When did this game series die?

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When did this game series die?

Postby chris miller » Sat Jan 15, 2011 9:59 am

I was at one time a big fan of the "Battles of ...." series, but as of the release of 'Battlefront' I quickly lost interest as it seems did many others. It seems there has been in the last few years a precipitous drop in forum activity which seems to have followed in the release of 'Battlefront'.

This seems to have happened for a number of possible reasons:

1) Issues with the forums and mods., etc.
2) Issues with the ladder, cheating, PBEM security.
3) Changes to the game system

One of the primary reasons for the seemingly dying interest in SSG's games was/is due to a number of fundamental changes to the way the game was played (the adding of 'point and click' artillery was one of a number of changes that bogged the game down for me).

The other two above mentioned reasons are hardly an excuse for the demise of interest in the game. A good game holds its own, and the community around it will support it if the game is good. It is as simple as that in my mind.

I am not attempting to flame or be overly critical, but I miss the time when I could not wait for the next release of a game in this series. This is merely the lament of a frustrated fan.
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Postby Roger Keating » Sun Jan 16, 2011 7:58 am

I will attempt to answer a couple of things as the programmer of the series and one of the team of three who are responsible for it.

We can not really determine how popular the forums are or how they respond to events and the style of posting that occurs. There is a standard that is maintained and if things get to political, for example, we will act to stop further discussion but this has happened only once or twice over many years.

There has only been one major 'cheating' event that did have a major impact on the PBEM system. The security system uses the registry and certain other features that will make it impossible for 99% of players to manipulate. It is not full proof however. I have designed a full proof system but it requires posting to the internet which makes it impractical for current games. Other than that I feel that the PBEM system handles events very well and can't think of another game that has a similar ability.

The ladder requires dedicated support from our user base and I can only say that there has been a tremendous effort made by individuals over the years. Without them the game system and this forum would have been very much the poorer.

Changes have been made to the system over the years and each change has taken a lot of discussion, implementation and testing. Of course not all will agree with the way we have taken the system but we feel that the changes allowed us to address new battles and allow easier play techniques. This is one thing that we decide and hope that we get agreement. We do have a group of people we use to test our concepts and listen to what they say but essentially any change is going to provoke comment.

We are now in a world where phone applications determine the style of game that is made. We have tried to stick to a system that requires thought and is played over many weeks. It is expensive to develop new material and that has hurt us in recent years where we have not had the ability to do what we would really like to do.

It is very hard running any gaming company these days and many, some very close to us, are going out of business or changing their status. We hope that with three dedicated people and with limited resources we can weather the storms and produce a few more games that will satisfy most of our supporters.

Let's hope that 2011 is a good year and maybe military simulations will see an upswing.
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Postby Joe » Sun Jan 16, 2011 9:54 am

Battlefront had only 4 scenarios

Kharkov had only 1 !

And the games don't run under wide screen.

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Postby JSS » Mon Jan 17, 2011 2:31 am

Chris,

What would you like to see? i.e. an expansion pack for BII, more scenarios for Kharkov, smaller scenarios for Kharkov/ATD2

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Postby Joe » Mon Jan 17, 2011 7:30 am

My fav way to play is PBEM.

My fav scenario length is about 20 or so turns.

Number of units: I prefer to play any 1 turn in about 25 mins. Any longer and it feels more like "work" than "play".

A handfull of scenarios say 12 - 20 turns long that would be a good thing.
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Postby Malak » Mon Jan 17, 2011 8:08 am

JSS wrote:What would you like to see? i.e. an expansion pack for BII, more scenarios for Kharkov, smaller scenarios for Kharkov/ATD2


I would like more scenarios for Kharkov compatible to any further update of the engine i.e. another expansion pack for Kharkov. 8)
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Postby Gregor Whiley » Mon Jan 17, 2011 2:51 pm

Rumours of our death are greatly exaggerated. We are working on another Kharkov system battle at the moment. As usual, we are not exactly sure when we will be finished, and we like to leave specific announcements to Matrix and their PR team, so you won't hear anything until close to release date. The upside of this is that when you do hear about it, it will be close to release date!

Summer in Australia is our major holiday time, so I have to confess that faced with the choice of slogging through Russian snow or heading off to the beach for a couple of weeks, I chose the beach. It is perhaps unfortunate that 90% of Australian holiday houses are somehow situated in an internet black hole, but eventually we will drag this nation into the 21st century and solve this problem.

Anyway, we are all back at work now, and since we've all avoided living in the vast areas of the nation that are currently under water, we will be working hard.

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Postby Abwehr » Mon Jan 17, 2011 6:57 pm

I was wondering why even the tester forums went dead lately, but you guys all being on holiday is a good explanation.

My own rather ambitious scenario porting plans were postponed by testing WitE, but I should be able to find the time to work on porting BiI/BiN scenarios to the latest engine in the future, although there are a number of problems (such as the lethality of battles compared to earlier titles) that will be difficult to work around (I haven't yet thought of a way to solve them).

Although I don't think the series/SSG games are dead by any means, the SSG radio silence for about the last two years and the move to a different engine probably did confuse the community to the extend that some left. Generally speaking, I like the newer titles as much as the older ones, but I do have to say that the vast amount of PBEM's I've played were for BiI or BiN. Kharkov stock scenario PBEM'ing was limited to the tournament and aside from that I've been mostly playing/testing scenarios with Pete AU.
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Postby RalphH » Mon Jan 17, 2011 11:04 pm

Glad to hear that another battle is on the way. PBEM is the only way to go and I think that most people will find lots of replayability in the scenarios if they go the PBEM route.
I would really like to see a Kharkov 43 scenario, map is mostly done already so I would think that SSG could get that one up and running a little faster than normal.
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Postby Abwehr » Tue Jan 18, 2011 7:15 am

I'm hoping I can port the Last Victory in Russia/Kharkov 1943 scenario from BiI and make it work, although it's challenging to balance.
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Postby Delothus » Mon Feb 14, 2011 9:39 am

I am a mid 40's professional that used to be a gamer during my teens and twenties. I just recently got back into the mix of wargaming when I purchased Kharkov less than 2 months ago.

First, it was by a bit of luck I came across your game but I did do about a days worth of looking around and the Kharkov game ended up being the most appealing to me on several levels of interest.

I was not disappointed. It is a very well done game and I can't over state how much I like many aspects of it...

I am going to take the liberty to add a few of my own comments alongside your reply.




Roger Keating wrote:I will attempt to answer a couple of things as the programmer of the series and one of the team of three who are responsible for it.

We can not really determine how popular the forums are or how they respond to events and the style of posting that occurs. There is a standard that is maintained and if things get to political, for example, we will act to stop further discussion but this has happened only once or twice over many years.

There has only been one major 'cheating' event that did have a major impact on the PBEM system. The security system uses the registry and certain other features that will make it impossible for 99% of players to manipulate. It is not full proof however. I have designed a full proof system but it requires posting to the internet which makes it impractical for current games. Other than that I feel that the PBEM system handles events very well and can't think of another game that has a similar ability.
I don't pretend to have any knowledge on what the mechanics of the cheating entailed or why the posting to the internet solution is not feasible.

It occurs to me that there may be a simple way to ensure the integrity of the random variables and that there is no abuse taking place in that regard. In simplest terms, the random variables are generated by a third party and saved for a later audit- could be as simple as generating a random seed for every players half turn.

As the player making their half of the turn moves does battles or other random generating events a request is sent to pop a new random number from the third party. The third parties role is to save the random numers in a auditable fashion...it could be as simple as just saving the seed, names, turn and maybe some unique ID.

Players can't try and exploit the two easiest ways of expliting random numbers. It may be that the next number is invariant after a game save, but since the third party is popping new pseudorandom numbers for each request in sequence this won't be exploitable. And obviously they can't just keep redoing the battle until they get the result they want either since they would fail the audit.

When the player emails after their half turn a second email can also be sent to the third party that has the information needed to perform a 100% validation on the random numbers used in the order used. Now we have two potential auditors that can be cross reconciled if need be. The player receiving the game can visually review each battle, yes the die roll shows as a 4 and the appropriate CRT row was used...the second audit would be from the third party server that says numbers and order match and sends a automated email out saying the last turns numbers have no loss in integrity

One additional thought:

Whether using a seed to generate a determinstic sequence of pseudorandom numbers or clock time to generate a determinstic seed that generates a pseudorandom number, computers only can geenrate pseudorandom numbers. The beauty of the first is you only have to save about one line of information to do a full audit. And it is very robust because we can back into every number generated if we need to audit to the last 'decimal' place. If the third party goes with a clock time based pseudorandom generation you have to save the actual list of numbers too on the third party hardware. Not a big deal from disk space, but not as bullet proof as the one seed approach for each players half turn



The ladder requires dedicated support from our user base and I can only say that there has been a tremendous effort made by individuals over the years. Without them the game system and this forum would have been very much the poorer.
I plan on taking advantage of PBEM and other options in the coming years

Changes have been made to the system over the years and each change has taken a lot of discussion, implementation and testing. Of course not all will agree with the way we have taken the system but we feel that the changes allowed us to address new battles and allow easier play techniques. This is one thing that we decide and hope that we get agreement. We do have a group of people we use to test our concepts and listen to what they say but essentially any change is going to provoke comment.
I can sympathize, I'm a Actuary with experience in product development and pricing and the simplest things that a outsider thinks should take a few weeks to do can easily end up in months and extra people and unforseen subtleties ( code for headaches )...

We are now in a world where phone applications determine the style of game that is made. We have tried to stick to a system that requires thought and is played over many weeks. It is expensive to develop new material and that has hurt us in recent years where we have not had the ability to do what we would really like to do.
The phone app comment surprised me, not sure how that fits in and very curious about it. Strictly curious and not doubting you...

It is very hard running any gaming company these days and many, some very close to us, are going out of business or changing their status. We hope that with three dedicated people and with limited resources we can weather the storms and produce a few more games that will satisfy most of our supporters.


Let's hope that 2011 is a good year and maybe military simulations will see an upswing.
It would seem purchasers fall into three broad catagories:
1. Dedicated gamers with a fairly long and consistent history of play.
2. Truely new gamers to Military simulation.
3. Returning dedicated gamers after long hiatus ( in my case well over a decade).

The first is clearly the base...

The second is always important but challenging to not have lapse. For my own part I think the game management tools can be immeasurable in retaining as many of this crowd as possible

The last group interests me, it is possible there are 'many' times the base population a group of people that played the old chit and die games and not really played much in 20 years...not sure how one identifies ways to target this group but they do offer a potential bonus of being more retainable than group 2. Plus, kids may be grown now, a little extra time on hands, maybe a litte nostalgic...




Thanks for indulging me. I plan on getting more involved in gaming as time allows and I very much have and am enjoying Kharkov...

Thanks
Rich

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Any News?

Postby kondor999 » Sun Apr 14, 2013 1:18 am

I have to say that, even today, the Decisive Battles... series is still the high-water mark for computer wargaming. I have every title and every scenario I could grab. The sheer amount of detail, the excellent UI, the outstanding AI - all of this has yet to be matched, much less surpassed.

It is *impossible* to play one of Tiller's clumsy monsters after experiencing the elegance (and good AI - did I mention that?) of this system.

This having been said, may I give you some business advice?

You games are fantastic and resource-light. They run on quite meager hardware and still use the "old" 4:3 aspect ratio. So, let's turn these seeming disadvantages into huge advantages!

Namely, what about converting the DB series (one at a time, of course) to iPad? I can tell you that Slitherine has sold a *lot* of "Battlefield Academies" and that game does not hold a candle to a DB title. I think you'd find a very "hungry" market out there. The simplistic "Battle of the Bulge" has also done extremely well by all accounts.

You've done the *really* hard work already: OOB's, AI routines, maps, etc. And I know that an iPad has plenty of horsepower to run these games, since they'll happily run on a PC from 1999 or so.

This would be a huge growth market for you. Everyone interested has long since bought your PC games. You could keep slogging away on the PC (and I'd love it if you did), but I'd much rather see you guys get very rich by putting the DB series on a platform with huge growth potential.

I tell you, if I weren't a doctor with zero free time, I'd try to buy the rights for some of these old(er) PC wargames and then hire someone to port them over to iOS. I really think it's a fantastic business opportunity. The iPad has great potential to be a Wargaming Tablet (super high-res, excels at 2D especially) and there are many people out there chomping at the bit, waiting for each new title. Check out "pockettactics.com" to get an idea. I'm sure the website owner would love to speak with you and it'd be free publicity.

Anyway, I wish you guys the best and hope you'll at least consider this idea.
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Postby Roger Keating » Sun Apr 14, 2013 9:29 am

I suppose the real problem here now is that since Ian died the motivation for developing the series died with him. I now spend my time teaching college students about Game Design.

I still find that there is little demand in finding anything out about AI techniques and besides a couple of comments here no one has approached me to develop the series.

Putting it on the iPad would be a great step but I think I am the only person who truly understands the code so without my input it would not be possible.

I would like to think that this would be possible one day but I personally do not see it happening.

Perhaps some of the students I teach will one day join me in such an enterprise but I feel the chances are equivalent to (place any battle here that would be appropriate, such as Japan in it's fight against Russian forces in 1939).
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Postby Noakesy » Mon Apr 15, 2013 10:05 pm

Roger Keating wrote:I suppose the real problem here now is that since Ian died the motivation for developing the series died with him. I now spend my time teaching college students about Game Design.


That's a real shame, but entirely understandable of course. I still play these games (although I'm trying my best to get into Case Blue, I'm struggling, and it's still not a scratch on the SSG games IMHO).
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Postby mario vallee » Sun Apr 21, 2013 1:51 am

:(
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