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JAF Admin 12-12-2013, 16:37 CET
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Update 37: Cover, Line of Sight and Christmas Competitions

Dear backers,  

Christmas is right around the corner but it has not really hit the office yet. We are pushing hard to give a first view of the first sector with final assets before we close down the office for a short Christmas break. The first view will be either some screenshots, a small 360 video or a small test scene like the Diorama.  

As mentioned in the last update we have been discussing elements such as Cover and Line of Sight (LoS) lately and therefore we would like to show you what we have planned for these points so far.

Core Game Mechanics - Cover & Line of Sight

To start off we would like to outline the considerations and thoughts behind Jagged Alliance: Flashback’s cover and line of sight system. First, we will talk about previous titles in the JA franchise and what other games did, talk about our design philosophy in regards to JAF, and what those things mean for the direction we are headed with Flashback.

First thing we do is of course ask ourselves “What did JA2 do in regards to cover?”. The simplified answer would be: It’s unclear and not communicated well to the player. While there are mechanics in place, just from playing the game, the player will hardly understand to what extent an obstacle between an attacker and a defender provides cover.

As Flashback’s game mechanics are underlying a grid based shape, we can look at what other games of the genre did before us. Silent Storm falls into a similar category as JA2 in that respect - probably even more elaborated in regards to cover, LoS and destructibility mechanics, it fails for the same reasons - player communication & feedback. As an example, when moving a soldier to the edge of a truck, the game does not provide the player with a clear indication whether his unit will be in cover, or be able to see the enemy. For JAF, one of our design pillars is to make the game mechanics visible to the player, and let him take informed decisions.

Obviously, one does not get around XCOM: Enemy Unknown in that regard. Playing XCOM, the player knows more or less exactly in what situation his Merc is in, and what the effects of cover are. The four different states (no LoS, no/partial/full cover) used in XCOM which are easily communicated and do the job very well, and we will most likely stick to that basic differentiation for JAF. 
However, such a large amount of abstraction from reality comes at a price - let me say the simple-but-effective cover system works well for XCOM, but not necessarily for the JAF we imagine.

In JAF we are aiming to create a system that gives the player the best of both worlds - an accessible system that informs the player about the state of his Merc in relation to the gameworld, as well as creating opportunities for deep and complex tactical gameplay. While it will always be an abstraction of reality, we are creating a model as close to reality as possible without compromising usability & accessibility.

There are a few mechanics that make the JA franchise special, especially in regards to cover and LoS. In JAF, we have to establish how a Merc stance (Prone/Crouch/Stand) corresponds to the height of object a Merc is behind. Subsequently, we have three base height levels for objects - low height, half height and full height. The way an object's height and Merc stance correlate in regards to cover is outlined in the figure below.

Cover is based on a basic Line of Sight. In JAF, we have a distinct view direction and Line of Sight for every Merc. Instead of giving a Merc a certain cover value based on his immediate surroundings, every Merc will receive a cover value based on his tile, and the tile he is attacked from. Essentially, we draw an imaginary line from the attacker’s tile centerpoint to the defender’s tile centerpoint. If this line touches or crosses one or more objects providing cover, the defender receives the highest appropriate cover bonus. An example sketch can be seen below.

This system allows us to reproduce a detailed simulation of cover without sacrificing accessibility. In our mind, it is easy to understand as it is intuitively understandable through its approximation of reality - it works similar to how you would think it does in real life. Furthermore, in connection with the various stances fundamental to the JA experience, we create a system of rules that are flexible enough to create a variety of different situation and game design opportunities, rather than creating an arbitrary set of rules that cover various circumstances. 

So, what’s next? The above rules do not detail how verticality and distance to an object affects LoS - what happens when a Merc is standing adjacent to a half-height object and is himself shooting at a target some tiles away? What does cover actually mean for our chance to hit calculation? These are some questions we have thought about, but have not made a final decision on yet. 
Please be aware that this system still in its development phase - we have tested it on paper, but will further playtest the system and see how it feels once it is implemented in the game. Based on this, there is still a lot of room for change ahead. 

Christmas Holiday Competitions

To celebrate Christmas we have decided to host two competitions so you have something to challenge your creative minds with during the holidays. We recently released some history about San Hermanos, you can find it here, and we decided that this Caribbean Paradise should have its own flag, which we thought was a great challenge for the community to take on. Furthermore, we have had a poll running on the forums on what sort of competitions you would like to see and the top vote was mercenary competitions, so that’s what we’re going for this time. We will however keep the poll in mind for future competitions as well.

The deadline for both competitions is (06.01.2014) you can send your contributions to competition@fullcontrol.dk

See more info on the competitions below:

Flag Competition

The task is simple, design a flag that you think represents the San Hermanos and you almost have complete creative freedom. However, the flag must be in Aspect Ratio 3:2 e.g 900x600 or 450 x 300, as long as it’s 3:2 ratio then all resolutions are good. Once the deadline is reached we’ll pick a winner and announce it in the next update. The winner will get “A Special Thank You in the game credits” and the flag will be in the final game.

Here is some inspiration for the flags:

Mercenary Design Competition

We decided that we wanted to add a community created mercenary to the game, so here’s your chance to shine. We’ll pick the 5 we like the most and leave it up to the community to vote for their favorite. We will create the stats and the portrait for the merc at a later point based on the description of their appearance and their bio.

What we need from you is the following:

- Bio ( Max. 535 characters with spaces) 
-Taglines (3 Unique lines, Max. 150 character with spaces a piece) 
- Name (Surname, Name, Nickname) 
- A description of their appearance (Feel free to send a reference picture) 
- Nationality 
- Quirks/Additional info (similar to the picture above)

We look forward to receiving a lot of Mercenary entries and colorful flags :)

Team Portfolio

Our 3D artist and animator, Christian, introduced himself on our forum recently and we wanted to share the thread with all of you, if you haven’t seen it already. We’re updating the thread once in a while when the team finds time to make their profiles.

You can find the thread here

What’s next?

Our office will be closing down for Christmas and New Years and we’ll be back on full throttle in the new year, where our focus is on making the first playable sector.

Happy Holidays!

The JAF Full Control Team

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Wigen 12-12-2013, 20:52 CET
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So that the game will be portraits of mercenaries from Jagged Alliance 2?

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Starchris 12-12-2013, 21:18 CET
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Quoted JAF Admin :

First thing we do is of course ask ourselves “What did JA2 do in regards to cover?”. The simplified answer would be: It’s unclear and not communicated well to the player. While there are mechanics in place, just from playing the game, the player will hardly understand to what extent an obstacle between an attacker and a defender provides cover.

...

For JAF, one of our design pillars is to make the game mechanics visible to the player, and let him take informed decisions.

Exactly. This is what the JA2 should had have the most. The same situation is in JA Back in Action, total chaos about what provide a cover, literally there is no cover system in JA BiA.

Fortunately in JA Online, there is a great cover system, that inform player about everything, you should take some knowledge from there, but in my opinion there is one mistake or bug in this system.

Simple example, my merc is behind a half cover and enemy is two, three or four tiles ahead, standing with no cover. When enemy is firing to me, then he has half chance to hit me (this is obvious, because I'm behind a cover), but when I'm firing to that enemy, I have also a half chance to hit this enemy, because the game is thinking, that the enemy is behind the cover too, only because that, that this enemy is close to my cover. In my opinion this is wrong interpretation of such situation written in source code of JA Online, so be aware of that situation, it should not looks like. In this example I should have a full chance to hit my enemy.

PS
To be clear, in classic JA2 there is a simple system of cover and line of sight, but unfortunately it is almost useless: "END" key shows LoS and "DELETE" key shows cover system. 

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fedesog 12-12-2013, 22:36 CET
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Cover system:

I believe idea presented in the update is more complex than it needs to be. If I understand correctly the idea is to use a Line of Sight system on a 2d projection of a 3d map using a model to approximate the height of the 3d obstacles on the 2d map... why not applying the Line of Sight approach directly on the 3d map with the 3d obstacles?

If instead of a line from the center of the shooter to the center of the target a line is drawn for each targetable locations (head, torso, arms, legs) starting from the shooter eyes/weapon (3d coordinates) the problem of having to consider special cases depending on the distance of a cover from the shooter is solved automatically as is shooting from a higher/lower level. Moreover knowing what location can be targeted is useful to:
- Determine the probability of hitting the target. 9% head, 36% torso, 9% arms, 36% legs, so if only the head is visible behind a wall the probability of hitting is 1/11 (like a headshot but if it hits it hits hurts like a headshot as well!)
- Determine which locations the shooter can actually aim at (aimed shots)

Finally the informations can be then passed to the player, converted to a qualitative text description (full/partial/no cover) or quantitative (x% cover) or both, maybe qualitative before moving to have an idea and quantitative after the merc is actually moved in position.

Basically my point is that is better to add approximation after the computation since it's easy to approximate the final result depending on what the player needs instead of adding approximation (converting to 2d) before the computation and having to find ways to fix the result because it doesn't apply correctly anymore to the initial data (3d world).

Just brainstorming, I hope what I wrote make sense. Eventually as long as the cover system is not broken as in XCOM:EU I'm happy ;)

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JAF Admin 13-12-2013, 10:47 CET
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Quoted Wigen:

So that the game will be portraits of mercenaries from Jagged Alliance 2?

Just took that picture for inspiration for the competition, but yeah we're aiming at having similar portraits. 

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Shanga@BP 13-12-2013, 17:25 CET
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Hors concours, but I can't resist...

 

 

Can't think of a more fitting flag for our Carrbean corner of heaven. Disclaimer: No Canucks were hurt during the making of this flag.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Bear's Pit too :)

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iiiVaLOiii 16-12-2013, 13:51 CET
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Quoted JAF Admin :

Obviously, one does not get around XCOM: Enemy Unknown in that regard. Playing XCOM, the player knows more or less exactly in what situation his Merc is in, and what the effects of cover are. The four different states (no LoS, no/partial/full cover) used in XCOM which are easily communicated and do the job very well, and we will most likely stick to that basic differentiation for JAF. 

However, such a large amount of abstraction from reality comes at a price - let me say the simple-but-effective cover system works well for XCOM, but not necessarily for the JAF we imagine.

In JAF we are aiming to create a system that gives the player the best of both worlds - an accessible system that informs the player about the state of his Merc in relation to the gameworld, as well as creating opportunities for deep and complex tactical gameplay. While it will always be an abstraction of reality, we are creating a model as close to reality as possible without compromising usability & accessibility.

+1, great !

While I liked the cover system of x-com:eu, it's LoS system was far from being perfect, tho. Sometimes your or the AI's soldier shoots enemies without recognizing obstacles in their LoS. In such cases their beam or bullet simply goes through walls, boxes etc as if such obstacles were thin air. Sometimes you destroy such barriers with your shots without any impact on the bullet's flight destination. 

In the game Omerta - City of Gangsters,

the game tells you were to go to have sight on target:

http://youtu.be/Qnmtsh9Iuu0?t=25m34s

The game also visually warns you when you are about to run into an enemy's LoS:

http://youtu.be/Qnmtsh9Iuu0?t=20m50s

Godspeed, FC!

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JAF Admin 16-12-2013, 13:57 CET
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Quoted Shanga@BP:

Hors concours, but I can't resist...

 

 

Can't think of a more fitting flag for our Carrbean corner of heaven. Disclaimer: No Canucks were hurt during the making of this flag.

 

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from Bear's Pit too :)

Hehehe, Nice one and Thanks! :D

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JAF Admin 16-12-2013, 14:08 CET
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Quoted iiiVaLOiii:
Quoted JAF Admin :

Obviously, one does not get around XCOM: Enemy Unknown in that regard. Playing XCOM, the player knows more or less exactly in what situation his Merc is in, and what the effects of cover are. The four different states (no LoS, no/partial/full cover) used in XCOM which are easily communicated and do the job very well, and we will most likely stick to that basic differentiation for JAF. 

However, such a large amount of abstraction from reality comes at a price - let me say the simple-but-effective cover system works well for XCOM, but not necessarily for the JAF we imagine.

In JAF we are aiming to create a system that gives the player the best of both worlds - an accessible system that informs the player about the state of his Merc in relation to the gameworld, as well as creating opportunities for deep and complex tactical gameplay. While it will always be an abstraction of reality, we are creating a model as close to reality as possible without compromising usability & accessibility.

+1, great !

While I liked the cover system of x-com:eu, it's LoS system was far from being perfect, tho. Sometimes your or the AI's soldier shoots enemies without recognizing obstacles in their LoS. In such cases their beam or bullet simply goes through walls, boxes etc as if such obstacles were thin air. Sometimes you destroy such barriers with your shots without any impact on the bullet's flight destination. 

In the game Omerta - City of Gangsters,

the game tells you were to go to have sight on target:

http://youtu.be/Qnmtsh9Iuu0?t=25m34s

The game also visually warns you when you are about to run into an enemy's LoS:

http://youtu.be/Qnmtsh9Iuu0?t=20m50s

Godspeed, FT!

Thanks for your input, I haven't checked out Omerta myself, so I will give your links a spin! :) 

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Roman 16-12-2013, 14:13 CET
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@iiiVaLOiii

Cool, im glad you like it so far! 

And great, those videos from Omerate are really good. Now I definitely have to give it a go, those two features are close to what I had in mind when planning the system in the first place. Now I know what the UI feedback could look like ;) Thank you!

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alex 16-12-2013, 21:54 CET
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Quoted fedesog:

...Just brainstorming, I hope what I wrote make sense. Eventually as long as the cover system is not broken as in XCOM:EU I'm happy ;)

There are a lot of ways to brake the game :) 

I hope devleopers will not choose the path of "press this button to win" (oversimplify) especially for Cover/LineOfSight system.

in JA2 were no percentage on how covered/hidden you are, but if you hide behind a thin tree you are more likely to get hit rather if you stand behind a thick tree.

there are a lot of things that are related to LoS and Cover:

how far will caharacters see? - will it be possible to snipe enemies without being spotted (using long range sniper scopes) ?

how narrow is the field of sight? - will it be possible to move close to enemies (for example night mission) and take them out silently with a knife?

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harnas 17-12-2013, 20:01 CET
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Quoted alex:
Quoted fedesog:

...Just brainstorming, I hope what I wrote make sense. Eventually as long as the cover system is not broken as in XCOM:EU I'm happy ;)

There are a lot of ways to brake the game :) 

I hope devleopers will not choose the path of "press this button to win" (oversimplify) especially for Cover/LineOfSight system.

in JA2 were no percentage on how covered/hidden you are, but if you hide behind a thin tree you are more likely to get hit rather if you stand behind a thick tree.

there are a lot of things that are related to LoS and Cover:

how far will caharacters see? - will it be possible to snipe enemies without being spotted (using long range sniper scopes) ?

how narrow is the field of sight? - will it be possible to move close to enemies (for example night mission) and take them out silently with a knife?

I agee with this.

One does not have to use any cover indication in JA2 to be able to play the game.

For JAF, If enInviroment would be modeled clearly and have an adequate cover attributes that are similar to real-life counterparts we should be fine without any additional feedback.

imho, If such feedback would anyway exist it should be hidden from the default view. Otherwise the game would look arcadish.

just my two cents.

Question, what about bullet penetration?

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Shanga@BP 17-12-2013, 23:02 CET
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Human-scale objects are resolvable as extended objects from a distance of just under 2 miles (3 km). For example, at that distance, we would just be able to make out two distinct headlights on a car

http://www.livescience.com/33895-human-eye.html

JAF maps aren't even close to that scale. If no objects obstruct the line of sight, I don't see why we should be able to see from one end to the other of the map. I found it dumb in XCOM not being able to see further than a couple of hundred meters. 

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Roman 18-12-2013, 14:23 CET
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Quoted harnas:

For JAF, If enInviroment would be modeled clearly and have an adequate cover attributes that are similar to real-life counterparts we should be fine without any additional feedback.

imho, If such feedback would anyway exist it should be hidden from the default view. Otherwise the game would look arcadish.

I agree with this! But we want the player to get all the information and feedback he wants to evaluate a certain combat situation - it will probably be a button/key to show the cover values as an overlay on the current view. 

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alex 20-12-2013, 21:42 CET
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Quoted Shanga@BP:.. I don't see why we should be able to see from one end to the other of the map...

If this would be some FPS game - than it would be ok, but not in a tactical turn-based game.

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Shanga@BP 21-12-2013, 11:25 CET
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@alex - why not? I am not saying they should repeat the BiA mistake of showing everyone on the map as soon as you enter, I am saying only that they should avoid artificial sight range limits like XCOM had. 

In a FPS game where the map is a simulated 10km x10km actually is ok to have have limited LoS, but if the JAF maps will be less than 1km, then i expect if the enemy is in my sight to see him.

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alex 21-12-2013, 14:33 CET
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@ Shanga@BP - for example to have fair play with AI :)

if both AI units and player mercs will have same unlimited* LoS - than AI unints will spot player mercs at the moment they enter the sector.

if player mercs will have longer LoS than it will be too easy to kill AI units.

if both will have limited LoS than there is more space for tactics:

for AI units is a possibility to create ambushes, flank palyer mercs etc.

for palyer mercs a good hiding spot will be good point against an overwhelming numbers of AI.

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harnas 21-12-2013, 19:04 CET
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@alex

LoS is not everything. If you are within the enemy LoS is should not mean that he's able to spot you. There are additional factors to be taken into account, such as

  • cover (e.g. crawl through the open field of tall grass and you're fine) 
  • camo (e.g. if you are laying still in an open desert with a proper camo you're fine)
  • alertness of the enemy (e.g. enemy would not be looking if he's not expecting you are there)
  • indetification (enemies should not shoot at anything that moves, you shold be identified as a threat before trigger is pulled. Of coures movement should rise the alertness level of th enemy)

And even if the enemy can spot you it does not mean that he's able to engage you (e.g. out of effective range for his weapon, marksmenship skill, does not want to give out his possition yet)

Having said that, I'm not sure how the unlimited Los would play out in the game. Definatelly worth a proof of concept.

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Shanga@BP 21-12-2013, 19:31 CET
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Thank you, harnas, you explained perfectly what I meant. :)

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iiiVaLOiii 21-12-2013, 23:05 CET
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well stated by harnas. Regarding alertness,

after hours of guarding the same boring position the AI soldiers' observation skills could vary. 

Some may even start talking to each other what then again could lead to some funny chats/ situations? Not every soldier is during his shift fully concentrated aka sober : P

Some on the other hand, cover the area 24h with their binoculars & searchlights etc. (maybe depending on how many the mercs have killed so far during their time on the island).

 

 

 

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Shanga@BP 21-12-2013, 23:33 CET
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A night-time scenarios with semi-drunken guards shouting dirty jokes at each other. You've just hit a scenario gemstone, right there, buddy!

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