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.
Though our players had a blast, they did point out a few weaknesses in the system or things they disliked. I’d like to get your thoughts on those. Stahlgewitter pointed out that frequent wipeouts and heavy casualties tend to lead to a runaway or snowball effect once one side gets an advantage – typically the attacker. He also claimed that “Combined arms . . . don’t really pay in UoC” and that “the best strategy for the attacker . . . is simply to mass all their available tank units in one part of the map and advance with impunity down a single corridor.” He acknowledged that casualties will be reduced in the sequel, which may help with the snowballing victory effect.
How do you respond? Do you agree that advancing in a single schwerpunkt is always the best solution?
Tomislav: I believe that there are many scenarios for which this is true. However, in many cases this is also historically true, so what to do?? I’ll grant you that this particular strategy is perhaps too dominant, especially in PvP games.
I feel that “combined arms don’t really pay” is a little harsh, especially given the scale we are working with. Even below the division level there are specialist steps, which should give the proper flavor of combined arms (if not exactly a simulation). Some work better than others, and there will be various tweaks and improvements in the new game, but no radical changes.
Stahlgewitter also noted that delaying actions don’t work – “Falling back to form a defensive line is a great way to lost the game, as three or four German tank / mech units operating in concert can gut any Soviet defense with ease. . . . “there is no room for attrition. . . . in UoC you’re either advancing or being slaughtered; there is no ‘holding the line for long. Stalingrad is the best example of this” unstable equilibrium. We know from the second developers’ diary that attrition will be a more important part of singleplayer – will a similar mechanic extend to multiplayer? What can be done in the sequel to make defending more interesting and viable?
Tomislav: Unity of Command was developed with single player in mind, so it’s no surprise we erred on the side of exciting, dynamic attacking play. To make the system equally interesting in defense will require much more delicate balancing. So far we came up with some changes, as explained in the dev diary, to address the obvious issues with attrition etc. These need to be tested first, then we’ll see if more are needed.
One thing that should work in our favor is that players will have imperfect information on each other’s actions and dispositions (note the hint drop, yes yes). If we want to make the intel really count, then a slight imbalance in favor of attacker is actually desirable. For example, if you can hit your opponent somewhere unexpectedly, even a small counterattacking force will do a lot of damage.
The last criticism is that the current system for starting a multiplayer game is unwieldy. Spillblood would like to see the inclusion of “some kind of Server/Multiplayer Browser.” Is there a chance of getting that in the next game?
Tomislav: Yes, absolutely.
Kampfgruppe, our tournament champion, likes the tension that comes from not being able to undo a move in multiplayer, unlike in solo play. Do you intend to keep this as a feature in the sequel? Will you make “Undo” optional for players when setting up a game?
Tomislav: We’ll probably keep undo as is. The underlying reason is that your actions are sent to the server while you play. They also get sent to the other player (via our server). While it’s easy to undo an action on your own computer, it gets really complicated if we need to call your opponent’s computer and ask it to undo that last turn. I’d prefer we don’t go there.
We also had a few suggestions for how to enhance gameplay and make things more historical. Kampfgruppe wants to see fast-moving units (especially armor) be weakened on the advance to simulate breakdowns and fuel shortages. Tomislav, you already responded on the forums and said you’re looking into it, but that simulating breakdowns is an example of another “small rule” that, when too many are included, can overcomplicate the game and make situations “hard to read.” You offered a couple of alternatives. If you’d like my suggestion, maybe you could incorporate a “Forced March” mechanic – units can move farther and still attack, but incur Suppression for moving additional hexes. For example, an armored division could move up to five hexes normally, but could take two pips of suppression for moving seven spaces and attacking at the end. What do you think? Do you have anything to add to your forums post?
Tomislav: Not much to add. I feel strongly about not overwhelming the player with too much mechanical complexity. ”Simple is better than complex, Complex is better than complicated.” 🙂
During the tournament, we played on both purpose-built multiplayer maps and on singleplayer maps. Do you intend to balance all the singleplayer scenarios for multiplayer in the sequel? What do you think makes the difference between a viable multiplayer map and one suitable only for singleplayer?
Tomislav: This is genuinely hard for me to judge without input from the community. It would be very useful, for example, if current community efforts (tournament, etc.) resulted in a set of maps that are tested and recommended as best for multiplayer. This would obviously inform the design of the new game. [Ed. – Sounds like a good excuse to run more tournaments!]
Thank you, Tomislav. We all look forward to learning more about the sequel and playing in the next tournament.