How does the computer control wingmen?

wiese.hano

Petty Officer
I would like to know how the computer controls the wingmen, in all the Wing Commander games. Do they act the way a human pilot would? Are their actions and flight maneuvers scripted? Or did Origin take a completely different path to it? When you fly yourself, it is not easy to evaluate your comrades' behavior. Therefore my question: Is there any information about this in the source code?
 

JasonRocZ

Vice Admiral
If this then that, equal to this then that, less than this, then that. Meaning if you say "Break and Attack" Your wingmen I think targets the nearest enemy target within it's vicinity. Also I think is percentage based, like if you say "Attack my Target" and your wingmen is pretty damaged (Depending on which wingmen they are given values of severity.) They may say "No can do....." Also certain wingmen are better then others so lets say Maniac would attack at the same damage percentage but maybe Flint wouldn't. I'm sure there are values, some of the admins may be able to fill in here.
 

wiese.hano

Petty Officer
Ah, you are talking about the different commands that can be given by the radio comm and about how you can change the general behavior. That's very interesting too. But my thinking is going more into the algorithm question. I'm very interested in these.
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
There's some material on the AI in the book Wing Commander I and II: The Ultimate Strategy Guide. Pix, of Pix's Origin Adventures, put a scan of it on his Downloads page, although you'll have to hunt around a bit to find it.

It doesn't discuss the wingman AI, although they would use the same system as the Kilrathi. The first part of AI description is written as in-universe lore, on print pages 32-42 (PDF pages 50-60).

The back of the book has a section on making the games. Siobhan Beeman and Ken Demarest talk about the WC1 AI on print pages 248-249 (PDF pages 272-273) and the WC2 changes on 263-264 (PDF pages 287-288).

It remains pretty basic, especially in WC1. Ships have a designated enemy they pay attention to, and either try to shoot or evade that one enemy. They'll ignore everything else, unless events (like insults) make them change target. This is why it's easy for your wingman and a Kilrathi to get into a head-on jousting match with each other - yet it's also about the only time your wingman will manage to hit anything. (One of the big changes from WC1 to WC2 is that the WC1 ships just aim where the enemy currently is, while in WC2 they lead their targets. But you also get the ability to do this, with the Improved Target Tracking System.)

One feature I haven't seen documented anywhere, but I'm sure exists: your named wingmen will notice if you are in their cone of fire, and will usually not shoot through you to attack the enemy. This does not apply to any other allied ships... and to the Maniac.
 

wiese.hano

Petty Officer
What do you mean with "named wingmen"? You mean that everyone but Maniac avoids hitting me while attacking the enemy?
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
What do you mean with "named wingmen"?
I'm talking about the wingmen who show up on your targeting interface with their callsign, that you can issue orders to, and that you talk to between missions. Here's Angel in Gimle 1.

WC1AllyNamed.png


So what are the other sort? Other allied fighters just have their type, like this Raptor in Gimle 1.

WC1AllyGeneric.png


You mean that everyone but Maniac avoids hitting me while attacking the enemy?
Yes. Normally those generic allies just fly in loops around the Tiger's Claw, but I chose Gimle 1 because the mission starts with some Salthi attacking the Claw. Here there's one Salthi left, and it's flying away from me. So why am I taking damage?

WC1Gimle1FriendlyFire.png


Turns out one of those generic Raptors was firing through me to get at the Salthi. At least they can tell my next of kin they got the Salthi too, I guess?

WC1Gimle1FriendlyFire.gif


In WC2 these generic ships get callsigns, but they still cause friendly fire. This is especially common in Special Operations 1, where you fly some missions with a large wing.
 

Mekt-Hakkikt

Mpanty's bane
Hmm, interesting. But I'm rather sure that I got killed very often in WC2 by my wingmen shooting through me, especially Hobbes. Maybe his true personality shown through...
 

wiese.hano

Petty Officer
Yes. Normally those generic allies just fly in loops around the Tiger's Claw, but I chose Gimle 1 because the mission starts with some Salthi attacking the Claw. Here there's one Salthi left, and it's flying away from me. So why am I taking damage?
Sounds like you are strongly criticizing this aspect of the game. My experience with Wing Commander 4 and Prophecy (and WC1, as far as I've progressed) tells me that this happens very seldom.
 

Dondragmer

Rear Admiral
Sounds like you are strongly criticizing this aspect of the game. My experience with Wing Commander 4 and Prophecy (and WC1, as far as I've progressed) tells me that this happens very seldom.
I didn't intend to be critical... mostly. The WC1 AI is far more sophisticated than most games of the early 1990s.

WC3, WC4 and Prophecy have radically different (and better) AI, and they should, given improvements in processing power. They're not comparable to WC1 and WC2.

In WC1, I consider Maniac's tendency to cause friendly fire to be a clever act of game design - he's the only wingman where it really feels that his behavior in flight matches his personality in conversations.

The place I get frustrated when a mission includes a generic allies and they cause more damage to me than to the Kilrathi. However, the mission design in WC1 makes this a rare event. In one of those few missions, Venice 2, you even have the option of bypassing the Rapier waypoint if you don't want to collect them.

My biggest objection is to Wing Commander 2 Special Operations 1, where mission designs containing generic wingmen don't seem to take the AI shortcomings into account. The one I despise most is Rigel A where you are given two wingmen, but neither can be given orders. This means you can't even order them home if you're tired of taking particle cannon damage. Ghorah Khar 1-C at least makes thematic sense - the wingmen other than Hobbes are supposed to be rookies under instruction. But the ones in Ghorah Khar 2-D should be competent, but they just fly straight at the two Fralthra and get shot down by anti-matter guns.
 

bsmith1702

Rear Admiral
My biggest objection is to Wing Commander 2 Special Operations 1, where mission designs containing generic wingmen don't seem to take the AI shortcomings into account. The one I despise most is Rigel A where you are given two wingmen, but neither can be given orders. This means you can't even order them home if you're tired of taking particle cannon damage. Ghorah Khar 1-C at least makes thematic sense - the wingmen other than Hobbes are supposed to be rookies under instruction. But the ones in Ghorah Khar 2-D should be competent, but they just fly straight at the two Fralthra and get shot down by anti-matter guns.
It's been a while, but I think there is a way to give orders to the "extra" wingmen. You have to target them first and then you can order them home. In some ways it works like taunting an enemy. The option to communicate only shows up on a target.
 
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