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Five Rules For TVT Mission Making

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  • Five Rules For TVT Mission Making

    Krause's thread which offers five mission maker tips reminded me of something I wrote up for the mission development team awhile ago which offers guidance for the creation of TVT missions. Anyways, since that forum is gone I thought I'd repost it here and maybe inspire some TVT mission development.

    Sam Hoy's Five Rules For Adversarial Mission Development

    I have created several dozen adversarial missions for both Armed Assault 1 and 2 over a period of two years and in a variety of formats, from long respawn to no respawn, simple assault and defend to complex counterinsurgency situations and infantry-based to aircraft-centric. Throughout these years several of these missions failed to invoke tactical combat, while others were favorably received. From these successes and failures I notionally created a loose set of instructions and philosophies by which I develop adversarial scenarios. The following is my attempt to communicate the wisdom I have accumulated to future mission developers. In collaboration with that goal, I should also warn that the following rules should not represent a list of hard-set guidelines which limit adversarial mission development into a specific standard archetype, but rather it should be interpreted as a list of considerations which should always be contemplated during mission planning, but at times deliberately flaunted with good reason. As George Orwell stated in his influential guide Politics and The English Language “Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous“.

    Rule 1: Adversarial missions are not the same as cooperative
    A frequent failing of novice adversarial mission developers is to utilize a familiar cooperative mission format and then simply replace the enemy Artificial Intelligence (AI) with human players. Superficially, this may seem like an effective strategy to make an adversarial scenario, but the most important trait for the adversarial mission maker is empathy. The developer must be able to transpose himself with every playable slot he inserts from the commander to the lowly rifleman and legitimately conclude that the player's experience will be both entertaining and tactically significant to the completion of the mission. The characteristics of AI operations include long periods of inactivity, rigid formations, standard responses to typical threats and no overarching hierarchy above the group level. Conversely, the traits of an effective and entertaining player-based operation is constant and violent actions on one or many objectives, fluid formations based on terrain and other factors, adaptability to adversity and effective communication and coordination throughout the entire chain-of-command. Therefore, it is a massive aberration to use human players and AI in interchangeable roles.

    Rule 2: All sides need to be able to win
    Another key difference between AI and human players is that human players need more than a conceptual waypoint and a line of instructions to conduct operations; humans require motivation. The only way a scenario can be both simultaneously enjoyable and tactical is if all factions seriously consider their objectives, plan and wholeheartedly execute their mission with (semi-)realistic tactics. However, if a faction's objective is unclear or there is no incentive to complete their assigned objectives humans will be unmotivated and disinterested in tactical play and in the mission in general. To avoid this one of the first decision's a mission developer must decide is what exactly constitutes a win for each team (a situation where a team can only lose, such as an infinite respawn assault and defend mission with no time limit should be avoided). But equally important is the communication of these win-conditions to each side. To avoid miscommunications summarize each team's win conditions in a single concise sentence in an obvious location in the briefing (not concealed in a wall of text). Examples of clear win-conditions include: “Deliver at least one fuel truck from location X to location Y” and “Clear the area marked in red of OPFOR entirely within 60 minutes”.

    Rule 3: Balance is the most important component of an adversarial mission
    If the enemy in a cooperative mission is defeated too easily the mission may seem anti-climatic but it can still prove to be an effective exercise in the execution of battle drills and common tactics. Conversely, if a cooperative mission is quite difficult it may represent a unique challenge that builds unit cohesion. However, a poorly balanced adversarial mission ruins the experience for both teams. Establishing a perfect equilibrium in adversarial combat is nearly impossible because the composition and disposition of each team will vary from iteration to iteration. But, there are some general guidelines to ensure neither side has an unfair advantage. First, avoid adding repair and ammo trucks, or at minimum realize that a well coordinated logistics effort could mean that one side has infinite repairs and vehicle munitions. Second, honestly consider how each asset will be used. If you add a tank, are there regions of the area of operations they can fire with impunity from? Furthermore, do not underestimate the power of mortars and artillery to ruin the enjoyment-value of a mission. If given large quantities of indirect fire support, gunners can kill huge numbers of defenders while not allowing the defense to respond. Players killed by threats they cannot anticipate or counter will not have an enjoyable round. Finally, avoid scoped weapons at all costs (with the exception of platoon-level marksmen). This is a controversial point, to be sure, but the logic is simple: High-power optics ruin tactical movement because they increase engagement ranges by at least a factor of four (for an ACOGx4 sight). So, a simple 100-meter react to contact drill becomes a much more complex 400-meter bounding assault which generally translates into an aversion to offensive maneuver which stifles tactical game-play.

    Rule 4: Every mission-essential asset needs a back-up
    If you've ever been transported in a helicopter in the Armed Assault series you've probably crashed in a helicopter too. This truism represents an annoying but persistent paradox for the adversarial mission developer. The developer must balance reprimanding teams for poor decisions and inefficient asset allocation while simultaneously maintaining exciting and fluid game-play. If a team requires boat transport from one island to another where they will assault the opposing force, but the boat becomes stuck at the beginning of the scenario then both teams are punished because the opposing force will be just as bored and frustrated from a lack of action. Conversely, if the team is given an infinite number of boats they have no incentive to organize an efficient logistics operation. There are two theories to deal with this dilemma: Asset respawn and increasing inferiority. Respawn involves adding a vehicle respawn script which recreates lost or destroyed vehicles after a specified time. What that time should be is an imperative decision. The general rule is mission critical assets such as transport vehicles should take 1/12th the total mission time to respsawn (five-minutes for a 60-minute mission). While offensive non-mission critical assets such as attack planes should respawn no sooner than 1/6th total mission time, if at all. The second theory of asset substitution is increasing inferiority. This means that when the most effective assets are destroyed the team can still accomplish their objectives but with less efficient tools. For instance, if a team loses their helicopter they may still have transport trucks which can deliver them to the area of operations, but at a slower pace. Moreover, if a team loses their anti-tank rockets they may still have some shaped charges to attack armor with. In conclusion, do not have the enjoyment of your mission or the completion of the objectives depend solely on the survivability of one fragile asset, like a helicopter.

    Rule 5: Your mission will not be completed the way you think it should be
    Another common mistake even experienced adversarial mission designers make is creating a scenario they expect to be completed in a specific way. Although a particular route to the area of operations, order used to approach objectives or deployment of certain assets may be obvious to you, as players plan for your mission they will undoubtedly approach it with varying levels of expertise and come to different conclusions. In order to limit this variability in execution, some mission designers may add qualifications in the briefing about the desired method of completion for their mission. However, this practice should be avoided because the briefing is often glossed over with these key details missed. Furthermore, simply adding a line of text does not incentivize favorable behavior nor does it disincentivize undesirable actions. Another option in multi-objective scenarios is to establish an order the objectives must be completed in. This ensures that the battle is always concentrated at the predetermined objective points. Another technique used to reduce variability is to add hostile AI, mines or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to limit the area of operations to a specific region or deny a team certain approaches to the objective. However, it is essential these techniques are used sparingly to avoid limiting the commanders to only one linear way to complete the mission. Establishing an equilibrium between the ability of commanders to direct the battle and fluid game-play is just another difficult balancing act adversarial mission makers must confront.



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