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Subject: Generic gameplay musings rss

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Alexey Veshchikov
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Hello everyone, got a train of thought on the implications of the rules that I'd like someone more knowledgeable to verify for correctness.
Let's assume the following situation: ship visibility 6 nm, boat visibility 3 nm, boat speed 0 kt, course 0, contact sighted at distance 6nm, speed 6kt, course 90, bearing 0. Let's say you decide to conduct a daytime torpedo attack (maybe it's morning and the sea's too rough for gunnery, or you suspect/identify the merchant to be armed). Given the target's low speed and lack of escort, this is almost a training situation.
Now, the way I'd deal with that in Aces of the Deep or Silent Hunter would be: set full/flank speed and an intercept course that would put me some 4-5 nm on an angle on beam of 30-45; turn onto the attack course (in this case 0), submerge; stop engines at 5-7 cables distance of the expected target path; raise periscope, engage TDC, flood tubes, fire 1-2 torpedoes so that the AOB at the moment of hit is 90. I don't claim this to be optimized, but I find it hard to improve on this sequence.
In game terms, this amounts to no less than 10-11 steps on the order/morale tracks: course, speed; course, mobilize (if nothing else, to remove the observers from deck), dive to scope depth, speed (halt upon having reached the firing position); up scope, engage TDC, flood tubes, fire, fire. Of course, I can reasonably hope to sink the target, hence the three steps I have to spend on the morale track will be instantly recouped. Still, if I want to perform this during one watch, even a "training ground exercise" leaves the crew pretty much on the brink. In a more contested scenario (say, a 4-ship convoy escorted by a single DD) we'd see two (or three) more torpedoes fired, a couple of evasion maneuvers (dive, all ahead slow, a couple of turns) that would easily bring the crew to the brink of exhaustion (and activation limit) even without a single depth charge detonating anywhere close to the sub!

Of course, one can time the watch change so that it happens in the middle of things. However, this requires very good timing. I'd ideally want to have the watch change after the dive (which is very order- and activation-consuming effort), best after having arrived at the firing position. The problem is that "lying in wait" may be as short as 10-15 minutes, and the submerged time may be just 30-40 minutes - compared to the 6-hour watch, it requires quite some finesse on the part of the navigator to shadow the target for a few hours potentially and then to select the correct moment to initiate the attack run.
Recovering from the attack is a no simple feat as well: surface, mobilize (to put the observers back on deck), observe, course, speed, reload, reload, food (the crew does need one meal per four watches) - eight actions total, not to mention the activation costs. Coupled with the above, this means that one needs, even on easy mode, no fewer than four watches to attack and recover; possibly 6-8 on high difficulty. A side effect of this is that night-time surface attacks (which save you from extra mobilizing, diving and surfacing) start looking very attractive (as they've historically been).

Bottom line (this post is already far longer than I've intended) it seems that the game requires quite some ability from the navigator (fluency in simple trigonometry or protractor-and-compass plotting not unlike SH3), as well as very fine resource management from all the players - even for comparatively simple encounters. I wonder if my understanding is correct, and if this is "by design". I am okay with any combination of "yeses" and "noes" to that.
The reason I'm even bothered by that is that while it does not frighten me in the slightest (being a math major, self-proclaimed history buff and subsim veteran), I worry whether that is too complex for my gaming group - and, if so, then which role I should be selecting for myself so that the complexity for the other players remains bearable.
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Artur Salwarowski
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This is an excellent analysis of how the Captain should be thinking in this game! However, you have not taken into consideration several factors that can further allow the Captain to conserve orders and keep the crew functioning longer. And these are:

-morale bonuses for sinking the enemy. Each time you sink an enemy vessel, you raise the morale by 3. This is a huge boost, and if your attack goes well, then even a very stressed-out crew can regain their composure, as well as their trust in the Captain's abilities So, even if you have gone a little bit lower on morale during the attack, you will most likely regain it, unless your attack is a total miss (in which case you still have other options at your disposal).

-the Captain's cards. They give a wide variety of boosts to the crew, increasing their activation potential and allowing the crew to last longer under pressure. You can also raise morale or gain orders from the cards. They are one of the Captain's key assets, and their timely play can really turn the tides in the crew's favor.

-clever attack planning. Attack the best target cluster (obviously) from the optimal broadside approach, but stay as far from the escorts as possible. If you can pull that off, then follow your attack with an immediate evasive maneuver - it might so happen, that by the time the escorts are there to investigate, you are already beyond their sonar/hydrophone range. I'm not saying it's easy to pull it off consistently, but if you can make that happen, then you are saving TONS of actions and mission time.

-skilful evasive maneuvers. Timing and situational awareness are key. You have to hold it out until the escort loses sonar contact and has already determined its attack location. It is very difficult to dodge the sonar from afar once it has caught you, but, on the other hand, a single, well-timed dodge at close range will allow you to come out (mostly) unscathed from a depth charge attack. You've got to have a skilled 1st Officer + Navigator combo for that to happen, even more so when it comes to getting out of the search area.

-anticipating the escort's search pattern. Once the escort has made its attack, it will have lost sonar/hydrophone contact. It is your chance to break contact, and you can do that (again) in one or two maneuvers, but to do that you have to predict where you could potentially return into the escort's sonar range and arc in, say, several minutes. Again, if your 1st Officer and Navigator can work that out and build a reliable picture of the situation on the tac map, then one good turn can get you out of the escort's search area for good.

-knowing your options. If the escort keeps finding you, then your last resort is to go really deep. It is still early war in the game, so enemy attacks have little to no effect on a deeply submerged U-boat. However, you will have to face the pressure, i.e. leaks, lighting failures, bad air, and, if you stay there longer, even hull breaches. BUT, if you time it right and have enough repair crew on hand, then you can wait it out until the escort forfeits the search and returns to its shipping group.

-making the most of the new gameplay options. I'm not sure if you have mentioned the cigarettes anywhere, but they really help de-activate the crew and squeeze more actions out of them. If you time your smoking breaks right, then they really make a difference.

Last, but not least, there are new skills that stem from the difficulty level settings. In the final version of the game, the Captain can put the crew on high alert at the cost of decreasing morale by one. This has various effects on the crew, allowing a lot more flexibility and actions on 'easy', a little bit less on 'medium', and even less on 'hard'.

All in all, to address the main concern you have raised, I can gladly say that we have been testing the game extensively and we did recognize the problem of 'not enough orders/sailor activations to fight effectively'. As the public demanded a 100% real-time game during the campaign, game dynamics had to shift a little. In general, we believe that proper balancing is crucial to a satisfying gameplay experience, and (as you can see above), we have put a lot of effort and additional design work into making the system more flexible, at the same time retaining the 'every order counts' challenge for the Captain.

Oh, and the difficulty levels for the Captain also affect the number and equipment of the escorts. For example, on 'easy', you will be facing fewer of them, and some of them won't even have the sonar (thus relying only on he hydrophone to track you down).

And the list goes on Hope the above answers at least some of your doubts!

EDIT: Oh, and to answer your final question: I believe you should be the Captain, while the rest of the group take the remaining roles. Your subsim experience and knowledge of the subject would definitely be an asset, but let's not forget about the so called 'soft skills', as these play a big role in how well you can coordinate the crew to put your plan into action And that, of course, is a another whole layer of the game.

P.S. Ok, I can now see that you did mention the morale boost that you get from sinking. Well, with bigger groups you attack more ships in one salvo, so the potential to regain morale rises exponentially

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You could also make a fine Navigator under a promising Captain.
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Andrzej Fiett
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Muttah wrote:
I believe you should be the Captain, while the rest of the group take the remaining roles.

And each of them can choose difficulty level individually, according to their experience.

Alexey, Artur, thank you both for the substantive and very interesting discussion of two real experts in the field of submarine warfare!

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Artur Salwarowski
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I'm always open to feedback, and I'm glad that there is enough depth to the game laugh to appear demanding and worthy of analysis to subsim connoisseurs

Frankly speaking, I suspect that quite a few strategy & tactics-related threads may pop up after the game launches The funny thing is that even having played this game regularly for more than a year, I am still learning better and more optimal ways of doing things, even in the first mission! There are just so many variables to any given situation that it's difficult to come up with a simple, all-around winning strategy.

On top of that, solving most problems requires players to gather and exchange information, come up with a plan, and then cooperate to make it happen. That introduces a tremendous amount of interaction and role-playing, but at the same time leaves a lot of room for error and misunderstanding, thus forcing everybody to keep focused in order to be an efficient fighting unit devil

OK, I should be back to work. There is very little time left, and we're really pushing it to give you as much content and quality gameplay as possible Keep your fingers crossed!
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