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Kaunitz

"That's one vast valley!" - hard-edged, realistically scaled map

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WIP: Working on woods

ZdOhiy8.jpg

This is the best "mixed" wood I could come up with. I tried to create a rising canopy, with shorter trees at the edges and taller trees as you proceed depper into the wood. The wood is not without problems: generally speaking, the trunks of CM trees are much too thick. I suppose it's necessary as an abstraction as the  maximum number of trees you get per 8m² is 3). Also, the foliage/crowns of almost all CM trees are located very low/close to the ground. This means that lines of sight are unnaturally short in CM woods, wheras in most real woods, the situation "on the ground" is characterized by bare trunks - all the foliage is high up in the canopy of leaves. In CM:FB, there are two (cornifer) trees that feature tall trunks - tree E & H - but these are significantly taller than the other trees, so combining them looks a bit weird.

It would be so great if map-designers had access to de-foliaged trees.

Note that although the woods are cut off by the edge of the map, they are still large enough so that infantry has some space in it and is not trapped against the adge (so that the wood can not be saturated by artillery that easily).

Small sidenote: In chapter 14 of Charles B. MacDonald, Company Commander. The Classic Infantry Memoir of WWII, you can read how firebreaks were significant features for orientation in woods.

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WIP: View from the farm to the wooded hill (left) and orchard (right).The distance to orchard is ca. 1 km. Note the "gentleness" of the slope. :D There will be some hedges and ridges separating the individual fields.

df7LljG.jpg

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In the potential scanerio, the German reinforcements (probably a platoon of PG in halftracks and/or trucks, 1-2 tanks/Stugs) will arrive on a road that leads through a narrow ravine between two hills (the same road will also be the exit objective). If the german player wants to evade the bottleneck (the ravine's exit), his troops will master a very steep road through the woods: 

SnIuPqz.jpg

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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On 11/2/2018 at 8:12 PM, Kaunitz said:

So what should this area (defined by the the line "orchard - hamlet - thicket") offer for the attacker? Some positions for observation of the objective area and positions for long range support.

I don't think you should design the map to offer/block certain things. That feels gamey, I think. Instead, what I prefer to do is to just focus on making a realistic landscape for the actual location. That kind of map always provides good gameplay opportunities.

As a player, I think the fun is to read a believable landscape and trying to figure out a good plan for the assets I have, not to play "guess what the scenario designer wanted".

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Wait until you see the map before you decide how it feels. ;) If the map is any good, it will feel natural AND turn out to be balanced (according to the idea of the scenario and/or as a quickbattle map).

 

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5 minutes ago, Kaunitz said:

Wait until you see the map before you decide how it feels

Sure, it's just that I think there are two different basic design philosophies here.

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One thing I find very difficult is combining large-scale features with small scale terrain.

For example, in your example you want the terrain to gently roll down into a valley and then up again on the other side. But if you want to add a ditch that runs along a road that goes into that valley, it's pretty much impossible to get right.

Because the gentle slope is made by game's interpolation between distant nodes, and your ditch needs to do hug the road, thus your control nodes need to be close together, and you can only adjust height in 1-metre intervals, leading to stair-stepping and ruining the smooth curve of the slope...

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Interesting thread ….

I’ve been kicking around a few related concepts which I don’t claim to be the solution, but I think they are worth putting out there.

 

The ‘Recon’ concept in relation to the exit problem I think boils down to screen and guard missions.

Before we go on then, it is important that we all understand what screen and guard missions are as defined by doctrine rather than what would be ‘a cool mission’ or the casual player’s perception of ‘recon’.

Here is the doctrinal view …

Screen

 

A task to maintain surveillance; provide early warning to the main body; or impede, destroy, and

harass enemy reconnaissance within its capability without becoming decisively engaged.

Guard

 

A form of security operation whose primary task is to protect the main force by fighting to gain time while also observing and reporting information and to prevent enemy ground observation of and direct fire against the main body by reconnoitering, attacking, defending, and delaying. A guard force normally operates within the range of the main body’s indirect fire weapons.

In Combat Mission Editor terms – both missions require:

The use of the ‘Spot’ objective.

Some form of ‘Destroy’ or enemy casualty parameters.

In the case of the ‘Screen’ mission, avoidance of decisive engagement which can be handled in the editor by:

Use of the friendly casualty parameter.

Use of exit objectives.

Or a combination of the two.

 

Also, and yes I bang on about this a lot, there is the question of the narrative which can cover off on a lot of the concepts above.

How can we get this to work then? – again I offer no solution, but this is something I’m working on.

Here’s the real thing:

9537514_RealTopDown.thumb.jpg.b3edabec8f76b3e8d6ac0a4ec792bf5a.jpg

Here’s the CM version of it:

640228847_CMTopDown.jpg.a811fc90d11b38d1d24587d2ab789e63.jpg

Ground view real and CM rendering.

581242734_RealandCMEyeView.thumb.jpg.8f27aa44b133219232da50ce842af7ec.jpg

 

This will be for CMBS and the map area is 3328m wide x 1920 high to give enough battlespace for the thing to work. Most importantly, this mission is optimised as a Blue vs Red AI mission.

Back to the narrative …

In essence, sometime in the near future, NATO intelligence has identified that Russia is planning a short notice operation to secure the Baltic under cover of the ZAPAD exercise which involved troops based in Kaliningrad and troops exercising in Belarus. As part of that, elements of the forces in the Kaliningrad Oblast will attack towards the East while elements of the 20 Guards Army will attack West into the Suwalki Gap.

The US, as one of the few NATO countries that can deploy forces at short notice has responded by sending high readiness airborne forces. Within 24 hours of their arrival, reports indicate that 7 Guards Motor Rifle Regiment are about to launch an attack into Lithuania from the Kaliningrad Oblast.

A Troop 1/91 Cavalry (Airborne) is to screen/guard (not decided yet) IVO Alvitas in order to allow NATO forces to prepare defences to the East (or something like that).

 

The key with the narrative and an understanding of the doctrinal mission statements is that you are telling the player three things …

 

Exiting the map is ok.

Whacking all of the enemy is not the be all and end all.

Don’t lose too much stuff.

 

You then build on the narrative by creating incentives in the victory point scheme. Now there are no numbers below, but they provide a structure in which I think you can make the ‘recon+exit’ concept work.

 

Going back to the scenario above …

 

Essentially the Russians are going to throw regimental reconnaissance and a battalion sized unit at this problem.

 

That breaks down into the following groupings:

 

Formation reconnaissance (about a company)

 

Combat reconnaissance patrol (about a platoon)

 

Vanguard company (you guessed it … a company)

 

Main body (a couple of companies)

 

The Russians will get VPs for:

 

Hitting their immediate and subsequent objectives (Terrain ‘Touch’ objective).

 

Reaching Phase Lines at the Eastern edge of the map (Terrain ‘Touch’ objective).

 

Destroying Blue units (Unit ‘Destroy’ objective (linked to a Blue ‘Exit’ objective plus enemy casualties parameter).

 

Preserving their own combat power (Friendly casualties parameter).

 

The Russians also have an ‘Exit’ objective at the East end of the map although this has little bearing for the Russians.

 

The US have the following objectives:

 

Spotting Russian units (Unit ‘Spot’ objectives).

 

Preserving own combat power (Friendly casualties parameter).

 

Destroying Russian units (Enemy casualties parameter – point to note is that although the Russians have an ‘Exit’ objective, there is no corresponding US ‘Destroy’ objective for Russian units).

 

Exiting the map.

Comment

Pulling this off properly just involves getting the sums right. As the scenario designer you have to decide at which point the Blue player has to exit the map to win the scenario. Once you decide that, you test it and fiddle around with the points and maybe shift a couple of the phase lines East or West, raise/lower their VP values to make it all work.

 

So in this instance the Russian order of march is pretty doctrinal as shown in the schematic below along with some sample numbers for the spot objectives and terrain objectives.

1753607881_DoctrinalTemplate.thumb.jpg.99231da5ddf724d22eedb2c290156ec5.jpg

 

Then it is just a case of tinkering around with it a bit.

The map making thing – use real ground – it is so much easier than creating imaginary ground.

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4 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

One thing I find very difficult is combining large-scale features with small scale terrain.

This is indeed a problem. But it's not a deal-breaker and I think that all maps suffer from it. Especially ditches/small elevations that run diagonally across the map are an ugly thing, but there's really nothing you can do against it (if you know a trick please tell me! :D ). It's also true that the flatter /more gently sloped the landscape is, the more dead ground you create  by implementing even a very small 1m-height feature or a simple hedge. 

1 hour ago, Combatintman said:

Interesting thread ….

*snip*

First of all: Thanks for all the ideas you bring up! I still remember you, by the way! (http://community.battlefront.com/topic/125196-wip-mapscenario-taming-the-watchdog/?tab=comments#comment-1714589 :)

I wonder though to what extent these mission-descriptions would apply to a WWII-setting. There are certainly people around who are more informed on these matters than me and maybe my picture of WWII-warfare is off (so pls correct me!), but as far as I know, WWII in north-western Europe and on the Eastern Front was still characterized by front lines, rather than the manoeuvre of "main bodies". So, apart from the early stages in which the frontlines were forming up (or failed at that...),  I suppose that recon played a relatively small role in the main theaters of WWII? "If the enemy is not in that village anymore, he has probably retreated to the next one. If not, we just continue to advance until we get shot at...".  But in a modified form, a "guard" or "delay" mission seems very plausible: as far as I know, WWII front lines, especially the German ones, were defended rather thinly but very deeply. The idea was pretty much to "slow down" the enemy with deposable infantry to prevent him from striking through the line (and wreak havoc among your support assets and your artillery) and in order to buy time to get your counter-strike-force ready to attack the enemy while he was still vulnerable/committed to the attack. The fear of the counter-attack is a very common theme in any WWII account.

But then again I don't see why I should not also port this map over to CM:BS once it is finished! :) I will open up a CM:BS threat once I'm ready for the port. We can then discuss what kind of action would provide a suitable scenario for the map in more detail. At first glance though I have to say that I fear that my map will be to small for modern warfare. The narration you've described fits your map - which is larger (3328m x 1920m) - but I think we will find it difficult to come up with a plausible scenario for my 1.5 x 2km map. I've had all these troubles with modern warfare before (see threat linked above). But of course I could extend the map.

-----

May I ask though whether your map is scaled 1:1 to the original? It's really hard to compare real pictures with ingame screenshots, but I do think I see some difference in the 2 pictures that you've posted? I know I'm extremely nitpicky (that's why I've started my own map! :) ) but doesn't the map looks smaller/denser than the real picture? For example, the house on the left seems to be at a distance of perhaps 4-5 action spots (32-40m) from the street, while on the real picture, it looks like it's farther away? It also seems as if you can't look as far on the map as you can on the picture? The trees on the horizon on the map seem to be larger (closer) than those on the real picture? 

I don't know whether they're already finished, but I would also suggest to add some concealment to the wood on the right or to woods in general. I've found bocage-tiles quite handy for that, in combination with terrain that offers some undergrwoth (light/heavy forest) and a sloping canopy (short trees at the edge, tall trees in the center of the wood). If you just place trees on light or heavy forest tiles, the effect is not really convincing. From my experience, soldiers that stand up are taller than the fortest-tile's terrain effect and thus can be seen quite easily if they're not blocked entirely by treetrunks or the trees' foliage. This can lead to ugly situations in which units can spot deeply into a wood. Also, thick vegetation at a wood's edge looks nice. :)

Edited by Kaunitz

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8 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

From my experience, soldiers that stand up are taller than the fortest-tile's terrain effect and thus can be seen quite easily if they're not blocked entirely by treetrunks or the trees' foliage. This can lead to ugly situations in which units can spot deeply into a wood.

I think it often has to do with there being just a bit of slope in the forest. So incoming lines of sight have to penetrate much less terrain. I've often been surprised by this, when I thought my teams were perfectly safe many squares into a forest. I find the LOS-blocking of tree trunks very unpredictable.

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@Kaunitz

An example of WW2 US Cavalry doctrine ...

http://cdm16040.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p4013coll9/id/708/rec/6

There is a fair amount of picking around the above but both screen and guard missions are in there, even if they are not explicitly stated in terms of the wording of the current doctrine.

With regard to front lines, I would agree that the Western front from 1944 onwards was mostly characterised by front lines but there are still plenty of examples of fluid situations. Some examples would be:

The Allied breakout across France and up through Belgium.

The advance north from the beach heads following Operation Dragoon.

Advances across Germany in the last couple of months of the war.

The Eastern front is a very different picture following the initial breakthrough of pretty much any of the major operations the situation was extremely fluid, with Operation Bagration being the best late war example.

The map is scaled 1:1 and yes of course there are differences. This is down to what can be achieved in the map editor and this part of the map involved a road curve that was straightened out to avoid too many road zig zags. As a result some buildings got shifted further North or South to compensate for this rather than me painting the house right on the exact location. It is inevitable that the distance and space ratios will never exactly work out, if for no other reason than houses are 'locked' to action spots and can only be oriented, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW.

The 'woods' on the right are not woods, it is a combination of a line of trees handrailing the road and trees in the gardens of various properties along that road.

With regard to use of bocage tiles in woods - not my thing I'm afraid and my view is that some mapmakers over egg cover in woods. One thing I can guarantee about this map is that LOS is not what it looks at face value as I have discovered when looking for fire positions during scenario testing.

My view on map making has always been, go for realism up to the limitations of the editor which includes thinking about frame rates and processing time (so I don't go mad with flavour objects, foliage or endless fiddling with contours). Close enough for government work is more than good enough in my view, so if the player recognises the CM representation as being close to the real ground I have done my job.

I admire people who strive to get things exactly right but there is a point where the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Remember that the map is only one part of a scenario and players play CM primarily for the action/tactical problem solving aspect of the game. If you've got the most accurate/beautiful map in the World but a stinker of a scenario narrative/a massively unbalanced battle or a poor AI plan then all you have is a nice map which nobody will thank you for.

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On 11/6/2018 at 9:37 AM, Bulletpoint said:

I think it often has to do with there being just a bit of slope in the forest. So incoming lines of sight have to penetrate much less terrain. I've often been surprised by this, when I thought my teams were perfectly safe many squares into a forest. I find the LOS-blocking of tree trunks very unpredictable.

Interesting point and you might be on to something. With a gently rising canopy of leaves, this should be impossible, as the leaves  -not the micro-terrain on the ground or tree trunks -  block the lines of sight into the wood consistently. 

On 11/6/2018 at 10:34 AM, Combatintman said:

@Kaunitz

An example of WW2 US Cavalry doctrine ... [...]

The map is scaled 1:1 and yes of course there are differences. This is down to what can be achieved in the map editor and this part of the map involved a road curve that was straightened out to avoid too many road zig zags. As a result some buildings got shifted further North or South to compensate for this rather than me painting the house right on the exact location. It is inevitable that the distance and space ratios will never exactly work out, if for no other reason than houses are 'locked' to action spots and can only be oriented, N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W and NW.

The 'woods' on the right are not woods, it is a combination of a line of trees handrailing the road and trees in the gardens of various properties along that road.

With regard to use of bocage tiles in woods - not my thing I'm afraid and my view is that some mapmakers over egg cover in woods. One thing I can guarantee about this map is that LOS is not what it looks at face value as I have discovered when looking for fire positions during scenario testing.

My view on map making has always been, go for realism up to the limitations of the editor which includes thinking about frame rates and processing time (so I don't go mad with flavour objects, foliage or endless fiddling with contours). Close enough for government work is more than good enough in my view, so if the player recognises the CM representation as being close to the real ground I have done my job.

I admire people who strive to get things exactly right but there is a point where the law of diminishing returns comes into play. Remember that the map is only one part of a scenario and players play CM primarily for the action/tactical problem solving aspect of the game. If you've got the most accurate/beautiful map in the World but a stinker of a scenario narrative/a massively unbalanced battle or a poor AI plan then all you have is a nice map which nobody will thank you for.

Thanks for the link! Cool stuff. I will also try to read up on some of the more mobile phases of WWII that you've listed. 

Re Map: Yes, I guess I'm prone to over-egging. :) But for me that's also part of the fun and experience. Scrutinizing how well the game's maps can represent  real landscapes. This of course also applies to mere aesthetics that have no influence on the tactical gaming-experience at all. But when it comes to distances and foliage, I think these aspects are functionally important. On the picture, it does look like any unit in between the tree-trunks could be spotted quite easily, while on the real photograph, you'd be very safe from discovery because of the dense wall of foliage and the shadows cast by the canopy (the concealment effect of shadow is something that is abstracted into the "wood"-micro-terrains, which fails as soon as you stand up ^^). I haven't found a good way to simulate this effect, other than by using (chaotically and randomly placed) bocage fences. Generally speaking, I think that discussing things like these with the aim to bring the maps functionally (not just aesthetically) closer to real landscapes, is a good idea. I just wished I knew a bit more about the things that shape landscapes (I've no clue at all when it comes to agriculture or forestry....). All I can do is drive around in google streetview, measure distances, compare with WWII maps. :D 

I do think that some long-range scenario would be a nice addition to the pool of maps and scenarios currently available. Longer ranges are certainly realistic (which doesn't mean that short ranges aren't), and I also think they would give players a refreshing experience, with the role of some weapons becoming a bit clearer (e.g. MGs) and some aspects of the game becoming a bit more important than they usually are (finer graduation of suppression, aiming is more important, armor values/distance to target more important, movement under long range fire is sometimes still possible, firing without being immediately spotted, etc). In my last test, a AT-gun-bunker was duelling with a platoon of Shermans. At longer ranges, the Shermans had quite some troubles to hit and crack it. :) Longer distances  also makes some problems stand out more though (tanks area-firing at not-yet-shared targets only sighted by infantry is a quite huge problem, infantry seems to spot much better at those longer distances).

 

Edited by Kaunitz

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2 hours ago, Kaunitz said:
On 11/6/2018 at 9:37 AM, Bulletpoint said:

I think it often has to do with there being just a bit of slope in the forest. So incoming lines of sight have to penetrate much less terrain. I've often been surprised by this, when I thought my teams were perfectly safe many squares into a forest. I find the LOS-blocking of tree trunks very unpredictable.

Interesting point and you might be on to something. With a gently rising canopy of leaves, this should be impossible, as the leaves  -not the micro-terrain on the ground or tree trunks -  block the lines of sight into the wood consistently. 

I think the point is that the canopy leaves don't actually block LOS 100% - it's more of a modifier. So that on a slope, incoming LOS might only have to pass through one or two canopies (33 pct blocked?), where on flat ground, it might have to pass through 10 or more = completely blocked.

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 A huge part of the challenge of good map design is to achieve reasonable believability that what one sees could be found in nature, and balance for play. For CMFB I spent many hours coming up with what I thought looked like a very convincing part of the Ardennes, but was utterly miserable for proper play. 

Making a map that is focused solely on mimicking real terrain can be visually satisfying, but unsuitable for play without considerable effort to make it workable and fair. Much depends on whether one wants to make a full fledged scenario, with AI plans, etc, or a map that can be selected for QB. 

My own preference is for smaller battles and smaller maps. I enjoy trying to imbue a sense that when one is playing on my maps that they feel as if someone really lives (or vacated recently) the location. Flavour objects are something that I spend many hours on but that to me become part of an immersive experience. 

I think it’s important, when making a map, to not present the players with obvious things created for play balance. Yes, the map needs to be balanced for its intended use, but if done well, it should not look like anything but a slice of the planet served up on the computer screen, rather than having obvious spotting locations, places of cover, and movement paths. The designer must think of these things, but then make it look to the player like it was never a consideration, or it really does cry out “just a game.” If the player is thinking carefully, they should discover these things through observation and analysis, rather than it being clear from the moment they see the map.

Edited by Bud Backer

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3 minutes ago, Bud Backer said:

A huge part of the challenge of good map design is to achieve reasonable believability that what one sees could be found in nature, and balance for play. For CMFB I spent many hours coming up with what I thought looked like a very convincing part of the Ardennes, but was utterly miserable for proper play. 

Making a map that is focused solely on mimicking real terrain can be visually satisfying, but unsuitable for play without considerable effort to make it workable and fair. Much depends on whether one wants to make a full fledged scenario, with AI plans, etc, or a map that can be selected for QB. 

My own preference is for smaller battles and smaller maps. I enjoy trying to imbue a sense that when one is playing on my maps that they feel as if someone really lives (or vacated recently) the location. Flavour objects are something that I spend many hours on but that to me become part of an immersive experience. 

I think it’s important, when making a map, to not present the players with obvious things created for play balance. Yes, the map needs to be balanced for its intended use, but if done well, it should not look like anything but a slice of the planet served up on the computer screen, rather than having obvious spotting locations, places of cover, and movement paths. The designer must think of these things, but then make it look to the player like it was never a consideration, or it really does cry out “just a game.”

Very well said all of it.

Out of curiosity, what kinds of issues did you run into with the Ardennes map? AI pathfinding? Balance?

Did you scrap the map or just change it to make it playable, and if so, where can I download it?

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2 hours ago, Bud Backer said:

 A huge part of the challenge of good map design is to achieve reasonable believability that what one sees could be found in nature, and balance for play. For CMFB I spent many hours coming up with what I thought looked like a very convincing part of the Ardennes, but was utterly miserable for proper play. 

Making a map that is focused solely on mimicking real terrain can be visually satisfying, but unsuitable for play without considerable effort to make it workable and fair. Much depends on whether one wants to make a full fledged scenario, with AI plans, etc, or a map that can be selected for QB. 

My own preference is for smaller battles and smaller maps. I enjoy trying to imbue a sense that when one is playing on my maps that they feel as if someone really lives (or vacated recently) the location. Flavour objects are something that I spend many hours on but that to me become part of an immersive experience. 

I think it’s important, when making a map, to not present the players with obvious things created for play balance. Yes, the map needs to be balanced for its intended use, but if done well, it should not look like anything but a slice of the planet served up on the computer screen, rather than having obvious spotting locations, places of cover, and movement paths. The designer must think of these things, but then make it look to the player like it was never a consideration, or it really does cry out “just a game.” If the player is thinking carefully, they should discover these things through observation and analysis, rather than it being clear from the moment they see the map.

+1 :) And I'd also be interested to take a look at the Ardennes map if it can be found somewhere. 

I fully agree to what you say. A good map should be balanced (according to the scenario or quickbattle conditions - if the scenario is assymetrical that's fine, of course) AND believable. That's why I don't think it's a crime if a mapmaker anticipates how the players will look at his map and tries to prevent a design that is inherently imbalanced/not fun for the players. I need to point out that, when it comes to breaking immersion, the edge of the map is one of the worst offenders. That's one of the reason why I feel the urge to have a certain minimum size for maps and try to prevent cut-offs. 

--------

More generally, I'd be interested to know what you would consider to be a good/fun to play map? Immersion/realism is probably a no-brainer. But can you name what makes the tactical appeal of a map? I will try to formulate some points myself.

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3 hours ago, Kaunitz said:

More generally, I'd be interested to know what you would consider to be a good/fun to play map? Immersion/realism is probably a no-brainer. But can you name what makes the tactical appeal of a map?

 

I remember once reading something about how fun in games basically boils down to making meaningful decisions that lead to other meaningful decisions.

So in a shooting game, a choice might be to shoot or not shoot in a particular moment, and in a racing game, it could be to steer left or right.

If it doesn't matter if you shoot or not, or drive left or right, the game is not fun (unless there are other choices that you make that make up for it).

In CM, maybe we don't call it fun, we can call it tactical appeal, because we are very serious people :)

But it basically comes down to the same thing: presenting the player with meaningful decisions.

(There's of course lots more to be said on this topic, but I think this very overall idea is very useful to keep in mind...)

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Building off Bulletpoint, I think the aspect of having to make a less then perfect decision amplifies that satisfaction even more. The terrain of a map plays a huge role in this, because it is the one thing you have no influence over. Real life commanders never had the perfect support by fire position or covered routes into the enemies rear, they had to deal with the hand their were dealt, both on offense and defense. The terrain was as much of an enemy sometimes as the man on the pointy end of your rifle. It's why the first step of almost any military planning process is to analyze the terrain. The great captains of military history are as renowned for their ability to read the ground just as much as their ability to lead men. "Terrain walks" are a staple of any military staff ride. All this to say that when you "bake in" terrain, you are taking away a big chunk of the decision making process. When you bake in these convenient support by fire positions, the decision is no longer "where on this map should I place my support by fire position?", but instead "should I go to Position A, B or C?". On a "natural" map, maybe there is no tenable support by fire position. The player must adapt. Maybe they utilize more of their artillery up front to compensate. Or choose to utilize a smoke screen. Or one of a hundred other ways a player can utilize the terrain and their understanding of tactics to achieve their mission. Offering up a player a series of built in options is no longer a tactical game, but a "choose your own adventure". It's why I'm deeply dissatisfied with games like the new X-Com or Unity of Command - the game offers up to you a series of baked in options, of which only a few actually work.

Another factor of tactical appeal is that the closer a map is to realistic terrain, the more likely you are to utilize realistic tactics. Half the fun of Combat Mission is pretending you're a WW2 commander and understanding why they made the decision they did.

Check out combatintman's excellent play through of one of my scenarios here: http://community.battlefront.com/topic/120527-no-plan-survives-first-contact-with-the-enemy-planning-tutorial/

He dives deep into an excellent analysis of the terrain I provided and builds a plan that I never even envisioned while designing the scenario. That's exciting! That's what real commanders had to do! Not solving a puzzle the designer offered up to you. Later in that thread I also talk about how I designed the map and more about my philosophy on scenario design.

As for why sometimes *too* realistic is a bad thing, I imagine a faithful re-creation of Ardennes style woods would result in little decision making beyond putting your soldiers in a line and waiting until they step on a mine or take a bullet to the face from 15m away. Realistic terrain yes, but not very fun. Also, a personal pet peeve of mine - zig zag roads. Yes, the "real thing" has a road branching straight off at a 67.76 degree angle from the main junction, but if I try to replicate that in Combat Mission with the draw tool, it will create a mess of zig zaggy road sections. If you now try to put a hedge or forest along that road, it will inevitably create a break in LOS on what is, in real life, an arrow straight road that just happens to branch off at a weird angle. The resulting CM recreation looks odd and often plays odd.

Edited by SeinfeldRules

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7 hours ago, Bud Backer said:

 A huge part of the challenge of good map design is to achieve reasonable believability that what one sees could be found in nature, and balance for play.

Yeah, I'd go even a step further. What makes a map truly great is the story behind it. Most places on earth, especially places of some strategic value, have a lot of history. From signs of the native population that hastily left their homes, to previous failed offensives done by your precursors, I want my battlefields to have character. Even on emptier maps, it's cool to see pathways that people used to walk in the forests or even trench systems with shelters, storage and improvised out houses. It gives context to the challenges you face and makes them that much more relevant and interesting. For this reason, I am horrible at map design -- making maps that have too many things going on but are a nuisance to the player.

It's why those newfangled Fallout games are so popular... the places tell more compelling stories than the plot.

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9 hours ago, SeinfeldRules said:

...

As for why sometimes *too* realistic is a bad thing, I imagine a faithful re-creation of Ardennes style woods would result in little decision making beyond putting your soldiers in a line and waiting until they step on a mine or take a bullet to the face from 15m away. Realistic terrain yes, but not very fun. Also, a personal pet peeve of mine - zig zag roads. Yes, the "real thing" has a road branching straight off at a 67.76 degree angle from the main junction, but if I try to replicate that in Combat Mission with the draw tool, it will create a mess of zig zaggy road sections. If you now try to put a hedge or forest along that road, it will inevitably create a break in LOS on what is, in real life, an arrow straight road that just happens to branch off at a weird angle. The resulting CM recreation looks odd and often plays odd.

Great post and I can't give enough +1's to this last paragraph.

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14 hours ago, DerKommissar said:

Yeah, I'd go even a step further. What makes a map truly great is the story behind it. Most places on earth, especially places of some strategic value, have a lot of history. From signs of the native population that hastily left their homes, to previous failed offensives done by your precursors, I want my battlefields to have character. Even on emptier maps, it's cool to see pathways that people used to walk in the forests or even trench systems with shelters, storage and improvised out houses. It gives context to the challenges you face and makes them that much more relevant and interesting.

I agree. I spent some time arranging tombstones in a small graveyard. As a family plot, going back quite a few decades, it made sense to me that a few would not be quite aligned with the others, so I deliberately put them slightly askew. Probably no one would really pay attention to that but when I was making the map it was part of feeling like I’m actually there. It’s also the sort of thing that makes it unlikely I’ll ever make a 2000x2000m map. A very small map is still well over 100 hours work for me, I can’t imagine scaling that up by a factor of 20!

Edited by Bud Backer

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18 hours ago, SeinfeldRules said:

As for why sometimes *too* realistic is a bad thing, I imagine a faithful re-creation of Ardennes style woods would result in little decision making beyond putting your soldiers in a line and waiting until they step on a mine or take a bullet to the face from 15m away. Realistic terrain yes, but not very fun.

I agree with everything else in your post, but wanted to comment on this.

Definitely it's true that a realistic landscape can be boring to play, but the problem is not that it's *too* realistic. It's that the wrong slice of reality was used to make the map.

In my opinion, all good maps are realistic, but not all realistic maps are good (for gameplay).

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Hm, one could ask, how “realistic” QB’s are, anyway.

I find usually they are not too realistic. More “chess like”.

Problem is for me: Normally they are  meeting engagements with a rush to the VP areas, with pretty “accidental” force compositions.

I know, one could try and set up attack-defense battles, but that would create similar issues with a different aspect.

So, my conclusion: The Maps are not necessarily realistic, but often good for the “strategic games”, which QB’s are.

Edited by StieliAlpha

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36 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

I agree with everything else in your post, but wanted to comment on this.

Definitely it's true that a realistic landscape can be boring to play, but the problem is not that it's *too* realistic. It's that the wrong slice of reality was used to make the map.

In my opinion, all good maps are realistic, but not all realistic maps are good (for gameplay).

Ah, and, following my previous post: I agree with Bulletpoint.

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1 hour ago, Bulletpoint said:

I agree with everything else in your post, but wanted to comment on this.

Definitely it's true that a realistic landscape can be boring to play, but the problem is not that it's *too* realistic. It's that the wrong slice of reality was used to make the map.

In my opinion, all good maps are realistic, but not all realistic maps are good (for gameplay).

This ^^^ !

Real terrain is... well... real. It’s like saying Damned Normandy, too many hedgerows! Or that a flat map with nothing but wheat in it is “too realistic.” It’s far more likely that the choice of terrain and location was not going to make an interesting playing field, rather than it’s overly realistic. 

The reason I make this distinction, as I realize it’s a fine one, is that when we are discussing maps, and how they may not work, we need to be certain our terms of reference are the same, or we waste time and energy debating and discussing at cross-purposes. 

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56 minutes ago, StieliAlpha said:

Hm, one could ask, how “realistic” QB’s are, anyway.

I find usually they are not too realistic. More “chess like”.

Problem is for me: Normally they are  meeting engagements with a rush to the VP areas, with pretty “accidental” force compositions.

I know, one could try and set up attack-defense battles, but that would create similar issues with a different aspect.

So, my conclusion: The Maps are not necessarily realistic, but often good for the “strategic games”, which QB’s are.

There is no shortage of non-meeting engagement QB maps. ;)

And meeting engagement QB maps can be very interesting, if done well. Asymmetric starting points and objective location and values can create some delightful dynamics when given sufficient thought. One of the things I really enjoy when playing QB’s (99% of my play is QB against a human) is to contextualize the battle. To discuss with my opponent what we’re trying to simulate, whether it be past of a historical battle, or a theme of light forces skirmishing, or why some objectives may matter in the context of what is happening in the wider war that would be off-map, so that they are not just green blobs on the map. 

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