We 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.
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!
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.
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
I 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 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.
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.
Unity of Command is now 3 years old.
The years went by rather quickly. I remember pushing the button to go live at precisely midnight three years ago. Well, not precisely as we ended up being a few minutes late while some people were already banging on the doors (as documented for posterity on the release day thread on our forum).
Then, a little later, I remember getting the “we’d love to offer your game on Steam” email on a Saturday morning and thinking if it’s April Fools already. This was back in the bad old days when just getting on Steam was a big deal for indies. Turns out they weren’t kidding, someone there was actually sending out these emails on what was a Friday night in Seattle, bless them!
I get an enormous buzz that thousands of people really dig this game. Whether it’s a post I find in some forum, or if I bump into some players in real life, it never gets old. That’s why, after Black Turn, we just turned around and started working on a new one. It was never in question.
Emotional Progress Report
We’ve been working on our new game for quite some time now, and while I’m not ready to do a proper media announcement just yet, I can blog about our progress for anyone who’s sufficiently interested to drop by.
Don’t get too invested in the graphic to your right. I put it there so you know this thing is not entirely vaporware. There will be quite a few of these progress report posts before you can get your hands on anything playable though.
We’re looking for an artist to add to our team for our secret new project. In case you’re reading this post because you want to know what that project is, you are welcome, but frankly I’m not going to spill an awful lot because it’s still, you know… secret.
Unity of Command, just in case you haven’t heard of it before, is a truly awesome WWII wargame we made a few years back. We are now moving on, and are making a not-entirely-unrelated new game. You can find out more about the original game on this site.
Anyway, we are looking for a 3D environment artist, who would be comfortable working on a hybrid of a somewhat realistic environment and an information-heavy map. If you’re unsure of just what I’m talking about, look at our previous game… that, only in proper 3D, m’kay?
Are YOU this artist? Here are some more details about the job:
- we are looking for a freelance/contract artist. We pay reliably and on time. At the same time we request that you deliver on time too (within reason, we’re not monsters alright).
- you must not be working under a contract that could enforce ownership of your work. If you are currently working for a games company, you need to have a contract that states that they don’t have any claim to work done in your spare time.
- feel free to send us your portfolio, or some other form of a reference. Frankly, we are not interested in people who have never done this kind of work before. Some sort of relevant prior experience is a must.
- finally, being a fan or just having previous experience with Unity of Command would be very much appreciated, but please don’t bullshit us on this point. We would be just fine working with someone who only just heard of this game. Provided they are awesome, that is
If you’re thinking “hey, this is me!”, please do email me right now: tom at unityofcommand.net.
Otherwise, if you know someone who’d fit, or simply work in games and want to help: please tweet/repost/share this to anyone who you think may be interested.
In 1990 I moved from a relatively luxurious and warm childhood existance under the Mediterranean sun, to a freezing and, to me, unknown country at the north eastern extremity of Europe. Finland was its name and over the next 6 years I came to appreciate the initial(!) un-welcoming atmosphere of this country and – more importantly – the moral tenacity of its people. ”Moral tenacity” looks weird even as I write it, but to further describe what defines this country and its people to me… Well that would take five books and a shrink!
At the time World War 2 did not interest me. But later in life, when this era of history became my all-consuming interest one of the first things that struck me was this: Finland – then and now a social/liberal democracy – fought on the side of Nazi Germany?!? What?!
As always with history the whole story turned out to be more complicated than expected. In essence the Finns were caught in the same (yet opposite) situation as that of the western allies: Namely they saw themselves forced to ally with a gruesome dictatorship to attain their own – arguably noble – goals.
Putting aside moral dilemmas and the intricacies of history: There were also many large and interesting battles fought between Finland and the Soviet Union in the years 1939-1944. And this is where Unity of Command comes in…
Just as emperor Barbarossa drowned in the Saleph river during the Third Crusade, the Germans would eventually be stopped at the Don and Volga in 1942 in their attempt to occupy European Russia. You will know that part of the story of the war in the East, as told in countless books and wargames and in the original Unity of Command and its first DLC, Red Turn. Black Turn covers the first part of that epic tale, where you’ll get the chance to rewrite the rest of the story by capturing Moscow.
First, a summary of the situation you’ll be facing in the various campaign scenarios.
The initial scenarios cover the drives to Pskov and the Luga beyond it by Army Group North, to Minsk and Smolensk by Army Group Center, and to Kiev and the banks of the Dnieper by Army Group South and Army Group Antonescu. Time works against you, but you have strong mobile forces and enough supporting infantry to deal with any Soviet resistance.
Operation Barbarossa, as a historical event, should not need much of an introduction. It was the largest invasion in the history of warfare, part of the largest military confrontation of all time. The nature of the operation, and its actual historical flow, are perfectly suited for the Unity of Command system. We always knew we were going to do it eventually.
Still, it took us full two years, from the game’s original release in 2011, to complete the Eastern Front trilogy with a Barbarossa campaign. For me at least, it was worth the wait. The scenarios, designed mostly by Pieter de Jong (aka ComradeP), are some of the best in the series. The campaign is longer than “Stalingrad Campaign” and it flows more naturally from easier to harder, as the fortunes of war change for the invading Wehrmacht.