Welcome to World War II online - Battleground Europe : Free community contributions to a new User Interface design

Oct. 2009

Please sit back, relax, throw some food to the fishes, and take a hour to discover the content of this blog.

The purpose of this input is to introduce new gameplay concepts that could contribute to a fix of persistent issues highlighted during the last couples of years, with a special focus on the User Interface (UI).
Though it will confuse established players, I believe it will be alot easier for new players to understand.

The blog (creative) layout has been designed to make the reading more comfortable (you can easily pause your reading thanks to feature #IDs) as to make search & discuss easier. Use the labels to select a single part, or use the tree on the right to find a specific feature back.
If you are in a hurry, you may just have an attentive look at the screenshots which should be intuitive to understand. The text is just pointing out drawn features or detailing the context.

All opinions and suggestions are welcome. Please, provide feedback (here) in the official forum . Remind that the whole content is a free gift to Playnet.

Since English isn't my main language, please apologize for the mistakes. I hope you will still enjoy the reading.

-Un0fficial gameplay architect, advises concepts since 2002-

1.0. Major Gameplay changes

Before starting a detailed overview of the new UI sections, let's first announce the major gameplay changes considered when drawing the design: 

#1. Redefining missions:

   The biggest change is probably the new concept for missions.
What is a mission ? Currently just a means to spawn at its origin or at its mobile spawn.
What should a mission be ? A means to stick with other players to accomplish  a task that an enemy group is also aiming at, and that is part of a higher-level coordination.

   There have been plenty of totalitarian suggestions from pro-teamers to redesign the concept, but most ignored that some subscribers aren't looking for team-based gameplay at all (just looking for a realistic vehicle simulation, just fragging around, etc.). Playing virtually as a team is also very difficult (whether you know your team mates or not) and not representative of real-life experience, so it would be a  mistake to chose a path that forces team-based play only ; WWIIol should remain open to any kind of profile. That said, pro-teamers and squads never got the right tools to make the battlefield become a true one.

The concept I would suggest for the future can be resumed as : allow anyone to spawn "anywhere", without leader constrains, but give tempting privileges to groups acting as a true team and following official orders emitted by active leaders.

#1a  Concretely, each brigade will host a permanent automatic "Mercenaries support mission" that won't need a mission leader to be activated (the background for this feature was added in 1.30 witth  the automatic combat training missions). There is no pre-defined spawn origin (feature #2) nor pre-defined target, so that anyone willing to provide support can do it instantaneously.
Discussions should however be done about features currently requiring a ML, e.g. reporting a contact
(for example change the contact report procedure : make the brigade OIC approve it for all missions , and let the reports be approved by default  if not disapproved during their validation period. Players located close to the contact report could be notified as well and could disapprove the report if they can't confirm it).

People joining support missions are not really part of the orbat ; they just enjoy the  fight as mercenaries. In a second phase, further distinctions with regular troops could be performed, eventually such as :
  • Distinctive non-regular uniforms. Allowing players to make a visual distinction between lonewolves and players part of a team (platoon or squad - see bellow) could have an important impact on tactical gameplay, because of the improved meaning of a team.  For example, spotting a regularly-dressed soldier would probably mean there are more close, which would influence players' tactical decisions.  Or a team member could hold his movement if he sees mercenaries going ahead first.
    The marketing impact should not be ignored as well: if the "bunch" of players running nowhere gets a civil-like (or whatever less official) uniform, it will no longer be associated to a failure of the gameplay, but to a feature which adds diversity.

    Example of non-regular uniform for french forces (resistance)

  • Inability to take part to an area capture . Since a team-based gameplay require more time to mobilize and coordinate, capture events should become less frequent but more epic to fully exploit the immersion brought by team combats. It's feared that solo caps (made easier because of support missions and non-fixed origins) could seriously hinder the efficiency of platoon-based missions as it is designed in this blog, even more for attakers.
    Furthermore, the OIC would have a better control of the battle progression since platoons are easier to follow and coordinate (feature #62).
  • Physical performances. Again, since forming up and moving a team requires more time, it should be balanced with the ability to sprint for a longer time. Regular troops are supposed to be better trained as well;
  • Load-out priority. The experience provided by some special units (mortars, LMG, bazooka,...) is nil without teamwork and could be reserved for platoon/squad soldiers only. However this could be a good reason to get fake platoons being created and must thus be considered with care.
    Eventually, limit the use of advanced weapons from depots and MSPs only to platoon members. Mercenaries could then spawn it from AB/FB only. Again, teams should survive as long as possible and be involved in team vs team combats as much as possible. A too easy suppression by mercenaries could hurt this spirit and vision.
  • No advanced team-based ranking points . The source of ranking points for mercenaries should only be based on kills, in opposition to platoon/squad members who should get an advanced scoring system based on objectives accomplishments. 
    Mercenaries would then help clearing the path, or do diversion for regular troops.
  • ...

#1b   In opposition to "freestyle" support missions, platoon missions allows to gather players that want  to stick together and accomplish objectives as a temporary true team.

Since players are no longer forced to join a mission lead by a ML, some restrictions can be added to improve subordination and discourage the creation of "fake" platoons (created only to make use of its pivileges). For example, initial spawn could be initiated at ML's signal only (feature #48), members must make their origin/unit choice be approved by ML (feature #46), and maybe cut platoon members' friendly radar down to only 100m instead of the current 1km  (except for the ML) to add an encumbrance that can be solved by sticking together and following ML's orders.

However, having true teams running around also opens the door to team-focused special features such as team-shared points, order emotes heard by platoon members only (feature #65), dynamic 3D mouse-dropped waypoints (cf. BIA game) , the famous platoon command post (or respawn@ML concept), etc.

   Platoon missions would be subdivided in two separated categories : "forming up" - and "deployed" platoons:
"Forming up" is the status of platoons whose ML and members are still organizing at the platoon HQ screen (topic 1.5). Joining such a mission guarantees the integration into a team that will soon accomplish a task altogether.
Once the platoon stopped recruiting and/or deployed ingame, its status is changed to "deployed" (see feature #47). The spawn is performed automatically for everyone at ML's command (feature #48). Such a platoon can't be joined anymore (feature #3).

#1c  Squad missions are back. They were removed because they didn't allow non-squad players to know where most of people were actually playing This is simply solved by displaying where permanent squads are currently deployed (see features #13 and #25).
Squads can't be joined in a conventional way like platoons, but anyone may still join an active recruiter like it is currently the case (feature #26).  Multiple squad missions should be allowed, but each should have a nominated ML for coordination purpose. Squad members should of course still be allowed to create conventional  "public" platoons or to play a mercenaries.

#1d    About paratroopers brigade, we should change how the system currently works :
Since missions no longer have a fixed origin (feature#2), "simply" allow platoon members from ground brigades to select as origin any AF hosting a para brigade, even if the brigade has no link with it. They would then get access to paratroopers and transport planes of the para brigades parked there. In other words, allow to use equipment from another brigade while staying in ours.
It makes more sense to keep paras in the brigade coordinating the attack and list them together with other missions.
Let's remind that paras are doing a longer run to reach action and are vulnerable. Tools to make cohesion easier (respawn@ML) will definitely improve their effectiveness, but the experience will  already be improved by only allowing platoon/squad members to deploy as paratroopers. Paratroopers should not be available to mercenaries since it's all about team cohesion once dropped.

   The same structure can be found for air forces (platoons become "squadrons") and naval force, since a team that left can not easily be joined.

#2. Missions no longer have a fixed origin

  Players are now allowed to spawn from any origin currently supplied by their brigade (AB, depots, spawnables, FB and msps if feature #4), independently of the selected mission.

This allows the implementation of brigade support missions (feature #1) which could hardly be tied to a fixed origin, brings the possibility to link MSPs to the brigade instead of the mission (feature #4) and allow a softer implementation of future non-fixed spawn points.
Furthermore, respawning platoon members will be able to more easily get back to current platoon location, even if it traveled a lot from its initial spawnpoint, thus improving team cohesion a lot.
In the case of platoon- and squad missions, it allows more tactical possibilities to accomplish a given objective (e.g. tanks from FB combined with infantries from spawnable).
As a consequence, missions now only display a target in their description. This will also give more sense to future dynamic target management, and make OIC-suggested objectives easier to implement (feature #50e). Para equipment would be an exception to the supply rule (feature "#1d).

#3. Platoon can no longer be joined once it has a deployed status

   Once the leader changed the platoon status to deployed (features #1b and #47), it is no longer possible to join his team via the deployment screen. However, this rule does NOT apply to mission members dying and/or respawning, who remains part of the group initially formed up and who are supposed to continue to follow redeployment orders given by the ML. In some cases when you die it's best to leave and join another platoon forming up, but the use of this feature should be kept customizable.

This feature needs discussion, but allowing permanent recruitment actually hurts the team spirit and the cohesion in field. A ML can't be fully dedicated to his platoon if new members are constantly joining 4 km behind his current location with their own agenda (which is even more true in the case of air/naval missions).
Furthermore, not allowing reinforcements in deployed platoons would allow to more quickly fulfill the ones still forming up. Each deployed platoon would have its own unique battle story, with all members experiencing a fellowship they currently never find. The story would end when everyone left platoon.
Closing deployed platoons also prevent fake platoons to hurt the game experience for other players who would lose confidence in this feature. This makes management a lot easier for the OIC as well. This shouldn't be applied to squad missions as they should stay free to organize themselves.

   The only means to reinforce a deployed platoons would be to fuse with another deployed platoons (maybe consider the ability to split an existing one as well, as the transfer of single players between platoons, to allow advanced organization).
I tried to consider other options but couldn't found one  (yet) which wouldn't raise any gameplay  issue, Transfers between platoons and mercenaries missions would be more complex to handle because of the differences between the two categories.

This feature could also have an impact on other upcoming gameplay changes, such as the respawn@ML concept which could no longer require a proximity condition for instance. This should be discussed in a dedicated blog.

#4. MSPs are no longer tied to missions, but to brigades

  Another big change is linking MSPs to the brigade instead of missions.
Removing  fixed spawn origins  (feature #2) would allow anyone to make use of an available MSPs for the brigade, whatever mission they belong to. This would definitely cease the scenario where a player joins a mission not for the leadership it provides but for the MSP it is hosting.

MSPs can't be deployed from a Mercenary support mission. These can be deployed from platoons or squad missions only. Though, once deployed they would be available for anyone part of the brigade, even mercenaries. This rule would allow a better control over msps location. If the MSP becomes unmanned (UMS), it will automatically disappear after some minutes (countdown) but can also still be manually deleted by the OIC (if any).

A consequence of this feature is that it will become more meaningful to set up a platoon fully dedicated to the defense of the MSP, since currently its defenders have to mix themselves with attackers spawning at it, preventing efficient leadership and organization inside the mission.
If finding an appropriate tool to provide information about the location of  brigade MSPs (feature #38), it will improve tactical organization a lot and make combat deployment much more easier, both for n00bs, Lonewolves, platoons and squads. This rule could be extended to the future naval MSP as well.

The following topics will focus on one screen at a time, giving details about the features displayed in the "screenshots". These pictures are just means to help the reader visualize concepts and should not be taken as definite designs. Since I was limited to the size of a screen, the display is very compact compared to what it could be like using a scroll bar.

Blog layout : 

   - Welcome screen
   - Squad selected
   - Town selected
   - Platoon selected

   - Mission member display
   - Mission leader display


1 comment:

  1. * I like the concept of "everything is suggested but nothing is forced" for the teamwork.

    * I don't think that Rats want to put restrictions to the equipment for lonewolves.

    * For platoon missions I think here already exist a timer to delay the start of the mission. It corresponds a bit to your concept.

    * I don't understand the purpose of closing access to a mission once it's deployed.
    In my squad for example there are often players who join us while we are already deployed.

    * Players don't like waiting to wait, they already whine with a 30 sec spawn delay. I don't think they would wait X minutes for the mission to start.
    Furthermore during a defense we must be able to react quickly.

    * I don't understand the concept of spawning everywhere without leaving the mission. Isn't this ability to spread going to hurt teamwork ?