Rapid action

Ours is never going to be a game with “instant action”. It might seem a minor semantic but its one that worries me a lot. It’s a chasm waiting for people to fall into. In BF2 or CS, the particular map you are playing tells you everything you need to know. Being a good team player might require you to absorb a little more information, but if you focus on fragging the right side you can be “good enough”.

But our game needs you to be slightly more aware of the scale and context of what you’re entering. Some Rats believe in an instant action button that spawns you and displays a pop-up with mission orders, etc. Some Rats believe in a “rapid action” button that gets you to the reserved-vehicle screen ready to go.

I believe in guiding the player.

What would instant action do? It would use some criteria to determine that this is the fight for you, and if you click the button you’ll spawn there. Why is that neccessary? Because you have to search through a lot of information. Why do you have to search? Because there is a lot of information that isn’t sorted, organized or presented in a fashion conducive to finding a fight. Why is the information the way it is? Because advanced players can make use of it to build a picture of what is going on and then make a supremely informed decision as to where to play.

We don’t have to take the current UI away from those people. But if we’re talking about “advanced” players, then they don’t need their interface to be the default interface – the current pages we have could easily be moved down a tab, and simpler, guided pages made to be the defaults for various UI steps.

Consider this: Selecting a destination for “instant action” would be like a contest. The game would line up all the candidates, score each of them, and thus determine a winner, throw the rest of the information away, and only use the one result.

But you could keep that list. Show the player the winning fight, by default, and provide them with back/next buttons to cycle thru the list in order.

Don’t get mired down here in the minutae of “how do you sort the list?” or “what determines which fight is best”. My point here is that the UI/game should be doing this searching for you.  It has all the information, including information we might not want to show you but that we’d be OK with using on your behalf to put the list in a good order. And, that the player be able to change the sorting rules goes without saying.

Once you have this system, you also know what icons/attributes/information are important to display on the map. You can’t assign values to the properties of a fight without ascertaining whats important to know.

With such a system, I think its wholly feasible to go back to an old map-driven first page. Read on before you freak out.

There may be side-bars. There would certainly be tabs to let you view the information along other axes. You want to see the orbat? Good for you. You want to look up fights by AOs? Great, have a tab.

But this front map would be more than just a map. This would be the guided map. It would show some kind of inset-panel showing the properties of the fight that are used for selection; something relatively small with a few, simple iconic values to give you a rough picture of whats going on.

And back/next buttons.

The little info panel for the fight might have icons indicating relative numbers of troops, bases held, etc. Don’t get yourself sidetracked on the minutae.

One argument is that this is yet-more-stuff to look at. That’s wrong. This is less information for you to look at. This is the baseline premise. And yes, the info-panel for a fight might contain a fair amount of information. But that’s OK too. The average player isn’t going to pay it much attention anyway, but as he players more and more, and if that iconography is well re-used, e.g. on the briefing room screen, then the player is going to learn them as he goes along. The way you learn what all the spell icons mean in an MMORPG as you encounter them.

Obviously there are other changes that have to make this work, but the basic principle is to make the default not having to search for a fight. That doesn’t mean that you should make it impossible to search for a fight, or that you should be unable to view the information in similar ways to which it is presented now.

Pick a persona -> Pick a fight (and perhaps have your mission selected too) -> Be presented with a vehicle and an effective synopsis of what you are about to jump into. [More] for the full briefing page.

I believe those steps still need to be there, so that the advanced/expert user can defy the machine and see the details that otherwise might be missed, and so that a beginner can take a step back once he’s had his fix and analyze the situation and learn more about the game.

28 Comments

Is it inherent in your analysis that player loyalty to a particular Brigade will continue not to be design-valued even as the game population increases, and thereby a need will continue to exist for the player to choose among a much greater number of engqagements?

Officer-deployed, player-replaceable-AI defensive strongpoints/spawnpoints have been discussed in the past as a tactical design technique of possible interest. I don’t know if CRS will utilize that concept in the future, but if that should occur, would you expect to use this same UI for both attacker vs. attacker engagements and for that sort of defensive spawning-into-combat?

In the latter, it would seem that initial spawn speed would be valued to get the human defender into place ASAP; there would be too many spawn points in a given locale to be displayed within a UI; and there would be a considerable advantage in having the game code determine exactly where each defensive player is needed, within a given Brigade area of operations.

With the introduction of TOEs, I think “brigade” loyalty flies even further out of the window. Bloo and Gophur have variously commented that Division loyalty might become both a better goal and a more achievable one. But I think we’re a ways off being able to really do anything with it.

I’m keen to see us get to testing with TOEs so that at the very least, players who’ve been held in suspense for a year+ can see we’ve actually been working on them, and maybe why we weren’t happy for 1.25/Xmas. There are some good ideas floating around in-house about how we might turn TOEs from just something on the todo list to something the average player we really see value in. Ideas we’ll be able to explore once we have TOEs in test.

E.g. Splitting the spawn list into ‘vanguard’ (docs term, not influenced by current MMO titles) and battlegroup. No additional burden on vehicle selection, just an extra column in the spawn list for the typical player.

The difference is tactical. If the brigade is attacking or its CP is a defense AO, moving the brigade only moves the battlegroup units. The ‘vanguard’ is pinned to the original CP. This allows players a window of opportunity to continue playing/fighting in a town after the brigade moves. But more importantly it adds value to a withdrawl vs a simple vanishing act. If the enemy captures the CP the brigade moved out of, before the vanguard is automatically withdrawn, then any remaining units are treated as KIA and go into the resupply process.

(There are other facets to this idea, but it’s late)

For advanced players, the advanced UI doesn’t have to be default, but it really must be possible to make it default. Otherwise it’s even more clicking for the advanced player, and that’s what at least I really hate.

Also, why would anyone scream at the suggestion of returning to the old map-based UI? It worked well, and the “advances” of teh current UI are largely cosmetic in the sense that you now have to go through a *brigade* even though the brigade has pretty much no meaning to you since you just want to a) play with your *squad* or b) go frag-hunting in a given *place*.

You’re also saying that the map should show some properties of an ongoing battle on the map. Isn’t this just like the current man and tank icons next to battles indicating that there are men and tanks present? Even if the minutiae aren’t important in themselves (though I don’t really agree on this, when talking about a UI), the difference from current map is.

Anyway, currently the formula for frag hunting seems to be to do 1. .obj list to see where the action might be, 2. pick an objective, 3. see the map to try to get some idea of the situation there, 4. repeat from 2 if not satisfactory, otherwise go to 5, 5. see the map to find out what brigade is there, 6. go back to brigade selection, 7. try to figure out which of the wacky abbreviated french brigade names is the correct brigade, 8. choose the correct brigade, 9. go through the mission list, looking for one with suitable spawn point, 10. pick a mission, 11. look for equipment, 12. spawn, 13. proceed to kill everyone

This is fairly long. Steps 5-9 could be streamlined quite a bit. Even just adding the option “Move me here” to the map would remove steps 6-8. Showing more information about the mission in the list (in what space, though?) would remove 9 since you could immediately see the mission with the spawn point you want. Also, getting from the name in .obj list output to the correct position on map isn’t as easy as it could be, but I don’t find it tedious anymore either, since I mostly know where to look for a given name in the gameworld these days.

You mention “other facets” so you guys may be way beyond this or see it as off-point, but the Vanguard/Battlegroup split could have functionality in the advance, too:

1. For a period of time after advancing, a Brigade has only its Vanguard list at the CP to which it just moved, i.e. the inverse of the retreating mechanic.
2. Most of the engineers and towed guns are in the Battlegroup. If eventually relevant, all of the mine laying/lifting, pontoon bridging, salvage/repair, player/virtual artillery, spotter-aircraft capabilities and the primary supply capability are in the Battlegroup.
3. The Vanguard draws supply from the Battlegroup; if the Battlegroup is forced to retreat away from the Vanguard, the Vanguard is not just isolated, it’s rapidly unable to use or move its heavy weapons and vehicles.
4. If at a later date there are two TOE flavors, i.e. Infantry and Armored, with only Infantry Brigades automatically “dug in” (and thereby given usage of Deployable Defensive Strongpoints/Spawnpoints to multiply their defensive effectiveness), the “digging in” timer would begin only with arrival of the Battlegroup.
5. A Brigade with too-high Vanguard losses would replenish it from the Battlegroup during the next inactive period. A Brigade with too-high Battlegroup losses would be out of action.

Why is the information the way it is?

Hehehehe. I know, but I won’t comment on it in public. >-)

The current map doesn’t show you much information unless you look for it. I’m talking about a panel specifically designed to show the status of a particular battle, that this map view automatically displays. The same panel could be displayed elsewhere in the UI. It’d be far more “FPS” style – I imagine it a bit like a “stats comparison” panel you get when seeing two teams paired off on ESPN or two contestants in a boxing game. It’d show relative forces present, some indicators of relative ownership of the town. Maybe the OIC of the attack and his current standing orders. Maybe a timer indicating how old the attack is.

All the info would be terse, mouse-overable. It’s less info than EWS. It’s more info than the current map.

And at the bottom are back/best/next buttons to cycle through the fights in the order of scoring for “best pick”. Clicking “best” refreshes, recalcultes the list, and goes back to #1.

Dumbing down the game also has a negative side effect.

I will not get into it much unless you actually care to hear it, and are willing to actually listen to it instead of immediately assuming you know more than everyone else on the planet (read Doc, who may know alot but obviously does not know people as well as he thinks he does according to subscriptions and retention rates).

I am assuming that since email is required to post, you have access to seeing it, so feel free to drop me an email if you care to hear a former customer’s opinion (and from many I talked, and still talk too, their opinion also)

YES!! an AO PAGE/TAB in the UI is exactly what I have been yelling for!

Give the OIC(s) some control over what this page shows, allow them to show mission links right on that page (but leave the option for a ML to opt out).

Make it possible fot the OIC to put text and markers on the map.

Really not interested in hearing how dealing with the general opinion that its too difficult to find a fight is “dumbing down the game” any more than hearing the term “instant action”.

I think adding some kind of way for the HC’s to relay their objectives to the common solider at the main page would also be helpful. It’s a team game and most players want to help their side win and when someone logs into the game if they could see and understand what the mission objectives are right away I feel it would make the process of picking a mission and joining the battle that much simpler.

Read your blog entry carefully – sounds wonderful. I’m afraid the current (well, pre 1.25) UI seems a little bit too hung up on the one size fits all principle. Different people may well have different needs and there’s no reason that you can’t present it in a layered or “settable” way.

The brigade selection via the map in 1.25 (even across personas) is a massive improvement.

Big, red (or blue), arrows pointing to the objective….like I’ve seen on some of those old campaign maps…/spurt

In the example you gave of the “vanguard” it seems to be a “rear guard” action with the battlegroup withdrawing covered by the rear guard. A “vanguard” by definition is the leading position in an army; an advance guard. Is this designed to increase the losses of a withdrawing unit or to provide for those looking for action or both?

Actually, its primary premise is to commit a certain amount of units to an attack so you can’t “feint” an attack at one town and then move the brigade and suddenly be attacking from another. Calling them ‘rearguard’ or calling them ‘vanguard’ in some cases and ‘rearguard’ in others is confusing, and the rearguard role was easier to explain.

I agree with jwilly here. I think that as TOE’s are expanded upon you will simply find that you introduced brigades in the wrong order. You should have introduced TOE’s and then introduced a UI that focuses on brigades.

These days, I don’t find myself paying as much attention to where a fight is as I do paying attention to the little population bars next to the brigades. I’m sure many users who are looking for a good fight use the same approach. If there is an instant action button introduced, it would be nice if that was placeable by the HC or the players in some way. It could be used as sort of a super .axis/allied. “instant action.” could be a button in the corner of the screen that is sometimes greyed out. If the HC really needs some troops somewhere fast, they designate a mission as “instant action.” Then the button lights up, and the mission fills up quickly.

At any rate, this isn’t really the time to change The UI back to the map based interface. It’s pretty much a mix of both now. Let what happens after TOE’s determine how to change the interface.

Forget about the above idea for a second. What really needs to change for TOE’s is the rules for FB’s and MS’s. FB’s should open from towns that do not have a friendly brigade in them REGARDLESS of their ownership. I believe that in TOE’s there are going to be a lot of fights for what I would call “3rd Party” towns. That is towns with out a brigade. These will naturally occur as it becomes more important to maneuver around the enemy brigades rather than engage them directly (and thus risk losing to much supply). Fights where both sides have an FB and MS’s to a a town have the potential to be awesome but they will occur less frequently if the current FB rules are left in place.

Wouldn’t worry about the introduction of an “instant action” button, won’t ever be one. We’re not a shoebox game that can ever provide it. The real problem with the current UI is that it’s easier to have an extraordinary (or at least what is intended to be extraordinary) sortie than to have a “casual” sortie.

The UI’s initial/default selections are inane. E.g. the most populous brigade or mission is selected by default because there’s a lack of other metrics to go on. Actually, being the most heavily populated mission or brigade ought to count against you just enough that a lesser-populated grouping that is being outnumbered would rise to the top.

TOE’s must balance High Commands quest for softcaps (good strategy) and players desire for hard fights (good tactics).

Brigades are (currently) inane. They mean nothing other than officer OrBat and even now High Commands simply care about the privileges at what levels and whose active enough to place at that level.

Squads *were* the thing back then. But really Area of Operations (AO) or Divisional Area of Responsibility (DAR) matters more. Does your squad guard the north (BEF usually); zeelands (ArFr or Naval); the southern air front (FAF) or do you fight N or S (axis 6 armee and 12 armee). See my point? Let the squads get their names as recruitment tools, after you assign ‘historical’ sectors / divisions or better yet, armees. After that – start selling decals, etc to the squads.

Instant Action should be dead. Population on a fight is easy to monitor and places N00BS in an environment with a lot of friendlies on the map. Desirable.

Sort the missions by FB Blow / FB Defend / Depot cap / depot defend across teh map database like. Vets will learn to search it.

imho.

If the idea of introducting a instant action button came from the playerbase, its possible it came from me. I’ve been wanting somthing like this for years now and I’ve logged as many posts about it as anyone. I borrowed it from Falcon 4 – arguably the most hard core military sim on the market – which uses an AI button to let you have some quick and dirty fun.

It came from sheer frustration over the amount of work required to find a decent battle in WW20 and the recurring criticims from reviewers and newbs that they could not find the action. I know what this game has to offer and it burns me that there are battles that need people, and people who want battles – but they cant reliably connect after 5.5 years. How absurd is it that we advertise “hot” battles in the chat window?! Or that the fear of giving the enemy useful intelligence has been a ball and chain around the neck of rational UI development?

So I proposed an IA button in the hopes that a SIMPLE solution would get buy in, and in the belief that CRS could not really design a proper UI anyway! BUt I’ve also posted before that the default UI should be for newbs, be map focused, use iconic information for battle selection, and present the top 10 missions
for people so they can clearly pick the best one for them. An important concept here is that mission selection must give you a window into the CURRENT STATUS of a mission, and not just the original intentions of the mission poster (which is how it used to be)

I agree KFS, that if you can do a simple, iconic UI with dymanic info, then there really is no need for the IA button. But I dont think you can persuade people without actually designing a mock UI- it needs to be seen to be believed. A few points:

1) WHy is personna selection necessary at the front end? The mission you choose in a map based UI defines the persona anyway. The personna data (stats, ranks ect.) should just be tab in the UI.

2) The iconic info that I think people need is:
-how many mission participants
-is there an msp, or spawnable depot (quick spawn options)
-a combat intensity indicator (using casualty rate data)
-a spawn camp warning
-attack or defense indicator
-a phase of battle indicator (is the mission in its early, middle or late stages?)

3) I’m guessing 80% of the current UI information needs to be buried within an “advanced user” type tab. FOcus on what the newb and casual user are looking for, and you cant go wrong. More advanced users could have a tick box in the settings application that would make the info they want more visible.

TROUT –

amen. You have redefined the Instant Action button away from KFSONE hated item to KFSONE likes:

N00bs get what they want and subscribe. Info on FIGHT.

VETS get what they want and keep paying. Info on more subtle meaning of FIGHT.

“I agree with jwilly here. I think that as TOE’s are expanded upon you will simply find that you introduced brigades in the wrong order.”

It’s always odd to read that someone agrees with you, then not recognize the argument. 8^)

IA has been coming from in house for equally as long, TBH. It eventually lit fire under the simmers in the company who embraced it (perhaps because of things like F4).

The trouble is that it does not migrate well to an environment like this. We have to provide Guided Action. Hand holding, if you must. Identify the critical, core information in all the clutter being presented now. Find ways to display it conscisely and – in judging its value – a way to “score” it.

The approach I want to take is a default view where the information shown is simple, but just enough that – all else aside – you could reverse engineer meaning as your play experience progresses. Consider this list. Not a suggestion.

Its as meaningless to the eye as our current mission list. It may be nearly as intimidating. But by using simpler, “signaling” I think that when you come back to it over a number of sorties – you might more quickly start getting a sense of the significance of the symbols. (Which should, of course, be mouse-overable and have a ? button that pops up with an annotated image or something)

IA would be dumbing the game down. There has to be something roughly telling the player what they’re being dropped into, and the symbology could be repeated as you spawn in, along with a more verbal annotation, perhaps the orders, the name of the ML, etc.

Again: Guided spawning, where the information is not hidden, and getting the full info is only a simple one-time click-to-toggle, and you can sort and prioritize the information as you wish, but it is initially, usefully sorted so that you have a good chance of getting into some kind of gameplay without having to learn all about all the foibles of the simulation/theatre-scale elements of the game.

Jwilly, I agreed with you first. Then I presented my own argument without restating yours. Sorry for the ambiguity.

The addition of Deployable Defensive Strongpoints/Spawnpoints (DDSS) as a mechanism available to Infantry Brigades with Dug-In status, supported by regional FIFO lists of players that are willing to be rapidly and automatically spawned into DDSSs as their EWS is tripped, would perform two functions:

1. Because such a defensive-FIFO-list would be entirely voluntary and could be subject to a game-experience requirement, it would be an excellent limited environment for implementation of faster (not instant) action. Experienced players volunteering to be auto-spawned into a possibly hot defensive zone are not likely looking for as much pre-definition of who the mission leader is, and what the territorial goals and movement routes are. Defensive positional fighting, from an emplacement against enemy forces moving through one’s fields of fire, is a lot simpler than that. You’re dropped in as either an infantryman or a gunner. You fight to hold your position and protect the positions near you. Either the enemy dies, or you die. If you die, either you rejoin the same defensive-FIFO list to be recycled into a still-available spawn point, or you go elsewhere in the game.

The implementation of *faster* (not instant) action for DDSSs would address the valid interests of a significant portion of players who don’t particularly care to understand the finer design issues involved in wanting an Instant Action button.

2. Implementation of DDSSs along with a rapid spawn capability from a group of prepared volunteer defensive players would finally provide a mechanism by which, with suitable pre-planning of defenses by Brigade officers, a positional defense might be fully manned before the attackers arrive…instead of the “defenders” spawning into gunfire from the already-existing positions of the “attackers”.

Guided Action huh?

I’m sold. Is there anything we can do to help you introduce this?

It ought to have a VERY high development priority, especially if you are planning any big promos in the next few months.

The really interesting discussion (if you go this route) will be around what kinds of iconic information CRS thinks people need?

YOu might consider displaying LOTS of information, and then tracking somehow which information gets used most. Then simply remove the extraneous or seldom used info. In a sense, you score how each data element is used and then drop the low scoring ones. UI design by natural selection!

kfsone,

Guided Action. Might that relate to something similar to Neweggs “Guided Search” where you can progressively select parameters that you are interested in, and that modifies the selections you see on the map (or screen).

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