I noticed this when replaying an offline game against the Hardest AI. In the dark age, I was surprised to see that it only had 3 villagers on food (sheep) and yet was still regularly producing new villagers.
Here were the food counts at critical moments:
1:52 VillA=2, VillB=6, VillC=0, SheepA=97, SheepB=9, Res=30, Town=loom
2:03 VillA=6, VillB=9, VillC=4, SheepA=91, SheepB=0, Res=30, Town=loom
2:06 VillA=0, VillB=0, VillC=0, SheepA=89, SheepB=0, SheepC=98, Res=50, Town=villager
That is, somehow the AI was able to queue a villager for free, as the Res still had 50 food.
I suspect that not having enough resources, depositing enough, and then immediately buying the villager results in no charge for the villager.
Devs – I’m happy to send you the recorded game file if you are interested. This form won’t allow me to upload it.
Finally, just 3 seconds later, the AI has both 50 food in the resource bank AND a villager queued. This makes me suspect that depositing the right resources and immediately buying the villager results in no charge for the villager.
In your final screenshot, the TC is still showing the research effect (loom is apparently not finished), so I think it’s more a replay sync issue than a cheating issue. I haven’t found evidence the default DE AI is cheating with resources, even on Extreme difficulty. The DE AI doesn’t develop faster than experienced players.
Ahh! You’re right. It’s a display bug. Between 1:36 and 1:41 the AI goes from 70 food to 20 food but the villager doesn’t show in the queue. In fact, the queue (with loom and a villager) disappears from the upper-left, and disappears under the right-side names, and the villager doesn’t show in their town center queue.
So, during loom, the AI actually spent food to queue a villager, but wasn’t credited on the screen. Then, the ‘free’ villager suddenly appeared in the queue after loom was done.
I’d like to apologize to the AI for my accusation. I’ll send it a nice gift basket as an apology.
In the past, I think hardest and above AI are allowed to cheat – “hard” is the highest level AI that is not allowed to get free resources; higher difficulties should have cheating programmed in (to various extents), and the AI designers balanced the cheating to the right difficulty levels.
This is also why bot and AI tournaments are played with the AI difficulty set to “hard”
I’m not sure if DE still has this policy, or if the AI just doesn’t cheat anymore.