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Lacking the in-depth, story driven scripted scenarios of StarCraft or Age of Empires, TA single player maps are Skirmish duels with the game AI. Skirmish maps are also played as multiplayer maps, and the arrangement of the map can determine how well the AI will perform in a given situation. For the uninitiated, an AI file is a recipe the game engine uses to direct computer players with. An AI will instruct the computer where and what to build, how many units it should generate, and where to send them. While the individual unit AI's are generally pretty sound, the overall strategic AI leaves a lot to be desired. They're still fun, though!

The default AI in TA is famous amongst TA veterans for being completely hopeless. Its blind, uncoordinated and has no concept of overall battle strategy. It simply builds stuff and throws it at the nearest hostile unit it can find, often stalling its economy before it can get started. Most of the time it plonks buildings down without thought or reason: dropping factories on geothermal vents, or sticking a cannon or the entrance to a factory right up against a high wall where units get stuck inside. Units are simply churned out, and poured towards your base without any rationale except for direction; many custom AI's cheat like buggery just to keep the computer in the game. It knows where everything is on the map - even stuff hidden in the Fog of War. All your cloaked or stealthy units are also visible to it, and while it will react to them as though in full view, most AI's are completely incapable of making good use of this intelligence or to make use of its own units' special abilities and powers. Put another way, its a waste of time trying to sneak up on it with cloaked units: they'll be homed in on and shot at like regular units. But against humans, however...

AI Central
AI Central is the place to go for finding any custom AI for TA, be it a cheating or an honest one, or one that can drive a Skirmish duel with a custom mod you've installed. Many of the mega pack mods feature their own specialised AI's In theory, a custom AI "improves" the computer player by giving it a better list of units to build. Custom AI's can't really change the fundamental brain of the game. Different maps require different unit builds, so you'll find many different AI files for different map types. For example, there's no point in it trying to build ships and submarines on a land only map! You'll find a number of .txt files that belong in the AI subfolder that you may have to create: some are named after types of map (like Water, Island, or Default) and others are named after actual maps, specifically tailored to the map they correspond to. Again, read any ReadMe's that come with the AI's you download.

There's a couple of good non-cheating AI's you may want to try: AI Central's in-house Queller AI would definitely be an all-round first choice, along with the Mostly Harmless AI. For Cheating AI's, there's the Bloodthirsty AI (BAI), which comes in a number of different mod versions, or the BanzAI, which can accommodate most third party units with ease. Cheating AI's will seriously test your skills as a TA Skirmisher.

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Last polished Wed, Mar 30 2005 by Lindsay Fleay.