© Oliver Keppelmüller 2017-2018
Developer’s blog
Some Battle Features 24th September 2017 by Ilja Varha
It has been a while, so a bit longer story this time, to show we’ve been busy! We wanted to expand the battle game play features in Grand Tactician considerably, when compared to Oliver’s previous title The Seven Years War (1756-1763) and most other titles in the market. The plan is to bring in features and elements that existed in real battlefields during the time frame of our game. This will allow interesting and also realistic tactics to be employed by player and the AI, but also will introduce elements of time and space to consider as a general. Let’s jump right into some of these features Oliver is currently busy coding in the game engine! MULTI-DAY BATTLES Field battles during the 17th - 19th centuries could take from hours to even a week. When armies started to grow in size, it was common that only parts of clashing armies came into contact at the start of the battle, with both sides hurrying more troops in to gain the upper hand. The rather slow flow of information and speed of troops at the time made sure, that the generals were many times faced with dilemmas like: when to commit and which forces, how to prepare for the unexpected, and what if more enemies make it to the battle? When a battle in Grand Tactician is initiated, all available forces are calculated, and some will be available right from the start, while others will arrive as reinforcements. Sounds familiar so far, but there are a few twists. ENTRY POINTS (“Lines of Operations”) Roads are the lifelines of armies of the day. They allowed troop movement, lines of communication and supplies. Main routes leading to the battlefield are called entry points, or in military terms of the day, Lines of Operations, and only via these can troops enter the battle, or exit it. These points can be captured. If an enemy reinforcement would be to arrive via a certain entry point, but you manage to capture it, the reinforcements will need to reroute to next closest route and this will add a considerable delay. The other solution of course is to recapture the entry point! The points can be captured only with sufficient force, and held to deny them from the enemy. When a day comes to an end, and armies prepare for the next day, supplies are moved in from baggage and supply depots via these same points. This means you can be cut off or surrounded, which will not be good for morale. Fast moving light cavalry will be ideal force to secure these important points! Image: Blue commander orders troops to capture an entry point (top right). You can see the planned formation and facing here. NOTE: all visualization is still pre-alpha, but the functionalities are already implemented! DYNAMIC DEPLOYMENT ZONES When a battle starts, or continues the next day, the game calculates dynamic deployment zones for both sides. Inside these zones players can deploy their available forces, and do engineering (see below). On defensive, one side could be in possession of most of the field, while attacker will move in via entry points to gain more ground. The deploy zones are calculated using a mathematic model, which allows not only forming of front lines and buffer zones, but also separated zones. This could happen due to forces arriving from different sides of the field, or if enemy has been able to push a wedge between units. In this case, lines of communications could also be lost! Image: Bottom left shows a calculated deployment zone, which is visualized for player in the battlefield, currently as a slightly darkened zone (according to nation colour). NOTE: all visualization is still pre-alpha, but the functionalities are already implemented! BATTLEFIELD ENGINEERING Just like today, engineering and engineer troops played an important role in battles. Whether the general needed improved cover for his troops, or to surprise his enemies by crossing a river using a pontoon bridge, he had to have engineers, or at least engineering capable troops available. In Grand Tactician, we have implemented the possibility to build obstacles and improved positions, as well as pontoon bridges to cross rivers at suitable locations. Images: A planned trenchline, shown transparent (left) and a finished trenchline with overhead cover to the troops (right). NOTE: all visualization is still pre-alpha, but the functionalities are already implemented! Engineering can be done during pre-battle deployment phase, and real-time. Before the battle is joined, the defender can improve his position by digging trenchlines, and constructing obstacles, such as abattis. This all takes time, and the amount of available time depends on situation, of course. The available time is then consumed when building fieldworks. Troops specialized in engineering will work quicker. When the battle starts, only lighter barricades can be built. Planning the fieldworks is easy, simply draw lines by right-clicking, then order the building or improving of the defined position. In real time, troops can be ordered to build the planned fieldworks, in a similar way as they can be ordered to build a pontoon bridge.   Image: A suitable location for a pontoon bridge is found (left). Engineering capable unit is ordered to build it, as the cursor suggests. It takes time, but when ready, troops can cross the river. NOTE: all visualization is still pre-alpha, but the functionalities are already implemented! COVER SYSTEM Fieldworks and terrain features, plus built objects like fences, allow troops to utilize cover. This happens automatically, when moving the troops close to available cover. This can be anything from stream banks to sunken roads and stone walls. Trenches and other fieldworks function the same way. Troops can also automatically find best defensive positions on hills. Assaulting well deployed defensive line could be murderous! Image: Here an infantry unit is ordered to move close to a wooden fence. The small arrows show how the unit will deploy along the fence, curving the line, while the single arrow shows the rotation ordered by player. NOTE: all visualization is still pre-alpha, but the functionalities are already implemented! BUILDINGS YOU CAN OCCUPY There will be buildings scattered around the battlefields, and these buildings can also be used for cover and prepared fighting positions for your infantry. If under fire, the buildings will suffer damage, which will reduce the provided cover. The buildings have multiple states of damage, from intact to fully collapsed. When the state changes, for example the building walls collapse in, casualties will be taken. Though even when a building has crumbled to ground, the ruins can be used for some cover against enemy fire. Top left: buildings can be occupied… Top right: …and destroyed. Bottom left: They will collapse and burn to ground… Bottom left: …which causes casualties to the occupants, and reduces the provided cover. Building models by Eliel Martti. NOTE: all visualization is still pre-alpha, but the functionalities are already implemented! OK, that’s it for now. The work continues, with Oliver finalizing the remaining battlefield elements, after which we can start building maps and implementing the battle UI and AI. Ilja Varha
Currently we are building all the planned battlefield features, and implementing them in the game engine. Here are a few examples of what kind of features and game elements you will encounter in Grand Tactician battles. All of them are designed from historical point of view, to allow realistic waging of war, and developing of battles.