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Scenario Design Tips


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Lots of threads for the sake of giving advice have been popping up since Ianl and MethodGamer started their committee led AAR. And by lots I mean three or so. But the spirit of camaraderie is strong in the forum, and their horse is still, well... pretty horsey. Not a hint of camel.

 

So I've started playing around with the editor, and I've been designing a map with a member over at FGM. I'm learning a lot about the editor everyday, but I'm still pretty new to it. 

 

Does anyone with more experience have any tips for ease of use? Things you wish some grizzled vet had told you on your first day? Anything at all that pops to mind, whether it be advanced techniques, tips on creativity, quirks that aren't all that apparent or just general philosophy when designing.

 

I know there's a lot of knowledge on these forums. Thanks in advance.

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Lol thanks for the advice guys. I'll check out Proambulator's vids. 

 

@MikeyD I wouldn't be messing around with it if it wasn't fun, and I'm definitely not going to try too hard :) ... to be honest, I don't see myself as being the kind of person to make historically accurate scenarios. Rather, I'd rather make QB's and fictional H2H scenarios. Nothing too weird though, trust me. I just want to make good, interesting battles.

 

JonS, I like what you said about telling stories. Before I even read that I was trying to imagine everything's purpose, how everything relates to the people that live on the "map". It made me rethink placement of flavor objects and paths and the like, and now I'm starting to view everything with a little more logic.

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In my humble opinion, I think there are three pitfalls that many designers stumble into:

 

First is making the scenario too big, with enormous amounts of troops. While this is fascinating, I'm probably not alone when I say such scenarios can be absolutely mentally exhausting to play, because CM is a game that requires at least some micromanaging of your forces, which scales fast with map- and army sizes.

 

Secondly, lots of designers go out of their way to design perfect defensive setups, which were very rare in real life due to terrain limitations, fog of war, limited resources, human errors, etc. As a player, it's much more fun finding the chinks in the armour than running up against a solid wall of machineguns.

 

Thirdly, please resist the temptation to design the terrain itself for a specific type of defense. I prefer to play on maps that look like real places, rather than custom made death traps where it seems god almighty has created the landscape specifically to give the defender every possible advantage :) Create the map first, then set up the defense, rather than the other way around.

Edited by Bulletpoint
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JonS, I like what you said about telling stories. Before I even read that I was trying to imagine everything's purpose, how everything relates to the people that live on the "map". It made me rethink placement of flavor objects and paths and the like, and now I'm starting to view everything with a little more logic.

I think this is very important. When I make a map I want it to look like a place someone could visit - and that it has (or had recently) in habitants. If it looks sterile I've done something wrong.

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^^^

And if you do that right perhaps someone will come along and feature your map in a comic book or something :)

Hmm yes...well maybe that's why I've made a 208x208m map for each game I own except CMBS. It's doable on a weekend, and I can flesh it out and it's the right size for a Micro-Battle story! :D

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My pet peeve is we have some real good designers when it comes to making maps and finding historical events and story lines. But a lot of them are terrible on setting up the scoring for competitive h2h play.

 

I find the trick to making a good scoring game is do not create the scores until after your play testing. Come to some decision as to what you think the end battle should look like from the test plays. Then learn to set the scores up from what your imagined end result is.

 

So in other words, if I had 5 test runs, I select the one I felt both sides played well and score that so it is about neutral if the end were to look like that battle. Then I adjust it so better results from either side swings the scoring slightly to their favor, I do not set up a point structure where there is a massive percentage swing of points for one objective. I only would do that if the objective was a very difficult and very unlikely area to gain. I also always like each trooper to be worth some points for kills. Just hate it when it is not a factor - I personally think it should always be some factor.

 

So a example might be.

 

I expect the attacker to lose 60% of his units. So if I give a 1000 points for them, 600 points would be earned. Now the defender is likely to lose 80% of his units, so I want that to earn 600 points also. So I would assign them a total of 750 points. That is my first attempt at what I am accepting as neutral.

 

Then I do the same for objectives. so that if the expected is captured from each side they neutralize each other. But what should they be scored as. I go back to my troop cost, then I think something along these lines. if the attacker pushes hard and gets the next objective, he likely will lose another 10% his troops. So the defender will gain `100 points , lets make the value 150 for that objective. So the objective is a benefit unless he losses hit 15%.  ( I then would normally set all my objectives with scores equal or under that value)

 

Well it really gets more complex than that because of all the variables you have. But it still comes to that type of basic thinking as to how to construct the scoring from a expected end result.

 

Hope that helps - I can only say it managed to help get me some very high score at the scenario depot years ago for some of my designs. You can make some very uneven battles but as long as you score it on this type of concepts. The battle will be competitive for h2h play.

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I find the trick to making a good scoring game is do not create the scores until after your play testing. Come to some decision as to what you think the end battle should look like from the test plays. Then learn to set the scores up from what your imagined end result is.

 

So in other words, if I had 5 test runs, I select the one I felt both sides played well and score that so it is about neutral if the end were to look like that battle. Then I adjust it so better results from either side swings the scoring slightly to their favor, I do not set up a point structure where there is a massive percentage swing of points for one objective. I only would do that if the objective was a very difficult and very unlikely area to gain. I also always like each trooper to be worth some points for kills. Just hate it when it is not a factor - I personally think it should always be some factor.

 

I like the ideas here.  I would think that the play testing would require at least some kind of draft of the scoring - even it if was a few objectives - otherwise the players testing would not know what to attack for and what to defend.

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I like the ideas here.  I would think that the play testing would require at least some kind of draft of the scoring - even it if was a few objectives - otherwise the players testing would not know what to attack for and what to defend.

There is points and objectives assigned for the play test. But in general. I pretty much disregard the initial points and start down a approach in some manor like I have mentioned.

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I broadly use the same approach as SS. But the one thing he didn't mention - which I think is important - is that you must let the players know what they're fighting for. Explicitly. None of this "The enemy are out there, and you should probably try and secure some hills. Or buildings. Or sumfink. Maybe."

 

Be specific. "The total pool is 1000pts. Of that the enemy forces are worth 400 pts (40%). The church is worth 200 (20%). The main crossroads is 150pts (15%). The School is 75pts (7.5%). The Shop is 75pts (7.5%). And keeping your own losses below 45% is worth 100 (10%)." That way the player can figure out what objectives to go for, which to ignore, and how hard to press things. From all that they can come up with a plan, rather than just blundering about the map hoping they're doing what they need to in order to win.

 

Edit: typos :o

Edited by JonS
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This is exactly what I needed to hear. I was getting worried about exactly this yesterday- the map is asymmetrical. One player deploys in a forest with a rail line running perpendicular to the map, near a lumberyard. The other player deploys in rolling farmland, with a few copses and scattered small groupings of buildings. The only objective they both are equally distant to is a church on a slightly higher elevation at the far end of the map. So if you can imagine that its not terribly symmetrical. The player in the forest can't easily contest the middle objective as quickly as the player in the open, but has options to move anywhere up or down unobserved before launching an attack.

 

So basically we know what most of the objectives are going to be. The lumberyard, the church, the tiny village in the center. Possibly also the rail station and a small group of barns, but those are both isolated and near each deployment zone. We might do some mock battles to check for LOS issues and balance. But like you said JonS, the objectives are going to dictate the battle. 

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I broadly use the same approach as SS. But the one thing he didn't mention whiuch I think is impotant is that you must let the players know what they're fighting for. Explicitly. None of this "The enemy are out there, and you should probably try and secure some hills. Or buildings. Maybe."

 

Be specific. "The total pool is 100pts. Of that the enemy forces are worth 400 pts (40%). The church is worth 200 (20%). The main crossroads is 150pts (15%). The School is 75pts (7.5%). The Shop is 75pts (7.5%). And keeping your own losses below 45% is worth 100 (10%)." That way the player can figure out what objectives to go for, which to ignore, and how hard to press things, and from that come up with a plan, rather than just blundering about the map hoping they're doing what the need to in order to win.

 

 

Yes, that is important also.  I always like a briefing that has pretty clear information about the point structure of the battle. Yes you can intentionally leave a few things unspecified. But way too many scenarios. hardly give you a clue as to the value of your troops compared to the points for objectives.  I appreciate it when there is enough information so that I can decide how much I want to risk my troops. Telling me to keep my casualties light is not much of a incentive unless I have a understanding as to their value in the scoring of the battle.

 

Nothing like ending a battle that the briefing said to keep your casualties light, then finding out points were only awarded if you were less than 30% losses and it was only worth 10% of your possible score. like, way too many battles have this type of logic in their scoring. If a briefing tells me to do such a thing. it better have about 30% of my points built into that or it better be more clear as to its value for me to do it.

 

Different people have different opinions, but many battles have very little logic to their scoring no matter how you look at it.

 

I just finished two battles against players that when we looked as to how they were scored. They did not stand a chance even if I had played poorly. They were crushed by my attacks, but they could have played the best game of their lives and I still would have won by how the scoring was set up. That is just not right. This is one of the areas I wished we could get more detailed examples out to those that take the time to create some fine scenarios. getting the scoring right is like adding the toppings to your ice cream  :D

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I agree completely. Earlier I said I was more interested in creating balanced maps for H2H play, less so than scenarios. I feel like if the scoring and the terrain are balanced correctly everything should fall into place. I played CMBN for a real long time against the AI before I worked up the courage to jump on the forums.

 

One of my best experiences was getting my teeth kicked in mission 1 of Paper Tiger's Road to Nijmegen. I stepped back, did a bunch of research on tactics, and then went back and finished the whole campaign without reloading a save. It was so well designed it blew my mind. The mission Turning Back The Tide in particular stands out to me. When I played the last turn I was mentally exhausted. I had struggled so hard and I still only won by the skin of my teeth. Then, as I looked over the battlefield I got goosebumps. It was kind of scary to think that could actually happen. It really drew me in.

 

But the super neat thing about playing against people (particularly those you trust) is that there's always the potential for that kind of emotional involvement, or whatever.

Edited by delliejonut
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I have not made any scenarios but there are two things I would like to bring up for those that do.

1. Anytime you enter new units, make the enter time variable and random. A scenario can play out so different if your tiger gets there 10 minutes later and their fresh platoon gets there 10 minutes early.

2. This is a big one. NEVER have reinforcements arrive on a part of the map and be in instant view of any part of where the current battle would realistically be happening. If you have tanks coming onto the map at least have them enter an area protected by trees or a hill so the player at least has a chance to hear them for a turn instead of insta death. I am playing a CMBS battle right now where, without warning at all, some T72's just arrived in full view of my Stryker platoon and ruined the battle. At least one turn warning through sound or Intel would make for much better gameplay.

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