Shannon V. OKeets
From: Honolulu, Hawaii
I have gone beyond a simple summary and have created a draft design document for these three elements of MWIF. The sections on sound and historical detail are very similar to what I posted as summaries previously for those areas. The animation section is brand new. Let me know what you think.
Historical Details, Animations, and Sound for MWIF
(as of September 13, 2005)
[Copyright is always a concern when dealing with these matters.]
Historical details, animations, and sound are not essential elements of playing MWIF. However, most players will find them to be attractive additions if the history is informative, animations tasteful, and sound entertaining. Even then, some players might find these extra features demand so many of their system resources, that they interfere with actually playing a game. Also, players’ judgments of what is informative, tasteful, and entertaining can vary widely. Therefore, all of these features are optional. Indeed, the program starts with ‘splash’ screens while the game loads and the player is given the option of turning these off as one of his first decisions.
MWIF has two broad categories of options: (1) optional rules for what is included in the simulation of WW II, and (2) game interface options. The former are set before a game begins and usually remain unchanged for the rest of that game. The later can be changed by the player at any time during the game, more or less depending on his mood. Historical details, animation, and sound fall into the latter category.
Historical details are displayed only when requested by the player, either indirectly by setting an option, or by direct request. They do not automatically appear unless the player has turned on the option for that to happen. The player can set these options when a game begins and, at any time during a game, change them by using a simple pull down menu. Because there are many different aspects of historical detail included in MWIF, ranging from simple text, through photographs, to short film clips from the period, the player has more than one control. Each element of the historical detail (see below for what the elements are) has its own on/off toggle switch.
Animations can be time consuming while playing a game. Like the historical detail, individual animation elements can be toggled on/off at any time during game play.
Both music and sound effects are optional and can be turned on and off at any time during a game. By default they start on, but as MWIF loads, the player is notified how he can turn them off. This is so a player with a less powerful computer system can speed up loading the program. When a player first starts MWIF, it is strongly suggested that he review the game interface screen where he can set a host of options to personalize what MWIF does and does not do.
Individual sound effects and music are pre-configured when the player first installs MWIF. At any time thereafter, the player can select a specific sound from a menu for some of the locations in the game sequence where sounds are generated (e.g., unit movement, unit disruption, unit destruction, bombs falling). This is not an elaborate system, but it provides for some personalization of the sound effects. Alternatively, the program can be configured to select sound effects randomly from the menu choices. Detailed options for the music are described in the section on sound below.
WW II Look and Feel
MWIF strives for a WWII look and feel, that is slightly different depending on which major power the player controls (Germany, Italy, Japan, the USA, the Commonwealth, the USSR, France, and China). The goal is to draw the player into the game and let them experience the atmosphere of the world of the late 1930's and early 1940's. At times it should be luxurious and at others grainy and down to earth. After all, it is primarily the history of WW II that attracts players to this game.
To achieve this goal of look and feel, MWIF provides both military and civilian images from the period. These include photographs, video, newspapers, and other visuals that are memorable from the era. These images appear not only in the opening screens but also encompass overall design of the windows and forms used to present information during game play. More detailed textual descriptions, with additional images, are available upon request by the player. For example, there are background pieces on famous soldiers and statesmen for each of the major powers. Many of the images are in black and white or sepia, when that is appropriate. As an ideal, MWIF is a time machine, where the player can not only replay the conflict, but also relive it.....without getting hurt , of course.
MWIF includes a short history and important dates for each country, including minor countries that were important during WW II. This follows in the footsteps of Australian Design Group’s standard procedure to provide player notes for each scenario. Expanding on that concept, MWIF in some cases provides much more information on the background of the countries so the player can understand their recent past at the time of WWII and why they favored the Axis or Allied side. For example, here is a description for Algeria.
June 12, 1830 : France invades Algeria with 34,000 soldiers and occupies Algiers after a three-week campaign. France used the failure of the blockade as a reason for a military expedition against Algiers.
1834 : France annexed the occupied areas of Algeria, which had an estimated Muslim population of about 3 million, as a colony. Colonial administration in the occupied areas (the so-called régime du sabre, government of the sword) was placed under a governor general, a high-ranking army officer invested with civil and military jurisdiction, who was responsible to France’s minister of war.
1881 : France invaded Tunisia, claiming that Tunisian troops had crossed the border to Algeria, France's main colony in Northern Africa. Italy, also interested in Tunisia, protested, but did not risk a war with France.
[The Wikipedia is a good source for this.]
When the player selects a unit, a large panel appears that provides historical details about the unit. This may include photographs, text, and a short description on the history of the unit during the war. It can be modified by the players so they can exchange files on units (or create a library of same) which could be used to replace the ones that come with MWIF. All the historical unit information is also accessible from an in-game browse function that lets the player read about every unit in the game.
Not every named unit appearing in MWIF has an historical counterpart, with many of them either being units composed from several historical elements or hypothetical units which exist to enable players to take the war in directions that it did not go historically. Another aspect of the history on each unit is that some of them changed dramatically during the course of the war. As a simple example, the air units at the start of the war represent about 250 planes while by the end of the war they are representing close to 500.
Textual information can include:
∙ A short description of the unit’s creation and composition.
∙ Numbers of men and machines with descriptions of the later’s capabilities.
∙ Equipment upgrades, replacements, TOE, and commanders.
∙ Historical engagements, campaigns, victories, and defeats.
∙ MWIF game (current and previous) engagements, campaigns, victories, and defeats.
Visual images vary but can include:
∙ Plate drawings of the uniform or primary vehicle.
∙ For some ships, side color views of the ships and blueprints for the standard 3 engineering views (top, side, and end on).
∙ Unit patches and insignias.
Here is an example for the Sopwith Camel. It gives information about the unit for MWIF “this is one of 'x' Sopwith Camels in the game” and from its actual history " The Sopwith Camel entered service in May 1917 and was armed with twin Vickers machine guns. It was a bastard of a plane to fly and the average life expectancy of an English pilot was a little more than two weeks. It has been claimed that the Sopwith Camel was responsible for shooting down 1,294 enemy planes during the war. “
While the entries provided with MWIF are merely meant to spotlight some units without being exhaustive, the players can add to the database that comes with the game. This database could get quite extensive, especially if histories of each military unit has it's own detailed entry.
MWIF permits the player to access historical information on some of the important locations on the map as well. This primarily means major battles fought or events that happened at a particular location. The players can modify/augment this information.
It has been suggested that a capability be provided to shade the map to show what the Axis and Allies historically controlled at any time during the game. This would involve a lot of research and data entry that is beyond the scope of MWIF Product 1. However, MWIF will contain the tools for someone to build a saved game file that corresponds to what happened historically. The review capability would apply to the strategic map view and not the detailed map view. The strategic map already displays which countries hold which hexes and all that will be added is giving the players the capability of defining which countries held which hexes historically. This should only be done for the 2 month turn intervals.
Essentially, most countries start the game controlling all the hexes of their home countries (China being a notable exception). Taking a snapshot of the world map at the start of each 2 month period to identify historically which hexes changed control would be the data for the file. Someone just has to do that, hex by hex, for the 35 two month periods that were WW II. When you think of this as incremental changes, it is not quite so overwhelming. The result of all that labor would be the ability to use the saved game animation feature to watch a replay of WW II.
MWiF contains is a WWII time line that can be filtered by theater of operations. For example, the European TOO contains the following:
Sep/Oct Germany invades Poland, captures Warsaw, and Poland surrenders.
Nov/Dec USSR invades Finland.
Jan/Feb Finland surrenders to USSR.
Mar/Apr Germany invades Denmark, Denmark surrenders, Germany invades Norway, captures Oslo, and Norway surrenders.
May/Jun Allies land at Narvik, Norway and later withdraw troops from Norway.
Germany invades Netherlands, Belgium, France, and captures Antwerp and Paris.
MWIF maintains two parallel time lines that show the actual history versus the game's history. Each turn the player can view the historical events that happened. For example, this enables the player to compare when he captured Paris against the historical date. When capitals or other major cities are captured or liberated, text descriptions are displayed about those events. The players can add to this database.
In addition to the time line, MWIF provides a broad overview of the war with paragraph sized "snapshot" summations of important aspects of the war (e.g., the Battle of the Atlantic). Other odd bits about the war can be added to these files by the players. For example, various espionage activities could be incorporated in to the description of the Battle of the Atlantic.
Under the category of animation MWIF primarily employs two types of presentation: film clips from the era, and animation of movement and combat. The former are vintage footage of the war. The latter employ the same map and unit depictions that are used during game play. There was some consideration of using animated figures (a.k.a. sprites) to depict movement and combat. This was not done for the following reasons.
(1) The scale of the game has each hex represent approximately 100 km, the land units represent tens of thousand of men, the air units represent hundreds of planes. Only the naval units represent individual or a small number of ships. Showing sprites of individual men or vehicles to depict movement or combat is a gross misrepresentation of what is being simulated.
(2) Creating this kind of animation would be labor intensive and time consuming. Given how much other work is required to create MWIF, sprites would have to be very important to warrant the effort.
(3) Canned animation routines become boring quite quickly and are likely to be turned off after the player has seen them a couple of dozen times. They might be a glitzy effect at first, but in the long run, would add little value to the game.
By comparison, the replay animations described below would be easier to program. And, because they would be based upon what actually happens in a game, the players are likely to sustain interest in them for as long as they play MWIF.
MWIF includes old newsreels as well as footage of battle actions accompanied by sounds of weapons and equipment in combination with a timed sequence of historical radio reports and clips of newspaper headlines. These WWII era film clips punctuate major events. They are infrequently shown, since their repetition would become boring. Instead they appear at momentous occasions such as:
∙ When USSR demands of borderlands or pact areas.
∙ When war is declared
∙ When who controls a victory city changes
∙ When a country surrenders.
∙ When the Japan first port attacks the USA
∙ When Germany first bombs London (and the Commonwealth Berlin)
∙ When Allies invade mainland Europe
∙ When any country’s capital falls
The footage includes: Stukas diving with air raid sirens blaring in the background, SBDs diving on ships, on ships evading bombs amidst columns of water, planes surrounded by AA fire, an A-Bomb exploding, tanks moving across the steppe, troops manning machine guns, cavalry charging, ships docked for repair, boxes of B-17 dropping their loads all at the same time, a German heavy fighter firing all weapons at US bombers, the traditional US flag at Iwo Jima, landing crafts opening and troops pouring out of them, and so on. These are short, optional, in-game movies on major events with the expectation that a player is likely to only watch them once. Their purpose is to enhance the game experience.
Game history and replay
The program maintains a game record log that at the atomic level stores everything that happens in a game. This log can be used in combination with a saved game to return a game position to any point in a game by ‘scrolling’ either forward or backward in time. By referencing the game record log, MWIF has the capability for replaying the history of a game in progress or generating a replay for after action analysis/reports.
The replay uses the same screens that are used for playing the game. However, the player has control over which screens are shown. For example, he can elect to omit viewing detailed screens on combat, production, neutrality pact marker placement, naval moves, and so on. During replay the program can make all these things happen as they did in the recorded game without having to update the screens religiously, step by step. Instead, the detailed map can simply “jump ahead” in game time to each new position. As an added feature, for the seriously weird players, the game can be played backwards.
The two primary screens used for replay are the global map and the detailed map. The global map uses a 2 by 2 pixel square to represent each hex on the map. One of the standard game options is to color each hex to indicate which major power controls it. Using this map the player can see the entire world on one screen and watch the global progress made by each major power, impulse by impulse, in terms of hexes controlled. Alternatively, the player can use the detailed map for replay and watch individual units move hex by hex, or jump from starting hex to ending hex each impulse, or all of the units for each player instantaneously transition from their starting positions at the beginning of an impulse to where they ended up at the end of an impulse.
In other words, the players can control the map that is viewed (which portion and the scale - zooming in and out), the time interval between updates (both speed of the replay and simulated time), and which elements of the game simulation are displayed on the screen. Other options let the player limit the replay to specified countries or units. One way to do this would be by theater of operations. Another would be by unit type (land, air, or naval). And yet another would be to just view combats (land, air, or naval).
The replay feature is available during a game, but the view of the opponents’ actions are restricted to what is normally visible during the game. This feature lets the player review his moves for each turn immediately prior to committing to them.
The game record log is available for generating summary accounts of the game. For example, it can be used to tabulate by type, country, and theater of operations, the number of units: on the map, moved, in combat, killed, damaged, disrupted, put into production, and arriving as reinforcements. Another use would be to generate a table/chart that shows and compares the production capacity of the major power turn by turn, including how that production capacity was spent.
During a game the summary accounts can be used to report where combat occurred and the results of those combats, with more details on individual combats available a mouse click away.
Unit Movement and Combat
The replay capability lets a player watch how his opponent moved units on the game map. The replay of a unit’s movement can be shown in detail or simply the start and end positions indicated. The speed at which this happens is under the control of the player as it occurs. That is, the player can speed it up, slow it down, or even interrupt the sequence, as his mood dictates.
When units are destroyed, damaged, or disrupted in battle, very quick animations of the event are shown to communicate what has happened. These use smoke and flames and other simple visuals to indicate the level of damage inflicted. Damaged factories and resources are shown similarly. After land combat, the counters "slide" as they retreat or advance after combat. Air units also "slide" from their base hex to the target hexes and back, when they return to base.
For each combat, the player has the option of seeing the combat in detail. This is done by positioning the involved units in a separate panel, arranged for combat and in a layout such that all the involved units can be readily seen. The various statistics on the odds, the die rolls, and the results are displayed in the margins. The objective is to communicate not only what happened but why. So, the effects of armor, supply, surprise, terrain, etc. are displayed either in text or some other form. For example, the display could start with the basic strength of the various units engaged and then modify them for terrain and supply. Auxiliary units such as air, artillery, engineers, and HQs could be added incrementally, with the various shift factors such as supply and disrupted units the “piece de la resistance” (pardon the pun). Hopefully, the result will be that the player learns how the different elements of combat are integrated in the game to simulate reality. As always, the level of detail shown is optional and controllable by the player. A summary tabular report for each impulse is also available if the player isn’t interested in why his units just got killed, but just wants to hurry up and get more of them killed.
Other game actions possible for animation
Factories, oil refineries, resources, manpower, and partisan levels could be depicted visually. The sea and rivers, rather than having given a flat, static texture, could show animations of waves, sea shore, surf, and flowing water. These animations could also reflect the weather with frost, snow, clouds, rain, etcetera. It would be nice if the current status of a nation’s war status could be indicated visually. For example, somehow revealing Germany’s shift from enthusiasm in 1940 to sheer desperation in 1944.
Because some players have firm faith in their ability to effect die rolls by striking a bargain with the universe, MWIF includes animation of the dice rolling, with the random number generated by the program modified by which key on the keyboard the player chooses to initiate the die roll. Press the right key and you will get the right die roll! Other playful animations might mimic typical things that occur during a board game of WIF.
Historical music can create atmosphere without being requiring a lot of system resources. It gives the player a different feeling for each nation and is educational as well, enabling a player to become familiar with different countries’ anthems and marches. National anthems are played for major events, a "national march" for national victories, and a "national hymn" for defeats. Some examples are:
USA: Anthem: "The Star Spangled Banner" (Sousa), March: "The Stars and Stripes Forever" (Sousa), Air Victory: "Wild Blue Yonder", Naval Victory: "Anchors Aweigh", Hymn: "Adagio For Strings" (Barber).
UK: Anthem: "God Save the King", March: "Rule Britannia", Hymn: "War Requiem" (Britten)
During more subliminal periods (e.g., planning) appropriate music from the era for the country is played: Big Band Music, classical German marches, music by Russian composers, etcetera. Propaganda speeches, (Tokyo Rose, Goebbels radio addresses, fireside chats, and so on), corresponding to the game date, are played to help maintain the WW II atmosphere.
Music can be repeated somewhat more often than a film clip before it gets old, but in addition, the player has other options for avoiding boring repetition. Each country has its own folder of MP3's to which the players can add their own selections. Also, MWIF does not require a full screen display, so a player can select his own music to be playing in the background during a game.
As units move or engage in combat, appropriate sounds are played. This also happens for certain screens. Sounds might be repeated somewhat more often than video, but worrying about too much repetition is important. In particular, every time a player clicks on a unit (to select the unit, inspect the stack, move, or fight), a simple "click" sound is produced rather than something more distinctive, which would quickly become annoying.
Industrial clanging for the production screen,
Tropical jungle sounds when examining a hex stack in Burma.
Diesel rumbling or the noise of the tracks when tanks move,
Noise of trucks when motorized units move,
Noise of boots when leg troops move,
Inline or radial engine noise for aircraft maneuvering,
Train toots for movement by rail
Varies depending on the kind of attacking and defending units/weapons and combat result
Explosion sound when a unit is attacked and destroyed,
Stukas diving when flying ground strike missions
Noise of the relevant type of gun AA fires, when ART bombs, etc...
Parachutes opening on an airborne assault.
Words "Go, go, go" when paratroopers jump,
Perfection is an elusive goal.