Posted
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Gen’l,

With patch 1.03, Grand Tactician will introduce a number of visual improvements, including 3D troops.

While we originally planned to have 3D troops in our game, during the early development phase the experiments with 3D models were unsuccessful. At that point, years ago, we decided to switch to 2D sprites, which allowed improved performance, and a working solution for the time being. After the game’s release in September, we ran another round of experiments with 3D troops, as we had planned to do post-release. This time we succeeded, and with patch 1.03 the sprite troops will finally rest in peace, as our civil war soldiers enter the third dimension.

Smoother, and Better Looking.

The sprites did have many limitations. As we kept the number of different animations quite high, the number of frames per animation was limited. Also, customization options were limited, as each large sprite sheet reserved a chunk of VRAM. We did try to overcome the lack of customization by allowing custom coloring of the uniforms, but when creating variation within a single unit using color variation, the end result was not optimal. While functional, the sprite engine also had some side effects, like certain abrupt movements, which was quite apparent especially with courier movements.

Our artist has been working hard on the 3D models and animations since the release of the game. With the new 3D troop engine, the game’s visuals take a leap forward. Animations are much smoother in general, and the 3D soldiers allowed us some more variety in the soldiers’ looks. Now we can have different uniforms and equipment even within a single unit, with little to no negative effect in performance.

The 3D troop engine also allows further improvements in the future. The changes in patch 1.03 are the first step, more improvements will follow.

Other Visual Improvements.

While the main focus in the visual improvements was in the troops, the battle field has also received some other visual improvements. With the 3D troops being less sensitive to certain camera angles, the improved camera controls allow more varied visuals. Updates in the particle effects department and fog rendering also have made the battle field a bit more pleasing to watch, especially in combination with the weather effects. As the 3D troops are no longer “detached” from the environment, like the sprites were, the end result is a much more coherent look.

Other Changes.

While patch 1.03 was mainly focused on the introduction of the 3D troops, there are also some other nice, and highly requested changes:

- The game’s full save library can now be accessed, managed and filtered, using a single panel. This update also allows custom naming of saves.
- Realism options are moved from game options to scenario start up screens, and are saved.
- There are a few more game options available, for example the ability to lock screen rotation in battles as well.
- During a campaign, capturing all cities in a state makes the state “occupied”, which allows movement within the state even if readiness is low. The state will not switch sides, though, if support is insufficient.

We’re excited about the recent changes, as the game not only looks nicer, but also feels smoother. While Peter will continue his work with the 3D models and animations, the focus of the next patch 1.04 will be in bug fixing and AI improvements.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer, &c.,
The Grand Tactician -Team

Posted
Comments 9
Author

Gen’l,

After the 1.0 release of Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) we have continued adding new and requested features in the game, along with the usual bug fixes and other minor improvements. Currently the focus is in improved information and AI.

At the time I am writing this, we have released the first major patch (1.0115) and are working on the 1.02 patch, with first beta patch already released. We have received many questions and comments regarding our Post Release Road Map which was released a few months ago. In addition to the features stated in the road map, we are also continuing other development, which can already be seen in the patches, to further improve the game’s main mechanics and features.

Tutorials (Patch #1).

The first added new feature was the playable battle and campaign tutorials, explaining the basic controls, commands and mechanics. As the game has a learning curve (and may appear to share similarities with Total War -series, but has very different game play and controls), some sort of tutorials were highly requested. The playable tutorials were added to complement the in-game quick guide, the “Field Book”, and the 250+ page game manual.

We had on our drawing table, for a long time, tutorial videos for the game. While the idea is still valid, and they could be helpful for many players, we decided against them, as the game still keeps updating with new features. This would mean that the tutorial videos would become obsolete quite fast, and keeping them up-to-date would require a lot of effort, which is needed elsewhere.

Information (Patch #2).

One of the “black boxes” of the game, according to feedback, has been in the auto-resolved battles. While the underlying mechanics have existed from day 1, it has not been clear to players how the combat develops, as only the results could be seen. For this reason we have added information about automatically resolved battles (field battles, sieges, naval battles, fort bombardments) in form of a panel, that shows the opposing forces and all the actions taken during the battle.

The information can be accessed via the top bar alarm icons (battles, sieges, etc.) by placing cursor over the alarm icon, and selecting the battle from a list that opens, or by selecting one of the units participating in a battle. For example, it’s possible to follow how a naval battle is developing: first the opposing fleets move to contact engaging on the move, and when at close range firepower and accuracy increase and there may also be ramming.

The resolution of the battles as such has not changed much, but hopefully the additional information will help players understand what is happening during the battles, and why the result is what it is.

The AI.

One of the main focus points for the team is the AI. There is no such thing as “too good AI” in games (if it does not cheat) and we are pushing forward with further AI improvements constantly — some of them are more apparent than others. For example, we have changed the way the AI conducts defensive operations on the campaign map. While this may not be visible at all times, there are now fewer blunders the AI commits by accident.

What could be more apparent is how the battle AI reacts to entrenched foes. It now considers flanking strong positions more often, trying to avoid head-on assaults if not necessary. When defensive, AI has been quite passive in its use of reserves. This has allowed players to flank strong AI positions with very little effort, to roll the defensive line while the AI holds back non-entrenched units that are not engaged. Here we are teaching the AI to be more active with the reserves, to extend the defensive line and to refuse flanks and conduct counter-attacks.

The mentioned AI improvements are in the works, and more are on our list. While the AI may be doing OK most of the time, improvements in the battle AI especially will mean more challenging game play and better balance on the campaign map.

While all this work is ongoing and being implemented, we are also working on the post release road map topics. But, like always, bug fixing and other general game play improvements are also high on our prio list, so expect to see more of them in the coming patches.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer, &c.,
The Grand Tactician -Team

Posted
Comments 26
Author

Gen’l,

While the Grand Tactician’s Early Access is coming to an end, and the game will be released in Full on September 24, 2021, the game’s development will not stop there. During the Early Access a lot of new feature ideas arose, and we want to improve the game further, adding many of these new features in the game, for free!

Once released in Full, we will of course continue supporting the game with steady flow of bug fixing patches. But in addition we have already decided to add new features in the game, that will further expand the game play experience. Here are the first planned features:

Rare Weapons.

The Civil War saw a number of innovative new weapon types entering service, though in limited numbers. While their use did not change the course of the war in any way, these rare weapon types paved the way for further innovations in weapons technology. The weapon types that will be added are Gatling and Coffee Mill Gun, which were early machineguns, and a small caliber, fast firing Confederate 1-pounder Williams Gun. A few other weapon types may be added to this list later.

Building Options.

Players will be allowed to construct their government subsidized buildings on the campaign map. This allows more control over the location of these industries. In addition new building types will become available, among these a hospital, which will allow better treatment of the wounded soldiers, decreasing mortality rates, and a Prisoners of War (POW) camp, which allows sending captured soldiers to be held prisoners instead of paroling them on the spot, with many returning to their former units to fight another day.

New Maps.

What can be said? There’s never enough new maps!

Avatar & Commander Update.

One of the most requested features has been the ability to add oneself in the game as a commander. We will create an avatar system, where players can add themselves as commanders in the game, using their own photo, and assigning the commander attributes of their choosing. This commander will then appear in the campaign game and can be managed just like any other commander, maybe gaining unheard of fame and achieving great victories, or maybe feuding with the superiors and getting killed in a desperate charge against the enemy’s works.

In addition, some further commander related features will be added, among these the ability to randomize commanders’ attributes at the start of the scenario. This way one will see different commanders than historically rise to fame and fortune.

Visual Improvements.

The game was never created with spectacular looks in mind, but there is a lot of room for improvements here. Especially in the way we handle the soldiers in battles. Improved visuals will increase immersion for sure, but we will also improve troop customization options further. For this reason further changes in the current customization system will not be added. Instead, we overhaul it. These upgrades may also bring performance improvements, like the new smoke engine did earlier.

We will release more information about each new feature when we start creating them in the game.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer, &c.,
The Grand Tactician -Team

Posted
Comments 4
Author

Gen’l,

While the Grand Tactician’s Early Access Road map has been stopped in front of Petersburg for the summer, preparations on other fronts have been ongoing and the game has seen many major updates. In this Dev Blog we’ll take a look at some of the new features. We’ll also give you an update about the next steps on our Early Access campaign path.

More Maps!
Map Pack #2 is ready.

Randomly Picked Maps.

In Grand Tactician you will fight huge real time battles across America. When armies engage on the campaign map, and you choose to fight the battle manually, if a historical battle field is located nearby, the forces will clash there. In case no historical maps are found, then the game will use nearest Randomly Picked Map Set. These sets are distributed across the campaign map, depending on terrain type. There are multiple maps in each Set, so outcome of fighting in the same area may be a different map each time.

The Randomly Picked Maps are designed and drawn by our historical map artist Wasel Arar. The maps are:

  1. Midland Railroad
  2. Swampy Creek
  3. Danville
  4. Midwest & Eastern Railroad
  5. Springfield
  6. Copperton
  7. Western Plains
  8. Buffalo Plains
  9. Cobb Town
  10. Soggy Bottom
  11. Willow Garden
  12. Deweyville

More Maps!
The destroyed railroad bridge and pontoon bridge sites near Danville.

In addition to the Randomly Picked Maps, two more historical maps have been added lately, both with a historical battle available as well.

The map of Appomattox covers Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House, where the Army of Northern Virginia fought its last battles in 1865, before surrendering to Grant. In the historical battle Union cavalry under general Custer has reached the Appomattox Station and is threatening Lee’s retreat route Westwards, where he plans on linking up with Joseph E. Johnston’s army. If Lee cannot repel Union attacks and keep the road open, the exhausted and depleted army has no other choice but to surrender.

The second map & battle is that of Glorieta Pass. Here, in spring 1862, Confederate New Mexico campaign was effectively stopped by Union reinforcements from Colorado territory. While successful at Pigeon’s Ranch, the Confederate Army of New Mexico was forced to withdraw when its supply train was ambushed by a Union flanking force.

New Battles!
Confederate Army of New Mexico engaging Union reinforcements along Santa Fe Trail, near Pigeon’s Ranch.

Improved Information & the Field Book.

To help players understand how the game works, we have included a bunch of new information within the game. First of all the in game quick guide, Field Book, has been completely overhauled and is now also expanded to cover battle game play. In addition we have expanded information in the game’s UI. For example information about armies’ supply situation and battle morale has been added in the UI panels and tooltips.

Tutorial Videos have been delayed so far due to the game constantly evolving. The videos would become obsolete after a few patches. For this reason we decided to wait a bit longer before creating them. Hopefully the Field Book and the improved in-game information helps players in the meanwhile!

Field Book Updated!
The in-game quick guide, Field Book, has been updated to cover most of the game’s main controls and mechanics in both campaigns and battles.

Remaining Road map Leg.

As can be seen in the Early Access Road map, the march is nearing its final leg. The work on the game’s overall balance and AI in both battles and campaigns has been ongoing from the start of the Early Access, and while not yet finished, we’re happy to see that the Early Access players have noticed the increased challenge the game’s AI provides.

Most recent balancing topics have been the game’s economy system and morale in battles (version 0.92 -branch). As the economic system now works better than before, weapons production has finally picked up and is working as intended. In battles morale will be much more fragile during the early war, when commanders and troops alike are green. With experience and proper leadership, the units will resist morale shocks and casualties better. Skirmishers on the other hand will no longer bear high casualties at all, but will return to parent unit after only light casualties.

Information and help provided to the player was enhanced with the Field Book, but there are still more work in progress in this department.

Morale Updates.
Morale information and loss resilience is now shown in the unit panel. Skirmishers, especially early in the war, will tolerate only very light casualties before falling back to their parent unit.

Next Steps.

August 21, 2021, marks a full year of Early Access to Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865). On that date we will have an important announcement to make. But, like before, the game continues to receive new updates in a steady flow.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer, &c.,
The Grand Tactician -Team

Posted
Comments 4
Author

Gen’l,

The recent patches has been big ones, and the Early Access period will come to an end soon. There are still a couple of larger features we’re working on, in addition to the road map topics and the constantly ongoing bug fixes. Let’s take a look at the main campaign feature still in development.

Readiness Overhauled.

One of the main issues we’ve had with the campaign game play has been the tempo of the game. The movement of units has been quite realistic for quite some time now, but the armies have been able to conduct too many operations and too fast. So far the units’ ability to operate has been restrained by morale only. If a unit was defeated in a battle, it would retreat or withdraw, and during this movement it con not receive new orders. But once stopped, it would, again, receive orders and be ready for basically anything, even if low morale or poor supply situation meant it was losing manpower to desertion and movement speed was slower.

In addition we had the Readiness rating. Basically, readiness has so far been used to modify the units’ command and control ranges, order delays and in case of engagement readiness determined the size of the deployment zones for both sides. But these mechanics proved to be insufficient to properly simulate the preparations, planning, logistical arrangements, training, and everything else the armies needed to get ready before they could be used for operations, especially offensive ones into enemy territory.

In the new concept readiness describes the units’ ability to operate in general. And it has have a very strong link to commander personalities. The new readiness is two-fold: all operations consume it, and it recovers when the unit is not carrying out operations. Consumption is higher during the early war, with cautious commanders, when operating in enemy territory and in poor weather. Readiness recovery takes into account a host of conditions, from commanders to supplies, to weather, morale, training… When readiness goes down, the amount of actions the units can perform are reduced. If readiness is very low, the unit cannot be used for offensives, and all delays will be higher. As readiness improves, more options will become available: offensives, forced marches, army orders, &c.

Readiness will also take a hit when recruiting new units into armies, as this requires a lot of re-organization, planning, orders, training… And if you go ahead and change the commander of an army, the new commander will require some time to have the army functioning in the way he wants it, and ready for grand offensives.


The new readiness feature is shown in the unit panel and the NATO unit symbols on map.

What this means is that you cannot simply throw your units into offensives regardless of their situation. No, sir! You may run into situation, where Gen’l. McClellan simply refuses to attack before HE thinks he’s ready. The readiness consumption/recovery system also means that if you decide to make the largest amphibious landing in American history, the armies will not simply disembark and blitz Richmond. Instead, the units will first need to recover from the transportation, establish a secure beach-head and base of supplies, do the reconnaissance, and so on. In short, armies can do less in short periods of time and will need to recover from operations to be ready for further orders. Oh, and fleets too!

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer.