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MAKING OP NEPTUNE SPEAR – A SCENARIO DESIGN TUTORIAL (CONTAINS SPOILERS)


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Ok a couple of people (yes you @Borg ) have been screaming out for a ‘Special Ops Mission’.  So I thought – hell why not?  But there is a twist to this … it is sort of a scenario design tutorial to encourage new mission design within CMSF.  As I hope to show, this isn’t difficult ... although this will be a long journey for sure.

 

First up it is worth quoting the great JonS in his scenario design manual …

 

‘Scenario design is an intensely personal and creative activity, and these posts are not in any way intended to be prescriptive, or a set of rules that must be adhered to. Instead it's an outline of how I go about this, and some guidelines that you might choose to follow. To misquote German doctrine; scenario design is an art, a free and creative activity, and each designer needs to find their own way of skinning these cats’.

 

So first up is the scenario concept or the narrative.  You’ve already got the concept … I thought ‘hell why not?’ to doing a Special Ops Mission.  Well if you’re going to do one, you might as well do a famous one so we’re going to do the kill/capture operation against Osama Bin Laden by US Navy SEALs on 01-02 May 2011.  The advantage here is that unlike most SOF operations, this one is pretty well documented which makes the research easier.

 

Whatever the concept or narrative it needs to be a fairly strong one but open to adjusting as you go through because as we will no doubt see, there is only so much you can do with the mission editor so compromises ultimately have to be made.

 

Basically then my narrative is that I want to create an approximate representation of the events of that night and throw in some plausible challenges along the way.

 

At this point it is probably worth stating roughly what happened and this is a Segway into the next step which is research (although there is an argument that the research quite often drives the original scenario concept – neither is right or wrong and the process isn’t entirely linear). Here is the summary view from Wikipedia

 

‘Osama bin Laden, the founder and head of the Islamist group Al-Qaeda, was killed in Pakistan on May 2, 2011, shortly after 1:00 am PKT (20:00 UTC, May 1) by United States Navy SEALs of the U.S. Naval Special Warfare Development Group (also known as DEVGRU or SEAL Team Six). The operation, code-named Operation Neptune Spear, was carried out in a Central Intelligence Agency-led operation. In addition to DEVGRU, participating units included the United States Army Special Operations Command's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne) and CIA operatives. The raid on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, was launched from Afghanistan. U.S. military officials said that after the raid, U.S. forces took bin Laden's body to Afghanistan for identification, then buried him at sea within 24 hours of his death in accordance with Islamic tradition. According to a Pakistani official, the United States had direct evidence that Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, knew of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad’.

 

So from the above I can draw out a couple of pointers which will become useful when I’m constructing the scenario.

 

Time 0100

Date 02 May 11

Location Abbottabad

Blue Force SEAL Team 6

Rather than quote the whole Wikipedia article (you can read it here … https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Osama_bin_Laden)

 

I’ll just extract some other snippets that may be of use.

 

Overall Force Strength was 79 operators and CIA personnel 6 helicopters and a dog. The raid was carried out by two dozen operators with another two dozen operators waiting at a deserted LZ to act as a reaction force if the Pakistani Army intervened.

 

Inside the compound were 22 residents.

 

Further quote from Wikipedia …

 

‘When the National Security Council (NSC) met again on April 19, Obama gave provisional approval for the helicopter raid. But as he worried that the plan for dealing with the Pakistanis was too uncertain, Obama asked Admiral McRaven to equip the team to fight its way out if necessary’

 

The raid launched from Jalalabad in Afghanistan with a flight time of 90 minutes to the target and a QRF was positioned 2/3rds of the distance away (ie 30 minutes flight time away).

 

And more from Wikipedia about the execution of the mission

 

‘As they hovered above the target, however, the first helicopter experienced a hazardous airflow condition known as a vortex ring state. This was aggravated by higher than expected air temperature ("a so-called 'hot and high' environment’) and the high compound walls, which stopped the rotor downwash from diffusing. The helicopter's tail grazed one of the compound's walls, damaging its tail rotor, and the helicopter rolled onto its side. The pilot quickly buried the aircraft's nose to keep it from tipping over. None of the SEALs, crew and pilots on the helicopter were seriously injured in the soft crash landing, which ended with it pitched at a 45-degree angle resting against the wall. The other helicopter landed outside the compound and the SEALs scaled the walls to get inside. The SEALs advanced into the house, breaching walls and doors with explosives.’

 

Other useful bits and pieces from the article …

 

Compound 3D Model.jpg

 

A rather fancy schematic of the compound

 

So this is all great stuff and I could take the research to deeper levels but before I do it is worth taking a moment to see if this passes the feasibility test as a mission.  Knowledge of the editor helps at this point so if you are unfamiliar you just have to kick things around and setup little tests.  It might be that those tests rule out the mission altogether because it is not achievable in the editor or that the mission is unlikely to be a fun experience for the player.  JonS frequently says that many historical missions do not make fun CM missions.

 

It is also worth thinking about what compromises or adjustments may be required to make your concept a workable mission and I'll discuss these as I go. Next time around I will cover the ground and some other factors in a bit more detail.

 

 

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I ended the last post talking about compromises, you will see that I will bring up compromises and workarounds in most of my posts rather than devote a whole section or post to them. The ability to adjust when making missions is a key skill in mission design and I hope that you will see things throughout this tutorial that will assist you in the process.

 

This post will mostly deal with the geographical area in which the mission is set and the ‘frame’ for the mission.

 

Obviously then it would be helpful if we identified the terrain over which the mission is to be fought.  This means going back to some research and cracking open your mapping application(s) of choice. Fortunately again, Mr Bin Laden’s notoriety means that some helpful person has actually plotted the compound in Google Maps here …

 

https://www.google.com.au/maps/place/Osama+bin+Laden's+compound+in+Abbottabad,+Abbottabad,+Pakistan/@34.1688404,73.2420684,273m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x38de31bac2c3add9:0x8243435e0624afa9!8m2!3d34.1693431!4d73.2424638

 

This is extremely useful but I prefer to use Google Earth as my programme of choice so I need to do a bit of imagery analysis to find the location

 

Google Earth OBL Placemark.jpg

 

Having found it I have place marked it so I can find it later as shown in the screenie above.

 

Also note that I have used the historical imagery tool to show the place as it looked in 2010 because if you look at current imagery the place has changed dramatically ….

 

Google Earth Historical Imagery Tool.jpg

 

So time for more map study.  The initial thought is that this could be a bit of a tricky one to pull off as a workable mission mainly because of the proximity of civilian buildings which could complicate Blue player options or make the narrative unbelievable.  But rather than give up yet I need to zoom out to see whether I can fit something workable into the CMSF playing area (max 4km x 4km) and I am also looking for the Pakistani military facilities which I know from my research to be in the area.

 

So here is what I found …

 

Annotated Google Earth Zoom Out Osama Bin Laden.jpg

 

This is a bit rough and ready but if you zoom in on Google Earth you can see that it is a huge military facility.  For the purposes of the mission, because we’re not going to storm the facility it is unimportant, what I am looking for is something to support a narrative of the Pakistani Army reacting to the US raid which was the contingency planning insisted on by President Obama.  So I’m just confirming its existence and how far away from the compound it is.

 

I have also highlighted two areas as ‘Possible Infil/Exfil Locations’.  Here I’m thinking about a concept of the SEALs, having executed the mission being required to withdraw to an LZ for pickup.  The two highlighted areas are fields surrounded by trees which tactically would support helos landing in the middle and provide a defensible perimeter.  I may not employ this in the final mission but I want to examine the possibility.  It also helps frame the size of the map I will need to create in the editor.  The deduction is that I can probably work with something in the 1km x 1km range which means that this is eminently achievable mapping-wise without compromising too much on cropping distances or replicating the real ground.  This is a key point for me when designing ‘historical’ or ‘semi-historical’ missions (this one will be what I call ‘semi-historical’).

 

Having ticked the ‘doable’ box for ground, let’s return to wider feasibility issues …

 

Force ratios are about 1:1 which works.

 

Actual Raid Graphic.jpg

 

As you can see from the above graphic of the raid, the Blue force insert is a problem because I have no helicopters to play with so I will have to just put Blue in suitable starting locations and configurations to simulate exiting the helicopters on the LZ.  I may have to compromise on historical accuracy and have the Blue Force setup as if it had been inserted by helo a few hundred metres away (this is where my ‘Possible Infil/Exfil Locations’ come in handy).

 

My nearest match for SEALs is going to be USMC and I have to accept that I cannot model the actual weapon systems and the dog is going to be a non-starter.  Neither are deal breakers.  I also need to include breaching charges in the Blue Force composition.

 

The PAKMIL facility is about 2km from the compound by road which works (when reaction times are factored in) in terms of a ‘fight their way out’ scenario.

 

The proximity of civilian houses presents challenges in terms of collateral damage for the Blue Player and also provide potential escape routes for Osama Bin Laden should I choose to have ‘escape’ as one of the Red AI Plans.

 

Both ‘Possible Infil/Exfil Locations’ are approximately 600m from the compound making both infil and exfil aspects of the mission workable.

 

There are no Pakistani forces in CMSF but I can use Syrians to simulate them.

 

Overall the ground offers sufficient cover and concealment and routes to give the Blue Player flexibility to adopt multiple COAs (Courses of Action).

 

The 30 minute flight time from the remote LZ for the Blue QRF is a workable factor if I want to include this element in the mission.

 

The compound is an irregular shape, made up of many structures and measures roughly 90 x 50m.  I might have to play around with the dimensions a bit but the takeaway is that it will provide assaulting challenges to the Blue Player.

 

So the sum of the parts is that potentially this is doable but I need to work out how the infil and assault are going to play out.  I would like to replicate a direct insert onto the target but need to know if it will work.  This means I will have to test this early on in the piece and as a result I can do this by building the compound and immediate surrounds. If the test works I can continue building the rest of the map.

 

The next post will show some of those map creation steps.

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3 hours ago, IanL said:

Yes, this is very interesting.  I take it you kept notes while you were working on this so you could do this write up.

That is exactly what I did - they've been sat on my hard drive ready to go since I finished the mission ... apart from some finishing touches at the end which I still have to write.  I held off starting this thread until folks had a chance to DL and play the mission so that is why I haven't kicked this thread off until now.

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So … building the map …

 

First select your area … now you know I’ve already got a rough idea of the area but I need to refine that into a box that I can use to generate the map.  This involves a bit of fiddling in Google Earth but basically I don’t want the map to be huge (I’m aiming at 1km x 1km).  It needs to be centred on (or nearly centred on) the compound and I want to include my two potential infil/exfil sites. 

 

I also want to make map making as easy as possible which means avoiding as many angled roads and buildings as possible.  To do this you box off the area by using the Polygon tool and rotate the map to your desired orientation (eg one with the minimum number of angled roads/buildings or your key terrain feature (in this case the compound)).

 

Annotated Polygon & Orientation Osama Bin Laden.jpg

 

To generate the image above I rotated by rotating the compass in Google Earth. I then (not shown) drew a box using the measuring tool set on ‘path’. Once that box was drawn I created the box (using the polygon tool) by drawing over my measured path ensuring that the fill of the box is clear and the lines are clear enough to see.  This then should be named and saved as shown in the image.

 

So before jumping into the editor I just need to use Google Earth to measure the dimensions of my Polygon and the dimensions of the centre point of the compound from the polygon edges. I need to do the latter because CMSF doesn’t have the overlay feature so generating accurate maps is a painful process of endless measuring.

 

So the horizontal dimension is 989 metres and the vertical dimension is 934 metres.

 

The centre point of the compound is 680m from the bottom edge of the box and 367m from the left hand side of the map.  Note that it is important that you measure from the bottom and left because this is how distances are expressed in the CMSF editor.

 

So into the editor – and I’ll say straight off that I won’t cover blatantly obvious steps because this thread will become enormous.  Basically go into the scenario editor, click new and you’re this far …

 CMSF Description Screen Initial Shot.jpg

 

Now strictly speaking, at this stage you don’t have to do anything here because while it is important later, nothing you do here really impacts on game play it is just information for the player (befitting the name ‘description’).  However I have typed in my mission name just because I like to do it at this point but nothing is irreversible so if I want to call my mission ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ later on I can by amending the text.

 

CMSF Editor Map Selection Screen.jpg

 

To go to the map editor I select ‘map’ as per the image above.

 

In the image below I have clicked the plus and minus buttons to create my desired map size (note for big increments do shift click).  It is probably difficult to see but the map measures 992 x 994 metres which is larger than the real world measurements but is unavoidable due to the fact that the CMSF map increases or decreases by increments of 8 metres (the size of an action spot). It is better to make your map slightly bigger by a few metres rather than smaller by a few metres to give you ‘fudge factor’.

CMSF Map Editor Compound Centre Point Osama Bin Laden Mission.jpg

 

I have marked the compound centre point by moving the cursor until it reaches the desired spot (680 metres from the bottom and 367 metres from the left) as shown by the X and Y coordinates at the bottom of the screen and painting a ‘hard’ tile at that point.  The ‘hard’ tile is just so I can find it – I could have used ‘grass’ or ‘gravel’ or whatever. This will get changed later on to a more appropriate tile type … at this stage it is just a marker.

 

Although a digression, it is good practice to save frequently so let’s do that now …

 

CMSF Editor Initial Save Dialogue.jpg

 

As you can see from the image, saving is pretty easy, click save and you’ll be pointed at the ‘Game Files’ directory.  Type in a name (I have used the same name as in the description screen but it is not mandatory it is just good practice) and click the tick icon.  Note that to test and play this mission you will have to move the file or save a copy of it to the ‘Scenarios’ folder but there is no need to do that yet.

 

As this is a natural pause I will finish for now. The next post will cover off on more map techniques relating to the Compound.

 

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Back again, and as promised I’ll show you how I ‘built’ the compound and to start with I have to do some more measuring.  With compounds I generally just measure the perimeter points as shown …

Google Earth Measuring the Compound Annotated.jpg

 

Now it is important to note that while I am trying to recreate the exact measurements of the compound, replicating those measurements in CMSF exactly is probably not going to be possible mainly because:

 

a.   Of the 8m size of the action spots

b.  The fact that walls will sit in the middle of an action spot

c.  The diagonals may not follow the exact line they do in real life

d.  Building sizes.

 

Bottom line is that while it is nice to get the measurements right, in my view it is an acceptable compromise to get the thing to look right.  Generally compounds in CMSF are larger than in real life because of the factors above.

 

Another important factor is that this compound forms a key component of the mission because it is the compound that is going to be raided so we have to consider playability.  In this instance, if I can’t get the dimensions right I am prepared to live with it.

 

Next … what does the compound look like?  I can check it out in Google Earth, I also have the plan schematic from the Wikipedia article and I can look at some images.  One example is shown below.

 

Compound Image 2.jpg

 

Again I doubt I’ll be obsessive about capturing the detail – it just has to vaguely look right and pass the playability test.

 

So I now go back to the editor and plot the compound perimeter out ….

CMSF Map Editor - Initial Compound Plot Problems.jpg 

 

As you can see in the image above, there are problems in using the exact dimensions of the compound pretty much as I described earlier.  The issue being that I can’t get the diagonals from the bottom ‘V’ to join up with the top LH and RH extents of the compound.  Time to mess around to get the compound ‘right’.

 

The next image shows how I’ve moved the bottom ‘V’ to get the diagonals to fit making the compound 24 metres larger than its actual size.

 CMSF Compound Perimeter 1st Revise.jpg

 

Now for the buildings which fairly predictably will be placed based on available research.  If they do not fit, or I don’t think that the spacings work between buildings and walls I will test and adjust as necessary.

 

CMSF Compound Perimeter 2nd Revise.jpg

 

As you can see from the image above, I have started with the main compound building first and while it fits in the area, I can see already that I will struggle to get the other buildings to fit into the compound.  I could of course go for a ‘slimmed down’ version of the compound but I think it is more important to include as many structures as possible because this will create complexity for the player and gives me the opportunity to place red units in more diverse locations in the compound.  Ultimately then, the design decision is to ignore real dimensions and tilt the balance to game play.

 

So after a bit of fiddling around here is what the compound looks like in the editor and 3D preview ….

 

CMSF Compound 3rd Revise and Preview.jpg

 

So points to note are that the compound is bigger than actual size and the relative distances between walls are not totally in accordance with real dimensions.  However, the compound is vaguely recognisable as the real thing in terms of buildings, entrances and walls.  Hopefully you’ll agree that it also looks like as if it will be a nightmare for the men of SEAL Team 6 to clear.

 

More work is required here because the building colours aren’t right, doorways and windows aren’t right and roofs aren’t right.  These can all be fixed in the 3D preview as stated in the manual …

 

Single Wall

CTRL-CLICK on a side changes window/door layout for floor

CTRL-SHIFT-CLICK on a side adds balconies for that floor

Single Side

ALT-CTRL-CLICK on a side changes window/door layout

CTRL-SHIFT-CLICK on ground floor adds balconies

Entire Building

ALT-CLICK changes window/door frames for all four sides

SHIFT-CLICK changes the buildings texture for all four sides

CTRL-CLICK on roof changes shape/type of roof

 

This is what the compound looks like now after lots of ALT, CTRL, SHIFT clicking combinations ….

 CMSF Compound 3rd Revise.jpg

 

Remember that I am building this compound to conduct a viability test for the mission so I do want to put some surrounding terrain in but I don’t want to create the whole map.  I will do this now before putting final touches to the compound for the purposes of the test.  The latter will mainly involve placing flavour objects.

 

That’s it for this instalment, the next post will look at force selection.

 

 

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Now to deal with force selection for my little test.  Inevitably there are a number of factors I need to consider as I go through the process and this is one of the reasons for (in historical or semi-historical scenarios) to do a bit of research and to have a reasonably clear idea of your mission narrative or concept.

 

Also, as I have already stated, I’m likely to need to compromise (no place for the dog as an example!!). By way of a refresher, the overall strength of the US force was 79 SEAL Team 6 operators split between an assault element and a backup reserve element. The assault element numbered around two dozen.  So let’s start with them first …

 

The first problem of course is that CMSF does not have US Navy SEALs so I am going to need to compromise on my unit pick and as previously stated I’m going to go with the USMC, accepting the fact that the weapon systems aren’t going to replicate those used.  As this is a compound assault, I need to give the guys the tools to do the job so breach charges are a must.  Additionally, although I haven’t settled on the enemy composition yet, I am considering a mechanised element so I need to have an anti-armour capability up my sleeve. Finally, I may have a sniper group as part of my force so I need to pick those as well.

 

It is time to crack open the mission again in the editor and pick the units.  Once the scenario is open, clicking ‘units’ takes you to the purchase screen.  I need to ‘Purchase Blue’ and I need to select ‘USMC’ as my force and ‘Infantry’ as my branch of service. Once I’ve done that, I get a list of available units.  This is what the screen looks like.

 

CMSF Unit Editor USMC Initial Pick.jpg

 

At this point I can select my hard and soft factors prior to picking the unit, or I can do it later.  Because my hard and soft factors are universal to the unit, I’m actually going to choose those now.

 

The factors are Experience (soft), Leadership (soft), Motivation (soft), Supply (hard), Vehicle Status (hard), Fitness (soft), Equipment (soft). In simple terms, the soft factors will affect how your troops behave on the battlefield while the hard factors deal with their ammunition and equipment.

 

I won’t go into the full detail (because it is in the manual which you all have access to) but here are the wavetops …

 

EXPERIENCE – determines the experience and training level of the soldiers of the formation. I have gone with ‘Elite’ which is the highest setting.  The manual describes this setting as … ‘the best of the best. Superb training, frequent combat experience, and generally all around tough guys’.  Now some people get wrapped around the axle about this setting or delve too much into the wording in the manual, for me it can reflect the actual experience levels or how thee experience levels are going to affect gameplay.  In this particular instance it would be churlish and inaccurate to give US Navy SEALs any other rating than ‘Elite’ so that is what they are for the mission.

 

LEADERSHIP – (from the manual) ‘the capability and experience of the unit leader does not always correspond with the quality of the unit. This rating allows a unit to range from great soldiers and terrible leaders, or terrible soldiers and great leaders’.  I’ve gone for a blanket setting of +2 which is the highest rating, again my reason, notwithstanding the spiel in the manual above, relates to the US Navy SEALs being an elite unit.  I might tinker with individual values later but I very much doubt it.

 

MOTIVATION – (from the manual) ‘determines the soldiers’ will to fight. Options range from Fanatic (soldier will never give up and fight even when facing certain death) all the way to Poor (soldier has little desire to fight and will take the first chance to rout)’. I’ve gone or ‘Extreme’ which is the second highest rating.  I have chosen this rating because I don’t think it would be appropriate to describe US Navy SEALs as ‘fanatic’ (the highest rating) but, as Special Forces operators, it is fair to say that they would be very motivated to complete any mission, but particularly this one.  It is worth remembering that one of the helicopters suffered problems on the approach to the target forcing the pilot to put it down quickly.  Despite this setback, they completed the mission.

 

SUPPLY – (from the manual) ‘determines the amount of ammunition and equipment available to the unit at the start of the game. Options include Severe, Scarce, Limited, Adequate and Full’.  I have chosen ‘full’ which is the highest setting and again I think the most appropriate because they have just launched from their base so would have full ammunition loadouts.

 

VEHICLE STATUS – (from the manual) ‘changes a Vehicle to be immobilized, knocked out, or burning from the very start of the game’.  This value is not really relevant because the Blue Force will comprise dismounts only, however I have set the value to ‘ok’ which represents fully functional vehicles.

 

FITNESS – (from the manual) ‘determines the inherent degree of physical readiness of the unit’s soldiers. This influences on how quickly soldiers tire and recover from physical tasks, such as running or being bombarded by enemy fire. Options include: Fit, Weakened, and Unfit’.  In the case of my US Naval SEALs, this is a no-brainer as they are known for their physical fitness standards.  Predictably the setting therefore is ‘fit’.

 

EQUIPMENT – (from the manual) ‘the quality of the equipment available to the unit can vary even within a formation. This option is unique in that it behaves differently depending on when you set it. If you set this option for “activated” units (i.e. already purchased and in the right-hand activated column), the available equipment is simply adjusted in its performance (accuracy, jams etc.). If

you set this option BEFORE purchasing a unit, this setting determines what type of weapon or equipment the unit will be equipped with. This is explained in more detail under “Purchasing

Equipment” below’.  As you can see there are nuances to the timing of making this selection and it is one of the reasons why I decided to go select my values early.  In this case because I am using US Marines to replicate my SEALs, it is worth looking at the module specific manual to get an idea of what effects particular values might have.  Fortunately there are not too many things to consider because I am only interested in dismounted elements and equipment quality only affects the sniper squad (which I may use).  ‘Good’ or above will equip the squad with the M40A3, ‘Bad’ will equip the squad with the M82A3, while normal will equip the squad with a mix of both types (page 21 of the USMC Manual refers).  I have chosen the highest rating of ‘Excellent’ which means that all troops will have accurate weapons that will jam infrequently and will equip my snipers with the M40A3.

 

With all of those settings done (although they may be revisited after testing), I now need to strip out the bits of the TO&E that I don’t want.  I need to do this because of the way unit picks work in the editor.  Unfortunately I cannot completely cherry pick elements of the TO&E, I have to first ‘buy’ the complete unit and then pare it down.  One of the limitations is that I cannot delete the HQ elements, as an example if I delete HQ B Company, all of B Company gets deleted.  Fortunately there is a workaround in that if I don’t want HQ B Company to appear during the scenario, I can set it as a reinforcement with an arrival time after the scenario time limit.  That is to say that if my scenario is 1 hour long, I can set it for an arrival time of 3 hours and it will never appear.

 

In this instance I’ve stripped out a lot of what I think will be unnecessary early.  This is because I have a pretty good idea of what elements I want (about 79 soldiers) and I am reasonably familiar with the TO&E.  My advice is that if you’re not sure, leave everything in and have a look at what the TO&E gives you in the ‘Deploy Blue’ screen because (unlike the WW2 titles) if you find that you have stripped out bits that you subsequently require, you have to delete the whole unit and repurchase it.  Now this is not a showstopper but it just saves you a bit of work if you make a mistake.  As you will see I have already stripped out all of the Battalion HQ (less the HQ team for reasons already explained), the Anti-Armour team, the third platoon of A Company, A company’s mortars, B and C companies.

 

CMSF Unit Editor USMC 1st Refined Pick.jpg

 

As seen in the graphic above, once I’ve got what I think I might need, I now need to see the detail so that means deploying the units onto the map.  This is done by hitting the ‘Deploy Blue’ button which will take you to the map.  At this point it doesn’t matter where the units setup, I can sort that out later, I am interested in how the numbers break down and what equipment is in each element to make up my desired force package.

 

In the following screen I’ve arranged the units by their sub-unit components by selecting the respective HQs and grouping the elements together by selecting them and hitting ‘move’.  While it is not absolutely necessary, it just makes things easier because the default unit deployment tends to make identifying individual components tricky as it is fairly random. 

CMSF Deploy Blue Initial Overview Screen.jpg

 

Time now to drill in to the detail and for this mission I am first of all interested in what I can use to simulate my ‘about two dozen’ assault element.  The natural place to look is the rifle platoon so all I need to do is to zoom in there and select the individual elements.  I will cover this process in the next instalment of the tutorial.

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In my last post I covered off on the mechanics of force selection and some considerations for unit quality, this post will show some of the nuances of ensuring that you get the right forces for the job. The analysis sits largely outside the editor as you will see.

 

First off I will tabulate everything, not because I have to, but it is a useful process further on down the track when I start thinking about victory conditions and writing the orders.

 

Force Pick Table 1.jpg

 

Force Pick Table 2.jpg

 

Force Pick Table 3.jpg

 

With that done, I know I’m on the right track although clearly I have a lot more troops than were present on the day, I do know that I have the basis for the ‘two dozen’ assault force and I have breach charges without needing to purchase an Engineer element and trimming it down.  The questions I’m now looking to answer are how to organise the group, how to trim the numbers and will there be enough demo charges.

 

As an initial cut, here is my proposed force element ….

 

Force Pick Table 4.jpg

 

As a first cut, I am pretty happy with that given that there were 79 on the operation so I am over my limit by 5 and only over by 2 if we accept that the Bn HQ will never arrive.  Also, I have managed to put together an assault element which is in the ‘about two dozen’ ballpark which at first look will have the tools to do the job.  To be honest I am most focussed on the Assault Element because subject to testing, I would rather limit the mission to just this element.

 

Note of course that this is my solution, there are other ways I could have come up with the numbers and capabilities required but I opted to keep the chain of command intact where I could, I wanted to hang on to the Javelins just in case and hey it’s not special operations without snipers!!! Although of course they may never arrive ….

 

Everything else of course I can now delete from my force pick so I can either do that now, or wait a while to see the outcome of the initial test.  For caution’s sake let’s keep things as they are for the time being because in my initial test to see if the compound attack will work, I can park them in a corner of the map well out of the way.  I can also use them to do some time and distance testing as concurrent activity to my compound assault test.  Of course, once I’m sure they are surplus to requirements I will then delete them.

 

I will move on to the Red Force pick in the next post.

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Now for the Red force pick which in terms of interacting with the editor works on the same principles but as you will see, I need to make this pretty nuanced.  Remember that at this stage I’m really only interested in the forces around the compound.

 

Going back to our research, you will recall that there were 22 residents of the compound, many of which were non-combatants.  The first thing I’m going to change in order to enhance enjoyment/playability is to fudge the truth and make all of them combatants.  While I’m at it I will probably not be too disappointed if my numbers overrun the 22 resident figure, however I don’t want to go madly overboard.

 

So in the image below I have selected ‘Purchase Red’ and then ‘Unconventional’ followed by ‘Combatant’.  The pick list then appears on the left hand side of two large areas of the screen ready for me to pick.  I have gone for ‘Combatant’ for no other reason than the ‘Fighter’ force pick all look like bloody Ninjas with their black uniforms whereas ‘Combatants’ wear a mix of jeans and a combat jacket.  Otherwise there is no real difference in the forces as far as I am aware.

 

CMSF Red Unit Initial Pick Screen.jpg

 

You will see that I have gone for a number of ‘Tiny Combatant Groups’ which is a deliberate choice and I finally picked 8 of them.  The reasons for this are that a ‘Tiny Combatant Group’ gives you three guys so 8 of them give me 24 people in the compound which is close to the actual figure (22) and gives parity or near parity with the assault group.  The other reason for going with so many tiny groups is that it gives me more flexibility in setup when you consider possible AI plans and C2 relationships.  The final reason is it gives me the flexibility to tinker with individual hard and soft values if I need to.  I might want to do the latter to reflect the fact that while one group might be asleep (modelled by giving them an ‘unfit’ fitness rating) another group might be on guard duty justifying say a ‘fit’ fitness rating.  Remember that this soft factor dictates how a unit might perform under fire and move across the ground rather than being a reflection of how many pies they eat and how often they go to the gym.

 

The inset next image shows what a ‘Tiny Combatant Unit’ looks like – as you can see there are three in the group with my initial deployment in the compound.  You will see that I have labelled three units as ‘sentry’ and the remaining five units as ‘sleeping’ units.  This is a deliberate attempt to reflect the reality that in the early hours of the morning, only a portion of the available force is going to be awake.

 

CMSF Red Initial Compound Deployment.jpg

 

Although not clear from the image, the sentry units are facing out and covering their arcs, while I have deliberately positioned the sleeping units so that they are facing away from doors as a means of slowing down their response time to the US Navy SEAL attack.  That is to say that they will have to turn and face the attack which requires a small amount of time to do and they will face a spotting delay as they turn to face and identify the threat.  Now that delay is likely to be only mere seconds but these are the kind of margins that Special Operations Forces are trained to deal with.  This also serves to reinforce the fact that CMSF is not really the best medium to replicate Special Forces Missions, not because the game is borked, it is because it was never designed to replicate these sorts of missions.

 

It is time to go back to the subject of hard and soft factors so that I can differentiate between my ‘sleeping’ and ‘sentry’ units.  As an initial pick I kept the same settings which were:

 

EXPERIENCE – ‘Conscript’ which is the lowest setting.  Apart from particular units (eg snipers or a unit that is identified through research as being of good quality) I generally make all of my insurgent units in my scenarios ‘Conscript’.

 

LEADERSHIP – I left as ‘Typical’ which will give me a range of values to reflect leadership qualities.

 

MOTIVATION – I chose ‘Fanatic’ because I do want these guys to fight to the death … let’s face it they are defending Osama bin Laden.  However, if my testing shows that this setting results in the routine slaughter of my assault force then I will tone it down to a level that gives me the results that I’m looking for.  For your information I am aiming at no more than three US casualties in the assault.

 

SUPPLY – This level has also been set at ‘Typical’ giving a range of ammunition loads.  This setting shouldn’t matter too much because these guys aren’t going to be around for long but of course if I change my mind I can always adjust it.

 

VEHICLE STATUS – As with the Blue Force, it is irrelevant due to the force not having vehicles so I have left the value at ‘ok’.

 

FITNESS – I went with a blanket value of ‘Unfit’ to replicate slow reaction times due to the fact that it is the middle of the night and some guys will be asleep.  I will tweak this for the units I have marked as ‘Sentry’ but leave it as ‘Unfit’ for the others.

 

EQUIPMENT – Is universally set as poor.  This is a reflection of poor weapon maintenance standards of many insurgents but most importantly it determines what weapons they get.   With combatants, a poor selection results in AK-47s and the odd sniper rifle.  To be honest I could do without the sniper rifle but I only got one across the whole 8 groups I picked so I will leave it at that.  Outside the scope of this scenario, when I model the Taliban I always pick ‘Excellent’ because this guarantees me at least one RPG-7 in a group and RPG-7s are ten a penny in Afghanistan.

 

So I will now go and change the fitness rating for my ‘sentry’ units to ‘fit’ from ‘unfit’.  To be able to do that I need to identify them and, because I picked a whole bunch of units in one go rather than picking one and deploying it, picking another and deploying it, I can’t tell the difference between the units.  So I need to name them and this screen shot shows how you rename units.

 

CMSF Unit Editor Renaming Red Compound Units.jpg

 

Basically, select your unit, click ‘rename’ and then enter the details in the dialogue box.  All very simple but one thing worth knowing is that you need to consider FOW when you rename because players at the Basic Training level will see the names when the unit is spotted.  So if you name a unit ‘last gasp reserve’, it gives the game away to players at those levels.  In this instance I am not bothered in the slightest, notionally the attacker will have had a pretty good idea of what was in the compound, the unit is in the compound so it is pretty obvious what it is even without an obvious name.

 

Now I can go back to the ‘Deploy Red’ screen and select each of the units that I previously annotated as ‘Sentry’ units’ individually and note the name so that I know which ones to change to ‘Fit’ in the unit editor.  The image shows Compound Guard #3, the other ‘Sentry’ units are Compound Guard #1 and Compound Guard #4.

 

Compound Guard 3 Unit Selected in Deploy Red.jpg

 

Armed with the correct units, I can go back to the Unit Editor and bump up those individual fitness ratings.

 

CMSF Unit Editor Changing Red from Unfit to Fit.jpg

 

As you can see it is pretty simple, first select your unit then click the box (in this case Fitness) which will show a drop down menu where you select your desired value (in this case ‘Fit’).

 

Now that I have completed the enemy compound defender pick, I will pause before my next post which will be a short one showing final tweaks to the Blue assault force and their deployment.

 

 

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Almost ready to test but of course I haven’t deployed my Blue Assault Force to their start positions yet.  A bit of research (see graphic below) tells me that the assault force was delivered by two helicopters at opposite ends of the compound.

 

Actual Raid Graphic.jpg

 

Time for more compromise, not only because I don’t have helicopters but also because if I set up one team for instance in the west courtyard of the compound as if it had fast roped as shown in the graphic, they will almost certainly get fired upon straight away.  While the engine can handle it, players generally rage quit when something happens over which they have no control – particularly if it is in Turn 1.  One of the unwritten scenario design rules I’ve come across over the years is to try and avoid situations where the player loses troops in Turn 1 so it is worth filing away in your top tips folder. So to avoid this situation, we come back to making a compromise to give the player control over Turn 1 by putting the SEALs outside the compound as if the two helos had landed there.

 

The following graphics show how it looks on the ground.  Now while I am playing fast and loose with history, I must keep it plausible so first of all I have to divide the groups into two separate chalks or sticks to replicate the fact that they have ‘arrived’ in two different helicopters.

 

Blue Eastern Element Deployment.jpg

 

Blue Western Element Deployment.jpg

 

To do this I have had to do some squad splitting to try and even out the numbers.  So my western group was put together as follows:

 

West Group:

 

Blue West Group Table.jpg

 

And the East Group looks like this:

 

Blue East Group Table.jpg

 

Again I could have done this a number of ways but importantly I had to have more or less equal groups bearing in mind the capacity of a Black Hawk/Pave Hawk is 11-12 troops (I’m slightly over but hey …) and each group had to have roughly the same capability.  The latter is generally important because it is good practice to have balanced teams but in CMSF it also gives the player choices.  If I dictate through my force pick that one group is a fire support group and the other is an assault element then it forces the player into using those groups that way which is not overly popular. This is particularly so when troop resources are limited which is very much the case here.

 

So the basic rationale is – roughly equal groups with each group needing a manoeuvre element, a fire support element (M-240 team) and a breach element (5 Squad team).  The fact that the numbers worked out was a bonus.

 

Finally before moving on, it is the little touches or the ‘polish’ that can make the difference in missions.  So what I’ve done is put two elements facing north and two elements facing south in each of the two groups with a gap in the middle where their imaginary (in CMSF terms) Blackhawk has just landed.  Standard drill is to exit to the 90° and 270° angles from the helicopter’s nose (this avoids getting decapitated by the tail rotor) and assuming all round defence. While they don’t generally affect gameplay, these touches are important and aid player immersion. If you look at some of the testing threads on the CMx2 forums, you will see that testers make the comment ‘my troops were facing the wrong way at setup’.

 

That is about all I have to say about initial force selection, although I will return later to the subject of unit picks.  The next instalment will cover off on some of the final preparations required prior to the initial feasibility test.

 

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This is fascinating.  Your tutorial alone looks like a huge amount of work, never mind the dedication it takes to design a scenario. 

It makes me (and probably many others) realize that we will never have the time or energy to design a simple scenario, let alone a campaign.

For that reason, I hope BF eventually starts designing and selling professionally-made campaign packs.

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6 hours ago, Erwin said:

This is fascinating.  Your tutorial alone looks like a huge amount of work, never mind the dedication it takes to design a scenario. 

It makes me (and probably many others) realize that we will never have the time or energy to design a simple scenario, let alone a campaign.

For that reason, I hope BF eventually starts designing and selling professionally-made campaign packs.

Glad you are enjoying it and yes it was a bit of an effort putting this together but I made notes as I went along and also took the screenshots as I went along.  As some of the notes I took (such as the table in the last post) were part of data capture to assist in scenario design not everything that I did was extra work.  I will admit though that I usually take handwritten notes when I make scenarios so I just had to change the way I did business slightly.

As to the point about time and energy - yes it is a lot of work but some of us take great pleasure in doing it.  I rarely play the games now, I spend most of my CM time in the editor and so most of my 'play' is actually scenario testing.

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4 hours ago, Combatintman said:

Glad you are enjoying it and yes it was a bit of an effort putting this together but I made notes as I went along and also took the screenshots as I went along.  As some of the notes I took (such as the table in the last post) were part of data capture to assist in scenario design not everything that I did was extra work.  I will admit though that I usually take handwritten notes when I make scenarios so I just had to change the way I did business slightly.

As to the point about time and energy - yes it is a lot of work but some of us take great pleasure in doing it.  I rarely play the games now, I spend most of my CM time in the editor and so most of my 'play' is actually scenario testing.

Yes this was a very well done tutorial on scenario design. I have been following it with interest since you started. 

As you said it does take a lot of time and effort but I feel the same as you it does give a lot of satisfaction when you see it come together, despite the beating you take sometime on feedback lol. Job well done combatintman. 

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Nearly ready to do my initial feasibility test … and with about 14 hours work under my belt already this had better damned well work!!!

 

However there are a few things I need to do before I can test and the most important is to have a fairly clear idea in my mind what I am testing and what outcomes I am looking for.  I’ve pretty much covered off on this already in that in broad terms I’m looking to see if 26 US SEALs can assault the Osama bin Laden Compound defended by about the same number of insurgents while suffering no more than about three casualties.

 

Concurrent to that I am going to test how long it takes units to move around the map, this is not key to the main part of the test but I am doing it now as a time saver.

 

This test (like all tests should be) will be run a number of times so that I can get an ‘average’ result.  This ‘average’ result will then determine whether the mission is feasible and if feasible what changes if any I need to make.  It will also give me data to use later for victory conditions.  You have seen that I am talking about averages and data – so perhaps the most important thing with testing is to be prepared to take screen shots and to take notes while you’re doing it.

 

With the broad parameters set, I just need to do a couple of things in the Editor before I can test.  The first one should be obvious from my previous screenies … they are all in broad daylight while the mission took place at just after 0100 hrs on 02 May 2011.  So I have to change the date and time to replicate those on the day.  Now I can’t get the year right because 2008 is the only year option but I can certainly get the month and time of day correct so let’s do that now.

 

The date and time values sit in the ‘Data’ screen so while we’re here we’ll change a couple of other things although for the purposes of the test I do not need to do this now.

 

So from top to bottom here’s what I’ve done …

 

Length of Battle – Changed to 1 hour.  This may not be the final length of the battle but it is the ballpark I am aiming at.  Like most things I can change it later if I need to.

 

Variable Extra Time – Left at the default setting of ‘None’.  Again I may opt for variable time later but I don’t need it now.  My preference generally is not to go for extra time variables if I can avoid it but unfortunately it is a design principle I violate frequently.

 

Year – 2008.  Unfortunately in CMSF, I am only allowed 2008 so not a lot I can do with that apart from stating the real date in the orders.

 

Month – Set to May which is rather fortunate because the only options are May, June or July.  These months by the way and the year 2008 are set this way because it is in keeping with the dates of the fictional conflict that CMSF was set.  Perhaps again another appropriate time to say how versatile the game can be if you are creative in the editor.  Although in terms of how the game performs, this setting can dictate certain climatic effects (in Syria obviously), for the purposes of this scenario it probably doesn’t change the price of fish much.

 

Day – Set to 2 to reflect the real day.

 

Hour – Set to 01 hours to reflect the real time.

Minute – Unchanged from the default of 00.

 

Weather – Set to ‘Clear’.  I have no idea what the actual weather was although I had a not too hard look for it.  For the purposes of the mission I am sure ‘clear’ will be fine.  If I come across the actual weather than I will of course change it.

 

Wind Strength – Set to ‘Gentle’.  Comments pretty much as above.

 

Wind Source – Set on ‘West’.  Comments pretty much as above.

 

Temperature – I have set this to ‘Cool’ based on an average climate chart.  Basically climate charts for Abbottabad show the month of May to have temperatures ranging between 16.5° C and 29.1° C (or 61.7°F and 81.4° F if you’re American).  Given that nights are going to be cooler than days I am looking at the bottom end of that range.  That equates to cool in my interpretation of CMSF weather.

 

Ground condition – I have set to ‘Damp’ based on my limited climate research which suggests that the area is prone to precipitation.  Bottom line is that ‘damp’ should have no appreciable effect on the mission.

 

Civilian Density – I have set to ‘Sparse’.  Now this is potentially important to this mission.  First off, if you look at the Google Earth images, it is clear that there is a lot of housing in the area around the compound so there is justification for upping this value.  However it is important to understand how this parameter effects the game.  In CMSF, civilians are abstracted which means that the higher the civilian density, the more difficult it is to spot Unconventional Forces.  Given that the compound guards are all ‘Uncons’ this could cause a massive and quite frankly unwanted problem.  So, using the rationale that there will not be too many civilians out and about in the wee small hours, I have used the ‘sparse’ setting.  Testing may require me to lower it to ‘None’.

 

Blue Friendly Direction – Set to SE.  While I have not settled on the later parts of the mission yet, in one of the earlier posts I talked about having the assault force extract to one of two extraction zones towards the bottom RH corner of the map.  For those not aware, this setting reflects the direction that the Blue Force will naturally retreat towards when acting under AI control.  While this is less of an issue for a Blue versus Red AI scenario (which this is) it is important when you’re designing H2H scenarios or scenarios versus the AI that can be played by either side.

 

Red Friendly Direction – Set to NE.  As this is a Blue versus AI scenario, this setting assumes greater importance because the Red force in this scenario will be AI controlled.  I have chosen NE as the friendly direction because, if you recall from early posts, that is where the Pakistani Army Barracks is located.

 

Early Intel – Set to ‘Neither’.  Now to be honest I don’t really like or get on with these settings so I tend not to use them.  If I want to convey intelligence to the player I put it in the ‘Enemy’ paragraph of the briefing and on the associated graphics, which is ANOTHER GOOD REASON TO READ THE DAMNED THING. (This may not be the last time I mention this btw J)

 

Intel Strength – Set to ‘No Intel’.  As stated above.

 

Force vs Force – Set fairly predictably to ‘Blue vs Red’ because that is what this scenario is.  Note that I may change this a bit later based on an idea I have rattling around my head but I’ll explain that at the appropriate time but whatever I decide about my idea, the setting will ultimately have to be ‘Blue vs Red’.

 

Here’s how it looks in the Editor …

CMSF Editor Data Screen Initial Mission Value Changes.jpg

 

And now we can see that setting the time to 0100hrs actually has an effect …

 

3D Preview Screen Compound in the Dark.jpg

 

Zero dark thirty indeed ….

 

Nearly ready to test now but one thing I overlooked earlier when I was picking the Red force was the fact that the AI automatically surrenders once it suffers a certain number of casualties.  Somewhat unhelpfully this threshold is not covered in the manual but previous experience indicates that an auto surrender gets triggered when the AI force gets down to about 35-45%.  As I want to test the compound battle as a whole to see if it is viable for the Blue Force to knock over the defensive force I need to create some ‘never arrive’ reinforcements.  In fact, my concept for the mission is that I want this to play down to the very last minute so I am going to need these guys anyway.

 

To do this, initially all I need to do is to go back into the unit editor and select one or more suitably sized units.  Once I’ve done this I will rename them to ‘never arrives’ and then set them to arrive as a reinforcement in the last reinforcement slot.  If you recall, my plan is for the mission is to last for an hour, so any time after that is fine.

 

As stated above, go to your ‘Purchase Red’ option and purchase the required units – DO NOT CLICK the ‘Reinforcements Red’ button – you have to purchase the units first.  In my case I purchased two ‘Huge Combatant’ units.  Because these never arrive, it makes no odds what their hard and soft values are so you don’t need to fiddle with them at all.  For administrative purposes I have renamed them ‘Never Arrives #1’ and ‘Never Arrives #2’.  There is no need to do this but it can be helpful if you have a lot of units to consider for allocating to AI Plans and as Unit Objectives.  In some cases it can be counterproductive to do so because for my USMC Marine Bn HQ which I have to keep due to the way the TO&E works, if I renamed that ‘Never Arrives’ all of the units subordinate to it would be named ‘Never Arrives’.

 

Now time to click ‘Reinforcements Red’ and you’ll see 7 Blue icons towards the bottom left labelled ‘Reinf 1 – Reinf 7’ and some text telling you to designate reinforcements by using the number keys with the number 8 meaning that the unit starts on the map.  As a rule of thumb, I always make my ‘Never Arrive’ reinforcements the last slot available which is ‘Reinf 7’.  So what I now need to do is to go back to my ‘Purchase Red’ button and then select the unit that I don’t want to arrive and then hit ‘7’ on the keyboard.  Once I do this the text ‘R7’ will appear next to the unit in the activated units screen.

 

Now if I click ‘Reinforcements Red’ and click the ‘Reinf 7’ button, I will get a series of options for that reinforcement.  I can set its earliest possible arrival, any variable time to that arrival and I can give the reinforcement a name if I so choose.  In this case I have gone for 3 hours as the earliest possible arrival (it is the latest time available that can be selected) and specified ‘Exact’ meaning no variation in the arrival time.  I have, although it is not absolutely necessary, named the reinforcement ‘Never Arrives’ by typing that text into the box.  The following graphic shows the reinforcement dialogue …

 

Reinforcements Screen for Red Never Arrives.jpg

 

I could now go to ‘Deploy Red’ and deploy these two units but, as they won’t arrive there is really no need.  I generally do go through the process though and park them in the Red Friendly Direction corner of the map.  What is a useful exercise though is to have a look at the units and do a head count because these could come in to play if I am considering using a parameter as part of victory conditions.  Clearly this needs to be recorded somewhere – remember that accurate note taking is as important in mission design as being skilled in the editor.  The respective headcounts are ‘Never Arrives #1’ has 24 guys and ‘Never Arrives #2’ has 26 guys.  This is also useful as a gross error check that your never arriving reinforcements are big enough to ensure that the unwanted auto surrender is not triggered and in this instance the numbers are more than enough.

 

Finally, before I can test, I have to save the scenario into the ‘Scenarios’ directory because that is where the game looks for scenarios when you click ‘Battle’ after CMSF loads.  Doing this is easy, just click the save button and look for the ‘Scenarios’ folder, click that and then click the green tick icon to save.

 

Initial Test Save into Scenario Folder.jpg

 

So …. Finally after about 14 hours worth of work, I can actually do my feasibility test.  The mechanics are simple, boot the game up, hit ‘battle’ select the scenario and then play it.

 

So that is what I did selecting ‘Scenario Author Test’ mode.  I tested twice in Real Time and twice in WEGO. 

 

Scenario Author Test Selection Screen.jpg

 

These were the results …

 

First Test (Real Time).  The compound was cleared at 51:55 with no Blue Force losses.  I went all guns blazing and as a result ran dangerously low on 5.56mm ammunition natures.  Enemy losses were 17 KIA and 7 WIA.

 

Second Test (Real Time).  The compound was cleared at 55:10 and again with no Blue Force losses.  The enemy suffered 18 KIA and 6 WIA.  I was less profligate with ammunition and although I burned through a fair amount, my troops would have sufficient for further action.

 

Third Test (WEGO).  The compound was cleared at 53:00 but I took a hammering this time with 2 KIA and 4 WIA.  Enemy casualties were 15 KIA and 9 WIA.  Again I ran short in some ammunition natures.

 

Fourth Test (WEGO).  The compound was cleared at 54:00 although again I took some casualties (3 WIA).  Enemy casualties were 18 KIA and 6 WIA.  Ammunition expenditure was better this time and as per test 2, I would have had enough for a couple more firefights.

 

To caveat the above, I tried slightly different schemes of manoeuvre in my tests and I am not the best WEGO player when conducting clearances.  With regard to the latter, in Test #3, I lost some guys to Blue on Blue due to poor synchronisation in one assault.

 

So what to make of all of this?  Well the deductions seem to be:

 

(1).  The mission is feasible.

(2).  It can be played in both Real Time and WEGO although it is better suited to Real Time play (to be honest I am not surprised by that but it is good to have some proof).

(3).  An average (not a mathematical one) result is that all of the defenders get wiped out and Blue Forces can expect to lose a couple of guys in the assault.

(4).  An average (again not a mathematical one) time for the compound to be cleared is about five minutes.

(5).  Ammunition consumption is a worry.  I need to mitigate this either by:

a).  Making use of the QRF element.

b).  By giving the player lots of information in the briefing about enemy locations.

c).  Limiting the number of further engagements for the Blue Force.

 

So all useful stuff – I am particularly pleased given the amount of work that has already gone into this scenario that the mission is feasible.  So now I just have to crack on with finishing the map which will be the subject of the next part of the tutorial.

 

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So on to mapmaking then …

 

I’m not going to say too much about map making mainly because I think that the mechanics of it are fairly easy and of course I have already touched on it in earlier posts where I described some of the problems in recreating Osama Bin Laden’s Compound. That said, while the mechanics of it are easy, recreating actual ground in CMSF is punishing work due to the absence of the Special Editor Overlay that was introduced in the WW2 titles.

 

The key things to remember are that each tile is 8m x 8m so try as you might, you will never ever get all of your terrain features accurate to the last metre.  The first trick is just to get over it and push on.  The second piece of advice I think that is important is to try and minimise your placement fudges because once you move something by more than a few metres it has a knock on effect across the rest of the map.

 

Overall my semi-formal rule about maps is to think about those areas where you see the main actions take place.  Once you’ve identified those, focus on getting those right (or as close to right as you can) and generally the rest of the map follows.  These areas should also be where you put the bulk of your flavour objects because the player is more likely to see them and it means that you are not wasting your time ‘dressing’ areas that may not be seen and most importantly you are not clogging up memory/processor time by overloading the map with objects.  Otherwise with flavour objects I generally handrail a few of the major roads with a telegraph pole every 200m or so and pretty much leave it at that.

 

Roads can be a little fiddly and again to save stress it is best not to worry about tracing the exact line of the road.  I generally plot my roads from junction to junction and I try to get these in the right place using the real World dimensions.  I mark these with a rough tile and then just look at the general flow of the road and paint the road to join the junctions using rough tiles.  Once I’ve painted the route with rough tiles I then go into the road menu and physically trace the road over the top of the rough tiles.  To finish off I then change the underlying tile to a suitable colour.  For tarmac roads I generally keep the rough tile but for dirt roads I usually use either a hard red or dirt red tile.  The following image shows examples of road construction.

Map Editor Road Guide.jpg

 

When putting foliage down I do try to measure single trees in isolated areas but for tree lines I don’t bother.  For the tree lines I measure the start point and end point and then just plonk the trees down.  Where it is obvious that there are thick trees from the imagery I will use the two or three tree buttons as required.  However bear in mind that these are processor hogs so if you have a lot of trees on your map you should ensure that you use these only where you absolutely have to.  The following image shows an example of foliage.

 

Map Editor Foliage Guide.jpg

 

From the Google Earth imagery there are a few small streams which clearly presents a problem in CMSF because there are no streams in the editor.  My work around is to use trenches overlaid on mud tiles because I think that this replicates the closest terrain effect of streams (eg can be crossed by dismounts at slightly reduced speed but could cause a vehicle to bog).  If the water feature was wide or deep then the effect to be achieved is to make it impassable to both so I would use a marsh tile.  In this instance it is a stream so I use a similar method to the way I build roads so it is a case of identifying the junctions and entry/exit points on the map and then painting them with mud tiles.  Once that is done I join those points up with mud tiles and then overlay them with trenches.  The following image shows how this looks.

 

Map Editor Stream and Trench Guide.jpg

 

For built-up areas it is again important to not get stressed about exactly replicating the real World because you are battling against both a road grid, buildings that may not be the appropriate size or orientation (you are restricted to increments of 45 degrees).  My rough method is to lay out the road grid and then fill in with buildings in the right (or close to) spots.  With this map, the only structures that I deemed really important were those associated with Osama Bin Laden’s compound because that is where the main action is going to take place.  Otherwise it was a case of laying out buildings as closely as I could to their real locations and then ensuring a bit of randomness in terms of colours, heights and layouts.  The important thing with buildings, particularly conjoined ones or those that back onto walls is to make sure that you get rid of windows on the walls facing the building joins and either removing doors completely or making sure they line up.  If you recall from my earlier post about making the compound, this is done using CTRL CLICK.  Finally I will point out, because I have seen it a number of times … make sure it is possible to enter any building that should be entered so when you do your map checks, ensure that buildings have at least one door on the ground floor.

 

Fields and crops are probably the easiest to do but I think it is important to do more than just randomly paint the open areas.  I generally put the boundaries down first of fairly large areas.  The boundaries can be any linear feature such as a tree line, river line or road/track.  Once I’ve done that I look at the real World image and look at the colour tones to identify brown, green, dark green etc and measure the extent of those areas within my bounded area.  Once measured I paint with the appropriate tile.  The only word of warning is to remind you that if you use a mud tile for brown areas you run the risk of creating areas that effect mobility when in reality they would not.  For this reason I tend to use the dark yellow tile for these areas. To simulate crops the gridded button combined with either a small tree or bush aligns the ‘crop’ uniformly in the centre of the grid square allowing you to create neat rows of crops.  There are none on this map so I can’t show you this.

 

To finish off the map, we need to look at elevation/relief.  There are different schools of thought on this with I think the majority view being to do the elevation first.  The reasoning here is that once you’ve got it sorted out, it makes it a lot easier to build the remainder of the map.  I don’t disagree with this but I think it is only important if there are lots of elevation changes and really large hills or deep valleys to portray.  With this map it is clear that there are hardly any elevation changes and so it is just as easy to do elevation at the end.  There are various threads with terrain resources that show you how to get programs such as Google Earth and Google Maps to show elevation / contours but again I’m not going to bother because the elevation changes are not dramatic.  All I need to do is capture the ‘feel’ of the ground.  So to do this all I’ve done is gone into Google Earth and from the ‘Tools’ menu bar selected ‘Options’.  This brings up the screen below and as stated in the image you set ‘Elevation Exaggeration’ to its highest value of ‘3’.  This will allow you to see those elevation changes much more clearly.

 

Google Earth Elevation Options Menu.jpg 

 

So this is what it looks like on the real ground ….

 

Google Earth Actual Elevation.jpg

 

As you can see elevation on the right hand side of the road/track running up the middle of the map is generally higher than on the left hand side.  So to create this in the Map Editor, we select the ‘Elevation’ tab which will then show all the map elevations on the screen and bring up a number of options.  The default elevation on all maps is 20m and generally with maps that don’t require much in the way of elevation changes or where the actual heights don’t matter too much I tend to work with this 20m default because it makes less work for me.  Remember that while you can change the elevations to the actual heights on the real ground, this is entirely invisible to the player so it is really a personal decision as to whether you take that approach.  As I’ve said I’m not going to.  So to create the elevations I will make use of the ‘Direct’ feature as shown in the image.  To change the elevation up you hit the ‘+’ key on the keyboard and to reduce it you hit the ‘-‘ key on the keyboard.

 

CMSF Elevation Editor.jpg

 

For those of you that are old enough to remember the CMX1 Map Editor, you had to laboriously paint every elevation but in CMSF the process is much easier because as soon as you paint a height onto the map, the remainder of the map self-adjusts.  So for my road to be at 20m elevation, it means that I don’t have to paint every single tile.  The numbers on the following image are an approximate reflection of where I’ve painted ‘Direct’ elevation tiles.  As you can see there aren’t many so it is a fairly quick process and this actually works well in terms of processing speeds because ‘Direct’ elevation changes tend to consume resources so the fewer the better.

 

Google Earh Image Annotated with Direct Elevation Values.jpg

 

So this is the finished article compared with the real ground – as you can see it is not a perfect match but it is close enough for Government work as they say.  This image I think reinforces the point that you have to accept that the 8m grid and 45 degree road and building angles require compromise rather than banging your head off the screen.

 

CMSF Map and Google Image Comparison.jpg

 

So that is all I have to say about map making – we may return to the map later as we develop the rest of the scenario … we shall see.  Next we need to look at developing the mission narrative more fully and adding in some difficulty.

 

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So with the exhausting task of getting the map made, it is now back to the fun stuff.  That is not to say map making isn’t fun, I do enjoy the creative aspect of it and I get real pleasure out of creating a final map that reflects the ground.  It is just the mechanics of the process particularly with large maps because it is such a time soak without the overlay feature … please please please Battlefront etc etc.

 

This next section is all about developing the narrative and adding complexity because right now all we have is a very quick smash and grab attack on a compound which in previous tests lasted no longer than 10 minutes which while fun, is not much of a mission.  If you recall previous posts I have some ideas about developing the scenario and this is where we get into the nitty gritty of it.

 

First of all, we have no Osama Bin Laden target yet, all I had previously in the Compound were the other residents who I changed to Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguards/security detail.  As this mission is about the kill/capture of Osama Bin Laden I think you’d feel cheated if he wasn’t there.  There are a couple of possibilities here such as:

 

Consider capturing him.

Exploring whether he could escape as part of an AI plan.

Making him difficult to kill

 

First off I’ve already ruled out capture because it just isn’t something that the game engine can handle unless I made him a Blue Spy but then I would have put him somewhere that the Red security detail couldn’t see him and kill him.  In the close confines of the compound that is just too much like hard work and at the end of the day, he was killed on the night so he will be picked from the Red Force pick.

 

Escaping as part of an AI plan is more feasible but my earlier tests show that it is pretty much a physical impossibility unless I change the Blue setup to have the strike force ‘land’ further away from the compound.  Again, to keep with the spirit of historical accuracy I just think this stretches plausibility too far so I am ruling that out.

 

This leaves me with the option of making him difficult to kill and due to the limitations of the force pick I have to use some form of specialist or spy.  Making him a spy would mean that initially he will be difficult to spot but spies are unarmed so I am going to make him an IED specialist which I think gives the mission a real twist because it gives the plausible option of Osama Bin Laden blowing himself up in a moment of glory and killing hated infidels at the same time.  This also appeals to what I think Special Forces operations should be all about which is overcoming extreme situations through aggression, firepower and superior training – it is about exploiting split second advantages so the effect should be that a reasonably competent player should have no problems. 

 

Now I find IEDs really difficult to get to work properly in the AI but in this instance I’m not too bothered whether the IED works or not, the key thing is that it is theoretically possible that the compound will detonate in a ball of flame.  The other advantage is that IED specialists are armed so if nothing else he could potentially take out a few members of SEAL Team 6.  In terms of selection, it is important to understand how IEDs work and balance that against what I’m trying to do with the IED.  In this instance I’m simulating Osama Bin Laden wearing a suicide vest which of course is not something that exists in the editor as a unit pick.  I have three options which are Radio, Cell and Wire IEDs.  I’ll rule out Radio and Cell straight away, not only because they can be defeated by ECM but also because typical (but not all) suicide vests are triggered by wire.  Each have arming distances of which wire is the shortest but for the purposes of the effect I’m trying to achieve in this mission, it is unimportant.

 

So now it is a case of picking the unit and sorting out the name and hard and soft factors.  I have covered these steps before so I have summarised them in the image below.

 

Picking OBL as UNCON Editor Summary.jpg

 

Note that I have set the hard and soft factors to reflect those of the ‘Sentry’ groups because accounts indicate that Osama Bin Laden was very much awake when the raid took place.  Now all I have to do is deploy the unit which I will not illustrate because we’ve gone through these steps before and there is nothing difficult about it.  However the slight problem I did face and this was new to me is that you cannot set up IEDs in buildings.  So my desired replication of a suicide vest ain’t gonna happen.  However I am over it so as a compromise I have placed the IED somewhere in the compound.  Now this is the important bit with IEDs and comes back to what I said about understanding how they work.  In essence, for an IED to trigger it has to be activated, and the triggerman has to be in range of the device, be able to see the device, and have sufficient morale and a functional trigger device for it to operate.  Activating the device is unnecessary as the AI does that automatically (although I did check this by testing).  I then made sure that Osama Bin Laden could see the device by using a target command from his setup position to confirm LOS.  Range is not a consideration as wire devices have a 100m range and I know I am well within that.

 

So with that done, as I alluded to in the previous paragraph, I ran a single test in real time mode using Scenario Author test mode.  This pretty much gave me similar results to my earlier tests in that the compound took just under 10 minutes to clear, the US force suffered 5 x WIA and had a reasonable amount of ammunition left.  The device did not detonate but as I said I’m not too worried about that – the point is theoretically it could detonate and I will create that uncertainty for the player by mentioning it in the briefing … remembering of course that this is all about narrative and complexity.

 

Also, because I forgot to do it earlier I extended my test to get a feel for time and distance.  This is vitally important in terms of ensuring that the mission is the right length.  Clearly there is no point in making a mission 45 minutes long if it takes a minimum of an hour for the player to cover the ground or complete the tasks you’ve set.

 

It is not only about getting the mission length right though.  Having an appreciation of time and distance is vital if you’re going to sequence the arrival of reserves correctly and it is absolutely vital for AI planning and programming.  The following graphic shows the timings counting down from one hour taken by the group to clear the compound and then move sequentially to the areas shown.  The bottom line is that if I cropped the mission to 45 minutes it would be a big ask for the player to cover the ground so right now I don’t need to change my mission length.

 

Time and Distance Test.jpg

 

So we now have Osama Bin Laden sorted … now for the rest of it and the rest of it involves a combination of things I have been thinking about. 

 

This is where we return to the narrative and if you recall from earlier posts my limited research has identified that the compound was close to a Pakistani Army Base and from my imagery search I have identified that is a couple of kilometres away.

 

This is where we get into the realms if plausible reality and depart from the facts.  The trick here is to keep within the bounds if plausible reality.  So here are my thoughts on plausible reality.

 

It is reasonable to expect that such a large base will have strong guard force / QRF (Quick Reaction Force)

 

It is reasonable to expect that the QRF would be about platoon strength.

 

A reasonable response time would be 15 minutes (pushing it) to 30 minutes (possibly too long to fit into the scenario).

 

The most likely entry route would be in the top RH quadrant of the map and they would likely march to the sound of the guns (ie head for Osama Bin Laden’s Compound) first.

 

While the detail will be sorted out in testing, the aim I’m trying to achieve is to create some problems for the player requiring them to think about options and plan accordingly.  The initial and obvious effect being that if they tool around in the compound too long they are going to have to beat off a platoon’s worth of soldiers and I know from my testing already that while that should be doable, they will pretty much be out of ammo by the end of that encounter.  An important point to note for later on down the track when I think about briefing graphics and orders is whether I’m going to reveal this information to the player and if so, how will I do that.  I’ll deal with the mechanics of the Force Pick later.

 

Also right from the get go, I realised that if the compound assault took no more than 10 minutes and the distance to an exfiltration point in the bottom RH corner of the map is only a few hundred metres then the mission could be done and dusted in half an hour and would be pretty simple.  Particularly when you consider the bounds of reality above regarding arrival times of a Pakistani Army QRF.  I want to stretch this out more and you will recall that in my last test I investigated how long it would take to move from the Compound to the top LH corner of the map.

 

Inevitably there was a reason for this and the basis of that comes from my initial research which stated that CIA operatives were part of the raid and that Human Intelligence (HUMINT) played a part in actually locating Osama Bin Laden.  So again, while not something that actually happened on the night, it is plausible that we could factor in the extraction of a HUMINT source and his CIA handler as part of the mission.  Agent handling 101 states that you always protect your sources which adds to the credibility of the narrative.  So given that, I am going to add a CIA handler and an agent (and possibly his family members) to the mission having them arrive at a safe house somewhere near the top LH corner of the map at about 15 minutes into the mission.  This adds to the decisions that the player has to make – does he send his SEALS to RV with the agent or does he hang on in the compound and wait for the agent and CIA handler to come to him.  As you already know that I’m planning to have the Pakistani Army bear down on the compound, this is another factor that the player has to consider.  Additionally, when I get to it later, I need to think about victory points for the CIA Handler and the Spy.  This comes back to agent handling 101 – ‘protect the source’ so I will likely make this group a Unit Objective for the Red Force and allocate a lot of Victory Points (VPs) to it.  Again, the mechanics of the Force Pick I will cover later.

 

Linked to the inclusion of the agent and his handler and to the concept of adding decisions and difficulty for the player I need to add some more ‘enemy’ to pose a threat to this group and the SEALS.  Again however I have to keep it plausible so some research is required.

 

Fortunately and rather conveniently for my purposes, the search term ‘gun ownership in Pakistan’ pulled up this article …

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_Pakistan

As you can see from the article, guns are widespread in Pakistan and particularly in this part of it and this suits my purpose ideally because the ‘enemy’ I had in mind were civilians defending their properties.  As a Force Pick I will again use the IED pick and delete the IEDs leaving me with an armed triggerman.  I’ll buy quite a few of these and scatter them around the various buildings on the map, particularly those buildings that I think will sit close to routes I think the player will take.  The intent here is not to create more people for the player to kill, it is to create entities that the player has to avoid and if the player does not take proper account of the risk, could get penalised in the form of a burst of AK fire going down range.  When combined with my intent to make the agent and handler high VP targets for the AI, this will be a very real consideration in the player’s mind.  This of course is another thing that I will need to consider in terms of briefing content.  The mechanics of the Force Pick will again be dealt with later.

 

So what else can I do to add complexity?  Well while making the map I identified two large compounds which look as if they might be small factories or business premises.  Whether they are or not is another matter and I’m not going to waste time trying to find out.  The important thing is that they could be and for the purposes I intend, given the gun ownership rate in the area, it is reasonable to expect that they would have some form of armed contracted security force.  As before, the intent is just to put some armed entities on the map that the player ought to avoid rather than engage in combat.  Again, I will deal with the mechanics later and I need to think about briefing content.  The following graphic shows those locations.

 

Factory or Business Locations.jpg

 

With all of the above, it would be fair to say that the mission now presents a lot more challenges and complexity but I’m not done yet although I do need to be careful not to overdo it.  The final factor then will be the Pakistani Police Force.  There are two effects I’m trying to create with these guys, first to generate another plausible response force to encourage the player to get a move on but also to have a force towards the bottom / bottom RH corner of the map to create problems close to the exfiltration zone.  I came up with these ideas as I was putting the map together.

 

In essence the concept is to have a road block with a roving patrol down the bottom of the map while the response force will be some form of SWAT team equivalent which will secure the ‘crime scene’ created by the attack on the compound.  Whether I include both will depend on testing because I think the SWAT team idea is really pushing the bounds of credulity.  This is not because it is something that would not happen, I just think a realistic response time would be outside my proposed mission length.  As before I’ll sort the mechanics and briefing aspects out later.  The image below shows the proposed road block and this was chosen because it is both in the ‘right’ place on the map but is also a logical place to have a road block because it is where a road crosses a stream thus creating a defile.  Not shown on the image is the SWAT Team but if I include it, then it will arrive at the top LH corner of the map which is the closest direction to the centre of Abbottabad and the likely location of the local Police HQ.

 

Google Earth Image of Proposed Road Block and Patrol Area.jpg

 

That is about it for this part of the process so I can now move on and deal with the mechanics of adding all of the above to the mission. However that will not be for a few days as I have some RL things to take care of but rest assured they will turn up so keep checking the thread.

 

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