The only thing possibly more genius than the developers who created the Heart of the Swarm (HotS) AI is the HotS AI itself.
With the impending release of the Starcraft II expansion, those with beta keys have taken to the forums to discuss the new facets of the game. Yesterday, a discussion in the Starcraft sub-Reddit started about the possible uses of the expansion’s AI. In Wings of Liberty (the current game version), players can only choose the difficulty of the computer ally or enemy. However, players in HotS can customize the difficulty as well as choose a build for the AI.
There are difficulty settings ranging from very easy to elite and also feature “cheater” AIs – like those with unlimited map vision. Additionally, each race features a multitude of economic, aggressive or timing builds from which players can choose. Examples of these builds include “Blink Stalker (Timing)” for Protoss, “MMM (Aggressive)” for Terran and “Brood Lord (Economic)” for Zerg.
The initial applicability of this advanced AI is clear. Every player has an Achilles’ heel and could use more practice against it. If players can choose their opponent’s build, they can practice what is tricky to them over and over against the computer; this AI opponent never gets tired, hungry or bored with playing the same build over and over again.
A second and even more intellectual aspect of the AI is the opportunity to play with computer players as allies. According to a Blizzard post about this upgrade, AI allies in Wings of Liberty tend to play without “thought” for their human teammates. However, in HotS, “AI Communication addresses this by making AI allies not only more communicative about what they’re up to, but also open to receiving orders and build requests directly from you.”
In default mode, AI allies will be autonomous. However, according to Blizzard, these allies will “report their statuses and call out specific races or unit types they’ve encountered on the map using both minimap pings and audio cues.” Players can also issue orders to have their AI allies attack, defend, scout, detect or expand.
Fans even suggest a new type of game based on these developments. In this custom game, two (human) players, backed by up to three AI-controlled armies each, would oppose each other. These players would command their own armies as well as issue orders to their computer allies. This new game – suggestively named “1v1 Generals” by Reddit user Aikarus – would test players’ abilities to play the game as well as issue effective commands to their subordinates.
Regardless of its many uses, Blizzard will need to continually update the super-smart AI to ensure it remains a valid tool. While many have praised its use for training, others say that the AI’s timings are not up to par with the ladder, making it less effective for higher-level players. Additionally, Blizzard will need to add new builds to those available as trends change. By focusing on such upgrades, Blizzard will provide a practical AI to HotS players at all levels.