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Fire and Rubble Preview: The Anatomy of What Goes Into a Stock Campaign Release


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1 – Outline Campaign Concept “Wars begin when you will, but they do not end when you please.” Niccolò Machiavelli     Step one of making a campaign: quit Combat Mission

One thing that most CM titles come with is separate tagged terrian art for heavy rocks using the word [rubble]. If you use that tag in you scenario  heavy rock tile becomes broken building debris. Tha

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4 hours ago, Ithikial_AU said:

Sorry for the length and text. Promise we are finally launching the game itself in the following parts.

Devil's in the detail mate - the more text the better as far as I'm concerned.  Talking of detail ... do you mean Operation Doppelkopf vice Operation Doppelkoph?  Might be an idea to make sure that's right in the briefings/opening campaign narrative 😉

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7 hours ago, Ts4EVER said:

Interesting stuff. One thing regarding the excel table: I doubt they had Pumas, there is a very short list of Panzer Divisions issued with those.

A point that will be touched on in an upcoming part. There's a lot of unknowns in the TOE that gives you some artistic license. The excel table is also quite old so has since been tweaked in game.

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On 11/29/2020 at 2:18 PM, Ts4EVER said:

Interesting stuff. One thing regarding the excel table: I doubt they had Pumas, there is a very short list of Panzer Divisions issued with those.

I think each Panzer DIvision was supposed to get 6x Pumas, but many only received 3x. 

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36 minutes ago, JoMc67 said:

I think each Panzer DIvision was supposed to get 6x Pumas, but many only received 3x. 

No the Puma (SdKfz234/2) was only produced in very small numbers (101 in all). It is the most commonly depicted version but also the rarest.

It was issued to these units:

Panzer Lehr 2nd Panzer, 1st SS Panzer (most lost in Normandy)

On the Eastern Front:

20th Panzer Brandenburg Panzergrenadier Divsion

Edited by Ts4EVER
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3 – Map Making for Campaigns

“Geographers never get lost. They just do accidental field work.”

Nicholas Chrisman

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Talking about mapping for campaigns this early is because it is one the major time sinks for any campaign development, but can begin to occur while you are undertaking your research. This is also advised as many of the following steps really can’t occur properly until the maps are ready.

So, you have your reference files, had some fun in a paint program to create BMP files for your overlays and have started the long task of creating maps inside the editor for the scenarios you need to build. You’re still researching on the sidelines as you start prepping other elements of your campaign but the maps are the first real tangible elements you are working on that will form part of the final product.

A few things to be aware of as your start mapping and that will also map impact on your plans:

Battle damage does not carry over between individual scenarios

The CM2 engine treats each campaign scenario is an individual entity and the map state at the end of one battle does not carry over in any way to the next battle if the terrain is partially or fully identical to the previous battle. What that means in practice is that church tower that the player blasts with a full battery of M7 Priests in scenario 1, will be repaired to its initial state at the start of scenario 2. (The pixeltrüppen are master builders between fights). This also applies to any damaged terrain element, destroyed vehicles and the multitude of craters that may appear across a map after a scenario.

Before you ask, yes, it’s a long-standing wish among many in the community for the importation of map states between battles. Battlefront is aware. For now, we need to use the tools we have. There are four ways around this limitation:

1)      Your individual scenarios never take place on the same map.

a.       Easy solution if your historical or fictional narrative allows this. If a second engagement of the map is so minor with no real influence on the campaign then push on and skip it, or tweak history and roll that engagement into the main scenario you will be simulating.

2)      Earlier battles on a map that is going to be used multiple times have specific force limitations around fierce composition on both sides.

a.       Restrict the availability of high explosive weaponry to nothing more than an 81mm mortars or a 50mm gun on a tank. (Modern settings you’ll likely have to be more restrictive). Small craters are safely ignored

b.       If historically or narrative appropriate, design your campaign so earlier engagements be more recon based fights with the all-out attack with all the toys occurring on the final battle on the particular map. If this isn’t possible, you’ll need to use method 3 or 4 below.

3)      Pre-set the scenarios to occur after any major ordnance has been expended so you as a designer can occur where this will occur on the map.

a.       I’ll admit I’m not a big fan of this option as it takes players out of the equation. The best wargames give the player objectives, tools and freedom to work out how to get the job done. Pulling back on the tools and freedom can be a bit of a betrayal to the player – and let’s face it we all like explosions.

b.       Give the AI control of the off-map elements and have them target their own positions. This way you can ensure the ‘explosions’ will still occur during the battle and will occur in a position of your choosing as a designer. However, you’ll still have to undertake the next option and it’s a fine balancing act to ensure the AI expends the right amount of ammunition and doesn’t use any excess rounds on the player. I did think of this option at one point for Tukums but shied away from it.

4)      Create two versions of the same map – a “Clean” and a “Damaged” map state.

a.       This way you use the clean map in the first scenario and switch over to the damaged version for the follow-on battles.

b.       The best way to do this is to complete your clean version in full and then copy the file and rubble down the second copy appropriately.

c.       You can never completely control how the player will use any assets you give them so this will always be an element of educated guess work of you as a designer, knowing what are the tough nuts to crack that will likely use their heavy weapons on and designing appropriately. In Tukums I’m following history and focusing the damage on the town itself as that was the central point of focus for the naval fire support.

The town of Tukums (south side) as it appears in campaign.

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What the map will look like as a starting point for mission 3.

Like an indirect support mission would is real life, have a dedicated focal point for where the damage will occur. The most damage is caused here and spreads out from there. This not only saves time but also in many cases will but will look better. In the case of Tukums I’m focusing on the large buildings around the square including the churches which were used as reference points by German spotting players.

Know what type of ordnance is falling so the damage you are simulating is appropriate. An 81mm mortar won’t topple whole buildings and a 302mm Naval shell won’t leave small craters. In Tukums all craters are the largest two sizes given the shells that could fall are either 302mm or 105mm rounds. I’m not worrying about trying to predict where a handful of mortars will be used.

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A closer look at one part of Tukums.

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In the damaged state you’ll notice I’m using the red dirt around each crater. This better shows the more churned up dirt and broken pavers of the roads and sidewalk. I’ve also removed a few trees where they’ve had the misfortune of being in the same location as an impact site. (The game will keep the trees on the map if you don’t manually take them out when placing a crater). Not shown in this picture but remember to remove any walls or fences near a crater as they will likely be blown over by the blast.

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Switching over to the 3D preview mode the craters should serve as reference points. Methodically go through each crater and think about whether or not the impact of the shell would have caused any additional damage around it.

-          Remove flavour objects as appropriate;

-          Damage walls of buildings for craters that land next to a building.

-          Scatter damaged rooftops among your buildings to show that not every shell falls earth. A ruined village but with all pristine rooves looks very odd. (Or the town as an amazing roof tiler).

-          The independent buildings with their damaged wall states are much better than modular buildings in helping to convey a damaged environment, so mix these in amongst the modular buildings.

-          If you use the appropriate ‘rubble’ mod tags, it’s also good to go back and simulate the debris strewn over the roads and ground around collapsed and damaged buildings.

 Combined, this all helps sell the feel of a pre-existing battlefield to the player.

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Not from Tukums but a (modded) CMBN map with the same principles applied in a bit extreme manner given the more extensive pounding this village took in that scenario. I had to keep the church walls in place for balance, making it a touch more difficult for the player. Don't forget subtle terrain elevation changes for rubble piles to better sell the effect. I generally use the rule of one elevation change for each story of building that has collapsed after the first.

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These tips and tricks are also important for any scenario that is intended to take place on an earlier battlefield where you are walking into literally someone else’s mess. This will be clear from your research if your landmark has already been mentioned six times before your campaign takes place. It’s doubtful that it’s going to look clean and untouched by the scars of war. It’s a little bugbear of mine that so many Combat Mission engagements happen on pristine maps.

You Can’t Import a Map into an Existing Scenario

This is the big reason why mapping should start very early in the campaign design process while research continues. At some point you will hit a roadblock where you can’t progress any further without having some complete maps to work with for individual scenario design.

If you build a map and then begin working on the scenario by placing units and creating AI plans, you can’t then go back and change a master map / reference map and import that additional work into your existing scenario. You’ll effectively have the start your scenario from scratch again.

This creates a natural hard cut off or mid-point in making a campaign centred around mapping. Think of it like making a movie. Making your maps is like on set filming but there gets a point when filming is completed and the whole production has to go into post production to bring all the elements together into a finished product. You can go back and film again during post production, but it’s expensive and time consuming. If you constantly go back to mapping as you are piecing together the campaign (particularly if you have multiple maps of the same area – as per above), you’ll end up in a cycle of delays and frustration, plus these ongoing edits likely won’t be as up to spec as the rest of your mapping product as you rush through as your attention is on other elements of the campaign.

This is also why “Master Maps” are seen as a great way of mapping out terrain for a campaign. As we’ve discussed previously in part 1, Combat Mission campaigns do naturally favour smaller scale series of engagements over a relatively small area of a wider theatre of operations. There’s a good chance when working on something historical that you will be creating multiple engagements that are within an afternoon stroll of each other. Village A that your historical force took in the morning and then village B only 500m down the road which was taken in the afternoon.

Rather than trying to create all the prep work for multiple maps, do it once on a larger scale and create the one master map including all the ground between the two scenarios. This will give you flexibility down the track if you need to edit the boundaries of a scenario for either something you’ve picked up in research or through testing. Remember you can import your units into a new battlefield, but you can’t import the battlefield into the scenario.

Master Maps don’t need to be functional on their own. It’s simply one giant blank map for you to work with throughout the rest of the production process. It makes scaling and style really easy to maintain across a wide area since everything is present in the same file. When you jump into 3D mode you can quickly see if everything is matching and looking like it’s taking place in the same vicinity. For Tukums this allowed me to ensure all the buildings across the map were brick or stone (with only a handful of exceptions) with red tiled roofs to do as much as I could to keep that Baltic Region look. If I built three individual maps, I may have missed this tiny but noticeable element until it was too late.

“Combat will occur on the ground between two adjoining maps.”

Murphy’s Law of Combat – no. 60

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This is also true of Combat Mission. Your scenarios may partially crossover into the same terrain. Sadly, battlefield commanders generally don’t have future wargamers in mind when fighting their enemies. This occurs in Tukums as Mission 1 and 2 do share small slither of the same terrain around the waterway. For mission 1 I’m expecting it to be largely dead ground for the player of no real interest but it needs to be present since the map is always a rectangle. By using a Master Map, I can ensure this crossover of terrain is identical between multiple engagements. If all the trees and swamps look different, the player will after 6+ hours of playing the missions will notice this type of inconsistency.

Campaigns are naturally bigger affairs than most scenarios. Have a map to suit. If you players are going to be fighting over the same terrain for a longer period of time, it needs the attention to detail because if you miss something, a player spending 6+ hours on the same map is bound to pick it up. Master maps (though big and daunting) are the chief way to ensure consistency and quality across your work.

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2 hours ago, Ithikial_AU said:

Next up is core units. I may need to clear this next part with Battlefront before release.

We are prepared to swear to secrecy if necessary. 😀

Great looking church btw. The damage on the middle part is superb. Is there a map on which it can be found?

 

Edited by Aragorn2002
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2 hours ago, Bulletpoint said:

How come you're leaving a gap between each building? European WW2 era towns usually have many houses built right next to each other, with no gap. I think many New World designers are not aware of this.

This seems to be a fair comment. I'm not so sure about housing. But, there are certainly photos from the early part of the 20th Century showing a town centre with rows of shops and public buildings. 

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32 minutes ago, Sgt.Squarehead said:

We have always been able to damage buildings.

Damaged walls are a new terrain tile type which is being introduced in the forthcoming module.

Buildings yes, i know that much. Used it myself often enough.But walls that can be damaged, that's pretty cool. A damaged building with walls completely intact, doesn't look right.

 

Edited by Aragorn2002
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