GrogHeads Interviews OTS on FlashPoint Campaigns

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The guys from On Target Simulations swing by GrogHeads and chat with us about the latest developments in the FlashPoint Campaigns series.

Brant Guillory, 26 November 2014

What’s the biggest difference that players are going to see with the new FlashPoint Campaigns release?

Without a doubt it will be all the brand new maps.  We had a forum member named William who was doing a brilliant job creating new map art and so we just sort of recruited him and added him to the OTS team.  We went back and forth a few times on colours and elevation treatments and then he created new renderings of all the maps.  This seems to be the first thing people are noticing and the consensus is that they are a distinct step up.  Cap’n Darwin (creator of the original map art glyphs) and Mad Russian (who then assembled them into the maps we distributed) manned up admirably and got behind the change.  I still hear a bit of a quiver in the Captain’s voice when we Skype about it though…

Other changes include a number of tweaks and improvements to the combat model.  Artillery fire is more effective now and that is pretty noticeable.   The What’s New document runs to 12 pages with the various changes we made.

Best of all, we have a whole new campaign (Wolves) to play thanks to Mad Russian plus a new standalone “Eyes, Ears and Teeth” scenario which we believe will be a new classic.  It’s small, fun and intense like A Time to Dance.

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How do the updates to the underlying engine and the new feature impact the existing scenarios?  Will they be out of whack?  Still playable?  Even more balanced?

Overall the new Player’s Edition should not impact the overall balance of the scenarios. The scenarios should still be as playable as they were under the previous versions. If there is one change that the players should notice is that the game plays fasters which is caused by some of the adjustments we made to the AI. The AI will tend to be a little more aggressive and will attack the player a little quicker. One thing that players should keep in mind is that the scenarios have been unlocked and that they can make their own adjustment or tweak to the existing scenarios. They are free to upload their reworked scenarios to our website for other players to try. We do ask that they alter the name so as not to overwrite the original scenario and note in the scenario description that the scenario has been altered.

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This is TANKSgiving, so let’s talk about the tanks – what’s your favorite tank in the game?  

“Favorite” is a tough call. What is cool is seeing how each country designs them and how they fight in the game.

What tank surprised you the most in its performance (positive or negative) compared to what you expected going into the design of the game?  

Mainly the Soviet tanks. Most folks look at Desert Storm and take their understanding of Russian armor from those battles. The Soviets were very good about not selling top of the line hardware to other countries and most of those sold to Iraq were junk. They also have a tendency to hide the good stuff away from prying eyes. The yard stick we use for looking at the Soviet armor is the reports done after the fall of the Berlin wall. A number of East German T-72 tanks were test fired on by NATO 105mm guns and the rounds bounced off the turrets. Little reports like that, reactive armor advances and looking at the stair step response of NATO gun rounds for higher penetration values during the time period point to a very real concern of being able to kill frontline Soviet tanks.

Any thoughts on future inclusion of non-production vehicles to let players explore some hypotheticals, like the HSTV-L or the M8 AGS or mass production of the M60A2? 

Right now we have our hands full just dealing with the main systems in use. Have the ability to mod the game, players can go in and add these types of systems and test them out.

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When you’re working on whatever’s “next” for FPC, how much of your ‘to-do’ list comes from (a) player chatter online, (b) the publisher asking for something new they can market, (c) your own ‘hey wouldn’t it be cool if…’ ideas, or (d) something else?  Where do the ideas come from?

All of the above as it happens.  We are perfectly happy to steal any good ideas that people are willing to post and we have seen some very good ones come in.  We have literally seen a good user request come in and had it coded and testing by that weekend.  That is a really fun part of the production process for us.  Our publisher has been surprisingly hands off but what they want we tend to put in fairly quickly, lol.

Cap’n Darwin and Rob have been working on the game the longest and learned a long time ago to accept any idea demonstrably better than what they were already doing.  This delayed the game a lot (unavoidably) but we feel the result justifies it now.

To be more specific we maintain a central wish list and have a rough notion of where the ideas have come from and how they might all together into the game.  We periodically discuss them and rank each item for cost (our time and energy) and benefit (game play and sales appeal).  Realistically, there are always far more new and interesting things than we can do in a reasonable amount of time so we have become pretty good at picking low effort / high payoff items and sliding back the rest.  Most new features don’t go into production until we all agree it is top of the list and timely .

Having said that, just yesterday Rob saw a really good discussion involving Double Deuce, Apocalypse 31 and Mad Russian on the Grogheads forum (Flashpoint Campaigns – Meta Campaign Idea) that got him all fired up to draft up a requirement and start figuring out how to do cooperative play, data dumps and a far more detailed campaign editor.  He will come to earth eventually but he does get energized by that sort of discussion.

“I have a great idea for a scenario / feature / vehicle / unit / campaign!  My next step is obviously _______”

The FlashPoint series was made to be mod-friendly. We have released three of the four planned mod guides and the fourth will out in the near future. Many of the modders’ questions can be answered in the guides. Besides the guides there is an invaluable resource of knowledge from the players on the forum. We have a great community behind FlashPoint Campaigns and we can attest to that in the way the community supported our initial release and their involvement in the development of the Player’s Edition. There was no suggestion or even criticism that was not considered, and quite a few of the ideas presented by the players were incorporated into the new edition to make it a better game. We found it very hard initially in gathering the information needed to build a proper data file for the British army. Several of the players on the forum are former British soldier and provided us with the needed information to make the game better reflect the British Army at that time.

If a player wants to do add something to the game or alter an existing scenario or data file, we recommend that he starts small so that he can learn how all the parts work and fit together. The effort may look daunting when looking at building a new map or building or editing a data file. However, it really is not that difficult and is somewhat intuitive. Many people are marveling at Plodder’s Berlin map that he has recently released. He has really set the bar high. It should be noted that he too started by first modding our existing map. This new map is the fruit of all of his earlier work.

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As you’re researching the data underneath the game, what are some of your tried-and-true sources, and where do you go for information on doctrine, tactics, etc rather than just the hardware?  How hard was it to track down the non-US / non-NATO data?

It can be a bear. An angry bear too. Thankfully all of us are sitting on a ton of reference books, Army FMs like 100-2-1 and 100-2-3 that deal with the Soviet Army, Jane’s books from the 80s, tons of games, and in a number of instances the good ole world wide web from digging up non-NATO inputs. We also get info and corrections from a number of players who severed on both sides of this hypothetical war.

Can you give us a hint of what we’re going to see in the Southern Storm release next year?  Any idea on the timeline of it?

Our next game is moving to the southern end of West Germany and we will introduce Canadian, French, Czech and East German forces into the mix.  The maps are going to feature a lot more water barriers and hilly ground so it will be tougher for the Warsaw Pact forces to get through.  Even so, NATO forces will likely be spread thinner and hanging on by their finger nails at the best.

New game mechanics that we hope to get in (but we are not promising) include multi-national forces, generic engineer units, an enhanced and editable unit orders stack (possibly including some simple Standard Operating Procedure settings that some may remember from the FlashPoint Germany days), another substantial artillery overhaul, a scriptable weather system, and to top it all off, a simple graphical planning overlay will allow scenario designers and possibly players to nudge the AI in desired directions.  We are upgrading the mapping system to handle the more challenging topography. We have lots of other little things in the pipeline too but may take some back out so we don’t miss a release for Christmas 2015.  We would rather release no more than two years after FPRS and then keep working on upgrades and a future theater after that.

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How come we don’t have a Bayonet-6 in the game anywhere?  What the heck are you guys waiting for?!

With the mod friendly environment of FlashPoint Campaigns, there is nothing stopping you as the overall commander of your forces in making “Bayonet-6” as your call sign in every scenario you play. However, don’t cry on our shoulders when you get the message that Bayonet-6 has been killed by the AI forces (or his own).

Anything else you want to tell us about what’s coming up for FlashPoint Campaigns?

In response to the strong support we are still receiving a year after our release we are seriously looking at releasing one or more scenario packs in the new year featuring new maps and new scenarios in the Red Storm universe.  Both Charles and Mad Russian have been dreaming up much evil to unleash in the new year.  Rob would like to explore the internals of Steam some more, and Cap’n Darwin just wants to write documentation from now on (not).


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