Not Playing Fair With Resources
This is a common form of cheating
in strategy games (4X
in particular). Since the player is generally much smarter than the computer, the designers compensate by giving the AI player(s) an unfair ability to gain or gather resources
in order that the enemy will actually pose a challenge to the player.
This can take several forms:
- AI can generate units and buildings without expending resources and/or more quickly than the player can.
- AI gathers resources faster despite using the same technology.
- AI gains resources without having to gather them.
Depending on the game, simply starting with more resources might not be cheating. The amount of resources each side starts with is determined by the designers at the start of the map, and some games never had a rule
stating that all sides must begin on equal footing.
Almost never is this justified by anyone actually saying that "The enemy has a ludicrously massive amount of storage and are only gathering further to make it bigger and starve us out."
In some cases, the trope is justified by painting the enemy (on an ally of the enemy) as a more advanced civilization (especially aliens). Otherwise, you get Story And Gameplay Segregation
. Also entirely justified at higher difficulty settings when the programmers have the simple courtesy of warning you that such settings will
bend or break the rules in favor of the computer opposition.
Compare Offscreen Villain Dark Matter
. See also My Rules Are Not Your Rules
, Numerical Hard
, and (of course) The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard
Examples in other video games:
- The AI in Act of War will periodically be granted $500. You can test this by destroying everything it has except for its headquarters. It will produce construction vehicles indefinitely.
- Every single Advance Wars ever made:
- The first one compensates for it's laughable AI by almost always outnumbering you nearly 2 to 1 with enemy units and properties.
- The sequel's a bit better, but it introduces factories: an enemy property that can produce any unit in the game once per turn at no cost. Thankfully they only appear in a few maps.
- Dual Strike has the Black Crystal: a property that restores 3HP to any nearby enemy unit for free. They're actually a plot point explaining how Black Hole recovered so quickly after their last defeat.
- Days of Ruin cuts down on this considerably thanks to a very improved AI, until you get to the ridiculously overpowered final boss.
- On Hardest difficulty, the computer in Age of Empires II actually DOES have extra, invisible resources. The best way to demonstrate this is to create a custom scenario, create a CPU opponent that has no villagers (only a town center and 2 required buildings for age advancement) and 75 military units (to prevent it from making villagers). Now set difficulty to hardest and give the CPU no resources at all. Now start the game and before long the computer will have advanced in level. Where did it get the food and gold needed to do this if you gave it none and it cannot produce any?
- If you have a look at the AI files, you'll notice that on 'hard' and 'hardest' difficulty, the AI pulls resources out of nowhere whenever they drop to almost zero. If you write your own AI, you can give it this ability too, even unconditionally, giving you infinite resources.
- In Age of Empires III, the player can also set a "handicap" which is a percentage bonus (+0-100) to resource gathering. Bcause this affects only the resources received, not resources gathered, this means that at +100%, that player receives 600 wood out of each tree instead of 300. Since trees are the only limited resource without homecity shipments, this can prove to be a tremendous advantage.
- Age of Empires notably averts the infinite resources trick, making it possible through smart defenses and expanding to whittle your foe's resources to zero, meaning they turn into a sitting duck(a sitting duck with backup, maybe, but a sitting duck nonetheless).
- AI War: Fleet Command has the AI draw resources from a separate pool, where it warps in reinforcements and units.
- The AI in BattleZone II has a "scrap cheat" which gives them a small amount of resources every minute, but they still need to gather resources to increase their maximum storage (and thus, their tech level). However, the scrap cheat does allow the AI to produce high-tier units far faster than they have any right to - in Instant Action mode, expect to find your base being rushed by dozens of Assault Tanks or Maulers. Later patches allow the player to disable it for the AI, or give themselves a scrap cheat.
- In Sid Meier's original Civilization, the player's civilization must devote immense amounts of resources to building one of the Seven Wonders of the World; your AI opponents, on the other hand, do not actually 'build' these but simply have a random chance (minute, but significant in the long run) of being awarded one each turn. This goes above and beyond the usual accelerated-build advantage of strategy games because only one civilization ever can build any given Wonder - so the AI not only gets a free toy, but may ruin your own investment.
- In Civilization Revolutions, the computer players get armies for free, give technology to each other (you have to research, buy or trade), they can spawn armies off of ships and out of the Fog Of War in places they could not possibly get to otherwise. This on top of the fact that they never attack each other, so it's always a 4-on-1 game.
- Most of the Civilization series' difficulty can be attributed to this - the AI gets bonuses to their economy and production, among other things. As a result, it isn't unusual on very large maps to see stacks of twenty or more units running amok. However, this only happens on the highest Difficulty Level; on the lowest difficulty, the AI actually gets a malus to production.
- The AI seems to screw with the random number generator quite a bit. Often its massively underpowered unit stacks will destroy your own more advanced forces, unless you've got tanks or something else far in advance of their own units. The AI also appear to be able to generate units out of thin air as soon as they decide they need reinforcements, or as soon as you declare war on them. This encourages the player to enter into wars only if he or she has a massive tech or production advantage over the AI, not just more units of the same type.
- In Civilization 2 at least, the AI tended to surround its cities with irrigation and roads with alarming efficiency. It's almost guaranteed the computer has better infrastructure then you!
- Colonization AI gets tools and guns for free in every new colony.
- In Command & Conquer: Tiberian Dawn, a full Tiberium harvester load of the AI is worth twice as much credits as that of the human player. Also it builds its units (and rebuilds its buildings) much quicker than you can. In some missions you can't expect to win unless you completely starve them by killing all their harvesters, because their production far outstrips yours - which is especially hard as a one harvester load is worth 1400$ for them (700$ for you), which is exactly the price of a new harvester, so if just one of his harvesters manages to get back, the AI can build another one to replace the one you destroyed. In the last GDI campaign mission, there were actually a bunch of hidden, lightly- to wholly-unguarded Nod Tiberium silos which only seemed to exist for you to be able to capture all that Tiberium for yourself. Apparently the enemy doesn't mind you gathering their insane amounts of Tiberium, if only because you don't stand a chance otherwise.
- It's actually worse than just twice as much money. At least in some cases, the computer gets an unlimited amount of money any time they successfully harvest Tiberium. If one of their harvesters reaches a refinery, all refineries and silos are filled up completely. The only thing keeping the AI from never running out of money ever is the fact that the game only allowed you to have a limited amount of money "on hand" at any time, as defined by how many silos you had to store resources in.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 suffers from this too. The enemy can rebuild a building in just a few seconds, and not only start with a pile of cash but receive regular payments from nowhere. The only way to defeat computer players is to destroy their construction yard first and then go for everything else.
- When playing as Allies you can turn the tables in certain missions however, the Ally's Spy steals half of the opposition's money if it touches their refinery and the AI is too stupid to sell it's buildings except when scripted to. So on say the assault on Moscow you can clear out the area around a soviet refinery, fortify the area against reprisals and continually steal an absurd amount of money every few minutes.
- The only difference between "Hard" and "Brutal" Difficulty in Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars is that a Brutal computer generates double resources.
- In the campaign missions, the AI often has infinite resources (sometimes not even having a refinery) and can simply spam units nonstop until you destroy its production facilities.
- In Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 the Empire Mission in Hawaii notably has the ally base having either 6 or 8 Seaports and multiple Airbases all producing units at the same time and non stop until you destroy their base or Ore Refineries. On the opposite side of the map you there are no extra resource nodes for you.
- Likewise, Insane enemies get the same +100% bonus to resource gathering as Brutals did in C&C 3.
- Good luck getting at their Ore Refineries, they have heavy defenses (in addition to a never ending wall of units) and not nearly enough power plants to support it if they had any at all.
- In Command & Conquer: Generals: Zero Hour, there are "Challenges" available where the player goes up against an enemy General who specialises in a specific type of warfare. Examining the scripting behind these Challenges reveals an infinite-loop AI script trigger: "if Credits < 10000, give 10000 Credits". The AI has infinite cash, since they immediately get given 10k more when they drop below 10k in the bank. Kwai still manages to run out because of his endless tank spam.
- The AI in Company of Heroes on Normal receives a massive Manpower boost. If on a map, both sides capture the exact same number of points with the exact same levels of Manpower/Munition/Fuel income, the AI will normally have 1/3 extra manpower points than the Player. This can be seen in the summary screen after completing a Skirmish map.
- It's nothing compared to what the Hard and Expert AIs do. 2x and 4x respectively.
- The AI on Dawn of War will start the game with extra resources if you put the difficulty high enough.
- It also has faster resource gain rates. The Dawn of War AI, however, is basically designed to spam units at usually low to medium tier, so if you can actually survive long enough to tech up, you can usually win regardless of the AI's level. Or, in team games, if you rush the AI.
- They don't seem to be bound by population caps like the player is, though. It's perfectly fine if they do it when you're assaulting their stronghold province, but on a tiny, insignificant bit of land?
- Most obviously seen in the Eldar stronghold mission of Dark Crusade, where the Eldar base constantly summons fully reinforced squads of infantry and hasn't been told that there's a cap of 2 on the best vehicles. It is justified as them warping units from an offworld ship, and you're supposed to cut them off from said ship instead of destroying their base.
- The same applies to the AI in Dawn Of War II. Not only will they inexplicably be producing squads faster than should be possible given resource gain rates, letting them get to tier three means you'll almost certainly be confronted by a population cap-defying number of units, including super units. This is likely because the AI is also quite stupid and has a habit of leaving squads standing around doing nothing.
- In Dungeon Keeper 2 enemy Keepers often have inaccessible mana vaults, generally so that they can spam imps and spells and sustain a ton of traps.
- In Dune II, you need to harvest Spice Melange to generate credits, which are used to fund your campaigns. Your enemy has infinite credits to replace soldiers, vehicles and buildings, but you still have to compete with them to acquire Spice (justified for plot reasons; Spice is one of the most valuable commodities in this universe). In a minor concession to fairness, the enemy AI is very inept at replacing leveled installations, so once you've made some headway into destroying their bases, it's pretty much your battle to lose.
- In Earth 2150, until the latest patch, enemy AI units never had to reload, even though your own units always had to. It was patched because people kept complaining about it, as it's simply unfair, especially im missions with limited resources and/or no Dropzone to get reinforcements.
- Final Fantasy Tactics: Enemies have infinite stores of both single-use restorative items and throwable weaponry (which, incidentally, get better and better the more chapters you proceed into the game, topping off at Deep Dungeon). The latter can be abused with the Thief reaction ability Catch to get free copies of, say, the Infinity+1 Sword.
- Galactic Civilizations 2 informs you that the more potent AI settings aren't going to play fair with resources.
- However the weaker AI settings actually cheat to the players advantage, penalizing the AI's resources. In the pre-set AI, only the "Intelligent" or "Tough" difficulty setting plays fair with resources, though you're free to tinker with how much the AI is helped or hampered in this manner.
- GrimGrimoire: Your opponents aren't restricted by silly things such as resource levels or build times—in fact, you can even catch them in the act of directly teleporting in more Mooks for them to use.
- Heroes of Might and Magic has this with the computer in the higher difficulty levels, their resources appear out of thin air. In the impossible difficulty the computer gets 1000 gold and 2 of every resource for doing nothing at all. Top this off with the fact that you start with no resources at all while the computer starts with a bunch of resources makes this difficulty level nearly impossible, however there have been rumors that it can be beaten (this info is based off of the impossible level in Heroes of Might and Magic 2, it may vary in other games of the series).
- The AI in Homeworld 2 does this when it doesn't just use Offscreen Villain Dark Matter to spawn whatever it wants. Even if you manage to block every resource available to the computer, it can build no matter what. It tries to play fair, in that it will not exploit this to build ships unless it's at least making a token effort to gather resources, but it becomes obvious it's cheating when it sends endless waves of resource collectors in a hopeless attempt to mine the pockets. In short, the AI only gathers resources to spite you. This is of course pointless, though, because by about six of seven missions in you'll have enough resources to rebuild your entire fleet twice over, and that number only goes up from there.
- Machines Wired For War::The computer can build units without resources. (Resource consumption is real-time rather than paid at once at the beginning. For the computer, production goes on even at 0 BMU's while it stops for a human player. This doesn't affect building construction, however.) It can place building blueprints without paying the 5 BMU placement cost. It can launch a nuke for free while it normally costs 500 BMU's.
- In Master of Orion, the AI has a random chance of getting a free colony ship every turn.
- The Ancient Greece themed RTS Rise and Fall: Civilizations at War features an AI that will appear to collect resources but will really have an infinite supply. At the higher difficulty levels, once an AI's main base is destroyed it is not uncommon for it's remaining production facility to pump out an endless supply of it's most powerful units despite not having any legitimate incoming resources.
- Rise of Nations explicitly features this, at first in favor of human players on the easiest and easy difficulties, and later in favor of the AI players on the hard and Harder Than Hard difficulties.
- Rise of Legends does this as well; high-level computer opponents have access to bonus resource rates and instantaneous micro (Toughest computers instantly construct what they need at the beginning of the game), significant enough to render them unbeatable... if not for their incredibly predictable formulaic AI, which renders them intensely vulnerable to timed strikes during their early expansions. The entire experience is markedly unsatisfactory: either you're too slow and you'll be crushed, or you're fast enough to catch the AI with its pants down and can anticipate a relatively easy victory. Medium-speed players can sometimes find a reprieve in the AI's building patterns: it will, without fail, attempt a balanced unit spread that stands no chance against, say, a Muskets-and-Clockwork mass slam.
- (That last is particularly ironic, considering just how strongly Rise of Nations, the game ''Rise of Legends was spun off of, pushed the "a complete part of this balanced strike force" angle.)
- An actual evidence of cheating has been found in StarCraft. There, modders eventually deciphered the files that control AI actions. While most opcodes in them just match normal player actions, they also found codes that will give the AI player instant ore and gas or let it create units out of nowhere. In addition, if you extract the campaign maps and open them in the map editor, you'll see how surprisingly often the AI is helped by scripted game events ("Triggers"). This goes so far that the AI plays with unlimited resources for almost the whole campaign. Those advantages are usually not abused, so the game doesn't become frustrating even despite the cheating.
- In campaign maps, the computer really has no choice but to be scripted with bonus resources or units; the campaign maps are heavily triggered for storyline purposes, and it wouldn't make sense for an "unstoppable Zerg outpost" to be demolished by a steamroller player when it is specifically triggered to be destroyed by a surprise appearance by an ally or the like.
- It's made extremely obvious after winning a campaign level when all the end stats are shown that the computer receives a huge amount of starter cash. An example would be that you'll occasionally see the end-level resource stats for the computer in the 50 thousands even though the computer most of the time only has about 4 actual workers gathering resources which basically spells out to you that the computer started off with 50,000 minerals and gas each.
- In skirmish games, the computer does not get a resource advantage. The Broodwar AI Project reveals that, due to the limitations of the AI, and how much can actually be edited, a resource advantage is required to ensure an even playing field. Although, if you don't swing for that, an AI is included that does not get a resource advantage, but just a smarter build order.
- In Starcraft 2's skirmishes, it's confirm-able that the hardest AI mode gets minerals and gas faster. Watch a replay against one while watching its resources. Each worker gets 7 minerals instead of 5 and 6 gas instead of 4. They have since been renamed to Cheaters.
- The space RTS Star Ruler is very upfront about this. When you start a game and activate AI empires, you can both choose the difficulty level and whether or not it cheats. What that option actually does is give the AI a set amount of resources depending on how long the game has been going on, capped at some ridiculous number. So, early on, it doesn't get very many resources while at the end it gets over 1 million of every resource per second!
- Star Wars: Galactic Battlegrounds scenarios invariably have some kind of "Game World: gives supplies to computer AI" code.
- The AIx of Supreme Commander isn't smarter than the regular AI; it just builds faster and resources have no effect on build speed. Note, however, that when you select an AIx variant, the game tells you to your face that it's a cheating AI.
- Units in Swords & Soldiers can be instantly created if enough gold is available. There's a cooldown before one can summon another unit of the same type. In the campaign the AI will flagrantly ignore this and send 5-10 of the exact same type of unit at any given time.
- Sword of the Stars gives its Hard AI 50% extra earnings and research speed. The player gets these advantages on Easy, though. AI Rebels get sizeable advantages over normal players, whether human or computer-controlled, as part of the "Death" side of the Death-or-Glory Attack that is AI research.
- The computer player in Total Annihilation gets ordinary units that produce power and metal for free. Naturally, when you play as that faction those units are completely ordinary in every way.
- In the original Warcraft, the computer AI has infinite resources. It can even build more units than it has farms to support. This means the computer shows its peons mining gold and lumber, and building farms, entirely for show. It doesn't abuse this power (it only builds a small number of units at a time, then sends them to attack).
- In Warcraft III skirmishes, the amount of gold and lumber the AI earns depends on the difficulty (on "insane" difficulty, it receives twice the amount of gold and lumber as the player than what it actually harvested, where as on "easy" and "normal" difficulty it only receives the normal amount.
- On certain missions of the campaign the AI continuously gets free resources from scripts whenever it's running low.
- In some campaign missions, the AI only gathers 1 unit of gold or lumber per worker each trip. This makes sure that when you burn the location, you can hijack their leftover gold, while also attempting to make it look at least somewhat realistic (see above).
- The AI in Warcraft III has permanent bonuses to movement speed, which makes certain manoeuvres like intercepting fleeing opponents more difficult; it gets to the point where your faster-moving units literally cannot catch up with their own slower units. However, it seems that both an AI's and a player's workers have a chance to speed up while harvesting resources. This bonus is built into the game engine and cannot be removed even in custom maps.
- Aerobiz: The game does this and makes its own rules in one stroke. If your airline runs in the red for a year, it goes bankrupt and you lose. If an AI airline runs in the red for a year, it goes bankrupt, changes its name and gets a huge influx of cash to start over and bounce back.
- In both BioShock games the enemies will have unlimited ammunition. However when you search them, they will only have a few bullets on hand.
- In EVE Online, NPC ships have a fixed 100% capacitor level. NPCs labelled as mercenaries typically fly somewhat cap-poor Caldari ships shooting very cap-hungry lasers, which they can do all day if you let them. It also means that energy neutralizers, often quite lethal in PvP combat since they (indirectly) disable the target's armour repairers as well as its weapons, are completely ineffective against them. On the flip side, energy vampires (which steal cap from the target but only if the victim's cap level is higher than yours) always help you (but likewise don't hurt the NPCs).
- Likewise, NPC ships are extremely resistant to target jamming. While they can be jammed, it takes far more effort than it would for the equivalent ship piloted by a player. This was likely implemented to prevent players from having a target-jamming friend come into their mission and basically render it more-or-less trivial.
- In several Final Fantasy titles (Final Fantasy V immediately comes to mind, but this trope exists in other titles of the franchise), boss encounters either have an absurdly huge (as in, the maximum number that can be stored in memory) MP pool, or simply have boss-exclusive abilities that can be spammed for free, making it all but impossible to shut them down using MP-drain abilities.
- Special mention to some bosses and mobs in Guild Wars missions, while the enemy NPCs do usually have a fair energy limit, some casters in missions actually use spells as their auto atttacks resulting in something like this (PC Mesmer casts 3 energy draining spells, enemy -40 energy + NPC caster boss- Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate, Immolate = 6 people dead).
- In League of Legends, there are only two differences between Beginner bots and Intermediate bots; Intermediate bots will actually use their summoner spells (at the exact perfect time, of course) and they'll automatically gain XP and items more quickly. Trying to keep them from kills to deny gold/XP? Good luck with that.
- In Mass Effect 2, Commander Shepard is apparently the only person in the entire galaxy who doesn't have access to infinite amounts of
ammunition thermal clips. All of the myriad enemies you fight have infinite clip stores. (Luckily, so do your companions.)
- Despite being ostensibly an RPG/Puzzle Hybrid, Puzzle Quest still has resource gathering, to a degree. Rest assured if the opponent goes first, they will have at least one combo available that provides them with an additional turn... and the Random Number God will be kind enough to give them a few more comboes to fill up their reserves before you get a chance. This rarely happens for the human player.
- Well, that depends on your version. Technically, the DS version doesn't have a random number generator, so it would be more of a Predetermined Board God.
- A lesser example, but when you visit homeworlds in Star Control they are protected by an infinite number of ships, despite the fact that you seem to be the only one in the galaxy actually gathering any resources. This can be partially justified in that they had a large supply of ships before the game began ... but once the race has been recruited to your Alliance you most definitely do not gain access to said ships! If you want any you'll have to build them yourself with your own mining profits.
- CPU-controlled enemy Pokémon never run out of PP for their moves in the original Red and Blue games. This was changed in later games.
- System Shock 2 featured zombies toting shotguns with infinite ammo. Invariably, upon killing one, he'd drop a broken shotgun with 1 or 2 shells.
- Team Fortress 2: The robots in Mann Vs. Machine mode all have Bottomless Magazines, but to keep things fair(ish) any weapon with a clip in it will have the same default clip size as you and thus they have to periodically stop to reload...except for the Giant Mook versions, whose level of bullet/rocket/Grenade Spam are enough to make you weak at the knees.
- In Touhou Soccer Moushuuden, your players need to expend guts to do all those killer moves. The help file specifically states "By the way, the AI has absolutely no idea what this Guts restriction means." This also turns the single character in the game who can actively reduce opponents' Guts useless when on your side.
- This gets lampshaded when Kaguya only uses "Help me, Eirin!-mild-" for an entire match to save her guts, only to be told afterwards that it was a waste of time because of this trope.
- The computer companies in Transport Tycoon don't pay money for raising or lowering terrain, explaining why they don't go instantly bankrupt when their first action is to level a mountain or two just to build one coal train.
- In Twisted Metal 2, in addition to the standard weapons that are governed by ammo pickups, there are special moves that drain a meter that slowly regenerates. Run out of meter, and you can't use your special moves until it fills up a bit. The computer is under no such limitation, nor is the AI smart enough to hide its cheating, leading to frustrating situations like being stun-locked to death with an infinite loop of ice blasts.
- Before its first patch, the computer opponents in Star Trek: Armada II would often suddenly turn up with a huge armada of the highest tier ship in the game. Imagine, if you will, a horde of Negh'vars coming towards your Starbase, piled up like a packed convention line.
- In the X-Universe series, player-owned Solar Power Plants require Crystals - which require an expensive and convoluted supply chain to produce - in order to produce Energy Cells, used to power every type of factory. NPC-owned power plants do not require Crystals, allowing them to generate energy cells from nothing. Because the X-Universe was never designed in mind for mass Crystal demand (as it's an otherwise unimportant resource), the economy comes crashing down hard within a few hours when modders require NPC power plants to use crystals.
- A much more popular type of mod equalizes things by going the other way, and making your power plants crystal-less. Argument against cheating is spawned every time such a mod is made, because being that Energy Cells are a primary resource and the entire universe needs massive amounts of them constantly, you can pretty much name your price and completely effortlessly wait for the money to roll in.