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PolyCast Episode 230: "Working As Intended"

Discussion in 'Civ5 - General Discussions' started by DanQ, Jun 20, 2015.

  1. DanQ

    DanQ Chieftain

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    Knowing it to be true. The two-hundred-and-thirtieth episode of PolyCast, "Working As Intended", features regular co-hosts Daniel "DanQ" Quick, "Makahlua", Philip "TheMeInTeam" Bellew and "MadDjinn" with first-time guest co-host Carl "Carl5872" Blankschaen. It carries a runtime of 59m59s.

    The summary of topics is as follows:

    - 01m16s | Forum Talk
    What's with the Artificial Intelligence (AI) settling cities so close to yours in Civilziation V, followed closly by what's with their demand insistence (07m45s); then, answering gameplay religion questions (12m24s), how to tell where a Wonder of the World is built (17m50s) and reviewing some "interesting" statistics about the game's players (20m19s).
    - 28m02s | Miscellaneous
    Springboarding from the last topic in the previous segment, taking to task claims about higher level difficulty play in CivV.
    - 32m57s | Research Lab
    Making the concept of refugees and, more generally, immigration could be less abstractly and more purposefully reflected in in the Civilization series (recorded for Episode 226).
    - 38m51s | Open Mic
    Taking in and responding to feedback for Episode 229.
    - 45m28s | News
    Expressions of hope, reservations and wondering following the announcement of the first expansion pack for Civilization Beyond Earth, Rising Tide (recorded for Episode 229).

    - Intro/Outro | Miscellaneous
    Predictable set up, vegetable smack down and being abrupt.

    Recording live before a listening audience every other Saturday, PolyCast is a bi-weekly audio production in an ongoing effort to give the Civ community an interactive voice on game strategy; listeners are encouraged to follow the show on Twitter, and check out the YouTube channel for caption capability. Sibling show RevCast focuses on Civilization: Revolution, ModCast on Civ modding, SCivCast on Civ social gaming and TurnCast on Civ multiplay.
     
  2. HorseshoeHermit

    HorseshoeHermit 20% accurate as usual, Morty

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    Exploit is not a pejorative term, the PolyCast team don't need to have a kneejerk reaction just to someone using the word. Yes, beating the AI involves exploits. You do smart things and the AI fails to because it can't. That is exactly what Delnar_Ersike said. The casters called the "basis of the post irrational" but attacked a straw man. But it's not their rhetorical error - They single out a guy who plunges into the thick of C++ , comes out, and describes honestly what he sees, and he gets bashed. It's upsetting.

    Polycast wants to be a visiting place for the typical civver... but doesn't try to empathize with one's actual viewpoint. These goals are not mutually satisfying.
     
  3. stormtrooper412

    stormtrooper412 Peacemongering Turtlesaur

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    well the whole point was the definition of the word "exploit", and, well most of *us* in the community consider stuff like worker steal, pillage repair as "exploits", perhaps not in the true sense but that's not important, call it whatever you like, but the point is while a Deity game is all kinds of formulaic and doesn't tolerate mistakes, most of them just push back your finishing time and none of them really deal breaking. You don't *need* to do all that, but you definitely *should*.

    and hey I got quoted again :lol: thanks for clarifying and furthering my point, Mad voiced out pretty much my exact sentiment on the topic
     
  4. Delnar_Ersike

    Delnar_Ersike Chieftain

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    You need not protect me, Horseshoe, I was not offended by their approach to "exploits"... though I do suppose I would have preferred they discuss another post, seeing as there's not much they really added that has not already been said in the thread.

    The truth is that a lot of people who play Deity, even ones who are veterans, often underestimate how much certain AI bonuses and weaknesses define Deity gameplay. For example, the AI not being able to move and shoot at the same time is a huge handicap, and "exploiting" this weakness is almost necessary for winning wars (try winning a war against a runaway Deity opponent without ever firing with ranged units that you just moved). The AI not being able to recognize new units to attack as they are revealed mid-turn is one of the biggest things exploited to win naval wars. We all know how vital it is to bribe AIs to go to war with one another on Deity, and which is basically "exploiting" the poor way AIs handle bribes to declare war. Worker stealing from city-states is sort of OK because you're not ruining another AI player's chances at winning, but worker stealing from other AI players would be "exploiting" the fact that they do not identify other player's units as possible threats for their workers. Not having to beeline Telecommunications is definitely "exploiting" the AI's hesitancy to use nukes (human players are not hesitant, which results in much of the buildup to Info Era revolving around atomic bombs, since you need an Info Era tech to counter an early- to mid-Atomic Era unit).

    There's a reason why people who only play Deity get crushed in their first proper, competitive multiplayer FFA, and why people who mainly play competitive multiplayer FFA's tend to get obliterated in their first few Deity games: Deity relies on knowing and exploiting the way the AI works, something that does not transfer to multiplayer, and multiplayer relies on knowing what to do to remain on equal footing with other players, something that does not transfer to Deity singleplayer (since you will almost never be on equal footing with the AI when it comes to things like raw production).
     
  5. Carl5872

    Carl5872 Prince

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    Great Show!

    Although the guest host sounded like a real tool ;)
     
  6. DanQ

    DanQ Chieftain

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    With respect, I disagree that Delnar_Ersike was "bashed": a position was taken that countered his view, and that counter was articulated. I can understand someone not favoring the pointedness of the articulation at times, though again it was an argument that was being challenged and not the author of the argument themselves. If the degree of that pointedness came across so as to cause offense, know that was not the intention.

    I'm glad that you did not feel offended, Delnar.

    Often, points that are made on the show on topics attached to forum threads are those that have already come up in the thread to minimize if not outright remove assumptions about a listener's familiarity with a topic's source material; in this case, the conversation in question was a response to a post of yours in a thread rather than a seperate thread itself. If the discussion had been more specific and extensive to your post, more would surely have been explored.

    ;)
     
  7. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Exploit is frequently used as pejorative, and as a term in gaming it is worse than useless. It has negative value, because its meaning between people using it is inconsistent and the usage of "exploits" is divisive. There is no objective criteria, and definitions of it I see self-contradict or wind up potentially defining so many aspects of good play as "exploits" that it has no meaning as a term distinguishable from "playing well".

    If someone is willing to play the game of "define exploit in game x", they will have to draw the line somewhere and it will necessarily be arbitrary, to the point where non-elite players can't even do it without defining less useful actions as exploits while accepting actions with greater utility...or blanket defining all actions against the AI as exploitative or not exploitative.

    When discussing "cheap" tactics, "overly strong" tactics, tactics that take advantage of poor AI, tactics that involve lateral thinking to provide an unexpected advantage but are within the rules, and tactics that depend on using bugs, players will call none, some, or all of these "exploits", but they are different things.

    This is a good illustration of my point in practice. In using language like "most" it's notable that players who use these things are occasionally looked down on, that these community norms manifest as expectations (such as pillage/repair being banned in some MP circles, ostensibly for being too strong, when the advantage conferred by civ or start position can trash it in utility). Then you see players attempting to marginalize people who are much better than them by claiming that they win because they do these things :rolleyes:. The whole exercise is silly.

    This isn't really a complaint aimed at Delnar, though, but rather an issue that pervades gaming in general. Using the term "exploit" necessarily distinguishes an in-game action from other arbitrary in-game actions, and often does carry negative connotations. It does this regardless of relative utility (compare worker stealing to stacking late game bulbs and try to tell me the former shaves more turns off a SV, noting that the AI does neither and a player can do both) and depends exclusively on some kind of popularity-decided, wavy line drawn.

    It is of course correct to point out that gaming around the AI's limitations is central to beating it when it's spotted tremendous handicaps, and that players who lack those same limitations will marginalize the advantage conferred by memorizing the AI's limitations. This is the same reality of SP vs MP in any strategy game though, assuming that it has a MP element and that its SP isn't largely ignored or trivial in difficulty.

    However, if the point was that it is required to take advantage of AI shortcomings relative to the player in order to beat the AI on high difficulties, that point is self-defining. You have to outplay/take advantage of limitations in order to win against a handicap...but even within this framework attempting to distinguish some strong actions from others as "exploit" is a non-starter that distracts from the issue.
     
  8. Acken

    Acken Chieftain

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    I felt that there were less restraint when criticizing Beyond Earth in this episode. With fair criticism of how Firaxis handled the project so far.

    Liked that.
     
  9. stormtrooper412

    stormtrooper412 Peacemongering Turtlesaur

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    I already mentioned that. You don't need to, but you should to make things easier, so no it's not required. I feel there still is a need for distinguishing between exploiting bad AI (unit movement, ranged units not being able to move and shoot on the same turn, suicide melee attacks etc) and exploiting programming oversights (selling strats for 2gpt even though their market value is 1.5, selling luxes that got banned, selling useless cities to Huns for MASSIVE gold, who proceed to burn them down, but perhaps that one is working as intended).

    I don't look down on either, but I'm all kinds of disappointed in how they handled it in BE, rather than seeing the big picture, I feel like they half assed most of the fixes
     
  10. Delnar_Ersike

    Delnar_Ersike Chieftain

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    The difference between what you describe as programming oversights and bad AI is superficial, though I do say this as someone who has spent the last 9 months or so working with Civ5's AI code. The only real difference between the two is how avoidable they are. You can choose to not abuse the way AIs value certain trade goods. You can also choose to not DoW an AI just to steal some civilian units, only to peace them later with no repercussions. However, it's impossible to avoid capitalizing on the fact that the AI cannot move and shoot: even if you don't war with any AI player, you can still move and shoot against barbarians, while the AI cannot (plus the barbarians can't move and shoot, either). It's impossible to avoid not unintentionally getting an advantage from the AI's inability to move with Great Engineers and hurry a wonder in the same turn. The only way to not abuse the dumb way AIs handle World Congress votes is to not participate in the World Congress at all.

    I can name about 200 different ways players have a direct advantage over the AI (I've got most of them all nicely tagged in my mod's defines header file), but most of them are very subtle or things people only know of through anecdotes unless they've seen the actual AI code behind it all, like the way the AI responds to a demand or the way it only realizes that it should build scouts by turn 5 at the earliest (so the first thing it builds will almost never be a Scout).
    As a side note, this is always why I dislike it when people say the effectiveness of a strategy should be judged by its singleplayer performance: the AI code is so full of holes that it's often impossible to distinguish whether a strategy works well because it's good and whether it works well because the AI isn't programmed to play well against it, and conversely, it's hard to know whether a poorly performing strategy is bad because the game's systems make it bad or because the bonuses that high difficulty AIs get cause it to work worse than when used against evenly matched opponents.

    Heh, that honestly made me chuckle. I think we're all disappointed in how BE is being handled, but I wouldn't fault the existing developers too much: if you look at BE's credits, the game features less than half the programming manpower as Civ5, and all the designers have to juggle both designer and writer roles. Even if CivBE's designers know what needs fixing, they might not have the programming manpower to implement those fixes, especially when it's stuff that is a problem in Civ5, too (eg. a lot of the AI code).
     
  11. stormtrooper412

    stormtrooper412 Peacemongering Turtlesaur

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    Good point, it is a kind of a thin line because bad AI in fact *is* a programming oversight in itself.

    Thing is though, Civ5 is a bit old now, and the more a game is played, more of its weaknesses and holes will be spotted
     
  12. HorseshoeHermit

    HorseshoeHermit 20% accurate as usual, Morty

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    In truth, it was not done to protect you, Delnar, not at all. In interceding, I am protecting myself.

    The argument did come across as pointed and careless. I'm not saying you should have kept the analysis to yourself or avoided speaking frankly as you know it - that would turn around my very point into hypocrisy. But I'm saying you went too far and am therefore pushing back. We can try to find the resting point from co-operative rivalry.

    And this hinges on the feelings surrounding 'exploit'. It's this word that is a landmine, but let me ask you: Are those uneasy feelings between the warring sides of that conflict going to just go away when we shut down the word? The concept remains. And the conflicts will continue to bubble up from the unarticulated unconscious of everyone. That's what we have speech for, we can look at something strange, unknown, and subtly threatening, and say things about it, articulate it into the world we control and defeat it, maybe make good out of it.
    Your alternative is what - falling back to the word 'tactics' with no differentiation? Can the game be described like that, will one word be enough to talk about the game and what people do in it and explain what we want to explain?

    I'm striving to carve up words so there's enough of them to make the points that need to be made. I already established that pooh-poohing on manipulating the AI's idiocy is not what I support and I will tell anyone that if they do not in the first place recognize that all the AI's behaviour is the same puzzle challenge, they have much too far missed the point to discuss merits of self-depriving handicaps. But in order to make that point I need to call the Human experience of playing the game like it is, and talk of "Uses of peculiarities, at a high-resolution level of detail in a game, which afford a regular, predictable avenue for advantage." Or something to stand in for this concept while company and I work out how to bound it.

    If people get up in arms about using it derisively, then, stop using it derisively, stop people who use it derisively, and figure out how to make the conversation better - which could be by many ways but not by ignoring the sting.
     
  13. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    BE is a completely different can of worms, I was disappointed that it mirrored many of Civ V vanilla's mistakes (though it is, at least, more stable) and improvements in areas like diplomacy and strategic tradeoffs are limited.

    The AI is a predictable opponent, far more so than human players. Judging strategies in the context of a known set of rules, even if they're meta-rules (IE the AI's decision-making process) is valid, though only valid insofar as they're effective strategies under the condition the existence of said meta-rules.

    There is no "one tactic" for different situations. It is more rational to view some things as more (or less) effective in the context of a predictable opponent with large bonuses, and others more (or less) effective in the context of less predictable opponents with no bonuses relative to your own.

    The existence of bonuses is a game state unto itself. It can and should alter one's model to predict which strategies will be more effective. The existence of predictable opponent shortcomings are also a known game state, and similarly tactics that utilize them are valid under conditions those shortcomings are known to exist.

    The best way to look at this (that I am aware of) is to predict the strength of the strategy you use based on the information you know about your situation. It doesn't matter if "it works because of bad AI" or "doesn't work because bonuses", or if it "doesn't work because two other human players will likely get it first". If you can get a strong predictive model in your mind that shows your choices perform better than other choices, and your goal is to do well, it makes sense to evaluate that strategy as "good".

    If you want to fault the project management rather than the developers and have insider reasoning, I won't disagree (I've seen a lot of games burn on their project management). I don't have enough evidence to point to what caused BE's underperformance with confidence, and my inability to do anything even should I have that knowledge sours my desire to put effort into knowing it :p.

    I haven't seen evidence in this case to say I know with high confidence, but my suspicion is that the discussion would be much less hostile and more fruitful if the term carried an agreed-upon definition. If you have an agreed-upon definition with objective criteria, any arbitrary number of rational observers can look at an action and say "yes, this meets the criteria" or "no, it does not". Whether the action meets that criteria wouldn't be in dispute. A large amount of heated debate on this topic has centered around whether something even constitutes an exploit, and it's difficult to envision at least that part continuing if participants go in with the same definition.

    The answer to your question is "no" :p. Right now, the utility of the word "exploit" in gaming is virtually identical to falling back to the word "tactics" with no differentiation, and yet carries an (inconsistent!) negative connotation. That's a serious issue with its usage. Attempts to define the word showcase that limitation clearly. We do need some kind of differentiation, but what kind?

    What is the goal of defining something as "exploit". Is it to identify actions which should be removed from the game? Is it to identify actions that utilize bugs? Is it to identify actions which a person or community doesn't like, regardless of any other consideration? Indeed, what are we trying to accomplish in distinguishing them from an arbitrarily selected in-game choice? If there is literally no purpose to distinguishing them from other tactics, then there is no functional difference and no real incentive to use it. So why do we use it?

    This is why I don't use it (at least not in a serious manner), and reject its usage unless the person using it has an actionable purpose for using it. If something should be removed because it provides too large an advantage relative to other choices and constrains strategy, then remove it on those grounds (hopefully with the ability to demonstrate that it is, in fact, that strong). If something creates mundane micromanagement via bug usage that everyone needs to do to be competitive, that's also grounds for removal/alteration. But in each case here, we're shifting to the reasons to change something because of its impact on gameplay, and whether that impact is due to an AI limitation or "just" a design flaw is trivial.

    I reject the notion that an interpretation of "peculiarity" is a particularly useful or unbiased way of evaluating the value of an in-game choice, while choices which afford a regular, predictable avenue for advantage...particularly when they are consistently available and greatly outstrip opportunity cost...are damaging to the game's strategy. Again, however, I emphasize that whether this seems "peculiar" is not a useful distinction. If you made a granary produce 20 food/turn, then an overwhelming majority of players would emphasize building it as soon as possible. It would be a false choice to delay it much, if at all. However, it wouldn't be particularly peculiar, rather just something "everyone does because it's always useful".
     
  14. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    I am guilty of this myself. The word in the context of civ has a noble history, being one of the 4Xs:
    The word does not have to mean taking advantage of, or abusing, game mechanics.
     
  15. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    It also does not serve as a meaningful differentiator. In that context, it's instead representing an over-arching aspect of a game genre, rather than any one tactic.

    Which only adds confusion if one then tries to turn around and use it on an arbitrary in-game choice they happen not to like.
     
  16. Aristos

    Aristos Lightseeker

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    Tactics is a good word. For connotations, use an adjective in front, so everyone knows clearly what the user is trying to convey as a message.

    In example, when Delnar used exploit to refer to tactics that abuse weaknesses in the system, or plain bad coding of which there is plenty in Shafer's civ, he was clearly referring to CHEESY tactics.

    There you go.
     
  17. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    ^ The definition of "cheesy" is less ambiguous than "exploit" in context, but still ambiguous. Most players seem to consider pillage repair cheesy, fewer consider worker steals cheesy, fewer still waiting just outside AI view to take advantage of move/shoot, and even fewer a dedicated late-game planning to faith buy scientists.

    But a person could consider any or none of those cheesy in theory.
     
  18. beetle

    beetle Chieftain

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    Maybe they were trolling me, but not too long ago on this board someone argued that, since ‘exploit’ was one of the 4Xs, that maximal abuse of the game mechanics was how the game was supposed to be played!
     
  19. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Trolling?! Surely none of that ever goes on in these parts!

    On a more serious note, I don't see how that statement conflicts with the arguments I've presented in this thread against the (ambiguous) usage of the world exploit to describe an arbitrary in-game tactic. Put in simpler terms, if there was something on the order of an option in the build-queue that, by itself, nearly guaranteed victory, it would make sense to choose it every time. However, implementing such an option would be awful for the game, because it would trivialize all other options. This holds regardless of whether the option violates a player's expected bounds of "peculiar", and thus I assert the peculiarity criteria to not be a particularly useful indicator (you get nonsense returns like "picking rationalism = exploit" or "playing Polynesia without water = exploit" at the bounds of using utility or peculiarity as defining criteria).

    The presumption of a game with rules and a victory condition is that you optimize your strategy to reach the victory condition, with the rules as the constraint. In order to change the nature of the challenge or offer variety, people do add or remove rules on occasion though. Even within the framework of "role play", however, you're still shifting your rules for the game and then attempting to optimize with that (possibly vague) goal in mind.

    If anything, the usage of the word "exploit" is at its very best as one of the 4x categories, precisely because it's not so uselessly non-descriptive when used in that capacity.
     
  20. MadDjinn

    MadDjinn Chieftain

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    So... If I touch the keyboard and mouse at the same time, that's an exploit? I mean, I already know that the ai is going to lose. We could program that into the AI's code so that it knows that as well, but then it may get a bit too depressed.

    ;)
     

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