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


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8 minutes ago, Bulletpoint said:

I don't think you'd ever find a wall broken like that without some debris at the base.

I'm currently mapping an archaelogical site, so I could use exactly that, but I don't disagree with your broader point.....However the fact remains that the new walls will give map makers an option we didn't have before.  B)

Here's an attempt at making a ruined compound using the original CM:SF mapping set (ie: with no broken walls):

FOWYJj9.jpg

Suddenly the new walls don't seem quite so bad, eh?  ;)

 

Edited by Sgt.Squarehead
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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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Squarehead's example is correct.

These are used (in the module) in conjunction with terrain and flavor objects to achieve whatever look one is going for. Some of the new flavor objects have popped up in previous screens- some new rubble objects included for strewing about the base and ends are there. There are also segments that are all designed to be used either individually, as segments, or as a wall. The cross sections have pillar sections, and rebar sticks from the end of each (you won't see this as a wall, but individually). They do help to lend a more immersive urban-combat experience visually.

As to why the models don't have rubble bases and more impact textures- we tried lots of possibilities- but they had to fit the engine. The issue (as with with most graphics that have to serve a randomized model) is visual repetition and ground placement. The wall can "sink" below the map, but that starts to look odd with rocks stretching to fill to the ground, and the same rocks that one would see across the model.

The end result is something that can be used for several purposes (without looking repetitive), and adaptable. I haven't tried a "stone wall" mod for these, but one starts to get the idea these can be another helpful tool in the Editor.

 

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4 – Creating the Core Unit File

“I am the vanguard of your destruction.”

Sovereign

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Before we begin, a recap from Part 1:

Core Unit File

- A master file that is the central collection point for all campaign level elements. It is also the file that is used to compile and create the final campaign. Will include all Core Units, the Campaign Briefing, Campaign Briefing Imagery, the Campaign Script (sort of we’ll get to that).

The Core Unit File is the glue that holds all the campaign specific elements together.

At this point as you start to pull individual components together, (I’m assuming you have started to make individual scenarios that you’ll be joining together), it’s wise to create a folder within the documents folder (or Mac equivalent) to place all your components into. Campaign components from .btt files to text and bmps will start piling up from now on.

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(Remember this is a small campaign with only three scenarios with some variants, much larger for a dozen scenarios).

The image above is what Tukums looks like all broken down, well as of mid-December 2020. I’ve titled every component file into a consistent naming convention across all files that both works for me and is also a pretty logical coding structure for anyone that needs to come along and finish this in case I get hit by a bus or win the lottery. (The latter would probably mean I get more time to do this kind of thing though…) How this naming convention works is simply the numbers are the scenario order and the letter immediately after it equates to the variant. Variant A is “doing great”, while Variant C is “not so great.” Where there isn’t any Variant letter, means the component applies to all variants of that scenario or there aren’t any variants to begin with.

For the individual scenario file names, these will be important for the campaign script but won’t show up for the player inside the campaign. The scenario titles entered inside the game via the editor will be what is viewable via the briefings.

At this point create a brand-new scenario. This will not be a scenario but your Core Unit File. It is a regular scenario .btt file like any other. Under the “Mission” menu go first to the “Description” tab. Enter your campaign title and a brief description as per a normal scenario. Above this enter some broad details about most of your campaign and don’t forget to import a bmp as a campaign cover art so players can easily spot your campaign from the menu.

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Now move down to the “Data” tab. Most of this is redundant for a Core Unit File given this won’t be a scenario on its own. However, you still need to enter some important information here ahead of force selection. Remember to enter the correct date for when your campaign starts so the force selection screen lines up with the intended date of the campaign. Listing the correct “Region” will also influence some appearance options for some units in some titles. The other selections are redundant for the Core Unit File but will need to be set for each scenario in the campaign.

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Now head over to the “Briefing” tab. As per a regular scenario you need to provide briefings to the player outlining what it is they need to accomplish. Campaigns receive an additional briefing on top of the individual ones for each scenario. The next part of this series will focus on this campaign briefing. For now, all the text and artwork will be entered into the Core Unit File at this location.

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(The briefing text is distorted on purpose 😉 )

Most of the other menus are redundant for now so let’s switch over to the main part of the Core Unit File, the picking of your Core Units. There is no need to do any map work in this .btt file or provide AI plans as part of this file.

Again, remembering back to Part 1 of this series:

Core Unit

- Any unit (on both sides) that will take part in more than one scenario and where it’s end condition

will transfer from one to another.

 

Therefore, in this unit selection screen you need to enter every unit that will appear in more than one scenario, (including variants), in the exact same way as you would when designing an individual scenario. The game assigns a background code for each unit to track each individual pixeltrüppen and vehicle as they progress through the campaign. Your Core Units are the vanguard of forces for the player.

 

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It will likely be quite a long list of formations and units when you are done but keep in mind that depending on how your campaign is designed, this entire force is unlikely to appear altogether at once and in an undamaged state. Don’t forget you also need to include off map assets in this list if they are appearing across multiple engagements. For example, an artillery battery or air support assets that the player needs to use to support two separate engagements happening concurrently.

To help manage this long list of formations I would advise:

-          Don’t skimp on going through and naming every formation with their historical unit names. This makes it very easy when it comes to importing your core unit file into individual scenarios and ensuring the right formation is showing up in the correct scenario. This includes off map support like artillery batteries so you can easily track

-          Providing leader names (if known) is also a nice way of ensuring the correct sub units appear at the right place and right time in an individual scenario. It also adds a bit of flavour for the player.

o   In the Tukums campaign one of the units on the field will be the Panzergraf, Hyacinth Graf Strachwitz von Groß-Zauche und Camminetz himself. Given his front of the pack command style it would be amiss to have him commanding the forces from 35 kilometers behind the lines. (Yes that is also a deliberate Blackadder reference :D )

-          Purchase the major formations that are the focus of the campaign first so they appear at the top of the list. This makes life a touch easier when importing the units into individual scenarios.

Once you have purchased the major formations it’s time to go through each of them and tweak every formation to suit the campaign itself. Remove individual vehicles of sub-units that have no place in your campaign – for example if only two companies of tanks took part rather than a whole battalion. When there is a formation with a mix of Core and Non-Core Units, (for example Company A is Core but Company B is non-Core), the entire formation needs to be added to the Core Unit File – so essentially all sub-formations and units will be Core Units though some won’t appear in more than one scenario. This is where the more detailed research you’ve undertaken as outlined in Part 2 of this series starts to come into its own and why unit histories are a key resource for historical campaign design.

Also don’t forget to select the options at the bottom of the force selection screen ensuring the experience levels and appearance is correct for all units, keeping in mind these selections will run across the campaign. It’s usually safer to keep supply levels and headcounts at 100% in the core unit file and adjust the first mission as required.

The majority of campaigns created will only have core units for the player. However, a campaign designer can just as easily apply core units to an opposing force if they want battle’s casualties inflicted upon the enemy AI player to carry across to subsequent battles.

If you want to place all units in use across the campaign into the one Core Unit File, even if some are only going to show up once you can do that as well. However, you need to keep in mind that every time you import the forces into an individual scenario, you’ll have some ‘clean up’ to do. (See below).

The Tukums campaign takes advantage of this in full as both the player and the opposing AI force are entirely Core Units. With a campaign with such a short time window this gave me quite a lot of flexibility when it came to organising the forces that appear in each scenario and whether some carry across to the next scenario based on the previous result.

Importing Core Units Into Scenarios

Once you have your core units sorted it’s time to start importing them into each individual scenario. Open up each of your scenarios one at a time. Drop down to the “Units” menu and rather than manually adding in units like an individual scenario, click on the “Import Campaign Units” tab. See the red text on the next image.

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Once you have clicked on this, you’ll be presented with the pop-up alert. Read it carefully and if you are happy hit the continue button.

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Once you hit continue an explorer window will open linking back to your game’s Documents folder (or Mac equivalent). From here, select the appropriate Core Unit File and hit okay.

You’ll see your unit list is now populated with the formations you’ve already designed earlier as part of the Core Unit File. These will be imported as is in their entirety. From here you need to go through the list of formations and units to delete those that are not required in the specific scenario. If you accidently delete the wrong formation you will need to start again so save often. Deleting these formations will have no bearing on the Core Unit File itself so don’t be afraid if the formation entirely disappears from your list. Just ensure you are deleting them from the individual scenario file and not the Core Unit File.

Once you have the Core Units that you require for the specific scenario, add additional units that are required for this scenario only (the non-core units). You’ll see a difference on the right-hand side of the window, with the formations that are Core Units tagged as such. If there is no tag, then the formation is not a Core Unit.

Once the units are sorted (for both sides) start assigning AI Groups, AI plans, Victory Points and deploying the forces on the map all as you would in a regular individual scenario. Yes, this is a lot of work and can pile up when you have different variants and pathways to cover. Planning the work and direction of the campaign up front helps minimise any unnecessary work, while having variants that are slight differences on others also helps speed this process up. For this latter, build the scenario variant with the most units on the map in full first and then make copies of the same .btt file. Rename these copies and reduce the units that are not meant to appear as appropriate.

Reimporting Core Units into Scenarios

Crisis!

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You’ve discovered an error in your Core Unit File. New information has come to light that your order of battle is wrong! Meanwhile in testing it’s become clear that one of the scenarios is just too hard and the forces allocated and needs to be tweaked. What do you do?

Your Core Unit File will change over the course of a project. You will inevitably discover something missing, or an error that needs to be fixed. Make all the changes into the Core Unit File itself. Then open each scenario and re-import the formations and units from the Core Unit File again as before.

The Combat Mission Scenario Editor is pretty clever and detects if there have been any changes when you reimport a Core Unit File. Where the parent formations remain the same, all your unit deployments, AI reinforcement plans and AI plans will all still be there same as before. You do not need to reapply anything. What you do need to attend to each time you re-import the Core Unit File is to ensure the new units are joined to the correct AI groups, deployed on the map and similar. You will also need to delete the formations that are not meant show up in the respective scenario as they will all be added to the scenario – by default they will appear towards the bottom of the unit list in the scenario unit selection.

Just remember if your changes to the Core Unit File means the deletion and replacement of an entire formation (such as the full Battalion of Panzers), then you’ll have to start everything from scratch. So like a broken record I’ll play it again… research, plan and organise.

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Apologies if there are still typos and flow problems in the post above. It's been a work in progress in drips and drabs over the past week both in and out of hospital. My Dad had an operation last week so there have been constant visits. Will review again after the holidays before the next part.

Edited by Ithikial_AU
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  • 3 weeks later...
On 12/24/2020 at 6:14 PM, Erwin said:

The complexity demonstrates effectively why so few user-made campaigns are now being made.  :(

 

 

Ithikial is a perfectionist, bless his soul. But it doesn't have to be that complicated. It's often a matter of taking the time to read and test, after which things become easier and a lot of fun. In the past week I took the time to dive into the editor for Command Ops 2 (I can not recommend this brilliant game enough), which looks pretty daunting at first. After spending a couple of days with it, it proved to be rather easy and very much worth the time and effort. CM is the same. Most of us have become spoiled and lazy when it comes to gaming, but the CM editor in my opinion is very good and not nearly as complicated as it seems on first sight.

Edited by Aragorn2002
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3 minutes ago, Aragorn2002 said:

...but the CM editor in my opinion is very good and not nearly as complicated as it seems on first sight.

What he said. :D

Distracted in a good way at the moment with Fire and Rubble but this will be finished.

Final three sections will be:

5 - Campaign Briefings (drafting now)

6 - Campaign Scripts

7 - Testing and Balance

(Dad is also out of hospital doing well)

 

Cheers

Ithikial

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