Artificial Intelligence (AI) is often proclaimed by computer programmers but has never been proven under scrutiny. The Turing test, essentially an expansion of the imitation game, is still the most valid test for artificial intelligence and although some programs have performed very well under strict guidelines, nothing has passed it fully. Quite simply Artificial Intelligence is a myth. However the ability to pass such tests is often based on the questions asked, and the greater the limitations of the questioning the more likely the program is to appear intelligent.
This creates a problem with any claim of artificial intelligence. Essentially it is more often the intelligence of the tester that is scrutinised, as opposed to the ability of the machine. In Daniel Dennett’s book Brainchildren he talks at length about the Turing test and some of the more successful efforts attempted to pass it. One of the conclusions he comes to in regards to claims of artificial intelligence and improper testing is:
Daniel C Dennett
Essentially by claiming ‘intelligence’ we run the risk of fooling a portion of the population into believing such claims, any attempt to then withdraw the claim will have a social impact on those that were fooled. This can have serious ramifications for both parties.
People don’t mind being fooled, but nobody likes to be made a fool.
When it comes to computers the term artificial intelligence is often misused, generally on the basis that people are aware true artificial intelligence does not exist – yet. What is generally intended by such claims would be better termed as an intelligent agent (IA). An intelligent agent is a system that perceives its environment and takes actions which maximise its chances of success. In terms of computer games (and sometimes referred to as software agents) it is simply a program that acts for a user (or other programs) when given the authority to do so.
How does any of this relate to FML? Part of what makes FML work is the fact that all matches will be played within a certain time frame. Without that, competitions would grind to halt and seasons would be never ending if one user failed to log in. To perform this function it uses what is referred to as the AI manager, more precisely an offline manager, but understandably confused with the existence of artificial intelligence by many. This leads to a great degree of consternation throughout the forums in regards to the level of ability of said AI manager, and repeated calls for it to be toned down. In fact it is merely an intelligent agent that performs the simple role of substituting tired or injured players and reorganising defensive formations in the event of players being sent off. It will also substitute out of position players that are not performing well.
Despite repeated attempts by the game’s creators to confirm the minimal role the AI manager plays, people persist with the belief of an intelligent artificial opponent in control of these matches. Largely because the alternative suggests they have been fooled. The mere suggestion of AI and the acceptance of an offline entity capable of playing out the match from one or both sides fuels the belief, losing to such can have occasionally bizarre effects on the sanity of otherwise normal people.
Football, by nature has elements of luck involved.
The above quote from one of the creators of FML should have been enough to end the AI debate, but it wasn’t. People get passionate about football. Whether it’s real or a game doesn’t seem to matter too much. Although, as a game, many are convinced of their own ability as managers; “I am a tactical expert” is a quote often used in the forums, and one that always makes me smile. FML is not the same as FM, and the tactics aren’t as simple. The FM series uses some basic preset tactical options for the computer controlled teams, FML introduces a level of imagination that could never be recreated by a computer program (not until the advent of true AI anyway).
Historical elements play a role in FML and they can be important factors in matches where a manager has been absent for some time. Players in FML take a period of time to adjust to changes in formations and tactics, by leaving a team to play a set tactic for a long period will see them begin to fully adapt to the instructions. Player morale will fluctuate based on events around your club. Every competition is treated differently in terms of form and importance by your team. All of these factors can affect the results in any given match, for you and your opponent.
Remembering that the AI or offline manager in FML has a very limited ability to change the pattern of a match, you can observe substitutions through the commentary at base of screen. It cannot make tactical adjustments in response to your actions. By adapting your tactics to suit the current match conditions you will have a greater degree of success against teams when their manager is offline. But remember the above quotes, the Match Engine will not care whether you are the online manager or not, it only reacts to information it is fed, and your existence is not a factor.
Every player has its own individual persona expressed through its attributes, many of which are hidden. This can mean individual players have a major impact on matches. Reputation is a major indicator of consistency but it does not mean low reputation players cannot do the incredible – it just means they don’t do it often.
Play each and every match on its merits. Whether the opponent is there or not is not relevant to the result, it is relevant to the opposition’s ability to respond. Take advantage of that, but also accept that you will not win every match.
Improve your chances of winning when offline. Because the rules for AI matches are set, it is possible to use them to your advantage. Setting up your team to take advantage of the predictable changes made by he AI can increase your chances versus the unwary manager. The simplest example of this is making sure your substitutes are able to take full effect late in matches. Knowing that your striker will likely be substituted late in the match when all defenders are tired can make having a fast striker on the bench beneficial. Consider the rules by which the AI acts and set your offline team to take full advantage.
The expansion of the AI effectiveness has been discussed at length, for every player who thinks it too strong there are many who think it too weak. One of the suggestions for future updates is to increase the control you have over the decisions AI will make when you are offline. Which players come off and on, and the timing of changes are likely to be future additions to your control over the offline manager. Another requested change is for the chat window to show when the AI makes changes, much as it would if your opponent were there, this would help with reacting to changes. Whatever the future changes to the AI, one thing is certain: the myth has been created and will not die slowly. Football is far too passionate for that, and football managers will go to great lengths to deny responsibility for a team’s misfortune. But when they win it is surely because you are a tactical expert.
Every tactic you play against is unique, every team you play against is unique, and the historical elements factored into each match you play are unique.
Every match is unique!
|Written By Mark Burton
A moderator since May 2008 in a number of beta worlds and now GW Fowler, he strives to highlight the community aspects of FML and inform new & experienced users about future game development.