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Gen’l,

It’s 2021, happy New Year everyone! It has been some time since the last look into the latest new features in Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865), so here’s a quick summary of what has happened during the holidays and what is currently being worked on.

More Information.

While under the hood, there has always been a lot happening, the cause and effect -chains have not been always clear to the player. For example, why is national morale dropping, why are the units moving so slowly, or what is happening during naval engagements? Here we have introduced a lot of new information for the player in a few different ways:
-Improved tooltips. On strategy panel the tooltip now shows, for example, all effects on national morale. Perk tooltips explain the effects more accurately, including what needs to be done to level up the perk. Army supplies are now explained with more detail in the unit panel.
-Rolling texts. These texts appear on the campaign map to inform player of certain events and effects. For example, there’s information given about automatically resolved battles, sieges, troop movements including rear guard action and pursuit after battle, inflicting further casualties. While all the described effects have been there, now hopefully the player will also have the information in a timely fashion.

Re-enforcements Arriving!

One of the often requested feature has been control over reinforcements in campaign battles. Previously the system worked so, that offensive armies were to automatically reinforce, while defensive would not march to the sound of guns. We have now improved the engagement interface with further information about the engaging armies and the available reinforcements — and we now allow the player to choose which available units he would like to order to join the battle, regardless of their stance.

Navy has also received improved functionality in the form of raiding-order. Under these orders, the fleet in question will launch surprise raids against blockading fleets, engaging only a small part of the fleet. This allows numerically inferior fleets to engage and possibly sink a few ships, and then to disengage. With successful raiding the CSA can try to wage a war of attrition along the coast against the much larger Union blockading squadrons.

Currently we are working on improved retreating mechanism on the campaign map, including better retreat path-finding, retreating to forts, and disintegration of units that have no-where safe to retreat to. This is in addition to already implemented much shorter retreat routes, more orderly withdrawal, and additional capital city defensive moves by the AI.

Oh, that's what's taking all the time!

Balancing.

A constantly ongoing work has been the game balance, including AI improvements, in both campaigns and battles. This line of operation, so to say, contains working on the already implemented features to make the game play experience smoother, more challenging and fun. Here are just a few examples from this work:

Battles:
-Fatigue and morale effects balancing,
-AI now acts more directly and aggressively, if it encounters a force with considerable numerical inferiority,
-Couriers now move faster, reducing order delays a bit, while unit movement speeds have also been readjusted,
-Reworked objective placement in historic battles,
-Defensive battles are being improved to allow the defender larger deployment area and objectives that are already held.

Campaigns:
-Policies: implementation times have been adjusted, and researching multiple policies or acts will make the progress slower,
-Recruitment numbers have been revised, so that acts will have bigger effect on available recruits, recruitment subsidies will have bigger effect, over longer period of time, and drafts can be used to reinforce depleted volunteer units. This happens without support loss, unlike recruiting full draft units,
-Commanders getting wounded or captured may return during the campaign, but their attributes are affected,
-Commander attributes are now correctly affected by their experience, and experience will drop accordingly when appointed to higher command. Also if within range from the higher HQ, the commander will influence his subordinates’ attributes. For example an aggressive commander will feed aggression in his subordinates, and vice versa,
-Intervention armies are more of a threat now, at least that’s what the troops of V Corps, told me when visited by the Army of Canada.

More than just Fremantle this time, eh...

The Next Steps.

Work continues as planned, with focus now on finalizing added features, bug-fixing and general improvements. New content is being worked on, with the 1864 campaign database being implemented, and already adding the historic battle of New Market. Our map guru Wasel is working on the generic “random” maps, Peter has been adding commander portraits and improving the visuals here and there, and our friend History Guy Gaming is producing more Tutorial Videos as we speak — you may check out the ready ones from our YouTube playlist, HERE.

All in all the start of the year 2021 looks busy, but also the full release is slowly getting closer and closer.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer.

Posted
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Gen’l,

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) was launched in Early Access on Steam on Aug 21, 2020. Early Access means the game is not yet in its final, intended form. Instead, we want to improve it further before calling it “ready”. By purchasing the Early Access version (for a discounted price), the player can already play the game, but for a more complete and polished experience, it is recommended to wait for the full release. If you’re marching with us with the Early Access release, the going will not be smooth and there will be many hardships along the way. But, instead of turning back when facing adversity, the march will continue until the final victory – the full release of the game – is achieved!

During the Early Access period, we will follow the Road Map shown above. The Road Map steps are not in order of priority, but represent the order in which the missing features and content are finished. We will tackle the bugs and main feature improvements from the start.

During this time the other team members will be adding the content, which did not make it in the Early Access version. This includes, among other things, more commander portraits from Peter, further improvements in the campaign map, game balancing, maps, scenarios, and so on. The main steps on our march to victory, the final release, are listed below:

Load & Save for Battles – Victory Achieved on Nov 20, 2020!
One of the most important and requested features. As the battles take a long time to play, it is only fair that the player can save the progress to continue playing later. This feature has been added to the game along with unlimited saving for campaigns.

Map Pack #1 – Victory Achieved on Dec 23, 2020!
This package includes 10 new historical battlefields, that are available for fighting battles during the campaign. Included are maps of Cumberland Gap, Honey Springs, Honey Hill, Winchester, New Market, Carnifex Ferry, Mine Creek, Champion Hill, Fort Stevens and Olustee. Olustee also came with a historic battle. For more info, See here.

1864 Campaign – Victory Achieved on Jan 28, 2021!
The late war campaign scenario starts in May, 1864. Union armies are preparing to launch decisive campaigns to defeat the Confederate armies. Union commanding general Ulysses S. Grant is leading armies in the East to invade Virginia, to defeat Lee’s famed Army of the Northern Virginia, while his trusted lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman is to move with his armies to defeat Johnston and take Atlanta, Georgia. The odds are heavily favoring the Union, but with the presidential elections closing, severe setbacks in Lincoln’s war effort may demoralize the people. If Lincoln is not re-elected, the Confederacy has a chance to enter peace negotiations, eventually preventing the nation from being overran by the northern armies. The campaign also includes new historic battles – Olustee, Wilderness and New Market.

Tutorial Videos:
As the game is very complex, it can be easy to lose oneself in all the details and different functionalities. We have started adding tutorial videos, produced by the one and only History Guy Gaming! First videos can already be found in the game, and more will follow.

Find the tutorial videos also on YouTube, here:

Tutorial Video Playlist.

Map Pack #2:
This package will include a number of maps that will be randomly picked when fighting in regions where historical battle maps are not present. The functionality of the feature is already in, tested and it works, but the number of maps will be expanded to allow more diverse battle fields across the continent.

Campaign AI & Balancing:
This work is already underway, with each patch in beta also addressing these issues, but we are determined to improve the campaign AI and campaign experience a lot further. The campaign is what our game is all about, and we really want to make it the best we can!

After the Early Access release, we will keep the players and followers up to date about our progress by updating the Road Map. After the final step, the march will be over, and the final version of the game released. We welcome you to join us on this march! With the updating Road Map it should be easy to see the progress!

Cheers,

The Grand Tactician Team

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Gen’l,

Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) was released in Early Access two months ago. On August 21 we marched straight into the Wilderness, and have been fighting ever since. After desperate fighting and even some repulses, the advance continues. The game is being improved all along, and recently we have started adding content that has been requested by the Early Access players!

Into the Wilderness.

After August 21, things have advanced with Grand Tactician. During the first weeks after the release we have been dealing with major bugs, crashing, corrupted save files and even a nasty memory leak. But we’re happy these major issues are already behind us, and even as there is still a lot to do, the game is stabilizing. Plugging the memory leak was one of the more tedious projects so far, but now we have been able to focus on game play, AI and balancing, and producing additional content – on our way towards the full release of the game.

We have received a huge amount of bug reports, save files and logs, as well as feature requests from our Early Access players along the way. We have logged and prioritized them and are working through the list to constantly improve the game. Development patches have come out every 2-3 days, while official patches have been released weekly, on average. While first patches were focused on technical issues and stability, lately the point of main effort has been in campaign and battle game play.

While the team uses 90% of available effort in bug fixing and balancing the game, we have also added in playable content. Early on the 1863 summer campaign scenario was added, with a bonus summer 1861 scenario released a bit later, and just now we also added one more historic battle in the mix – the 1864 Battle of Olustee in Florida. This is the second regimental level battle, along with Wilson’s Creek, and the battle preferences have also been re-balanced in these two battles to improve playability and AI performance.

At the same time we have started adding more maps in the game, integrating them in the campaign map as well. The recently added maps are the before mentioned Olustee (FL), along with Cumberland Gap (KY) and Honey Springs (Indian Territory, modern OK). More maps are in the making, and will be sneakily added in the game with the coming patches. And while I have been adding the maps with our paper map artist Wasel, Peter has added more commander portraits and soldier images. Though, it does not help in his task that more commanders have also been added, the number now standing at 1591.

Save the Nation!

After resolving the major crashing issues we have slightly diverted from our Early Access Roadmap due to player requests. We have already added a number of player requests, like moving Headquarters units only, saving of filter settings and most recently unlimited campaign saving option and (optional) reworked battle objective system. More subtle changes have also been made according to feedback, like some changes in the campaign map, some font changes, pause default settings or game balancing.

As per our EA Roadmap, the steps described are already being taken not one by one, but simultaneously. While the first new maps, along with bonus battles have been already added, the work on the 1864 campaign is also ongoing, as is the work on allowing mid-battle saving and loading. We are also happy to announce that the first tutorial videos are being worked on by a renown history enthusiast and wargame YouTuber. The manual is also being planned with an American author and editor, who is a huge Civil War enthusiast. Like said, while more content is being created, the main focus is still in bug fixing, balancing, AI and performance improvements.

There are a number of larger topics that the community has requested so far, like scalable UI, hotkeys, or further game play options. These we have stored on our list and will start implementing them once we have advanced further with bug fixing and adding playable content.

We believe it’s a good idea to work with the community this way, even if it means the full release of the game may move further into the future this way – the Early Access players have been very encouraging and patient towards us, providing great feedback and cool new ideas. At this point we want to thank all the Early Access buyers for the continued support! The march to victory continues, even if there has been some setbacks along the way.

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
Chief Designer.

Posted
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Author

Gen’l,

The Civil War saw the use of many novel technologies, one being photography. Thanks to Mathew Brady and other photographers of the time, we can see snapshots of the war, and of the people who lived and fought through it. To-day re-enactors bring the battle-fields of the Civil War alive in grand Living History spectacles around the U.S. And to-day’s Mathew Bradys are there to film it and to produce amazing footage to be used in news stories, documentaries… and even video games!

Let us introduce to you Kevin R. Hershberger of LionHeart FilmWorks, LLC, the Man behind the camera of the combat footage in Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865)!

The Man Behind the Camera.

Kevin shares a love for history with the rest of the Grand Tactician -team. Film-making has been his other love for as long as he remembers:

“Of course, it’s a cliche to say it, but I grew up watching movies like the original Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark and I always thought that I wanted to work with model building and special effects. In school I wasn’t great with math and science, so perhaps that wasn’t my destiny.”

Kevin is a re-enactor since the giant 125th anniversary series of events in 1987, even choosing to attend Virginia Military Institute (V.M.I.) after High School because of the Cadet Corps involvement in the Civil War battle of New Market. It would be the combination of re-enactment enthusiasm and interest in film-making, that would make him known for his first feature film, award-winning Wicked Spring (2002), telling a story of Confederate and Union soldiers, trapped between the lines, during the Battle of Wilderness in 1864.

But before that, there would be working behind the scenes of other productions and 8 years of service in the U.S. Army as a Military Intelligence Officer – making him the other member of Grand Tactician -Team with a military background. During his time at V.M.I. Kevin started writing feature film screenplays and seriously learning the how-to of film-making. This included working on the set of the movie Gettysburg, filmed in Maryland where Kevin grew up. This was the summer of 1992. The next year, Kevin worked in a Showtime TV movie set at West Point in the 1880s, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Sam Waterston, which was filming at V.M.I. Talking his way through to working for the production as “Cadet Wrangler” – organizing and training the cadet extras – he also got a speaking part on camera. Working one-on-one with the director and production team for several weeks on location got Kevin hooked. And the pay wasn’t bad either!

“I didn’t want to jump out of Helicopters in the Army anymore, I wanted to stay on set and make movies… about Soldiers jumping out of helicopters!”

After serving in the U.S. Army, Kevin dove head-first into learning the craft of screenwriting: “…by writing many bad scripts and learning from each one and getting better, page after page.” His first project to direct was a short film titled The Nest (1999), shot on location in Pennsylvania, on 16mm film. The Nest premiered in New York City, in September 1999, in a film festival. It was only four months later Kevin found himself on set directing Wicked Spring, with a hefty $500K budget! The film would win ‘Best Action Film’ at New York International Film and TV Festival in 2002.

“Things moved fast between 1999-2000, but everything was much harder after that! By 2004 I was officially self-employed, without a safety-net and have been able to stay self-employed and growing since then. No plans to go back to a ‘real job’!”

LionHeart FilmWorks.

Few years later, in 2006, Kevin refocused his attention back to his greatest interest, which was the filming, now on Digital video, of historical recreations of historical events. This started his series of re-enactment documentaries: In 2010 Kevin began producing a long series of multi-part docu-series about American history subjects.

My channel is a hybrid of both a showcase of all of my original historical film and documentary work, along with a celebration and curation of other historical films and documentaries that I most admire or were most influenced by. It’s really a curated collection of some of the best and most interesting history-related content I can find and if anyone wanted to see what I’m most interested in or what influenced my work – this is the place to go!”

And it’s not just any YouTube channel. By now it has 165,000 subscribers and 35 million views. The content found there is a true treasure chest to anyone interested in American history and wishing to keep current with the past. The channel is growing steadily, adding three videos per week. And while he is running the channel, let’s hope new ideas for films of his own will spring.

“Hopefully, I’ll be turning back to feature film-making of some sort in the 2020s…”

Even if playing a major role in video game development with his involvement in Grand Tactician, when talking about his experience in video games, Kevin admits he’s a bit late to the game. “If someone were to ask me what video games I play, my answer would probably be Atari and Nintendo 64!” Kevin does have a PlayStation, which allows him to return to the world he left behind, playing historical and military games like the older Call of Duty sort that are set in World War 2.

“I’m extremely pleased and excited to be part of this new Grand Tactician: The Civil War game, and I hope that the players find a new passion to study this history and I am proud to be able to play a small part. I hope fellow history buffs playing this game check out my YouTube channel and subscribe and learn even more about this part of American history – as well as the entirely of the American experience since 1607.”

We couldn’t be happier to have Kevin’s talent and epic footage onboard in our humble project!

Most Respy,

Gen’l. Ilja Varha,
The Grand Tactician -Team

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Gen’l,

As Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) release is getting close, it’s time to take a look behind the scenes of the game’s development, and to introduce the core team of people behind the project. It’s safe to say, that the development of this game has been very different compared to the game dev industry norm. And it will continue to be so.

From Eager Amateurs to Determined Veterans.

In 2016, two men in Austria were thinking to themselves, that the strategy game niche was missing a game. The American Civil War is a very interesting topic to read about, and to learn about, but no-one had made a comprehensive game about the whole war. Of course there are the great titles like Sid Meier’s Gettysburg, AGEOD’s Civil War II, and more recent Ultimate General, and so on. But one title to grasp the story and the operational level of the conflict was still missing. There and then a decision was made to create one.

Oliver Keppelmüller, a 40 years old treasury banker from Austria, had already tried his wings in game development. He created a strategy game called The Seven Years War (1756-1763), alone, from scratch, releasing in late 2015. This game received 2 DLCs during 2016, expanding the battle game-play and adding a Swedish themed campaign of the Pomeranian War.

TSYW, as it’s called among friends, already included the elements that would be the cornerstones of Grand Tactician: strategic campaign layer with simulation of economy and military management, and a tactical battle layer where battles are fought when armies meet on the campaign map. The game also includes historic battles from the war, and a custom battle generator. Though, the dream was always to make a game about the American Civil War. (“I tried to create a Civil War strategy game since the mid 90’s in different coding languages and engines, but never finished… until NOW.”)

Ilja Varha, now a 36 years old Finnish Army officer and a military history buff, ran into Oliver’s game while working for a gaming magazine as a freelance writer. While the game was rough around the edges, it was very intriguing, as it did many things right, that other games usually ignored. Ilja, with a history of modding, wargaming and simulators, both entertainment and military use, got involved in Oliver’s project and designed the Pomeranian War DLC. It was after the release of this DLC that the seed for Grand Tactician was planted.

Peter Lebek, a 41 years old Control Room Operator in the Chemical Industry in Germany, joined the team in 2017 plugging a gaping hole in the team’s line. Now we had a full-time artist to improve the game’s visuals, especially the UI. Peter was previously involved in the Europa Barbarorum II mod for Total War, creating units and coding.

There was but one problem: none of us was a professional game developer within the industry, making a living developing games. This was, and still is, a caveat in a way: making the game would not make a living, so the development would need to take place during spare time, after the workdays and while supporting the families – Oliver and Ilja both had their first child right after the development started, who are now 3 years old, while Peter’s son is a few years older. Also during the development Ilja was accepted to General Staff studies in the Finnish Defence University, spending 2 years studying the art of war while developing the game… Even if this means time for development is always limited – and believe us when we say the boundaries have been pushed on many occasions – it also gave a freedom which professional game developers do not always have: as the game was not the livelihood, we were free to do whatever and however we wanted, without any outside pressure to make things one way or another, or by a certain date.

While inexperience made certain things difficult at first, during the years we’ve learned more than a few things while creating the game. But the most important lesson is that with the freedom we’ve enjoyed, we’ve been able to develop the game our way. And from the feedback we’ve received from the followers of the project and the game’s volunteer testing team, we’ve managed to do emphasize the things we wanted in the game design, from the historic looks and atmosphere to the realistic mechanisms that run under the hood.

The Underdogs with Future Plans.

The release of Grand Tactician: The Civil War (1861-1865) is approaching fast. But the release of the game is not meant to set the game in stone, only to be patched later on with a DLC or two released later. Instead, as the project is a true fruit of passion for us, we are determined to keep it alive, and improving it along the way.

For a gigantic project like this with the limited development time, and basically without any resources, it’s clear, that every feature we planned in 2016 is not yet included or polished. We plan on finalizing our vision by supporting the game for years to come, adding the missing features in the upgrades and patches – for free – while improving the game. At the same time we’ll keep expanding the existing content, like the number of battle-fields players can encounter in the campaign.

Post-release, the players will also have their say in the direction the project will steer from thereon. While Grand Tactician is planned to become a series of strategy games, we’re not in a hurry to go onwards with a new title, even if a few interesting ones are already discussed. Hopefully after the release we can also make the game more moddable, so fans can adjust it to their liking.

And we’re not in this alone. The Volunteers, from freelance artists to history buffs helping in research, have helped us immensely, increasing the game’s quality and atmosphere from the soundtrack recorded just for this game to the video cut-scenes and historical map drawing styles – none of this was planned in 2016. We’re humbled by the talent and morale of the volunteers, as well as the impact their work have had had on our small, but ambitious project!

So, as you can see, Grand Tactician is a true underdog in the game development industry. With full freedom of maneuver we are going to keep the project alive, improving it along the way, as we believe it could be the American Civil War strategy game for years to come.

Most Respy,

The Grand Tactician -Team:

The Grand Tactician -Team

Oliver Keppelmüller, 40, Austria, treasury banker.
“I think in 0s and 1s, hardly sleep and the 100k lines of code chase me in my dreams.”

Ilja Varha, 36, Finland, officer, FDF.
“Still got some great ideas to improve the game, though Oliver said he would die of old age before finishing my list…”

Peter Lebek, 41, Germany, Control Room Operator.
“Years ago: do you know a way how to adjust 50 black & white commander photos in one shape? Last week: we have now 1400 commanders in the database and some 1000 will have a colored portrait…”