Posted
Comments 24
Author

Gen’l,

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) was released on Sep 24, 2021, after a year in Early Access. Even before the full release, we had a post-release road-map, describing the development steps we were committed to take to further improve the game, for free. These were ideas and concepts that were not part of the original game design, but what we nevertheless wanted to add to our game. Let’s take a look at the progress, and the next steps.

Currently, we have released six (6) major patches to the game, each one bringing new features, in addition to the obvious bug fixes. All of the added topics in these patches were not part of the post-release road-map, but for example highly requested features from the players:

*Patch 1.01 was mainly for bug fixing, but it also added campaign and battle tutorials and commander promotions.
*Patch 1.02 added a battle information panel for autoresolved battles, rebalanced the battles, and included a list of improvements for the battle AI.
*Patch 1.03, the first major patch, changed the game’s 2D unit sprites into 3D models, with other visual improvements. At the same time the game’s saving & loading system was updated to allow management of the whole save library, instead of scenario specific management, and two new historical battles (Stones River, Champion Hill) were added.
*Patch 1.04 introduced a long list of AI improvements, main focus being on the campaign AI, including naval invasions.
*Patch 1.05 was another mainly AI focused patch, but also introduced a number of new military management options, like prioritizing reinforcements and unit replenishment or detaching a new independent corps from an existing army.
*Patch 1.06, the biggest patch so far, overhauled the game’s economy completely, from the way how subsidies work, to introducing new projects-system, weapon production system, and new building options.
*During the patching process, a few new random maps have been added, and further ones will be added along the way.

Like you can see in the map image above, the development did not follow the operational plan step by step. After the release, we quickly re-prioritized the steps according to players’ requests and feedback. Now, here are how the next development steps look like, and how the post-release road-map will be finalized:

Patch 1.07.

The next patch is again heavily focused on the battle AI. The campaign AI works quite well most of the time, even though it’s of course far from perfect, but this is undermined a bit by the battle AI. If the AI loses most of the battles against a human opponent, this of course has a huge impact on the campaign as well.

While version 1.06 added the projects-feature, reworked weapon production and added four (4) new rare weapon types, in this patch we will also add three more weapons, finalizing the rare weapons -step. The new weapons are the Gatling gun, the Coffee Mill (or Agar) gun for the Union, and the 1-pounder Williams gun for the CSA. These new, rapid-fire weapons come with their own projects. The Union “machineguns” will not tip the balance on the battlefields, even if they can be quite useful in certain situations. The Williams gun is small and cheap to produce, but not that lethal. There is a reason the said weapon types did not see wider use during the war.

A few more projects will also be added, focusing on the early war organization reforms. Both artillery and cavalry units will be available only in smaller unit size, until organization reforms, that will introduce the more effective artillery battalions and cavalry brigades. Further cavalry reform will unlock the ability to recruit horse-artillery. The organization reform -project, introducing corps organization, will now also make logistics more efficient in general, reducing the number of needed military supplies in the newly organized armies.

Version 1.07 will also include a modding tool (Excel format), that allows editing and creating some of the game’s data files.

Avatar.

One of the highly requested features has been the ability create a custom commander in the game. Version 1.08 will introduce tools to do just that. The player may create a custom (army) commander, that is added to the list of commanders in the game. After that, the commander is handled just like any other officer. Will the avatar die in the first battle, leading a brigade in a desperate charge? Or will the avatar one day become the commanding general of the armies?

While finalizing the above features, we are also looking forward to future content in the game. But more about this later!

Most Respy,

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

Posted
Comments 9
Author

Gen’l,

With patch 1.06, Grand Tactician’s economy will see a big overhaul, not only increasing its importance, but also allowing player further control over it.

From the beginning, Grand Tactician had an elaborate economic system built into it. When designing the game, we wanted to minimize micromanagement required from the player, while also having the economy play its role in our model of the Civil War. While this did work quite well, we were not completely happy with the end result, as quite a lot was abstracted a bit too far, and the effects of the economy were quite difficult to observe. For these reasons we decided to redesign parts of the economy.

Sinews of War.

The first noticeable change is in the Finances-panel, and how subsidies work. In the above image, you can see that the subsidy controls have received some improvements. There are now six (6) subsidy types. Politics subsidy type is the only one not connected directly to policies, while the other types are. Enacting Industrialization policies, for example, will unlock further available industry subsidies per annum. Small amount of subsidies are now available even without enacted policies.

Earlier, pre 1.06, subsidies included direct effects. While it worked in principle just fine, it remained rather invisible for the player. We wanted to make the subsidies and the effects easier to see and understand. So, the paid subsidies are now shown under each type as coins of different color. These indicate how much government money has been invested. This money can then be spent by the player.


NOTE: The screenshot still contains some placeholder assets.

Projects.

In the new Projects-panel, player can use the subsidies to finance different kinds of government projects, each requiring certain subsidy type. The projects are divided into civil and military projects, and some are one time, others repeating. For example, with military subsidies one can appoint new weapon types to be produced by the nation’s industry, or with diplomacy subsidies one can make weapon import deals.

These are one time projects. In the above screenshot, you can see one of the repeating projects. Each level of these repeating projects will increase the effects, but will also cost gradually more. Infrastructure Reform, the example shown, requires industry subsidies, and will increase transport capacity of all the nation’s IIPs (Important Infrastructure Points, that move goods around the campaign map). Once appointed, the next level will further increase the effects, but at a slightly higher cost.

The project effects will influence the nation’s war effort, and are powerful tools, but also expensive. It’s up to the player to figure out which projects to focus on, as subsidies are collected over time, and not everything can be done at any one time.

Weapon Production.

Changing the way weapon production works in the game has been one of the main requests from the community since the beginning. We did not want to make big changes so far, as it required stronger link between the economy and weapon production. With the overhauled economy model, it was finally time to change this as well.

In the above image you see a new Weapons-panel, which can be accessed via military management. Here, you can see all available weapons per type, including the actual numbers. There are weapons that are found currently in the nation’s depots, including those captured from the battle fields. Even if certain weapons are available, it does not mean they can be produced or imported — the projects are used for this.

Once a weapon type is available for the industry to produce, or an import deal is made, said weapons can be ordered. Player chooses the number of weapons to be produced, and places the order. Depending on the weapon type’s complexity, standardization, condition of industry (produced weapons), or available trade routes and relations (imported weapons), completion of the order will require certain amount of time and money. Once the order has been completed, the weapons become available, and can be handed over to recruited units.

So, from unlocking the weapon types directly via policies, and receiving new weapons to equip the units quite abstractly, the new system makes weapon production way more flexible and controlled. Players can, for example, try to unlock the best repeating rifles first. But the delays and costs need to be weighed carefully, as the economy now plays more important role in general.

Construction Options.

Another big change is the ability to construct buildings on the campaign map. When no army or fleet is selected, you can see new construction buttons in the bottom of the screen. There are three (3) types of construction options: government building, industries, railroads. Constructing railroads has not changed much from earlier versions of the game, except the location for the controls, and that subsidies can be used to cover the costs.

Government buildings are paid for using the nation’s treasury directly. Government buildings, such as national banks, POW camps, military hospitals and military academies, all have their effects in the war effort. For example, when capturing enemy soldiers in battle, if no POW camps are built, the field commanders will parole the prisoners, and many may return to their units to fight again. If POW camps with sufficient capacity exist, the prisoners can be moved there, and will be effectively out of the fight. But there are upkeep costs…

Industries, like railroads, can be funded with subsidies. When subsidies are available, construction is cheaper, as private investors and businessmen can be attracted more easily. If insufficient subsidies are available, these construction projects can still be ordered, but it will cost much more, and the funds are taken from the treasury directly. Similar payments (subsidies, or direct) can be used now to upgrade any of the existing industries throughout the campaign map.

As the new construction options require further information, we have also added a number of new map filters to show information, that can be helpful when considering whether new buildings are needed, and where they would be most effective.

While all these changes increase the control player can have over the economy, all the mentioned functions can be placed under the AI Cabinet’s control (automanagement), in which case no further commands from the player are needed.

Most Respy,

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

Posted
Comments 15
Author

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 10
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 38
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