This thread is intended for the same purpose as my previous one, basically what needs to be done to improve Vermintide 1 so that players can enjoy it as a “legacy” product where you play solo because that’s your only viable option. This is primarily meant for the developers but could also be useful for modders as mods could fix almost all of the issues I’m going to bring up.
It’s been quite a while since I posted my first thread, in that time I managed to grind my way out of the initial New Player Experience (which is dreadful for several reasons), I am now level 72 with 132 hours of play, barring sudden disaster or game bugs I can reliably complete nightmare with all books and cata most of the time without books. This has given me a different perspective on several issues I brought up previously but also reinforced my position on others.
PART 1: BOT AI IMPROVEMENTS:
The impression I get of the current AI is that it was deliberately gimped in certain ways to “encourage” people to play with other live humans. Making the bots smarter and more capable would solve almost all of the issues with the game as it is. Just being “better” is a given but there are a bunch of specific issues I would like to point out:
- Bot Selection
I see no reason why you couldn’t implement the same bot selection priority feature that VM2 has. The default makes it impossible to play with saltzpyre bot unless you have the QoL modpack in which case you still can’t use the saltz bot if you play as sienna.
Bots get stuck all the time, or fail to follow players down drops, or randomly decide to take 100ft detours etc. So I would recommend the following tweaks to the teleportation system:
Currently the game lacks basic stuck detection for the bots. Sometimes the bots just get stuck and cease moving, they will still attack if approached by enemies but typically die quickly in this situation. If the bots also can’t pathfind to the player’s location it’s even worse because they just sit in the “last known player location” and won’t even defend themselves (or will simply hold block if you have the QoL mod). So if the bots can’t move OR pathfind to the player’s location for more than 5-10 seconds the game should just teleport them back to the player to unstick them. Or rather slightly behind the player so that they don’t suddenly pop into view or block the player’s weapons.
If a bot is not engaged in combat and decides to moves more than 30-50ft away from the player this almost always means that the pathfinding has failed in some fashion. Either they have gotten stuck and lag behind as the player moves forward or decided to take a different (and much longer path) that what the player has done. The game already teleports bots when they get too far away but the “leash” distance needs to be drastically shortened as it is not responsive enough to stop bots from making terrible decisions.
These two rules would solve 99% of bot pathfinding failures. At this point in the game’s lifespan it would not be worth the effort to go into each map and polish off the sharp edges from every bit of terrain geometry. Letting bots teleport the moment they get into trouble is a somewhat ham fisted solution but it’s the most practical method that doesn’t involve hundreds of developer man-hours.
Bots have a lot of problems with stormvermin in mixed packs. If you put a bot against a group of 10 slaves they will do fine. But if you mix even one stormvermin into that group the bots won’t react whatsoever as the SV walks up and smack them on the head, which of course kills them instantly on Cataclysm. Bots in VM2 don’t have this problem because they have the awareness to block attacks coming from any number of foes, they may run out of stamina while doing so but they won’t just outright ignore an incoming attack the way they do in VM1
Bots do not react to specials quickly enough and sometimes they will fail to react at all, this is just flatly unacceptable as one special attack in a bad spot can kill the entire party. It seems like bots will roll a dice, if they roll high they will instantly headshot the special from across the map, but if they roll a 1 they will completely ignore it no matter what. This can lead to incredibly stupid situations where 3 bots will do absolutely nothing while a gunner standing 3 feet away kills them one by one.
It’s okay if the bots do not immediately react to a special 100% of the time, but they should never fail to react AT ALL, especially if the party takes damage from it or the player pings/shoots at it. The bots also have specific difficulties with certain specials.
Gutter runners do a lot of damage so it is better to shove one off a teammate if that would be quicker than shooting it dead. But bots tend to do the opposite, sometimes they shoot instead of shove and fail to kill in one hit, then slowly reload a ranged weapon for a second shot while the downed bot/player loses 75-100% of their health (bots with handguns tend to do this). In other cases they will fail to shoot the gutter runner at all and will instead advance at walking speed with melee weapons drawn until they finally get close enough to shove it, by which time the victim is often down or dead. Bots are also very bad at killing runners after they shove them off, which lets them escape to attack again almost all of the time. All of this needs to be improved, generally speaking bots should shove first and then shoot, or shoot if they are out of range and immediately shove if/when they get the chance.
Against packmasters bots will never dodge the hook, and when chasing a packmaster that has hooked someone else they tend to default to melee. These problem need to be fixed to make bots more realistic because a human would never fail to react at all to a packmaster advancing in plain sight, and experienced human players never hesitate to shoot through teammates to kill a packmaster, even on cataclysm.
This is more of an enemy AI glitch but bots never target ratling gunners that are partially obscured by terrain. Human players can target the exposed gun but the AI won’t even try.
- Rat Ogres
Bots can’t handle ogres well at all, the main issues I see are as follows:
- Bots seem to never dodge boss attacks, they just stand there holding block until they run out of stamina and the ogre kills them. By comparison the bots in VM2 can dodge dance boss attacks almost indefinitely, this is not overpowered because any decently skilled human can do the same thing and this makes up for a number of other deficiencies in the AI.
- Bots fighting a boss never react to anything around them which causes the horde to quickly kill them all and puts too much pressure on the player to keep them all safe at the same time. This is similar to the problem with SV in mixed hordes.
- If a special arrives during the boss fight sometimes the bots will get stuck in a loop where they stand next to the boss with ranged weapons drawn and don’t react at all to the boss beating them down because they’re too busy staring into a wall or at a special standing 100ft away (this happens a lot on Black Powder)
- On very rare occasions one of the bots will kite the boss away from the party instead of just standing and holding block. But they kite the boss so fast and far away (sometimes >100ft) that the rest of the party can’t even hit the boss with ranged weapons let alone catch up to deal any damage in melee. This is just as unhelpful as the bot dying immediately.
- Team Formation
Bots have a tendency to stand in front of the player at the exact moment they want to shoot, and other times they will stand behind the player and completely ignore a rat approaching from the front as it walks up and smacks the player. This is especially apparently when you get backed into a corner. Bots should always attempt to stand beside the player, preferably not behind and never directly in front if at all possible.
- Ranged Attacks
Bots don’t use their ranged weapons enough, especially on Cata when thinning out the horde or killing SV at range is paramount. AFAIK the AI already works something like this but I would suggest the following tweaks to make them more “weapons free” the same way humans players are.
- Bots will be more willing to shoot in general, until they reach about 20% ammo at which point they will reserve their shots for specials and SV.
- The bot with the lowest ammo will pick up an ammo bag when pinged by the player.
- Bots will do their best to immediately shoot anything pinged by the player, but they may not always respond if they are already engaged in melee.
- Bots are most likely to shoot if the player has their ranged weapon out and/or has shot an enemy within the past couple seconds. Bot “willingness” to shoot will also be increased to maximum if they proc a weapon trait like haste that gives them unlimited ammo for a duration.
- In addition to the above two tweaks bots are much more willing to shoot at rat ogres, especially at long range when the rat ogre is first approaching and the whole party can get some free hits in. They should try to take a few potshots in any spare moment they can when not engaged in melee and blast away with everything they’ve got when in a position of relative safety.
- A few of the ammo boxes in the game can’t be used by bots for whatever reason. So to solve this problem bots will automatically receive 100% ammo if the player pings an ammo box while standing next to it. This is mildly exploitable but solves a number of AI pathfinding issues, it simply wouldn’t be worth the time it would take to check each and every ammo box spawn and modify the maps to make sure bots can use them.
When a player pings a grim on certain maps the grim will (usually) teleport into the pocket of one of the bots after a few seconds, even if they are nowhere near the grim at the time. IMO this “handover” mechanic should be extended to ALL item types, this is mildly exploitable but would solve 99% of bot AI issues, especially those frustrating instances where you want them to pick up an item that’s sitting right there in front of you and they just stare back at you like a dog trying to do calculus. The more time players must waste on bot item management the more time the next horde has to spawn, so this part of the game should be reasonably streamlined.
Other item related issues:
Unlike in VM2 the bots will sometimes fail to pass the player a health potion, even if they are in immediate danger of dying. This is annoying but should be an easy fix, the bots should always give the player an available health potion immediately, even if they are at full health. This also applies to grenades and buff potions, sometimes the bots will just “forget” to pass you one for no apparent reason and this can last for 10-20 seconds until they suddenly “wake up” again.
The default mechanic of being able to ping items and have a bot pick it up works okay in almost all cases, but sometimes you’ll get into a specific situation where the bots don’t do what you want. For instance in a previous game bardin was carrying a tome+grim and was bleeding out, if I pinged a health potion on the ground kruber would swap the potion for his tome instead of bardin. No matter how many times I tried only kruber would interact with it instead of bardin, I was eventually forced to use my own medkit on him which was not the optimal solution when a potion was sitting right there. Another common problem I run into is that I’ll come across a health potion on the ground but the bots will refuse to pick it up even though they have open slots. If I pick up the health potion to give it to one of the bots and put down the kit I was carrying they will immediately snap up the health kit, which isn’t what I want because I’m the one with healshare.
Both of these issues could be solved by implementing the same command wheel used by VM2 that allows you to give orders to specific bots to pick things up. In addition to this you could add a list of simple priorities that tell bots how to handle certain items. Priorities can be set for each consumable type and is a toggle between “off” (the default behaviour) and either of the two items for each slot. If you prioritize grenades over firebombs the bots will pass you grenades instead of firebombs until the party runs out of grenades, at which point they will start handing you firebombs instead. If you prioritize firebombs and the party is already carrying 4 grenades, bots will attempt to swap grenades for firebombs on the ground whenever possible. This setup works the same way for str vs speed potions, or health pot vs health kit. These features would also be useful in VM2.
Lastly if a bot drops a tome in order to use a healing item, the tome they dropped should immediately teleport back into their inventory. This would solve the frustrating issue of bots leaving tomes behind for no reason when they decide to heal themselves.
PART 2: MAP AND ENEMY AI ISSUES
I think a slight tweak to globadiers is needed, there should be a delay between the time the globadier gets line of sight to the players and when he is allowed to throw his first globe. Without this delay you can get into situations where the globadier spawns out of thin air and immediately throws before the players have time to do more than blink. This can happen on any map but it is especially common on last stand types. An identical fix was already implemented in VM2 for the same reason, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be applied here.
Gunners need a similar delay before they open fire that forces the gunner to walk a bit closer and expose themselves to retaliation. Sometimes if a gunner approaches through a doorway or around a right corner they will go into firing mode with only the tips of the weapon barrels exposed, this is essentially an exploit by the AI because it allows them to shoot through walls and/or around corners while only exposing a tiny part of their hitbox. Skilled humans can hit the exposed weapon but bots are completely incapable of dealing with gunners if they don’t have line of sight to centre mass.
Most of these map issues would be solved by the quicker bot teleportation I mentioned earlier but I figured I would list them anyways.
- Horn of Magnus
Horn of Magnus is a pretty solid map, the only major flaws I’ve run into are the second grim and the cramped tavern where you pick up the last tome. The second grim is placed on a high ledge and simply going up there at all tends to cause the bots to damage themselves by falling. The building with the last tome is very cramped with a lot of doorways and it has an SV patrol route going through it. Sometimes you will need to retreat back into the building and hide in a side room while the SV patrol passes by, but very often the bots will get stuck on the various doorways and aggro the patrol.
- Smugglers Run
Sometimes the bots won’t follow you when you drop down into the first floodgate area (there are stairs at the second one and it doesn’t have this problem), if they remain above on the ledge and don’t teleport in time they can get killed where you can’t revive them. Also the ladder at the very end of the level can be a problem because the bots can get stuck in/under the ladder or just refuse to climb it for whatever reason. This exposes the player to a lot of risk because if that happens you have to fight your way down the street solo until the bots teleport forwards.
- Supply and Demand
I really hate this map because of how the finale event plays when solo, but that’s a separate topic. In regards to the map itself there are several problem areas. The first grim location involves jumping across rooftops and a tree. It is possible to get stuck inside that tree and if that happens you must restart the entire level. Also the bots are totally incapable of pathing across that jumping puzzle and tend to get stuck on the roof or run off on their own and get into trouble. The second problem is the ledge dropdown just after the burned out granary. Very often bots will get stuck on that ledge and won’t follow the player as they drop down. The last problem is the second grim, when you jump on top of the cart to get up to the roof the bots will get stuck there trying to walk into the cart because they’re not smart enough to jump off the barrels behind them. When you reach the scaffold on the other side where the grim is located, the bots can’t pick up the grim unless they teleport up there to join you and sometimes they will utterly refuse and just remain stuck. The grim should simply teleport into a bots hands like it does on other maps.
- Black Powder
This level is fairly reliable in terms of bot intelligence, but they can’t handle any situation where the player jumps over a gap, or jumps down between levels instead of taking the stairs or a ladder. The lower arching bridge with a gap in the middle for instance, this can cause bots to get stuck or take very long detours to join the player.
- Wizard’s Tower
Apart from the finale at the end which I will cover later, Tower has only two showstopping problems I’ve run into. The first is the second grim, you have the choice of two routes to get to it, if you go left around the balcony you can pick up the last tome, if you go right and climb some stairs you can drop down and get the grim immediately. That drop gets bots stuck 100% of the time, and what’s more they can’t path their way out of it by backtracking around in the other direction. When the bots get stuck there you have to travel very far away to get them to teleport out of it and this can get you killed if you are jumped by specials. The second bug is another stuck spot in the finale, when you enter the finale chamber and go up the right side there is a chest on the lower level and a ladder. If you climb that ladder up to the third level and drop down the bots will get stuck at the top of the ladder and they’ll stay stuck because you can’t get far enough away to cause them to teleport again.
- Engines of War
Like Horn this map is relatively foolproof. The two locations where bots have the most trouble are the two grims. The first grim is an upward jumping puzzle, which the bots are incapable of doing and sometimes they won’t teleport up to the top so they can pick up the grim. The second grim involves jumping over a low wall and this causes the bots to get stuck in front or sometimes behind the wall where the grim is located if they teleport behind it and the player moves on.
- Man the Ramparts
The biggest issues are drops that the bots can’t follow you down. The first drop is in the tower with the lower level that spawns bombs and potions in crates. If you drop down the broken stairs the bots will sometimes follow you, but more often will go outside and around where the ladder is, this can aggro rats needlessly and get them into trouble. The other drops are in the finale room, when you move around the room in either direction there are several ledges you can drop down around the chains and in the stairwell leading to the exit wagon. Bots are bad at following the player down these drops and will backtrack in seemingly random directions while you are forced to fight solo. In one case I got the party all the way to the bottom of the exit shaft and an assassin jumped me a few feet from the cart. While I jumped down the last ledge the bots decided to circle around and take the stairs which created just enough of a delay for the assassin to kill me despite all of us being within 20 feet of each other, infuriating.
- Garden of Morr
Garden is a decent map for bots as it is almost all flat ground despite the twists and turns, with the exception of the finale chamber. Bots struggle mightily with navigating the middle of the finale room in just about any direction, they will constantly get caught on the coffins and it’s even worse if try to fight in that area. If you destroy the chain up the stairs on the left and then go clockwise to the next chain by climbing the ladder, the bots will almost always take the long way to the second ladder by the gate instead of following you. If they approach that ladder from the front they can climb up properly, but if they take the second route behind the ladder they will get stuck on the back of it and must be teleported out.
- Wheat and Chaff
No major problems here except for the grain sack on the second level of the farmhouse on the left side of the map. Bots have trouble getting up there because you have to go through a doorway then backtrack and go up a ladder. Similarly if they manage to follow you up to the second level they will have trouble navigating back down even though the player can walk off the ledge.
The warehouse with the black powder objective is not so bad in terms of bot navigation but the warehouse with the breakable pillars is a problem. If you do anything but use the stairs and the bridge the bots will throw themselves off of various ledges, so most of the shortcuts in the room are off limits.
- Well Watch
Well Watch has two stuck spots. The first one is the balcony around the peasant’s well, sometimes the bots get stuck up there and can’t path down to you even though there are several nearby staircases. The second one is in the lower corner of the map where the exit wagon is, I don’t have a picture but there is a pile of crates with a spiky thing like a bunch of SV halberds taped together. If the bots get too close to the spikes they will get stuck on them and it’s hard to get them out of there.
- Enemy Below
This map is pretty solid in my experience, except for two specific spots. The first grim involves a short jumping puzzle and sometimes the bots will get stuck up on that ledge because there is no direct land path off of it.
The second stuck spot is at the end of the level where you climb up a ladder out of the tunnel. Sometimes the bots will refuse to climb the ladder, which causes them to get killed because the rats will continue to pour out of the tunnel and it will not collapse and seal itself until all players/bots are outside or dead. This bug has lost me several grims.
- The White Rat
This isn’t bot related but please, PLEASE allow us to skip the cutscene at the end of this level.
Other than that the only difficulties come at the end of the map when you have to break chains on the third level. When you climb up the stairs to get to the third level you have the choice of going left or right and breaking the chains in clockwise or counterclockwise fashion. To go in either direction involves jumping over some small gaps onto hanging bridges and sometimes the bots will get confused by this. But problems on this map are rare in my experience.
- Town Meeting/The Fall
Both last stand type maps are pretty compact and you usually don’t have pathfinding problems. With the one exception of the long bridge on The Fall. Sometimes bots will jump off the sides of the bridge for no particular reason and this forces them to go all the way around up the stairs and back through the doorways to get back onto the bridge, this can be a problem if you’re in the middle of a wave already. Both maps also have problems with globadiers spawning out of thin air next to the party and throwing instantly, as I mentioned earlier.
- Castle Drachenfels
The first grim is a problem because in order to get to it the player must “hop the fence” into a lower area and this breaks the bot pathfinding completely because they don’t know how to follow you. Sometimes they will get so stuck that they refuse to teleport over and pick up the grim.
The second problem is the three lane dungeon run at the end of the level. Despite things being very flat and composed of straight lines bots seem to have trouble in this area. They lag behind when the player backtracks to switch lanes and they have a lot of trouble targeting specials in the other lanes, bots aren’t good at shooting through the gaps between the lanes to hit the specials even though they are in plain sight. I lost several cata runs in this way because one globadier killed the entire party.
- The Dungeons
There are two big issues on this map. The first tome requires you to hop a fence and backtrack down a long drop, this confuses the bots immensely. Secondly down in the dungeon where you have to jump over a “blood canal” the bots get stuck almost every time. Humans can jump across easily but the bots fall into the trench and the path out is to backtrack to where you started and then attempt the jump again (which the bots can’t do). This can get you killed if the bots all get stuck at the same time and you don’t notice until you get overwhelmed by the next encounter.
- Summoner’s Peak
This map is almost impossible to play with bots. Not only do they ignore the objectives but they also have tremendous difficulty navigating around ALL of it because there are so many one way drops and gaps you must jump across. So much so that it’s hard to point out specific areas that cause problems, it’s ALL bad. The worst spot by far is the cliff jumping backtrack you have to do to get the grim. Bonus dunce points for Bardin here who somehow managed to fall onto an unreachable ledge and take the grim with him.
- Khazid Kro
Both grim locations cause problems. Bots can’t path to the first grim but can usually pick it up remotely. The second grim is also a problem because bots may teleport down to the lower scaffold level where the grim sits and they get stuck there until you cross the bridge over the gorge because they’re sitting halfway through a jumping puzzle and they don’t know how to get out.
- The Cursed Rune
Bots will sometimes refuse to climb the ladder in the first third of the level. Bots also have minor trouble getting in or out of the second grim jumping puzzle. The one major problem I’ve encountered is in the finale area. Specials can spawn and attack in what feels like plain sight, but the bots will refuse to return fire. This is probably because of the profusion of wooden beams jutting out everywhere that block line of sight. The specials are essentially attacking through walls despite being 60-80% visible.
- Chain of Fire
This map is quite short and more or less idiot proof, with the exception of the lone grim. Getting to the ledge the grim is on requires a triple jump and this greatly confuses the bots. Sometimes they’ll refuse to grab the grim remotely or backtrack back off the hill and down through the lower gulley in an attempt to path to you which aggros everything down there that you could otherwise easily avoid.
- The Courier
Bots absolutely hate everything to do with the tower, they just can’t properly navigate that many levels and that many ladders. Getting them to fight hordes in an intelligent fashion or pick up the grim can be very frustrating. The rest of the level is fine.
- Reaching Out
No major issues I’ve run into on this level, probably because it’s relatively short.
- Reikwald Forest
This map is VERY linear and bots rarely get stuck or have problems navigating around, all they can do in most cases is go forwards. Despite that this is one of the hardest maps to play with bots because of it’s multiple “gauntlet” sections and the guaranteed boss+horde spawn near the end. Gauntlets only turn off the rat hose when you reach the checkpoint at the end and the only way to do that is kill lots of rats very quickly, bots are never as good at killing rats as humans would be and fighting through those sections feels a lot like dragging three idiots upstream. Making the bots better would help somewhat, but they will never be an adequate replacement for a human in these kinds of situations.
- River Reik
This is probably the hardest map to solo, even more so than summoner’s peak. Not only do you have a gauntlet event turned up to 11 but you also have chains you must break all by yourself before the hordes will stop coming. As far as bot pathfinding goes there are two problem locations. The first location is the house by the river where you get the first grim. In order to open the way to the grim in the basement you have to destroy three rocks, one of which is placed behind the house after the one-way drop from the attic. Players know how to jump the fence and get back into the house a second time but bots get stuck on the far side of the house which is a big problem if a horde or specials comes while you are getting the grim. The second pathfinding bug happens when you board the ship. Some specials will spawn on shore and attack as you leave, sometimes the bots will cram themselves in the back corner of the ship in an apparent attempt to path to the specials and kill them. If they get stuck there this can torpedo your entire run because it’s practically impossible to fend off the horde and break the chains all by yourself unless you’re playing on easy.
I’ll come back and extend this post when I have the time. There are several other topics I plan to talk about like bot interactions with level objectives.