One more thing, Frogboy, I hope you will implement take over AIs for those human cowards who leave in the middle of games?
Considering the success of AI hot-swapping in Gears of War 2 and Left 4 Dead, it's pretty much got to become a basic feature for all multiplayer games from now on. You should be able to both drop out and join late, if they really want to be thorough about it.
I totaly agree. Left 4 Dead's AI hotswapping was a truly great feature. One of your friends not ready yet? Start the game anyway and he can join later.
Problem for RTS and especially 4x games: unless you are playing a casual game, the late player might not like the choices the AI made in the game up until that point. L4D AI doesn't pick up bombs/molotovs and sometimes wastes a first aid kit, but that's no biggie, you can make do until the next Saferoom. Little bit more difficult for long 4x games, you're stuck with the choices you've made unless you want to lose money + time to destroy/rebuild.
Anyway back to the Elemental AI: Firstly the bots are a great idea. I fondly remember Bots in Unreal Tournament killing you and then rubbing it in with a well timed vocal insult. Over time, re-occuring bot names made you go: oh noes, it's Bolt Vanderhuge again! All of a sudden you think of it as a persistant entity that has it in for you. RTS games get boring when you create a game and select: AI - Normal or AI - Hard. What you want to do is go: Hmmm who should I play against today? Lets go for the one AI I can't seem to beat: Bolt Vanderhuge!
*Player gets defeated*
Player: I'll get you next time Bolt Vanderhuuuugeeeeee! *Angry fist shake*
Last point: Allowing the community to edit or create AI routines would be pretty good. Modders can create some truly awesome stuff and having one really well crafted Robot with pages and pages of responses to player queries would be highly entertaining. You Stardock guys can only spend so much time on each bot (Which will also result in a lot of "No speake English" replies as Brad put it).
Food for thought: Surely SD wont spend the time to create individual tactics and strategies for each of the 200-300 bots other than individual responses to player queries. It's more likely that bots will be seperated into difficulty categories (Easy AI, Normal AI, Hard AI + maybe more) and each grade of bot will have identical strats but individualized chat responses.
Perhaps making a few flagship bots with more depth? Sort of like rare Boss AIs. There's a lot of ways that can go.
Awesome stuff though, kudos to SD!