HoI4 Dev Diary - Officer Corps Recap & AI Improvements

Hi all, and welcome back to today’s developer diary!

It can be very easy to get super-focused on details when looking at individual systems or parts of features - something we often tend to do when writing developer diaries. Each week, we’re going to give you an overview of a core system that we’ve so far introduced in parts, and will include all of the changes we’ve made to that system over the course of development, since we first looked at it.

In addition to this, we’ll also take a look at some changes coming to the AI in No Step Back, so if that’s more your jam, feel free to skip to the end ;D

We’ll begin with an overview of the Officer Corps:

0.png

This image represents a near-final take on what the office corps screen will look like.

As you can see, the branch chiefs, theorist, and military high command have found their way to the officer corps screen, though for ease of access you may still view and appoint them in the country overview screen like before. This kind of change is the sort of thing that comes up during playtesting - while it made sense to collect similar things together, there was no good reason to change the player’s flow expectations.

The manner in which you’ll appoint advisors has changed a bit. We decided during the officer corps development process, to make a bigger deal out of the advisor ‘level’ (specialist, expert, genius) that all non-theorist advisors possess. In addition to adding a flat command power allocation (reduction of max command power) which is reduced by high advisor ranks, political power costs are raised by having a higher rank advisor.

Branch advisors now grant daily experience gain, meaning stacking your command cadre well is vitally important to the pre-war development of your military. To add to the choices, doctrines now cost experience rather than being something you spend a research line on:

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For owners of No Step Back, military branches also possess several specialization options in the form of Military Spirits, which are also unlocked with experience:

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We found during development that less was more when it came to creating a tightly balanced set of choices, and we’ve limited the number of options in each category to around six, with each category being strongly themed around Academy, Military Service, and Command.

To add slightly more nuance to choices here, we ensured that several options in each category would be made available based on situational factors - ideology, doctrine branch, and in rare cases, country choice, can all make new choices available.

The most important part of cultivating a strong officer corps, is the ability to give your trusted commanders advisory roles. Commander traits earned in active combat can make your characters eligible for specific advisory roles:

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Characters promoted to advisory duties this way will continue to advance their advisory rank as their commander level increases - a highly experienced field commander will grow from specialist to genius over the course of their career.

Lastly, we are introducing the preferred tactics weighting system. This allows you to set a national, field marshal, and commander-level preferred tactic, which will weight the chances of picking said tactic in a combat situation. While the national preferred tactic can be switched out for a cost, selecting a preferred tactic for your commanders and field marshals is something that remains a permanent choice, representing their adherence to a particular doctrinal theory.

Of course, a host of minor changes accompany the officer corps, including new alerts, better resource tooltips, and adding some of this information into intel ledgers for opponent countries.

The AI

And now, on to a topic that is sure not to evoke strong opinions from anybody here: the AI.

During the development of La Resistance, work was begun on adding additional tools through an imgui that allow modders and users to see various internal data. In NSB, a significant amount of time was spent adding to this tooling and providing support for future AI development, as well as laying the groundwork for easier iteration on AI behaviour and more.

4.png

One of our new in-game tools for assessing AI font priorities. These tools will be available for modders, who can continue to fine-tune AI for their own needs through the use of strategies and defines. Here, you can see that the AI has evaluated the topmost defense order as desiring a minimum of 7 divisions, an 'ideal' count of 8, and a maximum count of 50. Defense orders tend to fluctuate quite heavily in 'ideal' unit counts: they tend to be quite elastic to make up for units not needed elsewhere.

While much of the work done here was investment for the future, we’ve also made some pretty big changes to the way the AI evaluates where it commits its troops and more.

While it can be hard to indicate objective improvements in terms of AI, there are several key areas we aimed to improve for this release:

Use of specialized divisions - the AI for assigning armor and special forces to appropriate fronts has received some improvement. The practical upshot of this means you ought to see fewer armor divisions assigned to inappropriate orders (garrisons, pure defensive lines etc), and mountaineers used in frontlines that have the right terrain types.

5.png

Did I mention the AI likes tanks?

Unit weight distribution - combined with the new supply system, the AI evaluation of where to put units has been totally overhauled. In practical terms, this is likely to manifest as seeing the AI commit more troops to defend key areas (ports & coasts), care more about the active supply situation on frontlines, and provide something slightly resembling a defense in depth for their own core territory, even during active frontline pushes elsewhere.


6.png


You can see that the AI considers supply carefully when assessing front unit distribution. There are certain circumstances in which the logical supply capacity of a front can be exceeded by the AI - notably when a defensive frontline is facing a numerically superior foe, or when the AI determines that it needs to win a war fast.

7.png

Once Moscow has fallen, the supply situation can get pretty dire as you push east.

Naval Invasions - logic for AI naval invasions has seen significant improvement. You should be encountering larger, less frequent naval invasions overall. The Ai will try to take advantage of weak points in coastal defences, and generally be more keen to invade to support theaters. This got so scary we had to turn the new capabilities down several times (of course, these can be tuned back up).

Counters - while it can be difficult to determine a ‘right’ time to switch templates or create a specialized template, we’ve improved logic for majors utilizing specialized divisions such as Tank Destroyers in relevant circumstances. You should see the AI care a little more about what you throw at it.

Buffer Fronts - Several AI strategies now involve the use of buffer fronts. These are specially defined area defense orders which will request a proportion of national divisions to man them. Where these differ from regular garrison orders, is that these fronts will ‘loan’ their unit distribution counts to nearby fronts or invasion orders.

For example, the heatmap below show the distribution of US troops several months prior to Overlord. The troops stationed in Alexandria and the UK are using buffer fronts, which will supply frontlines in europe, in order to avoid having to relocate troops from much further away. Here you can see the (somewhat anachronistic) defense of Greek territory being supplied by the buffer front in Alexandria, which is in turn supplied with divisions from the US mainland (arriving through the Mediterranean).


8.png

The locations and weightings of these are instructional only.
 
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Aren't pilots already drawn from the overall Manpower pool?
Yes and that's part of the problem there is no unique specialization to them thus allowing ridiculous numbers of planes to be fielded with minimal or no detractors.
 
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Aren't pilots already drawn from the overall Manpower pool?
Yes, and I'm fairly sure that's what @dcalpanda would like to have changed.

It's also not a thing I believe PDX will ever do in HoI4, since doing so goes away from the simplified design philosophy they've followed for most of HoI4's systems.
 
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Yes, and I'm fairly sure that's what @dcalpanda would like to have changed.

It's also not a thing I believe PDX will ever do in HoI4, since doing so goes away from the simplified design philosophy they've followed for most of HoI4's systems.
I do feel this is likely what the response will be, but even some sort of ATC/CNC sort of abstraction would be quite welcome.
 
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Yes and that's part of the problem there is no unique specialization to them thus allowing ridiculous numbers of planes to be fielded with minimal or no detractors.
I understand your point, but I think that having separate manpower pools for each service branch will ultimately just make things over-complicated. I would suggest other possible remedies for this problem, like making planes more expensive, increasing fuel cost, harsher penalties for inexperienced wings, etc.
 
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And how many of them were actively in use at any one time around the globe?
How many were in need of repair, how many were flying over the wide open spaces of the pacific? How many were being used for training? How many were on the books simply to be used for cannibalizations?
 
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How many were in need of repair, how many were flying over the wide open spaces of the pacific? How many were being used for training? How many were on the books simply to be used for cannibalizations?
Look at the history of 1940, Germany could barely manage 700 serviceable fighters for the Invasion of France. But in game you can see the allies with 1200 fighters over France despite the fact that Britain was hesitant to send excessive numbers to support operations and the French industry was not all that capable.
 
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Look at the history of 1940, Germany could barely manage 700 serviceable fighters for the Invasion of France. But in game you can see the allies with 1200 fighters over France despite the fact that Britain was hesitant to send excessive numbers to support operations and the French industry was not all that capable.
The Luftwaffe had 5600 or so aircraft dedicated to the invasion of France, of all types. Combat, transport, glider, now tell me how believable it is that the nominally prepared allies can toss up 1200 fighters at all times during the invasion of France in game and how it's not ridiculous?
 
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Thing is the game makes it really difficult for a smaller more experienced airforce to beat a larger greener airforce. Bit of a meat grinder. Perhaps agitators like Germany should start with more aicraft to allow them a chance to get air superiority to invade France etc? Otherwise the AI will throw everything it has at you, even CAS which can be a pain as they stop you getting air superiority, like when I invade Russia.
 
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Thing is the game makes it really difficult for a smaller more experienced airforce to beat a larger greener airforce. Bit of a meat grinder. Perhaps agitators like Germany should start with more aicraft to allow them a chance to get air superiority to invade France etc? Otherwise the AI will throw everything it has at you, even CAS which can be a pain as they stop you getting air superiority, like when I invade Russia.
1936 Germany starts the game with over 900 planes including 480 TAC plus 80 CAS. UK has nearly 1400 planes, about half of which are FTR. Meanwhile, France starts with 450 FTR and ~200 TAC. Those numbers seem both balanced and historically accurate to me.
 

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Thing is the game makes it really difficult for a smaller more experienced airforce to beat a larger greener airforce.
Yep. That is why one adjustment needed is to the combat/experience values. The other is an increase in the pilot training time.

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Those numbers seem both balanced and historically accurate to me.
They are close enough. The problem is the relative production costs. They are logical, not historical. And the AI logic for production, isn't historical. Though that is a tough one to make happen.
 
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AI improvements look very promising. I'm sure it is frustrating to work with, so my thanks go out to whomever is training it!

Will research time be slowed down, now that doctrines are acquired via XP instead of research?
 

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@Arheo
Please consider adding a pilot pool to prevent the fielding of thousands of planes flying at any one time. With a pool in place it will make committing your planes more tactical instead of a mass of fighters and CAS blanketing the skies at all times.

And how many of them were actively in use at any one time around the globe?

Pilots are definitely an issue, but a bigger one, as awmobile well points out, is that they're always active all the time (fuel permitting) (this is also an issue for ships, although ship availability was far higher than aircraft). I think the only issue not mentioned here is that my impression is that non-combat losses historically were far, far higher than they are in HoI4, which also contributes to excessive numbers of operational aircraft.

I like to think of the aircraft set in an air zone as "total aircraft in the zone" - thus the total actually flying would be a lot less. Although I appreciate that's not how it's managed in the UI, or in the combat calculations, so it's totally fair (and something I'd support) to work towards a better representation of aircraft. It's quite a big UI challenge at the very least, though, and risks introducing busywork and fiddliness, as well as inconsistency (if it's introduced for aircraft, why not tanks and ships?), and it's something that's never been in HoI before, so I can see why the devs might not want to go there.
 
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@Arheo
Please consider adding a pilot pool to prevent the fielding of thousands of planes flying at any one time. With a pool in place it will make committing your planes more tactical instead of a mass of fighters and CAS blanketing the skies at all times.
Definitely. Just like EU4 has a pool of sailors, HoI4 needs pilots. Pilot shortages were a real issue to several countries during WWII.
 
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Trained pilots, not pilots.
This is also my take on the idea of a pilot pool. Instead of pilot pools, air wings with no training should receive huge penalties until they are properly trained. This way, training costs expensive fuel, players will need an airport large enough to train in and far enough away to avoid taking up the capacity of front-line airfields, the number of trained pilots are constrained by the number of planes a nation has built (making old planes useful for training), and you can't just dump 2000 planes into an air zone on short notice without repercussion.
 
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