Terrain coding info

MajorH

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Below are terrain related items that I wrote for the TacOps Gazette.

> Do you have an idea of how to put an area like the enclosed
> map snipped into a TacOps map?

I don't have an easy to explain, step wise, or even consistent method of translating real world mountainous terrain into a two level TacOps map. The best I can say is that I try to interpret and represent the tactical significance of the most important high ground that is on the real world paper map. It is all about trade offs and compromise. Sometimes I go by the contour line at the bottom of a hill or mountain, sometimes I guide on a middle contour line, or sometimes I go by a contour that is near the top of the hill or mountain.

> Is there any way to code swamps

I used some or all of the following to represent swamps and marshes on the Camp Lejeune map.

1. Water (unit has to be amphibious to enter or cross).
2. Water + woods (unit has to be amphibious to enter or cross).
3. Rough1 through Rough4 (any unit can enter and cross). Rough can not be combined with water.
4. Woods + Rough1 through Rough4 (any unit can enter and cross). Rough can not be combined with water.

Woods + rough4 is the worst terrain possible in TacOps - that is still passable to all units.

> What do the different categories of rough stand for?

The info below is an approximation of the effects of rough1 through rough4 terrain for a given unit type. There are other things going on in the game so this may not always be exact.

Rough1 - 50% of cross country, clear terrain speed
Rough2 - 25% of cross country, clear terrain speed
Rough3 - 12.5% of cross country, clear terrain speed
Rough4 - 6% of cross country, clear terrain speed

The level of 'roughness' affects both speed of transit and visibility. You can mark an area as 'rough' either because it is (a) actually slow to cross due to poor trafficability or due to a vehicle not being able to drive very far in a straight line [i.e. move around boulders, bogs, vegetation] or (b) you can call an area rough because it has a lot of local minor elevations changes or vegetation clumps that tend to cause vehicles to disappear from LOS as they move around or (c) because the area has a lot of local folds that make it easy for a vehicle to choose to hide itself momentarily. 'Rough' works OK for any of those conceptual abstractions. Rough terrain does not block line of sight (unless combined with woods, town, or a misc LOS block) but it will cause spotted enemy units to randomly disappear from the map display. The rougher the terrain, the more often that happens. This is more of a distraction to the human watching the screen than it is to his units on the map. In June of 2002 I added three levels of "impassible" to the terrain types. Unless a road is present, Level 1 can not be entered by wheeled vehicles. Level 2 can not be entered by wheeled vehicles or tracked vehicles. Level 3 can not be entered by wheeled vehicles, tracked vehicles, or dismounted infantry. The presence of road terrain negates any level of impassable terrain.

> I don't know if you have a Rough0

That would be 'Clear' terrain. In TacOps 'Clear Terrain' is easily trafficable to both tracked and military style wheeled vehicles, is reasonably level, and is mostly free of tall vegetation. The only thing in TacOps that is better/faster than 'Clear Terrain' is 'Road Terrain'.

> Do you tie line-of-sight to the Rough levels?

Line of sight - No. Transient visibility potential - Yes.

> if you have 1000 meters of non wooded terrain that is uniformly labeled
> Rough2, can an observer see across the entire space?

Yes - with regard to having a technically unblocked line of sight to an active or spotted unit. But, if a unit becomes motionless and passes a combat phase without firing then the game engine assumes that the unit has taken some sort of small movement action to reduce its vulnerability to being spotted - the game engine then lowers that unit's transient 'visibility' classification. In other words enemy units will have to get closer to such a unit in order to spot it well enough to justify firing on it. If the unit moves or begins firing then its 'visibility' to the enemy instantly jumps back up to maximum. The 'rougher' the terrain then the lower the unit's potential visibility - until it either moves or fires.

> In woods in TacOps, units seem to be able to see about
> 200-300 meters. Is this limitation because you have it
> labeled as Rough2, or because of some other coding you use
> to indicate that the woods block line-of-sight?

This LOS limitation is linked to the coding of 'woods' and not to 'rough'. There are two main abstractions regarding 'woods' terrain. Units that are 'deep' inside 'woods' terrain can only see into adjacent wooded 100 meter squares - this is linked to the terrain being coded as 'woods' and is not due to whether such wooded terrain is or is not also some level of 'rough'. Units that are located in the outermost 100 meters of a body of woods terrain cells can see out of the woods into non wooded terrain the same as if they were in clear terrain - this is also linked to the terrain being coded as 'woods' and is not due to whether such wooded terrain is or is not also some level of 'rough'. To understand the latter abstraction, picture having your vehicle parked just inside the edge of a wood line. You can see out of the woods just fine but distant enemy units have a hard time spotting you because your motionless silhouette is broken up by vegetation beside and behind you. But if you move or start shooting then they can often pick you out instantly. The most basic principle of fieldcraft is that activity draws fire.
 

dhuffjr

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MajorH said:
Rough terrain does not block line of sight (unless combined with woods, town, or a misc LOS block) but it will cause spotted enemy units to randomly disappear from the map display. The rougher the terrain, the more often that happens. This is more of a distraction to the human watching the screen than it is to his units on the map.
It seems to me that rough 4 then would be a good choice for say a creek bed. Lower elevation combined with lots of scrub/small trees but not enough in most places to be a LOS block. The part about the distraction being for the human player not so much for the units has me wondering if the units can see the "target" but I cannot.
 

MajorH

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> The part about the distraction being for the human player
> not so much for the units has me wondering if the units can
> see the "target" but I cannot.

Yes. Sometimes units can "see" and engage a unit marker that is not shown to the human player. That happens more often when the Preferences item "Firing Units are Always Spotted" is not check marked.

It is a hard abstraction to explain but part of the intent is to represent units continuing to fire at a point briefly after an enemy unit stops moving and or stops firing back. Another part is to cause firefights in TacOps to ramp up and down over the space of several 15 second pulses. Most of the time a firefight starts because of movement. An advancing unit breaks cover and becomes visible simply because it is moving or because it has gotten close enough to an enemy unit to make the enemy unit visible. A marker somewhere starts firing which pops its visibility up to maximum which makes it visible to other units. More units then start firing which in turn makes them more visible. In response, other enemy units start firing and on and on. As markers get destroyed or withdraw to cover or are successfully ordered by their human to stop moving or firing then the effect starts working in reverse.
 

Starlight

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MajorH,

Since the release of the WWII patch I have been thinking about creating some WWII maps based on the Normandy area.

Of interest to me is the Bocage terrain which caused such great difficulties in the early stages for the British, Canadians and US. The small high headged field system was a maze with narrow roads and almost impenitrable hedges even to tanks, forcing armour to use the tactically dangerous roads where ambushes by the Germans were easy to conduct.

Just how could we go about reproducing such a representation. The only thing I can see is to either build a maze like region of thin tree lined fields to artificially break the LOS, or to use a combination of very narrow elevation changes to generate a complex series of dips and ridges to break line of sight.

With both options, I would propose impassable hedges identifyable in some way graphically to represent the constrictions to vehicles.

Any suggestions people have would be great as I think this could be a very interesting and challenging map area to play on.
 

MajorH

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Re: Bocage terrain.

The first thing to consider is that the smallest area of ground that can be coded (differentiated) is a 100 meter by 100 meter (10 x10 pixel) square cell. You will first need to decide how the size of a single terrain cell in TacOps compares to the average farmer's field and its surrounding hedgerows. After that decision you can start struggling with how to represent it with map art.

As for coding the terrain effects ...

Run the TacOps Map Tool and select the "Edit/Terrain" menu item. I suggest that you experiment with the "Misc LOS" check box and brush. That brush encodes a terrain cell as blocking LOS across the cell but does not effect movement or defense values as coding the terrain as woods would.

You might add to that the options to further code the terrain as Rough3 or Rough4 and or as No Go for wheeled vehicles and or No Go for tracked vehicles.

Some routines in the game engine consider ranges of less than 100 meters to be point blank range. Spotting, LOS, and other things get quirky when units get that close together. For example, if units in smoke, woods, or town get within 100 meters of each other, I think they will usually spot each other - especially if both are in the same 10x10 pixel terrain cell.

I suggest you make a quick and sloppy map in which you use variations of the above in different areas of the map. Then run experiments using one of the custom scenario templates to see how unit movement, spotting, attacks, etc work in the various draft areas. Then pick the one that makes the most sense to you and pass the hint on to others here. :)
 
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Starlight

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Thanks for the information. I will try a small test map as you suggested, and try to do some further research into the real Bocage area, when I find something useful I will definately let every one else know :)
 

dhuffjr

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Major,

Streams/small rivers are one thing that are missing IMHO. Every water hazard is not 100 meters across. How bout a new terrain type.


"misc LOS block" -a square so encoded is assumed to have a water obstacle (stream) or other type of LOS block in it. It may be encoded with unit movement/entrance restrictions depending on map creator wishes/nature of the terrain being mapped. It would not necessarily have to have vehicle restrictions in areas where the stream is very shallow, in those cases it functions as a partial LOS block ( X% of time sight is blocked) Sight through it is restricted in a random manor (randomly created by map generator?) This LOS blocking is only one elevation level high. The purpose of this is to replicate the LOS block of trees and high banks that can occur on one side or the other that can block LOS in places at streams/small rivers. Placement of a bridge marker would allow entrance of units into the restricted terrain (is this already in place?)



If desired this terrain type could represent tree lines seen everywhere there are farms and fields in addition to streams.

For bocage it should have a higher LOS block value.

As an LOS block it could be coded as Rough 1-4 as desired.



One suggestion is to have 5 misc LOS blocks: 15% 30% 60% 90% 100%. These would suppliment the current LOS block.
 

MajorH

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dhuffjr said:
Streams/small rivers are one thing that are missing IMHO. Every water hazard is not 100 meters across. How bout a new terrain type.
As one moves to smaller areas terrain differentation it becomes more difficult for the player to rapidly and accurately visualize unit positions on the map - unless one changes the scale of the map art which would translate into even smaller maps. The unfinished Panzers East engine used 50 x 50 meter terrain cells (5 x 5 pixels). It was noticeably harder to intuitively recognize what terrain the center point of a unit maker was in.

Not every stream is lined with brush or trees.

An available option would be to represent a terrain cell as a narrow stream in the bmp art file but to not code it as water in the dat data file. Instead, assign it a high rough movement value.

dhuffjr said:
One suggestion is to have 5 misc LOS blocks: 15% 30% 60% 90% 100%. These would suppliment the current LOS block.
Not sure I understand. Are you suggesting that sometimes a unit could see across a terrain cell and sometimes not?
 
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dhuffjr

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MajorH said:
Not every stream is lined with brush or trees.
Agreed they would not have any LOS block coded, or some place may have them and other not.

MajorH said:
An available option would be to represent a terrain cell as a narrow stream in the bmp art file but to not code it as water in the dat data file. Instead, assign it a high rough movement value.
Right, I've though of that and that is actually what I'm talking about. Coding LOS block 2 and wheeled vehicle prohibition. Ie tracked vehicles can cross the bank/rough bottom. No water coding.

MajorH said:
Not sure I understand. Are you suggesting that sometimes a unit could see across a terrain cell and sometimes not?
More like x% of the time sighting crosses that square the LOS is blocked. Imagine standing at a point and moving over 20 meters. Depending on in between what you are looking at you may see it or not. As I think about it this terrain type would be useful for where there is a farm house and one or two buildings. Not enough to want to code it as town but maybe have some LOS blocking. Lots of applications, say a crest of an elevation feature, or sand dunes on a beach etc.
 

dhuffjr

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Heres a crazzy thought. Use woods to code the crest of a ridgeline/hill. It would provide an LOS block but allow air units to see beyond it. Of course some other graphic would need to be used indicating the feature for what it is and a note in the map terrain description file.
 

MajorH

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Or use the "miscellaneous line of sight block" item.

Open a map with the map utility.

Select the "Edit/Terrain" menu item.

Place a check mark in the box labeled "+ Misc LOS Block".

Cells marked with this will stop line of sight without providing any other combat resolution or movement modifiers.
 

GCoyote

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As long as the Misc LoS Block is associated with some form of graphic on the map that works. Otherwise the Misc LoS Block has no special indicator in the F8 view and is nearly impossible to identify during game play unless you do an LOS check from every position on the map. I've tried using it on a test map I'm building with some jumbled rock as a graphic and seems to be okay.
 
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