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Looking for feedback on my WIP CMx1 course


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Posted (edited)

Hey everyone,

Two years ago (🤯) I posted in the forums (here) asking about creating a non-free CMx1 course, as I think one of Combat Mission's biggest problems is its learning curve, and I think CMx1 is very well-positioned (because of its low cost and low system requirements) to be an entry point to the series for a lot of people.  I got approval from the devs but I ran out of steam on the idea and never made much progress, I think because I wasn't sure exactly how to approach it.

The idea has refused to leave my brain since then and after having spent lots of time with with the excellent language-learning app Duolingo and programming-interview-question website InterviewCake, and having played CMx1 a lot more, I feel like I'm much better positioned to create the course.  Previously I wanted to have the course primarily be a bunch of videos, with scenarios as a nice-to-have, while now I think the learning scenarios are the must-have, with videos being a nice-to-have (maybe a must-have for certain things).

Today I created four extremely short (1-turn), extremely basic scenarios to be used to teach people the following (in this order):

  1. How to start a scenario, how to proceed through the turns (i.e. hit the GO button), what the objective is (capturing flags), and how to interpret the result screen at the end.
  2. How to issue a "Move" order.
  3. How to issue a "Run" order.
  4. That you don't need to be right next to a flag to capture it (I'm iffy on how important this is to include this early in the course).

I sat my (extremely computer-illiterate) girlfriend through the lessons as a way to get feedback and maintain my motivation, and I figured it was worth posting in here for the same reason.  She managed to get through the first four (admittedly with a lot of hand-holding from me), so I'm excited to try to make more and see how far I can get her.

You can find my brief summaries of each scenario here (e.g. a screenshot of each scenario, what the teaching goals are, notes from my experience having my gf go through them):

https://nathanwailes.atlassian.net/wiki/spaces/MTOVT/pages/2602696710/01+Infantry

You can find the scenarios themselves here:

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/bs7ql62i377p9kk/AADx9puNM_lgy7rg4AYP3VoYa?dl=0

So, I'd be very interested to hear from any of you if you're willing and able to sit someone else through these (maybe your S/O, kid, parent, cousin, , etc.), to see what they get stuck on, what could be improved, etc.  I'll keep looking for other students, and I'll post in here as I add new lessons/scenarios.

Edited by nathan1776
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49 minutes ago, nathan1776 said:

a non-free CMx1 course

Isn't the best CMx1 (and CMx2) course to just play the games and to watch a few youtube videos and sometimes to ask questions in the thread for the game one is playing? And doing that is something you get for free, except for the cost of the game.

So a non-free course seems unnecessary.

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1 hour ago, nathan1776 said:

I think one of Combat Mission's biggest problems is its learning curve,

This is the closest we have to a tutorial. In game tutorials are great. My tip don't cheat yourself by playing Zeus on your PC screen. Pass on Tentative contacts at all times. Play WeGo and replay. https://battledrill.blogspot.com/  

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57 minutes ago, BornGinger said:

Isn't the best CMx1 (and CMx2) course to just play the games and to watch a few youtube videos and sometimes to ask questions in the thread for the game one is playing? And doing that is something you get for free, except for the cost of the game.

So a non-free course seems unnecessary.

I think just playing the games and watching a few YouTube videos can work great for some people, but I can say from personal experience that I found CMx1 pretty intimidating/anxiety-inducing, in the way some people find chess intimidating/anxiety-inducing.  When I was first starting, I remember feeling anxious whenever I would play because I had no idea what I should do, and the thought of just throwing my units at the enemy to see what happened and learning through trial-and-error made me feel more anxious.  I honestly think part of it is that Combat Mission feels a lot more real than RTSes like Starcraft; Combat Mission was the game that made me really understand in a visceral way why militaries discourage fraternization between officers and enlisted men (because officers may have to order their enlisted men to do things that are very likely to lead to their deaths, and that can be gut-wrenching).  Anyway, if you look online you'll see a lot of comments from people saying Combat Mission has a steep learning curve.  And I've tried the "just watch YouTube videos" approach for Command Ops 2 a few times now and I still bounce off it; I think I'd do better to just play very simple scenarios for 15 minutes a day to build up a habit of playing.

I also highly recommend you check out Duolingo for an amazing example of how to teach something well.

 

29 minutes ago, chuckdyke said:

This is the closest we have to a tutorial. In game tutorials are great. My tip don't cheat yourself by playing Zeus on your PC screen. Pass on Tentative contacts at all times. Play WeGo and replay. https://battledrill.blogspot.com/  

I'm not sure what you're talking about.  Is that CMx2 stuff?

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1 minute ago, nathan1776 said:

Is that CMx2 stuff?

Yes, I started with CMx1 then I thought the game died a natural death, and one day I watched armchair generals' videos and I was sold. First you must say what level you play and the mode. I play WeGo on Iron as it is the most realistic IMO if somebody play RTS on Veteran we talk about a different game. We all bought the game to have fun and of all the tutorials I like the one of CM Normandy best. Read and understand the manual. 

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1 minute ago, chuckdyke said:

Yes, I started with CMx1 then I thought the game died a natural death, and one day I watched armchair generals' videos and I was sold. First you must say what level you play and the mode. I play WeGo on Iron as it is the most realistic IMO if somebody play RTS on Veteran we talk about a different game. We all bought the game to have fun and of all the tutorials I like the one of CM Normandy best. Read and understand the manual. 

I don't have CMx2 because I don't have a gaming PC.  But I may be getting a gaming PC soon, in which case I'll definitely be getting all the CMx2 titles.

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Just now, nathan1776 said:

I don't have CMx2 because I don't have a gaming PC. 

I played Engine 3 on an ASUS laptop with 8GB RAM with no problems. The computer packed it in so I don't know, or it would have handled Engine 4. Go for the Bundles for value for money and what you're interested in WW2, Cold War or Modern. Best of luck and happy gaming. 

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2 hours ago, nathan1776 said:

I don't have CMx2 because I don't have a gaming PC

You don't need a gaming pc for CMx2 as it doesn't depend much on on newer graphic cards.

Download and install the Black Sea or Final Blitzkrieg demo and see how your computer manages with any of those or both.

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Just now, BornGinger said:

You don't need a gaming pc for CMx2 as it doesn't depend much on on newer graphic cards.

Download and install the Black Sea or Final Blitzkrieg demo and see how your computer manages with any of those or both.

I ended up buying the bundle on Steam (CMBS, CMSF2, CMCW).  It's playable but a little jittery / unresponsive, even with everything on the lowest settings.

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10 minutes ago, nathan1776 said:

I ended up buying the bundle on Steam (CMBS, CMSF2, CMCW).  It's playable but a little jittery / unresponsive, even with everything on the lowest settings.

Actually, I had the texture setting cranked up.  I just turned that one down and it's now a lot smoother.  Not as smooth as CMx1, and there's times when it doesn't seem to respond to my input, but it's definitely good enough that I'm not sure it's worth paying $1300 for a gaming PC for the marginal increase in graphics/performance.

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3 minutes ago, Jadore said:

I don't think that what you did yet is better than the in-game tutorial from the manual. Especially CMBB's one.

Yeah I totally agree, this is literally just the first day that I'm working on it.  I'm envisioning having hundreds of different very short tutorials like that.  And my target audience is the people who would either get frustrated with the in-game tutorial or would go through it and then still feel like they don't know what to do.

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Posted (edited)

I created four more extremely basic scenarios today and had my gf go through them.  It seems that becoming comfortable with the camera controls is being a hurdle for her.

Scenario: Camera Controls - Rotate

Aij3TKQ.jpg

Rationale: This lesson forces the player to use the camera controls.  The player only needs to use the “rotate camera” button (the screenshot is of the student's initial viewpoint) and then this becomes the earlier "Move" tutorial.  The camera starts looking at your unit so that new players get as little disoriented as possible.

 

 

Scenario: Camera Controls - Down

plRdQMd.jpg

Rationale: Introduce the player to the “Camera Down” button.  (The screenshot is of the student's initial viewpoint.)  The player only needs to use the “camera down” button (the screenshot is of the student's initial viewpoint) and then this becomes the earlier "Move" tutorial.

 

 

Scenario: The Setup Phase

3559VRr.jpg

Rationale: Introduce the student to the setup phase.  If the student just gives a “Run” order without repositioning their soldier, they won’t finish close enough to the flag to take control of it.

 

 

Scenario: Two Turns

TcdVSMF.jpg

Rationale: Introduce the student to the idea of multiple turns.  This also gives the student more practice with using the setup phase, but I may take that part out to keep things simple.  I haven't decided yet.

 

The new scenarios are in the same Dropbox folder I linked to in my original post.

Edited by nathan1776
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I never played CM1 at all, but it looks *coughs loudly* similar to CM2.  I wonder how many folk still play CM1, can't imagine many are buying it from GOG or wherever in preference to CM2.  That being the case you may be limiting your target audience rather severely?

On the main subject of tutorials, I played the demo Monster Mash for what was to become my first CM title Red Thunder without having seen a tutorial.  Didn't have a clue to start with but it forced me to learn quite quickly.  When I got the game, I did the tutorial, and sure enough it taught me a lot of the things I had done wrong in the demo.  But not everything.  Later on, rather belatedly, I realised that some crazy fools had posted loads of useful Youtube videos and some of them are excellent learning tools.

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Posted (edited)
Quote

I wonder how many folk still play CM1, can't imagine many are buying it from GOG or wherever in preference to CM2.  That being the case you may be limiting your target audience rather severely?

Thank you for responding!  Yeah, so, it's a gamble on my part, but my idea is to try to get new casual players into the game who otherwise would not consider buying a Combat Mission title.  People who don't have a gaming PC.  I have a non-gaming laptop and while it will run CMx2, CMx2 running on my laptop does not look anything like the Usually Hapless videos.  IMO the environmental textures in particular actually look better in CMx1 than what I need to use in CMx2 to get the game to run smoothly.

My specific idea is to pay YouTubers like Lindybeige to promote the course to try to reach those casual players.  Lindybeige can get millions of views on his videos that are about WW2.  If I can get 1% of 2,000,000 people to pay $10 for a course, that's $200,000.

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Also, you can buy CMBB for $6 on GOG.  Some people seem to be extremely price-sensitive and aren't going to want to spend $60 on a CMx2 game on Steam if they aren't sure if they'll like it.  Check out the game below that I just stumbled across yesterday.  90,000 reviews, Overwhelmingly Positive, and the game uses early-90s, pre-CMx1-era sprite graphics.  A lot of the reviews mention that the game only costs $3 and the amount of content you get for what you pay.

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And now look at the reviews for Arma Reforger, that just game out a day or two ago and is marketing itself largely as being a new engine that allows for better graphics for the Arma series (sound familiar?):

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A lot of the reviews here also mention the price-to-content ratio:

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Quote

I realised that some crazy fools had posted loads of useful Youtube videos and some of them are excellent learning tools.

Yeah I totally agree.  But as you mention yourself, it takes time to find those videos.  And I do think it's possible to provide an even-more-gentle learning curve for people than what most of the YouTube videos allow for.  That's why, for example, Udemy is able to sell courses on things that also have people doing tutorials about it on YouTube.  I pay for courses on Udemy because they're relatively cheap ($10-$20) and I know I'm going to be getting a great teacher who provides bite-sized lessons with an extremely gentle learning curve and actual exercises I can do after I watch the video to reinforce the idea.

Edited by nathan1776
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No disagreement from me.  I wish you well and hope it works for you. 

And yes, I've also been there with the latest and greatest releases of various games which ended up not being played for more than an hour or two.  Particularly on Steam, where I think I read that over a third of purchases have never even been installed by the purchaser, so perhaps part of bundles or whatever but that's a lot of wasted money.

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I wish you well and hope it works for you.

Thanks!  I think it's a good idea, the big obstacle for me is just putting in the number of hours required to get it done without losing motivation.  I created an "Intro to Programming with Python" university-length course for an Upwork client and it took an enormous amount of time and effort to get it done.  If I didn't have my client needling me to finish it, I don't think I ever would have finished it.  I'm hoping that by posting my updates to this thread and getting feedback I can get some of that same kind of motivational benefit.

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IMO misguided but a lot of sales are concluded by the graphics. So CM1 is seen as one step up from space invaders. CM2 is not known for its graphics. To attract a younger support base, it needs improvement BF I am sure is aware of it. The selling point for me are the soft factors in the game. 

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4 minutes ago, chuckdyke said:

IMO misguided but a lot of sales are concluded by the graphics. So CM1 is seen as one step up from space invaders. CM2 is not known for its graphics. To attract a younger support base, it needs improvement BF I am sure is aware of it. The selling point for me are the soft factors in the game. 

I agree that there's a subset of gamers that put a lot of weight on graphics.  But I think there's another subset that put more weight on things like gameplay, ease-of-play, and low price.  That's why a game like Vampire Survivors, which has an even-older graphics style than CMx1, can be so successful on Steam.

I had thought about doing a Kickstarter before creating the course to reduce the risk of building something no one wants, but there's a particular entrepreneur whose process I'm trying to emulate, and his method is to build the product, release it on a particular day to get media attention, and if it doesn't get traction, try something else.

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3 minutes ago, nathan1776 said:

I had thought about doing a Kickstarter

As long as you enjoy it. I am 72 now and the games I have on CM2 are enough to last the rest of my life. I only just started to toy with editing. I thought about writing a manual of how to play on Iron against the AI. I just started to understand the soft factors in the game and that is after playing for something like 20 years. Only a few people on YouTube know what they are doing IMO. Two of them from whom I learned a lot a no longer active. 

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If somehow you could make it like little TikTok shorts with a nice cleavagey type bouncy girl (I am old so I think Suzanne Sommers from Three's Company, but there are newer versions I am told 😉) then people would be more apt to click on it and watch it and you'd get maybe the promotional credit as ads pop up(?). But my thoughts are if someone is indeed tight on funds to buy an older cruder game then maybe they'd NOT want or be able to "pay" for tutorials but instead come to the CMX1 forum and ask for free tactical advice and all the guys will offer advice for 0.00 which is your competition. Unless you get that cleavage in there!

Best wishes to you and your project.

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Posted (edited)
48 minutes ago, kohlenklau said:

If somehow you could make it like little TikTok shorts with a nice cleavagey type bouncy girl...

Believe it or not, having an attractive lady teach the game (via videos) is an idea I am considering and well-positioned to execute.

Quote

come to the CMX1 forum and ask for free tactical advice and all the guys will offer advice for 0.00 which is your competition.

Yes, but that way of learning can take more time and effort for some people than having a ready-to-go course.  And my idea is to offer hundreds of small exercises (similar in spirit to chess exercises/puzzles) to reinforce the ideas and build confidence in playing the game; that's not something currently available.

Edited by nathan1776
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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, nathan1776 said:

I have a non-gaming laptop and while it will run CMx2, CMx2 running on my laptop does not look anything like the Usually Hapless videos. 

Go to Gumtree, or similar, and look for a gaming laptop or a gaming pc there and haggle heavily on the price. It's sometimes surprisingly easy to find sellers that are willing to accept what one wants to pay, or quite close to it.

Quote

Believe it or not, having an attractive lady teach the game (via videos) is an idea I am considering and well-positioned to execute.

Wouldn't it be more challenging and fun if you yourself did the teaching while trying to sound like a woman?

Edited by BornGinger
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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, BornGinger said:

Wouldn't it be more challenging and fun if you yourself did the teaching while trying to sound like a woman?

With his 5 o'clock shadow? That exudes a Corporal Klinger M*A*S*H vibe and total non-woody...😣 

I think he is US from the 1776 in his forum name so it could be his girlfriend, hopefully a hot chick talking in a good military jargon US accent with nice outfits. She could have just a tight green t-shirt and ballcap. 

My idea: Frame the video so "C M Sally" is always there in one edge of the screen showing upper half of her body and face for the "view" and then the screen of CM action is superimposed to her left and she always has eye contact to the audience and makes comments and says funny things but not in a ditzy way. She also has one of those e-pens to make circles and arrows that show on the CM side to emphasize things.

 

Edited by kohlenklau
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