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Are there any mechanical differences between the nine levels of CPUs besides their AI? That is, are harder CPU players given bonuses to their speed, damage, etc? For example, many strategy games give more difficult computer players advantages like omniscience of the board, bonus resources, etc.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Higher CPU levels don't give any speed bonuses, heavier weight, stronger attacks, or anything. They also don't change the actual AI of the character; each character has an individual AI that is the same regardless of their difficulty (in addition to some common AI routines).

The only difference between the different levels is that, at higher levels, a CPU is more likely to do something. Take perfect shielding as an example: all CPU levels can do it, and all of them come to the conclusion that they should under the same conditions, but the chance of them actually doing it instead of standing there and taking the hit is rock-bottom for low CPU levels and super-big for higher ones. (AI-hacking topics like this one make zero mention of CPU levels and are generally written as if they're assuming that levels are not a factor.)

I also found this image of what the common AI is as extracted by one of the best in the field:

enter image description here

As you can see it makes no mention of CPU level.

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Can you add some sources to your answer? –  dlras2 Apr 10 '12 at 15:31
    
Kind of not really but I can try. –  Toomai Apr 10 '12 at 15:42
    
What is this image describing exactly? –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 11 '12 at 17:28
    
I believe the ovals are AI states and the arrows are actions that the AI can take. –  Toomai Apr 11 '12 at 19:03
    
Er, so then the logic for transitioning between states could (in fact, must) take into account CPU-level, but the logic is not shown on that chart. Your last paragraph doesn't follow from that diagram. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 11 '12 at 21:03
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According to the Smash Bros Wikia,

There has been speculation that the AI at level 9 reads button commands and reacts accordingly, which has sparked anger among some smashers who feel that the AI should be made better rather than do what they term as 'cheating'. Some inconclusive experiments were performed [...] though no definitive results were obtained.

However, many smashers (mostly experienced) conclude that regardless, the AI at level 9 is still easy to beat.

So, there's a (good) chance that the AI has impossibly-fast reaction speed. However, the AI does not get any extra damage/movement speed unless you give it a handicap.

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This is a pretty standard cheap trick to make AI "harder", they "cheat" by knowing what you're doing. –  Prinny Brocka Apr 10 '12 at 13:27
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@Ben: As a software developer, I would say it was most likely not even intentional - it is very easy/clean/obvious to have the AI react to internal state (which would get updated immediately), but having it react to things a human would react to (such as the current animation-frame) is probably something they never even considered. There is probably some built-in reaction-delay, and at the highest difficulty the delay is set to 0. This is the same way I would have done it. –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 10 '12 at 15:05
    
It would be basically impossible to do anything but "read button commands and [react] accordingly". What do they expect, that the AI will do image processing on character animations to figure out what they're doing? You'd have trouble doing that on a modern high-end computer in real time, much less on the Wii. –  Tacroy Apr 10 '12 at 15:41
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According to smashboards.com/showthread.php?t=300461 CPU players react to the state of the opponents, not the buttons pressed by the players. This would still allow frame-by-frame reaction time but technically has nothing to do with input. –  Toomai Apr 10 '12 at 15:47
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@downvoter: Why the downvote? –  BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Apr 11 '12 at 17:26
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