Developer Diary 19 – Details, Details

By now, a lot of the people following this diary must be thinking “so anyway, this game is practically done, right?”

I guess it depends on your definition of “practically”. It is certainly playable, there are very few features that are outright missing, and the scenario count is up to around 20-ish. On the other hand, we’re trying to make a game that’s better than merely playable, so expect more diaries from me until we’re judged release-ready.

As an example, the deformed Union Jack (on the left) is not an attempt at cheeky political commentary, it’s actually what we need to do to make the flag readable in its wavy shape. I was not even aware of this process until Goran, our lead artist, showed me how we do this for almost every flag in the game.

It’s a good illustration, I think, of the type of detailing work that we’re doing right now. We take the game to be mechanically solid, and we’re making rule changes only exceptionally. Our current focus is on the (many!) details that make up the flow and feeling of the game. Eventually, the plan is for the final round of scenario and balancing work to be done on a near-finalized, comfortably playable version of the game.

River-hugging Boundaries

Here’s another one of our cheerfully over-engineered™ features: we’ve made all the in-game boundaries (front line, movement range, etc.) tightly follow river banks. The readability improvements from this are indisputable, as you can see in the screenshot below, of an early Allied push to the Rhine.

It gets even better in difficult terrain such as in the Ardennes, which were a real concern to me. A lot of the action happens on that least-readable part of the map, and we were actively looking for solutions. I feel this not only does the trick, but also looks pretty attractive.

(click image for full size)

From a technical standpoint, you can see that the basic idea already existed in Developer Diary 8. Even back then, the front line lies on the near bank, and the movement boundary is set on the far bank. This worked without a hitch in practice, and even the first implementation pass was not so bad.

That was when we hit the edge cases though: river confluences, boundaries hopping from river to river, poorly drawn rivers which confused the algorithm… you know, the works. We ended up throwing an insane amount of computational geometry at this (cheers @Ante) and let no one in the comments tell me it was not worth it. Seriously, I double dare you and all that.

HQ Changes

Neatly contradicting my own words from the top of this very post, we made some important changes to the HQ mechanics. Previously, HQ areas were not allowed to overlap, and we had a map view that showed all HQ areas together. This looked pretty good – similar to a military situation map, and I still think it’s not a bad idea in simulation terms.

Unfortunately, it turned out it was impossible to find an HQ movement mechanic that does not play hell with that neat picture. The scenario setups were great, but the playthrough that followed not so much. Our solution was to remove the no-overlap rule, while at the same time shrinking HQ range. In practice, this removes most of the “unrealistic” overlap and is an OK, though not perfect, solution.

While we were at it, we solved another issue that kept popping up: it was not easy for us to see which units belong to which HQ. To this end, we are now showing subordinated units and the HQ range when it’s selected (screen below). Out-of-range units are shown in red, and actually now as I’m writing this, that red icon looks a bit more screaming than it should be.

Units being out of HQ range are nowhere near as bad as being out of supply. Yes, they can’t get reinforcements, and their HQ can’t help them with e.g. entrenchment, but mostly they can fight alright. Overall, I feel this new system works and feels better than any sort of tedious OOB-accounting we might have put in its place.

Odds and Ends

I haven’t forgotten the people who hate squinting at tiny fonts, and so the UI scaling shakedown continues. Parts of the UI where this works look glorious when zoomed-in, the ones that don’t (yet) keep shrieking at me menacingly. The work continues!

We’ve added core localization support, with an eye to supporting not only our own content, but also community scenarios and mods. A few tests were run to confirm that, at least, cyrillic and chinese scripts work and don’t break anything major.

We’ve added and/or tweaked many of the in-game icons in our perpetual quest for readability: in the main screenshot you can see the new objective markers (red), and an improved version of the road-blocking stragglers icon. Every little thing makes a difference.

The team is quietly winding things down for the year. There’s a good feeling all around, especially when we consider the progress we’ve made – as can be seen simply by comparison our December ’17 dev diary.

We wish you all a Merry Christmas, and to ourselves, a release date in the coming year ?

Best, Tomislav ?

 

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38 Responses to Developer Diary 19 – Details, Details

  1. Dmitry says:

    It looks great! I really hope that there will be an editor and players will be able to draw maps for their scenarios.

  2. Stoat Penetrator says:

    That map of the Ruhr…. unggggh.

    Have you considered going sans-serif with the placenames?

  3. tom says:

    @Dmitry: yes, the map editor allows you to make your own maps. It also allows you to import and scale GIS data, so you don’t have to do everything by hand.

    The map editor is big and complex though, so it may get released a bit after the main game release. The scenario editor (to make new scenarios on the existing map) is much simpler, so it will be available immediately.

    @Stoat: I defer to our graphics lead in these matters. It’s a trivial mod to change the font if you like.

  4. Daniel says:

    @Stout: The Ruhr is still a work in progress. In fact most of the map will probably go through some minor (and a few major) re-works.

    But regarding the Ruhr: On our hex scale this area has an extreme density of what is considered “urban terrain”. And as it stands right now we are using our generic city assets as placeholders for some special and more “factory’esque” assets.

  5. General Brooks says:

    Re: Ruhr
    Didn’t you consider the possibility of adding to the graphics of a large agglomeration the chimneys of the smelters and mine shafts?
    There was, however, the biggest industrial area in Europe 🙂
    It would be nice to see the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Colloseum or the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, the Kremlin in Moscow, and chimneys and mine shafts in the Ruhr area 😉

  6. Daniel says:

    @Brooks:

    Re: Ruhr – Yes that is pretty much what we have in mind. 🙂

    The other things like the Colloseum, Eifel Tower, Brandenburger Tor etc. have been discussed. If there is time, then it is stuff we would also really like to include. But for now we can only promise variation between distinct regions (ie. africa/europe etc)

  7. aren berberian says:

    Great work as always guys eagerly awaiting the finished product. Your guys games are definitely one of the few that i buy without hesitation or thinking about price, which is a testament to how great i think UOC is.

    Really is a case of shut up and take my money.

  8. Charles Berger says:

    Looking just so good! And 20 scenarios, fantastic!

    One question – what’s the symbol with a figure, a couple of orange bars, and a few “disrupted” pips? Is that a remnant formation, that will reform after a few turns?

    Sorry if that’s already been clarified in a previous diary…

  9. tom says:

    @aren: cheers! 🙂

    @Charles: that is indeed a remnant formation. In game terminology, these are called “stragglers”. They appear on the map after most combats.

    At the start of each turn, stragglers move towards the nearest HQ or supply hub. They stick to roads, and this makes them group together.

    If a straggler formation reaches a strength of 3, it starts blocking the road (there is a movement penalty) and this is what the orange “road-blocking stragglers” icon indicates. The minimum cost to enter such blocked hex is 3MPs, which is why the icon is three vertical bars.

  10. BillyBobJoe says:

    Quick question, how will sea invasions be handled? Will there be a transport mode, negitave modifiers for costal attack, etc? There were a LOT of invasions in the western theater, so will there be navy for costal bombardment? This game and Panzer Corps 2 are going to make 2019 a great year for wargaming. Thanks for all the work.

  11. tom says:

    @BillyBobJoe: cheers!

    Yes, there will be amphibious landings, but I don’t want to give any specifics right now – landings still need to be tested properly, and the design might yet change.

    Naval bombardment is a theater asset (like air attacks in UoC1). Depending on how the testing goes, there could be both offensive and defensive “assets”: we think this might be needed for situations like Anzio. Again, detailed testing is needed.

  12. General Brooks says:

    Not only Anzio 🙂
    Defensive naval bombardment was decisive in Sicily (against Herman Goering Fallschirm-Panzer Division) as well as in Normandy (against 21st Panzer Division) during the first days after landing.
    I have another question: what will the vanilla campaign contain?
    I understand that the Italian and West European campaigns – but from both sides of the conflict? When will the Allied campaign begin? From the Torch, El Alamein, DAK landings in Africa or maybe even Compass operation? Or maybe even from the battle of Hannut? 😉
    Do you plan an Eastern front, too?
    Is there a chance for a campaign in the Pacific (it can be difficult if the smallest unit will still be a division)?
    It seems to me that the Burmese campaign and the Sino-Japanese war would be an interesting idea 🙂

  13. tom says:

    @Brooks: base game will have the Allied campaign, starting from Torch, and ending at VE Day. There will be a lot more what-if content than in UoC1 though, so many more scenarios overall.

    There will be standalone Axis scenarios (in the base game), but not a full Axis campaign.

    Other theaters and periods will be covered in DLCs, like before. Eastern Front – definitely, Pacific – likely not. Our system is strictly divisional so yeah, would not fit the Pacific theater well.

    Cheers!

  14. BillyBobJoe says:

    Thanks for the quick response Tom! For DLC, I am thinking along these lines:
    German 1939-40 Campaign – Poland, Norway, and France (Possibly Sealion)
    North Africa 40-43 (Allied and Axis)
    Allies vs Soviets WW3
    Spanish Civil War
    Pacific Allied campaign 1942-45
    Pacific Japanese Campaign 42-45
    Of course, these are but suggestions for this amazing game to try out. Looking forward to it!

  15. Chris says:

    This looks so fantastic, cant come soon enough! will there be decent multiplayer support upon, or atleast after, release?

    Thank you, Tom!

  16. Charles Berger says:

    I love what ifs… I wonder if they are small variations (decisive victory at Cassino leads to accelerated timetable for northern italy) or big variations (Churchill’s Adriatic invasion plans, large-scale early liberation of Greece, alternative landing sites for D-Day, liberation of Norway…)

    Hmmm. Maybe I’ll do a whole “Soft Underbelly” campaign, where most allied effort remains in the Mediterranean.

  17. Charles Berger says:

    Stand-alone Axis scenarios: there’s not much that would justify a historical scenario at this scale other than Kasserine and Ardennes. Maybe you could do Mortain or Nordwind as mini-scenarios, 2-3 turns – kind of like Zhitomir in Red Turn.

    Or… the German scramble to disarm the Italians and secure the Mediterranean theatre in the wake of Italian surrender could possibly make a very interesting scenario. Small ad hoc german formations, up against larger (but disrupted at start) Italians, and Allies moving up the boot.

    Maybe you could make mini-scenarios out of some of the anti-partisan offensives in Yugoslavia. But then we’re not really properly in the Western Front any more.

    If we venture into historical hypotheticals, perhaps a serious effort to push the Allies into the sea in the first weeks of Normandy? Or a spoiling attack involving a much greater commitment of forces to Italy against Anzio beachhead in early 1944, and maybe a follow-on to re-take Naples? Or a different location for commitment of the Bulge forces (eg, attack Monty instead.) Can’t think of much else without venturing into the realm of pure fantasy!

  18. Happydaze says:

    Charles Berger said:

    “Hmmm. Maybe I’ll do a whole “Soft Underbelly” campaign, where most allied effort remains in the Mediterranean.”

    Knock yourself out, it could be interesting to see how that works out. But keep in mind that if you try to go north from Italy you right away run into the Alps, prime defensive terrain. Similarly, going north from the Balkans is mountains most of the way with mediocre communications. Hard to support a major offensive into Germany through there. And by the end of 1944 the Brits are running low on manpower, so any delay works against them and thus the Alliance as a whole.

    Churchill wanted to go up the Danube because he saw it as a way to forestall a Soviet move into Central Europe, but that was a strategy that could easily backfire and lead not only to an early “liberation” and occupation of Eastern Europe, but Western Europe as well.

    Happy

  19. tom says:

    @BillyBobJoe: I don’t want to give away the exact scope for DLC that is being planned – we do have plans but we also need to double check what’s possible. You are free to speculate of course!

    @Chris: multiplayer in UoC1 was (is!) functional, but not played a whole lot (we calculated once that only something like 7% of players ever used it). I have to admit it’s low on my list of priorities. The game has been designed from the ground up to support the same asynchronous type of multiplayer like in UoC1, but the lobby/matchmaking improvements might take a while.

    @Charles: we are looking at both what you call “small variations” and the big ones. We’ve indeed been looking at “Ljubljana Gap” and “D-Day at Calais”, though not so much at Greece and Norway. The mountainous terrain there is difficult to craft into interesting scenarios.

    Re: german scenarios, you essentially have our list of candidates there 🙂

    @Happy: you’re right, the Adriatic invasion, or Ljubljana Gap, is difficult and a bad choice for the Allies historically. This is the one of the what-ifs we already looked at internally, not in the least because it passes by close to where we live 🙂 But a really difficult scenario is sometimes the whole point. You can play it, and then decide for yourself if it would have been a shitshow or not (hint: oh yes).

    Cheers!

  20. General Brooks says:

    I hope the player will have a choice: play according to the historical course of events or choose an alternative solution…
    I believe you will not force me to play fictional battles because I don’t like it.
    I would like to have a choice, since I’m not interested in the Allied offensive in the Balkans or the conquest of Gibraltar by the Wehrmacht. 😉

  21. General Brooks says:

    The strenght of UoC was the maximum compatibility with the facts in my opinion and please don’t change it !!!
    Alternative scenarios ok, but only for those who like it

  22. Matthew Goldyn says:

    More What-If’s the better!

  23. tom says:

    @Brooks: no worries, switching to a what-if scenario is entirely up to the player. You can play a fully historical campaign if you want – just say no.

    @Matthew: cheers!

  24. Happydaze says:

    I would be pleased to play alternative or “what-if” scenarios as long as they were well thought out and entirely plausible. But please, no Nazi flying saucers this time around!

    ?

    Happy

  25. General Brooks says:

    Excellent, of course I’ll definitely play in every possible scenario later,
    I just don’t want such a situation when some “what… if” scenarios take place on the scenario tree instead of the historical ones
    I’m content after your response, Tom 🙂
    Merry Christmas for creators of Uoc 2 and for all fans of this game !!!

  26. Prof_cec says:

    All I know is that I am so excited. Just started Black Turn once again because its such a wonderfully balanced game. Still can’t achieve brilliant victories, but I keep coming back to try. Always something…rain here, a stubborn defender, etc…. So, I can’t wait for the new game, though I confess I was hoping for a Christmas present from you guys. C’est la vie. Keep up the great work. Appreciate the candor to reject the “ship in beta, always be in beta” mindset of so many other AAA game companies.

  27. Stoat Penetrator says:

    Will the Soviets be represented in any way at all in the final campaign scenarios? Not necessarily as units, but as an expanding occupied area off limits to either player? I quite like the creeping xenofungus in ‘War in the West’ as a spur to the Allied player to advance as fast as possible.

  28. tom says:

    @Stoat: Soviets are a “nice to have”, in my book. For the base, Western Allied campaign, that is. For the Eastern Front, obviously, we’re going to give them proper in-depth treatment. I’d like to think they will play *better* this time around, given how we have tons of experience 🙂

  29. General Brooks says:

    @Tom, Haven’t you thought about creating the prequel of UoC game in the realities of World War I?
    Few people know that the result of the Great War was decided in the Balkan’s front in the autumn of 1918, but even fewer people know who Louis Franchet d’Espérey was… Maybe it would be worth remembering these events?

  30. Happydaze says:

    While I am entirely sympathetic with your sentiments, General Brooks, there is something else that we need to be aware of and keep in mind when we put forward suggestions and requests. And that is in order to stay alive and continue to make games that we want to play, 2×2 has to be able to sell those games. Or to put it another way, they need a large enough audience for the cash to flow in in sufficient volume to keep the door open and the lights on.

    I’m sure you are already aware of this. My point in bringing it up is to say that in choosing what theaters and eras 2×2 to game, there needs to be some minimum of pre-existing interest in it. I have read some about the First World War although not nearly so extensively as WW II, but the idea that the balkans might have been the decisive front has not occurred to me or any of the authors I have so far read. And I will tell you quite frankly that prior to reading your post the name of Louis Franchet d’Espérey had never entered my consciousness, although you may be assured that before the sun sets I will endeavor to remedy that lack, thank you.

    All this is by way of saying that as intriguing as your thesis is, I do not expect that as a subject for a commercial enterprise that the time is quite ripe.

    Happy

  31. General Brooks says:

    In 1918, the Eastern Front didn’t exist because the Germans signed a peace with Soviet Russia, and the Soviets were busy with the counter-revolution beginning. On the western front, there was a classic pat, which even the tanks appeared in increasing numbers and even US Expeditionary Corps couldn’t break.
    The only option was to eliminate Kaiser’s allies from the war. This was done by a French general who is even forgotten in his country (but has a street and a square in Belgrade), and whose march through the Balkans in the summer and autumn of 1918 caused the capitulation of Bulgaria, Turkey and the breakup of Austria-Hungary. He was exiled to the Balkans because he had too much political ambition and politicians feared he would introduce the monarchy as Napoleon Buonaparte and Napoleon III had previously done.
    I wrote about it because Tom mentioned the fictional Balkan campaign in 1943/44 and it reminded me about these facts. Sorry 😉

  32. imlikeeh says:

    hey guys

    i’m glad that the terrain and the lighting improved. 🙂

    another friendly hint, if i may:

    https://unityofcommand.net/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/post_19_full.png

    i’ve asked our artist, also a friend of mine, why this screenshot is so confusing and hard to read. though technically everything is there, the amount of colors and details is confusing, i found, and so i thought i might be mistaken.

    a few hints

    a) do not show the city’s name in a dark rect with a shadow. is it that important that you have to throw it at the player’s face? it isn’t, right? learn from paradox interactive and firaxis: render the city’s name on the actual terrain, white, good readable, on the city buildings. it is good to know what city it is, but it is low prio. clean up the ui this way.

    b) i do not understand those fat rect flags, but i suppose that they are victory points? victory locations? similar to panzer general? maybe also render them on the map? because then — only the units will be very prominent. or make it some sort of star or victory 3d model much like the supply 3d model that fits great in the design? at the bottom there is a tiny blue tanks icon: this actually shows how well such small icons work rendered on the terrain, without shadows. graphical and simple.

    c) there’s a lot of icons and info next to every unit. those dots we know from unity of command 1. but also additional colored icons? and some white icons about it? in total you show per hex up to 5-10 icons? this is bad ui design, i’m afraid. too much info. a hint: remove those tiny colored icons on the right side of every unit (or put them next to the white icons, but as white). why? ask yourself if your really need that quick info there. the old panzer general worked well without it — and it is okay only to open the unit details for more info, right? you see a great looking unit details card on the right side anyway, right, probably as a mouse over? because: you have color on the map; the units are colored; those tiny colored icons are very distractive. think google maps and how google cares about such details and the distraction by colors.

    🙂

    good luck! oh, and happy new year

  33. Richard Holman says:

    Can I give you my money yet?

  34. David Blackwell says:

    Looking forward to this, avid fan of the 1st one – keep up the good work

  35. General Brooks says:

    Any new knews?
    The last dev’s diary was written almost 3 months ago …

  36. tom says:

    Something big coming up later this week 😉

  37. Happydaze says:

    How big? Teensy big, medium big, or elephant-sized big?

    Happy

  38. General Brooks says:

    I bet: “elephant-sized big” 🙂

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