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An idea to promote more scenario making


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In the last few month there's been less and less new scenarios. And no wonder. Scenario making is a hard work. First you have to make a map, then add your forces, then play though and balance it. But I find that making a map - especially good one - takes bulk of the effort. At the same time there are a lot of scenarios out there that people made, many with great maps. We've played through them once and now they are forgotten :(

But it doesn't have to be this way!

I'd like to suggest to the existing scenario authors to put their map in "public domain" so to speak. In other words if existing scenario designers would post here to say:

- Everyone, feel free to use a map from my such and such scenario, modify it and build up on it. Just put a credit in the briefing that I am an original creator.

Then I would hope a lot of other CMSF customers (especially new ones) may be more inclined to create new battles in less time. Map making (unlike force selection and balancing) is more art than anything else. I can easily see each map be used for at least another 3 scenarios without loosing uniqueness, surprise and charm!

Scenario authors - wadda you say?

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Anyone who sees a scenario with my name on it feel free to strip out the units and replace them with whatever you want. If you like the units but don't like the AI plans feel free to change the AI plans. All I ask is you also change the name, wouldn't want you overwriting all my originals! :)

I suspect there's a reason the number of 3rd party scenarios go down while BFC is building a new module. BFC's probably kidnaps all the better scenario makers (they know where you live), and is holding them in a basement somewhere in Maine, forcing them to construct Brit module scenarios for them. That's just a theory. ;)

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As MD suggests, it's typical for all games which have scenario builders to dry up near update/module time so they can more effectively incorporate new/fixed features into their work without throwing out some of the time/effort.

-Pv-

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I concur with dima: I would have made bunches o' scenarios for CMBB, CMAK, and CMSF, but making maps (and making them well) seems such a daunting task! Fiddling with TO&Es is much easier, I find.

In looking over the maps available in the Repistory (double thumbs-up to the map-makers), I'm impressed by both how well constructed they are and how big they are. I imagine the first scenario I create will use a pre-made map.

CMSF hasn't been out nearly as long as any of the CMx1 games, but I suppose the veritable necessity for AI plans (for one side at least) and the corresponding time required for scenario-building means that there will probably never be as many scenarios for CMSF as for any of the CMx1 games.

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Map making seems to be my slow point. I've started at least 20, but only finished a select few. I have gone through quite a few quickbattle maps looking for what I have in mind, but have never released any scenario using anyone else's map.

The number one thing that I think would make it easier is to be able to edit the map in 3d mode. If I could do that, map making would be 100x easier.

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Creating large and highly detailed maps is an enormous amount of work, especially if you use a lot of flavour objects. FO placement is a labour of love... After 15-20 hours, (sometimes even more), you get a realistic looking map and then you have to devise a battle that matches it's appearance. So yes, it's a LOT of work and sometimes it's NOT fun but is it really necessary to make a good scenario?

For me, the simple answer is 'no', far from it. It's not the map but the battle that's important. I've played a few 3rd party scenarios that had very simple, bog standard maps that, nevertheless, had really good small fights on them. It's finding the right mix of units to make an interesting challenge that's the real work.

Now, whether we like it or not, the fact is that there's simply nothing that any scenario designer can do to prevent other people from doing what dima suggests with their maps. This has actually come up before and the general agreement was that it would be considered very good manners to contact the map designer first to ask his/her permission to use their map. As MikeyD also says, a complete change of the scenario's name would also be necessary.

However, the real downside of having new scenario designers take this path is that fewer people will do the map making work in the editor and that'll hurt us further down the road. It's actually not hard to knock together a functional map in an hour or two as long as you don't want it to be photorealistic. Don't be intimidated into not sharing because you feel your map is 'basic' and doesn't look like downtown Damascus replete with traffic lights, street lamps and bus shelters. To be honest, in all my time in this forum, I can't recall anyone getting all 'sniffy' about the quality of the map (the battle, yes) so it's not really an issue for most people. People tend to rave about the battle, not the map.

BTW, there are actually a couple of very talented people out there in the community who enjoy designing maps just for pleasure and have posted their work asking people to do what they want with them as they don't really enjoy designing scenarios for them.

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Map making takes 80-90% of the time to create a scenario. Especially on big, detailed, urban maps, it's catastrophically time-consuming. I remember wanting to kill myself (EXAGGERATION!) after spending an absurd amount of time constructing a huge urban map for a campaign and then realizing after playtesting that the engine doesn't handle the type of mission that I wanted to make very well at all!

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There's 4 of my maps, plus a further 3 within scenarios, all at the repository, and free for all to use.

I think as others have mentioned scenarios are time consuming to make ( I find the playtesting and balance the difficult part) and I think very people have the patience to see the entire process through from start to finish. No real way around this, but I suspect more people will give it ago in CM:Normandy just because

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I'm releasing Task Force Panther this week (for REAL, I'm play-testing a compiled campaign as we speak), and all scenarios will be released as stand-alones at the same time. Players are free to modify them however they wish, and I hope they do, as I put a lot of time into some of these maps.

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If this helps a player take the plunge into the very COOL waters of CMX2 scen design then Certainly use my maps. But I think that if I were creating a new scen based on any exisiting map (In game, QB's, other players maps) I would credit the source. For example: I have re-done 3 CMBO original scen for both CMAK and CMSF. Each time I credited the original designer.

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I think that this is an excellent idea, and I hope that it pans out. I don't have the time to hunt them up now, but there have been a couple of maps released that pretty rigidly follow images supplied from satellite photos, and if these were to be released for use (and I know that at least one of them is), I'm sure a lot could be done with them for the community's benefit.

In my mind, the mission's battles don't always have to be huge to be interesting and nailbiting. A "simple" patrol through one portion or another of one of these huge maps could be more than sufficient for most players. Just because a map is huge doesn't mean that the battles have to be as well. In fact, I'd be willing to put money down (if I HAD any!) that the uncertainty of operating in such a large area would only increase the stress on the player, and that's WITH knowing that the intended encounter is designed to be "smallish" or "moderate" in size.

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This all seems strangely backward to me. Half the fun of the game for me is going into the map editor and creating my own little slices of the world. Its only after the terrain's done to my liking that I bother thinking seriously about constructing a believable scenario around it. Only doing force placement and AI planning on a scenario seems like only selecting household chores as your 'marital duties'. You're leaving out all the fun stuff! :D

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This all seems strangely backward to me. Half the fun of the game for me is going into the map editor and creating my own little slices of the world. Its only after the terrain's done to my liking that I bother thinking seriously about constructing a believable scenario around it. Only doing force placement and AI planning on a scenario seems like only selecting household chores as your 'marital duties'. You're leaving out all the fun stuff! :D

Well, there are artists and art buffs. Artists love to paint pictures themselves, they enjoy it. Art buffs like to collect works of artists while themselves they don't paint (because they can't).

Guess which category you belong to? :)

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Oh, really, I actually thought [CMSF and module scens] are no-no due to EULA...

Well, the only vaguely relevant bit I can find in the license specifically relates to user made scens, and that's just about not being able to sell them.

This License does not provide you with title to or ownership of the software program “Combat Mission: Shock Force” (the “Software”), but only a right of limited use of the Software, and ownership of the media on which a copy of the Software is reproduced. The Software, including its source code, is, and shall remain, the property of Battlefront.com, Inc. You may make a copy of the Software solely for backup purposes, provided that you reproduce all proprietary notices (e.g., copyright, trade secret, trademark) in the same form as in the original and retain possession of such backup copy. The term “copy” as used in this License means any reproduction of the Software, in whole or in part, in any form whatsoever, including without limitation, printouts on any legible material, duplication in memory devices of any type, and handwritten or oral duplication or reproduction. The manual may not be copied, photographed, reproduced, translated, or reduced to any electrical medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent from Battlefront.com, Inc.. All rights not specifically granted in this Agreement are reserved by Battlefront.com, Inc.

You shall not, in any way, modify, enhance, decode, or reverse engineer the Software. User-created scenarios and other materials like graphics or other mods may be distributed free of charge, but shall not be sold, licensed, or included as part of any package or product that is sold or licensed, without the prior written consent of Battlefront.com, Inc.. You may not rent or lease the Software or related materials.

You may permanently transfer the Software and related written materials if you retain no copies, and the transferee agrees to be bound by the terms of this License. Such a transfer terminates your License to use the Software and related materials.

In order to install and run the Software, you acknowledge and agree to the installation of a third party licensing application on your computer.

Copied from a PDF version of the CMSF v1.10 manual. Heh, I guess I just broke the licence by copying and reproducing the manual in part :)

Anyway, it would be a very odd policy for BFC to persue if they were to prevent re-use of elements of scenarios in this way. Especially since it's not for commercial profit, but to expand the community.

*shrug*

I say go for it, but IANAL and nor am I BFC.

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In all my years of playing CM I cannot remember one instance where someone tried "You can purchase my collection of mods/scenarios for $X". Trying to sell would stir up all sorts of proprietary issues. As a matter of fact, I recall when BFC released a CMBO special version along with a 3rd party mods CD even they had to make VERY clear that the purchaser was only 'buying' the game - that the accompanying mods were totally gratis.

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Regarding the sale of CM scenarios - I don't know about the legal implications of it, but up until now there were market reasons why it was impractical for anyone to try to sell them.

Distribution: As long as there is a website available that hosts scenarios then basically anyone can put a scenario up for CM. With ASL you have to produce, package, and distribute your (paper) product yourself. This costs money and serves as a barrier to just anyone making a scenario and selling it for ASL. There is no such restriction in CM. If you have a connection to the internet and a friendly host you can distribute your scenario very easily.

Copyright protections: In CM you can basically take anyone's scenario, dismantle it, play around with it, and modify it to your hearts content. With an ASL scenario, while you could easily photocopy the scenario cards it would be a little more difficult to reproduce the maps and various TO&E elements that come with the game (largish maps with cardboard type game pieces).

So, if you were an enterprising individual out there who made CM scenarios of such high quality that people would be willing to pay for the pleasure of playing your stuff you would be able to sell a scenario one time before everyone who plays CM either had it, or modified it, or had a modified version of it. It's a total loser of a proposition. With the 'baked' scenarios though, perhaps that has changed somewhat although I'm not entirely sure. In any case, in order to be able to sell CM scenarios at a minimum there would have to be some sort of 'sealing' method incorporated into CM so that scenarios could not be dismantled or modified. That wouldn't solve the distribution problem though, as people would just e-mail scenarios to each other and I doubt there is a way to control that.

However, in the case of the modules produced by BFC it's a little different. Modules are basically TO&E and scenarios really. You also have to buy the module to have access to the TO&E and scenarios. There would be little point in having someone e-mail you a scenario from the Brits module if you don't already have the Brits module. You won't be able to play that scenario without the module. So if you are a scenario designer and you have a scenario in a module, you can be pretty sure that unless someone cracked the module itself that your scenarios would be safe from the unauthorized distribution problem. The only problem that would have to be addressed in that situation would be the scenario dismantling or modifying part (I don't know anything about the legal aspects).

So I view the modules as an area where professionally designed and built scenarios could work since that's all the module is: TO&E and scenarios. In previous CM games one could argue that the scenarios were basically a throw in as a sort of finishing polish for the players who purchase the game because it was the game itself that people wanted. With the modules; sure you could just be buying a module for the TO&E only (including all the vehicle and troop models etc) but the scenarios are undeniably a bigger part of the package than before and have to be factored in from BFC's perspective. This is especially true with regards to the amount of manhours that are being applied towards the module and where those manhours are being consumed (and by whom and when).

So, in my mind, modules are fundamentally different from the base game from a production standpoint. Every day that a module is delayed is costing BFC (bigtime) money (at a minimum BFC would be earning interest on the cash from their sales) and if many / most of your scenario designers have regular full time jobs and only do stuff on the weekends or do stuff for an hour or two on a weeknight evening or something (we all appreciate their efforts and enjoy their scenarios) - well then it seems like you've got a potential problem on the cost side of your business if you end up leaning on those assets too much. Even if they are making the scenarios out of their dedication to CM and the community and Steve isn't paying them directly with a wage, Steve is paying for those scenarios indirectly through lost interest on his sales income if the module is delayed beyond his target date. He is also suffering opportunity costs since he can't use the cash from those sales for other purposes, like expanding his business, hiring a second programmer, or having a BFC business conference in Vegas ;). He may also suffer losses on his next module too, because a delay on the current module could have a domino effect on the man hours that can be applied to the next module. That next module can't be released as early as it could have been because the first module was delayed thus pushing the release date of the next module back a corresponding amount of time, etc.

Regarding a 'professional' scenario designer; there are undoubtedly many very talented scenario designers in the CM community. The problem is that without market forces acting upon the many CM scenario designers it's hard to find a metric for what scenario designer is 'good' and what designer is 'average'. With ASL the market has told scenario designers who is a good designer and who isn't and what scenario designs pack the most fun. There hasn't been any similar vetting process for CM scenarios or designers so it's pretty much a crap shoot and the talent evaluation will be different depending upon who you talk to. So, in the event that Steve ever changes his mind and decides to go with a professional he would have to make a very tough call as to who he wanted to put in that position if he pulled from the CM community pool itself. It's a choice that he really has to nail the first time because they would have to be both good at it and quick enough to get the job done in a timely manner. No matter what he did, I'm sure there would be a lot of disappointed scenario designers out there and potentially some bruised egos. It may be more 'politically expedient' and less risky to his investment if he went with someone that has a proven track record with 'that other game' on a contractual basis. Besides, I'm biased and I like their stuff :). Of course, that's just my opinion. :)

Post Disclaimer

I keep saying 'Steve', but I'm sure Steve and Charles are in some kind of a partnership of some form so just think Steve and Charles where I say Steve. My constant use of 'Steve' is also not intentionally designed to elicit a response from said individual while he is patrolling the boards because he has already said he isn't currently interested in having a professional scenario designer involved with BFC. I'm simply tossing out random thoughts from the peanut gallery regarding a business operation where I'm not privy to any of the internal workings and no doubt I'm way out in left field on much of what I'm posting due to a lack of inside information :). The most important theme of my entire long winded post is - where is the Brits module and why am I not playing it now? :)

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