from a sniper who is armed with a long range weapon the team should not be able to sync shot from any range with deadly accuracy. Of course if I want to run with 3 snipers that is different, but then I shouldn’t expect to get into an LMG firefight should the need arise. How many weapons can the team carry? All of them? …actually, no, don’t answer that, I already know. 

There are some freedoms that restrict other freedoms, and I think this is one of them.

Having control of weapon load out and choice, could be something for the more serious player, opening up a whole other dimension on how the missions can be approached.

Other Possible improvements

There have been some good suggestions on how to simply add some more AI control with extensions to the existing control wheel and Kane_sg put up a great forum post, should the dev team wish to introduce this to the game.

For me it does as usual boil down to options, with the exception, as Kean, Biomag and other have said, that  the Tier 1 mode has missed the sweet spot in terms of how it made the game more challenging.

Instead of requiring more thought and preparation it simply reduced to more hiding and grinding and could have been 11 out of 10 if it had sought to give that classic GR feel by introducing more of the classic GR gameplay.

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Anyway, however the player interface is designed if that were to happen, then the control I would personally like would be to re-introduce the basic team member separation and control in order to flank, with basic RoE, but a newer layer of analogue options set between 0 to 100, that define how the AI approach their tasks

The menu wheel should show the current pre-set and let you choose another and also allow access to the squad control interface

FINALLY

The single player is the team leader in Wildlands, but a common view among the single player fans is that they are not.

The single player cannot enjoy the full potential of the game.

The AI are good, but they expose their own limitations. Let them expose the players’ and the players will blame themselves and not the AI

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

 

Rocky has already posted his opinion on each of this commandments – which do you agree with, what order would you put them in, or has Blue missed any?

DISCUSS HERE! 

AI BLUEFOX, OUT

Author: Rocky

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