RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (Full Version)

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MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/13/2009 2:36:48 PM)

My apologies, but today will probably not see any updates. I'll be tied up most of the day. :( {maybe I should get Dave to write me a note; like when you were a kid and didn't want to have to go to school!}

Bil H -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/13/2009 3:07:27 PM)

Mark!  Good to see you back in action.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/13/2009 3:17:12 PM)

Gee, you must have missed me! Not even a single jab this time about using icons instead of NATO symbols. Great seeing you again as well!

Bil H -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/13/2009 3:24:30 PM)

Hehe, I'm just so happy to see you posting and playing again that I don't even mind your gamey idiosyncrasies.  [;)]

TMO -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/13/2009 6:16:11 PM)

In the example of the E&S (Equipment and Supply) tab given, Sherman 76 mm and Sherman 105 mm are displayed. A quick glance at Wikipedea (I know not the most reliable source!) mentions these variants not being introduced until January and February 1944 respectively. Given that the Bulge lasted from 16 December 1944 25 January 1945, is this a mistake?



TMO -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/13/2009 6:24:45 PM)

Oops MY mistake!!!!

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/14/2009 1:26:25 AM)

Well, as you play the game as there are always issues that arise (dare I say bugs) or spellings of place names ... or if you spot Estab errors. Just post and it will eventually get cleaned up.

Tzar007 -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/14/2009 2:14:14 AM)

Hello MarkShot,

You probably remember me, that French-Quebecer from up north in Montreal...[;)]

Haven't been posting for a very long time, but I've always sneaked around the BFTB forum to see how the game was going. Finally, 2 or 3 weeks ago, sensing that BFTB is definetely not very far from being released, I fired up COTA and I am playing over again all the scenarios in chronological order. It's been 2 or 3 years since I played most of those and I have as much fun as I did at first. Isn't this engine a wonderful thing ? [:D]

Now, your BFTB mini-guide makes me drool all over my keyboard [X(]

I would have been already quite excited about having the reinforcements displayed in the OOB before their arrival, but having your current structure highlighted as well is even better. And, shame to myself, I never played around enough with the ScenMaker application so I didn't know all the units specs were actually detailed in there. I guess like a lot of other guys I was just googling the weapons info and look it up on the web...Having this info directly accessible in the game is great.

Keep the info coming and you could do some AAR after, I don't mind.

I am now craving for BFTB, you can be sure I am going to buy this the VERY first day it's out !!! Can't wait anymore [&o]

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/14/2009 2:24:40 AM)

Ugo, Mon Ami,


(You know I am actually Business Advisor/member of AGEOD, a French game studio. But alas, my French is as poor as ever! Some things never change.)

I could never forget you. Your painstaking work to recover the HTTR Mini-Guides after the Great Forum Hacking Fiasco. Your dedication was truly without equal in the field fan support. Thank you so much!

Glad to see you again. I'll hopefully get back to work on this tomorrow.

Ou est la reste de les francophones?

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 1:43:28 AM)

I am afraid I got heavily tied up today.

Now here is a little tip that I got from PG's Head of Engineering, Paul Scobell.

These days practically every machine you buy will have more than a single processor. I have a system with 4 processors from 2007. Normally (I tend to play very old games), I restrict my games to just P4 (as I have load balanced my system by hand). However, Paul says that BFTB will perform noticeably better if you allocate at least two processors to it, but beyond that there won't be too much of a difference. (I have to run some tests sometime to see this for myself. It should not be hard to do.)

It has always been pretty easy to see that this engine is multi-threaded. For you non-systems types, that means that the engine is almost like two separate programs (like running Word and Excel at the same time). So, imagine that the engine has almost like separate programs running in the EXE, but from time to time the two synchronize and become one briefly before they split off again and run independently. Now, RDOA was out around 2000/1. At that time, such a design didn't buy you much in terms of improved performance (only smoothness). But finally, most are going to benefit from it in terms of performance.

I said you can easily see this. Where? How? Well, the best place to look for this is during a replan. During a replan, the AI gets busy calculating a new plan (strategy and implicit orders) to achieve some objectives/tasks. With many units on the map, this can be very compute intensive. How do you know that this is happening? Well, usually the game clock just comes to a halt.

But because the engine is multi-threaded, even though the game clock has halted due to the replan, the map continues to move and scroll smoothly. That's because the UI is a different thread from the AI. In a less sophisticated design, the map rendering would be refreshed by the same thread as the AI. At periodic intervals, the main single thread would call a routine to render (update) the map display for the user. Thus, in such an outdated design, a big replan would result in the game appearing to lock up. Furthermore, when the game is computationally very intensive, the map would get very jerky and mouse movement too. Well, that's what makes Paul a skilled engineer, since he long ago (before duo core/quad core machines) anticipated these type of issues and built a forward looking design.


So, if you have been paying attention, then you may see a sneaky little game clue in this discussion. If you are playing and the clock seems to pause, but none of your forces appear to be propagating new orders, then it is likely that the OPFOR AI just did a replan in a big way. I suppose playing MP, you might take this that your opponent just radically altered his plan. (However, I would have to test this to be sure, but it should certainly hold for SP.)

See you thought there wouldn't really be a useful point in this post, but I got to it eventually! :)

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 2:18:21 AM)

As I said BFTB is chock full of little features that make things just a wee bit easier for the player who is not a professional soldier.

Now, if you wil recall, COTA introduced pathing tools to the series. The series have always had pathing parameters for orders. However, back in the RDOA/HTTR day, you could not be totally sure, what route a force might take. When playing with order delays maxed out, you certainly didn't want a nasty route surprise after waiting for six hours. People like me tended to use waypoints fairly liberally to make sure my intentions were known to the engine. I tended to do this by placing waypoints on the key road junctures along the route.

Once the pathing tools appeared in COTA, it became possible to know what route the AI would compute before you issued the actual order. It make it possible to have more faith in the AI. At the same time, when you wanted a brief route override on the AI during a long path, you no longer more than just a few judiciously placed waypoints, since you could infer in advance exactly where they would need to be placed.

Well, the wonderful pathing tool has been updated with a little more helpful information than was available in COTA. You now get an estimated time of travel for the route.

Now, remember that this assumes no hostiles and I believe optimal conditions at NORMAL speed. A real move involves many other factors. Here is an example of what it looks like. The arrow shows the time estimate.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 2:30:59 AM)

Well, I have some questions in to Dave on how these times are computed. Based on my rough calculations here, I get infantry marching on a road doing about 2 mph and vehicles doing 3-6 mph. For me, the vehicle rate seems a bit slow. But then what do I know?

My guess at this point is that this time calculation is highly generic. In another words, I would not be wanting to bet my best friend's life on them. However, I still see quite a bit of utility here. Not so much in the exact time, but to form a relative ratio of the cost of different routes which previously there was no way to do but eyeball it. (again we are negating such things a fatigue)

For example, look at this stretch of pine forest. Suppose I want to march my infantry straight through it.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 2:32:07 AM)

Now, suppose instead I march them along the quickest path.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 2:36:08 AM)

Although I am not completely confident about the exact numbers (and, in any case, there are a great deal of factors involved), however I find the ratio quite interesting. I can see that it will take more than twice the amount of time to take the route straight through those pines. I am sure that you can see a lot of places where these type of ratios should come in handy.

BTW, Dave just allocated a TT to check the mechanism of the calculations. So, perhaps there may be something revealed later on as to the underlying speeds.

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 2:39:52 AM)

Furthermore, two new AI path types have been added for routes: Avoidance and Safest as seen here. But we will leave the details of that to be some motivation to read the manual. :)


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 3:04:42 AM)

Okay, at the moment, I am just reading through the manual (refreshing my memory and looking for new stuff). So, I may not be hitting the most dramatic changes, but still when I come across one, I'll put some emphasis on it and tell you why I think it is such.

COTA had range rings for anti-armor and anti-personel. However, BFTB has enhanced this display and now displays three rings. Effectively, out to your maximum range, your effective range, and the range at which you would be wanting to ambush the enemy.

Did I say ambush? He he he ... Oh, yes you can ambush now. I'll get to that later. In COTA, you didn't really ambush. Instead you dug in infantry (backed up by mortars or arty) into an elevated tree line, and you depended on differential LOS (you could see them where as they were moving with vehicles down a dusty road, but they could not see you). It would be kind of like a pseudo ambush/kill sac. However, BFTB gives you real ambushes (beyond just setting up reverse slope situations). I'll get to this later.

Look for the green lines in this screenshot.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 3:41:50 AM)

Ah, here is a nice improvement and a very, very big change.

Order delays now dynamically scale and are completely arbitrary. Cool! This really gets rid of some of the gaminess; especially in my opening recon game.

In the games before BFTB, order delays were fully waived at the start of a scenario and reinforcements for 59 minutes. Thus, the astute or shall we say gamey player (I admit it) would do some fast recon for those first 58 minutes and on the 59th minute review/revise his orders.


(1) Order delays increase or decrease gradually over a time window. No longer is there this major and abrupt threshold. Like send your MP partner a message on the 58th. minute to make sure he misses the cuttoff! :)

(2) Order delay windows can be arbitrarily large. This can simulate the Americans totally getting caught by the Germans during their offensive.

(3) Instead of simply ranging from 0-100%, order delays can now also exceed 100%! Again this can be used to simulate that intense confusion caused by surprise.

Wow! I can see this is going to take some rethinking on my part.

Initially, I would say that my previous principles of fast recon during these regular windows still holds. You may not have that abrupt threshold, but you don't want to be heading into a scenario deaf and blind. So, from what I see, you may still be able to kick off fast recon on minute #1. However, as soon as you have enough of a picture to act on, then you should start issuing some orders. You are not going to have a major threshold which if you act before, you would have shaved 4-12 hours off your actions. (Simply the sooner you act, the quicker your units will respond.) This is in traditional style scenarios where the delay does not actually start above 100%.

If it starts above 100%, this creates a rather paradoxical situation in that the longer you wait to react, the faster the response. You could say that this simulates the chain-of-command getting themselves organized. Now, from a gaming point of view, I would seem there must be a break even point where acting before a certain time actual results in things happening later as opposed to if you wait to issue your orders? Mathematically, it would seem to be so. You would need to establish a relationship between the length of the force delay and the duration of the window decrementing down to 100%. What's even more fascinating about this situation besides the fact the complexity exceeds my limited mental capabilities to get my mind around it is that this break even point should be unique for each unique force. In general, we can see that the longer a force's delay, the later its break even point. Now, I still don't see how to calculate the break even point, but it does seem clear that as long as you are playing under this inverted order delay situation, then you probably should favor smaller forces the earlier you are in the window.



Does anyone out their have a math background? I am sure this probably requires some differential calculus. Well, if you are the type of person who likes to calculate sonar accoustic behavior in modern subsims, then drop me a line and maybe we can work out a way to calculate this. Of course, my ultimate goal would be to provide you readers here an easy rule of thumb.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 3:51:40 AM)


I just realized that I may have over simplified the above problem of Inverted Order Delays. I think that it may, in fact, be more complicated than just taking the force delay into consideration. One must also take into consideration the ultimate execution of the order and perhaps also consider such factors as the travel time of the force. And wait a minute! Even that might be too simplified, since consider this that movement rate and fatigue vary depending on day or night. Thus, if you could increase your daylight travel by issuing the order sooner even if you reduce your propagation delay by issuing the order later, you might come out ahead ... if you follow me.

I think this is going to require a few PhDs to work this thing out. Gee, thanks, Dave! :)

Okay, folks PM, your resumes or CVs to MarkShot and I will divide up the problem into component pieces. Hopefully, we will have a solution before Game #5 is released! :) SETI will just simply have to be put on hold.

Goodnight, all.

loyalcitizen -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 4:20:59 AM)

I think the best simulation of the surprise would be to not even know the order delays of the suprised units. Can this be made hidden while playing? Me the player, as the highest HQ out there, should really have no idea how long it will take for a strategically surprised unit to respond to orders. I'd hate to watch the delay % tick down to the mathematically correct moment to issue orders.

I read a while back that you can now specify jump off times. Let's say a 1 hour delay Div is currently 500% delayed, so 5 hours. It's currently 6am. Could I issue an order for them to begin moving back west at Noon (6 hours later) and have them start moving at Noon with some reliability?

That said, I think I'll like variable delays.

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 6:04:15 AM)

I think what you really want is randomized blind delays. :)

Well, I don't mean to spoil it for anyone. I am just a systems person, and it was obvious to me that there is some optimal point. As soon as that thought occurs, then the voice inside me says so how would one calculate that? Sorry.

WhiteOwl -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 11:55:20 AM)

Ha ha, this is great. The more this engine progresses, the more Dave manages to factor in additional real life issues, and the less predictable it becomes. "Needs PhDs to optimise" == favours the natural commander who feels the ebb and flow rather than the formulaic (sp?) one. Now if only I was that natural commander :) To me, this is a great achievement. If a computer game can get you to stop calculating and start thinking like your real-life counterpart, then it is achieving the pinnacle of simulation. Can't wait to get my hands on this one!

BTW, it is absolutely great to see you back here. This game, this forum and this community are greatly enriched by your presence.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 1:29:59 PM)


Thank you. You are too kind.

JudgeDredd -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 1:39:20 PM)



Oops MY mistake!!!!

lol - you must've spotted what I spotted! [:D]

Tzar007 -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 6:32:44 PM)

This time travel estimate is really nice. How often did I wonder how much time my force will take to get somewhere or attack something once orders are given down to the lowest unit in the chain of command ? You were left estimating based solely on your experience with the game...well, actually in COTA or HTTR, once orders are propagated down the line, you can select the object location of an unit's order and on the left side of the screen there is a duration indicator in hours telling you roughly when this unit should arrive. But that's something you get AFTER having given the order, not before as it will be in BFTB.

But MarkShot, all these features enhances the realism from the point of view of a real life commander whom has a staff working for him. However, I hope the AI is also now stronger to counter all these new powerful tools the player will have at his hands ! [:)]

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 6:48:43 PM)

I am sure that some of you have notice that I have detoured from my original script. Originally, I began with an internal document of new features and was picking the plums to call to your attention.

I have now switched to basically going through the Reference Manual page by page and highlighting the new features.

Why the change?

Well, besides the fact that I have the attention span of a five year old, the manual needs to reviewed/proof read. So, in taking this approach I am killing two stones with one bird.

In regards to the AAR, you will have to wait a little longer. It is now clear that there will, at least, be another Build. Now, Dave has announced that there will be a demo released, but I am not sure of the timing. In the meantime, I would like to get you an AAR with a build that is as close to the game that you'll be buying as possible.

In any case, I am having a lot of fun looking at these new features. I want to use some of them when I play. I am pretty sure that I probably could get away with simply playing BFTB based on my prior training. But that would be cheating you and myself as well.

I'll be opening up the manual again in a few minutes and continuing.

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 7:01:00 PM)


(1) Much work has gone into the AI. Dave has invested countless days (I could even say perhaps a whole year) in seeing that the AI is both smarter and adheres more closely to real military doctrine. Trust me, Dave plans to spend your CPU cycles wisely as opposed to having cute little button or stack animations to amuse you.

(2) Well, the path tool time results from my testing, I didn't find have direct planning applicability. Now, Dave plans to check the underlying code, but using this stuff is not going to be like logging on to Mapquest to plan a trip by any means. For the moment, those data elements to me seem more applicable to measure relative than absolute time costs.


Also, although I have not gotten there yet, one of the real big areas of time aids is with controlling the time on orders and seeing when things should happen. At the moment, I cannot say too much about it as I haven't reviewed it yet. However, this was always one of the most challenging areas. Even after years of play, it was no piece of cake for me to estimate timing. I often depended on emperical methods to improve my control and planning in a scenario. I think this will have a dramatic impact on compressing some of the learning curve for the game. I don't believe it will remove challenge, but instead allow first time customers to get into the game quicker with order delays turned on. (However, I'll cover all that later.)

Time to read.

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 7:53:40 PM)

Okay, I am just getting into the issuing orders part and there is a whole mess of new stuff. Cool! As soon as I read and play, I'll be in here with some looks at it.

MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 8:27:58 PM)

Previously, if you issued a DEFEND order, your troops would keep trying to reoccupy the objective until there was nothing left of them. In many cases, this is what you wanted, since the objective might be a critical village which controlled a key road juncture.

However, in other cases, maybe not. For example, I put a Bn of infantry in an elevated tree line covering a large open space. Now, I want that tree line for a number of reasons:

(1) It gives the Bn control of movement below.

(2) It is an ideal location to call in arty on the enemy.

(3) The dug-in Bn in cover versus the moving exposed enemy will be a force multiplier.

(4) Differential LOS will also apply (I'll see them and hit them, before they will see me).

(5) The Bn will serve to fix the enemy which will allow my arty to pound the cr*p out of them.

Usually in such a situation, the AI OPFOR will initial be caught in a road column type of move if you are not sitting on a VL. As time goes on, the AI will access the situation and plan to assault you. You may be then be driven from back from the tree line. The question is: Is it worth retaking that tree line? Probably not, you have already forfeited the advantage it confered. You might be better defending deeper in the woods and attrit more of them as they attempt to drive you out. (Remember in such closed terrain, the defender will have the advantage.) Also, it is likely that these woods are not any real VL so you are effectively tying up the enemy and distracting him from the real VL (probably with a smaller force).

Previously, in COTA, the only way you could achieve such behavior would be to first set up in the tree line. Then, once dug-in, switch the formation to "in-situ" so that units which get knocked back will not try to retake their former positions.

Now, RETAKE lets you deal with this tree line situation in a much more elegant fashion. I know that I will be like a dog looking for a tree the next time I play just to use this option! :)


NOTE: If you hold you current position due to a standing ATTACK order, this is not an option.


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 10:02:25 PM)

Okay we have some SOPs which pretty much apply to all orders, since they pertain the intrinsic movement behavior which is available in every order.

Let me start by saying that:

(1) I don't understand BASING.

(2) I have asked why AMBUSH is an SOP, since I would think it only applies at the location of a DEFEND Order.

So, as Forest Gump said, "that's all I have to say about that".


Let me say something general about these SOPs which I am going to discuss. First, in all cases, you could have dealt with these matters arising in other ways. However, it would be tedious and also result in replans which cost you precious time. As a gamer, you make look at these as the AI getting smarter. However, as a simulation of command, you may regard these as additional autonomy being given to your subordinates at the tip of the spear.


AMBUSH tells your units to hold their fire until the enemy is close. As I mentioned, I have questions posted on its usage.


Now, the other three are interesting and quite useful. Let's look at STRAGGLERS first. When you issue an ATTACK from the FUP to the LOCATION, units will move in formation. This could mean that a couple companies of an infantry brigade could end up moving through some very hard terrain across the assigned frontage. Then, throw in some combat and being barraged, and a couple of companies could be completely exhausted. Now, if you want this brigade to go on to do something else, these two companies could hold up every body. Obviously, this becomes more of an issue the larger the force involved, since the chances of this happening increases and the impact is greater on your plans.

So, by turning STRAGGLERS off, you can maintain the tempo of your plans even though a few units may need to fallout.


BYPASS and ATTACKS ... First, I should state that this capability was their for the AI OPFOR from more or less the beginning. If you watched the Task Info Box for the OPFOR, you will see the AI do this on its own when hits a block position. However, now these capabilities are being made available for the player as well.

These pertain to travel and what a force does when it runs into the unexpected.

With BYPASS, rather than fighting their way past, your HQ will try to find another route. So, your usage of this will depend very much on time, the type of units, and potentially the terrain. Like if you are moving armor and there are only two widely separated roads through woods, then BYPASS doesn't look like such a clever move.

With ATTACKS, your force will go into a little huddle and kick some butt. Of course, this also makes them very eager to stop and kick butt whenever the chance presents itself rather than thinking about the big picture like where they are needed.

Again what makes these so useful to you as the player/commander is that this will happen quickly and effectively. You are basically choosing to loosen the reigns on your subordinates.

I also see this as being very useful in terms of recon style missions. How so?

For example, you send out a platoon of stuarts to a key town 20km away where the main attack is going to take place. You want to know where the enemy's main line of defense is so that you can plan your attack. Thus, you don't want your recon effort getting bogged down shooting it out with a German tank crew that took a break to roast sausages on the back of their tank. So, you can just tell them to BYPASS. In the past, all you could do was lower their AGGRO setting suggesting to them not to get into fire fights.

Another example ... suppose those stuarts or a small force are on more of a search and destroy mission. Their orders are to find the enemy positions and neutralize them before the main body comes up the road and gets delayed. Then, normally, the small force would have simply been in a weak bounding overwatch mode. This will cause them to apply maximum fire power to try dislodge the enemy. Also, because it is an assault they will remain in close contact. Now, that alone may not result in "destroy", however backing them up with heavy arty support will do it. In COTA, it is possible that they could have ultimate slipped by enemy units and given up the chance to take them out before the main body followed up. Thus, the ultimate consequences could have been massive confusion and delays.


Going back to RDOA, there was an illustration in the manual of how you could use a MOVE order (shortest path) with infantry and a large frontage to conduct a sweep. Suppose you wanted to clear a wooded area. For those of you who have played this game for a while, you know sometimes it can be very hard to really secure a VL in closed terrain when just a few enemy units keep popping up. As I see it, this gives you both the tool to conduct a sweep through closed terrain and when contact is made to maximize your fire power. In the past, this was not possible.

Part of the reason it was not possible is that the retreat/rout behavior of OPFOR AI units is much more spontaneous than you can give new orders. I also see some potential for this when you are trying to finish off and destroy enemy units. In the past, it was very hard to finish off enemy units if you could not pin them against impassable terrain. I suspect that this option might also help with this problem. It is about the closest tool you have to aggressively pursue and destroy enemy survivors. (I've run into a number of cases such as finding an enemy firebase and wanting to do more than simply displace his guns, but to destroy them. Now, maybe I can sweep and attack.)


MarkShot -> RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD (5/15/2009 10:14:03 PM)

Well, I know the most exciting and fascinating fields that have been added are the START and END times. Sadly, there is another 15 pages of reference manual between me and them. I just don't have time to get to them today as I have other projects. Sorry. Come back later in the weekend and we'll take a look at these together. Also, these puppies are just too important not to run some test trials with. So, I will get some examples going.

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