BFTB (Mini-Guide): Tutorial, AAR, and tips! (more or less)

Command Ops: Battles From The Bulge takes the highly acclaimed Airborne Assault engine back to the West Front for the crucial engagements during the Ardennes Offensive. Test your command skills in the fiery crucible of Airborne Assault’s “pausable continuous time” uber-realistic game engine. It's up to you to develop the strategy, issue the orders, set the pace, and try to win the laurels of victory in the cold, shadowy Ardennes.
Command Ops: Highway to the Reich brings us to the setting of one of the most epic and controversial battles of World War II: Operation Market-Garden, covering every major engagement along Hell’s Highway, from the surprise capture of Joe’s Bridge by the Irish Guards a week before the offensive to the final battles on “The Island” south of Arnhem.

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MarkShot
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BFTB (Mini-Guide): Tutorial, AAR, and tips! (more or less)

Post by MarkShot »

Greetings, all.

Some of you may recall my meandering threads associated with HTTR and COTA in my effort to overwhelm the Matrix web servers! :)

Well, someone forgot to lock the door to my cage this morning and I have got loose.

DISCLAIMER: I would like to begin with a disclaimer, since in the past such threads have gotten a lot of attention. I want to say that I did not participate in the beta cycle for this game. So, remember as you bump up the page views here that it was the Panther Games Team and the dedicated Panther Prowlers who delivered this superb product.

Still I wanted to take it out for a test drive with my own hot little hands. I haven't played heavily since testing the COTA Patch #2 (AI aggression). In some ways, I think that should make this thread more interesting, since I will be looking at BFTB in very much the way you will be in the near future. I assume that many of you will be veteran owners of HTTR and COTA (maybe even a few go back to RDOA).

I plan to do an AAR, but have yet to determine which battle that will be.

I plan to be spending less time this time around on tutorial tips. Instead I would like to focus more on the game play experience and the new features. I know that Dave has already presented the new features, but I would like to give it more time as to how they enhance the game from where it was with COTA and HTTR. I have taken a look at an internal document on the feature list, and my gut reaction is that what was always a beautiful engine has been enhanced by focusing on user improvments that make it much more approachable and friendly than in prior incarnations. It seems that it is easier to get at what you need and just a little less grog-ish.

The game has a minimum resolution of 1024x768, but I believe it will run at any desktop resolution. Myself, I will be playing at 1600x1200. However, to make easier on everyone when I do my screenshots for posting, I will run at 1024x768.

---

This is Build 4.0.210 ... probably not the final Build, but as close as they come. Everything is there already, but knowing Dave, he is still playing with a few dials and knobs.

I think my first stop will be the new OOB features. I am very excited by this.

Back in the HTTR days, there was no OOB display. As a player, you had to use the keyboard to navigate (traverse) the units on the map to build up the OOB of just the units on the map. I would spend quite a bit of time with the arrows keys bouncing around. COTA gave us our first OOB display. However, it was the Organic OOB Display (effectively the scenario start OOB). However, it did not include reinforcements. They were only added when they arrived. Since it was the Organic OOB is was good for getting an overview, but for actual game play, you still ended up working largely off the map as the command structure changed as soon as you started playing. Still it was a big improvement over HTTR as it allowed you to prep for a game much quicker. Also, the OOB display of COTA allowed you to quickly located a specific unit if its location wasn't obvious on the map.

Okay, you folks wait here. I am off to explore. I'll be back later to tell you about what the second decade of this series is going to look like if can pry my hand off the mouse! :)



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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

I am probably one of the few players who does not display their icons with military symbols. I guess goes back to my RDOA days when I was just a noob.

Like COTA, the OOB display uses military symbols despite what you select for the map. Not a big deal really, since you have the units description which should suffice for those who don't recognize the standard NATO style symbols.

(Private Joke: Yes, Bil, I am going to use iconic symbols for this. --- Bil, fellow long term beta, has always said that these threads desecrate the game by going all arcade and cartoonish, since real men use military symbols.)

However, I will be playing with max order delays.



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Llyranor
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by Llyranor »

I don't use  military symbols either!
MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

That's great. But be careful the grogs will start snickering at you.

At least, you had the guts to come out of the closet. I bet there are some who switch the display before posting their screen shots to avoid the stigma!

Actually, I was playing HTTR with the RDOA Classic Look when doing the Mini-Guide (I didn't like the heavy green), but it didn't seem right not to feature the built in graphics in the Mini-Guide.
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oldspec4
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by oldspec4 »

MarkShot...Great to see the mini-guide active again [8D]
MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Howdy, Oldspec4,

It's a family reunion. Now tomorrow, I got to hit the books.

First, the thing you are all wondering is after three years can he still beat the AI on the first go around? Second, if he cannot, will he fess up to it?

Unfortunately for you, there are going to be no UN observers refereeing my first game. So, you'll just have to trust me! :)
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GoodGuy
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by GoodGuy »

@Dave:
What about a TT for incorporating a broadcast client into the next installment after BFTB, to view exclusive BETA sneak-peek previews live, in color and in real time?! [;)]
"Aw Nuts"
General Anthony McAuliffe
December 22nd, 1944
Bastogne

---
"I've always felt that the AA (Alied Assault engine) had the potential to be [....] big."
Tim Stone
8th of August, 2006
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Arjuna
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by Arjuna »

Yes I think if Markshot is going to be so cavalier we'll need something like that just to keep him honest. [;)]

TT999999 - Develop Sneak-peek capability
Dave "Arjuna" O'Connor
www.panthergames.com
MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

I did a little playing with the new OB Display Tab last night.

I really like it. Remember how we talked about COTA's display only show reinforcements after they arrived. Now, practically 90% of the scenarios have reinforcements. I mean what type of wargame would it be if it didn't?

So, this was a pretty big gap in visualizing your OOB and coming up with a plan. You would end up having to spend a lot of time trying to piece it together from the reinforcement schedule which only gives you generalities.

Here, for example, I got 16 on D2 02:00 coming. So, what are those 16 units? Well, if you are Super-Grog, I am sure you know, but not someone like me.

And if you think this tough for an Unter-Grog, then you should have seen some of those German Para Scenarios where units were shall we say dropping every hour!



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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Okay, now here are those same reinforcements. Notice they are dim, since they are reinforcements. Now, doesn't that make it much easier to know what's coming and to fit them into the overall structure and plan?


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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Additionally, I think this OB Display Tab will make life easier for those playing on smaller displays like laptops on 15" and 17" displays. Why? Using the cursor keys heavily to infer structure becomes more confusing if because of a small display the map jumps around a lot or like for reinforcements units are stacked on top of each other the map as sometimes happen.

I wanted to start here, since when I play scenario one of the first things I will be checking is the time, objectives, on map units, and reinforcements. (Did I say read the scenario briefing? I didn't. Well, of course, you understood that I meant to say that.) Already, just getting started, BFTB is way ahead of COTA in getting set up to play and minimizing your startup time. Note, it is not like you could not get this information in COTA or HTTR or RDOA; it was just quite a bit more work. Me, especially as I get older, I want to spend more of my time playing and less making notes.

Okay, I am going to play around with the dynamic features. I'll be back later.

Note: You can turn the reinforcement display off with a flick of a button if you just want to focus on the situation on the ground right now.
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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Now, in the examples be posting, don't worry about my orders or what I will be doing. I am just messing around with the mechanics. I am not even looking at the scenario. (This is why I chose the tutorial for this stuff ... so that I won't be tossing out any spoiler information.)
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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Okay, in the past, how were your going to find the units which you had subordinated to your direct command? Yep, you guess it. You were once again dependent on the map. Probably, you would zoom out and then either select filters "=" for units with orders or "2" for HQ units. Or maybe, you would just look for units with the white command bar.

Now, look how easy it is to spot your command structure. Those are the magenta OB entries. Also, if you a computer science type, well you will say that they now appears a level 1 nodes at type of the forest.



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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

And let me just show one other view of it with the subordinate units collapsed. (I've also taken control of one mortar unit as well.) This is just so easy to see what your plan structure is here.

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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Finally, I can take that back to the organic structure with all my reinforcements to see how that works into my total force for the scenario.



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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Is this cool or what? If Dave keeps this up, making Command Ops so intuitive, he is going to put me out of the business of writing tips guides! :)
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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Okay, I was doing some playing around trying to get an example for where the Player Structure and the Formation Structure OB Display do not match. I guess the force structure I am using is just to small to generate what I am looking for.

Effectively, the engine will internally structure a force to accomplish its task. However, I wasn't able to generate an example of this.

I am not quite sure how I would make use of this particular display beyond an informational sense. My guess is that if the AI restructured a force this would allow you to understand the potential impact of a replan which only impact a subforce. A replan is when the AI needs to rethink how it will accomplish its orders and then repropogate those orders to its subordinates. Of course, most replans are the direct of intervention by the player himself due to changing forces structures or changing orders, but sometimes the AI gets into the act on its own. I believe these replans can begin with an intermediate HQ within a force. Thus, by having the Formation Structure at your disposal, you will be able to see what units are to be impacted by this replan event.

How do you know a replan is taking place? If I remember correctly, the HQ is going to come to a stop and if you watch the Task Info Box, the task will go to REORG, (perhaps white), TASK, and you will see the purple propagation indicator as new orders begin to move down the line.
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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Alright, enough of the OB Tab Display.

Let's jump to another feature which I am mucho excited about. I had asked for this one day #1 (well maybe day #2, but who is counting). This is the E&S (Equipment and Supply) tab. This engine has always tracked a tremendous amount of information for each unit in the game; actually down to single rounds.

Here we see an example.

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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

Now, for anyone who played around with the Scenario Maker (scenario editor) application, well you quickly realize you can even drill down further than what is displayed here. Yes, there was a whole other level of data underneath this.

Now, this is a feature both important to noobs and grogs alike. As a noob, I didn't have too much trouble with RDOA/HTTR, since I knew a lot of the equipment from playing Combat Mission. However, when we got to COTA, I was truly lost in a number of cases. I mean I am wondering what some of these tanks are? I know that they are tanks by the icon displayed. So, I ended up opening SM (Scenario Maker) to look these things up. I even showed how to run COTA and SM side by side. So, I am wondering is this a tank like a Tiger, Sherman, or Stuart ... no the thing is more like an uparmored Humvee with an MG as a main weapon. The folks who drove those things most have really had a complex to have gone around calling themselves "tankers".

Well, with BFTB, noobs, struggle no more. You can get the information you need simply as you play. That's right, you don't need a copy of Jane's Weapons of WWII sitting next to your keyboard.

Let's take a look at that Sherman 75mm.



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MarkShot
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RE: BFTB (Mini-Guide): Material TBD

Post by MarkShot »

And now for all you grog types out there, here are the numbers. Also, look how you can use this stuff. Can Shermans push a frontal assualt on Maspelt? Well, yes they can. The slope is a variable 10-15 degrees, and we see that a Sherman can handle a 60 degree gradient. Of course, I am not sure just how much you push a Sherman on such a grade for that long. Perhaps, Dave can tell us something about speed, break downs, and wear & tear are handled.

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