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#4479325 - 06/21/19 07:44 PM One area where the progress of sims have failed me.  
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Quoting a Mr_Blastman post on the Microprose thead...

"What I loved about the early Microprose sims that were pre-1991 is they were quick and easy to get into. Missions were relatively short at about 15 minutes to half an hour, and the action picked up quickly and was quite intense. Plus they had charm and character. I didn't mind the lowered realism, and knew even then as a kid some of the stuff the planes sensors were doing such as perfect positional missile track, easy lock ons, hell--even the targeting button were impossible with 1980s technology, but I still didn't mind, because the total package of the sims made up for that."

++++++++++

After reading Red Storm Rising and Dangerous Ground (Larry Bond) back-to-back, and then starting again on The Hunt for Red October (having read them all numerous times already), I desperately wanted to play a sub sim. So once again I pulled out Dangerous Waters with a Manual that I'm sure cost me an entire printer cartridge (each platform has its own 3-ring binder). DW is quite an achievement of a game, graphics are great (as a DOS retro-simmer, they really are to me) and there's no complaining that the details are lacking or that the manual is boring. I appreciate it for what it is, I really do. And one day I'll actually learn how to play it properly (plotting my own firing solutions).

The problem is, overall the game is kind of stale, with none of the old magic sprinkled in with detailed realism. So after a while I put it aside and went digging through my games archives. What I found was 688 Attack Sub (1989) by John Ratcliff and EA Games (also with Paul Grace, a name I remember from Fighters Anthology and WWII Fighters, I think)...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/688_Attack_Sub

I'm having a blast with this game, even if the periscope view uses 2D sprites! eek Nothing like getting your orders from a dot-matrix printer and then getting your butt chewed for screwing up! biggrin

The follow-up (which I also have in waiting) is SSN-21 Seawolf (1994)...

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SSN-21_Seawolf

...with updated graphics, although I've noticed there's no graphical display of the control room (see pic on first Wiki link). That's a disappointment, a small but nice touch in the first game, being able to mouse select a station. Also, I don't believe the second game has a damage screen with a sectional cutaway view of a 688 (although I could be wrong about that).

But the main thing to me (in a good way) is that some realism was sacrificed for better gameplay. From the 688 Attack Sub Manual...

================
Designer's Notes
By Paul Grace

When John, Randy, and I started 688 Attack Sub, we wanted to design a game where the strategic and tactical decisions that confront the player occur at a reasonably exciting pace. An attack sub isn't a jet fighter, of course, but we felt that a submarine game's potential for excitement and serious challenge was at least equal to that of an air combat simulator -- and given the things that today's billion-dollar subs can do, the potential might even be greater. However, creating a submarine game that's both reasonably accurate as a simulation yet exciting enough to play as a game presents certain problems. For example, a long-range (two-speed) torpedo can travel up to 40 miles, at speeds between 20 and 50 knots. Its run time could easily end up being more than 30 minutes long. If we changed the game scale so that this is compressed to a reasonable time frame for a game (say one or two minutes "real time"), then the speed of a helicopter (or worse, a missile) is so great that it can't even be represented!

To overcome this difficulty, we had to throw out "conventional" game design theories (as might be published in trade journals) and invent something truly radical. By selecting a "combat range" on the order of 15 miles, we've brought real excitement to an otherwise slow process. The game scale is such that ships move at a reasonable rate, torpedo run times are short enough to provide a fast feedback loop without the need for too much time compression. (In fact, by using this technique, time compression runs the entire game, not a simplified statistical model.) The bad news is: many weapons have incorrect maximum ranges.

Furthermore, (or, as we say at Electronic Arts, Farthermore,) we had to simplify several features present in modern submarine warfare. Some of these modifications were trivial (modern SONAR sounds more like a "warble" than a "ping"). Other modifications had real game impact -- for example, we decided to place the appropriate weapons on board your vessel at the start of each mission, which improved the play balance of the missions greatly. The US enjoys some strong advantages in weapons, and we wanted to focus on specific problems facing hunter-killer commanders, not the intricacies of weapons selection. For similar reasons, we left out nuclear "superweapons" that would rob you of long-term satisfaction. You'll have to pretend you've used them all up, you're stuck with what you have....

Please, NO telephone calls regarding the top speeds of the various submarines modelled in the game. The published data in Jane's Defense Weekly seems ludicrously low, while other sources would have us towing water-skiers behind our beloved Los Angeles. We picked what WE felt were reasonable speeds, and then balanced the game around those speeds.

Good hunting,
Paul Grace
==========

In this case, the shorter mission times really are more fun to me, while making it seem like I'm actually accomplishing something. F-19/F-117 solves this by making geographic distances shorter than real-life while having a faster than real-life game clock (as indicated on Waypoints MFD screen, updates every couple of real-time seconds while skipping some game-time seconds).

But the *real* disappointment to me is that the developer of Dangerous Waters (Sonalysts) apparently knows how to sprinkle in some of that extra immersive magic that you see in older titles (like their own Jane's 688(I) Hunter/Killer) but chose not to with their newer Dangerous Waters (couldn't find many Jane's 688 screens in English)...

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Attached Files 34364-jane-s-combat-simulations-688-i-hunter-killer-screenshot.jpg100992-jane-s-combat-simulations-688-i-hunter-killer-windows-screenshot.jpg100994-jane-s-combat-simulations-688-i-hunter-killer-windows-screenshot.jpg101007-jane-s-combat-simulations-688-i-hunter-killer-windows-screenshot.jpg
Inline advert (2nd and 3rd post)

#4479331 - 06/21/19 08:10 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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It sounds like Blastman never played the Strike Fighters games because that series had exactly what he says he misses about flight sims.

And even current day sims like DCS and IL-2 Stalingrad have “quick missions” that you can generate and you can turn off most of the realism options to make the game simpler.

Sorry but I think this complaint isn’t really valid.


“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
#4479332 - 06/21/19 08:12 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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I think there's multiple factors at work.

1) It's easier to add switchology and better graphics to improve a title/over past titles from other developers that you might pick as your internal benchmark.
This is a consequence of manifest buying habits of the vast majority of customers in the target demographic. Few people are willing to look closer at a title if it looks terrible. Even if you consider good looks as a mere hygiene factor (=people may not go after the best possible looks (they do), but at least it shouldn't look terrible compared to market leaders) you can't uncouple from the trend towards flashier graphics. Theoretically all women on the 1-10 scale should be given a chance in the looks/personality matrix; in practice men are often discarding any girl that isn't at least a five (=by definition, above average). One can complain about it, or accept this reality.

2) Great gameplay is abstract, until after the purchase
When marketing is all about the art to motivate purchasing decisions, good gameplay is a highly indirect factor at best. It's more relevant for subscription models, actually. Whenever the business model is focused on one-time sales rather than recurring payments, the rational business strategy is to focus on features that are marketable, and treat engaging gameplay as a hygiene factor (see above). The saving grace for you and other game enthusiasts is that a lot of game developers aren't strictly rational in their product development strategy because they are largely enthusiasts too. The more the market drifts towards a game industry however, rational game development strategies will be rewarded better, on average.



There's more to it, but it's a Friday evening, so I'll leave it at that.


Visit the home of Steel Beasts!
...the ultimate armor sim...
#4479336 - 06/21/19 08:36 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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PM, I'm not referring to Quick Missions, I'm referring to more accessible full campaign-style gameplay, but also the added graphical touches like you see in my pics.

For example, in Dangerous Waters, I want graphics to show me what the inside of the control room looks like, and with clickable stations [from the control room] like Jane's 688. And like Jane's, I want to see my sub docked and ready for loading of supplies, with voice dialogue to the Captain and background sounds of seagulls and the roaring ocean, again like Jane's. And I want to be able to occasionally retire to my quarters, like Janes.

Another example...

Ever did the multi-level Carrier walk-though in JetFighter III (Mission Studios)? Holy Moly!


Last edited by MarkG; 06/21/19 09:26 PM.
#4479341 - 06/21/19 08:56 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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@ Panzer - haven't played Strike Fighters, but I probably should.

That said, I still love me some Falcon BMS here or there, because it still captures the dynamic, unpredictable battlefield like no other that those early Microprose sims "seemed" to have.

What's not to love in 1986's Gunship, flying around the map in a hulking death metal bird that churns the air into cloudy, smokey chum as your rain hot death and hellfire onto melting armored corpses as soldiers scurry for cover while clutching their prayer beads? Gunship 2000 was pretty badass, too.

And then the 'ole homestead strafing run in F-19 Stealth fighter, just for good measure to keep your adversary's peasants in check after a recon run gone bad. #%&*$# those Mig-29s. Got 'em all. And now they'll pay for spilling my coffee from my camelback.


Last edited by Mr_Blastman; 06/21/19 09:05 PM.
#4479346 - 06/21/19 09:18 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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Another example where the DOS-era sims had an advantage...

You could make the front-page of a newspaper or have a news reporter "say" anything you wanted. A person was just a still graphic with moving lips, and text scrolling across the screen. With some creative coding, you could even have news briefs to reflect a dynamically changing situation...

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]


By making it real, while impressive looking, limited what could be said as it's just a video playback. No dynamic possibilities and over time you tire of hearing the same exact reports...

[Linked Image]


I know we can never go back to those cool front-ends and walk-through (TFX's pre-mission screens are far more immersive than EF2000, even if EF2000 is a much better sim). It's just a shame we can only look back at those features with warm nostalgia (like 80's Rock videos), knowing that we'll never have those uncomfortable meetings with our superiors again...

[Linked Image]

Attached Files 267878-tfx-playstation-screenshot-arcade-1-arcade-level-1-intro-s.pnguntitled1.JPGeurof_04.jpguntitled2.JPG
#4479348 - 06/21/19 09:30 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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What you guys are really talking about is “immersion” and I do agree that current day flight sims are lacking in that area. The simplest explanation I can give is that Eastern European developers don’t think the same way as Western developers so different aspects will be emphasized while others are ignored.


“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
#4479351 - 06/21/19 09:31 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: Mr_Blastman]  
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Originally Posted by Mr_Blastman
And then the 'ole homestead strafing run in F-19 Stealth fighter, just for good measure to keep your adversary's peasants in check after a recon run gone bad. #%&*$# those Mig-29s. Got 'em all. And now they'll pay for spilling my coffee from my camelback.


Lol. See you at the bar after your debriefing (can't find an F-19 bar scene screenshot).

Lol (from F-117A)...

[Linked Image]

Attached Files 1472149616-2822489325.jpg
#4479375 - 06/21/19 11:52 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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I agree with PMs comments on the elusive immersion factor. I played EAW off line for hundreds of hours and on-line with friends for hundreds more. Whne IL-2 came out the on-line experience was better but the offline game IMO was horrible. I actually had EAW installed long after I had stopped playing IL-2 .


Archie Smythe

carpe diem
#4479411 - 06/22/19 07:46 AM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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I think my very first experience with any sim was with a demo of 688 Attack Sub. My grandfather made my sister and I some 5" floppies of some small games like Frogger, Mummy and some sort of side scrolling WW1 biplane game as well as some demos. One of those was 688 Attack Sub. It fascinated me and I loved the graphic style and I remember well that dot matrix printer typing out orders and the sound of it. This was on an old Tandy computer and I have a memory of the sound not always working so when it would decide to work, I was thrilled because then I could hear the sound of the torpedoes hitting.

Immersion is what I miss most out of sims. Most sims are missing that special element of yesteryear. The old games can't do a fraction of what modern sims do technically but they always managed to do what modern sims today consistently fail to do. It doesn't seem to take that much either to breath some character into them because for the most part it was simply the way they used art and music and in game screen menus and being clever. They did a lot with a little. I even miss the full motion video stuff like in Navy Fighters, Top Gun Fire at Will and Jedi Knight Dark Forces 2.

I've always wished someone could develop a solid engine base with good flight modeling, physics, damage modeling, weather, dynamic campaign generation with plenty of design tools to create in-game, non-flight immersion fluff to flesh things out that was moddable so that we could get unique eras of aviation and military aviation. That way someone could make a Test Pilot sim out of it and let us fly over the desert Southwest in all the X planes and interesting lifting body and misc. experimental aircraft but with the visual presentation and soul of the old sims. Then maybe someone could make a Korea War Naval sim out of it.

I suppose if someone out there really wants to make it happen with regards to bringing back old school sim charm they'll do it they want and have the money. I know it seems that there is not the same interest or customer base as back in those days for this kind of product but I suspect many people out there would really take to it including people who are a generation of people who just don't know anything about it so they don't know that they may like it. Even today I see that many people still desire the old school adventure games including newer generations who seem to be just discovering it for themselves and they genre and seem to appreciate the aesthetic, charm and even totally different kind of game play that they are used to. I tend to think that if its done right, it could very well be one of those situations where, "If you build it, they will come".

#4479423 - 06/22/19 08:51 AM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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You know the sad thing is, making these kinds of cutscenes and storylines possible is not a difficult thing at all.

In fact a lot of games can already do this but the mission designers just choose not to because it's too much work to make the press videos, the news stories etc.

In games that don't have the ability to do it yet, the developers would need to add a few small changes to the code to read the results of the mission i.e. units destroyed, ownship state, etc. then fire off a trigger the mission designer has set when the mission ends. The triggers would dictate which debrief message is played, which video is played, which graphic is displayed, etc. Same thing at the start of a mission. Not something hard to do as long as the game already has a briefing / debriefing screen. Most games would only require the addition of an inline video player, code that can be copy pasted in about 10 seconds.

I'm always disappointed when I browse around looking for simulator missions and find the briefings rife with spelling errors, lacking important information or being completely unrealistic in general. I recall a Dangerous Waters mission I downloaded that had a briefing that went something like this - "Shote yuor tomahokws and KCIK THAT RUSIAN AS#$". Placed the sub a few miles away from the target with a billion enemies nearby and that was that. Hmm.

I played through the Arma 3 campaign recently and quite enjoyed most of it. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like it was dynamic, I don't think my actions really affected the flow of the game much..it's just a branching campaign. But still, most of the story was decent, the voice acting was good and so were the cutscenes made within the game itself. I disliked how the game ended, it felt like the team ran out of money or time to continue developing the campaign, but at the same time I felt slightly attached to some of the characters I came across, something that hasn't happened in a while for me with a game.

#4479470 - 06/22/19 03:05 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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Sonalyst Studios is just down the road from me on I-95 in Waterford, Connecticut.
I used to know one of the guys who worked on Dangerous Waters. They also did software for the navy. One of their big issues was dumbing down Dangerous Waters enough so they did not divulge any of the classified data they used for their naval software.
I remember they were disappointed at the low sales of Dangerous Waters.

#4479475 - 06/22/19 03:15 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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Dangerous Waters would have sold better had it had more multiplayer options. Not being able to save a mission in multiplayer was quite absurd when you realize some of those missions could easily take 4-5 hours to complete.

Last edited by PanzerMeyer; 06/22/19 03:16 PM.

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”
#4479480 - 06/22/19 03:34 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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Cool story, Docjonel.

To Sonalysts' credit, they still provide patches for their games...

Dangerous Waters
Sub Command
[Jane's] Fleet Command
[Jane's] 688(I) Hunter Killer

http://www.sonalystscombatsimulations.com/dangerous_waters/index.html

And it looks like they may still be doing something...
http://sonalysts.com/products/combat-simulations/

++++++++++

Yeah, PM said it correctly, it's overall immersion that I'm missing.

Problem is that those cool front-ends, news reports and other immersive touches (sounds of seagulls, roaring ocean and dot-matrix printer) would likely come off as cheesy nowadays (like an 80's Mötley Crüe video). We had no choice back in the day but to accept pixelated 320x200 or 640x480 artwork, some of it being very good and imaginative. Today it would have to be photographic quality and that's never going to happen in the same way as with the old titles.

But then I guess everything I've mentioned is far more important with the single-player experience which has mostly been forgotten.

#4479556 - 06/23/19 03:28 AM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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I remember installing Sub Command some years ago and being pleasantly surprised how well graphically it looked. Its been a long time but it obviously was a big step up from Janes 688i and if memory serves, even though its an older game, I think I liked its sea rendering and shader more than Dangerous Water's. I could be wrong but I remember Sub Command's water looking pretty nice when you enable the graphic option for optimal appearance. I loved Janes 688i though much of it was over my head. I loved the sounds and immersion and I liked dropping off or picking up Navy SEALs. Remeber the great intro? I think that sloshing coffee cup is imprinted in my mind forever. Man I miss those days. I wish I had all my boxes but that just wasn't something I though about. I kept them for awhile but eventually I had to get rid of them. I still have all my manuals though. I used to read them in school.

Here's Janes 688i intro with "making of" video



Here's 688 Attack Sub dot matrix printer!


#4479569 - 06/23/19 08:44 AM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: VF9_Longbow]  
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Originally Posted by VF9_Longbow
You know the sad thing is, making these kinds of cutscenes and storylines possible is not a difficult thing at all.

In fact a lot of games can already do this but the mission designers just choose not to because it's too much work to make the press videos, the news stories etc.

In games that don't have the ability to do it yet, the developers would need to add a few small changes to the code to read the results of the mission i.e. units destroyed, ownship state, etc. then fire off a trigger the mission designer has set when the mission ends. The triggers would dictate which debrief message is played, which video is played, which graphic is displayed, etc. Same thing at the start of a mission. Not something hard to do as long as the game already has a briefing / debriefing screen. Most games would only require the addition of an inline video player, code that can be copy pasted in about 10 seconds.

I'm always disappointed when I browse around looking for simulator missions and find the briefings rife with spelling errors, lacking important information or being completely unrealistic in general. I recall a Dangerous Waters mission I downloaded that had a briefing that went something like this - "Shote yuor tomahokws and KCIK THAT RUSIAN AS#$". Placed the sub a few miles away from the target with a billion enemies nearby and that was that. Hmm.

I played through the Arma 3 campaign recently and quite enjoyed most of it. Unfortunately it doesn't seem like it was dynamic, I don't think my actions really affected the flow of the game much..it's just a branching campaign. But still, most of the story was decent, the voice acting was good and so were the cutscenes made within the game itself. I disliked how the game ended, it felt like the team ran out of money or time to continue developing the campaign, but at the same time I felt slightly attached to some of the characters I came across, something that hasn't happened in a while for me with a game.


I never really play any of the Arma campaigns, preferring instead to create scenarios that are randomised within parameters, to give me the same "mission" each time but with different starting conditions and randomised placements, equipment makeups and routings. But as I remember them from when I have tried them, the campaigns are only "dynamic" in that you start the next phase of a campaign with whatever you've managed to gather or retain from the previous phase.


"They might look the same, but they don't taste the same."
#4479580 - 06/23/19 11:14 AM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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Stock Arma campaigns are not exactly dynamic, but there are dynamic missions from users. Anyway cut scenes aren't exactly arma's strenght.

#4479635 - 06/23/19 07:05 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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Coot, that's a wonderful story about your grandfather and thank you for those videos. cheers

#4479657 - 06/23/19 09:44 PM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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We tried to have that 'immersion' factor in both Atlantic Fleet and Cold Waters.

#4479673 - 06/24/19 12:06 AM Re: One area where the progress of sims have failed me. [Re: MarkG]  
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Actually for immersion, the original PC Harpoon took some beating. I remember once lying doggo in a Soviet submarine for what seemed like ages to sink a US CVN with a wake-following torpedo as the task force passed over me. There were so many scenarios from Patrol Boat right up to a full nuclear exchange. Excellent stuff and this game is still on my PC.


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