Behind the Lines
February 2008

In This Issue

 

Grazing Fire

Hello and welcome back to yet another edition of the Matrix Games newsletter. We hope that you've found our meatier historical pieces interesting enough to whet your appetite about periods of history that were otherwise uninteresting to some of you. You can also expect that we'll have more exclusive screenshots and maybe even videos in the coming months (especially when the Matrix crew starts to break out the rucksacks and ship out to Origins).

Speaking of shipping out, this holiday season I was able to free up enough time to escape the Matrix Games bunker and head across the pond to Paris for Christmas and New Years. Being a wargamer and a World War II junky, Paris and the surrounding area was loaded with plenty of things to marvel and snap copious pictures at. My girlfriend, whom I was visiting in Paris, took me around to all the standard tourist destinations: the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre (five times, too), and plenty of other old churches with beautiful architecture… blah blah blah.

"This is Paris!" I thought, "The 2nd Armored Division fought the Germans to liberate this city during WWII! There's gotta be something 'wargame related' to take in." Churches are great and all, but you can only roll Panzers or Shermans into this majestic city on a PC so many times before you start to wonder what you're missing if you could actually go to these historical places and see for yourself - firsthand and in the flesh.

I made my plans known to my loving girlfriend who immediately put up defenses and obstacles to these aspirations like she was reconstructing the Maginot Line. I can't say I blame her; she had made the mistake of traveling with me to meet Victor Reijkersz (of People's Tactics/Advanced Tactics fame) in Rotterdam where we proceeded to drink large volumes of good Dutch beer and talk incessantly about wargames. (The beginnings of which are pictured below.) Four hours into a conversation about which of SSI's Panzer General games were the best, my girlfriend finally cracked and begged us to talk about something other than video games. Understandably, any further mention of wargaming or military history for the duration of my visit to Europe was met by my girlfriend with a cringe and a frantic search for reasons not to engage either topic directly.


Sean Drummy (left) and Victor Reijkersz (right)

This pretty much made a walking tour of Normandy out of the question, so I settled for a visit to Invalides which was prominently positioned in a beautiful part of Paris. The impressive group of structures called Invalides packed a fantastic two-for-one punch of Napoleon's tomb and a massive military museum which had housed artifacts and instruments of war from ancient times all the way up to the end of the Second World War.

I must say that the French have a very "interesting" take on history as their considerably lengthy exhibit on World War II seemed to have a, shall we say, "disproportionally large" emphasis on the role of Charles De Gaulle and the French Underground. Had I known next to nothing about the Second World War I may very well have left that portion of the museum convinced that De Gaulle and a handful of French Freedom Fighters liberated Paris, Southern France, and punched Hitler in the nose all single-handedly!

Just in case Paris needs to field a Medieval army on the fly...

I'm exaggerating, of course, as I couldn't actually read many of the exhibit descriptions and information panels strewn throughout the museum since they were only in French and my girlfriend's French, while quite good, was not exactly up to snuff when it came to nuanced military terminology. This is not to say Invalides was a let down, on the contrary it was a blast. I learned plenty on that trip, more so about how the French view history than about the actual historical topics the museum depicted, but as the French say: C'est la vie!

Enjoy the newsletter,
Sean Drummy and the Newsletter Team


Comments? Questions? We'd love to hear from you through our feedback email address.


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This Week's Feature: Ernie Pyle: The Great American War Correspondent

The Feature Article section is designed to give an in-depth look behind one of Matrix's popular titles or to provide interesting supplements to our product line. Expect to see developer diaries, AARs, industry commentary, and the like here.

Ernie Pyle: The Great American War Correspondent

"He looks so peaceful, like he was asleep"

On 18 April, 1944, America's most famous war correspondent, Ernie Pyle, did something typical: he went to visit a combat unit no other correspondent was writing about. All the big battles and high drama were centered on Okinawa, but eighteen miles away, on a much smaller and less important island of Ie Shima, the 77th Infantry Division was embroiled in the same kind of ghastly, close range fighting as that raging on Okinawa - only nobody at home was paying any attention. Pyle went there to write about their war, so that people at home WOULD pay attention.

He was burned-out and haggard of soul by then. He'd been covering the war since December, 1940, when his first dispatches gave a graphic account of the London Blitz. He covered the fighting in Tunisia ("I went four weeks without a bath or spending one night in a bed"), in Sicily, Italy, Normandy. He covered those campaigns from the front. He lived with the GIs, ate their food, slept in the mud with them, and in his columns, he told their stories, gave them faces, names, and home towns. He forged a bond with them that was deeper and more profound than any other war correspondent's.

And he shared their danger. German bombers destroyed the Italian villa he was sleeping in one night at Anzio. The only thing that saved his life was a last-minute agreement with another correspondent to switch bedrooms. The other correspondent died; Pyle escaped with numerous but superficial cuts and bruises. As much to honor his writing as anything else, the Army awarded him the Purple Heart - of all the honors Ernie received - including a well-earned Pulitzer Prize - that was the only one he took any pride in.

He narrowly escaped death a second time in Normandy, when he went dangerously forward to witness Operation Cobra, the gigantic air strike that finally broke the stalemate in the Normandy hedgerows. He was standing close to Lt. General Lesley McNair when a load of 500-lb bombs drifted slightly off-target and landed inside American lines. McNair was blown apart; Ernie escaped, again, with minor flesh wounds and temporary hearing loss.

When he returned to the States in the autumn of 1944, he was a gaunt, perpetually wired, prematurely aged man (he was, in back, 44 years old, but he looked more like 64; he chain-smoked and put away a lot more booze than was good for any 44-year-old man, and sometimes his hands trembled when he sat down to type a new column. He had seen far more of war and combat and death than most frontline infantrymen. And although he loved the soldiers, and made damned sure the readers at home understood what they had endured and what they had accomplished, he had grown to hate war itself.

"I had to leave, for one reason only," he confided in a colleague. "I've just got to stop. I've had all I can take for a while."

But Ernie Pyle couldn't stop. There was still a mighty big war being fought in the Pacific, and he felt honor-bound to see that conflict, too, at first hand, and to tell the "folks back home" about the courage, the dedication, the sacrifice, and the unreported daily misery being endured, with quiet stoic bravery, by their sons in uniform.

In April, 1945, all the world's attention was focused on the apocalyptic struggle for Okinawa. So naturally, Ernie chose to go to a place no other correspondent had bothered to visit: Ie Shima, a craggy eleven-square-mile island just four miles west of Okinawa's Motobu Peninsula. On Ie Shima -- totally unsung and barely mentioned in the newspapers -- the Army's 77th Division was waging a campaign every bit as bitter, savage, and merciless as the one being fought on Okinawa. By the time it was over, the 77th would suffer 1,137 casualties (the Japanese lost 4, 709) - so much blood in a fight that only lasted four-and-a-half days!

As always, Ernie wanted to be up front where his "boys" were fighting and dying. A jeep driver volunteered to take him there, assuring Pyle that the area they would be driving through had been "pretty much cleared of Japs".

There was at least one Nambu machine-gunner who hadn't been "cleared", and when the jeep swung around a coral outcropping and started uphill, it came right into his sights. The driver dove into a ditch and survived. Ernie Pyle took a single round in the left temple. He died instantly. When the word spread, dozens of soldiers hurried to the spot, many openly weeping. And they buried Ernie Pyle in a place (the front lines) and in a manner he would have chosen: an infantryman's grave. At twilight, the burial team drove a hand-painted marker into the hard ground, and wrote upon it a simple statement of fact (that, too, Ernie would have appreciated):

On this spot, the 77th Division lost a buddy: Ernie Pyle, April 18, 1945

Yesterday, February 4, 2008, a previously unknown photo of Ernie Pyle's body was published for the first time. It turned up in an obscure archive; no one knows who snapped the picture, the negative vanished long ago. Aside from the thin line of blood drying on his chin, Ernie looks asleep and at peace, his hands folded and his body relaxed.

In honor of a man who was, almost certainly, the finest war correspondent of his time, we reproduce this last photograph here, taken so soon after the ambush that his flesh was not yet cold:


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Historical Perspective

The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." This week, Will Trotter gives us the sixth and final of a series of articles about the historic Saipan operation during WWII. The following is an excerpt of a larger portion which can be found on the Matrix webpage. The first, second, third, fourth, and fifth installments are also available to read on the Matrix website.

Night of the Banzai Charges: The Strange and Bloody Struggle for Saipan - Part Six

William R. Trotter

Conclusion: The Great Marianas Turkey Shoot

On the morning of June 18, 1944, events on the island of Saipan, and in the seas around it, were approaching a climax. From every scouting report and map-study session, it looked almost inevitable that the greatest sea battle of the Pacific War was about to unfold in the island-studded waters around the Marianas chain, and the American naval commanders, Admirals Turner and Spruance, had disposed their forces to counter the vast pincers movement (Operation A Go) planned by wily Japanese Admiral Ozawa, as recounted in Part IV.

On land, the commander of all American grounds forces, General Holland M. ("Howling Mad") Smith had committed his floating reserve, the U.S. Army's 27th Division, giving him one full-strength, rested, regimental combat team (the 165th RCT (regarded as the best-trained and best-led component of the 27th , vigorously led by Colonel G. W. Kelly, USA), in addition to the 2nd and 4th Marine divisions already in position and fired-up, despite their lack of sleep, by the resounding defense victory on the night of June 16-17.

The renewed offensive made good progress. By 1400, one battalion of the 165th, driving hard over mostly level ground, had reached the SW corner of Aslito airfield, while another battalion was making respectable progress, against somewhat stiffer resistance, in clearing the Japanese from a commanding ridge between that end of the airfield and Cape Obian. The 2nd Marine Division, facing the undulating heights leading to the summit of Mt. Topachau, , encountered worse terrain and numerous prepared enemy fortifications, but its attacks also made good progress, and by the end of the day, the American enclave north of Beach Green had more than doubled in size.

One reason for the Americans' steady progress was improved communications between the ground forces and the naval gunfire line offshore, which was now able to deliver heavy, accurate fire against any Japanese position that was holding up the advance. Air support, though skillful, was much limited by the fact that Admiral Spruance had withdrawn his big carriers, repositioning them to meet Ozawa's approaching fleets, which in turn meant that the Marines could call on air support only from the small "jeep" carriers still in the vicinity of Saipan. But those sorties were guided expertly toward their targets by the Marines' own spotter planes, the nimble little Stinson "Grasshoppers" (small, agile, wooden airplanes closely resembling the civilian "Piper Cub"), which were assigned to the escort carriers and had ground-support as their only mission. Their fearless pilots, ignoring heavy but mostly inaccurate Japanese ground fire, orbited targets designated by frontline observers below, and marked them with smoke whenever a flight of carrier planes was available for an attack. If no aircraft were available, the Grasshopper pilots sent their fire-mission requests to the Marines' organic artillery, which always responded with accurate, heavy barrages, burning up a prodigious quantity of ammunition. Advancing swiftly behind the rockets and napalm of the carrier planes, or the punishing drumfire barrages of their own 105s, Smith's Marines were able to subdue one enemy strong point after another.

Read on here to continue the final part of Night of the Banzai Charges: The Strange and Bloody Struggle for Saipan...


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Game Spotlight: Gary Grigsby's War Between the States Screenshot Gallery

Gary Grigsby's War Between the States is the the latest project underway at 2 by 3 Games. It features a strategic level turn-based gameplay style set during the American Civil War with plenty innovative twists to bring a unique feel to a frequently covered period.


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Latest News

In this section we provide a rundown of the latest updates from Matrix Games, just in case you missed a press release or two.

  1. Matrix Games Announces the Titans of Steel Valentines Day Giveaway! - Nothing says Valentines Day like some absolutely free futuristic destruction!
  2. Battle of Britain II – Wings of Victory Now Available from Matrix Games - Scramble the Spitfires! A hard hitting action/strategy blend is in the skies and on its way
  3. A New Updated Demo Available for Hornet Leader PC! - The popular Hornet Leader PC demo gets some fancy new upgrades and is ready for action
  4. Empires in Arms Gets An Update! - Plenty of improvements, an updated in-game manual, and lots more come with this massive first update!
  5. Carriers at War Is Updated! - The update will bring a brand new scenario called Tarawa taking place in November 1942, a hefty number of editor improvements to make custom scenarios that much easier to create, and plenty of gameplay improvements and scenario tweaks.
  6. John Tiller’s Battleground Civil War Updated - This classic turn-based strategy title just got even better
  7. A New Close Combat – Modern Tactics Update Is Now Available! - Semper fi, Marine! Plenty of new units and air support assets available in this new update!
  8. Napoleon in Italy Is Updated - The new v1.05 update includes a number of balance changes to the Piedmont armies and campaign, fixes an AI general issue and tweaks the balance for readiness and cohesion regeneration.
  9. Democracy Now Available From Matrix Games! - Do YOU have what it takes to run a country?
  10. Advanced Tactics: World War II Is Updated - A new update roars towards hard drives everywhere like a shot from a Tiger tank
  11. Matrix Games Announces Three New Game Editions - This new product classification system aims to clarify the contents of each game package to make it easier for customers to know what to expect when they purchase a physical copy of a Matrix Games product.
  12. Hornet Leader PC Gets a Major Update! - This new v1.2 update includes many improvements and fixes - a must download for any Hornet Leader PC fan!
The latest releases from the Matrix Games lineup.

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Frag with the Matrix Staff - A Weekly Gaming Gathering

Believe it or not, it's not all business here at Matrix. After all, we are a company that publishes video games. If we didn't engage in any sort of digital entertainment we'd be frauds! The Matrix staff recently caught word that The Wargamer has rented out a Call of Duty 4 server and they're looking for people to join in on the fun.

Since a good deal of the Matrix staff is already quite addicted to Call of Duty 4, it was only natural that we flock to this server on a weekly basis to shoot digital bullets at one another.

So the bottom line is, if you like Call of Duty 4 and dig servers with low pings and a relaxed, fun environment, there's no reason not to stop by The Wargamer's Call of Duty 4 server evenings during weekdays to see if the Matrix staff is hanging out and having some digital fun. So without further adieu - the server information:

Server name: The Wargamer's CoD4 Server
IP Address: 69.90.34.10:28960

If you can't FIND or CONNECT to the server using the "Join Server" screen try this:

Connect to the server through your console manually. Go to Options and enable your console. Press the tilde (~) key to bring up the console and type: "connect 69.90.34.10:28960" (without the quotes). This should always connect you.

We also have a Teamspeak server that anyone from the community can hop on to and chat with fellow players as they seek to destroy one another. To join our server just download and install Teamspeak and connect to 204.13.13.11 to chat!

We hope to see you there!


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Help Wanted at Matrix Games

That's right - you heard correctly. Matrix Games is currently looking for a few good men (or women too, we are an equal opportunity employer after all) to help bring wargamers everywhere some awesome products. Right now, Matrix is particularly interested in hearing from anyone ready, willing, and able to take these positions:

  • Video Tutorial Creator - Matrix Games is looking for people who have experience in manual writing and video editing to create video tutorials to teach gamers how to play the latest Matrix Games titles without having to read a manual. The candidate should be well-versed with video capture software like Camtasia and knowledgeable in video compression techniques.

    Responsibilities for this position include playing and intimately learning Matrix Games titles and then writing a tutorial script for short video tutorial modules. The Video Tutorial Creator must also record reading the tutorial script while playing the game and illustrating the main points of the tutorial. The position will also require that the Video Tutorial Creator render the video file into an appropriate format both for CDROMs and online downloadable video files. Strong verbal and technical skills are needed for this position (and a sexy voice can't hurt your chances either).

  • Promotional Video Creator - Matrix Games is looking for articulate and technically proficient people who can create promotional videos for upcoming Matrix Games titles. The responsibilities of this position include creating a short video for an unreleased Matrix Games product that explains the basic mechanics of the title in addition to other major selling points.

    Promotional videos will generally contain a recording of gameplay to be done by the Promotional Video Creator in addition to voiceover, also the responsibility of the Promotional Video Creator. Experience in creating dramatic, visually appealing videos to add polish to these promotional videos is a big plus. Applicants must be acquainted with popular video capture software like Camtasia and well versed with video compression techniques.

Any interested candidate should shoot an email over to jobs@matrixgames.com. For anyone who has previously applied for a position and not heard back, we apologize for any misgivings. The sheer volume of applicants we recieve makes it very difficult for us to respond to everyone individually. We assure you though, every applicant is looked at for the position in earnest!


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A Parting Shot

As mentioned in Grazing Fire, we've got a plenty busy summer planned for this year so if things have appeared quiet on the Matrix front, fear not: we're resting and refitting for what should be another very active summer. You may see some re-releases of classic wargames with a few added bells and whistles, you will also see some mighty engrossing continuations of venerable wargaming masterpieces (War in the Pacific: Admiral's Edition anyone?), and, last but not least, you can bank on seeing some brand new titles with plenty of innovation that hopefully mark the start of a successful series.

Summer also means that it's convention season, and Matrix Games plans on spending plenty of time touring the country (and maybe even beyond!) when the convention gears start turning. If you're in the area when Matrix will be setting up camp for a few days, please do drop us a line and come by our booth - we'd love to meet and chat with you!

And as always, anyone who would like to drop us a line and give us some feedback, complaints, death threats, etc., please don't hesitate to do so by sending an email to feedback@matrixgames.com.


Thanks for reading!
The Newsletter Team


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