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Improving logistics – Follow me!


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I am wondering how a FOLLOW command could possibly be implemented, and how it would work best for CM. I know Steve says this is on his personal wish list, but has never elaborated on it beyond that as to how he sees it working in the game. It would be interesting to hear his thought on this. As a player I would want the units to follow the lead units path, and to keep a desired spacing interval. My initial thoughts on how such a command would work were to have the interval set at the distance when the order was given, but then something better came to me. Why not have the order work more like the PAUSE command in that every time the player clicks on it it changes in increments of distance instead of time. In this way the player can easily set the interval distance that he wants the following unit to maintain no matter the starting distance when the order is given. The player would select the command from the special? commands, and click on it till he comes to the desired interval for example 5m to 50m, then clicks on the desired unit he wants that unit to follow maintaining the set spacing.

The situation on this map is exactly where such a command would streamline logistics in a big way. Along side of the road leading to the farmhouse circled in red is a ditch offering cover. I want to move armor, and and two companies of infantry in column down the ditch keeping them in cover. To do this currently one must plot moves for each unit. With FOLLOW one could move the whole force along a desired path by only having to plot the lead unit.

Example of perhaps how this could work:

Tank Alpha is given movement orders along a path to stay in the ditch along the side of the road toward the objective of the farmhouse highlighted in red.

Tank Bravo is given a FOLLOW command shown with the broken yellow line with a distance of 10m-interval set to Unit Alpha, but is 35m away when the follow command is given.

Tank Alpha moves out given quick orders, then a hunt at the last command line.

Tank Bravo moves to tank Alpha’s starting position as it’s first waypoint. It then follows (copies) the movement order speed along the same movement path that Alpha was given stopping when it gets 10m away from Alpha along the path when Alpha is stopped, or keeping 10m away when Alpha is moving.

Tank Charlie is given either a 20m-interval follow to Alpha, or a 10m interval to Bravo to end up with all three tanks set to keep 10m apart along the leads path.

When Alpha moves out again the cycle begins again until Bravo, or Charlie’s follow command are changed to stop following. When Alpha moves out Bravo, and Charlie will maintain 10m spacing while moving.

If a lead unit is killed then it cancels the follow command as the follower has no more unit to follow :D

Followcommand.jpg

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Not to sidetrack things too much -- this is an interesting topic -- but what you're describing isn't really about logistics. Logistics in the military context is the procurement, organization and transportation of personnel, munitions, and supplies -- "Beans and Bullets," as it's colloquially known.

What you're describing *could* apply to logistics, if the vehicles in question happened to be supply vehicles -- trucks laden with ammo, for example -- but otherwise not really. A tactical move of a group of tanks as in your example would generally not be considered a "logistical" move, especially not in the low-level context of CM.

But by all means, carry on. Just don't call it logistics. :D

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Logistics in the military context is the procurement, organization and transportation of personnel

I am using the term for the general transporting/moving of units from A to B as non-PC as it might come across, but besides that I am interested how as players we would want this command to work as compared to how it does in other games. I know it is on BF's list, but the command could probably be implemented in different ways. I thought of two ways myself, but think using the PAUSE command approach offers the most ease of flexibility. Also, I am not sure if it possible to a command line in a dashed format, but that does offer variation for lines visually in re-using colors for lines.

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I really like that idea @Vinnart. It is fairly straight forward. I would like to be able to give a unit normal movement way points before the follow commands. In your example all three tanks have a clear approach to the ditch. But image if Charlie were on the road you might want to specify how to get to the entrance to the ditch. After all the game does some odd stuff with pathing if you just drop a way point a long way from a unit. With your proposal I would suspect that the follow command would fit nicely into the command stacking mechanism we already have.

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@Vinnart: Oh, I don't think you're being "un-PC", just a little sloppy with your terminology. But it's not a big deal.

I do think the concept you outline is in the right general direction, and I'm all in favor of anything that makes it easier and faster to take care of the "boring stuff" -- behind the line of contact positioning moves of groups of units, etc.

Tactically, I also find myself wanting e.g., an entire platoon to stop moving if any one of the platoon's constituent units spots an enemy or gets shot at, something you can't really do in the game right now. You can give the whole platoon Hunt orders, but only the units that actually see the enemy, or are physically close to the incoming fire, will stop. A system along the lines of what you describe has the potential to handle this sort of thing as well.

Unfortunately, I also think any system like this is going to be a royal b*tch to code and debug, so it's probably going to be a significant investment of coding and debugging resources to get it in the game. I certainly hope that something like this will make it to the top of "The List" sooner or later, tho.

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  • 1 year later...

Two new thoughts on this on possible ways of working beyond the most complex way that I described above:

 

SIMPLEST

The simplest way possibly for this to work could be a defauslt of one action square space which would be 8m instead of introducing increments. This should be enough distance if maintained to prevent convoys from jamming up, and would create one action squae space between infantry units.

 

MEDIUM COMPLEXITY:

This option uses increments, but the player has 3 choices:

CLOSE: Infantry follow  behind in adjacent action square, with no action spot space beween. Vehicles would have to have a default minimum of perhaps 8-10m.

MEDIUM:

One action square space beween infantry. Two action square space beween vehicles (16-20)

FAR:

Two action spot squares space beween infantry (16m), and three action square spaces beween vehicles (about 30m)

 

I don't see the need, or desire to have spacing more than a few action squares for its use in I doubt anyone would need the ability to have spacing much further for purpose of the command to move columns easily.

Edited by Vinnart
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That seems like a good idea.  There are still potential issues. For example on a road going as fast as possible vehicles would not be 8m apart.  That is just too close.  Then there is the question of what speed should be used - I suggest for vehicles it be the fastest speed for the slowest vehicle that is following.  Most of the time I think of follow I think of convoy management which we have been talking about but I can also see people want to have infantry follow tanks into the fray.  That changes things because now you do not want to go fast and you do want to stay close.

 

Doing this would be really nice but I think there are a few things that we need to think more about.

 

Lets think about use cases.  Forget how or what the commands look like for a bit what do you want to use follow for? Here are two to get us started:

  1. Convoy management: I want a group of vehicles to follow a road one behind the other and get to a destination as fast as possible.
  2. Infantry and tank coordination: I want a squad of infantry to follow a tank across an open space.
  3. Infantry and tank coordination: I want a tank to follow a squad of infantry into the woods.

Next question is what happens when all hell breaks loose?  By that I mean contact is made with the enemy or they get shot at.

 

Convoy management

I would be OK with whatever happens now but with vehicles that are under the follow command following the lead of the vehicle in front of them.  So if a lead vehicle comes under fire it would react as now (which might be keep going or might be cancel everything and back up towards some hear by trees.  I would prefer that the following vehicles do the same.  But having written that the decision to press on vs go off road might be better done on a vehicle by vehicle bases.

 

Infantry and tank coordination

I would prefer that we can specify that they keep moving or that they stop.  If they are crossing some open space that I am expecting trouble it might be a Good Thing to keep going towards cover.  On the other hand in the woods that would be a bad idea.

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That seems like a good idea.  There are still potential issues. For example on a road going as fast as possible vehicles would not be 8m apart.  That is just too close.  Then there is the question of what speed should be used - I suggest for vehicles it be the fastest speed for the slowest vehicle that is following.  Most of the time I think of follow I think of convoy management which we have been talking about but I can also see people want to have infantry follow tanks into the fray.  That changes things because now you do not want to go fast and you do want to stay close.

 

Doing this would be really nice but I think there are a few things that we need to think more about.

 

Lets think about use cases.  Forget how or what the commands look like for a bit what do you want to use follow for? Here are two to get us started:

  1. Convoy management: I want a group of vehicles to follow a road one behind the other and get to a destination as fast as possible.
  2. Infantry and tank coordination: I want a squad of infantry to follow a tank across an open space.
  3. Infantry and tank coordination: I want a tank to follow a squad of infantry into the woods.

Next question is what happens when all hell breaks loose?  By that I mean contact is made with the enemy or they get shot at.

 

Convoy management

I would be OK with whatever happens now but with vehicles that are under the follow command following the lead of the vehicle in front of them.  So if a lead vehicle comes under fire it would react as now (which might be keep going or might be cancel everything and back up towards some hear by trees.  I would prefer that the following vehicles do the same.  But having written that the decision to press on vs go off road might be better done on a vehicle by vehicle bases.

 

Infantry and tank coordination

I would prefer that we can specify that they keep moving or that they stop.  If they are crossing some open space that I am expecting trouble it might be a Good Thing to keep going towards cover.  On the other hand in the woods that would be a bad idea.

.

All good questions in trying to troubleshoot potential issues Ian. Just like most things we may expect the order to not work as perfect for one reason or another in particular circumstances, but should work fine in most cases. Lets look at each potential issue one by one.

 

I agree that 8M would be too close in the real world for a vehicle to follow another with out crashing, but for game purposes there shouldn’t be much problem. Remember game programming can control circumstances where as one can’t do that in reality, or at least not yet completely. They are coming out with cars that drive themselves with sensors that maintain distance from the car ahead. Just as it is now the rear unit may have an automatic pause delay when fist moving out if very close. To show you set up two vehicles in column 8m apart, selct both, and give fast order for both in a straight line. The following vehicle will auto pause letting the lead move out, then move out fast behind it when it can start movement, and stop 8m behind the lead vehicle at the end of the move.

 

With FOLLOW, when the following unit does begin to move, it will follow the lead units path and will stop the interval distance from the lead unit when it stops movement. As far as speed problems the interval would have priority over speed adjusting automatically, or pausing to maintain the interval. In some cases the AI would have to override speed or perhaps cancel the follow order for condition much how it will change a MOVE command to QUICK on its own if warranted.

 

Certainly all circumstances  you # I can see for using the command along with these probably to name few:

  1. I want the ammo bearer to follow the gun.
  2. I want to put a scout out, and have the rest of the squad follow him, and the squad behind that to follow that squad, and the HQ to follow them ectt… till the scout makes contact. Instead of having to plot each unit one just needs to plot the scouts path. Look how many clicks and plotting are eliminated for moving from A to B!

 

If the lead unit comes under attack and begins to REVERSE the FOLLOW command could automatically cancel, OR even better the following order begins to reverse too maintaining the interval.

 

For infantry tank coordination the speed is dictated by keeping the interval. Interval always overrides speed in that it would a use something like “Move at Same Speed” command which I have seen in Sudden Strike games.

 

InfantryFollowing Vehicle:

If the infantry were following a vehicle one would not want to give the vehicle a fast move order as the infantry will have to run fast to maintain the interval, so slow or shorter hunt/move orders would be a better choice for orders for the vehicle in that case. If the vehicle comes under fire and starts to move faster on its own the infantry would move faster too to try to keep the interval. At that point one may want to cancel the FOLLOW order. Just as there is a time and place for other orders so it would be with FOLLOW. One can give or cancel the order any time, and can use it how and when they want.

 

Vehicle following Infantry:

Here the vehicle will be copying the move orders and path as the infantry just like any other scenario. In this case, just as vehicles must have automatic pauses if they get too close going along the same path, so it probably would be the same for a faster unit following a slower one in that it would pause when needed to keep the interval, OR there is some kind of AI “Move at Same Speed” implemented under the hood to adjust the vehicles speed automatically to keep interval minimizing jerky movements of pausing, moving, pausing ect..

Edited by Vinnart
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Nice, you even found few uses I had not thought of.  I think this is good.  Outlining and exploring what we would like to use a follow type command for and what behaviour we would want to see will be more useful for Steve than trying to create a command definition.  That way he can focus on how to fit things into the UI.  Especially if the way the UI works is changed in v4, then our ideas of how to fit the follow command into the current command system could be rendered pointless.  But if we stick to how we want to use it and what we wold like it to do that will not be rendered useless.  We might not get everything we want mind you :)

 

.

Remember game programming can control circumstances where as one can’t do that in reality, or at least not yet completely. They are coming out with cars that drive themselves with sensors that maintain distance from the car ahead. Just as it is now the rear unit may have an automatic pause delay when fist moving out if very close. To show you set up two vehicles in column 8m apart, selct both, and give fast order for both in a straight line. The following vehicle will auto pause letting the lead move out, then move out fast behind it when it can start movement, and stop 8m behind the lead vehicle at the end of the move.

 

True - I still think we don't want WWII convoys looking like Google cars though :)  Well at some level the kinda will with a convoy command but I still think the spacing should be longer than 8m.  Our SOP in the 80's was 2s between vehicles in a packet and 10s between packets.  That was to allow civilian vehicles to have some hope to be able to pass us. The packets would no doubt tighten up a bit if it was for real.  This is safe zone driving with trucks - that's based on my experience as an army truck driver in the reserves for a summer+.

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I am sure whatever kinks that the system would have (and there are always a few) that BF will iron out. The BF team has thought about the command, implementation, and troubleshooting potential issues for some time now so they have a plan. Sharing our visions and feedback on it is always good though since it is seen through fresh eyes and a different perspective. This goes for many creative ventures, including my own work if I am struggling to find a composition I like I will ask opnions and often find the best answer from another persons seeing it from another view point.

Edited by Vinnart
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I totally agree - even if that answer is not exactly what one person suggests but some kind of combination of a few ideas.  I am sure that is the good thing about this forum from BFC's point of view.  I am glad they think the good out weights the bad :)

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