Author Topic: Honestly Comparing Battlefront's Combat Mission 2.0 with Graviteam's Tactics  (Read 18772 times)

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Offline Bletchley_Geek

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I do love Combat Mission and I also like a fair bit Graviteam's Tactics. And I realize that I can't find anywhere a honest assessment of the pros and cons of each system, which I think it would go a long way to expose both systems to fans of each other. We're not comparing cars, but we're not comparing apples to oranges either.

In another thread, Dolan50 claimed that "a lot of disinformation is posted about Graviteam in these forums" and that it was pointless to explain the improvement and changes in Graviteam's Tactics over the years.

While I do agree to some extent with this "disinformation" story, I wonder to what extend is due to the 'fans' of GTOS coming in "defense" of GTOS, styling themselves a bit like Polish Winged Hussars charging with their spears into a mob of Turk eunuchs and janissaires. That's not a very constructive attitude, which I think doesn't help at all Graviteam efforts.

I'll kickstart the discussion myself, and with the kind of moderation we have here, I think the thread will stay on topic and civil. The only suggestion I'd make is that we restrict ourselves to what we get "out of the box". Both Graviteam and Battlefront are small companies, who have built their engines from scratch (including the graphic engine). I will keep editing this post including the observations of others (which I'll verify myself with my copy of GTOS).

Game Engine & Scale

Scale & Level of Command and Control

Both games use a 1:1 representation for both infantrymen and vehicles. The Units - that is, what the player can give orders to - in GTOS consist of Squads, Sections and single vehicles, and in CMx2 we have Squads, Sections, Vehicles and 'teams'. Teams in CMx2 aren't organic, but rather ad-hoc dynamic detachments of squads created by the user for an specific purpose or task (like detaching the guys with AT weapons, or scouting), breaking up into assault and covering elements, or a 'free-form' splitting, useful to increase squad frontage and setup formations. In GTOS, one is given an extensive list of postures and formations, which make up - and do much more - than the 'free-form' splitting in CMx2.

Neither CM nor GTOS include the possibility of specifying specific battle drills to units. SOP's can be achieved by combining 'primitive' commands available in both systems (I need to work out an specific example of achieving the same thing in CMx2 and GTOS), or by using 'higher level' pre-cooked commands like "Hunt".

In the screenshot below you can see a Soviet platoon marching in Echelon formation (with the right flank refused)

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247599825

This is achieved by issuing Move (with the one single file and column modifiers activated) commands to each squad in turn, waiting for about 20-30 secs before issuing the command to the next squad. GTOS "ready made" formations are line (skirmish line), column and "free" (which means the AI does whatever it fancies). GTOS has a "Pause" command, but it doesn't work as I expect (or at all) when one queues several commands to the same unit. Issuing Target Arcs to the squads does not have the same effect as in CM when units finish their move orders (from a different run on the same QB, but having deployed the Soviets in a different position)

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247630931

above there's the stance a squad adopts when finishing its order, with a target arc (having been given). If you want your troops to hit the ground, you have to queue a Defend command after the Move command. Always (but perhaps one of the commands you can from the pop-up menu you bring the space bar does implements that).

In CM things are slightly different. If you don't specify what happens at the end of an order, units also go into a "waiting" state, getting sometimes in cover, sometimes not, and trying to keep eyes 360 degrees around them. I usually want to avoid this - and always when units move in formation - by issuing target arcs, like here

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247649506

This works quite well - for me - when attacking with infantry and moving in bounds

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247649539

like in the picture above. Note the use of pause and the Target Arc at the end of the move order. Sixty seconds later, the first element in the bound is almost deployed as I wanted

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247649766

while the second is starting to overtake it.

GTOS offers the possibility of issuing platoon and "group" level orders. For instance, you can give orders to a combination of infantry and vehicles, and will be coordinated by the AI. Combat Mission also allows a cruder form of "group" level orders, basically by replicating the command issued to each unit in the force. Coordination in CM is entirely left to the player to be worked out.

Graphics, Sound & UI

Graphics

GTOS graphics in action (thanks, RyanE):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zFs_cdQ8Fo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C43_JwtEQqc

CMRT graphics in action (thanks again, RyanE):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd8bG8PB-LQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMPNA6n7w6A

GTOS graphics and animations are both hardcore - it's disturbing to see men on fire yelling and waving their arms with little flames licking their limbs, or the gaping open mouths of the dead - and hyperrealistic - lighting in night battles GTOS is simply amazingly well done. Infantrymen in GTOS are depicted as both billboards and models, depending on the distance of the camera to the soldiers, which is a sign of a highly sophisticated graphics engine, capable of adjusting the level of detail dynamically to maximize framerate. Graphics in Combat Mission 3.0 follow a more "impressionistic" style, with a highly saturated palette in CMBN and a more subdued lighting in CMRT. CMRT graphics engine is clearly not on the same league as that of GTOS with respect to exploiting hardware capabilities.

For instance, dynamic lighting in CM is limited to explosions and burning vehicles, while in GTOS we have headlights on tanks,  flares, etc. Shadows in CM have always been problematic: CM struggles with the spotty support of OpenGL by major hardware vendors (both AMD and NVIDIA have a less than stellar record on that), and also because most shadowing algorithms out there assume that the camera will be restricted to certain angles, distances and lighting conditions. Shadows in GTOS vary between the detailed for trees - one can tell the silhouette of the tree projected on the ground - and more or less anthropomorphic "blobs" for infantry (depends on the quality settings).

Graviteam graphics engine is much more customizable than that of Battlefront, who offer you five different global settings for textures and models, as well as simple binary on/off options for shadows and specific shader sets to achieve certain effects like self-shadowing. GTOS is also able to dynamically adjust quality as well as "time compression" - that is, the number of simulation time steps per second - so that it matches your maximum attainable FPS, something that CM can't do and shows in the bigger battles. I'll be adding all of this.

On the other hand, CM is cross-platform and GTOS isn't: Combat Mission works on MacOS X as a native application, and unless the MacOS X system isn't "homebrew", graphics hardware is limited to whatever Apple decides to ship with each computer. This entails some hard restrictions on what can and cannot be done graphics-wise.

Sound

Sound in GTOS is serviceable: you get explosions, cries of dying men, and soldiers chit chat a bit a long the lines of Rome Total War II (dude, get that spear outta my face). Vehicle engine sounds are realistic: one can tell apart a Matilda from a Bren Carrier from a T-34. Nonetheless, some sounds trigger in uncanny situations. For instance, you can have selected an infantry squad with the camera several hundred meters over the map, and you'll get a very loud - at random times and sometimes startling - coughing coming out of your headphones.

Sound quality in CM was similar - it has been found lacking in CMBN, and some HD mods exist - but in CMRT they have been notably improved. Weapons, explosions and heavy projectiles have a particularly meaty "texture". Sound is also auralized to some extent: as you move the camera around the map you can notice how the phase of the incoming sound changes. Soldiers chit chat is also adequate and more circumspect than in GTOS - no loud coughing in the middle in the night while infiltrating through known enemy positions. Also, if one moves the camera sufficiently away from the battlefield, engine, soldiers and gunfire noises intensity decreases in a intuitive way. I think it can be said that paying attention to what you're hearing can make a difference in CM regarding intel (if you have a fine ear and you can tell apart the engine of a Panther from that of a Marder).

Artificial Intelligence (Friendly and Enemy)

GTOS

As I wrote above, GTOS allows to give orders by platoons or to a selected group of units. My experiences in the past haven't been very pleasant with this facilities, but the comments in the thread made look again and harder at what GTOS could do. In the picture below, you'll see an on-going platoon-level attack on German fortified positions

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247983362

One can see how GTOS AI has established something that totally looks like a base of fire consisting of the Platoon organic MG and mortar sections, while the infantry squads (inverted T's) are maneuvering against the flank of the German positions (the blue dots) using a covered approach. The maneuver keeps developing until all the squads can fire on the Germans

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247983491

Unfortunately, the Germans are too much for one single Soviet platoon

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247983592

especially when the former are occupying positions like this

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247983642

and eventually some of the men break down, walking towards enemy lines

http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=247983918

Note how his mate isn't engaging the Germans with his weapon: it looks to me that the soldier AI is deciding whether or not to imitate the Squad leader.

Scope

Regarding time and space, Combat Mission covers entire theaters over several months - 4 months in CMBN, 10 months in CMFI and 3 months with CMRT - modeling the seasonal weather (for instance, CMBN covers the June to September 1944 period, so weather conditions covered are what can be expected in Summer and Early Autumn in Northwestern Europe, in CMFI, winter conditions are modeled as the game covers the winter of 1943-44). Supplied scenarios and campaigns focus on very specific events, leaving to users to cover further ground with a functional scenario and map editor capable of representing a great variety of possible locations in the theater covered by the game (yet not in an exhaustive way, there are some limitations. Initial - base game releases - though, do not cover all the forces involved in the fighting in that theater, focusing on particular branches (for instance, in both CMBN and CMRT, the only services initially available were the German Heer, in CMFI one had Heer and Luftwaffe - Hermann Goering Panzer Division - troops). The set of available formations is extended with further (paid) modules (or DLC).

GTOS covers specific battles and operations, so the geographic scope of the game is more limited, yet the battle areas included in the maps are extensive and quite sufficient to cover well the operation being portrayed. Weather conditions modeled correspond with those of the historical operation. TOEs in GTOS tend to be comprehensive: every force that took part in the operation or battle will be available, as well as the most common (and some pretty uncommon, generally speaking) vehicles historically available to the formations involved in the battle or operation. GTOS base game offered two operations playable by either side, and further operations can be obtained by purchasing additional DLC (which also extend the weather conditions simulated and the formations and TOE's available).

Documentation

Miscellaneous

Customer Support & Product Life-Cycle

Patching

Graviteam patching schedule is quite regular, with a major patch with bug fixes and new features being released every three or four months. The patching procedure, however, isn't as automated as we've grown used to, as patches come broken into two components: a 'patching' application and the actual content (code, textures, models, etc.). It's indeed harder than the click-click-click installation procedures, but not an impossible task. A further hoop one needs to jump through is that the order in which patched content is loaded matters yet it is documented here

http://gravitac.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Installing_updates_and_modifications

Based on posts by Andrey on Graviteam's forums, they're going to overhaul this with the upcoming Mius Front game so it's based on "Windows Extensions" (NOTE: anybody knows what does Andrey mean by this?). However, GTOS is on Steam, which makes this irrelevant.

Battlefront patching schedule is tied to particular releases: with 'maintenance' patches coming shortly after a release to either address issues particular to that release, as well as bug fixes, and the odd new feature, for other games in the family. For instance, when Market Garden came out, we got a patch for CMFI as well. Battlefront patching scheme is of the click-click-click variety, but patches aren't always comprehensive. For instance, the 2.0 upgrade/patch didn't bundle the 1.10 patch for CMBN, so you can get weird happenings like missing animations (the Marder crew 'doing isometrics' thing, for instance). On the other hand, this is clearly explained on Battlefront's site, with BFC customer support actively addressing complaints and doubts.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2014, 09:41:03 AM by Bletchley_Geek »


Offline Toonces

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I own both, but I haven't spent a whole lot of time with either.  I'm certainly not a fanboi of one over the other.

With respect to them both, I find that I prefer the graphics in GT, but the UI baffles me.  CM is more intuitive.

My opinion of course.
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Offline RyanE

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I thought AP had formations...not SOPs, but combined with covered arcs, it can come close.

Offline Michael Dorosh

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I see you still have stuff to add to the OP, but since one of your early comments is about patching progress, I'll chime in with my axes. Though I'm not sure any of the patching stuff is all that useful to this thread - I don't know a whole lot about the Graviteam games and would be interested in appraisal of the other, meatier stuff like gameplay from those with direct comparisons. As an example, see the Platform Comparison I posted on my own website that KP did regarding a CM vs. PzC comparison.

http://tacticalwargamer.com/articles/platform/pck_vs_cmbb.htm

But to add two cents to the patch discussion, BFC has also shown a willingness to declare "enough" and move on. Patches were definitely finite for CMX1, and both technical and "other" fixes were left on the table while the team went on to other projects. As I recall, this include an anti-tank gun exploit in the "technical" category, while other stuff included the wrong bmps for British/Canadian tank crew icons loading (they were switched in CMAK), wrong SMGs for the Italian theatre - very minor stuff that was nonetheless identified early on in the release cycle but for whatever reason the design team elected not to address it. And when I say address, I don't mean fix necessarily, but there was never any acknowledgement on the forum, either, even to say "thanks for identifying these issues, but we won't have the time or resources to do that."

That was circa 2004 and I would like to think the customer service aspect has changed appreciably since then. The rationale at the time was that they were gearing up for CMX2 - which in the event debuted in 2007.  It remains what we shall see once further patches to older titles in the CM line are impossible. At present, I believe game engines 1.0 and 2.0 are still supported and even Touch just got some kind of update as well. I may be conflating titles and engines. I would not be surprised to learn that the expectation in future is that if you have an older title (CM:SF, CM:BN, etc.) you will have to upgrade to the 3.0 engine to benefit from further patches. Are they even considering further work on the 1.0 and 2.0 engines? Or for that matter, are there matters outstanding, as there had been with the CMX1 engine?

I do understand that there is a real need to move on at some point. I thought it was handled poorly at the conclusion of CMX1, perhaps more in the language used to address the fan community than in the actual message.

Offline Bletchley_Geek

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I thought AP had formations...not SOPs, but combined with covered arcs, it can come close.

Yeah, you're right - I need to rework that bit.

Offline Bletchley_Geek

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I see you still have stuff to add to the OP, but since one of your early comments is about patching progress, I'll chime in with my axes. Though I'm not sure any of the patching stuff is all that useful to this thread - I don't know a whole lot about the Graviteam games and would be interested in appraisal of the other, meatier stuff like gameplay from those with direct comparisons. As an example, see the Platform Comparison I posted on my own website that KP did regarding a CM vs. PzC comparison.

http://tacticalwargamer.com/articles/platform/pck_vs_cmbb.htm

But to add two cents to the patch discussion, BFC has also shown a willingness to declare "enough" and move on. Patches were definitely finite for CMX1, and both technical and "other" fixes were left on the table while the team went on to other projects. As I recall, this include an anti-tank gun exploit in the "technical" category, while other stuff included the wrong bmps for British/Canadian tank crew icons loading (they were switched in CMAK), wrong SMGs for the Italian theatre - very minor stuff that was nonetheless identified early on in the release cycle but for whatever reason the design team elected not to address it. And when I say address, I don't mean fix necessarily, but there was never any acknowledgement on the forum, either, even to say "thanks for identifying these issues, but we won't have the time or resources to do that."

That was circa 2004 and I would like to think the customer service aspect has changed appreciably since then. The rationale at the time was that they were gearing up for CMX2 - which in the event debuted in 2007.  It remains what we shall see once further patches to older titles in the CM line are impossible. At present, I believe game engines 1.0 and 2.0 are still supported and even Touch just got some kind of update as well. I may be conflating titles and engines. I would not be surprised to learn that the expectation in future is that if you have an older title (CM:SF, CM:BN, etc.) you will have to upgrade to the 3.0 engine to benefit from further patches. Are they even considering further work on the 1.0 and 2.0 engines? Or for that matter, are there matters outstanding, as there had been with the CMX1 engine?

I do understand that there is a real need to move on at some point. I thought it was handled poorly at the conclusion of CMX1, perhaps more in the language used to address the fan community than in the actual message.

Patching is relevant as it denotes what one can expect in terms of long-term support by the developers and what's the life cycle of the products. I do think that's quite a relevant topic to consider when it comes to spend $$$ in stuff: regardless of them being games, operating systems or fridges.

I'll add some notes on Battlefront's policy, which is not the traditional scheme of releasing one 'game' (major revision of the engine), along with scenario packs and a more or less regular stream of patches. Battlefront decided to monetize major engine updates, and that is indeed quite different from the 'traditional' scheme. We're not talking here about different 'engines' - as in Source vs. Unreal vs. CryEngine - Michael, but rather iterations over the same engine, that enhance and extend an existing technological framework (graphics, simulation, etc.).

Offline RyanE

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Maybe start with a graphical comparison...I know its hard with different machines and settings, but still worth a look...

AP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zFs_cdQ8Fo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C43_JwtEQqc

CMRT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd8bG8PB-LQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMPNA6n7w6A

My personal opinion is that infantry animations are better in AP, but not a big deal to me.

AP seems a lot grittier and real from a graphics standpoint.  CM has always looked too clean and bright.

One area that shows CM's maturity is they have spent some effort in making modding more flexible from a graphics standpoint.  All the videos above are stock.

Offline RyanE

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Another point about Graviteam is that all the releases up to this point work together.  You can have BT-7s fighting Centurions or M-60s.  That model is changing though with the next release.

That also brings up cost...I have spent $40 total for the entire AP collection.  That is a bunch of maps, units, campaigns, etc.  I think it is 6-7 releases.  They cover East Front WW2, Russia vs China 1960's (somewhat limited), Angola in the 80's, Russia vs Iran 1980's, and I am sure I am missing  one.

CM has a lot more maps, scenarios, and a great map/scenario builder.  That is regardless of the game you buy.  CM is a lot more sandbox that AP in that regard.  CM2 covers Italy WW2, France WW2, now East Front 1944.  I don't right now count CMSF.  Its a good game but pales in comparison to other CM games and AP from a function feature standpoint.

Balancing out CM's editors is AP's operational level.  You basically fight the operational maneuver battle then go into the tactical battle and actually fight it out.  It is very cool and well executed.

Offline Michael Dorosh

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Patching is relevant

Sorry, my wording came off as harsher than intended. I agree completely, but seemed at first blush almost worthy of its own discussion. However, I forget this is not a "CM" forum exclusively or even a "tactical games" forum, but rather an all-encompassing "Computer Wargaming" forum so it probably well that we do our best to squeeze all these interesting discussions into this thread. :) My apologies.  :-X

Offline mikeck

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I find that Combat Mission had a more intuitive AI and offers a bit more detailed control over your unit's behavior. AP has much better graphics, a strategic level allowing you to choose what units attack where/refuel/resupply and is - for me- more immersive. My only complaints with AP is the patching and odd UI. I suppose your fAvorite will depend on what you want out of the game.
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Offline Bletchley_Geek

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Maybe start with a graphical comparison...I know its hard with different machines and settings, but still worth a look...

AP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zFs_cdQ8Fo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C43_JwtEQqc

CMRT

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hd8bG8PB-LQ

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMPNA6n7w6A

My personal opinion is that infantry animations are better in AP, but not a big deal to me.

AP seems a lot grittier and real from a graphics standpoint.  CM has always looked too clean and bright.

One area that shows CM's maturity is they have spent some effort in making modding more flexible from a graphics standpoint.  All the videos above are stock.

Thanks for that Ryan, I've included the videos and some comments along these lines.

I got a question though: How are shadows in GTOS? I have the Volokonovka DLC, and I'd say that there aren't any shadows at all, or they're very subtle. I mean, after three years playing the games I don't have a recollection of shadows at all (but I'd say that trees and houses do have shadows, but not soldiers and vehicles).
« Last Edit: April 09, 2014, 07:33:13 PM by Bletchley_Geek »

Offline Bletchley_Geek

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Patching is relevant

Sorry, my wording came off as harsher than intended. I agree completely, but seemed at first blush almost worthy of its own discussion. However, I forget this is not a "CM" forum exclusively or even a "tactical games" forum, but rather an all-encompassing "Computer Wargaming" forum so it probably well that we do our best to squeeze all these interesting discussions into this thread. :) My apologies.  :-X

Don't worry, Michael. I tend to forget that as well :-)

I'm looking to your PanzerCommand vs. Barbarossa To Berlin comparison, as it's very well structured along other lines.

Offline RyanE

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Shadows are optional.  There are a huge number of graphics options.  In fact, there are so many, its easy to get overwhelmed by them.  You could easily set some combination of options that would make any part of the game look like crap.  The documentation of the options is OK, but sometimes hard to understand.

That brings up another point...tool tips.  They are all over the place and incredibly helpful once you get past some language issues.

Offline Bletchley_Geek

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Shadows are optional.  There are a huge number of graphics options.  In fact, there are so many, its easy to get overwhelmed by them.  You could easily set some combination of options that would make any part of the game look like crap.  The documentation of the options is OK, but sometimes hard to understand.

That brings up another point...tool tips.  They are all over the place and incredibly helpful once you get past some language issues.

I wouldn't be surprised that I've been playing without shadows all these years and never noticed that they were OFF. Will take a look at them tonight when I'm back at home.

The 'language issues' thing is something that will be discussed in length. CM comes with full UI translations to several major languages (and the Spanish one is pretty good, I am a Spanish native speaker). This is not the case in GTOS. I think that CM translations are either made by beta-testers or external volunteers, which goes a long way to explain the variety and the quality of the translations. Can anybody confirm that?

Offline RyanE

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Volunteers used to do CM1, but I think a lot of them are full employees now.