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How I view most scenarios and the designers...


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3 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

However, I feel you forget one very important part of why many scenarios are not all they could be: Lack of proper testing - and not because designers are lazy.

Just as scenario designers are quite few, volunteer testers are even fewer. And testing a CM scenario is a massive task, especially if there's AI scripts involved - or if it's a PBEM scenario.

This is actually huge. As a tester who has created a few scenarios for the game the other testers are awesome with feedback and time. Scenarios for the game get lots of testing. Frequently major overhauls and new round of testing. I frequently feel bad that I cannot spend more time testing for other designers because - I want to play too :)

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Hmm. Instant resort to ad hominem attack, plus entirely fanciful assertion that I have spent significant time commenting on your posts seems... faintly familiar. Mr. Tittles, is that you?

A number of revamped CMSF2 scenario briefings did get condensed to be more concise. I'm one of those who get intimidated by 'wall of text' orders, myself. Other orders got expanded. The purpose of ord

For purposes of my argument below I'm defining the following terms as: Tools - Units given the player to fight the engagement. Parameters - Map size, time limits, objectives etc, the variabl

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1 hour ago, kinophile said:

I don't have CMSF, still on the fence ref #2. Your Mosul scenario/map is fascinating though. What starting force arrangements do you have (roughly)?

Basically you (Iraq's Counter Terrorism Service (Golden Division) & 9th Armoured Division) are utterly armed to the teeth.....You could probably just level the map and kill everyone, but there would be consequences as there are civilians trapped in the city (you WILL lose the scenario if you do so).

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I've used Syrian Special forces to model CTS (not quite right but a reasonable match, they should use a wider mix of weapons, mostly western), you have two full companies, two engineer platoons and a HQ support group transported in Humvees & MRAPs (Canadian Nyalas), all are Veteran, +1, High or better.  Support consists of three Abrams tanks, two US F16s and two batteries of US M777 howitzers (Oh and a US Navy SEAL Trident Team, but if they get involved in the fighting you are probably in BIG trouble).

If I can persuade someone to mod the CMSF2 US ICBT into CTS, I could remake these scenarios in a much more accurate fashion.  ;)

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Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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3 hours ago, domfluff said:



- A lot of the early CMSF scenarios. Scenario and map making has come on leaps and bounds since, and some of the scenarios with laughably small amounts of time (a lot of them have 20 minute timescales) are presumably designed to play head to head in real time. I think we've all learned a lot since then.
 

Hell yeah.  The CMSF scenarios got a lot of attention. You may have seen some of the comments from MikeyD. Back then folks were just learning and had many more limitations on what they could even do.  If folks concern on this issue was restricted to early CMSF I would think this would no longer be an item but from some of the comments it isn’t clear that is the case.  It does also vary based on the user. The same scenario can have one player frustrated there isn’t enough time and another forced to do a ceasefire to end as they have eliminated the enemy, but are now just standing around.  With the current limitations it is hard to satisfy both perspectives.  

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21 minutes ago, Erwin said:

But to clarify:  Designs can be lazy - that's a term we used to use re failing to utilize all the features available to the designer, or just settling for a mediocre solution to a problem.

Thanks for clarifying, but it wasn't actually aimed at you - I was responding to SimpleSimon saying it was laziness on behalf of designers to push players too hard and then wave it away saying those are just the orders you were dealt. I wanted to add that difficulty is extremely difficult to get right.

Not only is the skill level of various testers extremely varied, but their individual fortitude and appetite for punishment is also very variable. I had one tester who soldiered through about five unsuccesful attempts at beating one of my scenarios, and he never complained. Then after the scenario was published, some other guy made a youtube video where he ranted bitterly at length about how impossible it was.

At the time, I was tempted to just tell him he should go play something else if he wasn't up for it. Then later, I tried playing my own scenario... and I couldn't beat it.

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1 hour ago, SimpleSimon said:

You must've meant to this for Sgt. Squarehead who's reply to my post was that I was "talking out of my posterior". I agree he did seem quite angry.  😂 

TBH I was, mostly with a certain AI Group, but you caught some of the fragments, for which I apologise.  :)

Your points and questions are valid, but the way in which you expressed them ticked me off.....Twenty plus hours in the editor is not great for your patience!  :mellow:

As has already been recommended, a trip to the editor and an attempt at building a scenario of your own will give you a much clearer idea of the limitations & problems scenario designers encounter and attempt to overcome as a mater of course.....Perhaps you'll feel a little less critical when you appreciate just how much is involved in creating a convincing battle with a (predictably) thick AI, 2D tile-painting and assorted timings.  ;)

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4 hours ago, MOS:96B2P said:
16 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

I tried playing my own scenario... and I couldn't beat it.

:D Now THAT is funny!! :lol: :)

Yeah, it is! And it made me think.

It was intended to be a medium-difficulty scenario, but it turned out as tough as old boots. Why?

Because when you're in the editor building the scenario, all the weak points of the defence seem so glaringly obvious, and of course you don't want the player to just steamroll the map. So you start to add little bits and pieces, little extra teams to cover flanks, etc.. All that builds up.

To be fair, it was my first scenario, and I think the second one was better. Probably still too difficult though...

Edited by Bulletpoint
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5 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

To be fair, it was my first scenario, and I think the second one was better. Probably still too difficult though...

I played your first scenario and it was a good one (link is below for those wanting to give it a try).  I don't remember if I played V1 or V2 of Pierrefitte-en-Cinglais but as I remember it was a good infantry based scenario.  What was your second scenario?  

http://www.thefewgoodmen.com/tsd3/combat-mission-battle-for-normandy/cm-battles-for-normandy/crossroads-at-pierrefitte-en-cinglais/

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9 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

To be fair, it was my first scenario, and I think the second one was better. Probably still too difficult though...

My attitude in testing is any scenario I can beat in anything short of a difficult slug the first time is too easy.  Not much replay value.  The first time should be hard, preferably very hard.

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1 hour ago, sburke said:

My attitude in testing is any scenario I can beat in anything short of a difficult slug the first time is too easy.  Not much replay value.  The first time should be hard, preferably very hard.

That's probably because you have many years of experience. Something that's a tough slog for you would seem like a malicious and unreasonable mission for people with a low-medium proficiency.

And that's a fundamental problem with CM scenario design. Scenarios are made by and for people who know the game like the back of their hand. That means there's a brutal learning curve for beginners and people with intermediate skill.

Also, replay value can be added by including several different AI setups. In "Pierrefitte", there are 5 different overall AI plans, and there are many variants of each plan, where various units choose from several pre-determined potential setup locations. I wish more scenarios used this option, because when I find a scenario I enjoy, I would like to replay it a couple of times.

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5 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

Also, replay value can be added by including several different AI setups. In "Pierrefitte", there are 5 different overall AI plans, and there are many variants of each plan, where various units choose from several pre-determined potential setup locations. I wish more scenarios used this option, because when I find a scenario I enjoy, I would like to replay it a couple of times.

I routinely take scenarios I really like and if they don't have multiple AI plans, I add them.  It really is easy to do with the copy and paste function.  Just copy existing plan, paste, then make a few different edits to each one and bingo, now you don't know for sure how the enemy is gonna behave.

And being experienced doesn't mean I don't get burned :D  CM has a way of punishing you no matter how experienced you think you are when you get lax.

Also one thing I don't get wrapped up into too much is "winning".  I play mostly to see the action.  If I get to the end of a scenario and haven't met the victory conditions it doesn't much matter to me as long as I enjoyed it.  Yeah I am probably odd man out but the victory point tally at the end of a scenario is the least interesting thing to me (unless I want to see how a specific unit functioned).

Edited by sburke
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1 hour ago, Erwin said:

Bulletpoint (and all designers):  When you do different versions it would be helpful if you label them "v2" etc.  I have a version of Pierrefitte-en-Cinglais but but the one I have and the one from the above d/l link are named exactly the same.  So there is no easy way to tell em apart.

That's a very good point. Actually I thought I had done that, but I can see I only updated the version name on the headline on the webpage, not on the zip pr the .btt.

As for Pierrefitte, I think the only thing that was changed in version 2 was that it fixed an issue that happened when playing scenarios with armoured infantry on upgrading to V3.12.

I started making a new and very reworked/expanded version, but it's on indefinite hold. Can't find the time for it any more these days.

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5 hours ago, MOS:96B2P said:

What was your second scenario?  

It's "Contact Front!"

It started as a singleplayer mission, but then later I reworked it to be played by PBEM.

Despite testers saying it was well balanced, many people thought the Germans had the upper hand when I released it. So I made a second version where the late-game German reinforcements were removed.

Links to both scenarios are in my signature.

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A number of revamped CMSF2 scenario briefings did get condensed to be more concise. I'm one of those who get intimidated by 'wall of text' orders, myself. Other orders got expanded. The purpose of orders is to differentiate the scenario from a QB. 'You're on one side of the map and the enemy is on the other side' is insufficient info.

About scenario times. I've got an old habit of adding 5 min to the runtime... then another 5 min... then adding variable extra on top of that. An added 5-10 min rarely affects the battle but helps the initial approach-to-contact feel less burdensome. Sometimes a scenario needs the opposite. Two hour+ battles where AI movement orders run out after 15 minute. You either have to shorten the runtime or expand the AI orders or both.

There's also cleaning up maps. Its easy to make maps a bit more convincing. For first generation basegame CMSF1 , a standard hadn't been created to measure your work against. Nobody had made a game engine 2 map before! Map makers can work wonders but you first need examples of what a good map should  look like to aspire to.

Discussion about ideal scenario design can sound a bit theoretical, more players should be playing in the editor (which is fun, BTW). Try your hand at creating decent AI orders sets, try constructing your theoretical 'ideal' scenario. Then share the results with the community. You might come to see a difference between an 'ideal' scenario and 'achievable' scenarios

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1 hour ago, Bulletpoint said:

That's probably because you have many years of experience. Something that's a tough slog for you would seem like a malicious and unreasonable mission for people with a low-medium proficiency.

And that's a fundamental problem with CM scenario design. Scenarios are made by and for people who know the game like the back of their hand. That means there's a brutal learning curve for beginners and people with intermediate skill.

Also, replay value can be added by including several different AI setups. In "Pierrefitte", there are 5 different overall AI plans, and there are many variants of each plan, where various units choose from several pre-determined potential setup locations. I wish more scenarios used this option, because when I find a scenario I enjoy, I would like to replay it a couple of times.

Some of the scenarios in this game are just so insanely difficult that a real life military commander would probably consider them suicidal and an attack with the given units and support to be irresponsible. That said it's a game, not real life I get that sometimes people just want the difficulty. I would simply point out that it's less work to make scenarios harder than it is to make them easier. Removing units and support in the editor is easier than adding them and it's easier to balance. Less is more as they say. 

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Had a couple more thoughts on this. Not really responding to anything in particular. 

Difficulty is, naturally, subjective. I did see a post on Reddit the other day, coining the term "not BGG Balanced" referring to Root. Root is a great asymmetric COIN game, with woodland creatures. A furry insurgency, if you will. Very impressed with the Designer since his work on Pax Pamir and especially John Company, so it comes highly regarded.

"BGG" refers to Boardgamegeek. Root (and the GMT COIN series that inspired it) tend to be asymmetric, with multiple factions that need to bounce off each other to make the whole thing work. Asymmetry implies imbalance, but the point of the games are that if Player A doesn't perform his role, Players B and C might not be able to stop D winning. This means that all players need to be invested and understand the underlying situation, which is asking for a fair bit of commitment from them. Not an unreasonable amount, but more than the average eurogame.

The point of the "BGG balanced" remark was that the balance in Root is something that all parties need to work towards to achieve. They need to be aware of what they're doing, and what everyone else is doing, and to control the imbalance in the overall context, and of a specific turn. Getting this right is a huge part of doing well at the game. A forum like BGG is inevitably a melting pot of people with different backgrounds and expectations, playing groups and experiences, and so a game which asks a lot from the players may not be suitable for everyone in every situation. In fact, you're more likely than not that the consensus will be tilted towards the mean - so any outliers will be emphasised. A "BGG Balanced" game would take that issue away through careful balancing that is player independent. The issue is that this also tends to make it bland, or at least homogeneous.

Combat Mission asks an awful lot from you. It's a brutal and long game. A given mission may take many real-world hours to play out, and you can screw it all up in minutes. It's certainly true that CM scenarios tend towards the difficult, but "balance" is something that's so fickle and subjective that it's incredibly hard to define, let alone implement.

Edited by domfluff
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6 hours ago, domfluff said:

It's certainly true that CM scenarios tend towards the difficult, but "balance" is something that's so fickle and subjective that it's incredibly hard to define, let alone implement.

Very true.  The good news is that it can be done by the best designers.  But, when they tell us how many man-hours/months it took them to accomplish brilliant work it's horrifying.  One has to realize that these are works of true art/passion.  As a result, am a big proponent of accepting that we should expect to pay for professionally made content to augment the work of the dedicated volunteers - especially for well-made campaigns (featuring ammo and force conservation + branching storylines etc) which can take months and even years to develop.

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The thrust of the post, in the beginning, was a concern about time constraints and how "unrealistic" they seem to be. The thread has morphed into thoughts on scenario design.

I am less concerned about the time constraint issue and I have no issues with scenario design. I have found few with major issues FOR ME. I may have problems with a scenario but it inevitably turns out that the problems are mine alone and not due to the scenario at all. I am in awe of the time and effort it takes to design a scenario for combat mission and thankful for those that create them. 

However, I am horrified how bloody battles are in the game. Whole squads wiped out in a burst of fire. Early on there was mention of how time limits often lead to high casualties as players rush to complete the scenario using brute force. I agree and am neurotically casualty aversive. I will do anything I can to avoid unnecessary loss. This usually means recon by endeavor. I start out with a plan and if it goes south and the casualties mount, I start over. I accept I have cheated by learning enemy dispositions by encounter but in the process usually discover that I have erred in choosing my approach and method. 

I would love to have a less bloody battlefield and imagine a better game world where squads hit the dirt with each incoming burst of fire to avoid becoming mincemeat. It would mean more going to ground and defilade and immobilization and less gore but it is only a game and it is what it is. I would like to see a thread about the casualty dimension of the game but I will bet it has been discussed to extinction. 

In the end, it is a game (/simulation) and the 'rules' (game design) are the ultimate constraint. Remember scenario designers have the same constraint. 

Edited by Hemostat
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On ‎11‎/‎22‎/‎2018 at 8:42 PM, MikeyD said:

Discussion about ideal scenario design can sound a bit theoretical, more players should be playing in the editor (which is fun, BTW). Try your hand at creating decent AI orders sets, try constructing your theoretical 'ideal' scenario. Then share the results with the community. You might come to see a difference between an 'ideal' scenario and 'achievable' scenarios

This, exactly.  +1  B)

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6 hours ago, Hemostat said:

I will do anything I can to avoid unnecessary loss. This usually means recon by endeavor. I start out with a plan and if it goes south and the casualties mount, I start over

This temptation is understandable.  But, my experience is that one learns more and faster by overcoming one's shock, readjusting one's plans and keeping on going with what forces one still has - like one would have to do in RL.  

Generally I save every 5 turns and restart the previous save when the game system does something really dumb/unrealistic and one loses something cos of "design/system error" rather that one's own mistakes - eg when a doorway turns out to not work and the unit runs out to the street to be massacred instead...

 

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3 hours ago, Erwin said:

eg when a doorway turns out to not work and the unit runs out to the street to be massacred instead...

The doorway can be perfectly functional and the silly blighters will still do it, especially when they're controlled by AI scripting.....Overcoming this tendency from the editor can be an absolute nightmare, believe me.  :rolleyes:

(ISIS are not cooperating at all.....:ph34r:)

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On 11/24/2018 at 1:24 PM, Hemostat said:

edited for brevity

However, I am horrified how bloody battles are in the game. Whole squads wiped out in a burst of fire. Early on there was mention of how time limits often lead to high casualties as players rush to complete the scenario using brute force. I agree and am neurotically casualty aversive. I will do anything I can to avoid unnecessary loss. This usually means recon by endeavor. I start out with a plan and if it goes south and the casualties mount, I start over. I accept I have cheated by learning enemy dispositions by encounter but in the process usually discover that I have erred in choosing my approach and method. 

I would love to have a less bloody battlefield and imagine a better game world where squads hit the dirt with each incoming burst of fire to avoid becoming mincemeat. It would mean more going to ground and defilade and immobilization and less gore but it is only a game and it is what it is. I would like to see a thread about the casualty dimension of the game but I will bet it has been discussed to extinction. 

In the end, it is a game (/simulation) and the 'rules' (game design) are the ultimate constraint. Remember scenario designers have the same constraint. 

Maybe I think that way a bit for role playing type games when I open up on a shop keeper to get his loot

But it doesn't cross my mind for CM WW2  -Stalin: Not one step back. Hitler:  Fight to the last bullet . Western Allies: Oh look *Omaha beach (sub in Dieppe for Canadians, Dunkirk for you know). I mean this is the time and place the mission came first, mission essential equipment came second, and somewhere down the pole came the general issue soldier. So if I can hasten the end of WW2 by pushing my squadies to attack, rally my broken squads to fire one more bullet, then scrounge a machine gun and run for the objective. I do it for the win!

But I would like a bit more time I don't like being rushed through the carnage. 

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