Purpose of this blog

Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Artillery Issue

Today I want to do something a bit different and talk about game play and ideas. Next week we'll be back to normal with a history article.

There has been, and always will be an argument about artillery in games like World of Tanks. On one hand you have the ability to utterly one shot people and ruin their game. Part of that issue is the feeling that there was nothing you could do. That issue has been about for many years, many old FPS’s where you had one camping sniper felt the same. Equally it's a kind of jump scare, which makes you feel bad. On top of all that you have the habit of humans to highlight when it happened. As an example I bet most of you can remember the last time your tank just exploded from an arty hit. How many of you remember the shots that missed from artillery? Did you even notice them?
On the other side of the coin you have the poor arty player who is sprinkling his rounds gleefully about the countryside and watching his shells which he sends off and promptly lands in the wrong post code. This is hardly fun for him either.
Perfectly aimed shot
So I've been playing computer games for a lot of years and working with table top war games companies for just as long. So I've had a bit of experience in systems, especially on the wargame system of mechanics that aren't working right within the system. I had a bit of a brain storm and came up with the following idea.
Hip shot!
The idea draws upon artillery from War Thunder, and some ideas taken from the Steel Panthers series. In those games artillery isn't complained about anywhere to the same degree it is in WOT or Armoured Warfare (yes, I spell it correctly…). But is a useful tool. It also draws upon ideas from World of Warships carrier gameplay, introducing a strategy game for those who want it.
Throughout this proposal I'll be using examples to illustrate the point.
As with any plan it never survives first contact with programmers or the enemy. Game engines might just say "nope" can't be done like that. So don't think of this as an exact detailed plan for fixing, more of a general "hey wouldn't it be cool if" idea. Equally any graphics are not intended to be 100% final but are entirely nebulous to show how the idea might look.

I realise this is a significant shift in direction for the arty class. For that reason alone it might be unfavourable, but I feel that at the least this suggestion should be made to get the idea out there, simply because almost none of the game developers seem to have thought of it in this way.

The idea is basically to make artillery an off map asset. Much like throughout the Second World War, artillery was rarely on the front line, unless something went very very very badly wrong. Instead the player drives an observer vehicle, which are always about.

Observer vehicles simply provide a spotter at the forward edge of battle to guide artillery in successfully, leaving combat arm commanders free to fight the battle. They carry the communication, spotting equipment and maps needed for this task as well as the trained specialists in relative safety. To make room for those items the vehicle itself if it is based off a tank often has its guns removed. However to most people they're often invisible. Take the following photograph. It's a famous picture from the battle of Villers Bocage. How many of you have seen it before? How many knew, before now, that this is an observer tank? You can see the wooden dummy gun barrel on the floor in front of it.
You'd drive one of these observer vehicles instead of the artillery gun.

From this vehicle the off map artillery can be directed. However due to certain limitations you will need to drive the vehicle about the battlefield, to the best position to use the artillery. This means there's no camping at the back. Equally you will have to manage the guns within the supporting battery to ensure they don't all get knocked out.
Instead of "gun" modules you'd have upgrades to the number and type of artillery tubes in your supporting battery.

The use of observer vehicles has one major advantage, in many cases they're based off an existing tank within game meaning you're essentially re-using assets. It would save modelling the SPG models, just needing to tweak a few models already in game.
It also allows you to use other off map assets such as air support, which would function similarly to artillery, but have a more exciting visual effect as the attack plane swoops over the battlefield (hey we have to do something with all those WOWP models!). Other options could be multiple rocket artillery salvos. Imagine seeing the streaks of flame and smoke from a salvo launching on the maps sky box and know that someone on your team is about to get some good news?
Chew on this O-I!
To illustrate the ideas I have I've made a crude graphic of what I would think the artillery interface would look like. The elements of it will be explained below.
Yeah, I never passed art class...
The basic core idea is: Artillery acts like that of War Thunder. If you're connected to the War Thunder community, you'll note one massive difference: No one in War Thunder rages about artillery.
 A brief description of their system is: You press a button and a map comes up on screen with a cursor. When you click on the map, an artillery barrage will land on that area in the game world. First a couple of ranging shots will land, giving people a warning artillery is on the way. If that’s too subtle giant red words saying "Artillery Fire!" also flash. This gives the player time to react, if they sit and take it then they only have themselves to blame for any damage. After firing the main part of the barrage the artillery support will enter a cooldown before it can be used again.

To prevent bombardment of spawn areas and to prevent camping the range at which the the artillery can be called in is limited. This is represented by the area of the green circle. This forces the observer vehicle to have to move and keep up with the battle line.

The above is the basic core idea. The parts below are for making life a bit more interesting and introducing a smaller strategy game for the artillery players so they have something to keep them playing the game instead of knocking off to make a sandwich while all their guns are on cooldown.
The basic idea is based around counter battery fire missions. Do you allocate all your guns to on map fire, and risk having them knocked out thus leaving the enemy artillery a free reign? Or do you try to counter and block enemy artillery to defend your own forces? Some of each and succeed at neither? Is the enemy waiting to counter battery you?

On the graphic above you'll notice a panel marked "battery orders" on the top right. Below the title is a drop down menu, one for each gun. Here you can order your guns and their crew to do one thing. Some suggestions would be:

Direct Support

The gun crew concentrates on loading and firing at targets on map. This gives the gun its maximum rate of fire, but will of course leave it vulnerable to counter battery fire.

Shoot and Scoot
After firing a bombardment the gun crew moves their gun a short distance to prevent being knocked out by counter battery fire. This means a longer cooldown time between shots on map, but gives a higher resistance to counter battery fire.

Counter battery fire
The gun crew will not respond to fire missions aimed at the map, instead they'll wait until enemy artillery fires then try to knock them out. As this succeeds then the enemy guns start taking damage (as shown in the bottom left panel, for example Gun #2 has taken two hits).
Should have left it on shoot and scoot orders!
When the player clicks on the map to call in the fire mission all the guns with "Direct Support" or "Shoot and Scoot" orders, that are off cooldown will fire a barrage at the target area. This is an area of effect around the centre point the artillery player clicked on the map.
Like in War Thunder a warning flashes up on anyone caught in the area of effect about incoming artillery, along with a couple of ranging shots. Then a short while later the main barrage will arrive.
The number of guns available for this will determine how deadly the barrage is. After this there is a cooldown period before the guns are available to be used again, these would be affected by the orders.
If a player is clever he can stagger his guns reloading times, so he can get a higher rate of fire up, but each barrage will cause less damage.

In short you get an aspect that actually potentially lowers the amount of modelling work and makes the community happier. On the downside of course it does mean re-working the coding behind artillery, and so is likely more coding work up front.



There are plenty of ideas to go with this, different ammo types and an absolute plethora of weapon types. Each nation had its own school of thought when it comes to artillery, and you can build those int othe system its that flexible. This idea could easily be applied to modern games as well.

So is it an idea, or should I stick to doing history and leave the games design to the professionals?

15 comments:

  1. Problem with any suggestions done about arty, has been done in the beta's and it has all been shot down from the developers, your idea is as good as any i have seen, better than what is in game. But the change of getting them to change is smaller than a snowball in hell :P

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    Replies
    1. They seem to want to change, or at the very least consider it free thinking for any game developers who are working on a similar game.

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    2. You stole my idea. I posted on the WOT NA forums about 6 months ago about using FO's and having arty offboard.
      I would consider this article plagerism from my post

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    3. You donkey. The idea of FOs in tank is hardly an idea that you originated. eg: I have in the past thrown out this every idea because I got it from a table top game called "Flames of War". You can get observer Shermans in the game (gun barrel is replaced with a hunk of wood to make more room for larger radios.

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    4. FOW is one a Table top game I've worked with (Check out Rising Sun credits).

      As to the Accusation, I originally wrote this last during the AW alpha as an idea. I've polished it since then.

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  2. I think the main problem you'd hit here is that it would largely throw away all the work done on modelling arty units so far and would also have a weird effect on light tanks as well given that even more arty/scouts would be present.

    Add on the extra work redoing missions, rebalancing HE mechanics across the game as large low armour targets become less common. It's not so much the code time to implement what you suggest (which is eminently doable and a fine suggestion) but the perception of previous wasted work and other knock on effects that would probably get in the way of such a change.

    Now, you could potentially take some of the ideas above and merge them in a slightly less extreme way and have a better chance of getting the changes through:

    - Give all tanks the ability to spot for arty but with restrictions based on a portion of their view range (or other stat)
    - Arty stays in the battle (and must manually reposition, etc) but no longer gets the full strategic map
    - Areas of the map get revealed to arty based on other players calling for arty support (see point 1)
    - Allow arty to reload quicker while stationary to give the shoot and scoot or direct support strategic decision (should also help rebalance against the restrictions above)
    - Implement the ranging shots/arty warning exactly as described

    In addition to that I think the HE damage equation is causing a lot of the problems. It's something I've talked about on the WoT forums before with respect to the FV183 (essentially a direct fire artillery piece with it's current tuning) but I think it's actually a problem with HE in general (rather than just high end HESH)

    http://forum.worldoftanks.eu/index.php?/topic/364209-the-deathstar-really/page__st__20__pid__7469921#entry7469921

    Those HE mechanics are giving such a peculiar damage distribution that psychologically the game has to be tuned to make those one shot kills really uncommon but in the process the average effect becomes overly weak and horribly random.

    Something more like the HESH model I suggested with 0 pen and high damage or a reworked HE equation such that penetrating shots do 50% more damage than those that don't rather than 300% more would both be preferable and would go a long way to addressing the key aggravation caused by the current mechanics.

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  3. I think it's a very good idea myself, the only issue would be that the observer vehicle would be defenseless.

    Really, I think the problem with the artillery stems from the maps themselves; all of them are far too small and claustrophobic to allow for more strategic gameplay.

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    Replies
    1. Well, considering most Scout vehicles even today are pretty much defenseless (with some exceptions) and the FOV AFV's are defenseless, that kind of changes nothing in the big scheme of things, it is a dangerous job and somebody has got to do it! I don't see the concept coming to WoT though, as I agree with you concerning map size.

      But, on the other hand, it would be interesting to have light vehicles be able to request fire missions from off board assets, in that it would give light tanks a reason for existing beyond just spotting and "leeching" points passively or with just a bit of luck by getting a weak point hit on an enemy heavy. Unfortunately, it would remove the need for any on board arty whatsoever. Not good.

      Having been a Scout myself, I really do miss the ability to do a call for fire in any game out right now (yes, there are some games that try, but it isn't the same) and having a certain strange love of light tanks, I would love to see their role expand to "useful" instead of just being "also there, died fast" and IMO, ACTIVELY calling shots for arty would be a possibility, instead of the passive way it is now. Because right now, you may see the threat, see it is the most dangerous, but on board arty is trying for a kill shot on a hidden enemy and hasn't looked at the mini map....

      Oh well, maybe someone will make a game that can reflect more aspects of warfare to include arty as a viable but not game breaking asset. Maybe pigs will fly too. And maybe maps will get bigger, and strategy will become important, and a bunch of random players in a pub battle will work together towards victory....

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    2. On the argument about self defence.

      Arty at the moment is utterly unable to defend itself unless RNG smiles.
      And at least with this system if you've done it right you should be able to lay a barrage down that could hit the attacker.

      The other answer is some Obs tanks had main guns still in place. So its just a matter of a selection and being careful.

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    3. The last many months I've seen artillery kill more scouts in self-defense than I've seen artillery lost to scouts...

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  4. How about instead tying the arty capabitlity to scouts?

    Also I'm not convinced about the map system. How about having an artillery sight that the longer you can keep it focused, gives you a more accurate barrage?

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  5. Dear David

    I like certain aspects of your idea, however I belive developers will refuse to move the 50+ vehicles already in the game.

    I had this idea about artillery which should be easy to implement and still carry on some of your ideas :

    Players would still be driving their current artillery vehicles with these changes:

    1/ Artillery can only fire after having pulled the handbrake (default button x or entering snipermode) and waited 3 seconds for stabilization.
    2/ Artillery should have a gun depression of no more than 0 degrees
    3/ Ammo : High-Explosive marker shell / AP or HEAT / Smoke

    4/ When shooting a HE marker shell it would would work almost like now, however where the shell hits you will get a colored smokepillar marking the spot and after 5 seconds an off-map artillery unit will fire a salvo on the location using WGs current bombardment mechanics to a certain degree.

    5/ HE shells should never count as penetrating for overmatch or other circumstance, but instead have a chance to shellshock the crew for 5 seconds with a direct hit (counting as tracking a vehicle, but without option to repair)
    6/ AP/HEAT damage should be adjusted to match the game and at tier 10 do about 750-900 damage +/- 25% instead of whopping out insane 1-shots currently
    7/ Smoke should also work as bombardment, cost a lot and wear off in 10-15 seconds to avoid game breaking smokespam and caprush.

    Also I belive the 1 thing making artillery so dangerous is the spotting mechanics. Even if you have no enemies spotting you are still spotted a long time after the last contact. Artillery have a superb possibility to see EVERYTHING for a rather large amount of time predicting movement and static positions and make calculated direct fire instead of being the AoE support machines they were supposed to.
    From time to time artillery players claim they are supposed to oneshot tanks with direct hits from arty but I doubt any artillery in the 20th century had the same direct fire view on the battlefield as they have currently in WoT...

    If only visibility dissapeared almost immediately after vision was lost Im sure arty would be less anoying (Though the damage for a hit would still be annoying)

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  6. This is a great idea! I am excited just thinking about it! Even though I know it will never happen, I still think its awesome that you took the time to organize your ideas and get them out there. Who knows maybe another game in the future will adopt them? I would love to play that game!

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  7. This is a very similar system to the one I advocated during the beta. It is realistic, potentially fun, strategic, not as terribly frustrating for either the tanker or the arty player. I like the addition of other assets like rockets or CAS. I also like the modes and counter battery ideas. This would be a difficult, but awesome change.

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