AI War:Preferred Targets

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How To Use Preferred Targets To Make Up For Deficiencies In Your Ship Mix

Q: Do ships use the strong/weak data when trying to decide which targets to attack? Often my ships will get killed by electric shuttles because the ships that are best equipped to attack the shuttles won't do so until late in the battle. Are they choosing targets at random, or what? Ships also don't seem to focus fire unless I tell them to.

A: The ships use an extremely sophisticated method for targeting enemy ships, although they do not use the strong/weak data. Each ship tries to attack ships that it has the best chance of hitting at the present time, as well as that they can do the most damage to. They also intentionally try to spread their attacks out more, as this tends to result in much better results than focus firing, which is wasteful of ammo, time spent switching targets, and so on. Generally there are at max around 5 ships per target unless there is literally nothing better to attack.

Ships also do prioritization based on what is/isn't under force fields, and dozens of other factors. You can override this by setting preferred target types for groups of ships if (for instance) you want to prioritize killing electric shuttles faster, but otherwise ships will act accordingly to what they can deal the most damage to the fastest, in their current ranges.

To your example, a ship that has the highest strong/weak numbers for shuttles doesn't necessarily do the most damage to shuttles, and isn't necessarily faster at killing shuttles than anything else. If you make sure that you understand what the Strong/Weak data represents, you'll notice that those are all monoculture battles. Real battles tend to have more than just two opposing ship types, so the algorithm used there is different. Ships don't worry about how fast enemy ships can kill them (which is accounted for in the strong/weak), but instead prioritize what they can kill fastest. This actually makes far more sense when considering combined arms battles, because that way everyone does their part and as a group kills the enemy as fast as possible.

Now, that can lead to some situations where either one of the following is true:

  • 1. None of your ships are particularly good at killing a dangerous kind of enemy ship, so it gets left to the last, inflicting more damage than you want.
  • 2. Your ship mix is inappropriately matched to the enemy forces, and thus you take more damage than you should based on a lot of those sorts of inefficiencies.

In those cases, you may wish to fine-tune the way that groups of your ships target the enemies; the ships otherwise assume that you've done an effective job of managing your ship mix, but sometimes that isn't possible for whatever reason and you'll want to thus override their default choices of targets. Simply by selecting your ships and then setting a specific attack target, the selected ships will then prefer to target that type of ship from then on (you'll see that when hovering over them).

Specifically, if you select an electric shuttle mark IV, they will prefer to shoot electric shuttle mark IVs, and then electric shuttles in general if there are no mark IVs around, and then whatever they would otherwise want to shoot at if there are no electric shuttles at all. You can clear target preferences by using the Stop command (End), but otherwise specific ships will remember their target preferences until they die. There isn't a way to make all ships that are built have a specific target preference; if your need to kill off a specific enemy type is that great, generally you're going to want to look carefully at your ship mix in the first place.

AI ships use a different algorithm for their primary attacks that simulates player choices but which is vastly more intensive, but for their autoattacking they use the exact same logic as the human ships. The AI logic is the higher-function logic that basically is what replaces the human (you) that would be making choices on when to focus fire on something particularly large (like a command station or force field), when to retreat, and all of those sorts of strategic decisions that make up for them not being able to choose their ship mix (unlike human players).

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