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Author Topic: Basic Unit Design Concepts  (Read 4334 times)

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Offline choppinlt

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Basic Unit Design Concepts
« on: April 04, 2016, 07:53:27 PM »
It’s been awhile since I have posted anything regarding the inner game concepts. In this post I will discuss design concepts behind units. Please note that you do NOT have to know all this information or fully understand it to enjoy Theater of Operations. I post this information for those of you who are interested in learning some of the deeper concepts behind this sim. While much of this may seem like common sense to those familiar with this game genre, it is worth mentioning these design considerations so we can have a common understanding of the design philosophy.

I have discussed units and many of their characteristics in previous posts, but I haven’t discussed the design concept for the units. Since this is an operational level WWII simulation, military units have some degree of training and are going to act accordingly. Therefore many of the details of what is happening at the tactical level are abstracted or not shown directly. It is assumed that units are going to have vanguards, flank guards, and rearguards when on the move. Once a units beds down, or is otherwise idle it will count as resting without the user having to declare so. Units count as setting up outposts, patrols, listening/observation posts, eating meals, basic resupply, and preparing basic defensive fighting positions without players telling them to do so. While it is assumed all units perform these tasks, individual unit characteristics (like Training and Leadership) are going to reflect how effective they are at performing these functions. So a crack unit with good leadership is going to be a lot more effective/and or faster at performing tasks than a green unit with poor leadership.

As discussed in other posts, units are shown by a “counter” with various symbology, and it will project a “footprint” of variable size on the map depending on the characteristics. The counter gives the players quick access to basic information about the unit, and the footprint shows the “center of gravity” or core area the unit controls. The footprint does NOT define the boundaries of the entire unit, only the core area controlled by the unit. The functions mentioned in the paragraph above could mean that only 50% of the personnel represented in the unit are actually contained in the unit footprint. The rest of the unit may be elsewhere performing their job whether deployed in a fighting position somewhat beyond the footprint, manning an outpost, on a patrol, or otherwise performing a duty. With HQ units, the proportion of personnel in the footprint could be closer to 10-20% of the personnel represented. For instance a US Infantry Division has approximately 2,000 troops attached at the division level with support functions not represented on the game map (medical, mechanics, signal corps, police, etc), but these troops are not part of the actual HQ function. In reality those troops are dispersed in various areas throughout the divisional zone. In short these troops are accounted for, but they are abstractly represented.

I will stop for this post, and I will add Part 2 in a few days so I don’t write a novel right now!  ;) These basic unit concepts build in to 2 concepts I discussed a few months ago: Zone of Control (ZOC) and Zone of Action (ZOA). In the mean time, feel free to ask questions.

« Last Edit: April 04, 2016, 08:06:20 PM by choppinlt »

Offline A Canadian Cat

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2016, 02:52:51 PM »
Thanks for sharing - this will be an interesting topic to read. I am looking forward to more.

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2016, 03:24:35 PM »
You're welcome Canadian Cat! And as promised, here is the follow-up to the topic picking up where we left off...

So now we get to the explanation of 2 concepts that are similar at first appearance, but have significant differences in what they represent. Keep in mind these concepts will require much playtesting to tweak and perfect.

Zone of Control: Every unit has a footprint and every unit has a corresponding ZOC that projects from the footprint. ZOC’s are fixed based on the unit size and type. The ZOC is important because it helps represent the amount of territory that a unit can affect “control” over. Building on what I have stated earlier we know that much of the unit is located outside the footprint, so we then account for the impact of weapons and their range. So you can quickly see how a company of 150 infantrymen could affect “control” over a 1 km of frontage (whether or not that is a good idea is whole different issue  ;) ). Furthermore, units are considered to enter ground combat (i.e. I typically term this an engagement) when their footprint is located adjacent to an enemy ZOC. The only "ranged" ground combat will come from units that can perform artillery strikes.
 
Zone of Action: the ZOA is simply the area of ground that a given unit is responsible for, and is primarily where the rest of a unit outside of the footprint would be located. Unlike the ZOC, the ZOA is flexible and changes based on circumstances. The best way for me to describe this is to imagine a regiment with 3 battalions deployed in line abreast (see diagram). The battalions are spaced evenly 800m apart, and the battalions have a footprint of 500m diameter. The interior battalion has a ZOA of 1300m directly to the front, (800/2+800/2+500). Assume both end battalions have open flanks, therefore the end battalions have 1700m of frontage (800+800/2+500) plus the area to their open flank and rear as their ZOA. Generally speaking, the closer units are together the smaller their ZOA becomes, and vice versa. The ZOA is important for spotting (among other reasons). So a unit footprint can be located behind a ridgeline, however if the ZOA extends to the ridge (or past it) the unit counts as being able to use the ridgeline to observe without exposing the bulk of the unit.

OK, I will let you chew on this and I will give a further update in a couple of days. In the mean time, feel free to ask questions...


Offline A Canadian Cat

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #3 on: April 08, 2016, 03:31:10 PM »
OK so the zone of control is a game concept that lets you decide when combat happens and I suspect limits other units form passing thought it etc.  I get that - so far.  Zone of action, is that a player controlled concept - they decide who it responsible for what or does that happen automagicly but using a different method than the ZOC?

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #4 on: April 08, 2016, 06:22:06 PM »
OK so the zone of control is a game concept that lets you decide when combat happens and I suspect limits other units form passing thought it etc.  I get that - so far.  Zone of action, is that a player controlled concept - they decide who it responsible for what or does that happen automagicly but using a different method than the ZOC?

Ahh, good question!  :)

First off, your assumption is correct about the ZOC. Regarding the ZOA, currently the concept does NOT include direct player control. The ZOA will be done behind-the-scenes and will automagically adjust based on unit dispositions. So players have indirect control over a unit's ZOA based on where they are located. I should add that the radius of a unit ZOA may far exceed its radius of the ZOC, like in the example above for the battalions with the open flanks (or be less than the ZOC like the middle battalion). Furthermore, the way I am applying the term ZOA, it is more or less synonymous with the term "unit boundary". The ZOA can have a significant bearing on a number instances, like calling in artillery. In other words, units are not going to call in artillery in another unit's ZOA due to fratricide (among other reasons). Does that answer your question?

Offline A Canadian Cat

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #5 on: April 11, 2016, 03:28:01 PM »
...So players have indirect control over a unit's ZOA based on where they are located. I should add that the radius of a unit ZOA may far exceed its radius of the ZOC, like in the example above for the battalions with the open flanks

OK that works.

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #6 on: April 11, 2016, 03:47:14 PM »
​As I continue to go deep "in the weeds" with this discussion, I want to point out again that as a player you do not have to know and understand all aspects of this discussion. I don't want to scare anyone away with the level of detail, but the level of detail is here if you want it. If you take nothing else away from this discussion, just know that a lot of deep thought and concept evaluation has gone in to creating this sim.

I am trying to strike a careful balance of keeping this an operational level game, yet allowing players to dig in to enough detail to appeal to the players that may be more interested in the tactical level. Personally I really like both the tactical and operational levels, so I want to allow for a lot of flexibility in the "task force" nature that became so common with WWII and continues today. The base game-level maneuver unit is the battalion, but players may break down most battalions to companies. We may allow for armor units to be broken down in to platoons, but we will see how the programming goes. The rate of idea production far exceeds the rate of programming, so I have to be careful that I don't get scope creep and "kitchen sink" this game! ;) Once we get the game published, we can then evaluate areas of expansion, so this could be one of those areas.

Moving ahead, we want to make it so players can make tweaks/adjustments within battalions regarding the various organic combat support weapons. For example a US infantry battalion primarily contains 3 rifle companies in terms of maneuver elements. The battalion also contains the following organic support: a weapons company (containing 2 MG plt's, and 3 mortar sections), an AT plt and a pioneer plt to directly support the rifle companies (Brit, German and Soviet battalions were organized in a similar manner too). When a battalion is full (i.e. has no detached elements) then the distribution of the the combat support elements makes no difference, because the battalion is considered an entire integrated unit and fights as such. What happens if a player wants to break down in to rifle companies and spread them out further? Players will be able to assign the various organic combat support sections to the desired company before a company is detached. Note that the combat support sections are never represented on the map, they are considered part of the company they are assigned to.

Taking this all a step further, breaking down units in to elements can lead to the creation of "battle groups". Battle groups are typically (but not exclusively) battalion-sized ad hoc units formed by combining inorganic combat elements and/or artillery support elements from other units that are formed around a lead unit (typically an infantry battalion or tank battalion). For example, a player could create a battle group by taking an infantry battalion (i.e. the lead unit) and assigning it a company of tanks plus a company of combat engineers, then assign it movement orders. The creation of a battle group requires time for the units to plan and integrate their abilities. Maintenance efforts and supply are much less efficient for battle groups, so it is generally a good idea to create battle groups on a temporary basis. Battle groups are generally created to achieve a specific objective for an attack/counterattack.

I think this completes the discussion of basics of unit design. Feel free to ask questions, and/or let me know if there are other aspects I have neglected to explain.

Offline A Canadian Cat

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #7 on: April 12, 2016, 02:56:51 PM »
I appreciate this discussion. I find it very interesting following on with your thought process and am totally fine with giving us a peak under the hood even if we don't need that peak to play the game.

​<snip>we will see how the programming goes. The rate of idea production far exceeds the rate of programming, so I have to be careful that I don't get scope creep and "kitchen sink" this game! ;) Once we get the game published, we can then evaluate areas of expansion, so this could be one of those areas.

Good.  Failing to do this is the main reason that projects get into trouble and fail.  A creative person can come up with more ideas than an army of programmers could do.  Raining the idea flow to focus on the critical ones is a skill that separates success from failure.  The other plan that looks like it should work is hiring many many additional programmers and artists to "get it all done".  Living on a shoe string budget prevents you from getting sucked down that rat hole that also leads to failure.  You are far better keeping things tight to get a core of a good game done and working before expanding it.

Things get even harder once you have something people can play with because then you have lots of voices saying "but feature X is like the most important thing ever, how could you not have done that first".  Keeping away from feature creep then can be hard too.  Mind you having a working game does let you say- yes we think it is important too and we will get to it. In other words it is a good problem to have :-)

<snip>Players will be able to assign the various organic combat support sections to the desired company before a company is detached. Note that the combat support sections are never represented on the map, they are considered part of the company they are assigned to.

This is brilliant.  This is one of those things that I was not even thinking about but as soon as you mentioned it I realized it is a big deal because if you don't allow that then you have to either fight with the weapons company whole or accept platoon and smaller units running around.  Ack!  Being able to add an MG team or two to A Company is perfect.  And clearly what was often done.

Offline choppinlt

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Re: Basic Unit Design Concepts
« Reply #8 on: April 12, 2016, 09:14:26 PM »
Great, I'm glad you find it interesting to peek under the hood.  ;) I figured there were a few others out there that would see value in this.

Quote
You are far better keeping things tight to get a core of a good game done and working before expanding it.

Things get even harder once you have something people can play with because then you have lots of voices saying "but feature X is like the most important thing ever, how could you not have done that first".  Keeping away from feature creep then can be hard too.  Mind you having a working game does let you say- yes we think it is important too and we will get to it. In other words it is a good problem to have :-)

Agreed and Agreed!! I think it is a good thing that we can continually find avenues for possible future expansion.

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This is brilliant.

'nuff said!!!  :D

Quote
This is one of those things that I was not even thinking about but as soon as you mentioned it I realized it is a big deal because if you don't allow that then you have to either fight with the weapons company whole or accept platoon and smaller units running around.  Ack!  Being able to add an MG team or two to A Company is perfect.  And clearly what was often done.

Correct, the weapons company was rarely ever deployed as a singular element like the rifle companies, so I felt they were more accurately portrayed as various subsections attached to individual detached companies. And yes it has potential to have a significant impact. The addition of an MG section won't make much difference, but adding all the support sections together (especially the mortars and ATG's) and we are talking roughly 50% of the combat strength of the unit!
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 01:45:20 PM by choppinlt »

 

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