Shannon V. OKeets
From: Honolulu, Hawaii
Interface for Standing Orders
(as of August 17, 2005)
I have been thinking about how to present the Standing Orders as part of the interface. They would only be included in a PBEM game (I believe), though I guess the players could use them in an Internet game if they wanted. Including SOs in an Internet game could get around the ‘problem’ of needing everyone available at a moment’s notice to make decisions as the non-phasing player. Be that as it may, here is what I currently envision for the SO part of the interface.
At the top of the main screen are two bars: the menu bar and the MWIF common tool bar. I propose to add a SO bar below them as a third bar that runs across the full width of the screen. This bar would not be very high, but it would take up some room. The players could toggle its visibility on and off. For PBEM, I would recommend it be visible at all times.
What the bar would contain is the 24 SO locations. I might merge some of these locations and split others into 2 or 3 pieces. For now, let’s just go with the idea that each of the 24 SO locations has its own icon or button or something. The button would be labeled to indicate what the SO pertains to. I would group the buttons into: PreAction, Naval, Air, and Land.
The label PreAction refers to SOs 1- 3: Initiative, Controlling minors, Setting up reserves for minors, and Reacting to USSR claims to Finland and Bessarabia. Though technically only the first are performed before the action stage of the sequence of play, this is the best title for the group I have come up with so far.
The Air group would contain SOs 4 through 9. The Naval group would contain SOs 10 through 15. And the Land group would be for SOs 16 through 24. Again, I might move these around somewhat depending on which grouping seems most logical when playing the game.
When the player clicks on one of the SO buttons, the interface associated with that SO location will be activated. As a simple case, SO (Initiative) would bring up the window for setting the SO for initiative. I am thinking about maybe combining some of these so the player can review and/or set several SOs at once. For instance, Initiative, Controlling minors, and Reacting to USSR claims to Finland and Bessarabia might be one window with three sections. Note that “Reacting to USSR claims” would only be displayed for the German player, since it does not apply to anyone else.
I am also thinking of combining, or somehow linking, the SOs that send air units out on missions with the SO for Return to base. After all, any air unit that flies a mission needs to return to base (unless it gets shot down). Combining the SOs concerning Land combat also seems appropriate.
My more interesting idea is the interface for setting SOs for air unit missions. What I think might work well is to have all the air units that could be given SOs placed in a column running down the left hand side of the screen. I have written about this column before, using it for placing units on the map during the set up and reinforcement phases. Its original purpose was to identify off-map tactical air units that could fly missions to a specific on-map hex. Anyway, I now have a fourth use for the column of units running down the left hand side.
When the player clicks on SO 5 (on the SO location bar), he is saying he wants to either review or set SOs for “Defensive air support for land or naval units and factories”. At that time, the left hand column of units would be populated with the air units who are eligible to fly defensive air support. Now, next to each unit would be a set of 10 boxes. The boxes would correspond to the enemy air missions the unit might defend against:
(1) port attacks,
(2) naval air combat,
(3) strategic bombing,
(4) carpet bombing,
(5) air transported land units,
(7) ground strikes,
(8) ground support,
(9) air resupply (ATR reorganization of land units), and one last box for
(10) fighters escorting bombers.
The above grouping into pairs is to show that there would be a grid two boxes wide by 5 boxes high. Each box would be 1/5 the height of a unit. Bombers would only be capable of flying missions #2 and #8. Fighters could fly all of the missions.
Each box would indicate whether the air unit has a standing order to defend against that enemy mission type. Indicators would be:
(A) Unit should not respond to the mission type,
(B) Unit has a SO for the mission type, but it is from a previous impulse or turn (it’s stale),
(C) Unit was given a SO for the mission type this impulse (it’s fresh).
Note that there are 10 different status flags for each fighter. This is part of the reason designing the interface for SO 5 is so difficult. The fighters have a lot of options.
By clicking on a box next to an air unit, the player activates the interface to set the SO for that air unit against the corresponding mission type. Several units could be selected simultaneously. This is to permit the player to give several units the same SO at the same time. In particular, this would be useful when having some fighters fly as escorts (#10) for bombers (#2 or #8).
Entering the standing order starts by clicking on one of the boxes next to an air unit. The program will immediately jump the cursor to the air unit on the map. If the air unit is not on the part of the map that is visible, then the map display will be redrawn so that the air unit is in the center of the screen. The player then ‘flies’ the air unit to the hex (or sea area) that he wants protected. What we have accomplished so far is set an unconditional SO for air units to defend hexes against each possible mission type.
Somehow I want to let the player review the SOs for each air unit. One way to do this would be to have the player click on the air unit in the left hand column (as opposed to one of the 10 boxes alongside it). Clicking on the air unit could light up each of the 10 little boxes in turn and draw a line from the unit’s position on the map to the target hex. While the first box was lit, the line would be shown for a few seconds and then the next box would light up and another line drawn. Lines would only need to be drawn for the mission types for which the air unit has a standing order. Alternatively, all the air units defending against port attacks (or whatever) could be shown in sequence. The goal here would be to visually show the player what the standing orders are with a minimal number of mouse clicks or key presses.
There are still several pieces missing from SOs for “Defensive air support for land or naval units and factories”. I would like the player to be able to control: how many air units are sent to a hex, which units are sent, and prioritize which hexes are protected. Something to think about.
Perfection is an elusive goal.