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Questions for All Playtesters


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I have a question for all the playtesters, that isn't too specific to the battle reports.

If you have played scenarios as both the Germans and the Americans, do the two armies 'feel' different? There was a discussion earlier of how different armies should be modelled (i.e. national morale, organizational, or equipment differences). That wasn't really resolved, as I recall-some felt national characteristics (for example, Russian fanaticism) SHOULD be included, and others did not.

Regardless, if you who have been playtesting are able to compare the feel of playing with the Americans, British, and Germans, do the rules included (maybe reaction times for artillery, quality and quantity of armor support, typical morale for your infantry units (green, average, experienced, elite, etc),reaction times to orders, etc) do the different armies yield a different feeling when playing them (as SL most definitely did), or do you end up feeling like you are just playing a different colored set of icons (as EF/WF often do)?

Steve

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My questions for the playtesters run more along the practicality and reality boundaries format. Such as, what happens if you tell your vehicle to go into a house, a water tile, through a stone wall, off a map edge, through another vehicle/wreck, through burning terrain or, better yet, to park in burning terrain.

o What happens if you have a squad on the 2nd floor of a building and a level 1 LOS obstacle adjacent (building, short woods)--can they be ordered to move on top of it? Should they?

o What if you order seven+ squads to the top floor of a small building--are there stacking limits enforced?

o Can you order friendly units in good order and in plain, unbroken sight to fire on each other?

o Can you order a vehicle to drive off a cliff?

o Do vehicles move in reverse at realistic speeds?

o Can units above/below each other in a building or on a tall bridge shoot at each other?

In other words, I hope the testers will not just be playing game after game for look and feel, but putting some methodology into it.

Not to insult their intelligence, by any means! I was just a little alarmed, though, when Steve mentioned there was no structured test plan. I'd freak out if there were vehicles doing equally top speeds forward *and* backwards, or if I ordered a squad on the 2nd floor of a building to move into the woods next to it, and they jumped out the window and walked across the tops of the trees. It's those little things that make testing such fun!

Dar Steckelberg

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Not too many playtesters around yet (but will be very shortly) wink.gif

Germans, US and Brits (a few) are in, but I can really compare German and US forces so far. Indeed there is a different feel. Not only do you have different voices in different languages, but the different equipment will force you to play each side a little... different...

For example, most German squads have Panzerfaust! AND MG42s! A typical US rifle squad comes with mostly Garands, maybe one or two BARs and NO bazookas! BIG difference. Same is true for armor, of course, where I have found out painfully in the current PBEM game that Allied tanks have certain... uhm... limitations wink.gif

Artillery also is more or less accurate depending on nationality, etc. etc.

What the game of course cannot simulate all by itself is the different tactics used by different nationalities. This is in the hands of the player. And then of course the scenario designer has another big impact on how realistic the game will be. However, CM prevents the scneario designer from, e.g. putting in conscript paratroopers.

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Dar - your questions came up a sec before I finished typing the answer to Stephen.

Such as, what happens if you tell your vehicle to go into a house, a water tile, through a stone wall, off a map edge, through another vehicle/wreck, through burning terrain or, better yet, to park in burning terrain.

If the vehicle can enter the terrain, it will do so (even if it might risk bogging down, throwing a track etc.)

It will refuse though to go into burning terrain and will go someplace else (with the Tac AI leading it).

You cannot enter houses, but you can (sometimes accidentally) order your vehicle to move through an obstacle (like a wreck) - in that case the TacAI will plot a path around the obstacle.

o What happens if you have a squad on the 2nd floor of a building and a level 1 LOS obstacle adjacent (building, short woods)--can they be ordered to move on top of it? Should they?

They can't. They're soldiers, not monkeys smile.gif

o What if you order seven+ squads to the top floor of a small building--are there stacking limits enforced?

Yes - from a certain point on the TacAI will move some guys somewhere else, keep them downstairs etc.

o Can you order friendly units in good order and in plain, unbroken sight to fire on each other?

Haven't tried, but I don't think so. Friendly fire, however, can happen during night battles, where friendly units MIGHT be mistaken for enemy units!

o Can you order a vehicle to drive off a cliff?

Nope. I have seen, however, a halftrack falling off a bridge after it was knocked out by a bazooka (not in the current game though frown.gif)

o Do vehicles move in reverse at realistic speeds?

Yep.

o Can units above/below each other in a building or on a tall bridge shoot at each other?

Yep.

One of the reasons no structured testing plan will be needed is that the alpha we've been playing... uh... testing so far is unbelievably stable and - finished. I was joking with Charles sometime ago that he should put in some extra bugs otherwise the beta testers won't have much to do wink.gif

Martin

[This message has been edited by Moon (edited 09-16-99).]

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Thanks for the answers, Martin. I need to emphasize, however, that not much can be taken for granted when testing. For example, you and I both know "they're soldiers, not monkeys", but the computer does not know that unless you inform it. And if I were handed a Beta, I'd try moving that squad between two multi-story buildings, a multi- and a single-story buiding, a building and some forest, a tall bridge and a building, and so on to ensure that they're always soldiers, and not monkeys when condition X is in effect and Y = 3.

Another example, if vehicle A is knocked out by vehicle B at close range, there's a building on fire behind A, and A's crew bails out, would the crew enter the burning building to escape MG fire from vehicle B? Are there exceptions?

My testing experience, from several years' development experience and two internships as a tester at Microsoft, supports the concept that structured testing doesn't mean just reporting the bugs you find, but also reporting the areas where you didn't find them.

If no one reports a bug allowing the player to pile five squads into one halftrack, does that tell you it doesn't exist? Or does it tell you that they didn't test for it? Without structure, you don't know.

Dar Steckelberg

[This message has been edited by Dar (edited 09-16-99).]

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Dar,

You are vastly overestimating the buginess of CM.

I've tested quite a few big-name WW2 games recently (probably many of you have at least a couple of the ones I've had a hand in) and CM is the most stable alpha (or even beta) I've played.

Stupid things like guys walking on water, overloading HTs etc simply aren't an issue.

In our current game we spotted mainly AI tweaks (tanks using shells against targets 1 km away when they should have (in my opinion) been firing at the enemy 500 metres away in the wall line. ) A simple tweak of discrimination between cover and range and its fixed.

That's the kind of thing we're reporting now, not stupid things like dead tanks continuing to be driveable

We and Steve are constantly reporting anything which we feel isn't "proper" battlefield behaviour and asking why it happened.

I've seen bugs like you wouldn't believe in other products. I've been there when unbelievable stuff happened and seen a few approaches to testing. The unstructured approach will work with CM (especially since its pretty bug-free as is).. (I've seen a lot of games go out the door in far worse shape than CM is in let me tell you wink.gif ).

BTW yes, it is possible to have multiple squads in a HT if they have suffered casualties. E.g. it is possible to fit a 5 man and a 3 man squad in instead of an 8-man squad. The game is that in shape already that it can do this..

I'm thinking you're thinking too much of other projects. This one is quite different from others. That's all I can really say without giving the game away about other projects I was involved with wink.gif.

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___________

Fionn Kelly

Manager of Historical Research,

The Gamers Net - Gaming for Gamers

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Fionn,

With all due respect, "stupid" things <u>do</u> need to be tested for. It's the stupid things, like putting up a textbox with the prompt "Enter a number between 1 and 10" where you need to test for: boundary cases (1 and 10), boundary +/- 1 cases (0 and 11), and "stupid" entries (Granny's first time on the computer, so she types "five"; Joe Bob hits the Escape key; Wilbur closes the dialog box using the Control Box menu, etc.), that will bite you in the ass on occasion.

I trust that the game will be of good quality. However, I also don't think anyone can just dismiss testing on a whim. There are a lot of people who will do "stupid" things, either accidentally or purposely, and it's best to do it purposely while you're still in testing.

I am not saying "CM is going to be crap because the Beta testers aren't following a detailed test plan." I'm saying following a test plan would ensure that it is the quality product it appears to be.

I will not follow this up in this thread, as I do not want to appear to be degrading the product or those involved anymore, and I think I've said enough on the subject. I do hope in future releases, however, that a more structured approach to testing be adopted.

Dar Steckelberg

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I've tested professionally before. A few quick words: without a solid test plan to run after builds and an extended version to run before milestones, bugs have a way of creaping in. Operation Art of War II is a great example -- in the final build, global events and air mobility were both fatally broken. The game was unplayable for five weeks until it was patched. It's those bugs that show up because of that one, last tweak.

Not to say that will be a problem here. I hope it is not, and will trust the CM guys.

Sage

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Guest Big Time Software

Los, you crack me up smile.gif And we had to scower the 'net to find the dumbest ones we could too smile.gif

Well, I think I can add some stuff in here about testing. For over a year I was the QA (testing) Manager at Impressions, part of Sierra On-Line. We did indeed do what is called "Bounds Testing" all the time. If you are given an option, trying doing something that you aren't supposed to and see what happens. I had one of my testers find a way to beat the first Lords of the Realm II Alpha in one turn. He found a bug that allowed unlimited movement for an army smile.gif Needless to say that was fixed pronto!

I have worked with about 1/2 a dozen programmers on even more games. Charles is one of the most CAREFUL programmers when it comes to the stupid stuff. I have been testing CM for well over 1.5 years and can count the number of dumb things on two hands (and maybe one foot smile.gif) I think the single largest reason for this is that Charles is both designing AND programming the game. When he does things like write the code for passengers in vehicles he actually THINKS about all the ways something can go wrong BEFORE he codes. Not to say he is perfect, but this mostly keeps the problems to a minimum.

Also keep in mind that we have waited a LONG time to call CM a Beta. In most company's eyes we are at the Final Candidate release point for game features, but need to do stuff like networking still.

In the end CM will be tested and tested well. Have no fears!

Steve

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Yeah. I second what Steve said.

Charles really gets things right when he does them and this just isn't the same as what you are used to calling a beta.

Anyways, I don't want to harp on at anyone I just wanted to make sure people understood their comparisons mightn't be as relevant as they though.

------------------

___________

Fionn Kelly

Manager of Historical Research,

The Gamers Net - Gaming for Gamers

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I think a bigger problem may be 'strange' decisions or results in playtesting which the

Charles/Steve and the like can explain to the Beta Testers. Those who buy the game and have not had the advantage of this message board might believe these 'strange' outcomes are bugs.

I'm deperately trying to think of some examples from the current game but my brain's gone foggy.

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Well, if you think a result is strange you can come on here and have it answered wink.gif..

FWIW simply because some people mightn't understand why a particular thing is possible isn't any reason to do something. One can't explain everything to everyone unfortunately. (That's hardly a game error wink.gif )

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___________

Fionn Kelly

Manager of Historical Research,

The Gamers Net - Gaming for Gamers

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I appreciate Dar's concerns. Heavens knows I've found bugs by - how shall I put this? - "inadvertantly operating outside the programmer's design parameters."

OK, ok... doing dumb stuff.

I don't expect many problems here ( of course they should still be looked for), but the kind of testing I'm especially interested in is trying to break the game's design concepts - using ahistorical tactics to beat the system instead of winning within the "expected" rules.

I can't think of many games here doing the historical thing wasn't a good way to lose. I am really sick of being punished for playing with appropriate real world tactics and getting trashed by players (or AI for that matter) that does weird sh!t.

I think this kind of testing will be interesting. The beta testers seem to have pretty good historical and background knowledge, so I suspect they'll be able to do a good job here.

Even so at the end of the day I'm sure some bugs/oddities will slip through. This doesn't really worry me, because I expect they will be marginal or exceptional situations, meaning 99.x% of the time the game will work fine, and once identified I fully expect they'll be fixed.

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Fionn,

I agree that because an outcome seems strange it doesn't mean that it isn't correct.

I was thinking of situations where your 'average' game player rather than Wargames player don't appreciate the realism involved. I would hate to see messages on newsgroups saying..."CM is crap because units don't respond to my orders".

I'm sure BF are hoping for a wider audience than the people who have had the benefit of this message board.

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Tgra,

Rest absolutely assured that many people will post here complaining about CM's accuracy because either:

1. They don't know enough to properly judge the accuracy (newbies etc who expect some form of Command and Conquerish type game or something wink.gif (If you don't believe that will happen just hang around I guarantee it will wink.gif )

2. Would be grogs who simply serially trash games. I've talked before about knowing a group of people who trash almost every wargame as soon as it comes out. Sometimes they do so on almost totally spurious grounds. I expect they'll do the exact same with CM (or at least try to).

Still, there is absolutely no way to include explanations for all the possible "strange things" people might see. It's far better to rely on all the gamers who know what they are on about to set everyone right IMO.

------------------

___________

Fionn Kelly

Manager of Historical Research,

The Gamers Net - Gaming for Gamers

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Guest Big Time Software

Brian, this is EXACTLY why we made CM. The result is that realistic stuff works, unrealistic stuff doesn't. All through the game with Martin and Fionn we were looking for cheap moves. Fionn tried some and paid heavily (we laughed smile.gif). One thing he tried didn't really do anything for him, but we tweaked something to make sure it would actually be harmful to himself smile.gif Another attempt at a cheap move wound up giving Martin a nice little bonus (dead HT) for absolutely no gain.

All in all the number of cheap moves you can do in CM is pratically nil. CM is a very tight ship in this regard. Charles and I are painfully aware of the common ones in other games and have taken great care to make sure they don't work. The simultaneous movement system takes care of a whole bunch, but there are little things around the edges. Over the last couple of months we have found very few (this is good, because we were trying!), and all were relatively minor in nature. And when we find 'em, we fix 'em. This shall continue all through the testing stage.

Steve

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Guest Big Time Software

Actually, it was something you haven't seen so far. But I will tell you that it involved using a HT to "bait" hidden enemies into giving up their positions. It was pretty funny actually smile.gif The HT drove down one of the main streets in the village and revealed NOTHING more than he already knew. See, guys don't fire at things when they don't think there is a good reason too. So they witheld fire and simply chucked some grenades into the opentopped vehicle and BOOM smile.gif So Fionn got NO information from this exchange, but did lose one of his precious HTs (from a victory point perspective).

Steve

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So you mean that the GI's had the brains/"coolness under fire" too wait for the HT and AMBUSH it in the "best" possible way ?

I DON'T BELIEVE THAT UNTIL I SEE IT MYSELF !

CC3 Inf would have fired from 50m to no use !

(But the HT would have seen the hidden INF in 100m and the player/AI would have called in mortar fire which is the best HT killer in the game.)

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Fionn:

Thanks for all your battle reports and... well ... I just can't wait too much longer for this game.

In your answer to Tgra you list two points why people will complain about CM's accuracy. I think you are right about those, but I think you should add a third one.

I understand that you totally love this game, I'm sure I will do so too, but just to be realistic, the third point why people will complain about CM's accuracy should be that CM is still a game, and it just CAN't be totally lifelike. After all, it's still artificial intelligence, and (maybe a very good) model of human behavior. Of course I haven't played the game, but there is just no perfect AI. Since some people don't understand that, maybe it would be better to show some (realistic) modesty about what the game can do and what not.

Now if the game IS absolutely true to life, then I am sorry I wrote this post and BTS has just won the nobel prize wink.gif

[This message has been edited by BenSp (edited 09-22-99).]

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<BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Now if the game IS absolutely true to life, then I am sorry I wrote this post and BTS has just won the nobel prize.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

That would be good: "The award for the Nobel Peace Prize goes to Combat Mission for breakthroughs in modelling carnage and wholesale destruction".

Maybe it's not as silly as it sounds. If they come up with a perfectly accurate sim we can just set the politicians and generals down and fight the next war on computers...

Odd. I just had this weird sense of deja vu involving an edisode of Star Trek: TOS. smile.gif

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