Developer Diary 16 – Scenarios

We’ve now been able to play full length scenarios for some time. The first batch we’ve created includes Husky, Dragoon, and a tiny Colmar Pocket scenario. The amphibious landings are not yet modeled, but otherwise these battles play well enough. Today I also received an initial version of 1st Monte Cassino from Daniel. Interesting times 🙂

We’re still deep within a break it – fix it cycle, though. Editor tools are there, all the visual game elements are there, and the core loop of the game does work. But every time we add say, a new mechanic, one thing or the other breaks. The shakedown of gameplay code continues, so to speak.

Visuals

Intel markers are a new element: they show units within Fog of War that are not completely visible, yet you know they’re there. For these partially visible units, you get to know their nationality and whether they’re infantry or armor. Crucially, you can tell if they’re weak or not: this warns you about their Zone of Control, and is a way in which good intel helps you develop attack plans.

We’ve already shown stragglers in a previous post, but now they have a new icon. This is a part of our ongoing struggle to reduce visual clutter. Current focus is on improving readability via unit design, without making the underlying map unnecessarily bland. If that won’t be enough, some of this lovely contrast you can see in the map will have to go on the chopping block.

You can see German and British HQs in the screenshot. The big HQ boards are visible only when there’s no unit in the hex, else only the smaller sign is visible. The same logic applies to the barrel models used for supply hubs.

Core Loop

We’ve added the ability to show distant combat odds (visible in the screenshot below). If you hover over a distant enemy unit, you can now see what the combat odds would be if you moved next to it and attacked.

This has become necessary since the addition of FoW. Most moves into enemy territory will uncover at least some FoW, which means you can’t undo any such move. That makes the usual move – check odds – undo loop unusable, and we had to come up with this.

Another non-obvious, but really useful new shortcut is CTRL-N, which rotates the map back into its default northerly direction. We got really carried away with rotating the map earlier during development, but in practice it turns out most scenarios are best played north-facing.

(click image for full size)

Amusing Edge Case #314

Suppose you want to move a unit into a hex that’s visible, but right next to FoW. Unknown to you, right inside the FoW sits an enemy unit, cheerfully exerting a Zone of Control exactly where your unit wants to go.

Now, if your units has enough movement points, things are easy enough: you just got caught in a ZOC! Good luck there. However, if your unit needs to enter using extended move, that’s not possible because you can’t enter a ZOC with extended move.

So what happens is: your unit gets stopped short. An intel marker appears in place of the enemy unit: that way you know that something is there, and it’s stopping your movement. Finally, undo gets disabled, because you’ve gained some knowledge about what’s hidden behind FoW.

If this gets your head spinning, I don’t blame you. Don’t turn to drink!

Technical Developments

We’ve enabled in-game asset reloading – this is very useful for our art guys, and now that they also run the game from Steam, production-wise things have been going much smoother.

We added combat messages (PRISONERS!, RETREAT!) which we somehow forgot to do before. Picking up prisoners is really satisfying, the tiny bing sound and all, though we’re yet to implement getting you any intel from them.

UI now handles key focus correctly. If you don’t know and/or care what key focus is, good for you.

The work continues! 🙂

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42 Responses to Developer Diary 16 – Scenarios

  1. Aaron says:

    Looks great. As the meme says: *take my money*

  2. aren berberian says:

    All looking good, Unity of Command is one of the few games I’ve played that i genuinely get addicted to when i start playing (In the best way possible though). Its gameplay never gets old and once i play i always want to go back and try new things. I am not even a hard core gamer, just a history buff and this game hits all the right historical and strategic tones with me.

    I commend you guys on creating such an engaging and impressive first game, (With such a tiny dev team as well) so i can only imagine how many hrs i will loose when this new one comes out.

    I am sure it will be grand, and wish you guys all the success with it.

  3. John P. McMenamin says:

    Can’t wait and hope I don’t need to much longer! 🙂

  4. Jeff Grab says:

    Can’t wait!
    JeffinMNUSA

  5. Philippe says:

    Love it guys! Take your time! I agree with the visual clutter part.

    Unity of Command was my favorite game of 2017! (Only discovered it last year). For me it’s the same holy grail in RTS gaming as Red Alert 2, BFME and Lord of the Realms 2. Can play on repeat for years to come.

  6. mgdriver says:

    I’ve always assumed that some UoC scenarios were intentionally designed to make me turn to drink…..

  7. tom says:

    Hey many thanks for the support all, you know it means a lot to us! 🙂

    @mgdriver: we would never…

  8. Zupanicarr says:

    Looking great so far.
    I’m gonna guess from the shape of the terrain and the date that the screenshot is from that early version of Monte Cassino mentioned earlier?

  9. Dave Farrell says:

    Looking great, fellas. I agree with Zupanicarr. The screen shot looks like Italy. Keep up the good work!

  10. tom says:

    Yeah, that’s Monte Cassino, good spotting.

    The city on the right hand side, with a Pzgr unit, is Rome.

    We could show labels with city names but for now this is turned off by default (as usual, I worry about visual clutter).

  11. Rory Hayes says:

    patiently waiting for this, and it looks great.

    will 100% buy, so take your time!

    thanks!

  12. Jigsawn says:

    Enjoying these updates and the game looks great, I’m digging the Civ style graphics. Lowering contrast might be a good idea though as it is kinda hard to pick out the units on such a busy map as shown in the screenshot.

    I love the Intel markers idea. I have been playing some Panzer General 2 lately after playing through Red Turn. The addition of fog of war in PG2 really messed me up and in a lot of cases it tends to hurt gameplay rather than help. The main reason is that you go into a level only for your first few attempts to be thwarted by ambushes and scouting of towns and crossings that you assume will be defended but aren’t. Sometimes massive enemy reinforcements arrive onto the map mid game but you have no idea until they suddenly emerge from fog of war.

    That’s all fine but it becomes a learning game where you scout out a mission, probably fail due to fog of war lack of Intel, and then try again now knowing exactly where the enemy is set up. Its even worse because of the tight turn limits making first time Brilliant victories almost impossible. Hopefully your idea for Intel markers will help to reduce this gameplay loop, if you know roughly where main fortifications or big groups of reinforcements are, you can steer your forces appropriately without just failing and having to do it all again.

    One request, could you please include a button to show hex lines on the main interface up by the show terrain/objectives button? I always end up toggling hex lines on and off in these games and with your detailed map I think it’ll be something players want to use more.

    With the intro of fog of war, will you have recon units like in Panzer General? That is one aspect I really like, especially their staggered movement where you can peek into fog of war to find enemies and then get the hell out in the same turn.

    Playing Red Turn one thing I noticed was that it was easy to miss the weather effects on the hexes. As it affects what hexes you may want to avoid attacking, it would be good if it was a bit more obvious.

    I was reading some reviews of UOC and a comment in one I really agreed with. You feel kind of lame if you have to spend prestige points on units. I, and I’m sure many other players would rather restart a level than spend my points to bail me out. I agree with the review that the prestige might be better as a score alone and reinforcement points should be totally seperate, to avoid players feeling like they have failed if they need to use prestige points.

    Finally, playing Panzer General 2 again made me appreciate how you’ve taken the core gameplay and whittled it down to its core fun elements without a lot of the frustration and busywork that PG has. The only things I miss are artillery ranged attack/defence and the importance of air units. Looking forward to the next update!

  13. ToastedBread says:

    Will this game be available on linux as well, like UoC?

  14. Boyan says:

    In my view, undo should be disabled in all cases as it is in Order of Battle and not be implemented Panzer Corps style. The reason is that the player DOES get information even when he/she is assumed not to have. Example from case in diary:

    “So what happens is: your unit gets stopped short. An intel marker appears in place of the enemy unit: that way you know that something is there, and it’s stopping your movement. Finally, undo gets disabled, because you’ve gained some knowledge about what’s hidden behind FoW.”

    Assuming the unit was not there when the movement occured and as such the player did not get an intel marker at mentioned location. Well, what the player now knows is that there is no unit there, which is also intelligence that he/she can use, and undo the movement.

  15. Jeff Pinard says:

    You do realize it is VERY hard to pick out some of these units on the maps? I have to look at the map, and spend time focusing my eyes into individual units to be able to tell if they’re there and what they are. It is the dark shading of the units coupled with the dark shading of the terrain that creates this issue. It just creates a muddying effect across the board.

    If we can zoom in I’m sure it will be better.

  16. nikdav says:

    The visual impact of the battlefield is very impressive, it should be interesting a little video (max 1 minute) to see the cinematic move of the units.

  17. tom says:

    @Rory: cheers! 🙂

    @Jigsawn: we are trying to build an interesting game out of intel/FoW, and the intel markers are just one part of it. For example, notice that enemy supply hubs are always visible, and there are further small pieces of intel that are available to you like that. The final piece of the puzzle is to enable the AI to set up… surprises? We’ll see what’s possible with that, but of ambition we’ve always had more than enough 🙂

    Recon specialists are present again, for example there’s the American M8 Greyhound-equipped recon spec.

    Prestige remains the in-game currency, but it’s not used as score any more. Should be about equivalent to what you wrote. Somewhere high up in the design doc it actually says “no more prestige hoarding” 🙂 so that’s been a design goal from early on.

    @Toasted: we love Linux, so it’s possible, but it’s not a priority. The porting itself isn’t a big deal, but I don’t have any experience with Linux graphics drivers etc. I don’t want to make big promises and then later walk them back.

    @Boyan: good point about the potential exploit, I hadn’t thought about that. It’s not highly exploitable though: your unit would need to be in a very specific position (remember our undo is good for just one action, so you can’t “manufacture” such positions). On the whole, I prefer to leave some sort of undo because of mis-clicks etc.

    @Jeff (also @Jigsawn): yes I do worry about the unit/map contrast. I even mention our “ongoing struggle to reduce visual clutter” in the post 😉

    Look, it’s a developer diary, and you’re seeing this thing live and unpolished, just as we’re making it. We didn’t do developer diaries for UoC1 at the time, but the map there used to be as green as spinach for a long time before we changed it to create more visual contrast between map and units. 🙂

    @nik: all in good time. For what it’s worth, it’s a lot like UoC1, only in 3D 🙂

    Many, many thanks to all for following us, and for all the constructive comments here.

    Cheers!

  18. Goc says:

    Finish it and take my money and free time!
    Must admit that I’m also heaving a hard time to recognize the units on a first look.

  19. Pannoniae says:

    Hey!

    Great work… I really hope 3D will be great… as currently I do not see the benefits of it 😀

  20. Strategy Gamer says:

    Loving the screenshots! Would love to see more of the beautiful map.

    June 6th, D-Day, is nearly here! Perhaps another Developer Diary? Or am I just asking too much out of some probably overworked devs?

  21. Roger says:

    Loving the artistic style and gameplay features so far! I’m curious though. Will there be unique faction-specific units (German Gebirgsjäger), upgrade steps (engineers, recon), and theater abilities?

  22. tom says:

    Thanks for the kind comments again.

    To quickly reiterate re: map art, we are trying to keep it as colorful as possible. At the same time, a colorful map is maybe not the best for readability, and that’s what we’re trying to balance. You will likely see more incremental steps in future dev diaries, where we make adjustments until we feel this is balanced just right.

    @Roger: yes on all counts. 🙂 For some examples: Italians will have a relatively decent Semovente 75/18 AT specialist, while US gets a Saturation Bombing theater ability (think Operation Cobra). Getting the distinction between factions right is one of core design principles, so expect all sorts of faction-unique stuff.

  23. Sourdust says:

    The release of a new UoC2 developer diary makes me happier than the release of many finished games!

  24. Sourdust says:

    A question on the combat odds displayed there… how are the Panzergrenadiers getting a +1 armor shift? They should have about 12 armor points (3 pips x 4 armor value), worth a +1 shift. But the defending unit appears to have a non-suppressed tank unit attached, which should be worth at least a -1. What am I missing?

    Also, I wonder what the “S” attachment on the French infantry and the American units at Anzio represents… special forces?

  25. tom says:

    @sourdust: thanks 🙂 There is a change in the rules, and armor shift (only!) can now have fractional values. In this example, the pzgr has 16 armor points (+1.6 shifts) minus 1 shift from the defending Sherman specialist equals +0.6.

    The combat sheet still displays this as +1 for now (rounded), but there’s going to be more details eventually (there is plenty of space on the sheet).

    The “S” icon is used for various special forces. US Rangers and French Goumiers in this case.

    Cheers!

  26. Joe ! says:

    So, how do the western allies play, compared to the first game’s teams? From the screenshots I’ve seen, they seem a lot less numerous than the Soviets– is this a deliberate change, or just a side-effect of the changes to supply/veterancy/continuity/KIA effects? I’m assuming at least 10 air-strikes a turn.

  27. tom says:

    @Joe: the Allied “feel” is still shaping up but yeah, the basic idea is lots of air power and high reliance on combining the specialists in just the right way (i.e. combined arms).

  28. Philippe says:

    A tip for the visual clutter, you can tone down the contrast of the environment to have it distract less and have the units pop out more. For example the mountains here contain a lot of black and white which captures the eye, however you want to player to be looking at the units. So grey it out a little bit.

    As of coloring, toning down the colors of the units a little bit will make them less cartoony and more badass.

    All of this will give it a more tense WW2 feeling. When you think of the Saving Private Ryan landscape you think of dust and smoke.

  29. Rafael says:

    Please remove those ugly black outline shadows from the units. It looks awful. The units, with colors, already distinct themselves enough from the terrain.

    Judging from the screenshots, I assume that your directional lighting has more in common with the Moon than Earth. Bear in mind that on the Moon shadows are always black, while on Earth the sky color plays are role. That said, in an Italy scenario with southern yellow sun and a blue sky, the directional light will always make all shadows (i.e. next to a mountain or unit) a little bit yellow-ish and blue. This is the reason why horror films always have black shadows, because black shadows look artificial (like in a cave or dark room) and unnatural. And it would look unusual in open terrain, of course.

    I would also perhaps reduce the contrast a bit. I found an older screenshot of yours where it was not that contrast heavy yet.

    The game looks great so far. I hope for the best, guys! 🙂

  30. Jan Knopp says:

    Looks really great guys!

    Are there going to be also campaigns in Russia and north Africa?

    Looking forward to buy it and play. Currently i’ve spent 773 hours playing first UoC

  31. Ben McGregor says:

    Loving how the game is coming on guys! Well done!
    Two questions:
    – How will the campaigns be split? Will it be the Italian Campaign separate from the NW-Europe campaign, or will they be in one big campaign? And how will the German campaign be played because there was very few times they were on the offensive, when compared to the scenarios depicted in UoC1. Will it be an alternative history sort of campaign or one where they player has to defend ground?
    – Is it possible to give us a general idea when you could release? Late 2018, early 2019? I’m dying to have my hands on it 😀 *take my money already*

  32. HappyDaze says:

    There is one thing I am hoping to see at some point in the evolution of UiC, and that is massed attacks. That may not be clear, so allow me to explain. In UiC so far, an enemy formation may be attacked by more than one formation, but the attacks go in sequentially, not simultaneously. Furthermore, the first attack to go in is the one most likely to suffer casualties, all things being equal. As the defending formation accumulates casualties, the follow on attackers are less and less likely to suffer their own.

    This does not feel quite right to me; in real life, it was usually held to be prudent not to send ones forces in piecemeal, but to try to saturate the defense as much as possible. In wargames this has been depicted by allowing at the player’s discretion to combine all their strengths into one big attack.

    I of course do not know the limitations the designers of UiC must operate within, but if it would be possible to implement my suggestion in future iterations of the game, I would be an even happy player.

    HappyDaze

  33. Mike M says:

    Looking for testers?

  34. tom says:

    @Philippe, Rafael: thanks for all the comments and tips. The main thing is to make the units “pop” and push the map somewhat into the background, I agree. Clearing up the visual elements is an ongoing process for us – you will see certain changes already in the next post.

    Nailing a realistic look for the “game world” is not our first priority. It’s inevitable that the world is somewhat contrived, simply due to how much abstract information we’re presenting. Once everything is made readable, we’ll try our best with the ambient lighting etc.

    Unit drop shadows can be turned off by the player. I prefer to play with them ON though, and that’s the default setting.

  35. tom says:

    @Jan, Ben: the base game is one integrated campaign that starts from Operation Torch and goes all the way to Germany. This campaign is US-flavored, so the Brits only join us around the time of Mareth Line.

    It is likely that on the German side we will only have standalone scenarios, rather than a full campaign. This is still under discussion, but it would be similar to how the Soviets were portrayed in Black Turn DLC.

    Yes, Russia and Western Desert will be there eventually (in DLCs, like we had in UoC1).

    Yes there will be “alternative history” scenarios – we are developing a new campaign structure that is more dynamic and there will be more “what-if” scenarios overall.

  36. tom says:

    @Happy: my opinion is that a “massed attack” mechanic is not a good fit for IGOUGO games.

    In this type of game, the attacker already has the advantage: being able to move all of his units while the defender is static and does nothing.

    Massed attacks would put things further out of balance, even though on the face of it they look do like a more realistic way of attacking.

    Various forms of “massed attacks” and also “stacking” have been tried in other games, and I have to say I never particularly liked either.

    If you wanted a wargame that’s more realistic, I think you would have to change from IGOUGO to some other format, perhaps something like “Command Ops 2” maybe? But that’s not UoC any more then…

    @Mike: please follow our twitter, facebook or this blog. We will make a call for testers when it’s time.

    Cheers! 🙂

  37. Baylor says:

    Loved Unity of Command and cannot wait for this one! Keep up the great work. Would you ever consider adding counters? That’s the only negative of the entire game imo

  38. HappyDaze says:

    Baylor said, “Would you ever consider adding counters?”

    I confess I do not understand the question. Do you mean counters like in paper games? Or do you have something completely different in mind?

    Happy

  39. tom says:

    @Baylor, Happy: unit counters, exactly like those in “paper games” can easily be added. We already have the HQ boards which are the same thing basically, just not quadratic (see for example the German 10th Army HQ right in the centre of the screenshot).

    So, counters could be a mod, or they may even be in the base game from the start. There is no issue technically, to be sure.

  40. HappyDaze says:

    In that case, I too would love to see counters. I never really warmed to the figure representations in the current game. I accepted them okay, but they would not have been my first choice had I had one.

    Happy

  41. Baylor says:

    @Tom, Thanks for the reply! Obviously it’s low priority, but just wanted to throw it out there:). It’s pretty much the only thing I missed from UOC. Can’t wait!

  42. Neville says:

    I absolutely loved UOC1, it was what I wanted in a war game for a long time. Spent so much time playing it, pure joy. I’m very happy with it. And can’t wait for UOC2. Take your time guys, I’m after a similiar stimulating/pleasurable experience. Cheers.

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