Jump to content

Unfinished business/scenarios


Recommended Posts

TLDR I do think that an excellent community resource would be a geolocated database with maps, so people interested in specific battlefields could either find an already ready made map or could ask for help in working one out.

---

If there's a bottleneck, it is with the map making and the silly notion that scenario design can only be done by one person, and what I suspect it is a reluctance to modify other's people work (not that the tools we have allow us to collaborate much, either). 

With CMx1 the mapping work wasn't much more involved than in, say, Steel Panthers. Get a rough idea of the elevations, plop down some generic geomorphic terrain features and you would be done, as the engine would be "fudging" for you little details like cover, concealment, LOS and LOF, etc.

Now, with the higher fidelity simulation in CMx2 the "classic" approach to map making just doesn't cut it anymore. There's a fair bit of scenarios (official and not) out there where you can "feel" that the map making was approached in the lo-fi way characteristic of CMx1. They just don't play well, in many cases there's just no way to approach the enemy through a truly covered route, because the scenery "props" that look equivalent to those of CMx1 do not have the same effect in CMx2. So we end up with a garbage in, garbage out kind of situation.

You can see other early maps, such as those by @Paper Tiger or @Pete Wenman that do look starkly different from the majority. Compare for instance CMBN scenario "Vierville" with "Carbide Carbide"  or any of the maps featured in the US campaign to just put one example. There has obviously been a learning process in map making: I can see a definite evolution on @George MC work in CMBN like "Huzzah!" to "Les Grandes Bonfaits" maps (the former was great, the latter is a master piece), or even in @JonS work, compare his work on "The Sheriff of Oosterbek" with that of "Bois of Bauguin". The most probable reason for that is that many of the people I mention did a lot of mapping work for CMSF, and they had under their belt a lot of experience.

The issue is not so much with placing "decorative" items that you'll only really get to appreciate if you spend most of your time with the camera hovering at about 2 meters from the ground. But rather in getting vegetation, towns, villages and relief - especially micro-relief, there's very rarely any really "flat" ground in the countryside - just about right or at least making it up in a way that is useful for what you want to achieve (provide some hull-down positions for tanks, or reverse slopes for a infantry force to leapfrog during an attack, etc.).

Of course you can find more scenarios for CMSF @Erwin: given the subject matter (terrain, organisation of combatants and weapons technology) it is way easier to get the feel right for that combo than it is in Normandy or the Eastern Front. With the exception of most of the Afghanistan-themed CMSF scenarios, a lot of the generic Syria/Iraq one fall into two categories: desert with rocks, one or two ridges and if you're lucky, a wadi with some palm trees and a gully, or a Fallujah-like death-trap that feels like a screenshot from a Middle Eastern-themed Sim City. We have seen those places very often on our TV sets and screen for the last 15 years of this War Is Peace times we're living.

In my opinion, it is not so much a matter of sources, or limitations with the Scenario Editor (which do exist and sometimes can be rather crippling) but one of experience at two levels: one with understanding what features give a specific character to a region, and two, knowledge about which of those features are relevant or critical for military operations.

Inferring the lay of the land from a topographic map is like inferring what does someone's face look like from just watching his shadow projected on a wall. Aerial photos help but rarely you'll get close enough shots or easily available high-res images to appreciate  detail you'd also get from Google Earth (unless you can go to Washington DC and spend years scouring the NARA archives, but then probably you'd better off by tucking that research into some notes with your sights put on writing a book instead of making a CM scenario for free). I have personally found very enlightening other games (made, guess why, by Ukranian or Russian dev teams) to get a sense of what do the plains of Russia and Ukraine actually feel like.

I could make excellent maps out of my homeland - "too bad" it was spared by WW2, though - because I do have an intuitive appraisal of what is the land like. Now I could probably do a quite good impression of the Australian south eastern farmlands with little effort. Yet probably I would still probably get wrong the location more often than not: battles and firefights seldom happen because of, you know, bumping on enemy forces while you're admiring the beauty of the scenery, but rather because they become important at the operational level.

All the stuff I have bothered publishing online have been maps: my fun probably isn't going to be the fun of 90% of the guys here, but hey, I do think the playground I built was well worth sharing. Pretty much all the scenarios I have made over the past five years have never left my hard disk. They are little generically named  30-minute long numbers where the map is a QB map or a cut out of one my big ones, or the excellent Master Maps we've been getting since Market Garden, and the forces & objectives follow from some "higher level" wargame I have been playing (like Tiller's Panzer Campaigns, or the more recent platoon level games) that give "context" to the action, scoping and motivating the laborious process of map making.

 

Edited by BletchleyGeek
TLDR Moved to top of post
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 54
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

15 hours ago, BletchleyGeek said:

I do think that an excellent community resource would be a geolocated database with maps, so people interested in specific battlefields could either find an already ready made map or could ask for help in working one out.

 

@BletchleyGeek  https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zetZ6VPvwx0g.kFKcTFo1c88A&usp=sharing 

@poesel put this together.

Thanks for your kind words by the way

 

P

Link to post
Share on other sites

The geek from Bletchley raises a number of good points - these two particularly 

15 hours ago, BletchleyGeek said:

In my opinion, it is not so much a matter of sources, or limitations with the Scenario Editor (which do exist and sometimes can be rather crippling) but one of experience at two levels: one with understanding what features give a specific character to a region, and two, knowledge about which of those features are relevant or critical for military operations.

 

15 hours ago, BletchleyGeek said:

The issue is not so much with placing "decorative" items that you'll only really get to appreciate if you spend most of your time with the camera hovering at about 2 meters from the ground. But rather in getting vegetation, towns, villages and relief - especially micro-relief, there's very rarely any really "flat" ground in the countryside - just about right or at least making it up in a way that is useful for what you want to achieve (provide some hull-down positions for tanks, or reverse slopes for a infantry force to leapfrog during an attack, etc.).

However I think the wider answer as to why there are less community maps comes from a couple of sources.

1. HTH play is increasing in popularity, due to the ever widening presence of the web, and the current QB system is adequate for this. Meeting engagements are popular despite perhaps being the most ahistorical type of combat. So this group of players do not need to create scenarios and in many cases do not want the restrictions imposed by a formal scenario.

2. Making scenarios is time consuming and pretty thankless. While I won't say it is hard, you do need to learn and grow into it.

3. Many players are too lazy to bother. (I've hidden this away here, as those in this category might not even read this far :P). We see endless questions here on the forums that indicate players will not read the manuals or even watch the youtube vid's that do a pretty good job of explaining things. What hope is there for this group to learn how to use the editor.

4. There is actually sufficient content for most players otherwise some of the above group would make the effort. 

As BG states in his post recent modules/games have included master maps, all of which I think have been of the highest standard (ok I'm biased here) and in most cases are of historically well known locations. And yet very, very few of these have seen the light of day in community made scenarios, even when cut down to much smaller sizes. As an example - the whole of the Oosterbeek perimeter was included with MG (along with a good many other master maps) - enough for community members to build anything from a small patrol action at the Westerbouwing to a meta campaign of the entire siege. This does suggest to me that most players are happy with the multitude of riches that is provided by Battlefront across all the Combat Mission titles. 

P

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/6/2016 at 1:09 PM, BletchleyGeek said:

probably get wrong the location more often than not: battles and firefights seldom happen because of, you know, bumping on enemy forces while you're admiring the beauty of the scenery, but rather because they become important at the operational level.

I agree with @Pete Wenman - that's a good post @BletchleyGeek

I pulled out the above quite because *I* think it's an important point. Practically everything we do in life does - or should - involve some element of story telling. This is especially true for creating scenarios for CM: Why are these forces fighting this battle, here, now? Without getting that piece right, I think scenarios tend to meander without a real point, leading to unsatisfying game play. But answering that question tolerably well before starting to create a scenario will be a great guide the designer in all the steps required.

In terms of mapping, I think it's not good enough to just craft a good map of a particular location - that's actually pretty easy, although it does take time. But you need to have the imagination to understand why one side would chose to stand and fight there, and why the other would decide they need to secure this particular piece of ground. Natural choke points is the most obvious case - a place where the weaker side can leverage the natural environment to reduce the impact of numerical imbalance, where their flanks are secure-ish due to blocking terrain, etc. And where those same factors mean the attacker can't 'just go around'.

Jon

P.S.; thanks for the kind words BG ^_^

Edit: one thing to consider when comparing the earliest CMBN maps with newer creations is that the tools available in the editor have improved over time. Experience and practice certainly play a part, but getting the map overlay was a huge boon.

Edited by JonS
Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi @BletchleyGeek

Great post - making interesting points. My apologies for the slow response been bit tied up with RL at this end. 

I think Pete and Jon have pretty much covered the key points in their responses. Although I do have a few points I'd like to emphasise. The map overlay has been the single greatest development in the editor to aid map creation to date. Imo. 

Google maps is a close second but specifically street view. This gives you a grunts eye view of your chosen battlefield or at worse the landscape close by. Although places change, and in 70 years can change a lot you do find in many east european areas, especially rural places, less so. I'm working on some Polish maps at the moment which in some cases I can drive along the same route the protagonists took 70+ years ago. Comparing photos from then and now it's interesting to see how often not much has changed overall. Western Europe less so but you can also visit Bon Faits via Google street view and it's pretty much the same as it was in 44 - not being bombed and flattened must help! Ps glad you like the map. Gave me kittens creating that one ye olde fashioned way...

whilst you can create maps quickly in CMX2, to create fidelity that works in game takes longer (as you describe). My reckoning is you can get a CMX1 type map using CMX2 but you will need to expend up to 50% more time thereafter creating the micro detail that greatly enhances CMX2 gameplay. Imo! ?

Thanks for the shout outs - much appreciated  

Cheery! ?

 

Link to post
Share on other sites

This is an interesting thread and a discussion with lots of good points.

Since beginning to use the Editor not too long after CMBN came out, I've largely spent my CMx2 time making my own "play once and delete" SP scenarios. That, coupled with a steady increase in RL time demands has meant that I actually feel swamped with the amount of unplayed stock content that I have. I keep saving the stock stuff until I am "fresh" or have time to comfortably play H2H, but that increasingly seems elusive. At this point, I think I'm going to just go with what seems to be my natural "flow" -- that is, using stock/community maps to make the kind SP scenarios that I most enjoy, along with the occasional original map project.

It's been said many times, most players play against the AI, so why not put my limited time towards giving them material to (hopefully!:)) enjoy? Having said that, my stuff is likely to be on the niche side, serving mainly players who want slow-paced, extended-play battles with ample opportunities for simming, micro-managing, and "noodling in the weeds" a bit. That, and as much of a human-like challenge from the AI as I can reasonably manage.

I finished up all the graphics/briefing work for The Radzy Award yesterday. After work today, I'm going to wrap up my last private playtest and, barring any major issues, will upload it to TPG2 and start a testing thread for it over the weekend. The origins and evolution of the scenario touch on a few things talked about in this thread. The map is the Radzymin 2 Master Map that comes with CMRT. I've just tweaked it slightly in a couple of places for things like AI-friendly road-widening ala JonS from the Scenario Design AAR. To dovetail with something that JonS mentioned a few posts back, story is very important. I tried to keep the briefing as short as possible, but make the fictional situation and scenario flow feel as real as I could, as well as using them to facilitate tactical issues, unknowns, and curveballs that help the AI get more traction.

Speaking of the Scenario Design AAR, part of the reason TRA has taken so long is that what started as a "quickie" scenario turned into a full-fledged one, due to my scrapping initial work and rebuilding it using some of the planning and AI-structuring techniques presented by JonS in his wonderful guide. I can't recommend that fantastic resource enough and let me add another THANK YOU! to the ocean of thanks he has rightly received for it.

Armed with what I've learned (and continue to learn) by doing this scenario, I might focus on defensive SP scenarios for awhile. I play very few of them--and there are very few of them for obvious reasons. So, maybe I can do some work to fill a niche within a niche, within a game that is within a niche within a niche, as it were. He-he.

Anyway, I had better shut up and get back to work so I don't cry wolf again this weekend.

Thanks again for all the input in this interesting thread!

Link to post
Share on other sites
7 minutes ago, Macisle said:

This is an interesting thread and a discussion with lots of good points.

Since beginning to use the Editor not too long after CMBN came out, I've largely spent my CMx2 time making my own "play once and delete" SP scenarios. That, coupled with a steady increase in RL time demands has meant that I actually feel swamped with the amount of unplayed stock content that I have. I keep saving the stock stuff until I am "fresh" or have time to comfortably play H2H, but that increasingly seems elusive. At this point, I think I'm going to just go with what seems to be my natural "flow" -- that is, using stock/community maps to make the kind SP scenarios that I most enjoy, along with the occasional original map project.

It's been said many times, most players play against the AI, so why not put my limited time towards giving them material to (hopefully!:)) enjoy? Having said that, my stuff is likely to be on the niche side, serving mainly players who want slow-paced, extended-play battles with ample opportunities for simming, micro-managing, and "noodling in the weeds" a bit. That, and as much of a human-like challenge from the AI as I can reasonably manage.

I finished up all the graphics/briefing work for The Radzy Award yesterday. After work today, I'm going to wrap up my last private playtest and, barring any major issues, will upload it to TPG2 and start a testing thread for it over the weekend. The origins and evolution of the scenario touch on a few things talked about in this thread. The map is the Radzymin 2 Master Map that comes with CMRT. I've just tweaked it slightly in a couple of places for things like AI-friendly road-widening ala JonS from the Scenario Design AAR. To dovetail with something that JonS mentioned a few posts back, story is very important. I tried to keep the briefing as short as possible, but make the fictional situation and scenario flow feel as real as I could, as well as using them to facilitate tactical issues, unknowns, and curveballs that help the AI get more traction.

Speaking of the Scenario Design AAR, part of the reason TRA has taken so long is that what started as a "quickie" scenario turned into a full-fledged one, due to my scrapping initial work and rebuilding it using some of the planning and AI-structuring techniques presented by JonS in his wonderful guide. I can't recommend that fantastic resource enough and let me add another THANK YOU! to the ocean of thanks he has rightly received for it.

Armed with what I've learned (and continue to learn) by doing this scenario, I might focus on defensive SP scenarios for awhile. I play very few of them--and there are very few of them for obvious reasons. So, maybe I can do some work to fill a niche within a niche, within a game that is within a niche within a niche, as it were. He-he.

Anyway, I had better shut up and get back to work so I don't cry wolf again this weekend.

Thanks again for all the input in this interesting thread!

Good news and thanks,.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 7 months later...

Sorry I've just discovered this topic.

In my experience, getting people to take the plunge into map making is a challenge, getting them to commit to building scenarios on those maps including AI plans is nigh on impossible. :P Campaigns.... we are a select few crazy people that want to do that. Even for me personally a part of me says once was enough. You will notice in the offical BF releases that in many cases the campaigns that are included are actually made by teams of people under the guidance of one manager. Most regular community members probably can't draw upon a team of map makers to pitch in and help out. As an example for how long it can take working on your own, my 'Lions of Carpiquet' campaign took two years (granted with a few breaks) between starting the first map to uploading to to the Depot.

A few times now I've tried to grab a few community members together for a community effort into a group of 'connected' scenarios. The first two times (CMFI - Moro River Campaign and CMBS - ARMA 2's Chenaraus map to Combat Mission), it's fizzled out as people realise the work involved. Third time's the charm though with a group of us pushing on with The Battle of Arracourt for CMBN. Having a team that helps each other and has an interest in a particular battle (or in this last case tanks) is a big help.

I agree with JonS above that the Map Overlay feature was the single biggest improvement to the editor to date. Even just with map making it makes dipping your toes into the editor so much easier for the new designers. A range of editor improvements could happen to entice more of the community to experience 'the other half' of the game. Top of my head:

- A copy paste feature between map files and within the same map file.

- Scroll bars for the unit selection / OOB screens.

- An undo command! :D

- A seperate tool for community members to transfer maps between game families 'officially.' (Or at least the common elements like terrain elevations and terain tiles etc). As CMx2 matures and more titles are released we're bumping into historical operations that occured over the same terrain in more tha one game family. This will only increase if future titles stretch to earlier years in the war.

- A brush like feature that randomly ruins/rubbles/craters your map. The worst map you can commit to making is a ruined urban environment. You need to essentially take two seperate passes at it.

- Ability to program AI plans in the 3D environment with movement waypoints etc. (Granted this one is probably a few bridges too far).

 

Just some thoughts.

Link to post
Share on other sites

The key issue in my opinion - is new designers start with far too grandiose ideas for their skill set.

Currently the editor is what is - so you have to learn to work within its limitations. So often the frustration is trying to do some complicated and "novel" idea that inevitably due to editor and game engine limitations is doomed to never work as intended.

So if you want to start designing a scenario I'd suggest grabbing one of the smallest in-game maps and opening it up in the editor. Then delete every unit, every label, every objective and AI plan. You can then tweak the map by playing about with it.

Then have a few units (go for human attacker vs AI defender) on the map. When doing the defence take your time to set-up for this type of battle good set-up will be key to how this battle feels. If you feel bold one AI unit as a counterattack force and one trigger. You can check this works as intended using the WEGO scenario author mode for testing.

Briefings and associated maps I'd keep very simple. Bullet points would suffice for the briefing or pinch someone else's brief you like and tweak the key details! Simple screen shot of map of failing that just do a blank one with simple mission brief i.e. attack and occupy farmhouse No1 (500 points).

I'd do lot's of these smaller ones all the while expanding your repertoire of techniques in the editor. This is the "game" within the game.

For campaigns same rules - start really small using existing maps and a small core unit - make it three scenarios long with limited branching, and discover the techniques to crafting scenarios. I'd avoid anything strictly based on historical for now - they DO take a lot of work - mainly reserach and recreating authentic maps within the confines of the editor. That is a skill all of it's own. Stay small - based on real life but not mirroring in anyway, limited bracnhing - you can for the first just gor for linear progression and aim at force conservation.

Hope this helps.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Good advice there, George MC.

Start simple, start small.

Look at other people's work and learn. Read the excellent guide supplied by BFC, but don't feel pressured to do everything in there perfectly.

Pinch other peoples maps and adapt it for your purposes, or crop some piece of a supplied Master Map. Huge time saver.

Don't be tempted to start with the Mother Of All Battles. You will likely never finish it. Waste of energy.

Making scenarios is fun, but it takes some practice.

But it can be done (heck, even I took the plunge with my limited skills, so everybody can).

And once you finish your puppy, you feel on top of the world B)

 

Edited by PanzerMike
Link to post
Share on other sites

"...my 'Lions of Carpiquet' campaign took two years (granted with a few breaks) between starting the first map to uploading to the Depot."

This is why we need to be prepared to pay for professionally made campaigns by BF.  Campaigns are the best way to enjoy CM as one has to deal with ammo and force preservation issues. 

Many of us prefer the larger missions.  So starting small makes sense from a learning perspective.  But, that not that many want to play small scenarios.  One is merely adding extra delay to making the large scenarios and campaigns.  For a complex game such as CM2 we can't expect many good user-made offerings b4 another CM2 product is released, and all the attention leaps to the new "toy".  Don't see any alternative to paying BF for well made content.

Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, George MC said:

Currently the editor is what is - so you have to learn to work within its limitations. So often the frustration is trying to do some complicated and "novel" idea that inevitably due to editor and game engine limitations is doomed to never work as intended.

I just found that out the hard time-consuming way!  :unsure:

Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, George MC said:

The key issue in my opinion - is new designers start with far too grandiose ideas for their skill set.

 

Guilty as charged. My last attempt took so much time and energy that I've dropped it after a couple of months. I had been warned from several sides that it was way too big and too ambitious, but willingly jumped into the trap with open eyes, convinced I could pull it off. Stupid.

Next time, and there will be a next time, I will keep it small and simple.

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 9/4/2016 at 8:16 PM, Erwin said:

On my system (approx): 

CMSF:   Over 500 Scenarios + about 43 Campaigns

CMBN:  Almost 350 Scens and about 35 Campaigns

CMFI:    387 Scens + 15 Campaigns

CMRT:   100 Scens + 15 Campaigns

CMBS:    45 Scens + 8 Campaigns

CMFB:    31 Scens + 4 Campaigns

Yes, the older games have more of each.  But, even taking that into account, the decline is very significant esp for campaigns.  I suspect that volunteer designers are burning out.  Hope the customer base is not going the same way.

And while am sure the game is better H2H, most people play vs the AI.  (Eg: In my case cos it's way more convenient to not worry about keeping an oppo waiting when I have to stop playing for months on end.  Fortunately, BF has yet to implement the AI feature that sends nasty e-mails to slow players.)

Wow, that is impressive...especially for CMSF...

Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Erwin said:

And given that CMSF was the only CM2 product for several years, the designers had more time and became VERY good at CMSF scenarios and campaigns by the time CMBN was released. 

Dang....any chance you could zip those CMSF and CMBN scenarios and campaigns up and post them to a drop box?  ...I thought I had a lot of CMSF content, but I bow to your greatness, I have less than half those...and CMBN?  wow, didn't even think there was that much content.  I know Bootie was bringing them over to the new Scenario Depot, but hey..any way I can get them.

Link to post
Share on other sites
8 hours ago, grunt_GI said:

Wow, that is impressive...especially for CMSF...

Where can you get these scenarios? Scenario depot definitely doesn't have that many by a long shot.

If these could be drop boxed or put on google drive that would be fantastic. A shame to lose this resource.

Edited by nightops
Link to post
Share on other sites
32 minutes ago, Erwin said:

I may in a previous life have had a dropbox AC.  But all forgotten now.  Someone needs to give me crayon-level instructions.  Will try and post all the CMSF (and any other CM2 games) scenarios and campaigns.

 

Hi Erwin, I've created a Google Drive folder called Combat Mission which you and everyone with the link below should be able to access and upload/download to. There's 15gb available so if you can zip and upload each of your scenario/campaign collections I'm happy to leave them there permanently for everyone to access.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B0HhNCJWAbKmcUF0VHRERzdvYTA?usp=sharing

Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, nightops said:

Hi Erwin, I've created a Google Drive folder called Combat Mission which you and everyone with the link below should be able to access and upload/download to. There's 15gb available so if you can zip and upload each of your scenario/campaign collections I'm happy to leave them there permanently for everyone to access.

https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B0HhNCJWAbKmcUF0VHRERzdvYTA?usp=sharing

OUTSTANDING!  Great idea, thanks so much for setting this up.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Dammit.  Already I have a problem.  Tried to sign in, got a new password, but then I get to verification and it sends me an e-mail and I try to sign in and around and around we go a couple minutes of that and had enuff. 

This is why you don't see me uploading stuff to dropboxes or Google anything.  Grrrr..... 

I have 770 MB of Campaign files and 860 MB of scenario files btw.

Edited by Erwin
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Erwin said:

Dammit.  Already I have a problem.  Tried to sign in, got a new password, but then I get to verification and it sends me an e-mail and I try to sign in and around and around we go a couple minutes of that and had enuff. 

This is why you don't see me uploading stuff to dropboxes or Google anything.  Grrrr..... 

I have 770 MB of Campaign files and 860 MB of scenario files btw.

Any way we can help?

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...