Prototyping

Hi all,

Erik, I and Martin are working hard on working out the details of the game concept right now. However, while this is our main activity I'm already looking into some of the technical challenges and choices ahead of us. Otherwise, how would we know if some of these great ideas we have are feasible? :)

So basically the first technical order of business will be to create some proof-of-concepts. In other words, create some quick prototypes to test some of the more challenging features we want to implement. This will also have the added advantage that we can test some of game engines out there and see which one suits our needs best. I'll be making a post about this choice for a game engine at a later time in the process.

So what are the main challenges we foresee in this project. Let me outline a couple of them:

Controls
Let me be completely clear here. The old control panel is gone. There is no way in hell I am implementing it again, regardless of the warm fuzzy feeling I get when thinking about it ;). It was clunky, ugly and unintuitive for new players. We need to create a modern interface that is unintrusive but allows easy control of soldiers. The latest developments with Windows 8 (and mobile of course!) show us that there is a future for touch controls, so at the very least it should be possible to control soldiers using touch. So I'll be experimenting a bit with different ways to control soldiers in a first prototype.

Multi-story Buildings
Lets be honest here: I believe multi-story buildings belong in a tactical war game like Call of Combat. High-rise buildings can be of tremendous strategic interest in a game. The player that, say, controls a church tower has a clear tactical advantage by providing him with a nice location from which to spot and shoot at enemy soldiers. You simply add a whole new strategic layer to the game and allows us to create a whole host of interesting scenarios which would not be possible otherwise. But it is very complex to implement properly. I mean, how do soldiers navigate between different floors exactly? Is there a way to make combat 'work' between floors? How do you visually display different floors exactly? We'll need to do some usability tests with this.

Terrain Elevation
Like multi-story buildings the addition of terrain elevation clearly does add more tactical depth to the game. You can build missions around capturing high ground for example and elevation could impact line-of-sight, movement and/or shooting accuracy. But how exactly? And what to do with map objects on slopes? Testing required!

Tiles and Cover
Cover is one of the core game mechanics in Call of Combat, as a battle is essentially a run from cover to cover. The old system of cover directly depended on the tile you were on and in what direction you were facing. This worked decently well, but do we want to depend so much on tiles? Why is there no easy way to move half-way between two tiles? We need to at least explore some sort of 'tile-less' setup, or at least a system with a lot smaller tiles allowing for more precise placement of objects and soldiers. This affects cover as well. I want to explore different ways of 'going' into cover, for example by clicking on the cover rather than on the tile next to the cover! We need to make a prototype for this.

There are of course many others features that could benefit from such a proof-of-concept approach, but I think these are the major ones. So just to clear what this means. It means I'll be implementing these features separately in a bare bones test system, so without fancy art, animations or multiplayer support. We can use that to test some of these ideas and later re-implement them in the actual game code. We'll keep you all updated on progress on these prototypes on this blog!

As you can see we have our work cut out for us! ;) Happy holidays all!

Comments

US_Army_Infantry's picture

Going to go out on a ledge here and ask about what having no tiles would do? Wouldn't it be the same as smaller tiles but easier to do?
Florian's picture

You are probably right. I think in the end there will always be some kind of tile system, if only because you need some kind of grid on which to build the map. But I do think we will end up with a lot smaller tiles (up to 10 times smaller), which means tiles will be in but not obvious as such for players of the game.

This is a good thing, as I do not see the advantage of using such big tiles in a real-time game. In a real-time game it causes inconsistency (and confusion) while moving performing actions like nading. The number of work-arounds I had to implement in the original game to make tiles work with movement were stunning! As Phil rightly notes, many glitches were related to the tile system.
Phil's picture

It certainly seemed a lot of the glitches and bugs were related to the tiles system.

It would be good to go to free roaming or perhapse if thats not an option, a tile with more sides, like a hexagon. Smaller hexagons mihgt be half way solution.

Foggy Dewhurst's picture

Please do remember some of us are proper PC users and not kids who buy new fangled toys who like to pretend mobile phones are computers.

And please remember some of us use Linux because Winblows 8 is a big pile of crap & we're PC users therefore need a PC OS and not a mobile phone OS like Winblows 8.

After reading this post I've got a horrible feeling CoC v2 is going to be unplayable to anyone with a proper computer.
Florian's picture

Sorry I gave that impression, but you really should not be afraid. I actually am one of the 1.5% Linux desktop users, so cross-platform support is very important to me! I also consider myself a bit of a history buff, which means I am not building an arcade game for children, but a wargame with deep tactics!

To be perfectly clear: WE ARE MAKING A PC GAME HERE! I personally do own both an xbox and tablet, but I use neither for gaming! PC gaming using traditional controls (as in mouse and keyboard) is our main focus with CoCv2. But we will in the long run explore other platforms, and yes, that includes mobile platforms.

At this point ignoring touch would be unwise in my opinion, as many new computers in the coming years will be equipped with a touch screen by default. The whole point of creating a prototype for controls is to see what is possible on this terrain, so to be ahead of the curve when touch does take off.

Foggy Dewhurst's picture

Ohhhhhh whew!!!!! My heart sank at first.

Thanks :D

If I want to play games I turn my computer on

If I want to make a telephone call I grab my telephone

Don't get these weirdos who play games on telephones.. maybe I'm just getting old haha.
Costas's picture

I'm not sure how complex you intend to make the elevation but I can definately see the obstacles in it. I'm sure you are aware of it but I'll mention it anyways. A popular game Company of Heroes uses elevation in such a way that troops that garrison buildings automatically capture the highest floor/windows. In theory if you are doing indoor fighting it could automatically take place instantly on the top floor as if there are no floors below. What this means is that elevation would add to LOS as well as better cover however, the rules (and aspect) of indoor fighting wouldn't change in a way that you have to figure it out from scratch. Similar would be ground level elevation where automatically the ones higher than the rest would have a bonus in defense due to higher aim% and LOS as well as troops moving in low ground (or trenches) would have limited LOS. In the same manner, low(er) ground/trenches with some obstacles could offer better cover for troops.
Florian's picture

Sorry for the late response, I was away for a few days for the holidays :).

Company of Heroes definitely can be an inspiration, although the scale of the game is quite a lot bigger. How they do elevation could definitely work for CoCv2 as well. With regard to buildings I think the CoH approach would not work: as you control individual soldiers here that are supposed to do close quarters combat I think control over what floor you are on is paramount,

It is very well possible that it will take some time and effort to pull it off. My best guess right now is that especially multi-storey buildings will not be in the initial release. But I am gonna make sure that the engine and code as such supports it, so that it can be implemented at one stage or another.
Goose's picture

Honestly, i think you should scrap the concept of multi story buildings. To me it seems like it would add too many headaches and would complicate the coding/gameplay too much.

How would we clear someone out of the second floor?

For example if someone is already on the second floor how will i be able to flush him out? I can throw a grenade up there but if the floor is big enough the nade range (i assume) wont be enough to stun/hit him.

not only that but if someone is watching what i assume would be stairs, i imagine they would have the advantage. Meaning like running into a tommy gun while rounding a corner (in that the guy already upstairs would fire first).

then a different set of cover/hit % formulas would have to be calculated for the different elevations. Not only that but can you imagine assaulting a 2 story building with enemies in both windows? how do you nade fight that lol? Getting the nade in the right window would suck i imagine.

To me the gameplay of CoC was not broken. we all had plenty of fun playing it as it was. The main problem was that the interface of the game, and really the learning curve was far too steep for new players to quickly get a handle of. Combine that with that fact that starting a game was also really hard. Meaning that once a game was started, you couldnt join until it was over. Opens games helped, but new players tend to die early, and then had to wait 30 mins until they could play again.

To me those are the two core issues that need to be solved in order to make the game more accessible and popular.

I think a point/touch and click interface would be much more intuitive, and would be a hell of a lot easier for new players to pick up. Click a solider and then left click where you want them to go. click a solider and right click where you want them to nade. click a solider and then left click on an Enemy solider to fire at. Then scroll with the mouse to move the map like any other RTS game.

The only other issue is how to change the format of the games so we wont have to wait 30 mins for each game.

Thats just how i see things. I know you guys wont have that many resources to pull this off, so it seems to me that realistically the easiest thing would be to keep things as simple possible, and still have a fun game.

i mean keep in mind you don't need awesome graphics to have a good game, just look at minecraft. As long as the gameplay is solid, i believe you'll have a winner.

but then again i'm not the one making this game :-P.
Vatsug's picture

And thank god for that. Let me remind up you if this still hasn't occurred in your mind, the first version of the game actually died. If they are able to add new features, then add them.

I want to comment the fact you want a click ON soldier control system. We don't want this game to be ├╝ber slow-pace like chain, there's a reason people played Call instead. Sure, it can be one way of controlling as long as a control panel and in-game hot keys are available. Ask anyone that plays the giant strategy games as starcraft or age of empires, using and learning hot keys is top priority.

Be aware this is written on an iPhone and has not been proofread
Goose's picture

Chain of Command died because 2am went bankrupt not because it was a bad game, when i was still playing it was the most popular game there.

Chain and Call are slow paced because the soldiers move slow, not because of the controls. All you have to do is speed up the movement speed of the troops. Can you imagine zerglings moving the speed of the soldiers in call? Same thing applies here.
Vatsug's picture

You totally missed the point about speed.. -.-''
If you ask Call players that tried Chain as they got the note that Call was dying, they would say that Chain sucked because of the controls (scrollbare to move map, etc.) and all the bugs. Probably a good reason why the playerbase dropped.
thor1577's picture

Um i havent played in a long time and i just got a new laptop and came back to see that it wont be done til 2014 um so i was wondering when u get a version available if you could send me a link [email protected]
Erik's picture

We certainly will thor!
sbfsbf's picture

First off:
Thank you Florian and co. for not only helping me fill my time with the first iteration of Call, but maintaining an interest in bringing us new titles.

Maybe six to eight months ago, I actually had a flash in my head that I wanted to jump into Java graphics and game programming, which faded in less than a week of twiddling with jmonkey. One of the things that crossed my mind was a companion game to CoC. I jotted some notes of some of the twists to the original game, and perhaps you'd be interested in some of those ideas.


Terrain
If a grid system is still used, a voxel system could be implemented to allow for minor terrain destruction and modification. This is already the norm in minecraft and its family of games, namely "Ace of Spades" Passable and impassable terrain modifiers would also be key to setting up strategy. If this is an infantry-only game, a swamp or heavily trodden mud would be difficult to maneuver in slowing travel, and deep rivers impossible to ford.

Vision
A line of sight system is probably a given, and paired with player-deformable terrain, soldiers can dig foxholes, trenches, or simply jump into a crater for defilade. Other vision (and accuracy) modifiers can be placed statically or dynamically on the map, such as foliage, fog, and smoke grenades. This line of sight would be best if visually indicated, so a player will know where his or her blind spots lie.

Equipment
Depending on what a player controls, whether it be a single soldier, a squad, or even a platoon. His or her role can be expanded by allowing several equipment slots to be filled from the familiar "weapons assignment" screen. A soldier can become a rifleman, medic, machine gunner, marksman, part of a mortar team, or even a combat engineer depending on what tools you give him. A soldier can only carry so much, so specialization would be crucial. Weight might also play a factor in this soldier's walking speed. It might be possible that there are already KIA casualties on the playing field that may carry desirable weapons, adding to the variability of a map.

Controls
I was thinking controls would actually float below a soldier, and be context sensitive. A mouse-over of the soldier's "dot" could expand into a menu showing what that player is able to do at that moment. The feel of these controls and their responsiveness will be key in setting the tone and pace of the game and having more click-only controls would promote a slower, more casual, king's quest feel. If a faster pace is desired, contextual hotkeys can be assigned, so that when you click on a rifleman, then hit the R key, he's now ready to run where you click next. The heavy machinegunner will not be able to run, so R might not respond in the same way. This is fairly intuitive for anyone who's played an RTS, and can be implemented with on screen buttons for the mobile user.


Community Resources
Allowing more "hooks" into the game API can result in the game resembling more of a broad engine, rather than just one game. This can range from setting the objectives and supplies for a mission on a map, to even the number of soldiers to a squad and number of factions or teams to a game. It might even be possible to allow balance for a person joining late in the game to join as a partisan or resistance member and be lightly armed, but still contribute to gameplay.

Community Organization and Ranking
I cannot claim to know how to make a game community "work" but I always enjoyed the original Regiment system of CoC, however, I felt it strange how 50 people could be considered a regiment, or even worse, an Army Group. Or how seemingly everyone fighting in the trenches was master sargeant or officer. I don't know the best way to differentiate between the traditional "promotion point" ranks and the administrative ranks within a group, but for a more immersive experience, this could be handled better. There is a division between who is the better player versus who is the better leader, and this might need to be addressed from the start. Perhaps different sets of points could be given, much like "EFF" and PPSs, where one is given by the game automatically based on performance, and the the other is given solely by a commander. You might have the best soldier on the battlefield busted down to private based on his behavior, and this can have its own comedic charm.
Perhaps you could use the historical division names from from the time and fill out the ranks based on their role within the division. Once say 20 people join a particular Clan, the leader is now a sargeant in charge of his platoon. This platoon can be a part of say Able company. When more players join, more companies are created, and the ranks change. I honestly couldn't wrap my head around this part, so feel free to ignore me completely.


Technical
I'd love to see the ability to run a headless server, for one.



Again, thank you for once again giving me a site to follow, and giving us a community where we can lovingly throw grenades at one another.
sbfsbf's picture

Apology accepted.
It often takes a boring person to sit around and write code all day, and I'm one of them. Long winded and unsolicited. I'll keep it to myself next time then to spare your eyes.
Erik's picture

Hi sbfsbf,

Thank you for your post. I find some of your views very interesting. We've actually covered some of the subjects you mention during our last meeting. Later this week we'll post our plan for these features.

Its always great to read what you guys have to say about certain features. It really does inspire us and sometimes shine light on features in a way which we have not thought of ourselves. So again, thanks :)
PFC4LIFE's picture

Good to see you are here SBF as always straight to the point and with the best interest of game play at heart. Agree with your post especially on the ability to bust people in rank.
Rapidkiller's picture

Lots of great ideas and I can't wait to see how this all will turn out.

However, I agree with Goose in that multi story buildings is going too far. If you are using the old game concept of nading to run up and kill, having more than 1 floor makes it too complicated, ESPEcially if you are including terrain as well.

I think the terrain idea by itself is great, and the new controls system should be fun to try out as well.

As for the poll, I think it would be a lot easier to plan with a system like League of Legends "ping" where you can point anywhere on the map in dz time and a point will flash and make a sound, basically to tell others exactly where you want them to go. This will definitely have its problems too (spamming pings in opens, lag issues) but I think text based planning with a ping button is the next step.


-RK
Erik's picture

Hey Rapid,

Thanks your input. Regarding the multi-story buildings & terrain: we'll make a post about these features later this week. Also, regarding the planning feature, we have actually thought of some very cool stuff! About this as well we will post later this week. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts about it :)
Alex's picture

I think the cynics in us, considering in reality as players its better for you (and us) that we look at this game as we look at any game, rather than with nostalgia but with perspective, would point to a lot of things similar to this being 'promised' before.

The pro of this game ultimately would be that the developers have an emotional attachment to the game and community and so are more inclined to try to deliver things like this rather than a profit driven publisher (who seem to somewhat disappoint fans lately) and as such, I'd highly suggest releasing a few theoretical diagrams of some of these ideas in the pre-production stage.

The major flaw in COCv1 was that everyone had a view, and as such it should be you guys saying 'this is how we want it to look, adapt it but its happening' as otherwise it'll never happen and we'll all be discussing how to improve v2 for the next 10yrs rather than trying things out.

p.s. sbf your post was not boring and nor are you, most of us found loco more boring with his rages and always being banned ;P
Erik's picture

Hey Alex,

I understand what you're saying. The whole idea behind this blog is to keep you guys informed about our progress while at the same time receiving productive feedback on certain features. This has really turned out great so far, many of the ideas coming from the community really do aid us in the decision-making processes. But as you said, in the end we will indeed be the ones making the final decisions.
BoNcHiE's picture

Wanted to register and say hey to those still lurking but couldn't find a registration button, just a place to login. Am I missing something?
Erik's picture

Hey Bonchie. I'm not sure what you mean. It seems like you are registered and did just say hey? :)
BlaZeD's picture

I smell a BtS comeback!
CookiePanda's picture

Read above.
Coffee's picture

Kinda skim read so if what I say has already been said sorry.

Problem : One thing I always found unrealistic was the fact that Co's could see everything a soldier could see

Solution: Implement a minimap with enemies displayed as red dots (if someone on your team sees them) , The way I see it is that every few seconds the minimap should update (simulate people locating enemies over radio ect.)
Florian's picture

I understand what you are saying.

There is a bit of a clash of interests here. On the one side we want people to play as a team and work together towards achieving the mission objective. But working together is so much easier if you have information about each other, if you see what your team mates are up to! On the other hand we want the chain of command to be realistic and show the confusion that is inherent to in any military battle. Your suggestion of using the mini-map could be a nice compromise here, we'll certainly discuss it internally.

In general, when we feel ready for it we will share our concept of the chain of command and its impact on LOS and other parts of the game on this website. But keep suggestions and remarks like these coming!
Coffee's picture

The reason why i suggested it was to actually use more teamwork. The way I see it if higher ranked players dont have everyone's LOS they will have more of an incentive to use apps like ventrillo (know im pushing it but maybe something integrated like counterstrike). If you guys are planning on using Hks or touch I imagine typing would be a bit harder for particular players.
Erik's picture

What you are aiming at is, correct me if im wrong, communication instead of teamwork. Although the two are of course closely connected ;) Like Florian said, we'll need to find a proper balance between facilitating teamwork as well as realism (and suspense in this case). Your minimap suggestion could indeed be (part of) the solution, thanks for that :)

Regarding Hks and voice comm: we're definetely aiming to implement both.
PFC4LIFE's picture

In terms of Regiments or AG's the past systems were limited and never allowed the game to grow from those willing to take on the role of a CO. Please whatever you do, don't repeat the High Council or anything like it. The community should be open and free formed not restrictive. Game developers should seek the input from the whole community. Also do away with the MP / moderators as well that system was flawed horribly.
Erik's picture

I agree. The more self-sustainable a community is the better. At the same time, the less rules coming from us the better. The way things look now, we will definitely try to achieve this. In practice what this will probably mean (among other things) is that the 'main lobby' chat will play a less prominent role. If the player base grows large enough such a chat becomes problematic anyways. The possibility to chat with the enemy team is likely to be reduced as well. There will be chats available, in one form or another, but they shouldnt be in need of moderators (or at least as little as possible).

Also, a functional report/support system should carry a lot of the weight.
PFC4LIFE's picture

Another huge issue was the ability to get AG games going. I have not seen anything posted yet but a few thoughts:

Have the entire AG have a rating not combined from individual ratings ELO system.
Have a system so AG games are anonymous. So those who want to AG are listed and other AGs can simply click to ready not knowing who they are going to play. Map is chosen, sides are chosen and it launches when the second AG readies. Just to remove all that BS that goes on. Stats for AGs should be a simple ELO system win vs loss against ratings.
Erik's picture

Getting an AG game going: on of the largest problems CoCv1 faced.
There were several reasons for this of course. A small player base and seeing who your opponents would be being two of them. I think that your solution, not seeing who you would face in battle, is a great solution for a large part of the problem. We have actually thought of a very similar system, which we are currently still working out. As soon we have the entire system figured out we'll make a post about it. Looking forward to your thoughts.

ps. I took the liberty to delete your double post
12rossja's picture

Can we get some cows again? Like a simple black and white square on the ground like in chain, LOL!
Erik's picture

Perhaps the dream of every former chain player? :)
CookiePanda's picture

If fixing combat inside multi-story buildings becomes too complicated, I have a simple but probably less fun solution. If there is a building like a church tower, you could control it by controlling certain points outside the building (aka front and back entrance tiles) then whichever side controls both tiles could send soldiers into the church tower.
Erik's picture

Interesting idea. But what happens when u have conquered the building? Does a random soldier warp to the inside of the building? And how would an enemy team be able to conquer such a building? What happens if the points outside the building are conquered while there is still someone inside the building?
CookiePanda's picture

Moot point now that there will be no multi-story buildings. But I was thinking you send a soldier into the building, there is a small period of time where he is "setting up" (5 seconds or so). The enemy team conquers the building by taking the control points, where they can then kill the soldier inside by using a grenade. If the conqueror has no nades, then they can send in soldiers who have a high% chance to kill the enemy since they control the building.

The downside to my idea is that it leaves a lot to percentages and chance during battle, but It would allow for some semblance of multi-story buildings.
Erik's picture

Indeed a moot point, but only until we find a proper solution. As Florian said in his post the other day: we're planning on implementing all kinds of features/improvements while the game is up and running. Multistory buildings could very well be one of them.

Finding a great solution proves to be quite difficult though. Next to capturing an empty as well as an occupied building, there are issues such as level visibility, the movement of soldiers and multi-story battling. Especially the latter three are quite complicated to implement properly. Your ideas are much appreciated! But in all honesty it does not strike us as the perfect solution just yet. Lets just shove this discussion to the side for now, and pick it up again in a year or so ;)
Colethemole69's picture

This is my first time seeing all of this...im super excited!