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TacKLed

Sooo... I'm new and want to know the ins and outs

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What I mean by the title is that I've been following this series for a couple years now, and I've always been on the fence for the most recent installments (Normandy and Red Thunder). With Black Sea, I am most definitely going to buy this game. What I am most excited about is the map making and scenario making. But I have a few questions regarding this:

1) I've been lurking for a couple years now, and it seems like the AI will only do what you told them to do in the scenario editing (IE. you "tell" an infantry squad to screen from a vantage point, and they never leave this position). Is there any validity to this? Or can I give the AI units their initial placements and they will adjust from there>

2)Is map making really simple or obfuscated? I'm kind of a nerd with this ****, so I want to use 1:25,000 or w/e topographic maps to model scenarios and I remember reading that they made map making very easy with one of the expanisons or Red Thunder(?).

3) How plausible is it to craft OPORDs around these scenarios and have the AI react intelligently? As in making up a scenario in my head and then putting it in the game. I kind of just want to practice making OPORDs and what better way than using a video game.

Lastly, is there a resource where I can get free military grade topographic maps? It doesn't matter the source (I'm a Russian major, so Russian sites are welcome). I would rather get convenient, free topographic maps online then bugging some Major in our library about topographic maps for a video game lol.

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Welcome,

1. The AI is mostly scripted although with the 3.0 version of the engine, limited triggering is possible. As a general rule, if you tell a unit not to move and don't give it a trigger to move then yes it will stay in place until either destroyed or its morale goes south. Because this title hasn't been released yet, I don't know how responsive the Tac AI will be but you may see the Tac AI move individual vehicles with self-defence/protection systems move a lot more than any units in previous titles. Likewise if you tell a unit to move from waypoint one to waypoint two after five minutes then it will start moving from waypoint one to waypoint two after five minutes.

2. Map making is a doddle and creating near-real ground with the special editor overlay feature is a lot easier than it used to be. To use this - take your map or a Google Earth screen grab and save it as a special editor overlay. You then open this as an underlying layer in the map editor and you can then use the terrain editor to paint your features over the top. That said - a good map is a labour of love and the best maps benefit from attention to detail so it does take time, particularly for large maps.

3. Creating an OPORD is also simple and you shouldn't have to worry too much about the AI. The OPORD is there (as in real life) to give direction to the human player so the AI is not a huge factor (ie the underlying AI code does not read the OPORD and think 'I've got to do that) - it really only comes into play when you decide how you are going to write the 'Situation Enemy Forces Paragraph'. As the designer you will know where the enemy is and what the AI plans are so it is just a case of giving the player enough info to give them a chance without totally dispelling the fog of war.

As to map resources - I haven't seen anything free for the modern era at 1:25,000 of eastern Europe. This site (Polish) is great for maps up until the early 50s

http://igrek.amzp.pl/

However given that even the largest map in CMBS is going to be only a few km by a few km, I find Google Earth the best resource for creating Combat Mission maps. Just select an area - draw a border around it, screenshot it and crop it to the border - then import it into the map editor as the special editor overlay. If your screen grab is say a 4km x 2km rectangle then once you are in the editor you just expand the map from the default to 4km x 2km and the special editor overlay expands automatically to that size. In effect all you do then is 'trace over' the features - it is as easy as that.

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Thanks dude. I'll just end up using google maps then. That's kind of a bummer about the ai though. I was hoping for a more reactive ai layer. Does the ai usually harm the replayability of scenarios since it's kind of always the same from what it seems? Idk. I'll just have to play it I suppose. I see videos of the series and the ai looks pretty competent.

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If there is only one AI plan then yes that scenario will probably not be worth replaying more than a couple of times but you can create more plans (up to 6 off the top of my head). I can't say too much about the triggers because I mainly design in CMSF which doesn't have them so I have not played around with them too much. There are some designers out there who know more about them I do and so will probably be able to offer more info on them. Clearly the more triggers there are in any AI plan the higher the replay value.

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I forgot to mention - while it deals with CMBN (which doesn't have triggers) - this excellent thread by JonS gives a pretty comprehensive run through of how to design a CM scenario:

http://www.battlefront.com/community/showthread.php?t=110294

As you will see - not only does it cover the mechanics of putting a scenario together in the editor, it covers off on the underlying thought processes and the fine tuning required to put a scenario together from start to finish.

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Thanks dude. I'll just end up using google maps then. That's kind of a bummer about the ai though. I was hoping for a more reactive ai layer. Does the ai usually harm the replayability of scenarios since it's kind of always the same from what it seems? Idk. I'll just have to play it I suppose. I see videos of the series and the ai looks pretty competent.

@Combatintman did an awesome job covering your questions. I only have a few minor comments to add. Starting with read the thread and document he linked too - it is very useful.

On the subject of re-playability, as @Combatintman mentioned, you can create several different AI plans. However even playing the same plan again may play out quite differently. One reason is the new triggers feature that allow an AI plan to react to events on the battle field. The other is just the TAC AI. Units respond to defend them selves and that means that if they are attacked in a different way they will react differently too. Those changes can be subtle but under the FoW it can feel bigger to the human player.

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I forgot to mention - while it deals with CMBN (which doesn't have triggers)...

Or, at least, didn't when JonS was putting together that tutorial. It does now if you upgrade to engine v3. Which takes nothing away from the value of what JonS did; you just have to learn how to incorporate triggers without his help :)

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What usually kills map making is being *over-ambitious*. Start out dropping a house next to a road with a field in back. Maybe add a fence. That's it, you're done! Save your planned real-world 2x3km map of Donetsk airport area for later. Just because you own a pair of running shoes doesn't mean you're now ready to compete in the Olympics. :)

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You will start a game, in five turns your entire command more or less will be reduced to smoking wreckage and unpleasant little red crosses. If you are of above average intelligence you will now read the manual. Many people have to iterate step one a few times, but too each his own.

After reading the manual your forces will survive for another turn or two. A few more iterations and you may start to understand what is killing your pixeltruppen and how its doing it.

ten or fifteen games after that you will start to survive for meaningful lengths of time against the AI. Then you will feel the urge to play against another player, the entire process begins again at step one.;)

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What usually kills map making is being *over-ambitious*. Start out dropping a house next to a road with a field in back. Maybe add a fence. That's it, you're done! Save your planned real-world 2x3km map of Donetsk airport area for later. Just because you own a pair of running shoes doesn't mean you're now ready to compete in the Olympics. :)

I think MikeyD has a point - I wouldn't encourage you to leap in and start with a 2 x 4 km rectangle as my post suggested. Also in terms of getting used to programming the AI, it is better to start small with your first scenarios.

My advice is to play the scenarios that come with the game and when you've played them past replay value - crack them open in the Scenario Editor and see how they've been put together. This will give you further design guidance and some useful ideas for you to start designing.

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^^^

Programming the AI. Read the JonS booklet. (There's a whole thread with it somewhere.) Read the manual for trigger updates. Create a TINY map with a platoon on defense. Use Scenario Editor mode to see how they react. Post your questions.

Repeat as needed, gradually increasing in size and complexity.

Jump in! The water's fine.

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A standing joke of mine is you get proficient at something only after having first managed to do it successfully three times in a row. That rule applies to sex, parallel parking, and programming the AI. I remember when they first introduced triggers to the game my learning curve was: "I don't understand this at all... Is the game broken or something? ...this makes no sense... Oh! That worked! Aha, that's really pretty easy!" ;)

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