Developer Diary 6 – Fight Fight Fight Fight!!!

Completely unrelated to this post, I'm pleased to inform you that production has finally started on the shiny pics side of things. I can't show any of that right now, but here's the planning sketch of the "Unity of Command Test Range".

Completely unrelated to the rest of this post, I’m pleased to inform you that production has finally started on the “shiny pics” side of things. I can’t show you those just yet, but here’s a planning sketch for the “UoC Test Range” instead. Cheers!

Mehr sein als scheinen.

— Moltke the Elder, referring to combat system tweaks in Unity of Command

Unity of Command is a game that emphasizes maneuver, supply, and logistics over brutal grinding, but even the most daring dash and encirclement will still involve a fair amount of fighting. In the new game, we are not changing the combat system in a big way, more like ironing a few wrinkles, plus some changes to bring it into line with the rest of the new systems.

From a designer’s point of view, combat in the game actually unfolds on two distinct levels. The first level, which is the main topic of this post, is the immediate combat between two units on the map. We try to make this “single combat” as realistic as possible, but there are limits. The most obvious ones are the one-unit-per-hex representation (no stacking) and the IGOUGO system (each player gets to move all his units during a turn).

The other level happens over a full turn for both players, or even 2-3 turns. When all the individual battles are put together and the scenario flows together nicely, we try to achieve a higher level of realism. Single, division level combats come together to form larger offensives – and the maneuvers come back around and make individual battles easier to win. Executed correctly, a good plan is a virtuous cycle. Continue reading

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Development Diary 5 – The Supply Network

AMMO-5I don’t know what the hell this ‘logistics’ is that Marshall is always talking about, but I want some of it.

— Fleet Admiral Ernest J. King

One of our goals in the design of the original Unity of Command was to make supply and logistics as important and easy to grasp as front lines and battle tactics. We want to keep supply front and center in the next game, but there’s some room to improve the system to make it better reflect historical realities.

In UoC1, we traced supply by using supply movement. Supply sources had a number of MPs (movement points) that determined how far supply can reach, similar to how a unit moves. In bad weather, the costs for this movemement got bigger and so hexes that are far away from supply sources became unsupplied. Another way of looking at it is, that the supplied area on the map shrinks during bad weather. Continue reading

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Development Diary 4 – Report to HQ, ASAP!

HQsWe are introducing Headquarters into the new game (please clap!). The HQs bring together functions that were previously abstracted like unit reorganization and bridging, plus many others that are completely new to the system. With very few exceptions, HQs represent historical Allied or German Armies, or Soviet Fronts. The new abilities they bring to the game are in Operations, Intel and Logistics, which is what you’d expect from that command level. The HQs may even have named, historical commanders like Rommel and Patton but don’t tell that to anyone just yet.

An HQ commands its subordinate units within a command radius (depending on the scenario, there can be more than one friendly HQ present). This means you will want to keep your HQs reasonably close to the front line while trying not to risk them being attacked – HQs should defend themselves only as a desperate last measure. Headquarters are able deploy special abilities such as Emergency Supply (this simulates using their transport assets to supply a unit – broadly how Air Supply worked in the original). Deploying these abilities costs Command Points (CPs), which are available in limited supply for each turn. In general, command points abstract things like staff work and shared HQ assets, and force the player to prioritize – a single HQ cannot do everything on every turn.

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Development Diary 3 – Are You Experienced?

I’m restarting the dev diary series. Note that the game is a work in progress. This dev diary reflects current thinking and any features may be subject to change. Not every system is fleshed out yet – please forgive any hand-waving.

In the original Unity of Command, units were expendable resources and pieces. You used up your men and units to reach your objectives on time and, even in Campaign games, losses didn’t matter. You’d always start the next scenario with the same (historical) units. It didn’t matter if you got Großdeutschland crippled in one scenario, it would be right back in your OOB for the next offensive.

In the new game, we want losses to matter in the course of both a scenario and a campaign. Your overall force strength will carry over between scenarios (more about the specifics of this in future posts), but so will the experience, which becomes an important element of the campaign game. To that end, we’ve revamped the unit experience system to enhance some old mechanics and add a few new twists.

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Sound and Fury: A Review of Armored Thunderbolt by Steven Zaloga

Sound and Fury:

A review of Armored Thunderbolt: The U.S. Army Sherman in World War II, by Steven Zaloga

 

armored thunderbolt amazonFury, the 2014 Brad Pitt war movie, opens with some grim statistics. According to the movie, something like 10 Shermans were destroyed for every German tank and American tankers were grossly outmatched in equipment. As happens so often, here pop culture oversimplified and exaggerated history for the sake of drama. The truth, as portrayed in Steven Zaloga’s excellent Armored Thunderbolt, is a lot more complex. True, the Sherman was totally outmatched in a one on one fight against a Tiger or Panther, but those battles were so rare as to be negligible. Zalog’s thesis is that the Sherman, while flawed and somewhat outdated by Normandy, was a solid design whose flaws outshone its virtues in the larger perspective. Through painstaking analyses, Zaloga shows that casualty figures, individual anecdotes, and popular culture are misleading and show the Sherman as far more vulnerable than it was in real life. Understanding the true history of armored warfare is important to make future installments of Unity of Command more realistic. Continue reading

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The Future of Unity of Command Multiplayer

Spillblood vs Stahlgewitter January OffensivesWe recently wrapped up our first official multiplayer tournament – we had a great time. We polled our players for feedback and got some great suggestions for multiplayer in the sequel. I put my games journalist had back on, sat down with Tomislav, and discussed your ideas with him.

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Development Diary 2 – Objectives

2nd Battle of Kharkov

2nd Battle of Kharkov

This post reflects my current thinking on objectives fairly accurately, but don’t be surprised if things change a little from this concept. 

The changes here are intended to make objectives work well within a campaign game, which seems to be the more popular mode (as opposed to individual scenarios). Campaign is a big topic, and I can’t hope to cover everything in a single post, so please excuse the occasional hand-wavy reference to “changes in campaign game”. It will all make sense in the end!

Motivation

Unity of Command has simple location objectives with time limits. They do a good job of putting you on a schedule – a realistic priority for an operational commander. The scenario you are playing is not self-contained; it almost always plays a role in some bigger undertaking (e.g. “reach Moscow before winter sets in”). Typically, the plans for an operation on our scale would contain some sort of an explicit time schedule, like the OVERLORD map below.

The obvious problem with timed objectives is that they completely ignore losses. Theoretically, it doesn’t matter whether you’ve just executed a surgically precise tactical masterpiece or, alternately, bludgeoned your way through in a pointless bloodbath. All that counts is that you’re hitting the objectives on time and you’re good.

I still thought this was a good design idea. My reasoning was that, if you want to play masterfully, you really can’t afford to play in any other way than by using the actual tenets of mechanized warfare: concentrate to attack, use air support, take the battle deep into enemy territory. Tight turn limits put pressure on you to do the right thing, tactically speaking, and the issue of losses hardly comes up when you’re one turn short of a BV.

What was missing, from my perspective, is that people spend a long time playing at beginner or intermediate levels. A typical beginner approach is to attack frontally, making for a slow advance and high attrition losses. However, if you’re not trying to score brilliant victories, you can still win in this way, because there are more turns to play with. You progress in the campaign and then hey, your guys are back from the dead since scenarios always revert to historical situation.

Needless to say this is very wrong.

Victory-4

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Unity of Command Tournament Recap

Back in December, we started our first ever official Unity of Command tournament. Players who made it to the semifinals were given Steam codes for the DLCs and the grand prize was a copy of Croteam’s The Talos Principle. It has been a fun and interesting learning experience and we’ve seen some great play, and we’re happy to announce the winners! Continue reading

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Development Diary 1 – No More Wipeouts!

noob-3363_previewI am diving right into some of the changes to the system we’ll be making for the new game. Please ignore that the game still hasn’t been properly announced, that there are no screenshots yet, and that this is the first time I’m writing a dev diary. Just bear with me, okay…

The Problem

The combat system in Unity of Command was actually alright (I’m speaking in scientific terms here, you see). I wanted to take the focus away from individual, unit-on-unit combat results, and distribute some of that attention to movement, supply etc. Turns out, it was possible to simulate quite a few salient features of mechanized warfare with surprisingly lightweight mechanics.

The downside of the simple mechanics was, well… something had to give. As time went by and scenarios accumulated, some outstanding problems with the system became obvious.

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Board Games and Wargames

Two months or so ago, I was interviewed by Joachim Froholt for his rather excellent piece (in Norwegian) about how wargames are evolving from the tabletop onto computers. The whole piece is worth braving Google translate IMO, however as I still have my original answers in English, you can read them over here.

A very general question I know, but… what do you personally think is the big appeal of computer wargames?

To me the appeal of any historical strategy game is the stuff you learn by being in decision-maker’s shoes. If the game is any good, you get to look at what it takes to prevail on a given battlefield. The lessons can be profound, or simple and brutal, or just totally unexpected… they’re always real though and maybe I’m just a person who likes their gaming to be about things that are real.

For example, in Unity of Command we try to make sure that you execute pretty much textbook Blitzkrieg (where appropriate, obviously) otherwise you lose, plain and simple. We do get some complaints from people who think this makes the game too hard, but I feel it’s worth it. Each time I read someone post “ahh, so you’re supposed to punch a hole and then push your panzers through like a madman”, I count that as a design win.

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