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Subject: What do you wish wargames could do (or do easier or better or...)? rss

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Mike S
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Hello all,

I hope discussion of computer-assisted wargaming is OK here. If so, I'd like to get ideas about how you think traditional wargames (esp. hex-based) could be improved with and on computers without losing the essence (however you want to define that) of the board wargaming experience.

I'd be interested both in ideas that have already been tried and worked well (or even didn't), and ones that haven't been tried yet, to your knowledge.

Mike
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Doug Poskitt
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I like the idea that you could have some form of limited knowledge of your opponent's forces' dispositions.

Maybe you could learn more by some form of recon function. The one thing about hex-based wargames on a board is that your knowledge of your opponent's dispositions tends to be "all-knowing".

Work-arounds do exists in board-based games - I see that the OCS series denies you the opportunity to inspect your opponent's stacks - but you still know where he is.

As I said, I like the idea of uncertainty as to your enemy's precise disposition/whereabouts.
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Mike S
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Yes, I very much like the idea that you don't fully know the what or the where of opposing units. I've been thinking of "intel units" or "estimated units", units that you think are X, and you think are located Y. You can pinpoint them as real units more accurately either by blundering into them (oops!), or by recon, or by expending resource points on intelligence. And then if they draw back, you again start to lose information as to exact whereabouts and status.

On the flip side, you should be able, to some degree (again perhaps based on expending resource points) to hide your real units, and even to invent ghost units.

Mike
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Cyrus the Great
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Make it possible to play The Campaign for North Africa.
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Pelle Nilsson
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My #1 wish for computer hex wargames though is that everything required to play is easily seen on map, like in a boardgame. I should just look at the map and immediately see the combat and movement ratings of all my units. I should never have to click on a unit or even hover the mousepointer over it to get additional information to know how good it is.

It would also be nice if some computer wargames tried experimenting with some post-win3.11 user interface design. I don't care if the game is ugly 2D in 4 colors or something, just as long as the interface is smooth and there are no rows of tiny buttons or scroll bars or dialog windows etc getting between me and the gameworld. Should be easy things like dragging the mouse to pan, scroll wheel to smoothly zoom in/out etc (plus lots of single-key shortcuts preferably). Suspension of belief is a good thing. I'm a heroic commander, not a sad geek in front of a computer screen manipulating scroll bars and clicking buttons and above all not having to mess with dialog windows.

Also the computer wargames I see seems to rarely use abstractions well. Maybe it is just too easy to dump a lot of data into a computer model and hope it works out? Often it just seems silly, and there is no way for a human player to make much sense of all data anyway, and much of it is hidden away in those horrible dialog windows anyway. Maybe computer wargame designers ought to play more board wargames to get some ideas in this area? You know for instance it is usually fine to have one combat rating per unit, not 25 different ones, and supply can be "yes/no" not "0-100 %". Just because the computer makes details easy to add doesn't mean that they improve the game (or make it a better simulation even; probably the opposite).

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Martin Gallo
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pelni wrote:
My #1 wish for computer hex wargames though is that everything required to play is easily seen on map, like in a boardgame. I should just look at the map and immediately see the combat and movement ratings of all my units. I should never have to click on a unit or even hover the mousepointer over it to get additional information to know how good it is.


I concur, and realize that until most of us have 3 foot by 4 foot displays this will not likely happen. It could be done with a smaller display with clever map scrolling, but that would deny us our overview of the 'situation map'.

pelni wrote:
It would also be nice if some computer wargames tried experimenting with some post-win3.11 user interface design. I don't care if the game is ugly 2D in 4 colors or something, just as long as the interface is smooth and there are no rows of tiny buttons or scroll bars or dialog windows etc getting between me and the gameworld. Should be easy things like dragging the mouse to pan, scroll wheel to smoothly zoom in/out etc (plus lots of single-key shortcuts preferably). Suspension of belief is a good thing. I'm a heroic commander, not a sad geek in front of a computer screen manipulating scroll bars and clicking buttons and above all not having to mess with dialog windows.


And fewer confirmation dialogs! Good grief, if the designers could work on a decent interface that easily reflected the user's desires life would be better for all of us.

pelni wrote:
Also the computer wargames I see seems to rarely use abstractions well. Maybe it is just too easy to dump a lot of data into a computer model and hope it works out? Often it just seems silly, and there is no way for a human player to make much sense of all data anyway, and much of it is hidden away in those horrible dialog windows anyway. Maybe computer wargame designers ought to play more board wargames to get some ideas in this area? You know for instance it is usually fine to have one combat rating per unit, not 25 different ones, and supply can be "yes/no" not "0-100 %". Just because the computer makes details easy to add doesn't mean that they improve the game (or make it a better simulation even; probably the opposite).


Part of the problem comes from the evolution of computer wargames where statistics were seen as 'extra detail and realism' rather than focusing on game play and modeling. It also involves a 'lack of focus' on who the player represents.

Another thing that would be nice is to help reproduce the feel of playing an actual opponent. This lack of feel is the main reason I don't play many computer games.
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Pelle Nilsson
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martimer wrote:

Another thing that would be nice is to help reproduce the feel of playing an actual opponent. This lack of feel is the main reason I don't play many computer games.


I'm not sure I agree about this. I think I would like a game more simlar to a solitare board wargame, putting me into a gameworld in a war against enemies that live there. I think the origins of computer wargames being derived from board wargames brought with it a tradition of, like chess-playing computers, having to pretend there is a second player in there somewhere (an "AI player" or "computer player") controlling those enemies, rather than the enemies being there for real inside of the gameworld. Other genres of computer games seems to have done well without this metaphore.

I think I started a thread on this last year actually. My main point was basically that it might make sense to develop a one-player game from the start, rather than designing a two-player game and try to make the computer do well as playing the second player.

Not sure how pretending there is a virtual opponent sitting inside the computer playing a game against me helps anything with the suspension of belief I want. I don't want to pretend to be playing a boardgame, even if I don't mind seeing the game presented on a hexgrid etc.

Imagine how silly it would be for a computer RPG to have a simulated game master popping up to talk to you. Isn't that very similar to having to pretend there is an opponent in a turn-based wargame? Orcs, even if led by some mighty wizard, can easily be imagined as real creatures. I do not need to pretend there is a game master deciding what they do. Why can't panzer regiments not be treated the same in a turn-based wargame?
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Mike S
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I'd like to hear some ideas on a better user interface. I don't know all that's been done in this field. Regarding movement and attacking, I can imagine highlighting one or more units and having a "can move this far" color overlay appear on the map, as well as a "can attack this far" overlay. I can also imagine highlighting a given hex and finding out all your units that can either move to or attack that hex. Comments?

And regarding the lack of feel of a real opponent, I understood this to refer to poor AI, where the units and groups of units don't do "reasonable" things. Don't know if I'm right about that.

Mike
 
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Martin Gallo
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I like the idea of a solitaire type game - Computer Ambush would be fun. More paragraphs and some slightly more 'varied' IA.

I have played computer versions of B-17 and enjoyed them. For a while. The underlying game has to be compelling. Many topics that have been covered by computer games have been compelling but the interface and mechanics have not been fun for me.
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I always thought that the GDW World War III (The Third World War) series of games would translate well to being computerised,especially nowadays...the game system was basically quite simple and the unit mix wasn't really that dense...I would really love to play it as some sort of four way PBEM...
 
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Marshall Miller
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I'd like to see a return to turn-based games or turn-based-real-time hybrids. I don't always like the frantic pace of RTS games. Perhaps RTS battles at the squad level with turn-based strategy on the theater level.

I'd also like to see command and control issues implemented, perhaps only the PC sees the actual battle and both players only see what their scouts tell them and their commanders report. You could spend more or less points to have a more accurate view of the battlefield (deploying scouts vs troops). At the end of the battle, the PC could generate a 5 minute documentary showing the highlights of "what really happened".

One thing that always struck me as unrealistic is that few games reward you for pulling out of a battle when losses are high rather than fighting to a man. Taking and trading prisoners is another thing missing from wargames.
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Peter
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pelni wrote:
My #1 wish for computer hex wargames though is that everything required to play is easily seen on map, like in a boardgame. I should just look at the map and immediately see the combat and movement ratings of all my units. I should never have to click on a unit or even hover the mousepointer over it to get additional information to know how good it is.


Ok, perhaps I'm missing something here but you can't see everything on a boardgame either. When I have more than 1 unit in a hex I can't see the information about all units in the hex, I need to go through the stack with my fingers or tools to find out. This will take longer than one button click, or simply "hovering" my mouse over the stack on computer wargame to reveal the info. If you have say 50 stacks of units on a boardgame, see how long it's going to take you to go through stacks...and then compare that to simply left click on stacks on a computer version of the boardgame.

pelni wrote:

It would also be nice if some computer wargames tried experimenting with some post-win3.11 user interface design. I don't care if the game is ugly 2D in 4 colors or something, just as long as the interface is smooth and there are no rows of tiny buttons or scroll bars or dialog windows etc getting between me and the gameworld. Should be easy things like dragging the mouse to pan, scroll wheel to smoothly zoom in/out etc (plus lots of single-key shortcuts preferably). Suspension of belief is a good thing. I'm a heroic commander, not a sad geek in front of a computer screen manipulating scroll bars and clicking buttons and above all not having to mess with dialog windows.


Well this is not easy as it seems, first of all computer wargames have limited view since you can't see the whole map with your eyes - your monitor is simply not big enough for that (works ok for smaller map games but not so good with monster games like GRD Europa, MMP OCS like Case Blue etc). This means that the designer/developer is always looking for a balance between keeping the screen clean and easy to read vs how quickly can you get access to game features without too much distraction. Creating a computer wargame with all the game features, making sure the rules are implemented correctly, AI...is one thing...creating great GUI is something else - it's an art on its own. Also not all PC wargames use scroll bars to move the map, the better ones simply let you move the map by simply moving the mouse pointer to the corners of the screen. I have been a software developer for 15+ years and I know how hard is to make a great wargame with great/easy to use interface. My point of view is that GUI should be powerful enough, yet simple and easy to use so that when I play the game I don't even have to think about the interface...rather I concentrate on the game itself.

Computer is a different medium from a physical boardgame so there will always be some differences between those two. Something that works in a boardgame version of the game isn't really going to work well on a computer version of a game....at least that have been the situation for the past 20 - 30 years, who knows what the future holds.
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p55carroll
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pelni wrote:
Imagine how silly it would be for a computer RPG to have a simulated game master popping up to talk to you.

And yet, some computer wargames do similar things.

In Nintendo's popular "Advance Wars," there's a whole cast of characters--allies and enemies, plus an adviser. This game goes to great lengths to make the player feel he's not alone. You have to put up with a lot of dialogue as you play the game.

Strangely, I don't hate that, however. Though I know I'm by myself, and it seems silly to be having imaginary interactions with cartoon characters, the device does keep loneliness at bay--and that makes me want to play the game longer. A true solitaire game--one that looks and feels and is like solitaire--would only be good for a short period of time when I want to get away from people for a while.

Many popular solitary activities (e.g., novels, TV, movies, popular songs and radio shows) involve imaginatively interacting with other people. It may seem weird when you think about it too hard, but it seems to work.

* * *
Some computer games also try (too hard, IMO) to duplicate the experience of playing a physical wargame. The "Tin Soldiers" games by Matrix have virtual game pieces that look like stands of miniatures; and a human hand periodically moves onto the screen to pick up a figure and remove it from play.

The one good thing about that, IMO, is that such games usually stick to a set of rules that can be learned by heart, along with simple abstractions of military units and terrain and such. I prefer playing a game I know the rules to; I don't like it when there's a lot of hidden stuff that the computer takes care of "under the hood"--or when I have to call up data charts or odds calculations or whatever.

But the game doesn't have to look like a miniatures wargame or board wargame. It can look like whatever shows up well on a computer screen.
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Mike S
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tc237 wrote:
Mike, most of what you describe has already been done has been pretty much standard in PC wargames for a decade at least. Limited intel, fog of war, scouting, etc.. is one of the main attractions of the PC.
User interfaces are bad but are getting better (hopefully).
Friendly forces AI that does not always do what the player wants is starting to appear.

I guess what I'm looking for is a distillation of what works, what could be done easier or better, and what is still missing. Maybe in the form of "My ideal 'traditional' PC wargame would be..."

Quote:
What is it exactly that you are looking for? You posted the same topic in the Game Design Forum.

That's because this forum doesn't show up in the forums list so I didn't know it existed. I only stumbled across it later, and this seems the most appropriate place for this discussion.

Quote:
Do you need help with designing a PC wargame? There is plenty of board and PC wargame knowledge in the membership here. If you need help, suggestions, opinions on specific design elements feel free to ask.

I'm a longtime programmer who's been intrigued by traditional-wargames-on-computer, but raising a family took precedence. Now I've got some time on my hands and I'm revisiting the whole concept, and I'd appreciate what others have to say.

Mike
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Mike S
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Mease19 wrote:
I'd like to see a return to turn-based games or turn-based-real-time hybrids. I don't always like the frantic pace of RTS games. Perhaps RTS battles at the squad level with turn-based strategy on the theater level.

I've been thinking of turn-based (just to reduce the frantic factor) along with simultaneous movement with one or more reaction phases. Comments on such an approach would be welcome.

Quote:
I'd also like to see command and control issues implemented, perhaps only the PC sees the actual battle and both players only see what their scouts tell them and their commanders report. You could spend more or less points to have a more accurate view of the battlefield (deploying scouts vs troops).

Yes, the PC really helps incorporate an element of surprise that can't be easily achieved with traditional games.

Quote:
At the end of the battle, the PC could generate a 5 minute documentary showing the highlights of "what really happened".

Definitely yes. And I think it would be interesting to be able to go to any game turn and start replaying from there.

Quote:
One thing that always struck me as unrealistic is that few games reward you for pulling out of a battle when losses are high rather than fighting to a man. Taking and trading prisoners is another thing missing from wargames.
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mike_33462 wrote:
I'd also like to see command and control issues implemented, perhaps only the PC sees the actual battle and both players only see what their scouts tell them and their commanders report. You could spend more or less points to have a more accurate view of the battlefield (deploying scouts vs troops).

Yes, the PC really helps incorporate an element of surprise that can't be easily achieved with traditional games.

Quote:
At the end of the battle, the PC could generate a 5 minute documentary showing the highlights of "what really happened".

Definitely yes. And I think it would be interesting to be able to go to any game turn and start replaying from there.[/q]

The idea I'm going for here is that the PC is not telling you the whole truth: troops get ambushed and killed and you think they're still there, enemy troops move around but may be decoys. You only have so much information and you don't see what really happened on the battlefield until the end of the battle because only the PC knows which units are real and who got what orders when.
 
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Renaissance Man wrote:
Make it possible to play The Campaign for North Africa.


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Renaissance Man wrote:
Make it possible to play The Campaign for North Africa.

Heh, heh, heh!

Well said.
 
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Don't laugh...I think it's been done in Koger's 'Operational Art of War'...
 
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JG53_Jaguar wrote:

This will take longer than one button click, or simply "hovering" my mouse over the stack on computer wargame to reveal the info. If you have say 50 stacks of units on a boardgame, see how long it's going to take you to go through stacks...and then compare that to simply left click on stacks on a computer version of the boardgame.


Yeah, stacks is a problem in boardgames as well. But somehow I find it much easier to keep track of things anyway. Perhaps the brain somehow is better at remembering physical objects, like how it is much much easier to find your way around a real house compared to in a 3D computer game?

As long as the computer game does not require me to click on the stacks to see stack contents. Or don't do silly things that require me to seleect a unit in a stack, then bring up the Unit Information dialog for that unit, just to inspect all artillery in it to figure out what maximum range the unit can fire at (hello TOAW3).

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pelni wrote:

It would also be nice if some computer wargames tried experimenting with some post-win3.11 user interface design.


Well this is not easy as it seems, first of all computer wargames have limited view since you can't see the whole map with your eyes - your monitor is simply not big enough for that


Scrolling is no big problem. If a game would let me pan and zoom the map as easily as say Google Earth then monsters would probably work fine. Usually with a boardgame as well when you look at the complete map not many details are seen, and then you lean over the table to "zoom in" and just study some very limited part of the map at a time when you do/plan your moves.

One idea to partially solve the stacking problem would be if the counters did not zoom beyond a certain point, instead starting to spread out in the hex until you can see all of them side by side instead. Then you could pan along the front and quickly inspect all your hexes at a quick glance without having to hover/click on individual hexes. Maybe some game already did something like that?
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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mike_33462 wrote:
I've been thinking of turn-based (just to reduce the frantic factor) along with simultaneous movement with one or more reaction phases. Comments on such an approach would be welcome.


I have found I prefer more interaction, seeing the results of each move/attack immediately, rather first plan everything and then see what happens.
 
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The main advantage for me of board games over computer games is the flexibility to introduce your own scenarios. Even with the many scenario editors or generators offered in a computer game,it is often impossible to change a small rule to introduce a different element to a game. EG These woods are dense, or these troops are paratroopers and need to spend time to find each other after landing, or These are DD tanks and can go into deep water etc etc.

These rule changes may be outside the scope of many games but I would like to see a computer "game" where we can input all the rules, all the graphics and sounds to generate our very own game. I have, in the past seen programmes like this but they have been rather simplistic. I would love to see a more detailed system.
 
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Computer wargames at good at fog-of-war, AI for solo play, removing the need to remember endless rules, whereas the main benefit for me of a boardgame is the size of the map, the tactile feel of the game, social interaction, and generally deeper knowledge of the game because of being forced to learn the rules.

What I would love is computerised rules and scenarios for games to assist alongside playing the game for real on a large map. This could help remove rule confusion (or aid learning by showing what rules applied and why), speed up games (automated results, CRTs etc.), and even potentially be used to create fog of war for 2 players each playing with the computer aid across the internet but each having their own game setup at home.

To be fair, a nice 3 foot by 4 foot screen built as a table would be perfect, especially if it had internet access built in so games could be enhanced with fog of war etc. Or at least much higher definition projectors so we can project a large map onto a wall - beats trying to convert games to magnetic counters and maps!
 
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The reason why I don't play computer based wargames (apart from difficulty in finding them here in Spain) is that they don't have rules.

I want to know the rules for games I play (specially complicated ones). So I don't want to learn that supply is not trace through mountains just because I moved a unit there and it is now out of supply!

I want to know how combat works. I don't want to have the attack ready and then learn the odds, I want to be able to calculate them myself before hand. I'll explain myself. In the computer wargames I have played, you have to be next to the enemy unit to attack it. And you won't learn the odds of the attack until you are ready to commit for the attack. OTOH in board wargames, I know from afar that attacking with a tank gives me a plus 1, plus 2 for CAS, and -1 for the terrain. Maybe there is some FoW, but at least I know the effects on terrain and the effects of my artillery, and aircraft.

If you pick up a rulebook for a computer wargame (and I have read The Operational Art of War rulebook) you'll learn about all the variables they have taken into account, but not how they have taken them into account!
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What computer wargames allow you to do is have incredible complexity that no boardgame can handle in a decent fashion. Imagine Hearts of Iron 3's OOB system in a boardgame. Dozens of technologies, affecting brigades, which form divisions, which form corps. Weather, terrain, air support: No boardgame gets you that far while still being remotely playable.

I for one LIKE that I don't have a detailed idea of what the odds of combat are. No real commander in history has ever known the odds in anything that resemble what a boardgame allows. Only when in direct contact with the enemy they had anything that resembled odds, and even then they only had a rough estimate. Did Napoleon really know the odds when he sent the guard charging against Wellington's center? If I want to know exactly what will happen when I do X or Y, I'll play an abstract or an Euro.

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