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Hear, Hear!

To capture the atmosphere of a Civil War battle, sound plays a big part, from the roar of musketry and low booming of cannons in the distance, to bugle signals cutting through the noise.

“Then cheer, boys, cheer, raise a joyous shout!”

In Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) we are using a wide variety of sounds and music, that was heard on the 19th century battle field. As a small independent team of developers, creating a believable world of sounds is challenging, but with help from very talented professional volunteers and some ingenuity, the sound of a 19th century battle field is coming to life.

When playing the battles in The Civil War (1861-1865) first you will hear the marching sounds of the formations of troops, the clanking of artillery being towed to position and flapping of the flags in wind. While marching, the musicians in the brigade occasionally play drum and fife music to cheer up the boys, including catchy tunes like Bonnie Blue Flag or Frog in the Well.

Creating these sounds required some field time and marching drills equipped with microphones. Some fellow joggers did look a bit curious when they ran past my “recording studio”, marching up and down a gravel lane, mud and puddles, 110 steps per minute – the quick time marching cadence used by troops in the Civil War. The same drills were carried out with double quick time and running. With some audio editing trickery, these drills were transformed into formation of hundreds men marching – and the artillery limber wheels rolling were originally a stroller, where the “artillery crew” was having her nap.

The drum and fife recordings are played by Wasel and his crew. A reenactment drummer, Wasel knows how the instruments should sound, and also the troops that would have played them. Getting the sound right required some practice in imperfection.

March to the Sound of the Guns.

Once the troops get in contact with the enemy, a roar of musketry will take over, with the booms and bangs of artillery firing and shells exploding around the formations. The troops would shout and cheer anxiously, while performing their duties under fire.

When we started creating the sound engine, we wanted to add the effect of distance to it. The sounds that travel long distances – firing of muskets, guns, shell explosions – sound very different depending on how far the source is. So, for these sounds we added a distance that changes the played sounds from clear shots and cracks to low booming and popping. Also the time the sound takes to travel is taken into account. To get the weapon sounds right, we used reenactment videos for reference, adding some “oomph”, as the weapon sounds a bit different when firing live ammunition.

Sound the Retreat!

In the maelstrom of battle, directing the troops is difficult. The officers’ shouts of orders are not heard through the constant fire. Before the radio was invented, musical instruments were used to carry orders, as were couriers and messengers, and during Civil War wig-wag flags and field telegraph. The instrument used during the Civil War was bugle. The use of drums for this purpose was already in the past, as bugle sound cuts through the noise and carries farther. The kind people at National Field Music School gave us historical advice about the use of instruments in the battle field – thanks Don!

Alan Tolbert, a musician and a reenactment infantry bugler, recorded the historical bugle signals heard in the game. He really knows his bugle business, and this brings a very cool historical touch to the game. In this making of video Alan explains all things bugle, as he was recording the signals for us:

Making of Grand Tactician: The Bugle

Forward, March!

During the summer we have been working on the AI for Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) battles, and Peter upgraded the artistic looks of the battle UI. The battle layer is soon fully implemented, and focus is turning to the campaign game play and features. Before diving into what the campaign will bring, we will release some more information about the battles, including more game play footage.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer.

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Fellow Generals!

In Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) battles can take multiple days. When the sun goes down and the fighting ceases, both sides will continue furiously to prepare for the coming day.

As the Firing Dies Down.

The day will end either when the sun goes down, or if both sides agree on a cease-fire. As seasons and length of day is modeled, during summer it’s possible to fight longer. When the fighting ceases, the situation of both sides is calculated, including reserves that reach the battle field before morning. According to the disposition of troops, some may find themselves cut off from the main body, with lines of communication broken…

…And of course some disheartened soldiers will see the darkness as the perfect distraction to leave the ranks without permission and head home. Untrained, inexperienced, poorly lead and demoralized soldiers are the most likely lot to desert.

In the heavy fighting your troops will consume their ammunition, which is in average some 60 rounds per infantry man and some 128 rounds for guns of average caliber. During the night, the troops will first level ammunition within their unit. Then they await the arrival of their supply train.

Units with line of communication will be resupplied with ammunition and food, which is provisions for men and forage for horses. The amount depends on available supply, distance and also commanders’ administration capabilities. The supplies are distributed to the troops according to order of battle. Cut off troops will not be able to receive any supplies and this may cause problems with morale and condition of troops on the long run, in addition to not having more ammunition to fight with. If condition of men goes down, they will tire faster and the number of men falling sick will increase, along with the obvious effects on morale, that are the more severe the greener the men.

After resupplying the commanders will be busy re-deploying their troops. The possible deployment zone is calculated from position of troops, occupied entry points and objectives. Troops cut off will not be able to reform, and will start their next day from the position they hold. During the night positions can also be improved with engineers building barricades and digging trenches. And of course the generals will consider the situation and formulate plans for the next day, to overcome the enemy. Or if the situation looks dire, maybe try to slip away and withdraw from the field to fight another day.

With the multi-day mechanism and possibility to resupply during the night, or cut off the enemy lines of communications, the fortunes of battles may swing from side to side. Arrival of fresh troops just in time may change the course of fighting and force the enemy to abandon plans for attack to try to hold their own, like happened at Wilderness when Longstreet’s Corps reached the field…

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer.

Comments 1
Engineers at work. From Hardtack and Coffee.

Following the announcement of our first title, The American Civil War (1861-1865), there has been quite many questions being thrown around and discussed on different sites and channels. Here are the first answers to these questions by the Engineer Corps Staff:

1) When will the game be released?
Currently we do not have a release date, or even a candidate, as the development is still ongoing and we’re deep in pre-alpha stage. Writing this, we are reaching the final battle features, before moving on to the campaign layer. Our aim is during 2019.

2) Is there a Kickstarter campaign or similar?
No, we don’t have such campaigns at the moment, and none planned, at least for now. Currently, the biggest challenges we face are time related, as we all got our day jobs, studies, and families to attend to as well.

3) Will there be a multiplayer option?
Not at release. We have not ruled out the possibility to include this post-release. Going from single player game development to multiplayer is a world on its own, and if we take that route, we’d like to do it properly with time.

4) Do you need testers or other help?
Right now, we are quite comfortable with the staffing we got. The need for testers will become relevant closer to release, and we will of course let you know! Before that though, there will be a couple of features where we would require some help with – and then we will reach out with more specific information.

5) What scenarios / battles will be included?
The details are not yet finalized, but the game will cover the whole war. Campaign will have certain starting points (scenarios) in addition to the full campaign. There will also be historical battles from throughout the war, but details about these will follow later.

6) The game is real time strategy game. Why, and what does this mean in practice?
We have chosen real time game mechanics because of realism. While We-go and Turn based games are also enjoyable for us, these approaches simplify the core elements of warfare, space and time, too much in our opinion. So as the Grand Tactician, you will also have the challenges created from time running constantly.

But: When we say “real time”, we don’t mean a turbo boosted click-fest. On the contrary, the game will be quite slow paced. This is because of the realism approach, which includes features such as realistic order delays on campaign map and battles. So having quick reactions will not most likely help you as much as proper thinking and forethought. Your job as the Grand Tactician is to think ahead, and give well thought out orders to your sub-ordinates, who will be better equipped to handle the quick reactions as situation requires, according to your instructions. The game can be paused and accelerated at any time if the player wishes so.

7) The units shown in screenshots and video don’t look very detailed. What’s up with that? Will there be 3D units etc.?
In Grand Tactician we have chosen to portray the battles with proper sized armies and with a good overview of what is happening. This allows the player to follow the battle better, but creates performance issues with the amount of troops shown. This comes down to VRAM and the size and amount of sprite tables. We tried lo-poly 3D models too, but the hit on performance was too much. But we will try to improve every aspect of the game before release, and this includes also visuals!

8) What are the main differences to other similar titles, like Total War, Scourge of War, HistWar, or Ultimate General?
We decided to start this project, because we thought the computer wargame scene did not have this kind of game yet. That said, all the above are very good games and also enjoyed by the development team. But there are a few important differences:
- The general approach: we are not aiming at breathtaking visuals, stunning action or beer and pretzels game play. Instead, we try to make everything with realism in mind – not forgetting the player’s ability to handle the information. This means for example, that the battles will not be over in few minutes. And that the campaign will not be a simple rush to build more and better troops and then steamrolling the U.S. We imagine the player, the Grand Tactician, not in a hurry, whacking his mouse like a maniac. Instead, we see him/her sitting back, maybe a coffee mug in hand, scratching his/her forehead about the next move he/she should do.
- There will be not only battles or only campaign, but both. And these will be intertwined more closely than in other similar titles. We are aiming for a comprehensive game about the Civil War, telling the story of the war in a different way it has been done in computer games before.

9) What kind of DLC or Sequel plans do you have?
We planned Grand Tactician to be a game series, and have been tossing around a few ideas about possible other conflicts to cover. But currently focus is 100% on the Civil War. We do plan on making this one as good as we can, and this includes plans to implement new features that simply cannot make it for initial release, in patches post-release.

10) The French in one of the old screenshots… What about them?
- Only a fool would rule out the possibility for a foreign military intervention. ;-)

Comments 8

Hello Grand Tacticians!

The first Grand Tactician -title will be called The Civil War (1861-1865). The American Civil War a was pivotal war in history in many ways: It has also been called the last war fought with Napoleonic tactics, or the first industrial war. It saw new technology being used for war, such as railroads or the telegraph. It saw the first duel between iron clad warships. It is the first war which was so well documented with photographs, that were made available to the public using latest printing technology. It saw trench warfare, well before the first world war. And it saw fortunes changing multiple times, which created a sort of drama that makes studying the war even more interesting.

Why the Civil War?

I was excited about this war already when I was 13 and always planned to make a Civil War game at some point, while doing my first tries here as teenager. First, I got to know the Civil War as I watched Ken Burns’ legendary documentary. The first war to be documented by photography made you feel related to the simple soldiers on the battlefield. Combined with the music, the document created a unique atmosphere which inspired us in our project.

It was also the war of new tactics and new technology, this makes all the opportunities for the game quite huge. Although knowing that a lot of great Civil War strategy games already have been made, I feel we will create something unique here with a lot of love and passion.

From the point of view of a designer, The Civil War is very interesting conflict to turn into a strategy game. The long and bloody war could have ended in many different ways, either side winning. The situation for Union and Confederacy is very different, so victory would also be achieved by using different, non-symmetrical means. This makes researching and designing the campaign game-play very interesting, as depending on player’s actions these “what-if” scenarios can change the course of war dramatically. On the other hand, the way battles were fought also saw evolution from 1st battle of Bull Run (Manassas) towards the end of the war. This creates great opportunity for a story to develop within the game.

Unlike other games of this era, The Civil War (1861-1865) will show detailed battlefields with massive armies and a fully playable campaign, both in real time. The rising industrialization will change this war into something never seen before in history. Trains and telegraphs allowed mobilizing hundreds of thousands of men and new technologies turn the Napoleonic tactics into a new era of warfare. For me as a player it´s very exciting to have the freedom to take the control and choose my very own strategy, and this not only on the battlefield. Particularly the campaign game-play is what I´m mostly excited about, too see the full conflict and how it turns depending on my decisions.

Full Steam Ahead.

We are a small group of history and wargame enthusiasts, and do not have the resources or budget of the large game industry behind us. But we want to tell the story in a way, that hopefully immerses the player into the war and makes him feel involved. To achieve this, we are dedicating our time for historical accuracy in the game’s details, from historical commanders and army compositions to battlefields, tactics, and campaign objectives.

To support this, we are paying special attention to period specific details, such as the music or the visuals in the game. We are working together with talented people like Wasel Arar, now also a Brigadier General in the Grand Tactician Corps of Engineers, who produces the original soundtrack of the game with professional old time musicians playing classic songs from the period, along with details such period specific typography and map drawings. He also is the man behind the beautiful colored photographs you can see on our new website, which is also his work!

So, the work on the game continues full steam ahead, and we will keep you up to date with what’s going on behind the scenes, with regular updates of this developer’s blog. At this point we cannot set a specific release date, but we are working furiously to have the game ready during 2019!

We welcome you to follow us on our social media channels and on our website! Please feel free to drop comments on these Log Book entries with the tools below. If you have any questions you can always contact us via our e-mail, or by dropping a line on Facebook or Twitter.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Oliver Keppelmüller,
Chief of Engineers.

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer.

Gen’l. Peter Lebek,
Chief War Artist.

Comments 3

Fellow Generals!

In Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) you will command great armies, with realistic organization. To make the war-machine work, commanders are needed to lead the units on all levels of hierarchy. You will have hundreds of legendary, historical commanders available for commission. They all have their personal attributes, making them unique, but they also develop during the campaign game. Managing your commanders will be important, as right generals in right positions will be a true force multiplier.

Amateurs go to War.

Just before the Civil War, U.S. regular army was only 16,000 strong. The professional career officers trained at West Point were not used to commanding brigades and divisions, let alone corps later on. The amount of professional officers was also insufficient to command the greatest armies massed on American continent. Many older officers received quick promotions to high command, and many non-professionals were also appointed to high ranks to lead the inexperienced men into battle.

In The Civil War (1861-1865) we have created large commander database, which includes information such as historical rank progression, branch, veteran status from previous wars, and personal attributes. Starting a campaign or battle at any point during the war will result in historically available pool of commanders. Their progress during the war will also be simulated, so during the 1st Battle of Bull Run / Manassas all commanders will be inexperienced, while later on they will be more capable in their tasks.

Commanders’ experience comes from battles only. Even a major general with no combat experience is considered green. Those who fought in the Mexican War or Indian wars will have some experience, but in most cases from a lower command level, and also war itself had evolved. While veterans will provide some needed experience during the early days, they too need to learn in the maelstrom of battle. Those with formal military training will have more skill in the duties of their original branch. Civilian soldiers could prove as capable as the professionals, but they will lack this former knowledge.

The Legends and the Infamous.

In addition to combat experience, each commander has a fame rating that changes during the war. Fame comes from leading troops in victorious engagements, and from heroic stands. Famous commanders, especially on high places, will inspire the populace and raise morale on the home front. Fame also inspires the troops and makes the enemies tremble. A commander may rise to great fame slowly, or like a rocket, like Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, when stopping the Union advance at the 1st Battle of Bull Run.

But the flip side of the fame coin is the loss of it. Losing a famous commander in battle will sink hearts at home. But more problematic than losing the commander, would be losing only the fame! A prominent general promoted to command an army, but who faces disaster, will lose his fame faster and more completely, than how it was achieved. Defamed commanders will cause trouble, as their subordinates will lose confidence in them, as will the populace. After a disaster it will be better to remove the failed commander from command, before morale plummets. During the war many generals faced this fate, from McDowell and Patterson to Burnside and Bragg. As fame will be dynamic during the campaign game, maybe “Fighting Joe” Hooker will lead Army of the Potomac to gates of Richmond, who knows?

The Tacticians and the Administers.

While experience and fame may change during the war, commanders’ personality will not – at least not so quickly! Each commander has his personal rating in leadership, initiative, administration and cunning.

- Leadership is the skill to inspire and rally soldiers when the situation is dire. Usually it’s the charisma and bravery, that men will follow, even to their deaths.
- Initiative is the ability to read the situation and take action. Whether it is aggressiveness in attack, or speed in processing orders and getting the men moving, a commander with high initiative will always be more effective than one with none. If initiative is low, the commander will be less likely to attack, and will consider a retreat as a viable option even if there is no real reason to it.
- Administration includes everything from organizing a well run staff to managing every day military life like drilling of the troops or keeping them supplied. Good administrators come up with solutions to fight desertion and other problems, so common within large armies, especially of drafted soldiers.
- Cunning commanders employ clever tactics against their enemies. They will be more successful in gaining intelligence, as well as fooling the enemy. A feint or a deception could even allow an army to slip away from under the very noses of the enemy, to join a battle elsewhere and to turn the tide.

Using these attributes, how would you rate the famous commanders of the war, who faced each other on the battlefields of the Civil War, shown on the image above? It will be important to know the commanders, your own and of the enemy, as wrong commander in wrong place can cause a lot of trouble. But not only to himself!

When commanders lead one another, the highest ranking will usually influence his subordinates, shaping their opinions and attitudes. This is especially so, if the commander is charismatic and famous. He will lift up or drag down the attributes of fellow commanders under his command, whether for better or for worse. But this is not automatic. A strong minded subordinate, with completely opposite views, could cause a feud between the officers, which will never be a good thing in battle. So managing your officer corps will be critical for your success, though sometimes fate could decide to derail your plans!

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer.