Operation Futile

The following screen shots are from a couple of testing sessions of a short mission I am working on where three squads of American infantry are to move into a town to neutralize an ad hoc artillery battery and remove any hostile forces. The setting is early morning and the weather conditions are miserable.

I have a love hate relationship with the ArmA 2 engine (and all iterations of it). A seemingly colossal mission of utmost elegance can be utterly abandoned due to some bug or behavior with the AI that cannot be scripted away. Hours, if not weeks of work can be lost if sequential saves during mission creation and/or tedious unwinding is not done to find the offending elements.

Many times it is simply the hard coded programming of the AI that renders a masterpiece worthless. Sending squads across terrain to assault multiple objectives? Not if the AI leaders see through several building and terrain features to lock on to an artillery, armor or static weapon unit that no human being could have possibly seen.

At any rate, I always come back to these games to tinker around with scenarios. And in almost every case I quickly lose sight of “keep it simple stupid” when layering on more and more items in a scenario. In this case the original mission was for the American forces to assault three mutually supporting artillery batteries on the Omaha Beach map.

Unfortunately, having those forces form up, assault, form up, assault, form up, assault and then extract is a nightmarish endeavor that is best left for professional mission creators to deal with. Given the quirks of the game engine, it is bad enough trying to do a simply vehicle convoy from point A to point B in the best of conditions without the train of cars and trucks disintegrating into an orgy of twisted and burning metal along the road.

This mission is setup on one of the Poland maps in the mission editor, with the American forces directly south of the town of Staszow. As seen in this editor image, there is a fairly decent amount of German forces milling about the town square where the artillery battery is setup. To the far right of the map is the extraction forces that are to move to the church on the right side of the town once the German forces have been eliminated.

This is my typical rough outline of a functional briefing document. I use the same setup for scenarios in ArmA 2 as well, although in this example the Notes section only contains very basic information at this point.

This was the atmosphere that I was aiming for: early dawn and torrential rain fall. The problem is that in every test session the rain would only last for a few minutes, stop and then come back. It never stays consistent throughout the mission as I had hoped. I have both sliders in the Mission Intel box of the editor all the way to the left (constant rain current and forecasted).

Hopefully this is keeping it simple enough: three objectives of which only one involves combat. I really do not care too much for the version of the watch in this game as it is difficult for me to see the second hand moving, which is important (at least for me) in judging things during mission creation and testing.

An offending MG-42 that had line of sight to one of the squads approach avenues: On one play through the gunner caught sight of the Americans on the opposite side of the culvert and laid waste to several of them before they could reach the road. As mentioned above, the rain starts and stops all the time so there is none in this and other screen shots.

It is too bad that the game is effectively dead multi player (and perhaps single player, although there are no stats that I know of except for how many SP missions are uploaded to various sites) as maps such as this which features the town of Staszow have some terrific tactical issues to present (given the modeled rubble and destruction about).

In this image I am approaching the town square where the artillery battery is deployed. One of the tubes is visible and puffs of smoke are also visible just to the left of the large orange roof. My squad leader is to the left and is about to be shredded by one of the guards on the other side of the canopy.

Frag out: the grenade is just to the right of the aiming circle. A few well-placed tosses here should eliminate most of the gunners; however they seem to be largely immune to the blast effects and most often have to be taken out by shots to the head.

As mentioned above this was the atmosphere I had hoped to maintain during the mission – torrential rain.

This image just feels depressing…

On one effort, 2nd Squad (who is tasked with moving through the center of town with 1st Squad on the left flank and 3rd Squad on the right flank) completely froze up (their leader would not move them forward), so I moved to the right flank of the assault and came up this dreary road with members of 3rd Squad (would have been better looking with rain though).

This is my player character approaching the artillery battery from its right side. As you can tell my entire squad is to my left (almost 200 meters away), frozen back near the MG that was taken down earlier in the scenario. My squad leader kept calling out the howitzers, although there was no way any human could have seen them where we were at.

The gunners continue to fire even though most of their unit has succumbed to the advance of the Americans. In this effort I managed to take out several of them before being capped by a German that was tight up against the wall around the corner.

On another test, I tried approaching from the left side of the building with similar results. One issue I have with the way artillery batteries are modeled in the game is that when the primary gunner is killed, the other units just sit and place waiting to be slaughtered.

This is where the love hate relationship begins to boil over in blinding rage. During this test, all of the German patrols were eliminated, and the only thing left was the artillery battery. The AI moves in and just camps there, with Germans right in front of them continuing to fire the howitzers. I had to kill each of these gunners before the objective would be secured, as the AI did nothing.

Once all enemy forces are eliminated from the town, the extraction task/objective becomes active and all surviving friendly forces are to move to the road just by the church on the east side of town.

Hauling ass to the church with the hope that the trucks will be there when I show up (they were not, most likely due to timing of their approach to the mission end trigger countdown).

And the end: overall the mission generally takes about 15-20 minutes to complete, depending upon how aggressive the human player tends to take it. Given the many fallacies of the game engine and the resulting quirks of the AI (both friendly and enemy), sometimes player participation is the only thing that can win a mission.

At this point I am not sure when I will pick this up again, as other efforts with IFL44 having stalled out. I would like to continue to work on it and maybe even add an intro prior to release on this blog.

1 comment:

  1. The images have been recovered due to Steam changing the URL of their image locations.