One of the unique features of the game is the AI framework.
During the game the player can design ships in his fleet, the ships can be controlled by the player or by the computer. Since the design of the ships is not known in advance it is impossible to write a hard coded AI for each ship design. To solve this problem we developed a system that can automatically find the “brain” for each specific ship design.
To do so we take inspiration from biological evolution. To find the right brain for the ship we create a large population of “random” brains, we grade the brains by running the ship with the brain against a set of known ships. The grade is how well the ship has performed in this set of battles. After we grade the brains in the population we crate the next generation by taking the best brains in the initial population and creating new brains that are slight variations (mutations) and combinations (cross) of brains of the best brains. This way the brains slowly converge to a brain that can control the new design in a good (efficient, deadly…) way. In case you are wondering what those brains are (and also if you’re not) we are going to tell you: They are an artificial neural network, a flexible way to encode many behaviors using a set of numbers.
We plan to use this same method in order to automatically create ship designs, it’s likely that the computer will come up with some wacky ideas that we didn’t think about.
See the following movie for a visual example of the process: