Modding C3 - Lessons from HEW

Discussion in 'Modding' started by Stu, Jan 17, 2016.

  1. Stu

    Stu Active Member

    Hello,

    It struck me the other day, as I watched the various videos on the C3 channel on YouTube and re-read the forum debates about how strong musket volleys and cannon shots should be that many of the topics discussed had already been the subject of discussion for C1 and ACFB on the old Hawks website and forum.

    I am interested only in the recreation of historical battles and not the economic base building side of the game. I was fortunate enough to play the HEW Mod made by Gex and it was the product of many, many years of testing and debate.

    I think the resulting modded game was spectacular. I therefore thought that before C3 was released and we all got carried away that I would ask everyone to recall the features of HEW that made it so great. So much work has been done that it would be madness to start again after the release of C3 and whilst we still have time to kill it would serve well to try and collect thoughts and opinions in one place.

    So my question is: What aspects of HEW made it so great?

    I will begin with the first thing that comes to mind.

    Low mortality rate. Formations stayed together for long periods after exchanging volleys because the mortality rate was low. This prevented the one volley machine gun type approach to firearms and reflected the fact that formations could engage for prolonged periods. This in turn led to a willingness to engage and the maintenance of a firing line which are all historically accurate tactics. As the battles developed you would see long lines of regiments exchanging volleys with commanders attempting to bring numbers to bear to achieve local superiority in a certain place whilst knowing that other regiments could hold a distant line without instant disintegration,

    I will also offer a second:

    Following from the above. Reduced grape shot from close range cannon fire. It mowed down between 10% and 15% of a formation rather than the 90% hit rate of the vanilla release. Again it fed into the prolonging of a battle. Grapeshot was devastating locally but it did not wipe out a regiment with one shot. This must be right because it is all a matter of ratio. The one hundred man unit represented a battalion and a battalion could not be wiped out with a single whiff of grape. It is not a matter of exact science or maths but HEW got it right by allowing cannon to take off a chunk by virtue of grape without instantly wiping out whole formations.

    Add your remembrances so that we can build up a database of good modding practices and tips.

    Stu
     
    Lorenzo Paoli likes this.
  2. Daddio

    Daddio Moderator Staff Member

    You are correct Stu. It was a mod that was very well put together, and refined after play by many of the hawks, It was too bad that it was actually never played by nearly all of the community. Unfortunately the single player, and multiplayer (other than battle play) was still pretty flawed.

    But as a battle system it had no equal. Nor did the Hawks community that supported it have any rivals in it class.

    C2 got everything correct, with a simplified market, and economy system. A Superior formation development system. And the implication of realistic Calvary movements, and roads on maps. But they never were able to match the battle simulation of the Hawks mod!

    Great thread.

    Daddio
     
  3. Stu

    Stu Active Member

    In the absence of remembrances it is a chance for me to wax lyrical with my own list of features. The two I mentioned above I have incorporated below but I have tried to cover all aspects of what made the HEW mod so fantastic.

    Unit Variety

    Less is definitely not more and by the end HEW had a huge selection of units for every nation. This was important in relation to game play because every unit had different statistics. This added an additional depth of tactics to game play because it was no longer just a question of heavy cavalry will always beat light cavalry. Different combinations of cavalry could triumph against units that were, in theory, stronger than them. This added a level of unpredictability needed to keep battles surprising and engaging.

    It also mattered because it looked very pretty. The great number of variations resulted in different uniform types and colours which were very pleasing on the eye.

    Finally the addition of generals and unique character units created a little bit of extra magic. It brought home just how many individual units were on the field when there was only one Napoleon, sat at the centre of a vast army of thousands of other units.

    Graphics and Sound

    The HEW mod improved the graphics and effects dramatically for musket and cannon smoke. Graphics in an RTS are rarely the priority of the player but that does not mean pretty visuals do not help create the atmosphere and re-playability of a game. One of the great sights of HEW was watching a battery of cannons open fire and listening to the boom of the report and the whistle of the cannon balls as they flew through the air.

    It seems on the picture of gun fire we have so far for C3 that the graphics for musket fire and explosions look good. It may well be that many modders choose to keep these.

    Overall Presentation

    Presentation does count for a lot and HEW had the feel of a stand alone game given the unique splash screens and changes of icons and tool bars. Small things like this contribute to the whole and the entire thing had an air of professionalism that drew people in.

    Gameplay

    The most important of the elements so I left it until last and I have broken it down into smaller observations.

    Slower Battles

    As mentioned above low mortality rates, lower fire power and longer reload times slowed battles down. This did not make for boring battle instead it allowed the development of tactics and battle plans to mature over time which was much more rewarding and exciting in my view.

    Formations

    Formations and the bonuses they afforded were balanced brilliantly. The correct formation at the correct moment became key. It was simple to understand but deep in the number of possibilities and variations it offered for tactics. And the spectacle was amazing. Who can forget the surprise and dread when in suddenly you spotted, emerging from the fog of war, a huge enemy column of infantry bearing down on an open flank. The timing and finesse required made for brilliant game play.

    No Charging Officers

    There was a problem in ACFB and Cossacks where officers, drummers and flag bearers would muscle their way through to the front of their own formation and then suicidally charge the enemy (dare I say it but I think that may be able to be seen in the picture we were shown of units engaging in a fire fight). HEW fixed the problem and prevented this 18th Century kamikaze. This was important because it helped to preserve officers and others required for the making and reordering of formations.

    Morale

    A key feature. It was no longer about mowing down every last man until none were left standing but about deploying your troops in such a way as to make the enemy turn tale and run.

    Objectives

    The objective marker that changed colour depending on who controlled it added real playability to maps. Once a number or combination of objectives were captured the game concluded regardless of how many troops were left, the assumption being that the army being forced out of the objectives would retreat when the position became untenable. This led to riveting games as objectives were bitterly contested and changed hands numerous times.

    Stacking

    Dense masses of formations or units would panic each other and easily break apart if all stacked atop one another. This led to formations being separated out and brought an end to men standing on the shoulders of other men. A few well aimed cannon shots could break up such masses and so players never dared to stack in this way. The result was wide sweeping battles with reserves and emphasis on tactics rather than pure numbers.

    Defence Dots

    These little dots could be set in the map editor and looked like tiny blemishes on the ground. They absorbed musket fire and so when a formation was stood atop them they suffered less casualties. This meant that the actual terrain began to play an important part in battles. Ditches and barricades could be covered with these little dots meaning that troops stationed amongst them were much harder to dislodge. It added a real twist to the game making important terrain features the key to attacking and defending.

    I think they were the main features that made HEW so brilliant. Add more if there are ones I have forgotten.

    Having been thinking of this list I have also been thinking of new ways to try and modify the game and I have lots of ideas that I cannot wait to try out. It will of course require lots of new learning to get to grips with the new engine but that is part of the fun.
     
    Ksgrip and Loner like this.
  4. Loner

    Loner Active Member

    Very well put together Stu, I like very much.:cool:
     
  5. I agree with you in everything, the HEV mod is far superior to the realism, the problem is probably that neither the game developers or the majority of the community has tried it.
    They think it's the same as ACFB, it is a great pity.
     
  6. Daddio

    Daddio Moderator Staff Member

    Another example of what happens when a game is released before it is fully tested, and vetted.

    AC was a big disappointment to most players. the Multiplayer was flawed in a traditional sense that it took too long, and played poorly with the native American forces.

    ACFB wan an improvement, but still not really correct.

    But the GEX Mod, was a huge step up. and one that if it had been released in this form it would have been much better received.

    Lets hope the developers have learned this, and will take all the time they need to get it right the first time.

    Good gaming all,

    Daddio
     
  7. Ftoomsh

    Ftoomsh Well-Known Member

    The idea of slowing engagements to a realistic pace is a very good idea. Combat time should still be real time in the game. Thus if a particular real historical unit on average could fire off say 3 shots a minute, then such units in the game should fire 3 volleys in a minute. Probably with a little randomising factor thrown in so it is not totally like clockwork.Then in turn, hit tables for wounds and fatal shots should reflect real values for the era depending on weapon and range.

    When it comes to terrain effects on hits, the physics engine should handle this if it is accurate. If the physics is accurate, cover and trenches will work, enfilade fire will work and reverse slope tactics will work. Also, canister fire (sometimes called grapeshot) should have accurate physics. A cone of projectiles will come out (in terms of projectile paths). The density of projectiles per sq. m will decline as the inverse square of the range (if my physics is right). Of course, the bottom part of the cone paths hit the ground and the upper part goes over heads. All these calculations do not have to be done in-game. They do some mathematical modelling, determining spacings and hit chances and come up with hit-table probabilities. Again, make it as realistic as possible based on historical sources.
     
  8. Stu

    Stu Active Member

    I always thought that there was a balance to be struck between realism and playability and sometimes it was not necessarily about trying to apply a mathematical formulation to reality to transfer it into the game but about capturing the feel and spirit of an era through all the different game play components. That was the secret to HEW in my view, finding the perfect blend of the two.
     
  9. Nowy

    Nowy Well-Known Member

    If free discussion is allowed here I can make some remarks to C3 modding lessons.
    However these would be different than HEW fans presented above.

    HEW mod of course was great, had better recreated and balanced units, better chosen squads, better organized combats, but still included many flaws and was limited with game mechanics implemented from ACFB e.g. stacking formations, blobbing troops, crowded squads, poor movements, strange tactics, poor cavalry charges, strange skirmisher combats, poor human behaviors, poor landscape, poor graphic, some weird animations etc.

    There were poor morale effects, no real fatigue, stamina, fear, panic or flee. There were not sensible withdrawals of organized squads and many combats were fought to the last man. There still was high mortality ratio, battles were fought with horrible unrealistic casualties and losses which were never met in real word at that period.

    Big units variety also gets into troubles. There were many strangely recreated, balanced and mixed units e.g. French Volunteer, Swiss Grenadier in French service, British Light Dragoon, Russian Guard Grenadier, many Rhinebund units, many Turkish units, many Prussian units from late period etc.

    Infantry, cavalry and artillery slow combats without a doubt were better recreated than vanilla game, but still had many flaws. That’s why HEW focused on Napoleonic units and warfare was not so brilliant as some fans can remember it.

    I think that C3 modding could learn more lessons from C2 game than from HEW mod.

    C2 game better recreated important battlefield factors e.g. better recreate morale, fatigue, stamina, fear, panic, flee, experience, smooth movement, maneuvers and some combats animations. This game of course included many flaws known from Cossacks games e.g. stacking squads, blobbing troops, high mortality ratio, units slaughter around military buildings, too accurate fire arms, high musket damage ratio, weird skirmishers jegers combats, weird sappers attacks, poor formations shapes and sizes etc.

    There also were strangely recreated units, but they stick well enough with chosen period.

    Worse that C2 game allowed exploit crazy tactics e.g. stack several squads at the same place, attack which bunch of squads, poorly recreate units roles for Russian pikes, light dragoons, hussars, skirmishers, Bedouins, camel cavalry, Egyptian archers, Yatagan, stupid militiamen etc.

    Despite all of these flaws, C2 was more advanced game and fine base for new development..
     
  10. Ftoomsh

    Ftoomsh Well-Known Member

    I once did an extensive theoretical analysis of modding issues related to the whole issue of realism versus playability. Leaving aside morale and fatigue issues for the moment, time and distance distortions are the first important issue. Time distortions are particularly noticeable in RTS with its building component. In RTS, a small engagement and the building of a Town Centre take about the same time. The burning down of the Town Centre takes about the same time as building it. These are clearly huge time distortions (compression) for civil construction versus destruction and military engagements. There are ways to deal with this issue in RTS (partly not fully) but I won't go into that here.

    On the other hand, battlefield games which just run the battle don't have this civil time versus military time problem. Thus, times of military actions only have to be resolved with regard to each other and to general playability. I would advocate a revolutionary approach to experiment with this issue.

    1. Make all times and distances real so all time and distance scaling is accurate.
    2. Make the terrain arena big enough to handle this. I suggest 10,000 m by 10,000 m. (US people can think "yards".)
    3. Have a 2-speed time engine with strategic time and tactical time. Ratio is 60:1.
    4. In strategic time, marches and maneuvers occur and 1 hr of in-game time = 1 minute playing time.
    5. When significant forces are in action range (more than say 5% of all forces) engine switches to tactical time/tactical control.
    6. Tactical time is real time. 1 minute of in-game time = 1 minute playing time.
    7. Strategic time would be about mustering, maneuvering and military construction (trenches, fleches, gabions etc.)
    8. Engagements of less than 5% of all forces would be determined by the engine in strategic time.

    Experiments with paramaters could work on action range parameters and time and distance distortion parameters. The idea would be to go for full realism and then tweak is back to find the full realism - playability sweet-spot.

    I have ideas on how to handle arrival at battle terrain, reinforcements, desertions, scouting and terrain discovery. But I will try to keep this post not too long.
     
  11. Daddio

    Daddio Moderator Staff Member

    Ftoomsh and Stu would make a great modding team!
     
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  12. Hansol333

    Hansol333 Active Member

    I just hope that modding is much more friendly than in C1.

    For example you want to reduce the wood upgrade to +50% gather and change the cost to 100 gold, but time to 5000

    the description was easy because it affected al nations.

    But than...
    open EVERY nation, go to the wood upgrade, change it to +50%, change research costs and time.

    hope there will some global values. that I can simple change one data and it affects ALL nations.

    Edit: I could change must stuff I wanted but changing the formation bonus was not possible for me.
     
  13. Daddio

    Daddio Moderator Staff Member

    I was going to wait until we had a game to look over and evaluate before we started any discussions on Mods. And I am not a modder by any stretch of the imagination, but I do have an observation or two.

    Since C3 is a reboot of BTW, and there have been some high quality mods, and followup games already produced. Would it be logical to attempt to reproduce these mods into new mods as well. and work from there to expand into even greater mods?
     
    Loner likes this.
  14. Stu

    Stu Active Member

    With C3 being a reboot it essentially means that underneath the new facade is the same solid brickwork that was not without its flaws and problems. So in respect of game play this, for those of us who just played HEW, will be a step backwards to the days of cannons that could mow down entire armies with one whiff of grapeshot. I imagine that I will create some maps for the base game to practice and play around with the map editor but very swiftly my thoughts will turn to the question of modding (in fact they already have!).

    I do not have any programming or animating training, so my modding is all self taught and mainly by copying the work of others and adding my own variation to it.
    The approach I am going to try to take is to learn as much as possible from the mods that came before for C1 and ACFB. There are some invaluable lessons to be taken from them, but I am also assuming that the new game engine will be capable of much more and that others may, for example, learn how to mod in fire by rank. So a hybrid approach of borrowing from the past and borrowing from the future should result in mods that have the best of what has been learnt but new features and a new vision.
     
  15. Ftoomsh

    Ftoomsh Well-Known Member

    I am not a great Modder. I have only modded parameter files in C1. My programming experience is also very out of date. I don't know C for example. On the other hand, I once programmed in Turbo Pascal and even wrote a chess program in it. I have heard that the script language of C3 is based on Pascal syntax. If this is true, it will give my chances of modding a real boost.

    I am not a great RTS player either. Having said that, I am average to a little above average; unless in an unfamiliar game or one that requires really rapid clicking (APM or actions per minute). My particular advantage (in my opinion) is that I have played a fairly wide variety of RTS styles and thought a lot about how they work. I can list;
    • Total Annihilation (1,000s of games)
    • Supreme Commander (1,000s of games)
    • Cossacks 1 (1,000s of games)
    • OC Mod Cossacks (1,000s of games)
    • Cossacks 2 ( a little bit)
    • AC/FB (a little bit)
    • Starcraft 1 (100s of games)
    • Starcraft 2 (100s of games)

    What this has done has give me a wide experience of various designer's attempts to solve the various design problems inherent in RTS. I mean high-level concept design problems not particular algorithm solutions or graphics. With high-level concept design, it became clear to me that all designers were attempting to solve scaling problems and distortion problems with respect to the space dimensions and the time dimension. They had to attempt to solve these problems not just in relation to space and time and each unit's capabilities but also in relation to overall "playability." Other issues were the computational capacity of the average player's PC and communication lag (ping).

    To cut a long story short. Different players like different styles of RTS or Battlefield games (no building component). I think there is a niche for a very realistic Mod. To get full realism, you need realistic sight ranges and weapon ranges. You also need realistic physics for weapons and for bodies (humans, horses etc.). I mean in terms of the Newtonian Physics engine. Finally, you need to fully cover issues like morale and fatigue. It is the correct (fully realistically modeled) combination of all these elements which will give a realistic game. Then, as I say, there is the playability issue. A fully realistic game will take too long. A battle like Waterloo will take a whole day (and that's without campaign movements and engagements leading up to that battle).

    Thus, as I say, design a fully realistic Mod and then innovate and dial back to get a game playable in reasonable time. I would call 2 hours to 4 hours on a big map reasonable for mature players. Even longer games would be reasonable if players agreed to save games and restart another day. I also want to see large combats. Corps size would be good, which would mean let us say, up to 16,000 troops per player.
     
  16. Nowy

    Nowy Well-Known Member

    If sombody want to discuss "Modding C3 -Lessons from HEW" it would be fine to show what was great and what was not so great in HEW. Simple SWOT analyse is a fine step for future modding C3 game.

    Stu already expressed his point of view, but it looks that he admire HEW so much that he did not find weak points.

    That mod was created generally for MP battles based on units from NW. This greatly changed vanilla ACFB game.
    So, it is intresting what lessons from HEW somebody could take into account for future modding C3?

    Can sombody, who knows better HEW modding, make here short SWOT analyse in that matter?
     
  17. Stu

    Stu Active Member

    I was pondering Nowy's query about whether HEW had any weak points to learn from. Here are my thoughts on that interesting question...

    I am, as you can tell, a very great admirer of HEW. I am considering it from only one angle of course, and that is as a mod purely for the recreating of historical set-piece battles. I never tried to play the mod as a single player game or base building game.

    There are very few criticisms I can level at the final version of HEW. But it should be remembered that the mod was not perfect at first, far from it in fact. The final version was the product of years of development. It grew from humble beginnings and many criticisms and playability issues were ironed out over time through play testing and trial and error.

    I think that within the parameters of the ACFB game engine HEW was as close to a perfect historical battle game as you were going to be able to achieve.

    The exciting thing about C3 is that it will not, or at least I hope it will not, have the same limitations that the ACFB engine had. I think that we can take the principles of HEW and use them as a very good base from which to mod to even greater heights.

    What would HEW have been like if the game engine had allowed for even more troops on the field, better handling of multiple formations, use of roads, better terrain effects on musket and cannon fire, random arrival of reinforcements, firing by rank, better morale effects, different animations for dying and fighting, bigger maps and everything else you can imagine.

    I think the general principles of HEW are sound and with very little that can be criticised. So for re-creating historical battles it is pretty well established that for a 12 pounder cannon firing grape at close range into a 100 man strong formation the casualty rate should be about 8-10 men or so. That is a casualty rate of 10% which is a huge blow for a formation to sustain but is about right.

    A study of HEW allows us to know what works in terms of balance. Things like that do not change because the scale and basic principle will be the same in C3 as it is the same scale as ACFB, so we can take them as principles well founded on a lot of previous testing and debate.

    Again it is not an exact science for me. It is about creating something that looks and feels right in terms of balance between realism and good old fashioned fun, again purely for the creation of multiplayer historical battles this is.

    So in a roundabout way to add to conclude I think there are criticisms of HEW but they all stem from the limits of the game engine in which it was created. C3 should allow our imaginations to soar when it comes to improving on the core principles of HEW.
     
  18. Nowy

    Nowy Well-Known Member

    Hmm, you little bit misunderstood me. In your post above you somehow repeated my general remaks to HEW mod mentioned in my earlier posts in this thread. I do not seek only weak points there. In my second post I clearly asked about SWOT analyse in the matter modding C3 - lessons from HEW. This mean what strong and weak points, what oportunities, and threats we can take into account from HEW lessons?

    This is obvious that men which admire something have troubles with weak points that's why I looked for more criticism.
    Good things and strong points are easy acceptable. Flaws and weak points are sometimes good lessons what poor things we could avoid in next modding. Strong and weak points together with oportunities and threats give wider picture for future modding. That's why I was interested in short SWOT analyse in that matter.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2016
  19. Stu

    Stu Active Member

    I think I understand your point, often it is the identifying of weak points in old mods that allow for much greater improvements in new ones. I agree, it is important to identify what could be improved upon but I cannot think of a single valid criticism of HEW in terms of looking at it as a purely multiplayer historical battle mod. That is not to say that there are things I would not have done differently if I had been the author of the mod, but that does not make for valid criticism of the mod itself.

    There are some matters that fall firmly within personal preference and could not really be classed as matters for criticism more as matters of taste. So for example I did not like the way standard bearers carried the flag resting on their shoulders. I would have preferred to see the flag being carried upright and fluttering in the breeze. That is a matter purely of aesthetics and personal preference. One mans Van Gough is another mans eye sore. So those type of matters I do not consider criticisms.

    Then there are matters which I would love to have seen improved but were limitations of the game engine rather than criticisms of the mod. So for example I would have liked to see bigger maps. HEW did not opt to limit map size to the size we used to play on, it was the maximum size we could play on because that was all the game engine could allow. So constrained maps were a criticism of ACFB not a criticism of HEW.

    So finally I try to think of matters of gameplay that I can class as needing improvement. I cannot think of anything other than the tiniest of tweaks. For example I would have preferred to see troops move a little slower perhaps so that once committed in march to one side of the map it was jolly difficult to get them back across the other side should you have discovered that you had chosen to reinforce the wrong flank. But on the whole that is so minor a matter that I cannot class it as criticism at all really.

    So I reach the conclusion that within the limitations of the game engine, as a historical battle multiplayer game, HEW was as good as it was going to get.
     
    lars gottfridsson likes this.
  20. Nowy

    Nowy Well-Known Member

    Yes, you are right in many cases, however I can find many weak points in HEW.

    I will not show details here, becouse this could be long list.
    I can point few important areas which were not sufficently done in HEW.
    We could take it into account in modding lessons such things.

    · AI
    · Battle conditions, basic squads sizes, formations shapes, well chosen units
    · Combats in well organized squads using known historical tactics and strategies
    · Damage ratios, lower mortality, lower fire arms accuracy, improved fire ranges
    · Economy development characteristic and adequate for chosen nation and period
    · Fatigue, morale, more realistic human behaviors, fear, panic, flee, wander
    · Gaits, movement, maneuvers, retreats, withdrawals in various paces
    · Horrible events as like stragglers, illness, starvations, diseases
    · Innovations, inventions and research in academy, blacksmith, windmill, palace
    · Justifiably victory conditions without necessity to kill all units
     
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