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It's been a long time, and the most amazing thing is how many of the same people are all still here after all this time. Now, irrespective of Steve's protestations to the contrary :), as far as I'm concerned there will always be a connection between Squad Leader and CM. Why? Because of how I found the BTS web site. I was snooping around on Avalon Hill's website and down in the lower right hand corner there was a little banner type link that said something to the effect of "Computerized Squad Leader coming soon from Big Time Software" so I clicked the link and ended up on the BTS website. Now it was a long time ago and my memory may be impaired but that's how I remember it so that's the way it was. I always thought Big Time Software was a bit of a goofy name and I'm glad they changed it. It always makes me think of the old Peter Gabriel song "Big Time" :). When I went to the Avalon Hill website I think I was actually looking for stuff about Close Combat because they were supposed to be the next computerized squad leader but I guess there was a parting of the ways. I guess 'based on' is all relative though because CM clearly isn't 'based on' Squad Leader in the game play or technical aspects. Perhaps 'inspired by' may be a better descriptive, although that's kind of squishy too. :)

One thing is for sure. Steve and Charles and the rest of the crew must REALLY love what they are doing because I know I would probably get tired of doing this stuff non stop for hours and hours on end day after day, year after year. Coding this stuff would have to become your life.

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It's been a long time, and the most amazing thing is how many of the same people are all still here after all this time. Now, irrespective of Steve's protestations to the contrary :), as far as I'm concerned there will always be a connection between Squad Leader and CM. Why? Because of how I found the BTS web site. I was snooping around on Avalon Hill's website and down in the lower right hand corner there was a little banner type link that said something to the effect of "Computerized Squad Leader coming soon from Big Time Software" so I clicked the link and ended up on the BTS website. Now it was a long time ago and my memory may be impaired but that's how I remember it so that's the way it was. I always thought Big Time Software was a bit of a goofy name and I'm glad they changed it. It always makes me think of the old Peter Gabriel song "Big Time" :). When I went to the Avalon Hill website I think I was actually looking for stuff about Close Combat because they were supposed to be the next computerized squad leader but I guess there was a parting of the ways. I guess 'based on' is all relative though because CM clearly isn't 'based on' Squad Leader in the game play or technical aspects. Perhaps 'inspired by' may be a better descriptive, although that's kind of squishy too. :)

One thing is for sure. Steve and Charles and the rest of the crew must REALLY love what they are doing because I know I would probably get tired of doing this stuff non stop for hours and hours on end day after day, year after year. Coding this stuff would have to become your life.

Hi Vet.

Well, there was an honest to goodness Squad Leader computer game put out by Hasbro Interactive - and yes, it really, really sucked. :)

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ASL Veteran,

It's been a long time, and the most amazing thing is how many of the same people are all still here after all this time. Now, irrespective of Steve's protestations to the contrary , as far as I'm concerned there will always be a connection between Squad Leader and CM. Why? Because of how I found the BTS web site. I was snooping around on Avalon Hill's website and down in the lower right hand corner there was a little banner type link that said something to the effect of "Computerized Squad Leader coming soon from Big Time Software" so I clicked the link and ended up on the BTS website. Now it was a long time ago and my memory may be impaired but that's how I remember it so that's the way it was.

Yeah, but it isn't the way Charles or I remember it so it isn't the way it was :D But don't take offense, there are more than a few of you guys out there that have this incorrect view of things, no matter how many times I try to correct the misinformation. In fact, just recently I joked on this Forum that this bit of fantasy about CMBO being based on ASL/SL has more lives in it than a cat inhabited by Lucifer himself ;) So here I go yet again to set the record straight...

The truth about CMBO is that it never had anything to do with ASL/SL in any meaningful sense. Avalon Hill was interested in having their best known product line brought to the computer. The previous attempts to port Avalon Hill games directly to the computer were disasters and that led to a new philosophy that AH's computer games didn't have to be literal translations of their boardgames. To move forward with this philosophy they tried to go with proven computer wargame developers. Charles was one of them (he had self published Flight Commander) and another was Atomic Games. Atomic was given the task of making a squad based WW2 game inspired by ASL/SL. The intent was to have familiar scenarios and what not in the game even though the mechanics were intentionally very different. Things didn't go as planned and Atomic took the game to Microsoft as Close Combat, which was largely completed before the split with AH. I could say more about that, because I've spoken with everybody involved, but it's not for me to talk about. I will say that Atomic left for reasons that had nothing to do with creative differences over their departure from the ASL/SL design since the owners of AH didn't care (their sale to Hasbro shortly after gives some clues).

Fast forward a bit to when Charles was finishing up his third game for AH. He was looking for something to do next and liked the idea of doing WWII ground warfare, which was now open to him because Close Combat went off to Microsoft. So AH sent him every single module they had ever made (and it was an impressive stack, let me tell you!) so he could sink his teeth into it. After looking at the rules for a while we started talking about it over beers, which is the best way to talk about this stuff ;) Within days Charles said definitively there was no way to make a good computer wargame out of this stuff. And that's putting it VERY kindly :P

That's it... a couple of days looking at ASL/SL rules and concluding it wasn't the way to go. If that means CMBO is based on ASL/SL then I guess it's also based on Steel Panthers, Close Combat, and every other wargame and game that we ever played. In fact, when we did talk about other games it usually was Close Combat, Steel Panthers, Panzer General, and Kampfgruppe. Why? Because they were successful computer games and therefore instantly relevant. Another reason ASL/SL came up infrequently is that I'd never played the game or read the rulebooks, so it wasn't a common subject for us.

Now, I honestly have no recollection how Avalon Hill promoted the game before Charles left them (it was still mostly Charles' baby at the time). Sure, the game was going to have a name tie-in to it just like Close Combat originally did, but it was just a marketing angle. Nothing of any substance was ever planned, which actually was a little concerning to Charles because he didn't want to AH to deliberately mislead ASL/SL customers. However, at that point there were almost on details (and ZERO screenshots) of the game so it really wasn't a problem yet. Plus, Charles and I were suspicious that Avalon Hill wouldn't be around long enough for it to matter. We were correct about that.

As it turned out, Avalon Hill was in a state of implosion (unknown to customer at the time) and so the split came with them came before any serious marketing was done. I won't go into details about what was going on inside of Avalon Hill, but the short of it is Charles started shopping the game around to other publishers. Since Charles didn't have a contract with Avalon Hill (did I mention we were suspicious about their health?), and there was not one shred of ASL/SL intellectual property in it, there were no legal impediments to doing this. The results were as expected... a few horrendous offers from the established wargame publishers (all dead and buried, I might add), which killed off Plan A. In the middle of this Avalon Hill was purchased by Hasbro and that sealed the fate on Plan B (staying with Avalon Hill). So we went with the highly risky Plan C, which was to self publish. That in turn led to Battlefront.com being formed in concept during 1998 and Combat Mission Beyond Overlord becoming the official name. Major H left Avalon Hill soon after and came to Battlefront. The rest is history that many of you are more familiar with.

Well, that's the entire story as told by someone who was there from before the very start. I could be making this all up, I suppose, but what would be the point of that? Surely it isn't to pretend that CMBO didn't have influences on it, since I've named several above and throughout the previous years. I can't help it that ASL/SL wasn't one of them. Maybe if I had actually played the game it might have been :)

Steve

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SlapHappy,

Well, there was an honest to goodness Squad Leader computer game put out by Hasbro Interactive - and yes, it really, really sucked.

I thought there was a ASL Fatwa against anybody who mentioned that particular game? :)

MrSpkr,

Definitely. I can remember my first dozen or two scenario designs were painstakingly detailed imports of various Squad Leader scenarios, from SL to GI:AoV.

No doubt that players, once they got a hold of the Editor, brought their favorite ASL/SL stuff into CMBO. I remember Moon (Martin) doing that very early on in his testing career long before CMBO was finished. I also remember him having to completely redo the forces because a verbatim redo of his chosen scenario was completely cakewalk for the side that typically lost the original version. Not surprising since the game systems and data were completely different.

Steve

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Hi Steve,

I have no problem accepting this version of the story. All I personally ever maintained is that AH promoted the game as computer Squad Leader in The General for a couple of issues (maybe more than two; I'd have to pull out my old issues and go through them (and once I got started on that, it'd be all night :))). My take on it now is that there was a break down in communication between AH and Charles that might have led them to jump the gun on matters a bit. From what you are describing, that seems more than plausible.

Michael

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Nah, the coms were never broken. AH knew they weren't going to get a literal (or close to it) version of ASL/SL from either Atomic Games or Big Time Software (Charles). But they wanted to keep that bit fuzzy as long as they could so as to keep the ASL/SL guys interested. Like I said, this was one thing Charles was a little uncomfortable about, but it was so early in development it hadn't become an actual problem.

In fact, AH didn't want literal translations of their boardgames into computer games since their previous attempts failed in the marketplace. Avalon Hill realized they didn't know what they were doing so they hired a very, very savvy guy (a "Producer" in game publishing speak) to make great computer wargames first, ports of AH's existing stuff second. They gave him a lot of latitude, but for reasons I won't get into the plan didn't work. Instead AH lost their second head of steam, lost developers, and eventually sold the company to Hasbro.

Steve

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I always saw CMBO/CMBB/CMAK as being more an evolution of the Panzerblitz/PanzerLeader/AIW line than AH's Squad Leader, however since all these game have the same basic goal, namely a realistic simulation of armored warfare, there are bound to be similarities.

I may case, playing CMSF often brings back fond memories of playing Arab-Israeli War when I was a wee lad...;)

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Thanks for the clarification, Steve. Getting back to AH just for a moment, I recall that in their last year or two they bought up a whole passel of boardgames from various companies that had become recently defunct or were otherwise in transition, such as SPI. These they reissued in their typically high quality packages. In so doing, they performed a signal service to the wargaming community, but I bet they lost a bunch of money on the deal.

Michael

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No doubt that players, once they got a hold of the Editor, brought their favorite ASL/SL stuff into CMBO. I remember Moon (Martin) doing that very early on in his testing career long before CMBO was finished. I also remember him having to completely redo the forces because a verbatim redo of his chosen scenario was completely cakewalk for the side that typically lost the original version. Not surprising since the game systems and data were completely different.

Steve

Yeah, I noticed that, too. Also, the force makeups in SL did not translate particularly well to available purchases in CMBO. I can still remember dalem ranting about how one sided a certain scenario was . . . heheheh.

In any event, the game certainly appeared to be computer SL (at first glance) -- that's how I got hooked. Thanks for a great ten years.

Steve

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CMBO was originally advertised as being developed by Big Time Software for Avalon Hill as a computerized Advanced Squad Leader. See this old web page from April 18, 1997:

http://web.archive.org/web/19970418050241/http://www.bigtimesoftware.com/

By December 2, 1998 Avalon Hill was being bought out by Hasbro and the game's title had been changed to Combat Mission:

http://web.archive.org/web/19981202193131/http://www.bigtimesoftware.com/index.html

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BTS on their future computerized ASL game:

"When will it be finished? It will be done when it's done." - Dated 1996

still hearing that one around here... :)

But honestly, is this a line about what will become CMBO? The way it is put here, the author makes it pretty apparent that ASL is the lead inspiration for this project, if not virtually a computer port of it.

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Michael,

Getting back to AH just for a moment, I recall that in their last year or two they bought up a whole passel of boardgames from various companies that had become recently defunct or were otherwise in transition, such as SPI.

Hmmm... I don't remember that. I seem to remember that Hasbro put some non-AH game titles under the Avalon Hill "brand name" before they realized they really didn't buy much for the price they paid (I know how much Avalon Hill was bought for :)).

MrSpkr,

In any event, the game certainly appeared to be computer SL (at first glance) -- that's how I got hooked. Thanks for a great ten years.

No problemo! Yeah, the hook for SL/ASL guys was there for sure simply because the scale and subject matter was identical. Same reason a lot of SL/ASL guys played Close Combat or why a lot of Steel Panthers guys picked up CMBO. The subject matter and scale mean instant interest.

Steve

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KG_Jag,

COOL!!! I'm going to pass those links onto Charles. Been a looooong time since we saw those pages.

Well, the dates say it all. The first link is from April 18, 1997, months before Charles had finished Achtung Spitfire. As I recall he hadn't even started to think about the game design for what became CMBO by that time. In any case, it's as I said... the notion that CMBO started out being based on SL/ASL is just wrong. There was a marketing angle tie-in at the start, but it was never anything other than that. The decision was reinforced by having little faith in Avalon Hill's viability. Charles wanted to make sure there would be no legal entanglements in the event of a split.

Actually, one thing that ASL did help with was it provided us with a list of possible vehicles to include. We used this as a sort of starting point when deciding what to include and what not to include in CMBO. It was a quick and easy list for Charles to consult and then send me off on research missions to confirm various things like dates of use, quantities used, etc. The ASL list was decent, though it had quite a few errors in it. This doesn't mean we based CMBO on ASL, though, any more than saying CMBO is based on Stephen Zaloga or Osprey :D

Steve

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