Hmm. I'm playing WaR, changed the DiffLevel to three as per the article at about Day 3, and really the only things I noticed are that Shermans and Bazookas are knocking out my Panthers with ease, and on top of that, my Panthers are turning broadside and ass-end to the enemy as they move. Oh. And my Panthers are getting immobilized at the slightest bump in the road. With all that, I haven't had the chance to see if there are any changes to the enemy AI.
Is this just what stock WaR 4.50.33 is like, regardless of difficult settings, and I just noticed it after the changes? Comments please.
I haven't noticed anything like that, in particular. If I did, I probably ignored it as the stock game's issues on pathfinding.
Also, guys, see below link to the Matrix forums. The DIFFLEVEL was brought up there by Tejszd:
Steve over at Matrix said that the Options.txt doesn't do what I've described. I did some more testing after reading it, and sometimes there doesn't seem to be a difference between DIFFLEVEL=1 and DIFFLEVEL=3. The AI is active in either case, and it definitely was a definite difference, from what I remember when the DIFFLEVEL was changed in the registry, though I don't know if that's still the case, anymore.
For the sake of honesty, read the above post. I can't say for sure anymore if DIFFLEVEL does anything or not, but it seems that way to me, or maybe the AI has been improved since the last time I studied the AI behavior. I leave it your own judgement. I'm going to leave my DIFFLEVEL at 3, because the DIFFLEVEL is set to 3 in Modern Tactics, and it doesn't make sense to me that it'd be 3 in Modern Tactics, but 1 in the others (If it's a legacy setting that has no effect, and only modifies both sides with a simpler and easier setting, why not match the setting for the rest of the games in the series being as you can't modify the strength of either side in Modern Tactics. Doesn't make sense to me.)
Either way - follow your own judgement, folks. If you think the DIFFLEVEL improves the AI, use it. If you don't, keep it at 1. Like I said, I'm gonna leave mine at 3, even if I can't concretely verify it's had an effect.
BGroups effects I've described are correct, though, and this was verified when I did my small maps mods, so by all means tweak the BGroups to your liking.
I hope setting the DIFFLEVEL to 3 works, but like I said, it might not be having any effect at all, other than modifiers to player and AI units, as was described in the linked thread. I'm a little disappointed that it might not be having an effect, but it is what it is, I suppose.
-Charisma: in one of the workbooks this is described as "Commander's Charisma. -5 takes morale away from troops, +5 gives morale to troops. Range = -5 to 5" .
I find your observations very useful. For the Dieppe mod that I am currently working on I need extremely defensive , "static" , German battle groups as well as aggressive battle groups and this info has helped me understand better what settings to use.
Thanks Freeking for your research and observations. I have used the registry modification myself but never bothered to save the instructions on how to do it. Thanks for the reminder. Have you found out what difference the various battle group aggression / caution settings make?
That's a good question. I'd assume there are differences, though it warrants testing. Instead of having walls of text, I figured I'd just do a before/after video of the DIFFLEVEL change. Basically, a video that details my findings and observations. I'll play around with the BGroups and see what happens.
EDIT: Had a chance to test the settings. I changed the settings on an AI bgroup, setting everything to the lowest settings, except for Charisma (morale), which I set to the highest setting. I tested the highest and lowest settings, each one individually. I had the DIFFLEVEL set to 3. For those that don't know what these settings are, the BGroups files has four settings for a battlegroup in the game: Aggression, Caution, Charisma, and Tactics.
Pete, I went in and did a few tests. Here's what I observed:
-I noticed that the higher the aggression setting, the more prone the AI was to sending units out alone and unsupported, which leads me to believe this setting manages how reckless the tactical AI is. This also explains why the higher the setting, the more quickly the AI pushed out onto the map. With the DIFFLEVEL change to 3, it will still move out onto the map, but will do it more or less recklessly depending on the setting. Unsupported units are sent out to far flung positions, away from the rest of its force, for example. So, speed of pushing onto the map, for the AI's aggression setting, is a measurement of how recklessly it does so, not how active it is in doing so. -Caution looks like it manages how many units the AI uses for its orders. Basically, if the Caution setting is set to make it the most cautious setting the game allows, the fewer units it will use and the more units it keeps static in case it needs them. Think of an overly cautious commander in real life, that doesn't do much or holds back a large portion of their force, and it would accurately describe what the most cautious AI setting will do. The least cautious AI setting is the opposite, more units being used for its programmed tasks. -I'm not sure what the Charisma setting does to the tactical battle AI. I didn't notice a change in the overall morale of the units in the unit selection screen, so I can only assume that its got something to do with how well the troops endure enemy fire and suppression and such. I'll need to come back to this one. -The tactics setting regulates how intelligent the AI is in its tactical decisions. An example would be picking a route with more cover to move troops, instead of running them across the open all the time. Another example is sending a vehicle with infantry support, instead of the vehicle being sent all by itself. I also noticed the highest tactics setting had the AI moving troops into covered positions like hedges and buildings, rather than laying out in the open. I noticed vehicles being placed int the open if infantry were going to move out into open ground, so the tank can cover them. That sort of thing. This setting determines whether or not the AI uses better or worse tactics. There's a more combined arms warfare behavior going on, instead of just moving units around the map.
With the above in mind, here is how I would describe each setting in the BGroups: -Aggression: How reckless it is. -Caution: How many units are being used and how many are being held back in static positions. -Charisma: Not sure yet. Probably how cowardly or brave the individual soldier AI is. -Tactics: How smart it is in its tactical decisions. See above observations.
With all of this in mind, I went in and played with settings combinations until I found the one that best creates a competent tactical commander. Not reckless, but not indecisive or overly cautious. Obviously, I set the tactics setting all the way up. For the time being, I've set the charisma setting to the middle value, 0 (the settings are a range of -5 to 5, 0 being the middle), because I don't quite understand completely what it does yet. However, here are my current settings for the BGroups:
-Aggression: 0 (Not too reckless, not so careful that the AI is timid and indecisive) -Caution: -5 (AI uses most of its units, doesn't keep them in reserve, make the AI act more dynamically and with most of the force assigned to it) -Charisma: 0 (No positive or negative modification for the morale of units) -Tactics: 5 (Makes logical tactical decisions, is smarter)
Bear in mind that this whole write-up discounts the whole point of the BGroups data, which is to create "personalities" for each commander of the battlegroups. I made the above settings the same for every single battlegroup in the game, because I wanted the same kind of AI "personality" in each tactical battle. The BGroups changes are necessarily required for an enjoyable single player experience, thanks to the DIFFLEVEL change to 3, because the AI will still play on the large maps and small maps, alike. So, if a player wanted to keep the battleground commanders at their stock settings, some commanders being more reckless than others, for example, there wouldn't be a reason not to. It comes down to personal preference.
With the above, I've also given players the info they'll need to tweak their BGroups settings to whatever they want, for the kind of AI personality they prefer fighting.
As the title says. 1. Which game of the Close Combat series has the best AI? 2. Are there any mods which enhance the AI? 3. Is the AI much different between the games in this series?
I'm new to this series and I have read comments that the AI is underwhelming on the attacking side and ok on the defense. I know there are the "Revival" mods on Mod DB for the LSA, PITF and GTC which decrese the size of the maps which in turn increases the performance of the AI but it is not a direct upgrade to the AI.
To answer your first question: you're not wrong there. The AI is underwhelming... when you don't change around some options and mod it a little bit.
To answer questions 2 and 3:
I've been studying the AI of the series for a year or two now. Aside from observations of the AI on smaller maps, I've made some recent discoveries that dramatically increase the performance of the AI. With a simple change of a setting, the AI performs much better, and you can use the larger stock maps if that's your preference without a drop in the AI's performance.
Make the DIFFLEVEL change as noted in that topic, then change the BGroups data. Together, those two changes will give you a drastically better single player experience. That said, it's your preference, meaning whichever game in the series you feel like buying and playing, have at it. In my testing so far, with the DIFFLEVEL and BGroups changes, I haven't noticed a difference in AI between games in the series, aside from Modern Tactics being too aggressive in some situations, though I wouldn't recommend Modern Tactics as your first game in the series. I recommend getting it last if you intend on having the entire series, it's more of a specialized release in the series that was developed from a training tool developed from the Close Combat engine for the Marine Corps.
Note that the AI is never going to compare to multiplayer with other human players, but with the changes I've mentioned it's a single player experience far and beyond what the stock game will give you.
If you tell me which games in the series you own, and don't want to make the BGroups changes yourself with one of the data workbooks used for modding, I'd be happy to send you a modified BGroups file for your game. I can attach it here, or feel free to PM me.
My first tests were me just shoving my units off to the side of the map and turning on "always see the enemy", so I could observe the AI's movements and actions. These observation tests were done without small maps installed, and no mods except for changes to BGroups (AI reserves in the BGroup set to -5, the other three set to 5). I did a test on the stock large map, then a test on a small map version of the same map from the large map test. Here were my observations, a test in each generation of the game engine:
GATEWAY TO CAEN Mods - BGroups changes to AI strategy, blood mod installed so I knew modded data was running and my changes to BGroups were present (I put all the mood stuff into one mod folder and used the /D switch in the shortcut's launch options). Small map mod (only the maps, no terrain element changes) with BGroups changes for small map test. Map - I did the test on St-Mauvieu.
Settings: -Both sides Recruit unit strength -Always see enemy turned on for me, so I can observe the AI -Timer of 20 minutes
AI Behavior Observations, St-Mauvieu, Assault St-Mauvieu Scenario:
-This is the cool part! The AI actually did things on the large map. It pushed out with infantry and halftracks about 1:30 in. -The AI established positions in buildings, and along a wall, and in a hedgrerow, rather than just sitting in its starting positions at the beginning of the battle. There's actual activity going on, with an apparent purpose to the AI's orders, instead of troops just moving around. The buildings it occupied had a look out onto open ground, and a halftrack was placed south, also looking out into open ground, though it was exposed in the open, as well. -An infantry squad was pushed forward at a run, and I thought it was sent to capture the Distillerie. Nope. I had placed all of my units on the edge of the map, set to Ambush, and that squad ran down the road, past the distillerie, and right toward the edge of the map. I moved a couple squads to a hedge to see what would happen when I started shooting at AI's troops. -When my boys opened up on them, halftracks got moving in the rear. There was some movement with infantry squads, and the AI started their mortars on zeroing on my two squads. -The thing is, too, is that the AI didn't waste all of its mortar rounds like it usually does. After a short fire mission, the mortar fire stopped. -My attention had been on the above, so when I looked back to see what the rest of the AI troops were doing, I noticed that halftracks had been moved onto the road and were waiting. Infantry had been moved into buildings farther in the rear on victory locations, and infantry were starting to move forward onto the map.
Overall observations are that the AI actually plays on the large maps, now. For the guys that like playing on large maps, the DIFFLEVEL change makes it viable again. The AI had set up basic positions, sent out a recon to locate my troops, then reacted by setting in defense on its VLs and sending out troops. There was going to be an actual firefight going on. I won't lie to you guys - I started getting excited. So, I ended the test and installed the small maps to test again in the same conditions.
AI Behavior Observations, St-Mauvieu (Small Map), Same Scenario:
Same deal. This was purely a test to observe the AI. I stuffed all of my units into a space surrounded by hedgerows and set them to ambush. Because I was so close to the AI, due to the small map, I ordered all of my troops, except for the Churchills, to move fast to the bottom of the map.
-Everything got kicked off so suddenly, and I had to give orders to get my troops out of the line of fire of enemy troops (the AI caught them on the move and opened up with an MG42 and mortars). Because of that, and the events unfolding differently than the first test, I scrapped the test, because the AI was reacting to different events, rather than me observing the AI, and doing an action and seeing what the AI did in response. That said, I decided to save the small map tests for the combat tests later, when I actually fought the firefight in an actual gameplay setting, instead of just observation.
THE LONGEST DAY Mods - BGroups changes to AI strategy, GtC explosion graphics mod installed so I knew modded data was running and my changes to BGroups were present. Map - I did the test on Bretteville. It had equal number of troops, mix of multiple unit types. It's also one of the largest new maps I could find, as most of the old maps transferred over from CC5 to TLD are the original size. The point of the test is to see what the AI would do on a large map. I already know what it does on smaller maps when I did the tests for the small maps last year.
I decided to go with The Longest Day for the large map test, mainly due to the amount of troops in the scenarios. Because I'm testing on single scenarios, it was tough to find a scenario that had a full roster of troops from the list (lots of Ostruppen and smaller engagements in Last Stand Arnhem, until you get to the scenarios featuring the Panzer divisions). Anyway, same kind of observation test, same game settings as the Gateway to Caen tests. 15 minute time limit this time, though, because TLD doesn't have a 20 minute option.
AI Behavior Observations, Bretteville, June 8 Stock Scenario:
-The more I observed the AI in these tests, the more interested I got. -In this case, it was much the same as what happened in Gateway to Caen, but the AI was more methodical. -It was a slow start. The AI moved its tanks, and a halftrack, to positions on the road. Some infantry crawled a short way to positions in the open ground, in crops. -It took a minute or two, but when the AI got started I saw interesting tactical behaviors. The AI sent out infantry squads and a halftrack forward to scout and recon the area. How do I know this, you might ask? Because after the AI's recon units figured out there wasn't anything there, the rest of the units go moving. The Panthers starting moving into the area, and the rest of the infantry started forward. -A halftrack and an infantry squad occupied positions on the extreme flanks, like an OP or overwatch, and the rest of the units occupied the area around the rail station, which they captured with an infantry squad early on. -By this point it's about the 11 minute mark, and a lull has set in, with the AI static. I tried giving some orders a time or two throughout the test when the AI was static in the beginning, and when it went static at this point, and I can confirm that the game's AI does not sense if the player is giving orders or doing anything, because this didn't spur the AI into action. I used my airstrike to kill one of the AI's recon squads, and ordered my off-map mortar barrage onto some random open spot. Neither spurred the AI to do anything, this occurring with about 3 minutes left in the fight. -I wanted to make sure it wasn't just because the game time was about to run out, and the AI programmed to go defensive and hold on to what it has before a game ends, so I started another test in the same conditions, with no time limit.
AI Behavior Observations, Bretteville, June 8 Stock Scenario, No Time Limit:
-It was a similar progression and deployment as the last test, but the AI was definitely more aggressive. -It was quite active. The lull in the beginning was about the same, but once the AI got moving it worked on expanding its control of victory locations on the map. -It didn't move into immediately deploying it's entire force, but parts of it. It captured the rail station early, and deployed its Panthers to the vicinity of it. An infantry squad was dispatched to scout the town of la Villanueve, and a halftrack was put on the road to move to the same area. The halftrack was used to capture the VL there while the infantry scouted the buildings near the VL. -The AI continued to peak my interest. After it took the la Villaneuve VL, the halftrack held the road while the infantry moved farther to the right to scout the hedgerows outside of town. -Infantry were also moving in from the AI's start position by 8:30 into the game, and an infantry squad had been placed this whole time a little bit south of the rail station, I assume as recon or overwatch. -Until about the 14 minute mark, the AI was moving troops around, bringing them up from their start positions. I'm not including the details of their movements at this point, because I'm trying to move this along, and the point of getting rid of the time limit was to see if it would push forward and not go static. -At 15 minutes into the game the AI had brought infantry into the open ground outside of la Villaneuve, and one of its Panthers were starting to push south of town. -NOTE: at no point did the AI just run units around the map. It moved them from covered location to covered location. Even the squads in the open were moved up to hay bales and such. When the infantry, and the second Panther started pushing south, the infantry were moved along the hedgerows outside of la Villaneuve. -At 16 minutes, the AI had placed one Panther in reserve. One infantry squad and a Panther were ordered south. -I ended the test at this point, because I had my answer. -CONFIRMED: The time limit of the game matters. If the game is going to end soon, the AI will go defensive and hold on to what it has already, instead of getting aggressive. If it has the time, it will continue across the map, and it won't do it haphazardly. From what I'm seeing, the AI in both Gateway to Caen and The Longest Day is actually quite "intelligent", meaning it will give the player the challenge, make the player feel like they're actually in a battle. I don't know whether or not the AI will pose a challenge to me yet in an actual gameplay setting, where I'm actively trying to win a fight. However, a player that doesn't use proper tactics, and who just kind of runs units all over the map, is going to get their ass kicked.
Okay! I'm VERY happy with those results. It's an active AI, that gives orders that make logical tactical sense. Now it's time to fight this AI for real. On to the actual gameplay tests.
I'll post a follow-up reply here when I play later today. But, I'm very happy with what I'm seeing.
A complaint, and rightly so, of the Close Combat series, especially the re-releases, was the single player AI. I had managed to push the AI as far as it could go from a modding perspective when I released my small maps mods. It wasn't quite where I knew it could be, and here's why:
Years ago, a post was made on the old CSO forums. Somebody had found a windows registry entry that improved the AI. For reference, here's a post on the CCS forums that helped spread this registry edit around:
The veterans of this site will remember it. Like me, they probably made the same changes to their own games after seeing it. To quote Dauphin's observations, which had been my experience, as well:
To make it short here are the points that I have noticed using the 003 parameter for the AI - use of smoke - use of off board artillery - use of airplanes - the use of mortar is effective against an offensive - guns are set in better places - the ennemy tends to do better traps - less or much fewer crawling units - better use of grenades
Note: the AI was much better and more active, in comparison to previous performance, not genius level AI or anything. But, it was a tougher opponent and single player was much more enjoyable. My own experience was that it felt like I was actually in a fight, instead of just stomping the AI.
To get to the point, Gateway to Caen and Panthers in the Fog have the same registry entries to be able to do the same thing. Here are the registry entry locations.
NOTE: I have the Matrix Games editions, not steam or GOG. I don't know if these will be present for either of those.
PitF: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Matrix Games\Close Combat Panthers in the Fog
GtC: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Matrix Games\Close Combat Gateway to Caen
Change the DIFFLEVEL parameter from 01 00 00 00 to 03 00 00 00, and you'll have the same positive effects I've mentioned above.
Now, to get to the re-releases of the classics. I had thought the registry entries had been removed, and the above was no longer possible for them. Well, as it turns out, it still is.
Rather than having the settings in the windows registry, where they were previously, the settings, including DIFFLEVEL, are now in a text document in the Documents folder (My Documents on versions of Windows prior to Windows 10). I own the entirety of the re-release series (and Modern Tactics), the Matrix/Slitherine editions, and this is where you'll find the DIFFLEVEL settings for Cross of Iron, Last Stand Arnhem, The Longest Day, Wacht am Rhein and Modern Tactics:
In each of those folders, you'll find a file called "OPTIONS". Open it up with notepad, find the DiffLevel row, and change it from 1 to 3. All of them, with the exception of Modern Tactics, were set to DiffLevel=1. This explains part of the poor AI performance, which seemed to get worse as the series was updated and re-released. That's because the default setting was always 1, and if a player didn't know to look for it, the player would go on thinking the AI was made worse. No, it wasn't, the setting was just set to a lower level on ALL of the re-release games, as well as GTC and PITF.
Here's an example from my The Longest Day options text file. I've bolded the field you need to change, and it is shown with the new change.
Without any other modding changes, I wanted to confirm these DIFFLEVEL settings still worked. So, I ran a test at DiffLevel=1, with no mods turned on. It's what you would expect it to be - inactive and boring. Then I ran a test with DiffLevel=3, and boom. The AI was more active, just like it was back in the day when these changes were made in the registry entry. Then, I ran a test with some modding done in the bgroups.txt, and it was even better than the DIFFLEVEL change alone.
To the veterans of the series, who know what I'm getting at. It still works, you just need to make the change in a text document instead of the registry.
So, to recap:
For Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen, change DIFFLEVEL with regedit.
For the re-releases, change it in the OPTIONS.txt file with notepad.
Add additional modding with bgroups to push it even further. I assume using a small maps mod would push it even further than that.
I hope this helps everybody out. I was excited to see that these changes could still be done, because I missed being able to do it. It added so much to the experience. Now that I know I can still do it, it's brought some more life back into the series. I'll post some follow-up in here later on when I've had the chance to compare large maps to small maps with the DiffLevel=3 change.
Oh, and could a mod pin this post? Or move it somewhere more applicable to the content? This is the best place I could think of, and the changes above are important for a better gameplay experience. I'm sure alot of players would benefit from seeing it.
Rather than putting it into the registry, the developers put all of the settings that used to be in the registry with the previous games, and put them into a notepad .txt file, instead, for easier editing. I'll make a separate post on this, for reference and as a guide.
I own the entire re-release series, and the default for DIFFLEVEL in every single game is 1, which explains part of the poor performance on the AI in the re-release series.
I've been looking for them. The install and game location for the .exe are there, but I've yet to find any DIFFLEVEL entries. I'm gonna try uninstalling it, then re-installing without the latest patches and see if the patches got rid of the entries.
EDIT: No such luck. The thing is, those registry entries are the game's way of storing options data and such (there was a "DRAWKIA" entry in there for GTC and PITF). So, it's been stored somewhere by TLD and the others, be it in the registry or in a file somewhere. I'll do some experimenting and investigating, see if I can't get this figured out. Hopefully, it's in a location or file I can access.
It was a registry entry edit for CC4, CC5 and WAR that improved AI behavior, and that was my experience, as well, back when I still had the classic CC5 and CC4. I was scrounging through my registry entries using regedit, trying to switch CC2 over to 1080p, and what do you know? The same registry entries exist for Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen.
For anybody who's curious, and didn't experience what the registry change did for gameplay, here are the general things it did to the AI:
(Note: the AI was much better and more active, in comparison to previous performance, not genius level AI or anything. But, it was a tougher opponent and single player was more enjoyable)
As quoted from Dauphin, page two of the linked post:
"To make it short here are the points that I have noticed using the 003 parameter for the AI - use of smoke - use of off board artillery - use of airplanes - the use of mortar is effective against an offensive - guns are set in better places - the ennemy tends to do better traps - less or much fewer crawling units - better use of grenades"
I found GtC and PitF's registry entries at these locations:
PitF: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Matrix Games\Close Combat Panthers in the Fog
GtC: Computer\HKEY_CURRENT_USER\SOFTWARE\Matrix Games\Close Combat Gateway to Caen
NOTE: I have the Matrix Games editions, not steam or GOG. I don't know if these will be present for either of those.
Change the DIFFLEVEL parameter from 01 00 00 00 to 03 00 00 00, and theoretically you should have the same positive effects I've mentioned. I haven't tested this yet on the updated game engine, but thought I'd bring it up.
I've been working on my revival mods for the series, and I wanted to use the same settings for building terrain data as Modern Tactics did, making building walls and such block LOS, forcing soldiers to fire through them instead of through the walls.
(Be aware this will be an alternate version of the mod, because the engine and individual soldier AI wasn't necessarily intended to have to do this, so it will be player preference)
The main reason I had a problem with this kind of gameplay in Close Combat was because the player had no way of knowing where doors and windows were in the top-down format unless they had troops in the building and the interior was revealed. Without being able to see the inside, the player had no idea where doors and windows were, and couldn't properly judge where entry would be and how to move troops effectively for the best path into and out of the building, and avoiding enemy fire from within.
Then it occurred to me. Why not add indicators for the windows and doors on the outside of the building.
This is what I came up with in Photoshop, and it's the implementation I intend to go with for marking where doors and windows are, which would be useful with and without being able to see and shoot through walls. This will allow a player who can't see the interior of a building know where the doors and windows are.
Note that the indicators are added to the map background, itself, which is the only way I could get them added.
I completed the first iteration of the Revival Mod for Panthers in the Fog, and started work on the releases for the rest of the series.
This year's projects are going to build on one another:
-Re-do the weapon penetration, range and accuracy bands for all weapons. -Re-do the vehicle armor values, which were done without the calc sheets provided with The Longest Day workbook, meaning the armor values aren't geared toward the Close Combat engine. I'm going to double-check against the historical data and use the calc sheet to get armor values designed to work with the way the Close Combat engine is designed. -Modify the terrain elements data to match the Close Combat 2 terrain data.
The above points will be changed as an standalone replacement/update to the Panthers in the Fog Revival mod first, to bring it up to the latest and greatest modded data before moving on to the rest of the series. The new release for that will basically be from scratch, because I didn't keep track of what was changed and what wasn't in the data files.
After that, it's the Revival mods for the rest of the series, with this general list of features for each release in the series.
-Terrain elements changed to match Close Combat 2's terrain elements data. -Realistic and historically weapon ranges and armor penetration for anti-tank weapons and tank guns. -Realistic and historically accurate vehicle speeds and acceleration. -Realistic and historically accurate blast radius for every explosive weapon and device. -Maps cut down, where applicable, to match the max number of deployment zones that was designed for Close Combat 2 (19x19 deployment zones) -Victory locations adjusted for every map for better AI unit placement, and to focus the combat on the focal points of the map. -Atmospheric sound modding that includes ricochets, and more, which I've seen in other sound mods and experienced in Gateway to Caen.
The mods will be released in phases, and released separately and time goes on: -Data mods, containing all changes except for the small maps, victory location adjustments and sounds. -Small maps and victory location adjustments. -Atmospheric sound mods.
That will complete the mods I have any desire to do to the Close Combat series, unless I decide to make sub-mods for popular mods in the same style as the Revival Mod. In my mind, the re-releases will have been revitalized and made as fun and playable as possible, especially for single player.
I had some luck on CC5, anyway. Because the GOG version has the latest .exe, but no requirement for a CD, some old CC5 mods won't work on it, because the mod uses the older .exe that requires a CD to run. You can use the data and maps and such, but uniform colors and such that are inside the CC5 .exe won't work on the GOG version if the mod uses the older version of it.
I know it's not CC3, but maybe it points you in the right direction to someone who would know better than I do about that game.
I was talking to MOOXE in Discord yesterday, and he requested that I put up a post about getting mods running on the steam versions of the re-releases. It's a simple process, but it does require you know a little bit about moving around in program files and such. Even if you don't know much about it, I'll walk you through it. The main thing here is to get Steam to work with the D/ switch in the game's launch options in the library, or a shortcut on your desktop, so you don't have to replace any stock files.
The first thing you're going to do is verify your game's local files, bring everything up to its most up to date and making sure there are no corrupted files. If you're inclined, a reinstall would do the trick, too. MOOXE had mentioned that the method I'm about to show you was working fine, until a patch had been installed on the Steam version of LSA. Basically, what happened is that the patch had overwritten any changes he'd made, so I want to make sure that before you do this that you have a clean install or verified files for the game.
If you don't know how to verify your game's files, get Steam open and go to the Library. Once there, find the game you want to use a mod with and right-click on it. In the list that pops up, go to Properties. A new window opens with three tabs along the top - General, Updates and Local Files. Go to Local Files. There, you'll find a button called "Verify Integrity of Game Files...". Click that and you're good. Steam will now check the game's files and make sure they're all what they need to be, and anything missing or modified is added or replaced by the stock file.
Now that the game is all good to go, it's time to get it ready for using the D/ switch and running mods. This will work on any of the steam releases, except for Cross of Iron, which comes with ModSwap, anyway, so there's no need to do anything to it in terms of using mods.
- Go to the game's main directory. I'll be using Panthers in the Fog as an example. This is the location for me: D:\Steam\steamapps\common\Close Combat Panthers in the Fog
- Find CCE.exe and autorun.exe.
- Make a copy of both and put them somewhere as a backup. I usually just make a BACKUP folder in the game's directory and put the copies in there.
- Now, delete autorun.exe and rename CCE.exe to autorun.exe. Steam starts the game via autorun.exe, and renaming CCE.exe is easier than going into Steam and changing config files to run a different file.
- That's it. You're done. Put your mod's folder in there, and use the D/ switch, as usual. You can do it by using a shortcut on your desktop or by using the game's launch options in your Steam library.
If you don't know how to do launch options, right-click on the game in the steam library and go to properties. Under the General tab, there's a button called "Launch Options...". Click that and put the D/ switch in there. It work the same way as the physical disc/digital download version of Matrix/Slitherine, just via the Steam UI, rather than making a shortcut to the game's main executable.
Let me know if you guys have any issues. I'll do what I can to help you out.
Wanted to give you all a heads up that I've decided to rename the small map mod to the Revival Mod. I've also uploaded the mod to ModDB to clear up room on my Dropbox.
Like a previous post suggested, I've begun expansion of my small maps mods to bring the series back to its roots by reviving not only the AI of A Bridge Too Far, but also the gameplay and overall combat of it, with a historical combat realism added in. Altogether this would recreate the gameplay of A Bridge Too Far, but pushing it farther to the vicious and deadly reality of combat in World War II.
The small maps is the first phase of the overhauls for the series. The gameplay and data changes to combat, units and unit organization is the second phase and the completion of the overhaul.
The Dropbox link, for the time being, is still valid (though named differently), but after I'm done with the mod I'll be deleting the old version from my Dropbox and it will have its permanent home on ModDB, and here if anyone wants to upload it to the downloads section for Panthers in the Fog.
After Panthers in the Fog, I'll be starting on Gateway to Caen next, then Last Stand Arnhem after that. I want to wrap up the overhauls for the existing phase one mods before moving on to the rest of the series. After Last Stand Arnhem and Gateway to Caen are completed on phase two, I'll be moving on to the rest of the series, completing it in this order:
Wacht am Rhein (for the most part, the maps for Wacht am Rhein are already small, and most just require adjustments on the victory locations. I'll have to downsize a pretty good chunk of them, but Wahct am Rhein will be a faster development cycle)
The Longest Day (this one might take a while. The developers put alot of work into expanding the maps, and there's over 60 of them, so the maps themselves would take a couple days, maybe longer)
Cross of Iron (this one will be a little more work, because I need to familiarize myself with the way Cross of Iron's data is set up, and building the mod file for Cross of Iron's ModSwap utility).
Like I did with the first phase of LSA, GtC and PitF, I'll release the small maps for each of the above, then release the phase two mods. After that, my work is basically done on the series. All that would come after would be patches and fixes from any bugs or issues you guys report to me. It's a passion project for me. This series goes back all the way to early childhood for me.
True to type on my other productions, I've started development of my small maps mod for The Longest Day. You guys already know the details about my design philosophy and changes on those. Expect the same treatment for Wacht am Rhein and Cross of Iron, as well.
The second announcement is a unit and gameplay mod for all of the games, excluding The Bloody First (honestly, I'm not much of a fan of that one, and I don't want to put in the effort to learning how to mod it, if it can even be modded on this level), where I'm going to be changing the elements, units and weapon data to better match the Close Combat 2 gameplay style, with historical accuracy, with the below as a focal point, and starting with The Longest Day:
-Terrain Elements Data That Closely Resembles, and is Based On, A Bridge Too Far's Elements Data -Historical Squad and Vehicle Composition -Historical Division and Battlegroup Composition (Not necessarily what was actually in the field for those units, but based on historical unit organization and what an infantry platoon, for example, was outfitted with) -Historical Weapon Range and Penetration -Historical Vehicle Speed and Armor Thickness -Historical Blast Radius for All Explosives
I've discovered that A Bridge Too Far was the perfect storm of the small maps, the coding of the terrain elements and the weapons data. Obviously, a missing element was a much better designed soldier morale system (it didn't suffer from the whole girlie soldiers thing), so I suppose there isn't much I can do about that in the new games and re-releases. Back then, given the infancy of multiplayer, the game was designed with an emphasis on single player, a design focus that is not present with the new Close Combat titles and re-releases.
This has been my quest from the inception of the small maps mods - to redesign the Close Combat series and bring it back to its roots. A hectic, action packed firefight, and more importantly, bringing the singleplayer and multiplayer gameplay back to its predecessor, A Bridge Too Far, from which the holy grail of the series was achieved (All Hail A Bridge Too Far).
For many wargamersa, including myself, Close Combat is a beloved series. It's a classic. It has the right atmosphere, the right gameplay. It's the perfect storm on a 2D platform. In this review, I'm going to take a look at the series as a whole, starting with Close Combat 2: A Bridge Too Far, which is where I got my start. It's also where the series really takes off and becomes the cult classic it is today. It becomes the game players still enjoy to this day. Moving through the series, reviewing each installment, I'm going to give my critique of the series. At some points, you'll notice the passions I have for it. At others, you'll notice the frustration I have with it. Being a historian, there are just some things I can't forgive, even if I do love the series. As a wargamer, there are quality standards in gameplay and controls I expect, which is influenced by other games I've played and my knowledge of history. The conclusion of this review sums up my overall opinion.
Bear in mind that nobody is required to agree with my assessment. This is my opinion, and I believe it's valid, given the trends I see not only in the Close Combat series, but the game development industry as a whole.
I'm excluding reviews on Close Combat: Marines and The Road the Baghdad. I haven't played The Road the Baghdad, and it spent so little time on the shelves that I assume it wasn't a worthy entry to series at all. Close Combat: Marines was developed for training and available only to the U.S. government, as was RAF Regiment, and Modern Tactics is its successor for public sales and likely my review for it naturally extends to what would've been a review for Marines and RAF Regiment. I also won't be reviewing Close Combat: First to Fight, which isn't in the same genre as the rest of the series, being a first-person tactical shooter, and I have sparing time with that game, anyway, and can't give a valid opinion.
Now, this is going to be a wall of text. I'm communicating the entirety of my thoughts on Close Combat, rather than splitting it into multiple posts. Without further ado, let's hit it.
//Close Combat II: A Bridge Too Far
From a design perspective, ABTF was ahead of its time, but not in terms of the graphics. By the time 1997 comes around, there have already been a plethora of 3D games developed and released. Simulation wargames, however, were thoroughly beaten by Close Combat in terms of its depth and realism. Line of sight, range, armor penetration and the angle of impact, a basic simulation of anti-tank characteristics of HEAT and AP solid core rounds, terrain, elevation, the list goes on. In its time, I'll argue that the game was the definitive tactical World War II simulation. No other games achieved the same level of realism, and its impressive that the game had this capability in text-based file formats and 2D planes. Other titles were mostly operational, some higher scope above Close Combat, but in its own genre and scope Close Combat 2 conquered all. It achieved what other turn based games of the same scope in real-time, with multiplayer (which was still in relative infancy), and its own engine, which isn't unheard of in that era. It's not until the 2000s that we see game engines become mainstream and developers saving costs by putting their games on an already developed engine, and codebase for that engine. Before that point, game engines were usually proprietary and tailored for the experience the developer wanted to achieve.
From a gameplay perspective... well, you know all about that. There's just something about it. The atmosphere, the morale of individual troops, squads and armor, artillery and mortars. It's the complete package, with an AI that wasn't necessarily advanced, but got the job done. Veterans of the series, including myself, learned the capabilities of each weapon and tailored their unit selections to that, part of the strategy being spending points intelligently over the course of the campaign, where every loss mattered. You had to play tactically and efficiently to get through it, with missions that became a race against the clock. Frankly, it was awesome. Tense and gritty. When I was a kid, some years after the release of the game, the game made me feel like I was really there. It's not a wargaming experience I've had in quite some time, even in the same series, and I haven't played many games that created that same atmosphere of being a platoon or company commander on the World War Two battlefield.
An important thing I want to emphasize is that the game was designed around single player. Remember, multiplayer hadn't yet become the beast it is today, so there was an emphasis on developing a game that provided a single player experience that had some real meat to it, or the game wouldn't sell. This is going to become a recurring factor throughout my review, both about the series and the game industry as a whole.
A Bridge Too Far, to this day, is still one of my favorite tactical wargames of all time.
//Close Combat III: The Russian Front
The first time I encountered A Russian Front was in the demo. I was probably about 10 or 11 by this point, and I couldn't wait for the download to finish, which was dial-up at the time (does anybody else remember that tone you would hear on your phone while the dial-up was active? Internet's come a long way!). When I got around to buying the game, it wasn't until my late teens, when I had money to buy it myself. My Dad was still playing A Bridge Too Far, which is how I got introduced to the series.
It's important to mention that the engine was growing. I'm not sure if they developed a new engine or not, or just extended its capabilities. Innovations were still being made. The maps looked better, the functionalities getting nailed down. It carried over the same linear campaign style as its predecessor, but this time it included a powerful scenario editor. Take any map in the game, assign your own deployment zones, your own victory locations, basically a custom battle on familiar ground. It was a game changer in the Close Combat Series, and subsequently this is where the modding scene of Close Combat starts to take off.
However, this is also where you start to see poison seep into the game industry, though not yet in the Close Combat series. After the release of Close Combat III, Microsoft, which had been Atomic Games' publisher up to this point, decides to discontinue the series. It isn't because the games aren't profitable or enjoyed by their players. They aren't profitable ENOUGH for Microsoft, which is becoming a juggernaut in the software development industry. After Microsoft starts to figure out the game industry, having also published titles like Age of Empires, Microsoft crosses that unspeakable line, where games become not the product of creativity and communication, but rather a cash cow. Normally, I'd agree with Microsoft's decision. If games were like any other products, like cars, household cleaners, things that people need, competition drives companies to create more and more profitable and user-friendly products, or those products wouldn't be purchased and the company would fail.
Art is NOT an industry. It's a communication, it's expression. And when art becomes a cash cow, it automatically becomes disingenuous and poisonous to the culture in which it exists, it becomes a dishonest product, but this is a topic for a different discussion. For now, know that this is where the Close Combat series starts to become a victim of commercialized and modified art created for profitability, not the enjoyment and positive experience of the people that experience it.
As much as I enjoy The Russian Front, it's low on my list. The weaknesses of the AI starts to show, with no changes to account for larger map sizes, as minute as the increase may be, and this point is probably a nit-pick, but this kind of stuff matters to me. My experience of The Russian Front was a little underwhelming in comparison to A Bridge too Far, but its a valid entry in the series, nonetheless. For what it brings to the table, it's still damn fun, and I'm going to attribute my lesser interest in it to my lack of interest in the Eastern Theater of World War Two. I don't have as much passion and interest for it as I do the war in Europe.
However, I will say that being as there were changes and additions made to include a scenario editor, I don't see a reason for including a linear campaign, especially when the following year Battle of the Bulge was released with a strategic map and thus operational startegy was included in the series. But, this can also possibly be attributed to a smaller budget, for instance, or a lack of the resources required to make further additions to the game, which is likely the case if Microsoft didn't decide to step in and clamp down on the development team to get the game finished. I don't know if that was the case, so this point isn't a knock to the developers unless budget and the publisher were not a factor. Note, too, that hindsight is 20-20, and it could also be the technical limitations of the engine being used for the game. The idea just might not have come up to create a strategic map, or the game might have been too far in development to warrant changes to the engine.
//Close Combat IV: Battle of the Bulge
Ah, Battle of the Bulge. A love-hate relationship. Battle of the Bulge has more emphasis on realism and force composition present in the historical operation at the time. The allies have a severe lack of air power early in the campaign, which was historical situation, and can make few movements against the Germans in the opening of the game, because it's a surprise attack with devestating effect in its early stages. The Germans, conducting a blitzkrieg, likewise have a surplus of armor in comparison to the Americans in their forces. I loved it for historical accuracy, but hated the fact that I had to fight so many damn tanks when playing as the Americans. I imagine that's a similar anxiety the historical commanders faced when these events took place. For that reason, it's actually a plus. Balance was in the weapons and terrain, not in the forces available, but balance is something I'll get to later.
From a design perspective, with enough existing features and budget from a new publisher and a new developer, who would've inherited the source code of previous entries, there really isn't an excuse for missing features. The welcome addition of a startegic map is a plus, but it's also a negative. Close Combat was never meant to model the strategic scope of a World War Two operation. It's a company level tactical simulation. The strategic map for Battle of the Bulge encpompasses the total area of combat operations in the Ardennes, where the Germans surrounded and trapped American troops in an area known historically as the Bulge. It wasn't until Patton conducted a counteroffensive that the Americans there were relieved and the Germans pushed back, later setting the stage for the invasion of Germany itself.
History aside, my point is that Close Combat simulates the smaller areas of combat in a region. Two companies of combined arms forces, one company-sized force for each player. It's a small unit tactical engagement. Combining that scope of combat with the overall startegic plan just doesn't quite fit, because a company of troops in a battle represents the entirety of a division. Where's the rest of the division? Where are the rest of engagements along the front line in that region on strategic map? Don't get me wrong. The startegic map created, frankly, a damn fun startegic layer to the game. You could now outflank enemy troops, break through front lines, etc. You were now an operational commander, as well. However, since thinking about the game in this way, this odd combination of company level fights and operationalk strategy, though combined almost seamlessly, I can't seem to get it out of my head. It's one of those situations where you see something, but now you can't unsee it. And for me, that's immersion breaking. Granted, it would take a monumental amount of increased development time to keep Close Combat tactical small-unit engagements, but also include companies of an entire division across a massive and sprawling strategic map. Given Close Combat's gameplay style, operational and startegic level play is far batter suited to the simulations meant for that purpose. Close Combat IV's campaign is still fun, but it deteriorates the experience a little bit for me because of the mismatch of gameplay scale. I don't consider Close Combat II's campaign to have a disparity in scale. In A Bridge Too Far's campaign, each mission was focused on individual actions in Market Garden, not the whole of Market Garden. Battle of the Bulge portrays, with its strategic map, the whole operation at the The Bulge, rather than individual engagements within it. While you could consider the same for the strategic map (i.e. maybe it's just that company's combat in that region), it wouldn't logically be true. The unit selection screens mention an entire division, and the loss or victory in that region hinges entirely on your actions on that particular map, implying that your units are the only units fighting there and represent the whole of the division.
The biggest gripe I have with Battle of the Bulge is its far less superior scenario editor. The advertisement of the feature states that you can create endless configurations of scenarios. Yes, it's virtually endless, but also rather limited. A single battle requires that you make the scenario inside the campaign "engine". You can't achieve the same effects in Battle of the Bulge as you could The Russian Front. The victory locations are pre-placed, as are the deployment zones to a certain extent. It's a step backward, which tells me more development time was spent on the campaign and maps than it was the scenario editor. This doesn't really make sense. The Close Combat series, by this point, has largely been developed on the same engine, modified which each title for additional features and changes to its source code. Being as the scenario editor in The Russian Front was already created it means that the codebase for that feature already exists. It wouldn't have taken much effort to include both a scenario editor for single tactical battles with the same level of customization as the Russian Front and a scenario editor to make a campaign using the stock strategic map. They developed that, anyway, so why exclude the same scenario editor from The Russian Front when it already existed? All it needed was adjustments, and it wouldn't have taken very long to do. Any programmer worth his salt, using essentially the exact same engine, with a codebase that already existed, would be able to bring a feature from a predecessor game using the same engine to the new title. Modders will attest the each game is pretty much the exact same engine architecture. Every file was text based, and in the newer games it was made that much more moddable by making them into actual windows text files that could be read and changed in Excel. There's no excuse for excluding a feature that already existed, especially being as the game you're developing is using the same engine and was done on predecessor using that engine. Since development time was spent on creating a campaign scenario editor, anyway, it would've been a negligable period of time to just include both scenario editors, the latter of which was a favored feature of The Russian Front. Players would've appreciated the feature being carried over and into Battle of the Bulge. I would've, anyway, and its inclusion would've been a factor in carrying Battle of the Bulge higher in my list of Close Combat games, especially given that Band of Brothers (that miniseries is outstanding) was responsible for igniting my interest in the Battle of the Bulge, anyway. Combine passion with what I've outlined to be positive features, and I would've enjoyed Battle of the Bulge much more than I did. I love the game, so that's saying something, especially given that the modding community was starting to churn out some really good content, increasing the lifespan of Close Combat. You want people to keep playing your games for years to come? Make it moddable, give it good features that favor your players and their creativity, the enjoyment of the game. You can't lose. If profit is a concern, you still don't lose. A good product gets purchased. A good product sells. If you put in the effort, you can't lose, and fans of your games will tell their friends about it, which increases your playerbase. Words gets around in forums and message boards with positive reviews. New players hear about it, even years after, and the game continues to sell more and more copies as time goes on. Hell, I still play Civil War Generals 2 (published by Sierra in 1997) over Ultimate General Gettysburg and Ultimate General Civil War, because frankly it's a better game, with more depth and realism, more carefully and passionately crafted by its developers. I don't understand how developers, specifically project managers, studio leads and publishers, f*ck up something as simple as that. By this point, I'm sure you can tell where my frustration in the Close Combat series comes from, so let's move on to Invasion Normandy before I start ranting.
//Close Combat V: Invasion Normandy
This is where the modding scene for Close Combat REALLY TAKES OFF. The game has the same negative points as Battle of the Bulge, the things I've already mentioned, so I won't go into those again.
First, I want to mention that every Close Combat game so far has been unique in its settings. A Bridge Too Far featured Operation Market Garden, The Russian Front sporting the eastern theater of World War Two, and Battle of the Bulge delving into the Ardennes during the winter of 1944. The original Close Combat and Invasion Normandy focus on the invasion of France by the Allies to liberate it from the Germans, though Close Combat 1 focuses on Operation Cobra, over a month after the initial beach landings and paradrops. Concepts are starting to repeat themselves, the creativity is running dry.
Given what's already been said, as applicable as they are, my biggest gripe with Invasion Normandy is the AI. It's not that the AI is horrible. It's that I had to modify the registry entry for the game to increase the intelligence and difficulty of the AI. Almost every veteran of Close Combat V will tell you that the most important step to a better single player experience is to edit the registry entry in Windows to increase the effectiveness and decision-making of the AI. My gripe is the fact that I have to do this at all. Why downgrade the AI when the architecture already exists to have a better one? When analyzing something, especially companies and organizations, it's important to pay attention to observable actions and compare it to available data and other observations. It's 2004 when Close Combat 5 comes out, and the final patch downgrades the AI. By this time, multiplayer is becoming more prevalent. It's my theory, given what I see, that the AI was downgraded to push toward multiplayer. It's the only way that decision makes sense. An argument that players would be complaining about the difficulty wouldn't apply, because players have battled against the same AI over the course of the entire series up to this point. They know what to expect, and new players are tutored by the game's veterans and practice to get better. No, this was a decision by the developers to start pushing for multiplayer, which also makes sense when you compare the total lack of any improvements to the AI, especially by 2004, other than pathfinding. The developers thought they saw a trend of players wanting a multiplayer focus, but totally miscalculated it. Even today, in 2020, there are masses of players that prefer single player experiences over multiplayer, and I'm one of them. Most, when they do play multiplayer, play it with their group of friends. Close Combat isn't a MMO, and for the most part that's where multiplayer ends in this genre. It's not meant to be a social multiplayer experience in the same vein as World of Warcraft, Fortnite, Overwatch and the rest. It's not a competitive multiplayer game, either, like Heroes on the Storm. It was never meant to be. But the complaints of the AI were mostly a side complaint at this point, and wouldn't become an issue until the re-releases, but we'll get to those.
A final note on Invasion Normandy is that this is where innovations to the play experience end. No entry to the series, except for Modern Tactics, will have any changes to the gameplay or core features ever again, on this engine, that didn't already exist. This includes Invasion Normandy, which was built on the same engine build as Battle of the Bulge, and the only difference between them being the setting and theater in which they played, and Invasion Normandy has a weaker AI than its predecessor due to a simple registry entry change. It's not a step forward, but not a full step backward, either. Being the last in the series (I'm excluding Close Combat: Marines, which was developed for military training and availabel only to the US government. I'm also excluding Road to Baghdad because it spent so little lime on the shelves, and I haven't played it), it became the platform for a massive modding community. I argue that only reason Close Combat has the following and longevity it does is because of the modders, who continued to expand the game into new theaters, new battlefields, map packs, pocket mods, total conversions to Star Wars and the Cold War gone hot. It is because of you, modders, that this game has continued to exist in the fond memories of wargamers past and present. You should be proud of yourselves, if you aren't already.
//Close Combat: Modern Tactics
I'm skipping the re-releases, because I more or less have the exact same things to say about all of them, so I'm going to bunch all of those into the same section.
When I first heard about Modern Tactics, I played with the idea of picking it up. I finally got around to watching a review by TheImperatorKnight (TIK) to make an informed decision, especially being as a forum veteran (Stwa) kept toting it as the best in the series. Impressed, I purchased the game.
Let me say that Modern Tactics is, hands down, the direction the developers should've been going with the series. I say "direction" because the campaign would've been excluded if they just straight up made Close Combat into what Modern Tactics is, just in a World War Two setting, among other things that I'll go into.
The key differences between Modern Tactics and the previous entries is the multiplayer and the scenario editor. Modern Tactics introduced the ability for TEN PLAYERS to fight it out. After I saw it I couldn't help but think to myself "Why the f*ck was this not already there?" I immediately wanted to get a group of players together and slug it out, 5 companies of men vs 5 companies. It was a scale of combat I hadn't been able to experience in Close Combat before. You could finally cooperate and coordinate tactical manuevers and combat with other players to defeat opponents, instead of just going 1 on 1. The scenario editor was BAD.ASS.
Not only could you set the deployment zones and victory locations, as was the case with the Russian Front, but you could also set support for either side, designate which player got which forces, what their compositions were, what have you. It meant one player could be the company commander, the other players being his subrodinate platoon commanders. There were scenarios in the game, too, for leading single soldiers for in-depth squad level engagements for those wanting to simulate the role of a squad leader. It was awesome!
But, there's only one problem - there was almost no playerbase for it. Sure, there was still single player, but the AI was same AI I'd adapted my tactics over the years to just straight up stomp and mangle, and in Modern Tactics the AI is aggressive to the point of absurdity, which made it that much easier to just mow them down with the more realistic gameplay. Because it wasn't as well known or as popular as the other entries any potential that this new format of multiplayer might've had was squandered. But, this is also an indicator of developer laziness.
Because Modern Tactics is the public release derivative of Marines and RAF regiment, games which were developed to be solely multiplayer in order to facilitate tactical training for Marine Corps and RAF officers, the multiplayer you see in Modern Tactics was developed in Marines and RAF Regiment. The same goes for the more realistic weapons, body armor and building characteristics (soldiers can only get into a building by going through the door, and can't phase into walls like the rest of the series, and can only shoot through windows and not walls, etc.). These were concepts put in for use with military training, and the developers of Marines and RAF Regiment were the lowest bidder. They gave the government what they needed to train officers, nothing more.
The problem is that Modern Tactics was created from those games, with no other changes. Sure, it was easily moddable, with an infinite number of maps you can add from mods or converting maps from the games you own and putting them into it. But, the laziness is in the fact that developers pretty much just carbon copied the game and handed it over to the public without anything else. It was a quick grab for money by Matrix Games, and its positive features went totally unnoticed and weren't implemented into the rest of the series. But, I'll get into that.
Lastly, the realistic buildings. There's no moving through walls, anymore. The soldiers have to go in through the door, and line of sight is blocked by walls, meaning you can't shoot through them, only through the structure's windows. I like it, but the game was never designed with this in mind. Games like Company of Hereos, Company of Heroes 2 and Men of War were designed with this in mind. Soldiers automatically appeared at windows after entering a building in order to be able to shoot out of the windows. The individual soldier AI has no pathfinding functionality other than to move as a unit, find cover and have morale. There's no functionality for moving to doors and windows to be able to fire at enemy troops or AFVs. It might've worked for military training purposes, but only because those Close Combat releases were intended for overall tactical decision making. They weren't meant for an in-depth tactical simulation. It was for training officers in tactical concepts. So, what ends up happening is that the squad moves into the building, but doesn't move to windows, which means have the time you have no line of sight to your intended target. Additionally, there are no additional markings for doors or windows to indicate where they are. Until the interior of the building is shown you have no idea where these features are. Don't get me wrong. It's a step toward better realism and simulation, but the engine needs to be coded differently to accomodate these features. As of right now, there's no functionality in the game engine to properly simulate or use these functions of buildings.
//Close Combat - The Remakes and Re-Releases
Here's a simple statement about the re-releases. Nothing changed. It's the exact same games. Cross of Iron is even a direct port of The Russian Front for compatibility on modern operating systems. It has the EXACT SAME file structure and file types.
The re-releases were all marketed as, and I quote, "highly enhanced". They aren't. The only improvements to the games were more maps, compatibility with modern operating systems and graphics cards, and AI pathfinding improvements, if you could call it that.
There were no other changes. In the case of Last Stand Arnhem, which was probably the most unique of any of the re-releases, being a ground up remake of A Bridge Too Far on the new Close Combat engine build, was no different than the other re-releases, aside from bringing back the points system for purchasing troops.
The AI for all re-releases was the same AI from previous installments, with no improvements other than pathfinding, which had what I would call a marginal improvement to unit meanuevers. In the re-releases of the games it wasn't as big a deal, because the maps were around the same size, and anybody who's kept track of my research into Close Combat's AI and played my Small Map Mods will know exactly what I'm talking about. But, they were almost exactly the same game. When I checked the Longest Day's registry entry, I found that the same entry existed, just under a different directory. I changed the setting in the registry and BAM! The AI was the same quality as Wacht am Rhein again.
What this tells me is that the re-releases were nothing more than a shameless cash grab, the fans buying the exact same game for a second time. They didn't even bother to change anything else, and no concessions were made for the single player experience. This is what I was talking about earlier. The developers, as the series continued, made bigger and bigger maps, because the players wanted them, but no improvements and changes to the AI were made to account for any other gameplay changes. AI isn't plug and play. You can't take an AI designed for one thing and apply it to another. If you look at the release dates for the remakes you'll notice they're yearly. In fact, Modern Tactics and Cross of Iron were made and released in the same year.
My conversation with the developers, if I had the chance, would go like this:
"So you're telling me you had access to licenses and source codes for the entire series and made no meaningful changes? The AI is a complete mess these days, predicatable and easy to beat the dog shit out of. Why not make it a relevant opponent? There's still validity in improving the AI, rebuilding it if you have to, to make it something worth fighting against. I made three small map mods to improve the AI and found that there were a plethora of players that still wanted a good single player experience.
Matter of fact, why not include the same multiplayer functionality we saw in Modern Tactics? You have the code base, you have the source code from it, the functionality is there for re-application into the other titles. Sure, maybe you didn't have the license yet to implement anything from the government training releases, but you did later. You scheduled the releases, scheduled the resources. You knew this was coming. Why not implement it in later patches if that's what you had to do? You even continued to patch the games after their release, then a final patch across the board to make them all consistent. Why not implement all of these features in a single patch, implementing the improved multiplayer and better scenario editor from Modern Tactics into the others, then spending genuine effort on the AI to make it a worthy contender?
There's no excuse for any of this. You had a year for each of these games, then you devoted programmers to patching any bugs after the fact. It was sloppy and lazy, especially considering that the only things you did to the engine were making it compatible with modern operating systems. Do you not have respect for the people that buy your games? Are they just a bottom line to you?"
There will be some who think I'm getting a little presumptuous and overreactive, and that's fine. Given the features that were already placed into each installment of the series, the multiple developers working on all of them over time, using the exact same engine release after release, I can't find a logical reason for not improving a product for the enjoyment of its fans, for not striving for a positive experience of the players when the code has already been programmed. It would've been a simple task to implement them because of that fact. There's never an excuse for shameless cash grabs, the funds from which were probably used to fund Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen. Then again, being an independent game developer myself, I believe in giving your customers the best product you possibly can. There's never an excuse for shoddy work, lazy work. You put your absolute best into your product. Every ounce of effort you can muster to create something that respects your customers and gives them a worthwhile experience, not some rehash of old content. We trusted these developers to give us something worthwhile, to bring new life to a series we held dear, and I lost all respect for them for releasing the exact same game twice.
//Close Combat: Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen
While I'm at it, I'm going to apply the same comments to Panthers in the Fog and Gateway to Caen. They're basically the same game. Aside from changes to unit selection and availability, they're basically the same. They're in the same theaters, too. Both the invasion of occupied France, just in two different operations.
Something I noticed about them, though, was the lack of realism. There was a clear emphasis on competitive multiplayer. Weapons ranges were reduced to comical distances, M10 Wolverines can destroy a Tiger with one shot (the gun on that thing doesn't have the velocity to do that, unless from the rear. The armor of a Tiger ranges from 2.5 inches to almost 5 inches when the M10's gun can only penetrate up to 2.3 inches. This was doen for balance, not realism). The AI is inept due to the map sizes and sheer number of vicotry locations. The list goes on.
Basically, the more I get into reviewing the later releases the angrier I get. It's not the fact that I'm passionate about the game series, although I am. It's the behavior of the developers. Quick cash grabs and rehashes of the same engine with no improvements made to it for better gameplay or additional features where they're needed. As a game developer it infuriates me, because by my standards it's unethical. As a wargamer, it dissapoints me.
//Close Combat: The Bloody First
I'll be honest with you. I didn't like this one, either. I think by this point I had a bad taste in my mouth from my research into the development of the rest of the series. That being said, any review I give of this game wouldn't be objective. It would just be me blasting it from a position rife with salt.
In all honesty, too, I haven't really played that much of it. I was a beta tester, but I only played it for about an hour before making up my mind about it. I'll leave an honest review of the game to somebody who's spent alot of time with it, or maybe if I decide to sit down and really give it an honest play.
The Close Combat series has been a roller coaster ride with alot of ups and downs. I love its first 5 entries. I have very fond memories of them, and I'll continue to play them.
What it comes down to is that the series has been the victim of commercialized video game cash grabs by publishers. More often than not, the developers are not to blame for development and design mishaps and misleading sales, not to mention re-releases and remasters of older titles. In fact, I'm absolutely certain that most developers, programmers and artists involved in a project have the best intentions in mind. But, being as most development companies are beholden to publisher overlords, most of which have no interest or even understand the video game and simulation industry, merely seeing it as a source of income instead of a service to people and exists for their positive and genuine entertainment, the honest developers have no say in the development process in most cases. This is the rule, not the exception, and there are plenty of companies and independent developers that have respect for their players and conduct business honestly.
Whatever the case, I couldn't hold back in expressing my opinion any longer. In my mind, something had to be said about the sad fate of this beloved franchise.
Take care, you guys. I hope this was informative and enlightening.
Did you place it in the root folder, in the mod's folder? For example, my Gateway to Caen small maps (may be different from yours, depending on where you've installed the game, on what hard drive, etc. However, the mod folder will always be in the game's main directory, the maps and modded files inside it):
Program Files/Gateway to Caen/[MOD FOLDER] (I confess I don't remember what I named it, haven't touched Close Combat since finishing the mods)
Then on the shortcut, in the "Target" field:
CCE.exe /D [MOD FOLDER]
If the map sizes haven't changed, the game hasn't loaded the mod's files, thus the mod isn't running. Without actually being able to see how you've installed it on your computer, this is the best I can give you aside from telling you to go over the instructions again and give it another shot. I'm sorry if I can't be of better help, but I'm not sure how else to explain. You could try a google search on installing mods in Gateway to Caen, too.
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In August of 2004, Zappi, Homba, Bambam887, RedScorpion and MOOXE all pitched
in to create this Close Combat site. I would to thank all the people who have visited
and found this site to thier liking. I hope you had time to check out some
of the great Close Combat mods and our forums. I'd also like to thank
all the members of our volunteer staff that have helped over
the years, and all our users that contributed to this site!