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combat mission

Combat Mission (computer game series)

Combat Mission is the name of two series of computer games simulating tactical battles. CMX1 refers to a set of games using the original game engine, set in the Second World War (WWII). CMX2 has been released in July 2007 and features a new game engine with games depicting tactical combat from a greater variety of historical eras. The Combat Mission games are a unique mixture of turn-based strategy and simultaneous real-time execution. The game environment is fully three-dimensional, with a "Wego" style of play wherein each player enters his orders into the computer simultaneously during pauses in the action, and then are powerless to intervene during the action replay phase. More familiar turn-based games use an "I-go/You-go" system of play.

History

Charles Moylan worked on several of Avalon Hill's computer projects, including Flight Commander 2, Achtung Spitfire, and Over the Reich. In 1997 he was unofficially working on a computer adaptation of the famous Advanced Squad Leader (ASL) board game. Moylan came to realize, however, that the game would be difficult or impossible to adapt successfully to a computerized version. Atomic Games had also attempted to produce a "Computer Squad Leader" game, but abandoned the tie-in to ASL and eventually marketed the game (successfully) as Close Combat.

In the beginning of 1998 Avalon Hill was in turmoil and unstable to work for, and Moylan decided to go his own way, as Big Time Software, shortly before Avalon Hill was purchased by Hasbro. The move from Avalon Hill meant also severing ties to ASL; the unfinished project had no references to ASL or A-H. Moylan briefly shopped the early Alpha build around (tentatively called Squad Leader) but was not satisfied with the publisher contacts he made. He teamed up with Steve Grammont, forming what eventually became Battlefront.com and re-christened the new game Combat Mission.

Battlefront produced the first game of the Combat Mission (CM) series, Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord, in 2000. The game was successful and spawned three additional titles, as well as a second generation game engine with plans for many new titles and modules bearing the Combat Mission name. Big Time Software eventually became known as Battlefront.com, with additional members being hired, including Martin van Balkom, Dan Olding, and Fernando Julio Carrera Buil and Matt Faller, who handle the company website, graphics and sound design, and organizing beta testing of new products. Combat Mission, as of 2007, remains the flagship series of the Battlefront.com line.

Game series

Three titles using the original game engine have been released by producer www.battlefront.com :

These three games are commonly said to belong to the "CMX1 Engine". In 2007, the series will have expanded from the three titles in the original series, to include an operational WW II themed tie-in game for CMX1. The new games will consist of titles, outlining a particular era, with Modules providing extra nationalities, weapons, and equipment types for each Title.

This title covers a fictional US invasion of Syria, focusing on US Stryker brigades and Syrian regular and irregular forces. The initial release set in Syria has been released on July 27th, 2007.

Finally, an operational layer has been added to CMBB with the announcement of Combat Mission: Campaign, which will allow players to order maneuver elements from platoon to battalion size on an operational grid and generate realistic battles to be fought out in CMBB. It was expected to be released in 2006; www.battlefront.com (BFC) had announced this title would be released before CM:SF.

  • Combat Mission: Campaign (CMC) 2007

Common technical details

Turn-based/simultaneous execution All three games share the same concept; turns are divided into a planning and an executing phase. While the planning phase can, in single player mode, last as long as the player needs to give orders to all his units, the executing phase always lasts 60 seconds of real-time. Both sides, either computer or another human enter their orders before the execution phase takes place. This is known as the Wego system. During the execution phase, units carry out their orders, but the player cannot influence the result and is limited to watch, replay and move the camera. All games offer to play individual battles (ranging from 15 to 60 turns, or 120 turns in CMBB and CMAK) or campaigns, linking a series of battles. See Scenarios below for more information.Editor The games offer an editor to create maps and battles. The editor is a simple, top-down, tile-based affair that allows mappers to place any of the game's terrain tiles anywhere on a square grid representing the map and change the elevation of each tile individually. Buildings, roads, forests, fields, rocks, and water can be placed, in addition to the forces that will be disposed to each side, if the map is designed as a scenario with fixed forces. Also, in creating custom scenarios, players can write their own text introductions to the scenario; one text file for both sides, and two other side-specific text files that set up the battle and the order of battle for each side. Players can also write their own victory/loss texts.

The series also offers a "quick battle" option. Player(s) can only edit some general parameters (mission type, year, region) and then the computer creates a random map. Units can be selected by the computer or can be bought using points. Each unit has a value in points depending on type, for example a tank costs more than a squad of riflemen. Optionally, for added realism, when buying units the rarity of the unit can be taken into account. This keeps the battles true to the time period, as players trying to use rarer units are penalized. Additionally, scenario designers often carefully research a battle to create accurate historical battles.Multiplayer All games offer to play as a single player versus a customizable AI, or to play against a human opponent by hot-seat, email or TCP/IP.Scale Depending on the scenario, the players can command forces ranging from a platoon up to a reinforced battalion. Ideally, the game operates at the company level with the player taking on the role of a company commander. Given the large size of the maps in CMBB and CMAK, with enough computer processing power a player could deploy a brigade/regiment on a single map.

Game concepts

Morale and Leadership Continuing the theme first presented in the Close Combat series of tactical computer wargames, Combat Mission models the morale state of soldiers in the game, with different levels ranging from OK to Routed. Fatigue levels are also modelled, and beginning in CMBB soldiers are modelled with varying base levels of fitness; Fit, Weakened or Unfit. A final consideration is experience and training, which CM assigns to units ranging from Conscript to Elite.

While every unit will try to follow commands, units under fire will react to that fire by taking cover, breaking or even fleeing in panic. Units will recover from lowered morale states, though some may be permanently affected for the duration of the game. Leadership is also modelled in the game, with headquarters units influencing the morale, firepower, and stealth of units under their command.Casualties A hit on an enemy unit does not always mean destruction. Infantry units in the game represent from 1 to 15 soldiers, and wounded/killed men disappear from the simulation. When a unit has lost all available manpower, it will show up on the map as a dead soldier icon.

Armour penetration in Combat Mission is given realistic treatment. Partial penetrations, spalling, and non-fatal penetrating hits are all modelled in the game, with realistic ballistic stats for both armour and armour-piercing weapons. Catastrophic damage to vehicles is modelled, with real life tank models prone to fires being equally prone to "brewing up" in the game.Scenario types There are two types of scenarios in the first Combat Mission series; Battles and Operations. Battles are standalone scenarios, either randomly generated Quick Battles or pre-made by scenario designers. Operations are a series of two or more battles played over the same terrain, linking these fights into a greater overall context. Forces are carried over from one battle to the next in an operation, but promotions/replacements/withdrawal of forces are generally not possible.

The second Combat Mission series will have two types of scenarios; Battles as in CMX1, and Campaigns, which will be story driven. Like the Operations in CMX1, the CMX2 campaigns will carry over forces from one battle to the next, but individual promotions will be possible and repair/retention of weapons is expected to be more realistically handled.Victory Victory is assessed by three factors; inflicting casualties, holding key terrain (when indicated by the scenario), and exiting units from the map (when indicated by the scenario). A computation of points is done after each scenario.Spotting and fog of war The player can zoom out and watch the battlefield from a bird's eye perspective as well as zoom in and attach the camera to a single unit. However, due to the games' fog of war features, the player will only see the enemy units their own units have spotted. Each unit has its own line of sight that is blocked by obstacles like hills, houses and trees. Night, dust, weather, smoke or sandstorms all reduce the line of sight.

Sometimes units can hear the enemy. That is represented with a grey symbol featuring a red question mark and the text "sound". Sound contact information tends to be less precise than visual information. Also previously spotted units may disappear again, if they hide or move out of line of sight. Long-range visual contact is not always sufficient to correctly identify an enemy unit.Line of sight Every unit under the player's control can be clicked and forced to display a graphical line of sight representation. The line of sight is sometimes the only way to decide if a unit can see a specific spot or not.Weather and terrain Weather and terrain is highly variable and includes different visibility (sunny, fog, precipitation, night), ground cover (mud, snow, clear), temperature (with extreme temperatures affecting vehicle and weapon performance) and ground type (dirt, sand, rock). Terrain is laid out in 20 metre tiles in CMX1 (to change to smaller tiles in CMX2) and includes terrain types appropriate to each individual theatre (western Europe, eastern Europe, the Mediterranean) including brush, marsh, light trees, forest, pine forest, hedges, low fences (wooden and stone), graveyards, small and large buildings, stone and wood buildings, small huts, steppe, desert, rocky ground, palm trees, cratered ground, dirt roads, paved roads, deep and shallow fords, rivers, and various types of bridges.

Sound and music

There is no background music in CM except during the title screen. The in-game sound consists of wind noise, rain, and background explosions.

Different vehicles have different engine sounds, while the troops will shout different sayings in their native languages as a cue to the player that units are moving, coming under fire, panicking, low on ammunition, surrendering, or other battlefield occurrences. Different weapon systems also have different sound effects.

Physics engine

There is a realistic physics engine in each of the games. Tanks can seek a hull-down position behind obstacles. Vehicles, being hit while moving at full speed, will sometimes continue due to momentum before coming to a halt. Tanks can push lighter vehicles out of the way. Specific details such as ground pressure are taken into effect, to the point where a heavy tank will get stuck in the mud; while a jeep will be able to drive right through the same area.

Unit commands and tactics

Depending on the type of units, each unit has a set of commands available. Movement orders are given by waypoints and varying speeds and levels of stealth can be selected. The unit will try to follow directions until the unit comes under fire or they run into a minefield. Tanks have the ability to hunt for other tanks, seeking a hull-down position behind obstacles or "scoot & shoot" by firing and then retreating to a pre-selected hiding spot. Infantry units can all hide, sneak and move. Most units can run for a while, and many units like rifle squads can "advance" or "assault" which simulates the use of fire and movement at the squad level, with some men firing from cover while others advance in short bursts of movement. Soviet units can launch human wave attacks. It is possible to fire at spotted enemies but also give Area Fire commands.

Realism

The game engine handles various aspects of the battlefield differently; ranging from very detailed (like tank armor) to very abstract (like infantry movement).

  • Infantry in the first series of games is handled more simply than other parts of the game: A squad of 12 men is displayed as 3 soldiers and a numeric value displaying 12 in the status bar if you click on the unit. A two man bazooka crew is displayed as a single soldier and a value displaying two in the status bar. However large a squad in manpower is, it will always face and move as a single unit. (You can split large infantry groups into smaller, less effective units with a corresponding loss in morale). CMX2 promises to have more detailed treatment of infantry.
  • Terrain is handled in 20 metre tiles. While you see a group of trees in the battle graphic, you can turn the (visualization of the) trees completely off and be left with a dark-green area of the ground instead. This area has a value for providing cover, providing camouflage and hindering movement. The value always acts for the complete square, not for a single tree. Elevation is handled correctly, making it possible to seek cover behind slopes or dominate a battlefield by controlling high ground. Alternatively, reverse-slope defences can also be quite effective, as they were in real life.
  • Airplanes can not be controlled nor seen at all. Depending on the scenario description, airplanes will participate in the combat. All you will see is the fast moving shadow of the plane on the ground. Airplanes can be destroyed, however, (you will see tracers of machine gun and AA-Fire streaming upwards) and in return shoot very accurately with their guns and bombs.
  • Indirect firing heavy Artillery is mostly stationed off-screen and represented by a single Artillery Observer. If he has line of sight to a target, he can order very accurate shelling of the target area. However, target patterns are predictably oriented to the map edges. CMBB introduced the idea of pre-registered barrages which can be called down immediately on the first turn of the game with no chance of error, representing pre-planned artillery missions rather than "on-call."
  • Mortars and direct firing Guns are presented in great detail.
  • Tanks and all kinds of vehicles are modeled in great detail, with accurate researched values for speed, number of weapons, cannon range & angles, turret speed, and armor penetration angles / armor plates quality protecting different parts of a vehicle. Different ammunition types with different armor penetration values are present.
  • Historical details like uniforms and availability of troop types and quality is very detailed and generally well researched with particular attention paid to German order of battle information. Any size unit from a platoon to a battalion may be used in the game, but specifics of weapons and manpower are non user-definable. However, extensive research into different troop and unit types gives a wide array of unit types. For example, while a player cannot define how many men or LMGs a squad of Germans will have, he can nonetheless select units from different branches (Luftwaffe, Waffen SS, Army, Volksgrenadiers) and types (Mechanized, Airborne, Infantry, Security, etc.), all of which have standardized but historically researched strengths and equipment.

Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord

Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord covers the western front of the European theatre from June 1944 to May 1945. Being the first incarnation of the Combat Mission series, the graphics appear the most dated. Explosions and the firing of guns are displayed with white ellipses (known to the denizens of the Battlefront Forums as "shockwaves" and having a fan following crying out for their return), and every shell shows as a yellow blob. Nationalities included in the game (represented by specific orders of battle, in game graphics, and accurate voice files in their native language) are German, British, Canadian, Free French, American and Polish.

Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin

Covers the Eastern Front of the Second World War, including fighting in Finland, the Soviet Union, Germany, Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and the Baltic States from June 1941 to May 1945. CMBB shows various improvements over its predecessor in the fields of graphics and user interface. Infantry Units have new commands available (Soviet Human Wave Attack) and explosions are now bitmaps, no more ellipses. Interface is more sophisticated; commands like "crawl" and "sneak" from CMBO are now transformed into a single "sneak" command. The old "ambush marker" is replaced with a more elegant solution: "covered arc" and "covered arc (armor only)". By clicking this command you can define a field of fire so that units will fire only when enemy targets of a certain type come within a certain range or arc of fire. The artillery is modeled in a slightly more sophisticated way (allowing precise fire plans) and infantry sprites look a bit better. Tanks have the very useful "shoot and scoot" command, letting the player define a fire position and a retreat position for his tanks. CMBB is the only game in the series that allows the player to fight in big factories and use sewers. Nationalities included are German, Italian, Soviet, Hungarian, Romanian (both as Allies and Axis), Finnish, Polish and non-nation specific Partisans.

Combat Mission: Afrika Korps

Covering battles in North Africa, Italy and Crete, this last incarnation of the CM series using the original game engine, features much improved graphics over CMBO. Included are 3D models with many more polygons, and subtler effects such as dust clouds. Multi-turret vehicles are introduced though weapons in separate weapons mounts still cannot target separately. Included nationalities are British, American, German, Italian, Canadian, Polish, Australian, New Zealand, French and South African, with dates ranging from late 1940 to May 1945. CMAK can also be used to play Western Front battles (i.e. CMBO battles) with the newest graphics and updated order menu, but unfortunately without the full range of vehicles, as some German tanks (King Tiger) were not used in Africa or Italy.

Combat Mission: Shock Force

Covers Battles between US Stryker Brigades and Syrian forces in the year 2007. The last original incarnation of the CM series using the new "CMX2" game engine, CMSF features improved graphics and 3D modelling, including such esoterica as sun and star positions in the sky. Modelling of infantry offers a 1:1 representation (every single soldier is depicted in the 3D world by its own animated graphic). The game was released on July 27, 2007. The game required an immediate patch to 1.01 status upon release and as of March 2008 has had seven official patches with more announced.

Combat Mission: Campaigns

Allows players of Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin the ability to create CM:BB battles in an operational (division sized) setting. Announced October 2005, no release date has been set. Announced campaign settings will include Kursk, Stalingrad, Berlin, third Kharkov and Operation Mars. Only Russian and German nationalities will be playable in the initial release.

References

External links

  • http://www.battlefront.com/ official site, patches, forum with news, links, and downloads
  • World at War international Combat Mission community
  • http://www.cmmc2.org/ Combat Mission Meta Campaign
  • http://www.chattlehope.org/CMMC3_Tunisia.html/ Combat Mission Meta Campaign Tunisia
  • http://members.shaw.ca/grossdeutschland/ GD for CM - the first website devoted to Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin
  • http://www.the-proving-grounds.com/ Covering the (currently) 3 games of the series with a place for scenario uploading and testing, an opponent finder, tips and tutorials and chat about the games
  • http://www.theblitz.org/scenarios/show_scenarios.php?game=64&opart=0&order=sd_rating&h2h=No Blitzkrieg a PBEM site with a good scenario database
  • http://www.the-scenario-depot.com/ Large scenario and map database.
  • http://www.cmhq.pl/ The Polish CM Headquarters.
  • http://www.onionwars.net/ OnionWars - fictional campaign
  • http://www.667.hab.dsl.pipex.com/Wargaming/CM/CM-Page.html Site specialising in CM tournaments

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