Developer Diary 18 – Trick or Treat

There’s a growing feeling within the team that the game is shaping up into something really special. The mood, as they say, is boisterous (yeah I’m channeling Lieutenant George).

On the other hand, let me quickly also tell you that these special things can be kinda painful, and they sure take a long time to make. It’s a mixed bag tbh.

For this post, I’ve lined up a bunch of updates, but without any sort of a big theme to tie them together. So let’s just, uh… call it a Halloween update, and I hope it’s a treat for you.

History Mode

The history mode (from UoC1) got a bit more involved now that we have Fog of War. As you’d know, FoW restricts your visibility of enemy units and actions while you’re playing. However, once a scenario is finished, you can replay it in history mode and see through the FoW to check out what precisely happened.

This is called the “God Mode” for the moment, though I’m actively looking for a better name (call me).

Another new history mode option is perspective, which can be own, enemy, or changing. Again, this is possible for finished games only. A changing perspective will switch FoW visibility between turns, so that the replay is always viewed from the standpoint of the active player. Combining this with “God Mode” is a blast for hotseat game replays.

Road and Rail

In addition to supply, rail and roads now provide movement benefits to units. Moving along them generally costs 1 MP, ignoring most of the terrain and weather effects. There are only a handful of exceptions to this rule: for example, mountain roads cannot be used in snow.

Still, in bad weather, especially in the mud, the action becomes heavily road-bound. Cross country, the movement is much more expensive, and the supply is heavily disrupted. This system should adapt well to anything from the Allies slogging through the mud in Italy, to the dreaded Russian winter.

It is also possible for stragglers to block road/rail movement (stragglers were touched upon previously, here and here). The presence of stragglers negates any road benefits, and raises the movement cost to a minimum of 3 MP. Interestingly, while enemy stragglers can be taken prisoner, thus clearing the road, friendly stragglers cannot be cleared. That can put a real break on your offensive if you’re not paying attention.

(click image for full size)

Reinforcements

Scenarios now start with a deployment phase (turn zero). This is the only time when you can get fresh reinforcements from SHAEF/OKW (the kind for which you pay prestige). It is not otherwise possible to receive them during scenario play – you have to make do with using the HQs to re-organize existing forces on the map.

There are other force pool changes as well. The game now tracks armor equipment as a separate category: a full armored division needs 2x armor equipment (per step), while a unit that’s merely mechanized requires only one. This eliminates a number of exploits and inconsistencies from UoC1.

Rules for cross reinforcement between nationalities are currently under review. We’re looking to make them streamlined, but realistic: for example, reinforcing a German panzer division with Italian armor equipment is unrealistic and should not be allowed. On the other hand, there’s no reason to prevent (temporarily) attaching a US Ranger specialist to a British division. The new rules will attempt to spell all of this out without being excessively complicated. Fingers crossed.

Messages

The game now drops messages to inform you, principally about the state of your HQs, but a number of other things as well. Clicking on HQ messages selects the HQs, which alone makes them a useful shortcut. You can dismiss the messages by right-clicking (yes, they can be turned off altogether, for the benefit of grumpy people who already know they don’t like them).

The messages are awfully useful to communicate game events better. For example, picking up prisoners (enemy stragglers) provides you with an intel marker – location of an enemy unit hidden in FoW. This fact may or may not be your primary focus at the moment it happens, so a discreet message is the best way of letting you know.

Another example are the HQ upgrades. As their subordinate units collect xp, HQs build toward receiving an upgrade (typically an increase in command points). The upgrade itself drops during normal course of play and again, there is no way for us to know if this is important to you at the moment it happens. So we drop a message, and sound a hearty DING for good measure. You may do a fist pump at this, or you might be focused on some objective and not care. Either way, a message is, I think, appropriate.

Modding

C:\Users\Tomislav\.uoc2\_packages\nato

The modding system is up and running. Basically, user-made content and mods are placed in the same hierarchy of packages with our own base content and any future DLCs. The possibilities abound, as literally everything that’s not hardcoded is in those packages, and can be overriden. So far, the team have been fooling around with camera settings and changing all fonts to Comic Sans… as you would, yeah?

Note that this is just the foundation, and all sorts of additional tools can be provided. For the moment, we promise to include the scenario editor on release, and eventually ship the map editor (that one requires quite a bit of work). If there’s a big community response, we can provide more, we’ll see how it goes.

Thanks for your attention. The work continues!

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36 Responses to Developer Diary 18 – Trick or Treat

  1. Stoat Penetrator says:

    Great stuff. Anything to share about the weather system? It was about the only thing I didn’t like about UOC1, when the onset of Russian winter was actually a relief over having to deal with those verdammt random mud patches.

  2. tom says:

    Re: weather, the full weather system hasn’t been done yet. We’ve created a placeholder which creates either dry or snow weather, and then creates some (optional) mud patches on top.

    This is good enough for testing the renderer and game mechanics. The actual weather system will be done close to last, together with the final scenario balancing.

  3. Aren Berberian says:

    Does that model of a German soldier have no eyes?

  4. Harry says:

    Nice nato counter

  5. Mark Wilkinson says:

    I’ve seen too many nato counters in my life, I like UoC because there weren’t any.

  6. Ivar says:

    omni mode or omniscient.
    omnis (“all”) + sciens (“knowing”).
    since you asked for suggestions

  7. Tim James says:

    Random thought: who is going to buy reinforcements at the beginning of a mission? It’s like you’re admitting defeat before it starts. Or you’re replaying the scenario, which sucks. Although I never used them, it seems like paid reinforcements were nice to turn the tide when things looked rough, at the expense of score.

  8. Ahmet Salih Guvenli says:

    How about Hindsight Mode?

  9. Aleks says:

    After Action Reports (Mode ) ? Since that is the name generals give to this kind of “replay” : https://catalog.archives.gov/id/305275

  10. tom says:

    @Tim: the campaign now works differently. Unit losses carry over from scenario to scenario so it’s crucial to reinforce by buying. Prestige is not tied to score anymore (there’s no point in saving it up), so you just spend it as you go along.

    @Ivar, Ahmet, Aleks: I’m unsure what phrase to use, especially since it needs to survive localization into a bunch of other languages. You can see how a translator can mess up “god mode” easily 🙂 All the suggestions are good, though I still think we need to look for something *totally* pedestrian. I just can’t find the exact word…

    @Harry, Mark: cheers! Glad you liked the NATO counter, though I have to be clear that we only made this one model, to test the mod system. It’s real easy to make them though, I’m sure modders will oblige.

    @Aren: well spotted! Models in both UoC1, and the new game are like that. First, they would be too small to notice (mostly), but also they just look better with the heavy occlusion (shadow) that we use in that area.

  11. mgdriver says:

    Why not “Tom Mode”?? Obviously you are “God” of the game…..

  12. General Brooks says:

    Hi, outstanding work
    I suppose you are polishing it so long that the beta-test phase will not be needed…
    So, please tell me when the release date? And where?…
    (I hear you don’t cooperate with Slitherine anymore)
    It looks like it will be “a great event” among wargames, thanks

  13. Marko Hladnik says:

    Spectator mode, perhaps? No easy solution.

  14. tom says:

    @mgdriver: that’s clearly too much. I’m fine with “chairman” or even just a “dear leader”…

    @Brooks: we’re not on Slitherine, yeah. They moved on from doing distribution deals entirely (which is.. the type of deal we’d need). I still really like what they do as a publisher though, so never say never for the future.

    @Marko: you’re right it’s not easy. It’s a kind of a typical problem too – I get it all the time with tooltips etc. You have to name a concept that’s simple and intuitive, but there’s no ready word and the space is *super* constrained.

    I should probably just put all the non-goofy suggestions from this thread into a hat and draw blindly 🙃

  15. karis says:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m so much looking forward to see the full version!
    one question: will severe weather or terrain affect unit strength in any way ?

    I’m thinking German soldiers in the Russian winter or The bulge.

    one could imagine a mechanism with a probability to suppress 1 point of a unit based on weather conditions.

  16. General Brooks says:

    Ok, looks like you didn’t answer the fundamental question, Tom 🙂
    I simply can’t wait to play, I’m a huge fan of UoC, I think it’s a new quality among war games … The announced changes in UoC 2, and above all how this game looks on screenshots, promises something amazing …
    At least tell us if we have to wait until spring of 2019, or is there a chance to buy your work earlier? 🙂

  17. tom says:

    @karis: we have the new supply disruption mechanic which creates approximately the conditions you describe. There is no direct combat penalty, in fact, we even removed the -1 combat shift that was there in UoC1. That one turned out to be an undeserved nerf to the Russians, who just happen to do more of their attacking in winter.

    @Brooks: to be clear, I’m not “playing games” with the release date or anything. There is genuinely a whole lot of stuff left to be done. The game does look good already, agreed, but it’s nowhere near a finished product yet.

    I am grateful 🙏 to see all the enthusiasm in the comments, but I don’t want to mislead regarding the release date. Once we know for sure, we’ll trumpet it to high heaven, worry you not!

    Cheers! 😄

  18. General Brooks says:

    Okay, so I’ll wait as long as it’s necessary 😉

    Remember about the Brazilian division (1ª Divisão de Infantaria Expedicionária) in Italy, I don’t see this formation on screenshots…
    I don’t know if you want to achieve such historical accuracy level, but maybe the faces of soldiers from the 92th Infantry Division (made up of African Americans) should be presented in a unique way, similarly soldiers from North Africa in the French Expeditionary Corps

    I know that these are details but I see that you care so much about details… 😉
    I don’t know if there will be a separate thread about these matters, so please forgive me that I’m writing about it now…

  19. Charles Berger says:

    Sputnik mode?

    Also, when this game comes out, I’m going to buy it twice, just to give some extra money to devs.

  20. tom says:

    @Brooks: Brazilians will be there, we look to represent every allied nationality that’s present at divisional level (Polish, New Zealand, Indian, etc.)

    Not sure how visible (in practical terms) would it be to make 92nd ID soldiers dark skinned, though you are right it was an entirely African American division. It’s an interesting and teachable fact that the US Army was segregated in WW2, though again, in screen this would be hardly visible so dunno.

    For the French, we are aware that a large portion of French troops were indeed African (depends which units, at which times). We have a Goumiers specialist step to highlight that in the game. That’s probably going to be it, too.

    @Charles: 👍

  21. General Brooks says:

    It seems to me that on the panels where the informations about particular divisions are displayed and on the panels showing the likely effect of the clash, it would be fairly easy to see the skin color or the complexion on the faces of the soldiers. Of course, when it comes to units on the map, there will probably be a problem here…
    What about the armored brigades so popular in the Commonwealth armies and Polish corps which were organized into British fashion? For example, the 2nd Armored Brigade (Polish) was a very important tactical unit on the Italian theater of war, had great contribution in capturing Ancona and Bologna, similarly British armored brigades, I also think about fighting in the Libyan desert… No deviations from the rule there are only divisions presented on the map? 😉

  22. Dan says:

    Revealed mode?

  23. Case says:

    Zhukov Mode

  24. Stoat Penetrator says:

    Ultra Mode
    Vozhd Mode (for the inevitable Eastern Front sequel)

  25. Happydaze says:

    I missed the announcement last week so am coming late to this. I want to mention that I much prefer the NATO style of depiction. It’s easier to tell at a glance just what kind of formation I am looking at.

    I too would be interested to hear about the fate of brigade/combat command-sized formations. They were important in the war in the west, and the usual unit count on this front is low enough that they shouldn’t impose an excessive burden to include them, I would think.

    Happy

  26. tom says:

    Cheers all for more “god mode” suggestions, keep them coming 😀

    @Happy, Brooks: brigade size units is something we looked into several times. The problem, obviously, is that weaker units are at a sharp disadvantage in our system.

    Such units might be just about survivable for the Allies: something like a US combat command could be a 3- or 4- step unit, and if loaded with specialist steps it would both be survivable (-ish), and a somewhat realistic simulation.

    How we squeeze all of that through the new campaign system, which tracks unit strength and xp, is another matter. It’s a head scratcher, truly. It may or may not end up in the game, we’ll see if we find something that works.

  27. General Brooks says:

    Honestly, I suspected that you would like to solve this issue in this way – as a step unit
    So, for example, the 2nd (Polish) Armored Brigade will be a 4-step unit “inside” the 3rd (Polish) Carpathian Rifle Division? It could be perfectly combined with specialist steps, because support for the 2nd Brigade’s tanks were Polish commandos who fought as infantry …
    I am more afraid when the theater of operational activities will be North Africa – at the beginning (1940/41) there were very few large Allied units, for a long time there were two divisions and several brigades at least. Ignoring brigades can cause a strange situation on the map, where there will be only 2 Allied units … 😕

  28. Happydaze says:

    Tom said: “@Happy, Brooks: brigade size units is something we looked into several times. The problem, obviously, is that weaker units are at a sharp disadvantage in our system.”

    I think General Brooks reply offers a way forward. In Italy and the ETO brigades usually added their strength to a division in much the same way that specialty steps do already in the game, except that they are much larger units.

    In the early fighting in the desert, brigades (for the British) and regiments (for the Germans) were often given independent missions. This also raises the question of breaking down and recombining divisions, which also happened a lot.

  29. Michael Evershed says:

    How about “Angel” mode – not so lofty but quite far seeing….

  30. von Schweinewitz says:

    Will Bruno Babić do the music for UoC2? I really liked his work for the first game and would like to hear a more extensive soundtrack for the new one.

    Looking forward to the game, screens are so damn appetizing! 😉

  31. SteinOfOrange says:

    It’ll take about a month to master the game, then I’ll just play another 6 months half asleep out of boredom. Again if you would “UNLOCK” turns it would encourage more PVP action on the Internet.

    Imagine playing unlocked turns on Taiffun against another online player … you could play for hours. Instead you get 17 turns and that’s it.

    Booooooooo!

  32. Agamenon says:

    Fog of war is a important addon to the game and PVP balance, this add fun and depth to the game. Unity is a special game indeed 🙂

  33. Jigsawn says:

    Looks like its coming along well, pretty excited to see how all the new changes play out.

    I finally picked up the Black Turn DLC and it’s great, the mission design is excellent. This becomes most apparent when you’re going for no prestige spent Brilliant Victories where you have to think about every move carefully. However it gets extremely frustrating to deal with the unpredictable weather and failure of overrun attacks which in a lot of the scenarios can cause you to fail a brilliant victory through no fault of your own. For example in Army Group South I can play for 20 minutes perfectly until weather screws me over in the last turn, and with no save state to fall back on it’s like i just wasted my time.

    I only raise this issue as I hope victory conditions, overruns and weather in the new game will be a bit more consistent (or forgiving). I love the challenge of no prestige spent Brilliant Victories in the original game, but it can also be frustrating due to factors outside your control. I guess I’m looking for a good challenge to aim for in the new game but with a bit more consistency, with the same kind of tight scenario design as in Black Turn. I was thinking about whether allowing a single save mid-level would be good, but it could be too much of a crutch. I know I’m not alone in providing this kind of feedback and interested to know what your thoughts are for the new game when it comes to BVs and endgame challenges.

    The new road mechanics reminds me of Civilisation – where it’s all about using roads effectively once you get into combat. Interested to see how this changes things up!

    Keep up the good work guys, I’m hyped!

  34. Jigsawn says:

    Oh, also it would be appreciated to have a “speed up enemy turn” option for the new game, so when replaying the game or retrying missions repeatedly you can whiz through the enemy turns.

  35. tom says:

    @Stein, Jigsawn: the new game has a slightly different scenario structure and especially the objectives are different. You can read about it in this older blog post:

    https://unityofcommand.net/blog/2015/04/22/development-diary-2-objectives/

    Note that that post is three years old 😀 but mostly my design from way back then is holding up. The current state of the game is only slightly different, but I won’t be blogging about it further until the system is finalized. No point in causing confusion.

    @Jigsawn re: speeding up enemy turn: we are planning to do this, but it’s not in the game yet. Note that, even if it’s not in the game at release time, it will be added eventually.

  36. tom says:

    @von Schweinewitz: yes (sorry for missing this question earlier). The soundtrack is again done by Bruno Babić, and is indeed much more extensive than in UoC1. Cheers!

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