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A movement controls suggestion


HerrTom
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So one of the things that I find particularly cumbersome in Combat Mission is movement - particularly trying to find the right combination and type of orders that get my pixeltruppen to move how I want.  Now, this isn't really about über-control over where each soldier's eyes are looking and weather their fingers are on the trigger and so on, more adding more flexibility to the controls system. (@Steve - I don't mean to sound "give me now I need this," I more wanted to discuss how the commands may be improved with the community).

My proposal came to me while playing Graviteam Tactics, which I understand is a pretty different game to Combat Mission, but it does do one thing better (I think), and that is how the commands are built.

IKH1Md3.jpg

Here's a screenshot of the extended command menu in Mius Front. I admit, their UI is opaque at best, but it's their concept I want to point out.  Here, you right click on one of the main commands (clockwise: move, move by road, move fast, covert move, take cover, recon, attack, assault).  Each has it's own special considerations that are modified by the outer ring.  You can specify the formation, formation density, movement route and type, whether to cancel on contact, tanks first, whether to use smoke, and the number of lines to use.  Some of this isn't relevant to Combat Mission, so I prepared a little graphic to show what I had in mind.

zLKpKWm.jpg

This certainly isn't the best way to integrate it since it segregates information, but it was the easiest for me to draw up :).  I have (yet another) panel that has modifiers that change the default move commands (fast, quick, move, slow, hunt, etc).  These essentially tell the TacAI what you want to have priority.  Going from the top:

  • Take cover orders your units to stop moving upon taking fire (maybe even plots an evade waypoint).  
  • Covertly tells them to stay low (prone)
  • Smoke tells them to throw smoke ahead of movement
  • Move priority tells them to keep moving if they take fire
  • Fire priority tells them to return fire while moving if they take fire (kinda like turning the waypoint into an assault order, perhaps)
  • Column  tells them to move in a column
  • Line tells them to advance abreast

So, what do you guys think?  Dumbest thing you've ever heard?  Something worth thinking more detail about?

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Disclaimer: My experience with Graviteam Tactics is with Operation Star; I see they've improved the UI in Mius Front, but I'll assume that the heart of the engine is the same as GTOS.

If you've paid attention to how all map squares are coded in GT, it's an engine that was designed as a command sim from 'ground up,' if you get my pun. ;) Which is just as well for those games, since they're meant solely for real-time play, and the decisive, 'brainy' thinking is done at the - turn-based - operational level. It's a game that I'll definitely return to once I get a PC that can max out the ooh-aah graphics (I play CM turn-based with maxed out graphics on my current gaming laptop).

On one hand, Steve has announced upcoming improvements to CM that will at least automate column movement and seeking hull-down; on the other hand, I'm not sure if the current engine can emulate the degree of automation in GT.

However, lest automation get taken as the basis for CMx3 - and Steve has already stated they would take the engine the command sim way if they wanted to expand their market - I do love the degree of control that CM offers, which you could only get in GT if you play one of their tank sims using the same engine and literally drive your tank around.

So I would say I'm fine with the addition of any sort of control or new command as long as we don't lose what we've got.

Now, if there is one thing CM MUST take from GT, that is illumination rounds. I've concluded I'll be playing QB only with day visibility in WW2 titles until we get illumination rounds.

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Operation Star holds a special place in my heart.  Especially Operation Hooper.  I agree, the level level of automation doesn't have its place in Combat Mission as it stands.  You have some very good points, though I think I may not have been clear enough in my proposal.

Steve has said multiple times about the TacAI that it's difficult to tune it to what people want, since everyone wants different things in different situations.  My proposal is, I guess, to somewhat "open up" the behaviour of the TacAI to give it a level of customisable "SOP" for your commands.  Your pixeltruppen already will sometimes stop and return fire, and sometimes run to cover, and sometimes pop smoke and so on, but the trick is getting them to do each one according to the situation.  My solution is to add modifiers to movement or the unit such that the probabilities of certain actions get weighted more or less based on the flags that are set.  I.e. with fire priority set, your units are more likely to stop and shoot at enemies they see.

Anyway, I hope that's clearer :) 

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@HerrTom

Operation Hooper with graphics maxed out must be the most exotic wargaming experience there is... :)

I think I was thrown off by the reference to GT in your suggestion. If I am understanding you correctly, your suggestion would give more control over units, which is likely to ring alarm bells for Steve as micromanagement. The last time I read him arguing against this, he was bringing up more issues than 'tuning' the TacAI: 

That being said, your 'micromanagement' is innovative in that it would encourage playing real-time as opposed to trying to achieve similar ends in turn-based play with careful 'pause,' 'deploy smoke,' and 'target arc' commands, so it could get better reception. I will need to put in time to playing CM in real-time to have a better opinion - it's something I'm looking forward to try once I have a more powerful PC. [And you just got a positive response from a self-confessed real-time player. :D]

And I can mention two TacAI parameters I've had experience with that may help a new player who may be reading this thread: 'Fast' gives preference to completing movement in lieu of taking cover or returning fire, so I use it instead of 'quick' to that end. And 'slow' will make units move when 'hunt' isn't moving them because they perceive a threat - I often take things out that're 'just around the corner' with 'slow.'

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5 minutes ago, Machor said:

That being said, your 'micromanagement' is innovative in that it would encourage playing real-time as opposed to trying to achieve similar ends in turn-based play with careful 'pause,' 'deploy smoke,' and 'target arc' commands, so it could get better reception.

Haha, my thought was actually for WeGo!  I always found in real-time you can pause and make adjustments, though oftentimes you miss what's going on on the other side of the map.  For that, I rarely play it except occasionally with smaller scenarios.  My thoughts were actually for doing maybe risky maneouvres during the turn.  Maybe you're crossing a field, not sure if enemies are there.  Instead of hunting across, you dash a team to get in close with cover fire, but if they get shot at, you want them to change to assault, or to pop smoke and hide.  Maybe it is a bit of micromanagement, but I'd argue it's also a bit of streamlining, too.  Fewer orders to get what you want.  Especially with Black Sea's deadly environment, things that happen in a minute are over in a minute.

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I'd never thought about the game this way - yes, playing real-time and pausing would give the most control. Other than lacking experience with real-time in CM, I also didn't think about this option because I always have multiplayer in mind with CM - unlike GT, which still lacks it AFAIK.

I've certainly had my share of 'dead-in-one-minute' moments, and quite a lot of them in WW2 titles as well. I'm just thinking here: Could it be that these controls would be covering bad command decisions? Like in the scenario that you mention, wouldn't the realistic choice be between overwhelming suppressive fire or risking the lives of pixeltruppen?

Again, it's a level of control that would certainly help me personally, but we need to put more thought into what kind of real-life decision process it represents. And speaking of risking the lives of pixeltruppen - I think this is why people get addicted to wargaming, like gambling.;)

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34 minutes ago, HerrTom said:

Haha, my thought was actually for WeGo!  I always found in real-time you can pause and make adjustments, though oftentimes you miss what's going on on the other side of the map.  For that, I rarely play it except occasionally with smaller scenarios.  My thoughts were actually for doing maybe risky maneouvres during the turn.  Maybe you're crossing a field, not sure if enemies are there.  Instead of hunting across, you dash a team to get in close with cover fire, but if they get shot at, you want them to change to assault, or to pop smoke and hide.  Maybe it is a bit of micromanagement, but I'd argue it's also a bit of streamlining, too.  Fewer orders to get what you want.  Especially with Black Sea's deadly environment, things that happen in a minute are over in a minute.

I would argue that it is a contradiction to BF's core theory.  You are already godlike with control over your troops. The beauty of WeGo is you push the button and roll the dice.  Not sure about enemy locations?  Split off a scout team.  Not to sound harsh, but you're asking to be able to make hasty decisions and not be penalized for it.

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44 minutes ago, Machor said:

I've certainly had my share of 'dead-in-one-minute' moments, and quite a lot of them in WW2 titles as well. I'm just thinking here: Could it be that these controls would be covering bad command decisions? Like in the scenario that you mention, wouldn't the realistic choice be between overwhelming suppressive fire or risking the lives of pixeltruppen?

29 minutes ago, Sprint31 said:

 Not to sound harsh, but you're asking to be able to make hasty decisions and not be penalized for it.

Perhaps my example was a poor one, though I'm sure it's not the end all and be all of tactical situations that might need nudging. :ph34r:

Sure you can split off a scout team, though if they take fire, what do they do?  On most movement options they press forwards until they're wiped out.  On hunt, they'll sit down and stay put.  It's pretty good, but maybe I want them to pop smoke to cover their retreat when they reach contact?  Maybe I want them to start bounding forward?  As opposed to covering bad decisions, perhaps it's enhancing the command possibilities?

I don't really see how telling the TacAI that they should use smoke, or that they should return fire f.e. is really rejecting penalization for hasty decisions?

I dunno, I thought it might be an answer to Steve's long-lasting statement that it's impossible to get the TacAI to act how everyone wants.  This is really about the TacAI, not really about the overall command system on the top.

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No, it wasn't poor.  However, you are not talking about TacAI.  You are talking about extra decisions that can be made by the player.  Which is contradictory to your initial post (good natured contradiction on my part, I assure you!)   My point is, its not cumbersome, but a key part of what makes CM what it is. Split off a scout team and they take fire?  If they are vets they survive much longer than they should.  If not...you only lost two men. Hard decisions make wego what it is.  I won't disagree with anyone that the oddities that crop up via AI could use some tweaking.  But, on the whole, it feels good.

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3 hours ago, Sprint31 said:

However, you are not talking about TacAI.  You are talking about extra decisions that can be made by the player.  Which is contradictory to your initial post (good natured contradiction on my part, I assure you!)

Ach! Clearly I should have gone to the debate club.  You're right, though I still maintain that these decisions themselves are in relation to the TacAI.  My line of thinking really goes to perfect AI being impossible to code, so moving some (hopefully reasonable!) flexibility into the Human element fixes the oddities in a more robust fashion.

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6 hours ago, HerrTom said:

My line of thinking really goes to perfect AI being impossible to code, so moving some (hopefully reasonable!) flexibility into the Human element fixes the oddities in a more robust fashion.

Personally I like the direction your thinking is headed in. If a few refinements can be added to the command system without encumbering the whole thing too much (that's the fine line that should not be crossed IMO), then it's all to the better.

Michael

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@HerrTom

You need to come up with more gaming contexts for these controls - for the time being, I'm only able to see where I could use 'move priority' and 'fire priority.'

For example, you've mentioned 'smoke,' but how much smoke will realistically build in something like 15 seconds? (As I now better understand the context you had in mind.)

What could you do with 'take cover' that you can't currently do with 'hunt?'

Keeping in mind that something like 'column' is now on the way for vehicles, how would you use 'column,' 'line,' and 'covertly?'

@rooibos

My point was that BFC will certainly avoid introducing more micromanagement unless a very strong case can be presented to them.

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1 hour ago, Machor said:

You need to come up with more gaming contexts for these controls - for the time being, I'm only able to see where I could use 'move priority' and 'fire priority.'

For example, you've mentioned 'smoke,' but how much smoke will realistically build in something like 15 seconds? (As I now better understand the context you had in mind.)

What could you do with 'take cover' that you can't currently do with 'hunt?'

Keeping in mind that something like 'column' is now on the way for vehicles, how would you use 'column,' 'line,' and 'covertly?'

Yeah, maybe some of the controls are unnecessary.  I'll try to find some time to illustrate them, either in screenshots or video to explain the ones I think are the more critical ones to the idea - Move and fire priority on the top, with take cover and smoke behind, and the other three maybe not as useful as it seems in Combat Mission's context.  

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Okay, a quick example:  Quick move to the forest, and the team takes fire as they cross the road.

pd2tBJC.jpg

Move priority on.  They keep going.

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Fire priority on, they move to assault stance and assault to the objective.

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Take cover on, they stop moving.

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Smoke and take cover on.  They stop and pop smoke.

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You know, the gold way to do this would be to set up real-game situations in hot-seat mode, record examples of TacAI behaviour, and then argue how the new controls would allow us to modify them. You would, of course, need to test for varying experience and morale levels as well.

In the meantime, I'll be paying attention to this in my own games, and will record and post here if I come across a good example. [Though the recordings will feature the beautiful Italian Fall. :P]

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I wouldn't mind a simple ROE or posture mode. Could perhaps be issued absolutely at the commander level or perhaps per platoon basis, idk. Sometimes seems like it would be a good way to streamline the constant adjusting of target arcs.

 

I.e.

 

 

Hold fire.

Hold fire unless engaged.

Hold fire until good targets found.

Open fire.

Heavy suppression (shoot anything with everything)

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16 hours ago, Machor said:

It would be interesting to hear the opinion of someone who has experience with both CM and TacOps...

I would be one of those, although it has probably been close to 20 years since there was a version that would play on a current Mac. Over about that number of years I have held up the system of SOPs in TacOps as an excellent example of how to go about designing them in such a way as to get your units to behave in exactly the manner you want them to. Since you can reset them every turn if you like, they also retain a considerable amount of flexibility in the unit. It has always baffled me why BFC would so vehemently reject them as a solution, but there it is.

BTW, there is another feature of that game that I would dearly love to see adopted in CM, and that is how you set up your units at the start of the game. It is ever so much more easy to use.

Michael

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14 hours ago, bodkin said:

I'd be happy just to see the menus available by right clicking on a unit rather than having to tap the spacebar every time,  this is available in the rts controls but hopefully can be made available in standard mode even if via a keys text edit.

Indeed. Are you aware that the space bar displays a popup menu? It may not be fully what you want but it could be close.

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