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Hey guys. Seeing that many of the people here on this forum enjoy wargaming and such, I thought I'd inform you guys of a pretty neat mod mix I've been testing with over the past several months that creates very realistic AI. Introducing Smart AI Mix, it's a combination of GL4, Zeus, ZGB, SMK, and SLX (credit to Chris B for this mix). These AI take effective cover, maneuver properly (including bounding overwatch), flank, garrison buildings, utilize vehicles, deploy grenades, maintain 360 security, and much more. It's definitely worth a look if you're interested in wargaming: Fireteam CQB Cover to Cover: Fireteam 360 Security: AI Deploying Flares To Spot Enemies: Fireteam Assault On Rahmadi: If anyone is interested in trying this out, let me know and I can post a list of the required AI addons.
So this is in relation to a topic I posted just before Thanksgiving.... There may be some mild spoilers ahead, but nothing I think is show-stopping. Just recently I was playing The Lions of Carpiquet. For those who don't know it, it's a challenging campaign that covers a difficult battle in the Commonwealth sector west of Caen. It's one of the few that really gives the player some serious time to make decisions on how to approach the objectives and neutralize the Germans. The first two scenarios offer the players three hours to complete them; the second, I believe, is somewhere in the two-hour range. I was able to make good use of reconnaissance and artillery spotters to locate and eliminate German positions with supporting arms and shape the battlefield to make the best use of my infantry in the attack, and my armor when it was needed. I even got the chance to clear a mine belt with flail tanks, which was really cool to watch. I took casualties, but they felt reasonable to the firepower and deployment of the Germans and the unforgiving nature of the terrain (it's almost pancake flat throughout!). I remember thinking "Finally! I'm able to actually to use recon, tactics, and mission planning in a way that maximizes mission accomplishment while minimizing casualties. Scenarios 2 and 3--the first big moves of the campaign after the recon mission--were tough, but they're engaging. I had started this campaign after dropping Courage & Fortitude at around the Razorback Ridge scenario. I had managed through scenarios two and three, but once I hit Razorback Ridge I just gave up. It's an absurd scenario... Not because its a necessarily unrealistic piece of ground to have to take, or an unrealistic enemy, but because the scenario conditions themselves--the time and map limits--make it an over-the-top "lesson" in taking casualties just for the sake of doing it. Once I began Carpiquet, it gave me an opportunity to contrast between the two and learn a little bit about what frustrates me about the average scenario design, and learn a bit about myself as a player. Here's what I learned: I hate taking casualties. But not just any casualties. I hate taking casualties that are forced on me by the conditions of the game itself and the scenario, NOT the conditions related to the enemy and the terrain. If I take casualties because I misread a piece of ground I can generally stomach that. I made the mistake. What I can't stomach is when I have to rush through a scenario because I have to take two or three objectives over a kilometer away, through a defender, with a rifle company or so, with less than an hour on the clock. I get frustrated near to the point of yelling whenever the morale model forces a squad to effectively commit suicide by running into the open, or worse, toward the enemy (which has happened more times than I can count), when they break and run from perfectly good cover when under fire. I want to throw my mouse through a window when a tank crew bails out of a perfectly good taken when they get nervous only to get cut down by an MG on the outside. Some of these are controllable, some of them are not. At least not yet. The engine is great, but flawed. But I'm confident that at some point those flaws will inevitably be worked out with enough time and programming. It's maddening beyond belief, however, when I have to take casualties over something completely avoidable within a scenario. . . . Or with how it's design. Case in point: When I reached the fourth scenario in Carpiquet was was deployed with two companies, in the open, looking at a ruined, but dense town filled with Germans. I hid both companies, plus my mortar assets as best I could where they were placed. I pre-registered my mortars on likely areas with troop positions and called in my air where I felt it would do the most good, all as recommended in the scenarios briefing. Then I hit the Red Button. Within the first five minutes my on-map mortar section was obliterated. A German sniper had popped four or five guys from one platoon. Mortars and MGs from within the town were raking another. I had no way of avoiding any of it. So I restarted the scenario. On the second go, I replotted my fires and hid my guys. This time I avoided using the on-map mortars as that might be what was bringing down the mortars--perhaps they had been spotted as they fired. Instead I used my air and off-map 107mm to handle the prep. I pressed the Red Button. . . . And within five minutes the results were about the same. What I quickly realized was that the scenario, unlike the previous two, doesn't give the player the option or room to deploy in any other way. The Germans in the town were able to spot the Bren carriers and call in fire on that position. I have no way of repositioning them or getting them out of the way until after the scenario begins, and they happen to be carrying a good bit of my 81mm ammo. They're big fat targets and I have to just take whatever comes from because of it. I have to take casualties not because I failed to move my guys, provide cover for them, lay down suppression, or any other mistake. I have to take casualties because the scenario essentially forces me to take them. I don't get to have a say. Just press the Red Button and die. I tried the scenario two or three more times with different variations. The results were about the same each time. I was disappointed, but it's something I see time and time again. Aside from some aforementioned issues with the program itself, which will undoubtedly diminish over time, the game borders on a simulation of combined arms combat, and yet when it comes to scenario design it often seems like the game inevitably gets boiled down into a "gamey" reenactment of history, or worse, a war-movie replay, that basically remove all the agency from the player and force decisions that are tactically unwise and nowhere even remotely realistic and in keeping with the tactical and operational considerations of the type of conflict the game seeks to simulate. Why even move soldiers on a map if all I'm supposed to do is send them to their death without cause? It's not my intention to necessarily hammer the designer of the Carpiquet campaign, or any campaign. I get that it's a difficult and often thankless job. I only use them as examples in order to pose a question: Why is it necessary for me to take casualties outside of my own errors? What am I supposed to be learning? Why create a simulation that represents the tactical landscape of modern warfare, then limit the tactical options for the player to a binary choice?