>Is the retail version of TacOps 4 as good as the military version,
Yes, for any v4 title. No in regard to military v5 since there is not yet a retail v5 and likely won't be until late 2004.
The Canadian Forces version is stuck at TacOpsCF v3.x so that military version is actually inferior to the current retail version.
>or are there significant differences?
Except for the military version allowing more network players there is no significant game play difference between TacOps v4.x (the retail version) and the military versions TacOpsCav v4.x, TacOps CJCSC v4.x, TacOpsMC v4.x, and TacOps ANZAC v4.x. The v4 military versions have different splash screens, different music bits, and a few trivial user interface differences.
TacOpsMC v5.x has significant new features and some new unit types that are not in any v4 edition.
Some military v5 items have already been slipped into the retail v4 via free patch upgrades. A few more military v5 items may yet migrate into the retail v4 for free. Some military v5 items will not appear until there is a retail v5 which will require a new CD purchase.
The logic so far has been that if a military v5 change does not require significant new code in order to blend it into v4 then I added it to v4. If a lot of new code would be required then the change has been withheld from v4. For the most part this has resulted in giving v4 most of the unit types that are new to v5 but few (if any) other new v5 features.
>What about the Australian version? Is that the same version with some
> added units or is it different in other ways?
As of this date, TacOps ANZAC v5.x (still under development) has about 50 more AU and NZ unit types than TacOpsMC v5.x but is otherwise not significantly different from TacOpsMC v5.x. Once TacOps ANZAC v5.x is officially accepted, its new units and any other enhancements will be added to a maintenance update release of TacOpsMC v5.x. Eventually military v5, plus new features not requested by or funded by the military, will become a retail v5.
>I guess the basic question I'm asking is: when enhancements/bug
>fixes/add-ons are made to one version, do the other versions benefit from
>that as well?
Yes, for the most part.
The retail edition almost always gets any change made to any military edition but the speed of the migration varies. Occasionally there has been a user interface detail that did not migrate to the retail version because I simply didn't like the detail that was mandated by the military client. So far such disagreements have been minor and have not made any differences in game play.
There is also often migration from the retail edition to the military editions because the hobbyists are much more likely to report bugs, to suggest tweaks, and to request entirely new features. The natural inclination of military users seems to be to try to "make do" with whatever they are given rather than to report possible bugs or request minor changes or minor improvements. I understand why this is so but I still often get frustrated with the military end users and with the development bureaucracy that is supposed to be supporting them. On the other hand, I have gotten a few super requests from the military that I had to turn down because they were too risky for me to be able to guarantee success or because they would have taken one to two years to accomplish.
It is possible for a particular military edition to fall behind the current retail edition or behind other military editions. Each military edition has been based on a procurement contract which included a support period. Once that period expires I am under no obligation to do anything else for that edition without new funding. So far, as a good will gesture, I have provided extended unfunded support to every military edition well beyond the expiration of its support period. However my good will does eventually run out.
Thus TacOpsNZ and TacOpsMC stayed at v2.x for several years before new contracts appeared for upgrades to v4/v5 and TacOpsCF remains at v3.x. Presently it appears that TacOpsCav v4.x will not be advancing to v5.
The TacOpsCav issue is partly my fault as I discouraged some initial informal inquiries in late 2003 because I was (at that time) so busy with the Marine Corps and Australian contracts and because I wanted to do more for the hobbyists in 2004. I regret that now, particularly with things heating up again in Iraq.