Great mod. There's one big change I'd suggest.

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Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:53 am

Great mod. There's one big change I'd suggest.

Postby Rise30 » Sun Oct 30, 2016 5:52 am

I am very pleased with what I found in this mod. You've created a WW1 mod that does justice to the era, and is almost everything I would have hoped to see from a COH WW1 mod.

I recognize some of the team member names from years ago. One of the first things I noticed when I got in game was that the doctrine trees were heavily influenced by suggestions I made a long time ago based on my WW1 research, which I was glad to see. I've got a bookcase almost entirely filled with WW1 books and always wanted to see some of those ideas for a game come to life.

The only reason I really point that out is to give context for the major change I would like to suggest to the game's design. Because I want you to know I don't propose such a change flippantly, but it is something I suggest as someone who spent years thinking about what a WW1 tactical mod should look like. I believe what I am about to suggest is a core necessity for achieving genuine WW1 style battles in this mod.

The change:
1. Have the map start out with all the points already captured, half owned by each side.
2. Have a grace period of no combat before the game starts where players use a starting pool of resources to buy initial units and place them on their side of the map.
3. Either have the map start with extensively prepared trench networks and a no mans land, or use the grace period prior to the match to let players craft their own defensive networks in the patterns they want (benefiting from instant build speeds, but confining each player to build on their half of the map, with an area of nomans land being between each player zone and unable to be built on during this phase).

What is wrong with the current system? Fundamentally it is designed to accomplish something different, for a different era. It simulates how forces will send out recon and probing forces to ascertain the situation in advance of a force, how contact results in both sides repositioning their forces to respond with skirmishing to gain superior tactical positions, finalized by the formulation of large scale offensives to break the enemy's position. That works great for a WW2 game. It doesn't work for WW1.

WW1, as you know, is characterized almost entirely around siege and counter siege tactics. For this kind of gameplay to be realized, you need a setup that forces people to think in terms of "how do I break this siege and exploit the gains, while protecting my own territory from being compromised" as opposed to "how can I outskirmish my oppponent in semi-mobile warfare". The later should come only after the major breakthrough is achieved, rather than characterize the gameplay from the start. To get the gameplay focused around siege and counter siege you ideally need to start from prepared positions.
Almost all the the weapons, structures, and abilities necessary to achieve siege based gameplay is already in the game - it just needs the map and starting conditions to be changed so that siege gameplay can function to it's full potential.

The escalation of battle would still be a part of the game under the map model I suggest, it would just take on a different but more unique form to WW1.

1. The recon and raiding phase. The lines are already established so you're not trying to rush to secure advantageous positions. However, what you are trying to do is figure out where the enemy's heavy weapons and infrastructure is so that you can plan your assault strategies. Conversely you are trying to protect the surprises and forward positions of your own defense. It would involve raiding parties, setting up traps, sniper and MG harassment, recon planes, intel gathering options in general, and light harassment artillery or occasional point artillery meant to flush out a response from the enemy's artillery so you can spot where they are. This phase could be characterized also by trying to establish "ownership" of no-mans land (as was often the case in the real war). By being the raiding aggressor you had superior intel and position from which to launch an assault on their forward trenches, while protecting your own from the same.
2. The build up phase. You start out with lower quality troops and less heavy equipment because it represents a quieter sector. However, during this phase you see troop numbers increase, higher quality troops are brought in, infrastructure being built to either aid an offensive or strengthen a defense, a build up of artillery numbers is undertaken and ammo stores are increased, and heavy or specialized equipment is brought in like tanks/flamethrowers/aircraft strikes/etc. This phase is characterized by trying to position yourself for an offense. It involves gaining artillery and air superiority over your opponent. Artillery warfare can be kind of a cat and mouse game of trying to keep your pieces hidden until they are needed. Mining efforts could possibly be undertaken if you are patient to wait for a it to pay dividends in an explosion along the frontline after a long buildup. A lot of the aspects of the raiding phase would still be represented here, but they would be amped up to a higher level. You might lay down consistent harassment barrages or air harassment behind the enemy line in order to disrupt their defensive mobility and resource gain. You might undergo localized assaults and use pintpoint barrages to dismantle key aspects of the enemy line in preparation for a larger offensive. You might respond to the enemy's heavy raiding or artillery fire with your own concentrated defensive fire or counter barrages, while shifting around your defensive units to respond to new threats. You will be building forward infrastructure to help propel your offensive, or increasing the strength of your defense with heavy duty defensive infrastructure. You start to call in and position vehicles. You may make localized gains during this period, but it's not expected you will deal the killing blow. How hard you want to harass will vary depending on your doctrine and strategy. You may favor a more calculated approach while you build up for a sudden strike of forces all at once, however this strategy has the risk of being disrupted by the enemy launching their own attack first. Major build ups geared for a sudden coordinated strike are better suited to dealing with people who have chosen to turtle heavily investing their resources in improved defenses.
*New artillery abilites would be helpful for phase 1 and 2 as sector based barrages which would hinder certain sections of the line, such as; reduce or remove resource gain from that sector while the barrage is active, slow or suppress all infantry in the sector, because this would simulate a common tactic of using artillery to isolate sections of the line from re-enforcements, or harassing artillery put behind the line meant to disrupt movement and resupply in general. You could also have barrages that slow the ability recharge of artillery units in the sector or even prevent them from firing (suppressive barrages and counter battery fire was a big part of WW1). Potentially you could even have commander abilities that cost a lot of munitions but simulate a massive offmap bombardment against the enemy's offmap artillery, temporarily disabling their ability to call in offmap artillery (But this, along with heavier usage of sector based artillery isolation, would be better suited to be used in phase 3).
3. Assault and defense phase. This is where the breakthrough is attempted. This can be a more gradual process or a sudden shock application of force depending on doctrines, opportunity, and personal style. Some may go for a bite and hold approach against key sections of the enemy line. Others may go for a breakthrough punch and drive to the rear. Others may go for mass disruption and infiltration that undermines the enemy's ability to respond as a cohesive force, allowing pockets to be isolated or picked off as they are surrounded. You may even go for a gradual but steady and secure push along the whole front. Depending on your strategy and doctrines, there may be a blurring between the transition between phase 2 and 3. This might not just be one big battle and it's done. It could be a series of battles, or one prolonged slugfest of attrition where the fighting never seems to let up because both sides think if they push just a little harder they can come out on top. You might go back and forth between phase 2 and 3 depending on what happens. You might incorporate a lot or recon and raiding during a phase 2 while you wait to build up, trying to figure out how you'll take more territory.

The gameplay could still be just a frenetic as COH at times, but overall would require more methodical strategy and tactics to overcome static positions. Which, personally, I would prefer. It would not only be more historically and authentically fitting to WW1, but it would also be more unique as an RTS game.

As a related but side note: I would also suggest that you consider reworking the upgrade and resource system to go along with this new map design.
Although you could have a more functional WW1 style battlefield just by changing the way the game starts out, to get the most out of such a setup to fully resemble WW1 tactics and strategy you'd need to tweak the upgrade system, resource system, and how certain points are positioned on the map.

With upgrades, for instance: some things just shouldn't have to be researched, like grenades. They were such a staple of the battlefield that by the last year of the war many troops had very little training in how to use their rifle effectively because grenades were the dominate form of fighting trench to trench. I would try to use upgrades only as a way of simulating the advancing from a quiet sector to a full blown offensive. If that is your perspective then it changes what is available from the start and what requires research. So I wouldn't try to mimic the way COH has done their tech tree and upgrades because it doesn't really serve to advance a gameflow design that represents WW1.

As for resources, this new map design would require reconsidering the way points are positioned. Points are a reflection of goals, and as such they need to reflect goals that fit proper WW1 battles. Meaning; You don't have all the important points (like fuel or victory points) stacked in the middle of the map, because in WW1 the goal of the battle was not to just take the frontline of the enemy's trench and hold it. So putting all the important points in the center of the map would not encourage on the kind of gameplay that is reflective of WW1.

You could have some no-mans land points that can be raided to gain extra manpower or vision bonuses. Points on higher elevation could grant more vision bonuses (the high ground was key to fight over for vision).
It would also make sense for there to be minor manpower and ammo points near the front trenches that can be raided, and at least held temporarily to disrupt the enemy. However, major ammo and fuel points should not be up front near no-mans land.
Also, I believe you'd be better served having major manpower points not be at the frontline either, so that players have more ability to recover if their initial trench system is taken (which is also realistic because at this point in WW1 you weren't usually in trouble unless the second or third line of defense was taken, at which point your ability to hold the territory and retake ground was compromised).

Fuel points would need to be changed to better suit the dynamics of a WW1 map. No longer being focused on gaining a tech/upgrade advantage over the opponent.
Because the map starts capped, fuel points no longer serve as attraction points meant to draw players into early rushes for territory followed by hastily prepared defenses.
Furthermore, because all of the fuel points start capped, no side is really gaining a tech advantage over the other one anyway.

1. Both sides start out with the same amount of fuel/logistics points already capped, so these points become redundant as a way of gaining a tech advantage over your opponent.
2. You cannot solve this by placing the fuel points at the front of the trench networks in nomans land, with the expectation that you want to force early and reckless fighting to hold them, because it would not accurately represent the style of WW1 battles. The goal of WW1 battles was not to take nomans land and hold it, as though that gave you some kind of advantage over time that led to victory. No, the goal of a WW1 battle was to dismantle and disable the enemy's defensive trench networks in a variety of ways so thoroughly that you could move in and occupy the territory.
3. If they are placed near the middle or rear, then chances are you will have researched a lot of what you already want or need before you lose a significant amount of fuel/logistics points. So it doesn't make sense for a research based resource to be at the back of the line, when traditionally in upgrade based RTS games you encourage the capturing of forward resources with the promise of faster teching. That setup just doesn't work well under a WW1 battlefield, nor does it accurately represent the goals of a WW1 battle.

Thematically, fuel isn't a significant issue in WW1, so I'd rename it to logistics points. Logistics would represent the most important points in your defensive network such as road junctions, large hills, town centers, forts, or other high value areas that would usually represent the most important points to hold on the terrain. They would still be key points that decide battles, but rather than being placed out front to force a rushed offensive, but they would instead be placed more at the interior and rear of the map to serve as the objective you strike for in order to shut down the enemy's ability to resist further.

Victory point based gameplay would have to be changed so that the victory points are not placed in no-mans land with one or three points to capture. But instead you would have even numbers of points, four or six, distributed in the middle to rear of each side's defensive trench networks. As I already pointed out in the paragraph above, you can't have a WW1 game where the objective is based around taking and holding no mans land without distorting gameplay away from authentic WW1 style tactics. Instead, you need to place the victory points deeper in each side's trench systems so that each side is forced to assault the enemy defensive network sufficiently enough to capture and hold at least one of those points (which would be located at least in the mid point of their side of their map). Giving each side two or three VPs distributed horizontally along the front means the attackers have sufficient options to try attacking multiple fronts to see which one is easier to penetrate and hold.

Having said that, what do you do with logistics if it no longer primarily a gate for upgrades?
I believe the logistics resource would be better served to function as a kind of requisitions resource that deals with material for large scale offensives or defenses. So in that sense it will still function as something that over time results in the building up of your technology and heavy weaponry, causing you to make choices about what you want to focus on developing first. You'd use it to gain access to tanks, heavy artillery, aircraft, specialized weapons, or high value troops (like elite stormtroops). Basically, anything that would be a limited resource which is meant to only be employed as part of a major offensive, or as part of a major defense, but not the kind of stuff you wouldn't normally use to just hold the line. With that definition of logistics, it's use expands to cover many building types and even commander abilities.
For instance: Forward re-enforcement bunkers meant to rapidly deploy and re-enforce infantry for an assault, or conversely heavy duty concrete pillboxes in anticipation of such an offensive.
Additionally, commander abilities such as rapid influxes of offmap re-enforcements, influxes of ammo for artillery based strategies, or activating certain doctrine buffs that are better represented by logistics rather than manpower and ammo supplies (like increasing defensive movement speed).

Remember, the goal of logistics is not to require you to capture them in order to enable large offensives. It's already a given that both sides will be able to conduct large offensives (or very large scale defenses, depending on what they want to go for first) because they already own half the map to start. The point of logistics is to give you clear goals about what you want to disable so that you hinder your enemy's ability to retake ground they have lost by limiting their ability to move up heavy hitting weaponry quickly or rapidly call in re-enforcements. Because logistics points deal with enabling hardcore defense and offense, taking them and holding them for a significant amount of time should greatly hinder your enemy's ability to deal with you in the same way it does in COH (although, like COH, you aren't without options. You just have to play smart).

The resource system is in a sense flipped on it's head compared with COH, where you don't take territory to gain a resources faster, but you take territory to deny resources to your enemy (which, if held long enough, will eventually secure your a resource advantage you can use to hold what you've taken and gain more ground). Although this might be counter-intuitive design to those who are use to the way COH works, it actually is more representative of WW1 and I do believe it would work out even better for this mod.
The dynamics of battle are thus changed to the point where your offensives, whether limited or large scale, are done as a calculation of whether or not taking this territory is a good use of your resources. Because you both have the same resources to start, so it comes down to trying to trade resources for territory. If your advance is too costly in terms of manpower and ammo, for too little territory gained, you will be vulnerable to counter attack and may be worse off. Capturing logistics points ultimately, under this system, has more to do with securing your gains and hindering your opponents ability to regain the ground. To transform your captured territory into long term gains you need to be able to hold it, and the more losses you suffer taking it the longer it will take for you to reap the resource benefits of taking it. This would help to balance the attack vs defense paradigm, so that ultimately attacking is encouraged and what wins games but if you don't do is smartly, and the enemy really wrecks you while defending, then you the defender will have a lot of time to regain the ground before they lose too much of an advantage. And, if they can retake it quickly after causing you to suffer terrible losses, they might even gain an advantage.

The map points and territories could also be designed in a way that makes certain junctures of manpower points are key to hold to keep the territories easily connected together. So you've got shorter term objectives that will give you an advantage you can leverage.
Ammo locations could be more strategically located as secondarily important areas to hold, after logistics points, because they gate your access to the all important barrages, weapons, and artillery that make effective defense and offense possible.
Last edited by Rise30 on Fri Nov 04, 2016 10:54 pm, edited 5 times in total.

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Joined: Sun Oct 30, 2016 4:53 am

Re: Great mod. There's one big change I'd suggest.

Postby Rise30 » Mon Oct 31, 2016 6:26 pm

I edited and cleaned up the post for the sake of clarity, especially the second half.

I also wanted to offer an observation about WW1 battle that I believe should shape how any WW1 tactical gameplay is designed:

There are three main reasons that WW1 resulted in trench warfare. Some of you may be aware of these, but most people commonly only recognize one (The machine gun). However, the machine gun by itself would not have resulted in trench warfare without the other two. All three are:
1. The machine gun.
2. Accurate quick fire artillery.
3. Extensive railway networks.

These are what made WW1 battles what they were, and if you understand why then it becomes easy to model an abstracted version of that in a tactical game. These three elements are the core of the game because not only do they characterize what makes your defense effective, but everything else about the war is geared towards trying to overcome these three elements through a combination of technology, training, and tactics. So the best way to get representative WW1 battles is to consider how these three things will make for a strong defense and then from that framework consider how everything else will help the player to either enhance or overcome these three factors. So the game revolves around first a very strong defense and then the tools you can smartly apply to overcome that - not unlike how a castle siege game would first have to start with the fact that castles are near impenetrable before then moving to model all the ways that castles can be penetrated if only the right tactics and tools are used.

Machine guns obviously provide greater defensive firepower than the offense can muster, and overlaid allow you to shut down the attacker from advancing by force of manpower alone. Although the introduction of highly accurate bolt action rifles played a big role in punishing waves of advancing infantry, it wasn't until the machine gun that we see introduced a gross disparity between the volume of a fire a defense can put out compared with advancing infantry, because machine guns were too cumbersome to be hauled up and used effectively on offense. Not until light machine guns, and later tank mounted machine guns, did the attacking infantry have the ability to respond with similar volumes of fire to aid their advance.

Having said that, machine guns would still have been eventually overcome if not for the fact that the defender had the ability to blanket any attacking force in accurate sheets of explosives, even walling off their ability to advance. It was the dual protection that machine guns and artillery offered together that really made for the stalemate. Machine guns prevented a rapid advance which made artillery easier to target, and conversely the artillery prevented the machine guns from being overrun. Artillery by itself would, likewise, not have had as much opportunity to completely and consistently shut down advances if they didn't have the machine guns bogging down the advance of the enemy. Although the attacker could use their own artillery to destroy a defender, it took particular tactics and technology to be effective, which was not available at the start of the war.

However, even those two things would not have resulted in a years long stalemate across the entire front if not for railway networks up and down the line, something which wasn't as much a factor in previous wars of the 19th century. In fact, German general Moltke said "Don't build forts; build railways." These networks allowed you to rapidly redeploy your manpower, ammo, and heavy weaponry to respond to any attempted breakout by the enemy. Without this rapid redeployment it would have been a lot easier for the attacker to turn initial gains of an offensive into an operational level breakout. But rapid railway response would shut down it's momentum and allow for quick counter attack. However, the key thing about the railways was that they only worked one way: The defender benefited from them but they were of no value in helping an attacker exploit their gains with rapid offensive movement. This wasn't solved until WW2's mass use of armor, trucks, and aircraft allowed for rapid exploitation of breakthrough gains. Had Germany had similar tools in sufficient numbers during their 1918 spring offensive they may have actually achieved their aim of driving to the coast in one fell swoop. Instead their offense, as impressive as it was, lost momentum and stalled out. Successful offensives were possible in WW1, especially in 1918, but as the British especially discovered it was better to incrementally capture smaller sections of territory in measured and methodical way rather than trying to end the war in one grand breakout battle. The tools might have been there to enable them to capture territory on a smaller scale, consolidate, and prepare to take more territory; but they didn't have the technology to turn that into a complete war winning breakthrough.
One of the main reasons that the attacker could not simply use their own artillery to destroy the defending positions and walk up to occupy the barren ground was because the defenders could quickly bring re-enforcements to bear on the location, often faster than the attackers could advance over the broken up territory and firmly consolidate a defensive position (unless you stuck to taking limited territorial gains and had a plan to secure it immediately after). The attackers would also have poor ability to resupply their new forward positions because it was broken ground with no roads or rail, whilst the defenders would have a well developed network supplying their counter attack. The attackers also had the problem of not being able to easily move their artillery forward to support them against the defending artillery.

Obviously the scale of COH is too small for railway re-enforcement to be a concern, but this can be represented and abstracted on a smaller scale by giving the players tools that enable them to re-enforce and resupply more easily on the defense than the offense, which necessitates the attacker using more heavy and calculated blows, combined with a plan to quickly solidify limited gains, so as to minimize the defender's resupply/reenforcement advantage.

This mod, being set in 1918, has the great advantage of being able to model all the various ways that players have to overcome those defensive strengths, so defense is not so powerful that the game ceases to be interesting. However, using those tools to overcome a strong defense should still require using a combination of tools, using them in the right way, and using them in concert with each other as part of an overall battle strategy - That's where the fun part comes in. Likewise, it can be equally fun to try to stay one step ahead of the enemy by fortifying your defenses and employing clever strategies to blunt what the attacker is trying to do.
In fact, a strong defense in WW1 is no easy affair. It's a very complex structure spread out of over a large area that incorporates various weapons and tactics. Successfully managing a strong defense under the pressure of a coordinated assault would be very challenging and engaging. So there's a lot of room under such a setup for both the attacker and defender to match wits and skills against each other, engaging both micromanagement and macro strategy skills together.

To a large extent you already have the necessary weapons, structures, and abilities in the game, but I believe with a few tweaks to them and a map redesigned around static starting positions you could see positional warfare really flourish to resemble authentic WW1 battles. Machine guns and artillery seem to currently be under-represented in their impact and necessity. The lack of starting static positions also makes it more difficult to deploy them the way they were historically. Also, the defensive resupply and re-enforcement superiority isn't quite as strong or as consistent as I believe it should be, even though you have modeled some of it. I'd like to see all doctrines and sides have better access to forward re-enforcement options, even though defensive doctrines could have superior versions of it in addition to players being able to upgrade and build better versions of forward resupply/re-enforcement.

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