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Published on September 20, 2003 By Ray the Wanderer In PC Gaming
Next to starbases, Diplomacy is an area where humans could derive tremendous leverage over the AI.

It is mentioned that the Galciv Diplomacy model is value-based. I presume it means that AIs looks at a trade and compares the value that it is receiving versus the value that it is giving. If the net value received is higher, they would accept the trade (this holds true on all difficulty levels except Maso, where specific trades are restricted). The implication to this is that the AI doesn’t look at the game state to determine if such a trade has other implications on its empire. Such a model opens the AIs up to exploitation by humans. Most, if not all, of the players who win at Maso (or even all other levels) would tell you that Diplomacy is the key factor that determines the outcome of their games.

What follows in this article is a commentary of some of the diplomatic moves favored by Galcivers.

1. The Puppet Master

This diplomatic move plays upon one of the key weaknesses of the AI – tactical combat. I would discuss this topic further in a subsequent article but it is suffice to say at this moment that war by an AI against anyone other than a highly inferior military power spells trouble for it. AIs consume a lot of their resources building military ships and could subsequently lose many of these valuable ships in combat without much clear gain. Resources poured into military ships means less for social and research both in terms of money spent and maintenance.

The Puppet Master exploits this weakness by bribing AIs to war. For a couple of thousand bcs (which could be paid over 100 turns) or its equivalent in kind (techs are favored), a Puppet Master can bribe an AI to attack another. This diplomatic move is often performed early or mid-game before the AIs’ relations with each other improve through trade.

The advantage to the Puppet Master is multi-fold. Firstly, the AI consumes its military, and the military of the opponent. The military ratings of these warring empires drop and they consequently would be less likely to pick on the Puppet Master. Secondly, trade between the two warring empires are lost and new trade routes could be formed with the Puppet Master as the beneficiary. If all the AIs are at war with each other, the Puppet Master would be the only possible trade partner (other than minors). Thirdly, the AIs’ ships are drawn out of orbit and out of position, leaving them vulnerable to an attack by the Puppet Master.

As an example of the third advantage, the AI does not realise that the Puppet Master is in fact massing his forces for an attack on it and accepts the bribe, sending all if not most of its forces into deep space, losing all its planets to the subsequent assault.

My suggestion would be for the cost of bribes to increase significantly. Bribing should still be possible but much more costly to the Puppet Master.

2. The Tech Dealer

The Tech Dealer has two variants – the Tech Seller and the Tech Trader.

The Tech Seller employs the power of a high diplomatic ability to make a ton of money from tech sales. Unlike Civ 3 where AIs get to trade with each other during the player’s turn, it is possible to sell one tech to 5 majors and multiple minors in a single turn, earning full value on the tech with each trade. Besides making a pile from the sale, the Tech Seller frequently structures his sale over a period of time, thus enticing the AI to purchase tech with its future income. The advantage of doing so is that AIs are usually not too good at balancing their books (esp at the lower levels), and this causes them to go into debt, incurring the accompanying penalties.

The Tech Trader trades for tech instead of cash. This is the only option at Maso level where tech for cash sales are nerfed. What the Tech Trader does is to trade for techs that are rare and not in the possession of potential trading partners. Once the tech is obtained, this tech is then used to trade for other techs, again with a preference for rarer techs. In this manner, the Tech Trader could often end up with most of the techs from the AIs just by acting as a go-between. This works especially well with a high diplomatic ability as the Tech Trader gets better trade deals from the AI.

I personally feel that the Tech Trader move is not overpowered as the AIs are not disadvantaged. What this move does is to bring the Tech Trader to tech parity with the AI. The AIs also benefit from having more tech. However, if possible, I would like to see a correlation between the value of the tech and its rarity, ie a rare tech is worth more and a common tech is worth less.

I would also suggest that the AIs be more prudent with its purchases of tech. The simplest implementation IMO is for the AI to purchase only with money in the bank rather than money that it will earn. So a 10 bcs over 10 turns deal would still be possible, but AIs would accept only if it has 100 bcs in the bank now.

This would also negate the exploit where the Tech Seller throws 1000 bcs at the AI with a –500 bcs treasury and then proceeds to sell it tech at 500bcs for 50 turns.

To be continued.

on Sep 20, 2003
Great reading and a well thought out analysis Ray.

Some techs are so very over rated (Corvets, DIsruptors are good examples) . . . I wonder why the AI was programed to have such a fierce aversion to trading them? I so wanted to see race specific techs in the expansion . . . mmm mabye next time.
on Sep 21, 2003
Another easy to apply method for reducing the tech trading / selling exploitation would be to reduce the value of the tech depending on how many other races already have the tech.

This would still allow a player to trade a single tech to all AI's but each subsequent AI after the first would pay a smaller amount.

A seconds idea is for techs which are widely known by many empires to have a chance of being passed on to the remaining empires. This could be checked for after every trade. Maybe something like a 10% chance of a tech becoming universally known for each race after the 1st that knows this tech. This would be checked for whenever a new race learnt this tech.

on Sep 26, 2003
There is an easier solution to the tech seller kind of exploit. AI's declare bankruptcy when they hit negative 500bc. All debts are erased. Bankruptcy lasts for 5 turns minimum and could be more depending on income, but typically 5 turns or less of no production will see you out of debt. Effectively, this would mean that a human player could only manage to exploit the AI for real credits generated over the period agreed on.

Note this also introduces a penalty for humans buying wonders/trade goods. A minimum of 5 months of no production if you go over 500bc in debt doing it.