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WriterJWA

How I view most scenarios and the designers...

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26 minutes ago, Swervin11b said:

It was in The Guns of Last Light and I looked it up again in a Washington Post story

There you go. Great book, but I didn't remember that particular quote... the other episode I mentioned above has stuck to my memory. I also half remember some quite waspish comments by Major General Corlett (commander of the XIX Corps) about Bradley when he was kicked out of his command.

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Here is an example of what I'm pointing to in the original post. Beware..... SPOILERS FOLLOW.

The attached screenshot is of the third scenario in the Courage Conquers campaign of CMFB. In this scenario the US player has to take a town of about two dozen buildings, along with tapping various checkpoints along the way. The defender is said to be German paratroopers spread out across its frontage and supported by indirect fire. The US player has 55 whole minutes to accomplish its mission.

But here's the problem: They really don't have 55 minutes. The US player doesn't start off with its full force. It begins the scenario with a platoon of Stuart tanks and an infantry platoon or two in tracks, supported by an 81mm section. The rest of its force comes on piecemeal starting ten or so minutes into the scenario. So really, you end up with about 30 minutes to accomplish what would probably take 2-3 hours for a similar force, being that they would have to recon the town, locate the enemy troops as best as possible, determine how they're oriented, where their obstacles are placed, and how their fire plan should be made. Also, spotting in built-up areas is much tougher, which means it takes even longer. What's worse is the game player doesn't have the luxury of delegation. He has to micromanage every troop, and they're not as smart as the common foot soldier.* He has leaders, sure, but they don't make decisions or take the initiative.

The following scenario is much the same. The player is given a whopping hour and ten minutes to locate and wipe out a battalion-strength enemy force with forces that come on piecemeal.

Again, I'm not out to poke a stick in the side of the scenario developers. I know they're trying to do good work. While there are a few things I'd love to see tightened up that might fall outside the realm of realistic expectations of programming (melee, grid coordinate-like artillery missions, etc...), this isn't one of them. Just something to consider...... 

 

 

*Please, for the love of god, I'm begging you, with tears in my eyes, patch this game so troops don't break from cover and run into the open when they come under fire. It goes against every piece of understanding about the psychology of humans under fire.

 

Town.jpg

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6 minutes ago, WriterJWA said:

*Please, for the love of god, I'm begging you, with tears in my eyes, patch this game so troops don't break from cover and run into the open when they come under fire. It goes against every piece of understanding about the psychology of humans under fire.

It's being patched. SF2 already has the patch applied.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, kinophile said:

55 mins is insane for assault on a built up area. "Maybe" ok for a race through rough/open countryside  Maybe.... 

 

 

 

I wonder if somewhere around the first Combat Mission series it just got stuck in the minds of developers that the scenarios should be on or about an hour. I remember having similar complaints when playing CMBO and CMAK. 

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Let me state again if I'm revising a scenario I tend to increase battle times, So I'm in agreement on that point.

One issue is the scenario designer is being pulled in opposite directions. On one hand is the tendency for ever-larger maps and ever-larger forces. On the other hand is constraints imposed by the need to formulate logical AI orders plans. Yes you can create a four hour battle with an additional 15 minute tacked on, but can you craft coherent AI movement plans for it? The scenario notice: 'Play Blue Only' is another way of saying 'The scenario has expanded beyond where I can build logical AI orders.' A decent scenario designer can work wonders using the game's AI tools. But its an art form and a learned skill. Especially if you're doing AI orders for the attacker. You can't just throw together a four hour assault battle involving a battalion+ across complex terrain. It can be done but its a Herculean task.

There's also the issue of ammo. The AI cannot resupply itself. I've played more than one battle where both sides have exhausted their ammo stock and are scrounging the last of their rounds to fire at the enemy. I've even used that as a 'cheat', stand off and let the enemy plink away at me, then assault after they've depleted their ammo. Expanding the battle an additional hour won't fix that problem. 

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I doubt any AI, even in more well funded or advanced games, could stand against a human oppo for 4 hours. We're just too devious and oriented for pattern analysis. Give us lo g enough and we'll spot the AIs tendency to something then use it against it. 

Actually, though, I read recently about an AI bring developed using StarCraft 2 that is, apparently, quite the mother****er to play against. 

But starcraft is super simple in terrain, units and "weapons tech ", in comparison to CMBS. Only the most basic principles of tactics still apply. 

CM/CMBS though is wayyy more unforgiving and unpredictable, plus SC/SC2 doesn't really provide for 

The point being that it is, tome, inherently pointless to provide AI  plans for 2hrs+ battles. These longer battles are really human affairs. 

Of course, my current building scenario/campaign (in limbo due to workload) has a battle that us essentially a 2 hour scramble to escape RUS AI forces, and its hard (to fight). For the AI I kept it super simple - company 1, attack here. Even then, but 1.5 hours I'm running out of orders and most players have the measure of the AI also. 

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I don't think I've come across a scenario in which the time limit given by the scenario designer was a factor in accomplishing my objective. I simply take the available time into consideration and adjust my operational tempo accordingly.

If you're taking too many casualties, use more ammo. ;)

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Since I have no idea how to unpack and repack a campaign, and really no interest either, I chose a stand alone scenario and added more time. The scenario I chose is Fight at Vallebruca for CMFI. 

This battle has been modified to add more time for the American attacker to complete the mission, nothing changes for the AXIS player. In this version of the battle, you will have 1.5 hours to complete the mission, double the original 45 minutes. However, there is a cost to using more time. At the 45, 1 hour and 1:15 minute mark a recon platoon will arrive on the map as reinforcements. These units have a DESTROY objective for the Axis force and must exit the map to prevent the Axis player from scoring points. The EXIT zone is at the far end of the map, deep within the AXIS territory. As the American player, you will need to have solid control of the map to allow them to exit without suffering losses.

I suggest if you think you have won the battle at the 44 minute mark, select a ceasefire and take your victory.

In my play testing, a turn 1 ceasefire gives the AXIS player some points for destroying the recon forces even though they have not yet entered the map. To counter these points, the AMERICAN player has been given bonus points in the same value.

The only other changes to this battle are to switch the original destroy objectives for both players into CASUALTIES and CONDITION victory values. Keep your losses below 40% and inflict more than 40% on the enemy to secure these points. I have made no changes to briefing screens, tac or operations maps. I have also left all the AI plans the same, so after the original 45 minutes pass the AXIS forces will have no new AI orders.

Here is a link to the changed scenario:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5eknikjq5jo7n0o/AADJRF-3Tfc3iFCVzsEQlt7Wa?dl=0

Please give it a go and let me know what you think. If anyone has another scenario in mind they would to see have more time added, I am open to suggestions.

 

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One small word of warning about simply extending scenario duration.....Many scenario designers (myself included) use a 'Morale Ballast' reinforcement to prevent AI units surrendering too soon.  This reinforcement is set to arrive after the battle, typically at the three hour mark, so by extending the battle you might give yourself a nasty surprise (depending on how the designer dumped the ballast units and what they are).

FWIW

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The mentioned Courage Conquers campaign is a good example. CMFB has one of the worst cases of "take that town here that we just discovered having trice the force, you have 30 minutes, otherwise we lose World War 2 BUT keep in your casualties in mind we don´t know what could come in the future *mysterydrama glance*" timelimit syndromes although it generally got worse in the newer releases thus CMFI, CMRT, CMBS.

Also what is it with this sekrit overtime that isn´t mentioned. In reality combat and the world doesn´t end suddenly after 30 minutes but in CM it can because of god´s imposed time limits and you always sit there with paranoia "St. Puller help me I just have 5 minutes left, better throw all squads into the meatgrinder or hope for overtime?!" and after all my men are wasted, suddenly my commander arrives with his jeep and tells me "Mr. Mattis I just looked over the maps again taking that town with 3x crack Germans must be really hard to achieve in the time window of my lunch break and now that the 30 minutes passed and the world suddenly didn´t end, I found out that dessert is served hereby I suprisingly grant you more time for your assault but won´t tell you how much, hopefully you didn´t already wasted your men because you believed this is a instant game over mission hoho, please make good use of the additional 5?, 10?, 15?, 20?, 25? 60? minutes." Stopped counting how often I wondered about this idea. Sure you can play around with this in a "Try to achieve X. Company Z herefor can hold up the defense for 45 minutes perhaps longer" type of scenario but this "we won´t tell you the sekrit overtime" it is in almost every goddamn mission. WHO COME UP WITH THIS CULTURE? At least there are some mission designers that tell you right from the bat how much time you get.

Isn´t a system like this possible: We give you two hours (alternative 90 minutes normal 30 minutes overtime) for this operation, however if you´re able to take this town and hit cease fire in 90 minutes the nearby Unit XXXX can pull of a hell of a stunt move, you will considered an hero of the Soviet American Vaterland by Benito Churchill himself and receive a medal, and this is the only way to achieve all objectives here. From what I´ve seen total victories are always triggered when the enemy surrenders however you still can have failed objectives. So skilled CM player would be able to achieve extra objectives others won´t, giving them their challenge without forcing it onto others. Think about that. 

However this issue is the reason why I recommend WW2 beginners to start with CMBN because it´s original campaigns have less stubborn timelimits what I believe was done back then as on the older CM engines there was no retreating TacAI and so you had to smoke opposition out one by one which naturally required more time. With the new retreating mechanic these campaigns tend now to be easier. Don´t get me wrong I´ve played ALL and won those CMFB, FI, RT, BS campaigns. But I enjoyed these CMBN campaigns the most because I found myself having enough time to make appropiate recon, care for casualties, reposition etc. which resulted in authentic immersion and gameplay without ending in this usual gamey Starcraft click and rushfest which fell forced onto me in the other titles.  But don´t get me wrong it isn´t a walk in the park and you still have to keep momentum as time is still of the essence.

The same by the way I can say now for CMSF2, which I also can recommend to new players because from what I´ve seen THANKS HEAVEN they kept the original not so strict timelimits when updating the campaigns but added extra challenges to it like minefields, anti air defenses in order to challenge real commander skills like keeping casualties low and expecting the unexpected and not your ability to zerg rush everything AFAP.

I myself also used a helpful site over at LeslieSoftware that shows the branching trees of all campaigns and also what victory conditions trigger what path in the campaign. You may disagree with me on the practice and consider this as spoilering I do not as no other mission details are obtained and since I´m using it my enjoyment doubled especially with this campaigns where you just fighting time limits. This allows me to prevent driving my complete force against the wall because of a strict time limit in an unimportant early mission (which in most cases you can´t tell) to then end up with not enough forces to continue the campaign or to achieve a mandatory win in a following mission which was basically business as usual for me in RT, FB, FI before using that website. The opposite of course is also true, preventing you from saving your men from carnage because of a strict time limit in a mission and deciding against going for that objective that would kill half of your forces just to suddenly find the campaign end screen (at least in this case you not required to go back dozen of saves and hours of progress). Yes there are some campaign designers that give you great details in the always accessible campaign description but again most campaigns are too damn ambigious on that information. So St. Elrod bless this site without it I probably wouldn´t had the motivation to complete some of them. Amen

Edited by Mattis

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21 minutes ago, Mattis said:

We give you two hours (alternative 90 minutes normal 30 minutes overtime) for this operation, however if you´re able to take this town and hit cease fire in 90 minutes the nearby Unit XXXX can pull of a hell of a stunt move, you will considered an hero of the Soviet American Vaterland by Benito Churchill himself and receive a medal, and this is the only way to achieve all objectives here. From what I´ve seen total victories are always triggered when the enemy surrenders however you still can have failed objectives. So skilled CM player would be able to achieve extra objectives others won´t, giving them their challenge without forcing it onto others. Think about that

Thanks for the post @Mattis I appreciate your sense of humour and your post made me laugh out loud a couple times.

I am not sure that the new AI features are to blame for anything really. But the bit quoted above suggests a new type of victory condition which is quite sensible imo.

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1 hour ago, Mattis said:

Company Z herefor can hold up the defense for 45 minutes perhaps longer" type of scenario but this "we won´t tell you the sekrit overtime" it is in almost every goddamn mission. WHO COME UP WITH THIS CULTURE?

It's not a very well designed campaign. The overtime is something that makes sense in scenarios for play against a human opponent. It discourages last-minute jeep rushes to "flip" objective zones. In a campaign scenario that can only be played against the computer, it doesn't make much sense.

Another example of less than optimal design in this campaign is that the last minute has artillery scripted to come in automatically and suppress key locations. Great idea. However, the designer apparently wasn't aware of how this actually works in the game.

If you paint an artillery support target, the arty will just choose one random spot in that zone and hammer it with a point mission untill all ammo is expended. So the intended "suppress this whole ridge" effect is lost.

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9 hours ago, BletchleyGeek said:

Thanks for the post @Mattis I appreciate your sense of humour and your post made me laugh out loud a couple times.

I am not sure that the new AI features are to blame for anything really. But the bit quoted above suggests a new type of victory condition which is quite sensible imo.

You´re welcome but you got me wrong on the AI one. I am not blaming it I in fact enjoy the hell out of the newest engine iteration and AI. I meant that I like to recommend CMBN to new players because it has many single player campaigns that were built with Engine 2.0 in mind which I believe was more difficult back then before the newer engine´s TacAI and retreat mechanic was introduced with 4.0. So you tend to end up with having more time to achieve things. Its hard for me to explain this one, perhaps someone else is better with the words in this regard but actually it has only idirect relation to the topic to be honest.

8 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

It's not a very well designed campaign. The overtime is something that makes sense in scenarios for play against a human opponent. It discourages last-minute jeep rushes to "flip" objective zones. In a campaign scenario that can only be played against the computer, it doesn't make much sense.

Another example of less than optimal design in this campaign is that the last minute has artillery scripted to come in automatically and suppress key locations. Great idea. However, the designer apparently wasn't aware of how this actually works in the game.

If you paint an artillery support target, the arty will just choose one random spot in that zone and hammer it with a point mission untill all ammo is expended. So the intended "suppress this whole ridge" effect is lost.

In a MP scenario with the possibilities you´ve explained in mind it makes absolutely sense to add an unknown overtime to prevent users from pulling gamey cheap stuff. Perhaps this way the culture was established. I often thought that not being able to take certain objectives before overtime starts would may end up in some kind of penalty but couldn´t get any confirmation on this. However like explained it would love to see such a penalty instead of harsh time limits as it could please not so quick and ace CM players alike by granting best victory conditions only to the best and quickest while the rest is only able to get normal or tactical victory whatever you want call it..  

Edited by Mattis

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1 hour ago, Mattis said:

You´re welcome but you got me wrong on the AI one. I am not blaming it I in fact enjoy the hell out of the newest engine iteration and AI. I meant that I like to recommend CMBN to new players because it has many single player campaigns that were built with Engine 2.0 in mind which I believe was more difficult back then before the newer engine´s TacAI and retreat mechanic was introduced with 4.0. So you tend to end up with having more time to achieve things. Its hard for me to explain this one, perhaps someone else is better with the words in this regard but actually it has only idirect relation to the topic to be honest.

 

This has nothing to do with 4.0...

Non of the campaigns in any of the titles have been designed after the release of 4.0...

With the exception of CMSF2...but i don't know if those campaigns where adjusted any because of 4.0...

 

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2 hours ago, RepsolCBR said:

This has nothing to do with 4.0...

Non of the campaigns in any of the titles have been designed after the release of 4.0...

With the exception of CMSF2...but i don't know if those campaigns where adjusted any because of 4.0...

 

Proper reading, proper reading is really becoming an art nowadays isn´t it? I know the hardship of nowadays proper reading and challenged attention spans while everyone is just interested to tell his stuff but not that into reading or listening properly what others have to tell but you definitely can´t approach a forum like that free news tabloid laying around at your local coffee house which you give some quick glances to check the headlines and perhaps some fancy words that capture your attention while waiting for the cashier to hand out your change for your just ordered soy Frappucino with extra Stevia and digesting enzymes to take it easy on that belly.

Take this with funny salt however I stated it two goddamn times what you´re telling here but will next time state it 4 times to be sure everyone is up to date, so lets bring it up to 4 gentlemen. Perhaps putting it into bold and in bigger helps.

CMBN because it´s original campaigns have less stubborn timelimits what I believe was done back then as on the older CM engines there was no retreating TacAI and so you had to smoke opposition out one by one which naturally required more time. With the new retreating mechanic these campaigns tend now to be easier.

Again in bold:

because it has many single player campaigns that were built with Engine 2.0 in mind which I believe was more difficult back then before the newer engine´s TacAI and retreat mechanic was introduced with 4.0.

Bold, caps lock, and funny font to be sure

THE CAMPAIGNS WERE DESIGNED WITH OLDER ENGINE´s BACK THEN BUT TEND TO BE EASIER WITH 4.0 TACAI

Amen may St. John Ripley bless you!

Edited by Mattis

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5 hours ago, Mattis said:

You´re welcome but you got me wrong on the AI one.

Thanks @Mattis for the clarification. My observation is that the only games that shipped with v4.0 deployed on release were CMFB and CMSF2 (if memory doesn't fail me).

Allowing very short times in scenarios for tactical wargames is something that has been around for ages. I remember clearly myself modifying Steel Panthers scenarios to set the durations to something more suitable for my opinion. Steve "Mad Russian" Overton, who was a big CMx1 scenario designer, explained a couple times on these forums or over at Matrix's PzC Ostfront that it was his preferred tool to induce pressure on human players, and in that way, "help" the AI.

I think that short durations make sense for scenarios that try to depict an assault (defense) and the ensuing firefight. For instance, the scenarios @Bil Hardenberger and @ScoutPL released recently have very short spans, but also are spatially confined. In that context, when you got all the intel you need to have and the mission is clear (even in the meeting engagement, due to the dimensions of the battlespace, the terrain is very easy to analyse and you don't need to find the enemy, you just run into it), having a very short duration (like 30 minutes or less) makes perfect sense. After that time, either the assault was repulsed or successful, and either side would need to resupply and regroup for a counterattack (defense).

Many scenarios are classified as "assaults" but actually, they're not. You need to find the enemy, you need to work out a fire plan (if the designer decided to grant you any artillery support), and a maneuver plan. That can take a varying amount of ingame time as player skill at managing his units is not even, and if assets are limited, it will be difficult to risk these in patrolling in open daylight or across potential enemy killzones. I have modified quite a few of such scenarios to change the intel level, so that I get the info I need to make a plan on the very first turn.

I know there's a sizeable number of folks on these forums who like to have such kind of "mixed" type of battles, with a bit of recon, a bit of maneuver and a bit of close combat. With some very notable exceptions (like @GeorgeMC wonderful meeting engagement scenarios) I tend to find those bland, unrealistic, and a real drag. Others love them and all the power to them... but I really don't.

I would really CMx1-like operations to be back, rather than having massive static scenarios.

Edited by BletchleyGeek

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44 minutes ago, Mattis said:

 was done back then as on the older CM engines there was no retreating TacAI and so you had to smoke opposition out one by one which naturally required more time. With the new retreating mechanic these campaigns tend now to be easier.

 

Yes i hear you ! But this applies to all the titles...cmbn as well as cmfi, cmrt and cmfb...

The reason for cmbn having longer scenariotimes compared to the other titled...if that is the case...is not because of any cmbn scenarios being made before 4.0 was a thing. Because the same thing goes for the other titles also.

If cmbn have longer scenarios...it is not because of cmbn not considdeting 4.0 and the other titles doing so...

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16 hours ago, RepsolCBR said:

Yes i hear you ! But this applies to all the titles...cmbn as well as cmfi, cmrt and cmfb...

The reason for cmbn having longer scenariotimes compared to the other titled...if that is the case...is not because of any cmbn scenarios being made before 4.0 was a thing. Because the same thing goes for the other titles also.

If cmbn have longer scenarios...it is not because of cmbn not considdeting 4.0 and the other titles doing so...

This has nothing to do with the Lada VAZ-2101 having an unreliable engine...

Before the real cold of the winter arrives I always add some blips of organic coconut oil from Target and rape oil frome Safeway to the motor oil and remove the sparks and put then into a tobacco box. I know you may think now "Organic Oil? Uncle Mattis, This is heresy!" but trust me the engine starts like a charm even after longer breaks and even in colder environment. By the way I also do the same to my Mitsubishi Lawn Mower. With that the early spring start up issues are gone.

And you definitely not hear me. But don´t worry this isn´t of any importance anymore.

Amen

Edited by Mattis

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I think @Mattis is saying that the issues introduced to the TacAI's behaviour with Engine 4 (running away at the first hint of a mortar round etc. etc.) made the campaigns already written for it rather easier than they had been under earlier iterations of the game engine?

Thus with the apparent fix introduced with CM:SF2, all will be back to normal under the next patch.

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3 hours ago, Sgt.Squarehead said:

I think @Mattis is saying that the issues introduced to the TacAI's behaviour with Engine 4 (running away at the first hint of a mortar round etc. etc.) made the campaigns already written for it rather easier than they had been under earlier iterations of the game engine?

Thus with the apparent fix introduced with CM:SF2, all will be back to normal under the next patch.

Correct all the new retreating behaviour. For being one that is still taught in the secret art of proper reading you´re hereby granted the title. St. Squarehead from now on.

Amen

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FWIW, I made my peace with CM's massively ahistorical casualty levels by presuming many casualties are not in fact hit, but rather gone to ground and unavailable for further orders in game terms. 

In the same way, I mentally reconcile CM and historical timetables by presuming 'lulls' in the action during which neither side is doing very much beyond skulking around, observing and medevacing. Not every minute is an on the clock mad minute. I don't know if that helps anyone else.

Perhaps it's my hex wargaming background that lets me comfortably apply these filters and not take the visual literalism of CM2 too, umm, literally. Those brought up on FPS might have their own. 

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On 12/17/2018 at 6:31 AM, Sgt.Squarehead said:

One small word of warning about simply extending scenario duration.....Many scenario designers (myself included) use a 'Morale Ballast' reinforcement to prevent AI units surrendering too soon.  This reinforcement is set to arrive after the battle, typically at the three hour mark, so by extending the battle you might give yourself a nasty surprise (depending on how the designer dumped the ballast units and what they are).

FWIW

So if you are a scenario designer that doesnt like players extending the duration, you just make sure that the "moreale ballast" reinforcements arrive 5 minutes after your time limit ;)

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