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Something else to talk about. What would YOU like to see next.


Sequoia

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This is a hard question!

I am also counting the days until they upgrade CMSF. That probably has me most excited, at the moment.

Mord.

This. I love all the WW2 titles so far, but SF was special in a completely different way. I would go right back to it now, but I think I've been spoiled too much by all the new tricks in the newer titles.

That and North Africa regardless of whether it's a module for FI or a new family.

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Given that the movement plotting routines already exist, surely it cannot be TOO hard (he said optimistically) to allow us to "call" that, for one unit from its current position to a selected waypoint on its movement path?

Is that true? Somehow I have it in my head that all calculations for movement and fire occur after you click the red button, i.e. during the blue bar. If I am wrong I would appreciate a clarification.

Michael

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I would have thought that the more time they can spend on new development vs bug fixing, the better for all of us, BFC included.

Well sure...ideally. Nevertheless, bugs have to be fixed when they arise or else customer dissatisfaction becomes the kind of factor that ultimately loses the company income.

Michael

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Is that true? Somehow I have it in my head that all calculations for movement and fire occur after you click the red button, i.e. during the blue bar. If I am wrong I would appreciate a clarification.

I guess paths will be calculated iteratively because there is no other way. :)

How could the engine know that your team gets under fire and routs halfway through the turn?

But: CM could give a hint where the unit would go if there were no external influences. That would help to avoid the most grievous errors.

Why we don't already have that? Again a guess: this would only really work with WEGO since the CPU hit during plotting would not matter and the unit is stationary until you hit the red button so the path is constant. For RT it had to be continuously calculated and updated since the unit is moving costing CPU.

I would very welcome such a feature.

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On the AI aspects, some thoughts...

Almost all route finding in games uses some version of an algorithm called A* (pronounced "a star") that solves from both ends rejecting longer routes until it finds a path around any intervening obstacles, then runs with the first such route found. Normally only an actual movement cost or impossibility is incorporated into that - some routes are impossible and physical distance can be "weighted" by a local route cost, but that's it.

The way to hack danger avoidance into such route finding is to keep a separate "threat field" that records a perceived danger level for each spot of ground, just like a movement cost for each spot of ground, and adds that danger level to the movement costs when deciding which route to take. A sufficiently dangerous location - like a minefield - then looks just like impassible terrain. A* will do the rest and find a way around it.

This reduces the problem to having a quick, efficient, and realistic / useful way of calculating a threat field from known enemies or past events or both. A perfect version of that would get computationally intensive, because it is changing all the time as enemies move etc. But an imperfect version could be implemented without trying to get it perfect, and it would help A* find the tactically best routes, rather than just the "walk in the park" fast ones.

How? Well, start with dead bodies as a good indicator of danger. You don't need to see it coming - the player can do that - but it'd be a good idea to see what has already happened and is now an established tactical fact. You can add very recent fire near enough to know about - out to suppression radius only, I mean. So it MG fire suppresses everyone within 25 meters, then add that 25 meter suppression disk to the threat field. If it is close enough to be making people duck on the combat resolution side, you don't need to worry about whether they should know about it - they know about it.

That is probably plenty to start with. If you wanted to go a little further in the same direction you could add in some static terrain analysis, that doesn't adapt to enemies or sighting reports, but does consider spots that can see more of the board more dangerous than spots that can't see much. That's a vision field, just like you are calculating for LOS considerations. Shadows and low ground and cover interiors will look more attractive in that static map than their movement cost alone would indicate, and the middle of open fields a lot worse. The edges of open fields might look best - which is just fine, it gets you there quicker than slogging through the woods interior and it lets you break LOS faster etc.

No need to go to relative spotting or threat assessment - the player has to handle anything like that. But the basic pathfinding could know about (1) minefields (2) places where half the platoon just bought it (3) not to step through a door when half the squad got whacked as soon as they tried to (4) the middle of a 105mm barrage while it is landing, etc etc. You'd fix anything really broken, in other words.

And it doesn't require any fundamental change to the underlying route finding routine, just some "English" applied to the movement cost field supplied to that routine. The computationally hard bit - LOS field - can be done once for the map and is the same for both sides and never needs to be done again. The others - dead bodies and current fire - can be added to a static field when it happens, the body portion staying and the current fire portion only while it is landing.

Just some suggestions on how I'd attack it as a programmer, for whatever they may be worth.

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I hope Jason's ideas are practicable.

On the whole the CM2 system is very good, and I would vote for more emphasis now on making the game easier and quicker to play ie: better UI and reduce the number of clicks it takes to perform certain actions like if you want 180 degree arcs in a particular direction (like we were able to do in CM1), and selectable waypoints/lines etc.

The AI pathing/minefield issue is half an ergonomic issue since the alternative to intelligent pathing is having to make dozens of waypoints to persuade a unit to go exactly where you want - and even that isn't 100% effective.

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Is that true? Somehow I have it in my head that all calculations for movement and fire occur after you click the red button, i.e. during the blue bar. If I am wrong I would appreciate a clarification.

Michael

I agree, I think you're right: all the calculations occur now after you hit the red button.

But I am assuming (!) that the first stage after you hit the red button is to calculate a planned path to the waypoint(s) ... this is where the route can first diverge from what you think will happen (re not using "gaps", etc). After movement starts and contact occurs, "reaction" movement may occur, and all bets are off (quite correctly) in terms of not knowing beforehand what will then happen.

It was being able to bring forward, on demand, the first stage which I meant: to see, barring any subsequent contact, etc, what the initial path plotting will be, just to see the route it will attempt to take the unit to get to the waypoint location you have specified ...

In most cases it is not an issue, but if some of the terrain is "iffy", this would be a way to confirm how the AI path plotting routine will initially interpret and implement your route planning.

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Yes, but you've also got to add in a couple of modules (say) a year on top of that... I definitely don't want to start taking this down the complaining about costs point of view, but as a customer who is interested in anything BFC produce, I would start to think twice about maintaining all families up to date if the number keeps increasing, which may then mean they would lose out on me buying the subsequent modules for that family.

Good points but you figure, you don't have to buy every upgrade and module at the same time as they are released. If it does say, get to the point where there are 6 or 7 titles you just stretch the costs out over a longer period of time. Concentrate on buying upgrades for the handful that you are playing a lot at that moment and then a few weeks down the road another couple, so on and so forth. It's not near as overwhelming that way.

Mord.

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I like Jason's thoughts, but here we have a symptom of play style. I don't have a real issue for the route finding currently because I assume that troops will do it wrong, and use lots of waypoints where necessary. If I don't want them to run out of the wrong side of the building, I put the first point just outside the 'right' side of the building. Etc.

Yes, I agree that this isn't consistent with the command level role of the player (company commanders etc do not order detailed move orders for individual fire teams). But this is by no means the only issue (they don't order individual tank commanders when to stick their heads out, change facing, set up weapons etc). I just live with it. I would much rather have the invisible tanks knocking visible gaps in walls issue fixed first (for example). But each to our own... I view the few times that my pixel truppen get it wrong as part of the innate chaos of war.

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I'll buy anything BF can throw at us, including patches, but I'm looking forward to the autumn/winter for CMRT and the Ardennes. And it would be great to have weapons that never made it to the battlefield, like the Panther II and infra-red night vision device. I'm also looking forward to Stalingrad-Charkow winter 1942/43 and to the Finns going to war.

And I hope the editor will allow placing bodies on the ground for the atmosphere.

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An idea, would be possible by selecting the state of an infantry unit as "destroyed".

I think that wish is also a result because we nowhere have the ability, not even in campaigns, to experience the different stages of a battle and to see the evolution of a battlefield over several battles.

If campaigns would store unit and map status at the end and allow to play battles on the same map, I think that morbid wish would somehow be reduced because the player would not only play virgin like or artificially predestroyed maps.

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I think that wish is also a result because we nowhere have the ability, not even in campaigns, to experience the different stages of a battle and to see the evolution of a battlefield over several battles.

If campaigns would store unit and map status at the end and allow to play battles on the same map, I think that morbid wish would somehow be reduced because the player would not only play virgin like or artificially predestroyed maps.

That was how CMx1's "operations" worked: a number of scenarios representing an extended battle being fought out on the same map with changing front-lines and battle damage (destroyed vehicles, ruined buildings ect.) being carried over from one scenario to the next.

However, BF ditched them for CMx2 for a number of reasons:

1) Glitches as to how the game redrew the front-line after every battle led to a lot of frustration and complaints.

2) CMx1's AI being particularly lousy at handling them which too often resulted in the AI immolating its forces within the first couple of battles and thus making the rest of the operation nothing more than a dull mop-up affair.

3) Lack of popularity. Not enough people actually played them to justify BF putting its time and money into making them to work better within CMx2. Apparently, a lot of players found the concept of fighting a number of battles on the same map to be too repetitive and boring.

On the other hand, CMx2's campaigns with their loosely connected scenarios usually only linked by a common subject have proven to be very popular probably due to the variety that one sees from scenario to scenario.

Personally, I liked CMx1's operations concept, but I can understand why BF dropped them.

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If campaigns would store unit and map status at the end and allow to play battles on the same map, I think that morbid wish would somehow be reduced because the player would not only play virgin like or artificially predestroyed maps.

Morbid wish? This is a wargame. Don't see any reason why bodies before the battle are morbid and after the battle quite normal.

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That was how CMx1's "operations" worked: a number of scenarios representing an extended battle being fought out on the same map with changing front-lines and battle damage (destroyed vehicles, ruined buildings ect.) being carried over from one scenario to the next.

Thanks for the expalanations. The old version of the game had that? I think I must downgrade. ;)

However, BF ditched them for CMx2 for a number of reasons:

1) Glitches as to how the game redrew the front-line after every battle led to a lot of frustration and complaints.

Frontlines can be tricky in real life, too. I think I understand. But who needs to draw a front line anyway?

Why not simply keep the setup areas from the beginning and if one zone is lost to the enemy, then it is gone and potential reinfocements can no longer arrive in it. Simple and realistic.

2) CMx1's AI being particularly lousy at handling them which too often resulted in the AI immolating its forces within the first couple of battles and thus making the rest of the operation nothing more than a dull mop-up affair.

Why it's the AI's fault, if the scenario designer gives it a bad plan? And why not make them playable human vs human?

3) Lack of popularity. Not enough people actually played them to justify BF putting its time and money into making them to work better within CMx2. Apparently, a lot of players found the concept of fighting a number of battles on the same map to be too repetitive and boring.

I only know CMFI. And there a damaging battlefield, reinforcements and day/night phases in hilly montains with entrenchements should rock.

With the current system, it's not possible to model strong defenses, because it's not possible during the maximum time of two hours a scenario lasts, to breach a realistic strong defense, conduct the attack, destroy the enemy and occupy the VLs.

Alone breaching a decent minefield, covered by heavy weapons in a realistic defense with mines, barbed wire, bunkers, would take the time of a whole "scenario".

On the other hand, CMx2's campaigns with their loosely connected scenarios usually only linked by a common subject have proven to be very popular probably due to the variety that one sees from scenario to scenario.

I guess its a matter of taste how much realism a player expects. RTS games are hugely popular, much more popular than CM probably will ever be. But are they better?

I am playing CM because I am mostly interested in realism. I would like to be able to play whole battles over days, but not know, if I receive a company, that I will need a company immediately.

I would like to judge myself, if the intelligence I gathered was good enough for an attack or if it was useless.

I would like to experience when its better to cancel an attack and to wait for the reinforcements and try the next day.

I would like to have the freedom of choice, where and when to attack.

I want that my decisions are reflected 1:1 on the battlefield and not judged by weak VL algos, whose result is then interpreted by designers that decide for me, what the result of my decision was.

The available campaign system is fun, just like reading a thriller is fun. But if I want to experience in the simulation the impact of my tactical decisions, then previous results on the field and the tactical situation must be conserved 1:1 and transferred over to the next battle.

During a fight I must take care of single teams, sometimes I care about single bullets because it matters - and when the scenario in a campaign ends, whole platoons of Tigers or companies of infantry come and go, and have more impact than all my tactical genius in the hours before. Not my understanding of tactical sim. :D

Example: in reality ammo was a huge factor. In the current system the player always knows, that he has enough ammo for the given order. Simulating a battle would ofcourse also mean, that the player must understand, if his ammo is sufficient for his plan. And if it is not sufficient, then he must wait until he has sufficient ammo or he must change his plan.

Waiting for reinforcements or not can be a very important tactical decision.

This raises another highly important tactical aspect: time. Waiting for reinforcements or being quick? What is better?

Also a very important tactical aspect the current system cannot model.

Personally, I liked CMx1's operations concept, but I can understand why BF dropped them.

I only have CMFI and although I think the campaigns are fun, the tactically interesting parts of a battle are missing mostly and also can't be created with this campaign system. A story can be no substitute for tactics.

It's only a loose sequence of scenarios (although a nice seqence and I think the designers did a great job!), but the designers can only work with what they got.

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I'd definitely pay for anŷ early war stuff: west front, east front, Africa, Balkans. I think there's a great variation of armour that makes a really nice change from Shermans, Panthers and T34's. CMBB and CMAK included a nice selection of early tanks and AC's which made it possible for creative scenario designers such as Hans to make some real fun battles from France 1940, Norway, Greece and even the Spanish Civil War! Would love to see the French armour modelled such as the Somua S35 and Char B1. My current favourite title is CMFI as there's some unusual Italian kit thrown into the mix.

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