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choppinlt

Operational Level Game Announcement

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Hi,

Each to their own :).

But CC is a massively dumbed down game when compared to CM and/or any operational game worth playing.

I am hoping for something a lot more sophisticated.

All the best,

Kip.

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BTW. Those criticizing COO for not “automatically....” ...

No, the 'automatic' part is something else: it would be an interface to start CM automatically with a certain map and certain forces where one could im-/export forces out of old games into new games.

This is meant for H2H and not against the AI.

There are various degrees about what can be done on the interface front. But currently there is nothing and everything is manual (with the exception of Japanzers recorder). As I said: if supporting this game will lead to an interface for CM then I'm all in.

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I love the idea, but I think BFC have made it pretty clear that after the failure of CMC they won't spend a penny on interfacing with an operational layer.

This makes very good business sense as an operational layer that doesn't work in single player mode would in my estimation be used by less than 10% of the CMx2 players. Effectively zero return on what would potentially be a large and open ended investment by BFC.

As a community we would be far better off "clean room" reverse engineering their battle file elements and then defining an XML schema to model it. After that is done we could open up to the community to build an operational layer that reads and writes XML files in these formats.

Once we've reached this point we might get some interest from BFC toward writing a converter from the XML schema to .btt files. BFCs project scope would then be fairly narrow with a sharp limit on what they would be on the hook to support going forward.

Have at her though choppinlt! If the app-game is good it will stand on its own without the need for any support from BFC.

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As a community we would be far better off "clean room" reverse engineering their battle file elements and then defining an XML schema to model it. After that is done we could open up to the community to build an operational layer that reads and writes XML files in these formats.

Once we've reached this point we might get some interest from BFC toward writing a converter from the XML schema to .btt files. BFCs project scope would then be fairly narrow with a sharp limit on what they would be on the hook to support going forward.

Have at her though choppinlt! If the app-game is good it will stand on its own without the need for any support from BFC.

:(

You've overlooked the fundamental stumbling block here. This is that the data is compressed and requires knowledge of the compression method to then output into a textual format. Attempting to reverse engineer the algorithm really is some mean task. If one possesses strong knowledge of the various methods used, one will sure be off to a good start, but in all truth, decryption is seriously hard stuff, even for MI5/CIA code crackers. I'd wager that there's noone capable of such a feat in this community.

Thus the only realistic solution is some collaboration from BF. They could just tell us the algorithm they use, but of course they won't - it would undermine the point of encryption of CM's game save files, which is to protect the data from multiplayer exploitation.

The only answer is that they see altruistic value for the community in such an exercise and provide us with a function (probably a standalone tool) that decompresses and compresses the data with player password protections built in. However, as Ian.Leslie pointed out to me on another forum, this could require an investment of considerable time on the part of BF's programmers with uncertain financial value or benefit and may thus invalidate it as a worthwhile enterprise.

http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?p=1453663#post1453663

I think he has a good point!!

Finally, I find it pertinent to add that the hint that Steve would take back the idea for consideration of persistent battlefield damage has excited me. This is because the function used to do this would be exactly the same as outputting all other details on the CM2 battlefield from a save file ie; unit positions, unit state - including all ammo, time & conditions, and most important of all for an operational campaign - all the map data.

Persistent battlefield damage, whilst not necessarily giving us everything we want for seamless interfacing with an op campaign, would at least demonstrate that BF have (in practice) carried forward data from a .bts file to a new .btt file (or edited .bts file). This would represent a significant step forward in cross-functionality and takes us dreamers one step forward to the holy grail - a foundation stone if you like.

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:(

You've overlooked the fundamental stumbling block here. This is that the data is compressed and requires knowledge of the compression method to then output into a textual format.

I had a feeling I would be misunderstood. :)

When I stated " ..."clean room" reverse engineering their battle file elements ..." I didn't mean to somehow work out the encryption method used by BFC to encode CM battle files. That would be illegal in the USA at least (DMCA) and would not serve the community as it would open up CM games to cheating.

What I meant was to reverse engineer the elements of a battle file, i.e. use the editor to determine all of the possible terrain types, then determine all of the possible elevations for a given action square. Then move on and determine all of the possible seasons, flavour objects, tree types, etc. that could be placed in the action square. Do the same for infantry, vehicles, setup zones, and even possibly AI scripts.

Once that task has been completed one would have a novel encoding format which could be modeled using an XML schema (or something else) which would have the fortunate properties of being a one-to-one mapping to the secret BFC file format as well as not being encumbered with intellectual property rights owned by BFC.

If the community then built an operational level game that saved files into this novel XML schema format, I'd wager that BFC would be tempted to bite as all they would need to do is provide a tool that they owned which translated this one-to-one mapping file format from the XML to their .btt format.

Voila! An operational level game that interfaces with CM!

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If the community then built an operational level game that saved files into this novel XML schema format, I'd wager that BFC would be tempted to bite as all they would need to do is provide a tool that they owned which translated this one-to-one mapping file format from the XML to their .btt format.

Voila! An operational level game that interfaces with CM!

It would need to be a two-way function for the kind of interfacing required but OK, I take the point that your suggestion is at least a constructive way forward I will give you that. But that's only because it might tempt BF to 'bite' and it's better than sitting on one's hands. It's definitely a worthwhile exercise in that sense.

Notwithstanding this, I cannot agree that any such operational management software providing XML output data would facilitate the development of a tool in any direct way in which you imply it does or could.

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It would need to be a two-way function for the kind of interfacing required but OK, I take the point that your suggestion is at least a constructive way forward I will give you that.
You are very kind! ;)

Notwithstanding this, I cannot agree that any such operational management software providing XML output data would facilitate the development of a tool in any direct way in which you imply it does or could.

"Build it and he will come."

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Exactly - a leap of faith!! But as I already indicated, your point, extrapolated into its essential quality, does carries some merit.

Now all that's needed is about 2000 man hours... :D

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For those doubting my claims of BFC support, they have stickied my announcement which should add some credence to my claim. Steve will respond for BFC at some point, but he has been unavailable recently.

COO is NOT the holy grail I think we ALL would like it to be. My preference has been to have this as a PC/Mac game that is fully capable of interfacing with CM. BFC said they were not ready to make that commitment. As someone mentioned earlier they want some assurance of payback on their investment...I don't blame them. So this means that if the public rallies to make COO in to a viable game that has a solid following, as businessmen BFC will be more than willing to take the step of allowing COO to interface with CM.

Regarding the manual inputs, my current plan is to have COO provide output data specifically tailored to use to set up a CM battle. And allow COO to receive input data tailored to CM battles.

Until COO can interface with CM, then manual inputs are going to be required...but this is a first step to the Holy Grail. Any and all of you are fully capable of helping in some way: money or labor (particularly computer programming labor). So that is why this project lives or dies by the support that we as a community can generate.

Regarding the initial platform to run COO. I am being guided to a mobile app primarily because it costs less to develop. But let me be clear by saying there is no set direction yet. And based on the total support of the community, we may be able to go with a PC version first. In fact I already have a rudimentary version of COO started for both PC and Mac.

In summary, COO is at a very early age of development and this is a unique opportunity for gamers to have a voice early in the game development process. As a group, us gamers are opinionated and passionate, so no game is going to make everyone completely happy. Personally I would rather have an operational level game that is working to interface with CM, and BFC tells me that nothing out there is working to interface with CM other than COO.

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I had a feeling I would be misunderstood. :)

When I stated " ..."clean room" reverse engineering their battle file elements ..." I didn't mean to somehow work out the encryption method used by BFC to encode CM battle files. That would be illegal in the USA at least (DMCA) and would not serve the community as it would open up CM games to cheating.

What I meant was to reverse engineer the elements of a battle file, i.e. use the editor to determine all of the possible terrain types, then determine all of the possible elevations for a given action square. Then move on and determine all of the possible seasons, flavour objects, tree types, etc. that could be placed in the action square. Do the same for infantry, vehicles, setup zones, and even possibly AI scripts....

Ah, I did not get that from what you said first either. Are you sure we need to do *all* of that work? I don't think we need to create maps from an external definition. Don't get me wrong being able to generate maps from external data would be very cool. For an operational level game it would be enough to allow a CM map to be assigned to cover the various squares or hexes or what ever the operational game uses.

I actually think that the needed information transfer would be the order of battle going in, including the soft factors and unit strength etc. Coming back we would need a revised version of this with the updated unit strength from casualties sustained etc., remaining ammunition etc.

The next level of goodness would be to record and reset the damage sustained to a map.

I think that is it - am I missing anything?

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Honestly, I'm also not sure about this direction, for a couple of reasons. First I have doubts an operational level game as a mobile-app. Second, the fact that BFC might, maybe, eventually consider possibly integrating this into CMx2 doesn't give much comfort.

I tend to agree with noob that Panzer Campaigns is actually a pretty good platform to use as an operational level. I haven't played around with noob's system, but in fact there is a lot of scope for automation in a PzC system, since the game files are unencrypted plain text. Whenever I get a chance I'd like to see about creating some software that will automatically import/export data to the PzC layer (although data would still have to be transferred to/from CMx2 manually).

I'd probably rather put something on kickstarter that would pay BFC to hire a programmer to create data import/export functionality, and then the community could create various op layers, although I doubt that BFC would do it.

Sorry if I sound kind of harsh, but I was involved in beta testing for CMC, and it was just painful to watch the guy (Hunter?) spend so much of his time and money on the project. One of the problems with creating a viable op layer for CMx2 is that while almost everyone wants one, almost everyone wants a different type of op layer...

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With respect to reverse engineering project to decoding the .btt files, would there be any willingness on Battlefront's part to simply add a "Save as" functionality whereby an unencrypted file is output? Key assumption is that some form of output file exists in memory that is then sent through the encryption algorithm.

It certainly opens up the option of cheating, but perhaps the community could live with that until there is demonstrable support.

There would probably still be a need to elucidate the structure of the data file, but at least you wouldn't be fighting against the encryption. Figuring out the meaning of a plain text message is orders of magnitude easier than making sense of cypher text.

With all its limitations, CC2's operational layer really added to my gaming experience.

In terms of this project being on a mobile device, that doesn't do a lot for me.

Chris

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Hi,

Regarding the manual inputs, my current plan is to have COO provide output data specifically tailored to use to set up a CM battle. And allow COO to receive input data tailored to CM battles.

The above combined with a WEGO operational game would be superb. Exactly what is needed :).

However, the COO does have to be a PC game. This is a show stopper. The quote from Matt above illustrates why. You need to be able to jump from one to the other while sitting at your PC. Imagine an add-on for a tablet game that was in PC format ;). It chances of working would be zero.

Tablets are not the future. They are a different thing, a different object. The keyboard and mouse are going nowhere for serious work output or, as in this case, for serious fun output. As of now they have so much surplus horse power they do not have to be replaced nearly as often as was once the case. But for serious anything PCs will be with us indefinitely into the future.

All very encouraging,

All the best,

Kip.

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However, the COO does have to be a PC game. This is a show stopper. The quote from Matt above illustrates why. You need to be able to jump from one to the other while sitting at your PC. Imagine an add-on for a tablet game that was in PC format ;). It chances of working would be zero.

While I think for the purposes of an operational layer for CM it would work much *better* on a PC, I can see it working on a tablet. You can - right now setup drop box on your tablet and your PC and have a folder sync between them (and your opponents). I could then sit on my couch and play my op turn which could say spawn files for 2 CM battles. Before going to bed I could flip over to my PC fire up CM and get my part of the CM battles going and have H2HH send files to my opponent.

As long as the op layer can save its output files to a device folder then this can work pretty seamlessly.

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I tend to agree with noob that Panzer Campaigns is actually a pretty good platform to use as an operational level.

This is what I don't get. I feel like I am missing something. If I am please let me know what it is. From what I have seen we have a Op level game which is able to take input from a tactical level game to resolve its battles. All transferring to and from CM is manual but the op game is automatic. This is precisely what @choppinlt is proposing to spend time and money to build. What we need to complete the loop and make this viable is work on the CM side that BFC has not given a firm commitment to do.

So, I really feel like there is additional information that I am unaware of.

I'd probably rather put something on kickstarter that would pay BFC to hire a programmer to create data import/export functionality, and then the community could create various op layers, although I doubt that BFC would do it.

Now that I would get behind totally.

One of the problems with creating a viable op layer for CMx2 is that while almost everyone wants one, almost everyone wants a different type of op layer...

Interesting problem. I think I would be pretty flexible there. What I want is more and better context for my CM games. I am not really particularly interested in an op game for the sake of the op game. By that I mean I would most likely never play the op game stand alone but only ever play it to create CM games for me and my opponents to play.

My personal estimation is that if there was seamless (or at least only file copying needed) integration between the layers I would probably play 50% of my games using the op layer. With manual jiggery pokery to setup CM battle after CM battle that would be reduced to experimental once or twice level.

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Yes I think there'd be more support, at least here, for a CMC style game, thats at least designed to interact with the family of CMx2 games... The mobile app thing - I dont know if thats because BFC is moving in that direction, but the concept doesnt thrill me. Admittedly I dont know much at this point, but Id rather leave my cell phone out of CM and be able to use the COO, then fight battles in CMBN or FI or EF2 in the same sitting on my comp.

Still I applaud your efforts, and think your on the right track, all of the diehards here have a wet dream of a game that would allow operational play and strategy, with the choice of fighting tactical battles in CM, without clunky use of board games or spreadsheets to do it yourself (like those maniacs sburke and broadsword 56 ;)

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Heheh.

The only thing I object to is the term "clunky" regarding the use of boardgames.

It's no more "clunky" than having to decide on and issue orders to individual tactical teams, waypoint by waypoint, and have to watch the action play put minute by minute -- which is what we do every turn in CMx2. But that's a matter of taste too. One player's realism and fun are another player's "clunky."

What makes boardgames especially well suited to op layers for CM is the ease of use. Because they're not automated and just malleable systems of paper and cardboard, you can easily stop the action at any point or adapt the game however necessary to work with CM. The best board wargames usually have terrific and well-researched attention to detail in those things that characterize a particular historical situation -- fuel shortages, for example, logistics and repair, or various types of C2 problems that hampered operations.

Bottom line -- board wargames aren't just a clunky necessary evil or a last resort as a method to get on to the "real fun" of CMBN play; they're great games to be enjoyed in themselves. CMBN makes them more enjoyable because now we can see the counters come to life. And the boardgames make CMBN more fun because the battles gain a more realistic purpose, context, situation and storyline.

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And the boardgames make CMBN more fun because the battles gain a more realistic purpose, context, situation and storyline.

Exactly, whichever method you use to generate them, operational CM battles are the highest level of CM play.

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Hi,

whichever method you use to generate them, operational CM battles are the highest level of CM play.

That gets my vote too :).

Broadsword56... I agree about broad games but only to point ;).

If I had a play room, were the game could be setup for long periods of time, then yes. But I do not. That is where PzC comes in. With the flexibility of its editor, the maps and units you can use it as a computerised broad game. Of course, that is what PzC is, it’s computerised SPI games ;).

BTW. Why John Tiller uses defence and attacker fire instead of just operational level combat, assault in PzC jargon, I know not. Apart from for artillery/air there is no need for fire combat at all.

All the best,

Kip.

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Sorry for the late response. Been busy :D

As we have said since the beginning of time (which is 1997 or so), Battlefront is not interested in doing a "strategic layer" for our tactical games. Three primary reasons:

1. It would be a major distraction for us, coming at the expense of tactical level improvements, expansions, and what not.

2. We feel the market for a strategic layer is too small to warrant the distraction factor. Few of you are self employed and/or have high level job responsibilities that also have a lot of flexibility built in. This means that most of you don't understand real world choices that involve investments of time. That's no slight on you guys, just a statement of fact reinforced every time we have a discussion like this. So I'll try to make our perspective more understandable:

If you were working a job paying $100 per hour for 50 hours per week, and someone then asked you if you wanted to work for them 20 hours per week at $30 per hour... would you take the second job? Perhaps if it was really fulfilling or took you to an interesting part of the world, but if you were happily doing the $100 per hour job you'd be a fool to take it.

What I'm saying is that a strategic layer thing might be viable for someone, but that someone isn't us. To us it's a money losing proposition before we even begin because whatever we invest in it will not compensate us as much as the other million things you guys want us to do. So it's not a good choice for us.

3. There's so little agreement about what a "strategic layer" entails that we'd prefer to let someone else have the headache of figuring out what works best for most people most of the time. We don't shy away from challenges, but we do try to avoid hitting ourselves repeatedly in the forehead with a sledgehammer :) choppinlt doesn't see it that way, fortunately for you guys :D

One thing to clear up. I don't think anybody is saying the app must be mobile only. It's just that the mobile development environment is easier/quicker/cheaper to work with than a traditional desktop environment. Done right the developer can crank out a PC or Mac application just as easily as iOS or Android. Our own Combat Mission Touch is coded that way and before I had an iPad I was using it on my Mac. There are some UI oddities that have to be worked around as well as support issues, but where there is a will there is a way. Personally, I think it would work much better to have your mobile device next to your keyboard and transpose the data from the desktop into it. But if you don't have a mobile device, that's not viable. Obviously!

Last thing to say is about our support of some feature to automatically transpose data from CM to the strategic app and back again. It's something we are only willing to attempt if there is a proven audience for this thing in the first place. CMC, as you know, didn't work out and we lost our investment in that. We are understandably cautious with our time and so this sort of "you build it and we will come" arrangement we struck with choppinlt.

The bottom line here is if you guys REALLY want what you've been telling us you want, then you need to put your money where your mouth is and make a commitment. If you aren't willing to do that then I don't see why choppinlt should bother, not to mention us doing a tie in.

Which is to say, I think it's up to you guys to decide for yourselves if you want something or nothing. Because those are the two choices. After that it's all details :D

Steve

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Hi,

When I first saw “App...” I did assume it would be PC friendly. Then got the impression that it was not to be PC friendly.

Whether app or PC program I care not as long as it runs on my PC ; ) . If it’s to be an app that can run on a PC the problem is gone before it even existed! But jumping from device to device did not interest me.

All sounds good to me, Steve made clear years ago he was no great fan of the idea.. in fact even before CMC,

All the best,

Kip.

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The bottom line here is if you guys REALLY want what you've been telling us you want, then you need to put your money where your mouth is and make a commitment. If you aren't willing to do that then I don't see why choppinlt should bother, not to mention us doing a tie in.

So if choppint gets his game going then BFC will make a tie in (=interface) for CM?

Ok, you got me.

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