Depiction of foxholes in CM: Normandy

Michael Dorosh

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Starting a new thread on this because anyone searching for this topic later would have a hard time finding it in thread called "uh oh"

From Steve:

Thanks for your patience guys! We've had several discussions about this in the past, and two very recently, so I wanted the opportunity to try and keep a couple of issues straight so this thread doesn't go off on tangents and the basic points get lost.

Despite what we all want, in fact it's impractical (read impossible) for terrain to be "spottable" you would need a super computer to determine what to show and what not to show based on any given circumstance. On top of that, the computing resources required to keep three separate "maps" (original, Player 1, and Player 2), even with all the programming tricks in the universe, is also quite large (and let's not talk about when there are 24 players!). On top of all these problems, the code has to be so good and so clean that all of this information can be accessed, manipulated, and displayed with unerring consistency and speed while still leaving computing resources to do everything else. That's why CMx1 doesn't have LOS terrain, nor any other complex 3D game that I can think of. First person shooters don't even need it because you can only see what your character can see, so that is the ultimate form of FoW.

What happens when something, like a trench, is put into a CM map? The underlying terrain mesh is deformed in such a way that a trench is formed both visually and "physically" (i.e. defined geometry). Unlike an object, such as a tank, a trench is literally defined by the terrain mesh, not an externally produced 3D model which sits on top of the terrain. As noted above, since a trench is terrain that means it can't be spotted since terrain can't be shown/hidden depending on variable circumstances. There are no simple work arounds (like 2D "lids") for this.

With me so far?

When we designed the game engine's primary characteristics in 2003 we knew that anything which we made a part of terrain would become terrain and therefore would not be spottable. We discussed the impact of this on fortifications, specifically, since they were the only types of objects affected by this decision. For reasons discussed further on, it was a no brainer that we had to sacrifice SOME forms of spottable fortifications.

As much as we wished we could have our cake and eat it too, tradeoffs are a part of the reality we live in as game developers. For us it's normal to make decisions where we gain various things and lose something else. We have to see the big picture because we have to make it. Gamers, on the other hand, can easily focus on one thing and dismiss all of the others as being of lower value even when they are added together. Gamers live in a bubble of their own making, without any possible way to be proven wrong because... well... because they never produce anything that can be tested. We're not so fortunate

What was gained? A 3D environment with rules which are consistent and reliable. This is definitely the most under-appreciated thing about CMx2 because so much that it does is taken for granted, yet it's not present in CMx1 nor any other wargame. Much of the benefits of the system are invisible to you in direct ways, but you still benefit from it. Bugs, for example, are both easier to find and easier to fix for real instead of making bloody hacks. New features are easier to add because there is a stable environment to add to which mimics the real world and not an abstract one. In fact, the lack of this environment and years of bloody hacks is why the CMx1 code base was chucked out in favor of the new CMx2 engine.

Aside from the coding and gameplay stuff, there is the visual qualities of the 3D environment which must be considered. Why? Because it's what the vast majority of our customers want. Yes, even the CMx1 customers. The number of you guys that could pass a lie-detector test and say that you would rather have the CMx1 graphical environment would amount to such a small number that it's not even worth considering. The number of you that would say you'd rather have the CMx1 graphical environment, but would flunk a lie-detercotr test, is probably a little bit bigger

However, as it so happens, trenches (specifically) are so tied into the physics modeling that Charles would have to make some extremely bloody hacks to have 2D trenches work in a 3D environment. The visuals, therefore, are the easy thing to change... it's the underlying game modeling that is impractical and undesirable to change. It's also extremely damaging to the overall game environment to have such exceptions jammed into it, so it's out of the question.

I'll let this sink in before you read the next bit

OK, so what do we have for defensive objects and how are they handled? We basically have three types:

1. Those that rely upon the terrain to give them definition (both visually and game properties).

2. Those that do not rely upon terrain to give them definition, but modify the terrain if needed.

3. Those that do not rely upon terrain to give them definition and do not modify the terrain.

Starting with the last first, things like barbed wire obstacles, roadblocks, sandbags, and other things which sit on top of the terrain mesh, and don't dig into it ever, can be treated like units. That means they can, theoretically, be spotted/hidden.

Bunkers are similar in that they are separate from the terrain and therefore can be spotted/hidden. However, bunkers are often "cut into" terrain and therefore the terrain has to be modified. Trees can't be growing up through a bunker, for example. When a bunker is put on the side of the hill, having it conform to the contours of the hill would be visually ridiculous, so the hill's terrain mesh is conformed to allow the bunker to remain horizontal. Since terrain, once modified, must be shown that way all the time you get a situation where the bunker can be shown/hidden, but the bits of terrain removed to allow it to be where it is must be shown "as is". This means you can use the camera to hunt around and possibly find where the bunkers are without actually having spotted them. The possibility depends completely on how obvious a bunker modifies the terrain (it might not modify it at all, remember).

And last but not least... things which are defined by the terrain itself. Specifically, trenches and foxholes. As is, these things can't be spotted/hidden, but instead must remain visible at all times once the game starts. The work arounds for this are not practical to achieve, for one or more reasons.

In CM: Normandy we'll add functionality that allows people to place trenches and foxholes using 2D representations (similar to CMx1). The difference is these 2D representations have NO GAME ATTRIBUTES and are, instead, identical to the little 2D icons in the Editor in terms of their functionality. As soon as Setup is exited the 2D icons are translated into 3D modifications and the changes are permanently made to the map used for the game.

It may be possible, and I stress POSSIBLE, to have foxholes retain their 2D representations in the 3D environment and then add hacked in 3D properties for them. Meaning, the foxholes will look pretty much like CMx1 foxholes, but will behave correctly in the 3D environment. This is something Charles will look into at a later date prior to CM: Normandy being complete. No promises, other than we'll give it a shot. I'm hopeful that it will work, and IF it does then foxholes will have at least some degree of FoW.

Trenches, unfortunately, are out of the question. They are too deep and too complicated to even consider making bloody hacks to get them to work in 3D without a 3D representation. Plus, on top of that they would look like crap. Based on feedback over many years from dedicated CMx1 players, and a sense of what the wider audience wants, looks do matter. But as I said, the looks are coming for free with the 3D game engine so this isn't about sacrificing spottable trenches for visual reasons, it's about the impracticality of having significant 3D objects represented in 2D.

And finally...
The realism problems associated with not having spottable trenches is, I think, overblown. Sure, the attacker will always know where trenches are once the game starts, and act accordingly, but I will remind you in CMx1 we had the opposite problem. That was where the attacker was always denied benefiting from intel gathered by previous encounters/attacks. Even if the attacker shouldn't know exactly where the trenches, he most likely would know a) that the fortifications existed, b) roughly where they were, and c) roughly how tough they were. Sure, units bumbled into thick defenses all the time, but usually those engagements were short and the attacker withdrew so that it could come at them again with a plan. Extreme circumstances, such as the Hürtgen Forest battles, this was done over and over and over again in fact.

My point here is to remind you guys that this isn't a one sided thing. In CMBB/AK trenches were unrealistically favorable for the defender to some extent, in CMx2 they are unrealistically favorable for the attacker to some extent. If you're displeased with one because it is unrealistic and has an effect on gameplay, keep in mind that you've somehow managed to live this long even though you've already experienced something similar in reverse Therefore, perhaps the negative effects aren't nearly as game wrecking as some think they are.

On top of this, we have the fact that in WW2 the options for attacking trenches were somewhat limited. Or at least vastly more constrained than they are in CM:SF's modern setting. Artillery was slower, less accurate, and less effective. Look at WW1 for Pete's sake... every inch of the enemy's trenches were known and attacked for MONTHS by heavy artillery and raked with MG and sniper fire... yet the side getting hit more often than not was able to fight off a massed attack against it. Which just goes to show that seeing the enemy's positions is not the same as being able to eliminate them.

It's also true that the more involved the defenses are, the more likely they are to get spotted. Therefore, the degree of effort to mask the defenses was somewhat proportional to the effort involved in creating them. Massive, well hidden fortifications like the Maginot Line, the Atlantic Wall, and even the Siegfried Line are outside of CM's scope and aren't part of the equation. Neither are defenses built in other epochs under similar long term conditions (like Pacific Islands, for example). The majority of defenses in CM: Normandy, therefore, should be of the hasty type that aren't heavily camouflaged. The big exception to this would be the Hürtgen Forest battles which are not within the timeframe of CM: Normandy and are, for now anyway, not relevant. Trenches in Normandy shouldn't even be that common, from a realism standpoint.

A reminder... there was aerial recon in WW2, in case you guys forgot. Not only from specialized aircraft, but also each US division had a dedicated aircraft at its disposal to check things out for themselves. Which means a field with a lot of trenches in it could indeed be known to the ground troops long before they got there. Not as likely as modern days, for sure, but definitely not impossible.

Now, don't get me wrong... I'm not saying that having trenches shown all the time isn't a break with reality. It most definitely is, no argument about it. What I'm saying is that we need to be careful about the Chicken Little effect that is so common about stuff like this. The downsides of the system, as we have it, are often highlighted, taken out of context, and blown out of proportion, while the upsides are downgraded and often cast aside. Others, like the problems CMx1 had with fortifications (like no trenches at all in CMBO) are even forgotten about because they really complicate the arguments that the sky is falling.

Well, I think that about does it. Thanks for being patient
 

thewood

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Another one of those CM1 sucked and you liked it so like CM2 even though it sucks threads.
 

Michael Dorosh

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I don't know what to make of this - it was three separate posts in the original - some of it seems reasonable but the fanbois jumped all over him to lick his nuts so fast and fall at his feet with gratitude I'm not sure I'm willing to admit that he's walking on the water that Charles hasn't even coded yet. Elaborate trench systems did exist in Normandy - Buron for example, during CHARNWOOD. There is a very detailed book about this battle sitting on my shelf.

Steve draws a distinction between foxholes and trenches, which is useful. So let's talk about trenches first. He says they were rare in Normandy. True enough. He says they were easily spotted by reconnaissance and the lack of FOW is easily dismissed even in cases where they weren't. Probably true.

What happened in a real case study?

Buron was assaulted on D+1, and the Canadians were repulsed with great loss. There were no trenches there. The formations involved went into static operations for four weeks. The 12th SS Panzer Division fortified Buron and dug a massive anti-tank trench. It was noted on aerial photos and maps. See my blog entry on battle doctrine (link is to the left under my name) for photos and maps. The trench was not just a ditch, it was actually equivalent to a First World War trench system, complete with living quarters, fighting positions, etc.

There was no "FOW", then, about where the trench was.

Should this translate into no FOW for commanders during a running battle? That's open to discussion, I guess, and you can ask yourself what level you are running the simulation/game at. Steve admits the lack of FOW detracts from the game, but he basically asks what we've been asking in another thread - is this a game-killer? We all have different thresholds.

Then we have foxholes. Actually, JasonC talks about the different types of entrenchments in that thread, but there are more types than even he discusses. I'm just now reading about the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion at Le Mesnil Crossroads, a feature they defended from 6 June for a couple of weeks. They talk about how as essentially green troops, they didn't learn that just digging a "foxhole" (they called them slit trenches) wasn't good enough, you needed a good l-shaped trench with overhead cover on one bend of the L in order to avoid head wounds from flying shrapnel. Is this important in a game that depicts 30 minute firefights?

Again, we're talking feature-creep here. But basically you have:

  • Shellscrape: a shallow excavation large enough to lie down in
  • slit trench/foxhole - deep enough to fight from
  • "fortified" foxhole: foxhole with overhead cover (I don't know of an actual name for this)
These all have different names in different literature and vary from nation to nation - I think some U.S. sources use 'slit trench' to refer to a latrine trench, whereas the Commonwealth use it to refer to their fighting positions.

There are also different types of covered fighting positions - bunkers, and listening posts and observations posts, which can be anything from a groundsheet to a steel-reinforced concrete structure.
 

[hirr]Leto

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some of it seems reasonable but the fanbois jumped all over him to lick his nuts so fast and fall at his feet with gratitude I'm not sure I'm willing to admit that he's walking on the water that Charles hasn't even coded yet.
There lurks a vivacious conflation of gutteral and poetic prose in this sentence that makes me feel that I am walking through a wonderously dark enchancted forest, populated with the raving revenants of the literary soulless of today, and the waxing wordsmiths of our past.

Fusion of past and present always seems to be the one potentially vibrant evolutionary path that gives me hope that our children will not be illiterate via the eroding powers of acronyms, slang and etalk.


Cheers!

Leto
 

Sirocco

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Here's a possible solution. Code the game from the start with a terrain type you can drop onto the mesh. Call it "foxhole". Give it certain properties related to spotting, hits, etc. The defender can always see it, the attacker sees the underlying terrain unless it's been spotted. Link that into all your code so it all works seamlessly.

The key phrase being from the start. It only becomes a nightmare if you try to add it later.

That's what programming is all about, problems and solutions. All that waffle can be paraphrased into we were so busy putting in 1:1 and real time we overlooked it.
 

Sirocco

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A reminder... there was aerial recon in WW2, in case you guys forgot. Not only from specialized aircraft, but also each US division had a dedicated aircraft at its disposal to check things out for themselves. Which means a field with a lot of trenches in it could indeed be known to the ground troops long before they got there. Not as likely as modern days, for sure, but definitely not impossible.
If he'd spend the time he puts in justifying this stuff in getting it right to begin with we'd all be much happier.
 

thewood

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All that waffle can be paraphrased into we were so busy putting in 1:1 and real time we overlooked it.

That right there is the most succinct phrasing of the main issue I have with CMSF.

All this talk of one programmer means nothing if he is working on something that adds little value. Remember all of Steve's tirades on how this feature or that feature not leading to any new sales (which is a good business way of looking at it). How many new sales did all the energy and resources put into 1:1 and RT lead to? How many did it lose?

Of course that all has to be balanced against putting other features in in lieu of 1:1 and RT or maybe getting the whole CMSF thing out in better condition. Lets face it, WEGO sucked up until 1.11. Steve admitted it took second seat in testing and was compromised for RT.
 

Sirocco

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If you look at a lot of his text he's talking about "bodging"; it won't work because this and that won't fit and it will all look really ugh. That's after the fact programming.

Bugs, for example, are both easier to find and easier to fix for real instead of making bloody hacks. New features are easier to add because there is a stable environment to add to which mimics the real world and not an abstract one. In fact, the lack of this environment and years of bloody hacks is why the CMx1 code base was chucked out in favor of the new CMx2 engine.
And now here we are and apparently the only way to put in proper prepared positions is, wait for it, bloody hacks.
 
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dalem

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Hey, he got 6 paragraphs in before he started insulting his customer base. That's, like, some kind of record for him.

Is that post from this week or last year?

-dale
 

dalem

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Starting a new thread on this because anyone searching for this topic later would have a hard time finding it in thread called "uh oh"

From Steve:

Trenches in Normandy shouldn't even be that common, from a realism standpoint.
Excuse me?

I think my brain just fell out of my head.

And this is just precious:

What I'm saying is that we need to be careful about the Chicken Little effect that is so common about stuff like this. The downsides of the system, as we have it, are often highlighted, taken out of context, and blown out of proportion, while the upsides are downgraded and often cast aside.
In other words, if you like it, it's good. If you don't like it, it doesn't count. That's like being happy that Ted Bundy didn't fornicate with someone's corpse every day. What restraint he showed!

-dale
 
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dalem

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Okay, what about this for a solution. Say they get FOW foxholes in. Can't they just code it so a 3'x3' foxhole that touches another foxhole becomes one big 3'x6' foxhole, etc.? That way you could "string of pearls" them into a trench-equivalent, right? Might not look pretty, but it would be far better than nothing, right?

But that's me being vitriolic again I guess.

Oh, and CMx1 sucked and if you liked it you liked something sucky, nonny nonny boo-boo.

-dale
 

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Let me see if I understood that correctly:

1) They live in a world of tough decisions and hard choices
2) I live in a fantasy world
3) They always make the correct tough decisions
4) If I ever suspect they chose wrongly, I should realize that they didn't, but actually chose what I would have chosen had I known what they know
5) If after considering this, I still think I would have chosen differently, I should realize that I really don't want what I think I do, and that I should trust their opinion on what I think I like more than my own
6) They will be happy to confirm that I really like what they like instead of what I like via lie detector test, because only a liar would actually like what I claim to like.

Did I understand that right?
 

Michael Dorosh

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Ok, I couldn't figure out why you guys are acting like such dicks to Steve in the last few posts, but I admit, I never really read through the entire spiel he gave. The stuff on trenches seemed reasonable. But I just went back and reread some more parts.

Um. Wow. I can't believe my eyes - especially the stuff about lie-detectors. Thanks for pointing that out, Coil. And the stuff about how CMX2 is 'under-appreciated.'

Excuse me? The BFC forums are over-full with guys kissing his ass. So what is he talking about? Either he's reading this forum or he's reading his own declining sales figures. Whatever it is, sounds like he threw himself a pity party last night.

Let me see if I understood that correctly:

1) They live in a world of tough decisions and hard choices
2) I live in a fantasy world
3) They always make the correct tough decisions
4) If I ever suspect they chose wrongly, I should realize that they didn't, but actually chose what I would have chosen had I known what they know
5) If after considering this, I still think I would have chosen differently, I should realize that I really don't want what I think I do, and that I should trust their opinion on what I think I like more than my own
6) They will be happy to confirm that I really like what they like instead of what I like via lie detector test, because only a liar would actually like what I claim to like.

Did I understand that right?
I don't have the strength to read the whole thing word for word. But it seems close according to what I've gotten through so far.
 

Sirocco

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A reminder... there was aerial recon in WW2, in case you guys forgot. Not only from specialized aircraft, but also each US division had a dedicated aircraft at its disposal to check things out for themselves. Which means a field with a lot of trenches in it could indeed be known to the ground troops long before they got there. Not as likely as modern days, for sure, but definitely not impossible.
Anyone else spot the obvious flaw here?
 

Michael Dorosh

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Anyone else spot the obvious flaw here?
A reminder... there was aerial recon in WW2, in case you guys forgot. Not only from specialized aircraft, but also each US division had a dedicated aircraft at its disposal to check things out for themselves. Which means a field with a lot of trenches in it could indeed be known to the ground troops long before they got there. Not as likely as modern days, for sure, but definitely not impossible.
Well, I'm no expert, but I thought aerial assets were used for liaison and artillery spotting, not reconnaissance. There were aerial reconnaissance aircraft in theatre, but I thought they were assigned at something like army group level?

Trenches were generally not dug in the middle of fields, but on the edges, under cover of camouflage, though in my Buron example above, anti-tank ditches were often dug as obstacles and sometimes expanded to fighting positions, and these were done in open ground.

I would agree with him that the position of trenches was often known in advance. Local intelligence was assembled for weeks or months, particularly in the static fighting in Normandy, possibly moreso on the British front. I am waiting on a scan of a "defence overprint" map from our regimental museum showing an example of such a map, where enemy patrols, machine guns, even individual trenches were depicted.

It all depends on what your definition of "trench" is. In game terms, it can mean anything - like dalem says, a cluster of foxholes might be a "trench", or even a 3-man fighting position. It doesn't have to be a First World War revetted position with firestep and parados.
 

Sirocco

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It's much simpler than that, MD.

As a fig leaf it's pretty flimsy to begin with, but from the German perspective it's positively laughable.
 

Sirocco

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You can make a case from the Allied perspective for knowing pretty much where every last foxhole was on D-Day plus, let's say, a few days. But from that point on it's a much less static situation, and you're moving from sub par static divisions to front line hardcore outfits who know their stuff, and who know their lives depend on digging in, and digging in right.
 

dalem

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Germans? In Normandy? It doesn't matter because trenches weren't common in Normandy. Steve said so.

Anyway, it's a poor justification. It fails the "weather grounding planes" test, it fails the "if aerial recon was so common and its results so available to company commanders, why did every division also have its own (and access to corps-level) mechanized recon assets?" test. It fails the "What if the Germans are attacking?" test. It fails the "since when were small unit actions considered the hallmark of recon success?" test.

Bottom line, "we can't do it, and that stinks, but you'll get used to it" is all they need to say. Pretending it doesn't stink is silly.

-dale
 

Sirocco

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But then Steve would be open to accusations that CMN will be fundementally flawed, and we all know how little he likes that kind of talk.

Go ahead and play through a QB in your head where you have two choices where the defender will be. Not as much fun as it was in CMBB or CMAK, eh?
 
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