At the moment, we’re all pretty locked down on getting BE-China squared away. Even so, The Next Big Step(TM) is always a topic for discussion. There are a number of opinions about what that might be, but I tend to agree with Killer that the next big changes are going to come to a revamp of the basic gaming experience in terms of how you get into the world, how you determine with whom and how you co-operate and how we determine scoring and rewards for players as a result of actions executed and completed.
I think the next big focus for Battleground Europe has to be the atomizing of scoring activities, introduction of ad-hoc grouping and significant increase of granularity of posession. I’m going to pull together and expand on various comments I’ve made in the last couple of weeks on the forums to try and provide a clearer picture of how I see this moving forward…
Scoring needs to be based on the accomplishment of small, atomic actions like: Capture the Gembloux Depot, Defend the North Bridge, Blow the Willemstad Firebase, etc. But that begs for the riddance of the “mission” system which is too cumbersome and too broad for what is required. Rather, players need to be able to team-up on the fly in-game for the purpose of accomplishing a specific goal (and with the ability to change their goal).
Once you have players working together in small units, it’s time to take a step back from where Mobile Spawns took us. Mobile Spawns took away the burden of having to get to combat for most gameplay, which was needed because every single sortie included a simulation of travel to the frontline, which was onerous.
But they also took away the accomplishment of advancing which added so much to the gameplay experience before.
The problem with the old “Taxi to Victory” play (in the sense of a long ride on a truck between every snippit of action) was that players are content. Having to re-re-re-repeat a 10 minute ride if you get killed again this time may give some players a woody, but it does something else. It punishes the guy who shot you.
You see, you are content. You are the content that the other guy gets to shoot at, just as he is your content.
If killing him sends him 10, 15 or 30 minutes away, that’s actually not good for you. And there’s no guarantee for him that you will stick around for the duration of his punishment or that he will take his medicine and come back for you to shoot him again if you stick around for his return trip…
As I said in a reply to one of Bilton’s posts:
The best, most immersive/realistic engagements tend to occur around closely spaced ground assets – towns like Nijmegen, Roermond, Willemstaad, where the capturables have enough fighting positions between them that they create standing waves of action where it pays to have someone take up a position and cover advancing forces, and to work with team-mates to fight the enemy for control of those positions.
When those distances are too long or have too few defensible positions of value between them, then simply entropy occurs.
Reducing one individual’s fighting ability does nothing except make the game persecutive. It is a misguided attempt to create personal investment [when that investment] already exists in the game: the real solution is going to come from some kind of flag-drag system which allows the enemy to create fronts within the larger spaces.
What do I mean by “flag-drag”? From another post of mine
We have a discussion on the table at CRS towers for a “respawn at mission leader” concept with an anchoring system that requires you to meet some criteria (such as proximity to leader get respawns. Otherwise you fall back to the spawner. I’m summarizing a very lengthy discussion that is still replete with “if”s, “but”s and “maybe”s so don’t extrapolate anything other than the fact that we are still looking for alternatives. Our current thinking is that it needs to pick up priority after we finalize our mission-system replacement with an objectives-and-details system where the groups can be smaller and more coherent and – most critically – dynamic.
The one fairly solid part of the concept is that of staging. Ideally, player-placed FB replacements that sit further back than current FBs as stepping point 1. After that, player-placed mobile spawns that start the infantry spawning chain, with leader-placed staging points forward of that but still back from where mobile spawns currently start. Lastly, a group-feed mechanism that, within sensible constraints, allows a player to connect with a group and stay with them across one or more deaths. BF2 style “spawn at leader” is one option, mobile-spawn style “catch up” spawns just behind the leader is another, etc. The idea is that if you and your little group encounter an enemy, it’d be nice if you got to fire more than a couple of rounds before the encounter is over.
Lets say you are 1km out from town looking for enemy forces with two of your buddies, you’ve moved into a berm and you spot an enemy a couple hundred meters away. You open fire and from the return fire, clearly he has a couple of friends. You take a shot and your sortie is over. Lets say, instead, you get to respawn 100m back and rejoin your buddies, and you get three “lives”, the enemy likewise. Now instead of a quick two-way volley you have a little skirmish or engagement, a minor position fight.
One early objection was simple math. That sounds “ok” for 3 on 3 translating to 9 on 9. But If the enemy had 50 people in a treeline, suddenly there are going to be 150 of them. Ok – first of all, there are still only 50 players at the treeline; secondly – the troops aren’t free, they draw from supply exactly like spawning any place else; thirdly – they only expand out if you are killing them; and fourthly, if they respawn, it means that you killed them so their whereabouts is a known quantity.
Under current game mechanics shooting a defender generally results in a replacement unit at a predictable or known location – am I the only one who sometimes holds off shooting an enemy because I know doing so will put another soldier between me and my destination?
Tankers are probably feeling a bubbling sensation in the pit of their gut at the thought of sapper-vendors replacing the lone sapper they manage to catch in that line of hedges across the field. Believe me, that’s part of the discussion. But we asked: why don’t people support their armor? Well, one of the most blatant reasons is that escorting tanks as a trooper is invariably very unrewarding: huge, incredibly loud target churns thru countryside drawing attention and fire from very large caliber weapons against which the infantry has little to no defense. Death is a 5 minute return drive for you but a 30 minute trek for me, and that’s assuming you don’t continue moving. In short: it’s really hard to group with a tank as a trooper. A respawn system might foster that sort of co-operation and counter the “sapper nest” issue.
And in response to trout
Well, remember, we’re thinking forward towards small, squad sized dynamic groups. There’s a big chunk of how we would re-work the organizational hierachy that I’m not going to explain right now.
Assume for a second that the dynamic is OIC-placed FBs 4-2km out, Player-placed MSP, 2-1km out, Leader-placed rally point 800-500m out (think: msp-depot).
The rally point is where people spawn who do not meet the respawn-at-leader requirements or anyone who is joining this group from the map screen. You can spawn at the MSP if you just wanna spawn in, but spawning to a group’s rally point (cold) requires you to wait for more players (unless the group is full).
The final piece to this (very far from finalized) concept is the Leader-placed fallback. Conceptually this might be a little pile of sandbags or some ammo cans or something.
It takes the leader a little while to deploy it, maybe 30-60 seconds. While he is within 10ft of it, anyone waiting to spawn at the rally point gets to spawn in immediately at the fallback point.
As I said, this isn’t finalized, it’s still one of several concepts on the table but this is my personal pet. Fallback placement would have to be a daisy-chain process and I’m going to pick an arbitrary scale for the numbers to plug the variables in it – they’re intended to give you a sense of the aim rather than the actual distances we might use:
You have to be within 250m of your rally point or 200m of your previous fallback to deploy it. It only works while the leader is within 250m of or within 30s of him dieing in-range of it. For you to make use of it, you have to be within 500m of the leader or 600m of the fallbacks location. Most importantly, tho, you have to have been within Xm of the fallback position.
Most importantly, there should be an indicator on the HUD to let you know if you currently get fallback if you die, and if not, it should give some visual clue as to why not – e.g. a little “group” icon in red to indicate, “not in a group”; a flag with a circle and a measure line between the two to indicate “range” – green for “good” and red “out of”; if the mission leader is out of range, replace the flag with a little troop icon; etc.
Complex rules are generally bad, but a bit of good feedback can make them workable.
I’ve described elsewhere (I couldn’t find it right now) how I’d like the low-level grouping system to work, with players able to spawn in without a group and to create, join, change, switch and leave groups on the fly in-field.
Consider: You spawn in to Antwerp and you run up to that depot at the northeast corner of the central block – between the Centraal Station and the East Dock. There, you find a bunch of guys who are about to advance on it and try and capture it: an armored car, an LMG, a couple of riflemen and an SMG. You kill several defending EI and finally secure and capture the depot.
In our current game world, one of you gets big points and a bunch of you get a half-kill worth of points if you were inside the depot.
But what we really want is for you to get extra points for killing people who are trying to defend the depot, for getting kills from inside the depot because that’s your stated objective and to get points for the depot you set out to be captured getting captured.
And we want to apply that same thing to a number of simple actions.
The solution is the “detail” system:
3 a: selection of a person or group for a particular task (as in military service) b (1): the person or group selected (2): the task to be performed
What I like about this term and its usage is that the detail is the group and the task. In the above example, you guys are the northeast-depot capture detail.
It should be trivial to create, join or leave a detail, and the leader should have a high-degree of freedom in changing what task you are undertaking; e.g. once you capture the depot, it should automatically switch to a “hold” objective so you can then score points for keeping the depot or you can leave the detail and bugger off. For instance, once the depot is taken, the armored cars probably depart and go join other units covering the bridge to stop enemy troops coming across that way now their spawnable is capped.
As well as simple points for kills, captures, etc, there should be scoring and awards for completion of tasks.
Detail leaders would have a trivial little UI for assigning themselves a goal, imagine a couple of drop downs: [Capture/Hold/Defend/Cover/Assault/Destroy/Repair/Resupply/Deliver] and a way to select a target or an area.
But they should also have a checklist of goals that need completing to fulfill their brigade’s current objective. So, if the brigade is attacking Antwerp, there should be an automatic checklist to capture all the depots, blow all the bridges that the are marked for destruction and repair the ones that are marked for repair, as well as automatic blow missions for FBs, and any custom detail-requests that the OIC has added.
Most of the time, detail creation would be you and me saying “want to work together?” “sure”, right click your avatar or map icon and select “Form Detail”, and then choose the goal from the scrollable list of outstanding details that need doing for our objective – e.g. scroll down the list and pick “[./] Capture Schilde Depot”. Perhaps there’s a checkbox “[ ] Allow players to join by invitation only” if you want to be pedantic and probably a timer to indicate how long until you can change objectives and something to indicate when this detail will be qualified to get score.
Ultimately I would hope there would be an interface for using the detail system to provide communications between OICs and player groupings – the OIC ought to be able to see which groups are taking on which details, but he ought also to be able to assign priorities to details and perhaps ping detail leaders with some kind of request to get a particular detail done. All of which leads into leadership tracking and scoring, but … that’s for another time.