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AE Team - 7/23/2009 4:58:32 PM   
jwilkerson


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I'd like to use this thread as kind of a quasi-blog (whatever that is) to express thoughts from inside the AE Team - and responses to same. This thread will replace the "General" thread from earlier in the project. First topic is "EXPECTATIONS". Sorry for the length - and I suspect most regular readers know most of this stuff - but for those that don't ...

With the pending release of AE – some of us on the development team – well specifically me – worry a bit about player expectations. If expectations are too high – then we can only fail to meet them – if they are too low – then of course we can exceed them. It is not my job to set expectations – it is up to each person to have their own – but our efforts at providing information to the players cannot have helped but set expectations too high in some regards (and perhaps too low in others).

The purpose of this discourse is not to reset expectations per se – but to provide a balanced over view of what AE is – and what AE is not. Players can then set their own expectations. The game itself will be out soon – then players can align their expectations with reality and we very much look forward to that! – but until then expectations will exist – for most players - without direct hands on knowledge of the game.

The idea for AE came from a thread started by Brady about 4 years ago – called Uber WITP – IIRC. The thread proposed a new game of WITP – called WITP_II – which would include all the dreamy ideas all players wanted WITP to be. I was surprised by the responses – there were quite a few people volunteering to work on such a project. I decided to see if we could push the idea a bit – so we moved over to another private forum to discuss it. Within about a month – we’d worn out most of the enthusiasm – those who were not professional software project people had at least gotten some exposure to the amount of work that would be required to bring such a project to successful conclusion.

There was still a group of CHS people and a few others who wanted to do something – so the idea arose that we would try to get permission from Matrix to work on the code. This idea brought Erik and Joe together – we agreed to an overall strategy – that really hasn’t changed since – this was roughly August 2005. Then we had a four way discussion with David and Erik on Matrix side and Joe and Don on “our” side – everyone was agreeable to move forward. The plan was three fold (1) We would finish the current patch that was in process (1.7.9.5 – which became 1.8.0.0) then (2) We would do an “Enhancement Pack” for WITP to include a few of the wish items players had requested – then (3) having built up a team with the previous efforts – we would try to tackle a new game from scratch – the vaunted WITP_II.

By March 2006, we started on step (1) finishing the patch. Of course we wound up doing five patches (1.8.0.1, 2, 3, 4, 6) before we got totally focused on what we then called “EP” (Enhancement Pack) which eventually became AE. Just like “finishing one patch” became “doing five patches” the “quick Enhancement Pack” became a three year project all by itself.

We still have not started the third component of the plan – and it remains to be seen whether we will.

The “AE Project” really started work in May 2006 when we built our list of goals. This started from the WITP wish list of about 400 items as it was at that time. We added in about another 100 items from ourselves and emails we had received – then we prioritized. Our starting scope was about 65 items. Our team was about a dozen people at that point, the key CHS contributors, Don, Andrew, Kereguelen, Treespider, TheElf , myself as well as Tankerace and Terminus from WPO, and Nik and Michael from our WITP patch team. Probably about 50 different people have worked on the project – some on – some off at various points – the project credits reflect my best effort to give credit where credit is due. The credits of course reflect a static list where as the reality is and was fluctuation.

Of course the project grew beyond our (well at least my) original intention – considerably beyond. I had in mind about a one year project – we wound up with a three year project. We changed a lot more things than I had originally envisioned – including almost a complete rewrite of the primary AI processor. We absolutely did not intend to do that from the start – in fact – we thought we were going to finish the game a year ago – but that was exactly when we realized we would have to rewrite the AI to get everything to work. That was perhaps the boldest decision we made – well I made it – so blame me and no one else! But then finally we got something we could make work – and we moved the scripting to the editor so the “functional” team members would be the “AI script writers” and not the technical programmers. This has the added benefit of allowing players to work on AI scripts themselves post-release as well.

The high points of AE include the new 40 nm map with twice as many hexes and bases. The distortion of the original map has been improved – even though any 2D map must have distortion – but the new map – optimizes correct distances – something very important to play of the game. Many new terrain types have been added – and the transportation network modeling has been improved to allow multiple hexside level transportation links – this resolves a number of problems in stock.

The OOB has been greatly enhanced. The new OOB has been researched by about a dozen people who have spent many years researching this theater (for instance I have been studying WITP for 30 years). The OOB is still “Divisional plus ants” but many units which were abstracted or even omitted in the original game are present in AE. To make the OOB more accurate there are several subsystems involving withdrawals and upgrades – all this can be controlled in the editor.

There are a lot more slots and the art associated with the new slots is more flexible – planes do not need to be on a palette anymore – individual base art is now possible.

Air combat is less bloody, piling up many aircraft on one base is tougher.

LCUs now have modes for rail movement, rapid movement and combat. Units can also recover more quickly if out of combat via a new rest mode. Pursuit is still possible but units must be placed in a specific reserve mode.

Naval forces now have a rich waypoint system, which includes patrol zones and various follow options. Port operations, loading, unloading and refueling have been completely redone – the new system is much more accurate.

Naval Damage has been enhanced with a new class of engine damage, reinterpretations of the previous damage types and a new subsystem for port repair management.

A completely new editor is provided with many new features, including access to more data attributes, all the new slots and the AI scripts.
The supply, fuel, resources, oil systems have been changed. There are now light industry and refinery types to further differentiate supply and fuel production. Japan will need many more ship loads of raw materials to be brought back to the home islands to drive the production machine.

All in all, AE has more of everything, more hexes, more units, more subsystems. So what does AE lack?

The waypoint system is very useful and will make game play easier for players – who can now avoid various workaround systems they may have developed to try to approach a waypoint capability. This being said, most of our team are a bit disappointed that AE has added more player keystrokes per turn overall to the turn processing. We have begun to make more improvements in this area and more are planned – but I would rate this has my biggest personal “pet peeve” area.

The port restrictions in AE may strike players as very different from WITP, you will not be able to load or unload large amounts of fuel and supply at tiny ports like you are used to in WITP. And rearming large taskforces and ships will be tougher. While many of our testers liked the idea, in theory, of more port restrictions, when they faced the reality of these restrictions, there were a lot of complaints. We have mitigated the restrictions somewhat, but AE still has more realistic ports than WITP and we will still expect some negative reaction because of this, at least initially. We hope that once people get used to the new system, that they will like it. That did happen to me.

Playing AE is like playing WITP with the microscope turned up to a higher resolution. The map is larger, the level of detail is greater, the level of micromanagement required is greater. This means that clearly AE is not for everyone, but we think that for those who like WITP, then AE should be even more of the same. However, if you spend most of your time playing Axis and Allies, then AE may not be for you!

In terms of time and difficulty, I might equate playing Allies in 1942 in AE, to playing Japan in WITP. Whereas playing Japanese in AE is harder than playing Japanese in stock. Japanese players will need to plan in more detail there use of critical resources such as the deployment of their naval air HQs which allow the Betty/Nell to carry torpedoes. Also a clear understanding of what it takes in terms of ports and naval support to rearm the carriers and battleships is essential. While we document all this in the manual, I might even suggest a player perform some testing to be sure some of these key aspects are understood. I got into deep trouble in one early test game because I misunderstood the rearming rules.

Both sides will find themselves more constrained logistically and this is more realistic, but it will make play harder. It will mean more planning is required. The operational tempos seen in WITP may be possible in AE but not without a lot of prior planning to get the supplies and fuel where they are needed before they are needed there.

The rearming restrictions will make it more necessary for major fleets to return to port, this will impact the operational tempo as well.

Additional penalties on amphibious unloading will mean that more preparation points must be gained by amphibious troops, to avoid failed landings, this will also slow down the tempo.

Re-stated players may not be able to do all the things they could do in WITP – the logistical constraints will be an inhibitor. With that said, we also expect that once AE gets out “into the wild”, creative players will come up with great strategies for success, just as they did with WITP.
Stacking limits on atolls and small ports and airbases there seem to drastically reduce the value of these locations. I think we will see less activity in the atolls and more ignoring. Either side can probably take them, but having them may be more of a liability than not having them. Very few of them will make good airbases - those would be the ones worth having perhaps.

So how “good” is AE compared to WITP? Well “goodness” can only really be defined by the individual player, but AE was made by WITP players and it includes many things that WITP players wanted. Of course it does not include everything that every WITP player wanted. There are things I wanted that didn’t make it – and this is true of everyone on our team. So I might say that while we are all happy, everyone is also at least a wee bit disappointed – and I would be very surprised if there is any player that has no disappointments. There are thousands of things we added – there are many, many thousands of things we did not. It really came down to priorities and somebody had to set them. Our team leads did most of that. I’m sure a different group would have prioritized differently – but we couldn’t have everyone prioritize everything – we have no process for that.

Once the game is out – we actually look forward to getting feedback from the players and we will react. In fact I’ve said during several of our recent internal debates – “hecque let’s just get this game out there and let the players decide”.

It is been a crazy three years – the one year project that became a three year project. I’ve learned all sorts of things about how to work with 30 or so guys all over the world that I have never seen and will never see – and try to keep everything moving in more or less the same direction.
We’ve had our ups and downs – I think more people have left the team than we’ve ever had on it (figure that one out!). We’ve had plenty of disagreements – but primarily because everyone cares about what we are doing – so their passion comes out.

No one got their way very often – including me! But we actually have every one of the core contributors we started off with –though some left and returned a time or so – and some are in different roles than they started in. But this has been a great team to work with – because of their diversity – and because of their professionalism – fundamentally everyone on the team wants this game to be as good as we can make it.

Is it “better” than WITP? Well that has been our goal – to make it better than WITP in as many ways as we had time and resources for. Is it better in all ways? Of course not. Is it better in “most” ways? Maybe, but I doubt it – given that I have no idea how many millions of “ways” there are. But I do believe it is definitely better in some ways – the ways in which we tried to make it better. Time will tell if the players agree – but one of the few things we do agree on is that it is time to release the game and let the rest of the players help us prioritize the rest of the things we might do in the patches.



< Message edited by Erik Rutins -- 7/23/2009 6:27:40 PM >


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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:18:01 PM   
SuluSea


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Thanks for the heads up and history Joe, my credit card is burning a hole in my pocket darn you.  

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:30:42 PM   
chesmart


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Thankyou to all the AE team including the one who had to leave the project thankyou all !!!!!!


Now can we get the game as my planned Leave starts tomorrow!!!!

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:42:31 PM   
LST Express


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Thanks to everyone involved with this project for their hard work!

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:44:31 PM   
myros

 

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Personaly I think you guys have done a good job at keeping expectations within the realm of realistic over the past year or so. For me the bigger map and waypoint systems are key, they sold it. As far as everything else goes ... well as soon as I get my hands on it I will let you know ;)

M

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:51:24 PM   
Oliver Heindorf


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thanks for sharing this Mr Wilkerson.

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:55:06 PM   
Fletcher


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Thanks to everyone involved with AE project for their hard work!. I am sure that every player will enjoy for years thaNks at your work. Excuse the unpatience of someone of ours.
Best wishes

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WITP-AE, WITE

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:55:08 PM   
Chad Harrison


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Joe

Thanks for taking the time to write that up for both us old timers and those newcomers looking to get into WitP for the first time. You have always been honest about what AE is, and is not, and this post is no different.

While there are improvements here and there that I would have liked to see in AE that didnt make it, they are greatly, *immensely* outweighed by those that did make it in. I have mentioned this before, but when AE was first announced I made a mental list of all the things that I would love to see improved for WitP, without needing a complete rewrite. This hopeful wishing list pales in comparison to what you all have pulled off. Especially from a team that had nothing (that I know of?) to do with the development of the original game. Simply impressive and amazing.

AE will be the game I play until WitP Mk II. If that game never comes, then AE will be a game I play for a very, very long time. I know that because I have played vanilla WitP for a long time, and even though I have not played AE, I already know that it will be everything WitP was, plus more. You present that in a PBEM arena and again, I will be playing and enjoying WitP:AE for a very, very long time.

Again, hats off to the AE team for reaching the fnish line. I hope that the community reaction to AE is enough to generate enough interest and funds to do WitP Mk II.

Thanks again for posting Joe,

Chad

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 5:57:09 PM   
Canoerebel


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It took you guys three years to develop the game; it may take us three years to do a few turns!

All of us (excepting the 1% of the population that are curmudgeons who never say anything nice) appreciate the work that has gone into AE.

For your next project, could one of the AE Team lean on John 3rd or Miller and persuade them to take me on in an AE PBEM so that I can do away with my celibacy vow?

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:00:11 PM   
jwilkerson


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I'd also like to insert some thoughts about the various team members - I will do this in more or less chronological order - so I'll start with myself and Don.

Joe - I've been a software guy and then an IT manager for most of the past 25 years - was in the US Army artillery after college - majored in math - later got a degree in ccomputer science. Now live in the Bay Area and work on three projects (including WITP/AE) outside my day job.

I've been playing war games since the 70s and started playing WITP (by SPI) when in first game out circa 1978. My father spent the first half of the war working on Norden Bombsites at Eglin field - and the second half of the war attached to the Royal Navy in Ceylon preparing to paradrop into Burma as an "M Team" member (interception and rebroadcast of magic). Fortunately for me - he never dropped - "M Team" members had an expected survival of days to weeks max. But his experiences certainly increased my early interest in WITP.

The AE project has been a unique experience - managing a group of - on average about 25 guys - in about 7 countries - and 11 time zones - receiving no pay (some will receive some small royalties one day after the game is released - but for the past 3 years it has definitely been a volunteer effort). A "virtual team" in almost every possible respect. I've managed virtual teams in my day job - but for AE it was all people I had never seen and would never see - and no "pay check" involved - so these aspects were different. Managing the AE project and working through these issues has actually helped me on my day job!

Another key difference for me in this project is/was decentralized decision making. I wanted to leverage subject matter expertise from as many individuals as possible - and I wanted the project to be able to make decision decisions as quickly as possible - so we delegated most decision making to the functional team leads. I think for 95% of the decisions this was the best solution - of course every path has trade offs and there have been some areas - such as withdrawals - where different teams came up with different solutions. For months we have thought this was bad - and an example of the downside of "design by committee" - however recently I've come full circle and think maybe the different withdrawal systems might be best given the different situations - more on this elsewhere.

So these two project attributes have definitely helped me become a better project manager by giving me a richer experience set with techniques taken to extremes I don't usually see on my day job. These project management experiences have definitely increased my enjoyment of the AE effort.



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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:00:38 PM   
aztez

 

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Thank you for your efforts.

I must admit that the customer service of Matrix has been excellent in my experience.

Now just release the damn thing

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:01:58 PM   
Terminus


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Canoerebel

It took you guys three years to develop the game; it may take us three years to do a few turns!

All of us (excepting the 1% of the population that are curmudgeons who never say anything nice) appreciate the work that has gone into AE.

For your next project, could one of the AE Team lean on John 3rd or Miller and persuade them to take me on in an AE PBEM so that I can do away with my celibacy vow?


Eager to drop it, are we?

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We are all dreams of the Giant Space Butterfly.

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:02:33 PM   
RalfBHV


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Thanks for the great work...

But let us now test the game...

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:35:27 PM   
jwilkerson


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Don

Don was a US Navy "missle man" in the 70s (he'll have to tell you exactly what that means!). Then he became a software guy. Wound up working for IBM until he elected "early retirement" to work on the AE project . Like me Don has been a WITP affectionado for many years. Lately he specializes in the smaller craft of the war (internally known as "Don's Babies") many of these didn't make the cut (thousands and thousands) but you will see lots of them in AE, in the form of YP and YO and HDML (High Definition Motor Launch?).

In 2004 Don was a charter member of the CHS team ... I joined this team about a year later and worked on the IJA OOB. Don had a burning desire to "tweak the code" not just the data - as we did in CHS. So as the "Uber WITP" debates raged and flamed out - meaning we would not doing a new game immediately - Don reraised the idea of going after the code - maybe in an "open source" mode - so we could get crankin' on the tweakin'. So figuring "if you can't beat em - join em" I contacted Erik and we discussed the strategy of "patch", "Enhancement Pack", "new game". Ultimately this has led us to where we are, now transitioning the status of the second step in the plan.

Don has been an "anchor" thoughout the past three years - and this definitely could not have happened without him. My personal thanks to Don for his unbounded gift of time to the project and the community. I think several times Don has told me he has worked harder and longer hours on this project than he did before he retired!!! I think this is true.

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:40:52 PM   
Wirraway_Ace


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quote:

ORIGINAL: jwilkerson

Don

Don was a US Navy "missle man" in the 70s (he'll have to tell you exactly what that means!). Then he became a software guy. Wound up working for IBM until he elected "early retirement" to work on the AE project . Like me Don has been a WITP affectionado for many years. Lately he specializes in the smaller craft of the war (internally known as "Don's Babies") many of these didn't make the cut (thousands and thousands) but you will see lots of them in AE, in the form of YP and YO and HDML (High Definition Motor Launch?).

In 2004 Don was a charter member of the CHS team ... I joined this team about a year later and worked on the IJA OOB. Don had a burning desire to "tweak the code" not just the data - as we did in CHS. So as the "Uber WITP" debates raged and flamed out - meaning we would not doing a new game immediately - Don reraised the idea of going after the code - maybe in an "open source" mode - so we could get crankin' on the tweakin'. So figuring "if you can't beat em - join em" I contacted Erik and we discussed the strategy of "patch", "Enhancement Pack", "new game". Ultimately this has led us to where we are, now transitioning the status of the second step in the plan.

Don has been an "anchor" thoughout the past three years - and this definitely could not have happened without him. My personal thanks to Don for his unbounded gift of time to the project and the community. I think several times Don has told me he has worked harder and longer hours on this project than he did before he retired!!! I think this is true.


My Texas office is in Georgetown, so I hope to someday be able to buy Don a beer.

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:49:01 PM   
Kitakami


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Joe, and the rest of the members of the AE team, both past and present:

THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

We have nagged, we have asked when and why several thousand times, and you had to put up with us, while working on something for the love of it. That is the original meaning of amateur, if I am not mistaken: something you do for the love of it.

Thanks for the many hours of enjoyment your collective effort will give us all. Even though we grumble, we do appreciate it.

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:51:34 PM   
Don Bowen


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Wirraway_Ace

My Texas office is in Georgetown, so I hope to someday be able to buy Don a beer.



MacEwans Export Please. I'm actually in Sun City. See - I really am retired!


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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 6:57:16 PM   
Wirraway_Ace


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Don Bowen


quote:

ORIGINAL: Wirraway_Ace

My Texas office is in Georgetown, so I hope to someday be able to buy Don a beer.



MacEwans Export Please. I'm actually in Sun City. See - I really am retired!




DelWebb's party community for well-heeled older folks...You are really retired...

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:01:42 PM   
Barb


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I regret I wasnt around much more earlier - wish I had participated


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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:02:37 PM   
jwilkerson


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quote:

ORIGINAL: Wirraway_Ace

...You are really retired...


Yeah, except for the 80 hour weeks he puts in on AE!!!

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:04:02 PM   
USSAmerica


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quote:

ORIGINAL: jwilkerson

I'd like to use this thread as kind of a quasi-blog (whatever that is) to express thoughts from inside the AE Team - and responses to same. This thread will replace the "General" thread from earlier in the project. First topic is "EXPECTATIONS". Sorry for the length - and I suspect most regular readers know most of this stuff - but for those that don't ...



Well written, well said, and well done, Joe!

Hats off and endless thanks to you and the entire team for birthing this baby.

_____________________________

Mike

"Good times will set you free" - Jimmy Buffett

"They need more rum punch" - Me


Artwork by The Amazing Dixie

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:20:32 PM   
JWE

 

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quote:

ORIGINAL: Don Bowen
quote:

ORIGINAL: Wirraway_Ace
My Texas office is in Georgetown, so I hope to someday be able to buy Don a beer.

MacEwans Export Please. I'm actually in Sun City. See - I really am retired!

Been joined at the hip with this man for over 2 years. He really is retired, and requires Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee or single malt Scotch to get him away from the fluttering maidens. But, if you pay the freight, your world will open to a whole new level.

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:21:04 PM   
Terminus


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Yah. Don's Da Man.

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:22:37 PM   
timtom


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So, did he ever mention the ex-wife?

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:24:09 PM   
Terminus


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Only a few times...

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RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:25:32 PM   
Don Bowen


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quote:

ORIGINAL: JWE


quote:

ORIGINAL: Don Bowen
quote:

ORIGINAL: Wirraway_Ace
My Texas office is in Georgetown, so I hope to someday be able to buy Don a beer.

MacEwans Export Please. I'm actually in Sun City. See - I really am retired!

Been joined at the hip with this man for over 2 years. He really is retired, and requires Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee or single malt Scotch to get him away from the fluttering maidens. But, if you pay the freight, your world will open to a whole new level.


Kind words all, thanks.

But Sun City is not for the well-healed. Its mostly Social Security and Medicare. Some of us had higher financial hopes but Wall Street took care of that.

Still a wonderful place and my recommendation to all is to retire as soon as possible. If enough of you come to Sun City Texas we can start a WITP/AE club.

(in reply to JWE)
Post #: 26
RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:26:13 PM   
treespider


Posts: 9796
Joined: 1/30/2005
From: Edgewater, MD
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: timtom

So, did he ever mention the ex-wife?




Fondly IIRC...

_____________________________

Here's a link to:
Treespider's Grand Campaign of DBB

"It is not the critic who counts, .... The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena..." T. Roosevelt, Paris, 1910

(in reply to timtom)
Post #: 27
RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:29:24 PM   
Don Bowen


Posts: 8162
Joined: 7/13/2000
From: Georgetown, Texas, USA
Status: offline

quote:

ORIGINAL: treespider


quote:

ORIGINAL: timtom

So, did he ever mention the ex-wife?




Fondly IIRC...


Yeah, I really miss her. Which reminds me, I gotta get some more shells for the scatter gun.

(in reply to treespider)
Post #: 28
RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:30:27 PM   
Terminus


Posts: 41451
Joined: 4/23/2005
From: Denmark
Status: offline
At least tell me you're loading them with rock salt. You're no good to us in prison.

_____________________________

We are all dreams of the Giant Space Butterfly.

(in reply to Don Bowen)
Post #: 29
RE: AE Team - 7/23/2009 7:30:56 PM   
mutterfudder

 

Posts: 203
Joined: 4/2/2004
From: Everything's BIG inTexas
Status: offline


_____________________________

Beware the NWO!

(in reply to Terminus)
Post #: 30
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