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What is Steel Beasts?


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I have a friend I have played Combat Mission with for almost 20 years.  He still plays after I have moved on over the last year.  We hadn't gotten together for almost a year, for obvious reasons.  So we finally went to Starbucks last week and just chatted about our wargaming hobby.  He is pretty disillusioned with Combat Mission and its progress.  He has been asking me a lot about Steel Beasts.  So I loaned him my Codemeter stick to try it out.  I built him a basic scenario to show him how I use it as a single player wargamer for my own enjoyment.

 

After reading the forums, listening to me talk, and trying the game, he says he's not sure what to make of the game.  His initial visceral reaction was how cool it was to go from inside the tank, to looking out of it, to the observer's position to flying around the map and then to look at the 2D map.  But after some reflection, he thinks he'll stick with Combat Mission.  He's looking for a wargame, but a simulator.  He feels, and I agree with him, that Steel Beasts is a multiplayer-oriented tank operations procedural simulator.  I call it a wargame with extra steps.  IOW, yes it is what he says.  But with a little work and imagination, you can make it like a Combat Mission wargame. 

 

And that's my issue...it sometimes takes a lot of work to make it a wargame.  I have wondered lately after my friend's comments if I am barking up the wrong tree.  Each update I hope to see another breakthrough feature to make it a little easier to get through building scenarios for myself or letting me play it more a wargame.  I almost passed out when the "wargame" view of the map was released.  But am I wasting my time pining for these features?  Am I trying to make SB something it will never be?  Is there anyone else trying to do something similar with SB?

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1 hour ago, thewood said:

He is pretty disillusioned with Combat Mission and its progress

I'm so sorry to hear that. My sympathies for him. 😄 

People were celebrating about CM hitting Steam recently- yo, welcome to the millennium, guys. We solved the Y2K problem too, just in case you hadn't heard. 

 

Thats what happens when a dinosaur makes a popular game 20 years ago.

 

1 hour ago, thewood said:

Am I trying to make SB something it will never be

I am. I try to push it to be something 'MORE' than just a gunnery skills trainer. 

 

 

From comments from Snake, and what I've seen from some other people who are affiliated with the development of this.....game (?) I know it will never venture far beyond the turret. But one can still dream!

 

Edit - This isn't a knock on the developers - but I also highly believe that Steel Beasts will continue to be whatever their real customers want it to be, and not much else....because...why?

 

Edited by Apocalypse 31
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The "issue" with SB is it doesn't have a dynamic campaign engine.

 

It is as only as "good" as you can make it with the scenario editor.

(And that can take a lot of work, and people may not want to play it)

 

It is also somewhat limited in the number of units you can have on the "table" at any one time, anything over 4 battalions (both sides at the same time)

and you're approaching SB's limits with poor hardware.

 

However, for what it does, it does very well.

Certainly better than ARMA3.

 

You could wargame a small strategic/very large tactical scenario in SB, But outside of that you're looking at actual strategic simulations / wargames

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Well, it is lacking some things to be truely combined arms.

And some "abstractions" in behaviours and controlloptions are frustrating...still, seen 20 years down the line, progress has been made.

(hey, it started with M1A1 and Leo2A4 only)

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My musing is no knock on SB.  It is what the devs say it is and more.  Every little "gamey" thing  I get I appreciate.  But there just doesn't seem to be a concerted demand for SB to be anything but a team multiplayer procedural.  Look at this forum.  It seems like 80% of the posts are former tankers reliving glory days online.  Just wondering if I'm waiting for godot.

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I view Steel Beasts as being able to fill two particular areas: simulation of modern armor, and being a wargame at the tactical level. 

 

The simulation aspect is pretty simple: one can experience it by interacting with the interiors and various systems modeled inside the tank. Steel Beasts is the best simulator of modern armor on the market, so I won't go into this point. 

 

The wargaming aspect is more interesting. Steel Beasts requires you to apply the warfighting functions of Movement and Maneuver, Intelligence, Fires, Mission Command, Sustainment, and Protection (to a lesser extent with the last one, since you aren't facing a typical CBRN threat for the most part, barring a few select creative scenarios) at the tactical level. Steel Beasts generally works best at the Battalion and below, and is therefor placed squarely in the higher levels of the tactical realm. 

 

You need to plan for resupply. You need to plan for when you will use fires to shape the battlefield effects to support your maneuver plan. You need to have a plan for recovering vehicles that can realistically get back into the fight within 15-30 minutes with proper repair and medical support. You can do all of this while simultaneously being able to directly control any vehicle on your side in the battlefield. In any Steel Beasts game where I am commanding at the Company or above level, about 80% is spent in the map screen giving orders, regardless of if it is multiplayer or single player. It is the closest virtual product that can realistically be purchased at the consumer/hobbyist level that feels like I am actually maneuvering a Platoon, Company, or Battalion for real, and I've done all three in real life (limited experience on the third, but yes, as a 1LT I was the OIC based on battlefield casualties. One of the rare fun moments on a Staff ;) .) I've taken things that I've learned in real life, and applied it to Steel Beasts. I've taken things that I've learned in Steel Beasts, and applied it to real life. In both cases, they worked! 

 

I'll agree that multiplayer is where it shines, based on taking Mission Command to a new level. Steel Beasts is one of those unique wargame experiences where it is very probably that every subordinate unit that you have, down to the individual vehicle, is manned by a real, thinking human. Taking the role of the Commander therefor requires you to exercise an art that is not normally depicted in most wargames: effective communication. You can't just telepathically send a task and purpose to a subordinate unit and they instinctively know what you want them to do. You have to communicate using graphic control symbols, tactical tasks and purposes, and brevity. You have to do this under fire, during confusion, and during points of extreme friction. This is what draws me to Steel Beasts; I haven't found any other product that is able to consistently reproduce this week after week, year after year, with consistency. 

 

Most players in Kanium prefer to control individual vehicles on the battlefield. A few more enjoy leading at the Platoon level. Fewer still enjoy regularly commanding at the Company or Battalion level. That is ok, as Steel Beasts lets you do all of these. Just know that there is a place for those who want to lead at the tactical level, from Platoon to Battalion, and that there is much that Steel Beasts offers in that regard.

 

For your Friend in question, he may or may not like Steel Beasts. That is based on his personal preferences. However, there are those of us who play it more like a wargame and less like a simulator. The possibility is there, he just needs to decide if he likes it. 

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Currently we're held back by code parts that were written 20 years ago when we didn't know better. This is being addressed, but since those code parts are reaching deep there will be significant parts that need to be rewritten from ground up (and that takes time). Either that, or development would eventually come to a complete standstill, so it's not even a "decision point".

 

Our military customers are mostly - but not exclusively - interested in "more of the same". That's no knock on them either; they have their training requirements, they know what SB Pro can do for them, so they are looking at application cases that aren't too far away from what's proven to work. At the same time we're looking at ways how we can add new elements to the tactics aspect of the game that add a new dimension while we're rewriting parts of the code. So, for a while those new elements will be small-ish in development effort simply because so much capacity is tied up with essential tasks, and contractual obligations. But I'm trying to always keep a reserve force that I can put on tasks that aren't directly related to customer requirements. Sometimes these additions take a while to gestate. FEX, the addition of sensor fuzed munitions with the coming 4.2 release is actually just a preparatory step towards the completely new features that are scheduled for development. It's cool and mature enough to add the stuff right now, so we're throwing it in to add a fresh element for you, and neither those artillery munitions were requested by any of our military customers nor what we're planning as the next steps.

Much of the changes that we did with the minefields on the other hand were a direct consequence of some seemingly innocuous military customer demand, that mineplows would be lowered immediately on a breach route, irrespective of the presence of minefields (because, they're a mine detector that way). We embellished that by features that we can bring to the game now that the development on the new terrain engine has been (largely) completed - scrape marks by mineplows, specifically; the decoy minefields were a fringe benefit of the work that had to be added to make AI vehicles respond in an appropriate manner to breach lanes created by (possibly human operated) plows. Simple idea, but surprisingly complex in execution.

 

I would certainly like to put more emphasis on Steel Beasts as a wargame, and I think that others in the team feel the same way. But we need to establish a code framework first that is easier to expand than the legacy code with which we're dealing right now. Which was good for about 20 years, and a good approach for an acceptable time to market - we are, after all, a commercial business - but with 20 years under our belt it seems likely that a tool like SB Pro is likely to be in use by our customers for another ten to twenty years, so we need to lay the groundwork for that. I'm planning to run this business myself for another fifteen years or so; this is sorta-kinda my "life project". I want to hand over a clean house in fifteen years (which isn't that far ahead if you think about it), and now is the time to fix the known deficits in the plumbing so that there will still be a viable product.

 

Like Mirzayev wrote, Steel Beasts definitely is a wargame, but probably one that works best with human players at every tactical level rather than everything in single player mode, simply because we apply only few abstractions. Which means, the workload to get it running must be distributed over more shoulders if you are interested in those tactical levels where tactics are rapidly turning into a deep process - company to battalion task force level. Yeah, that requires you to, yeagh, work with people, people who won't read your mind and sometimes simply create friction with their behavior. But the reality is, running a battalion requires people skills in real life too. ;)

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2 hours ago, thewood said:

My musing is no knock on SB.  It is what the devs say it is and more.  Every little "gamey" thing  I get I appreciate.  But there just doesn't seem to be a concerted demand for SB to be anything but a team multiplayer procedural.  Look at this forum.  It seems like 80% of the posts are former tankers reliving glory days online.  Just wondering if I'm waiting for godot.

...leading to the question: What do you think is missing for it to be a wargame of your liking?

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The communications to the player on what is happening.  I requested these features before in the content thread:

 

1) Better message window that is sortable and searchable

2) Configurable message filtering

3) Hotspot message window (click on the message and go to unit/event)

4) More detailed unit status...ammo, damage, casualties, etc.

5) More granular and configurable time slices on the world AAR to see and learn beyond what a hit did.  I want to see what the misses were.

6) Option for active pause where I can pause the game and still give out orders and look around the battlefield

7) Automatic and configurable transport to events.

8) Automatic pause on configurable events

9) Not so much a wargame feature but quality of life...a hot key to switch sides in scenario test mode.

 

I know there are a few more.  Its mostly focused on messages, communications to the player, and being able to manage events.  In general, broader situational awareness.

 

 

Edited by thewood
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We're calling SB a wargame now?

 

I guess it is a game in a war, but hard for me to consider it a wargame when it is lacking in the most basic fundamental of war fighting....Infantry Combat.

 

Can I call it a Role Playing Game too? I mean...technically I play the role of something when I play.

 

What about a sci-fi game, since we have prototype equipment?

 

 

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1 hour ago, thewood said:

I requested these features before in the content thread:

 

1) Better message window that is sortable and searchable

2) Configurable message filtering

3) Hotspot message window (click on the message and go to unit/event)

4) More detailed unit status...ammo, damage, casualties, etc.

5) More granular and configurable time slices on the world AAR to see and learn beyond what a hit did.  I want to see what the misses were.

6) Option for active pause where I can pause the game and still give out orders and look around the battlefield

7) Automatic and configurable transport to events.

😎 Automatic pause on configurable events

9) Not so much a wargame feature but quality of life...a hot key to switch sides in scenario test mode.

 

Not out to profusely excuse and explain away things, but here's a breakdown of where these requests are prevented from implementation,

 

#1, needs new UI code first

#2, needs new UI code first

#3, needs new UI code first

#4, much easier to do with new UI code; there is however the very real danger of too much information

#5, substantial increase in RAM and disk space consumption, also was single-htreaded for a long time with the associated performance penalties (so, we made it multi-threaded, as a first step)

#6, here we simply have different ideas. Originally, I was even against a pause function. You don't get to pause in real life to consider your options. You have to decide under time pressure, and not deciding in time is a decision too. Also, sometimes you won't even know that you were under time pressure until after it's too late.

#7, much easier to do with new UI code

#8, much like #6

#9, fair enough but probably not the most pressing issue either

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1 minute ago, Ssnake said:

substantial increase in RAM and disk space consumption, also was single-htreaded for a long time with the associated performance penalties (so, we made it multi-threaded, as a first step)

 And I as I have stated in the content thread.  Make it configurable.  Even put in hard limits based on RAM and storage.  I have to assume the current system was put in place when RAM was typically 2-4Gb and HD storage was still measured in 100s of Mb.

 

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9 minutes ago, Hedgehog said:

Might make the sce editor a good learning space for new users of SB?

 

Maybe we can stop putting the ownership on the players to use the sce editor and produce content?

 

It is clearly not something people want to do - based on the frequency and amount of content that is produced.

 

DCS does this same thing and it is really irritating - (here's your 3 tutorial missions, now have fun with the $60 aircraft you just purchased with no missions to play!)

Edited by Apocalypse 31
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6 hours ago, Lt DeFault said:

I like making missions for myself.

Exactly.  Things like pause and and the hot key switch are important time savers.  I make scenarios for myself to play out situations of mod a scenario I downloaded for my own enjoyment.  Locking potential features out of the development roadmap because you want to force the player to play a specific way in the execution side of the game is frustrating as a player.  The scenario editor isn't a beginners tool and should be promoted as one.  But it is an awesome intermediate tool for players that can't find scenarios they like.  It just reinforces that the game is built for just a small clique of multiplayer players.

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Steel Beasts is a unique system in that it combines realism to simulation.  No campaigns, no roleplay, no crazy imagination.  It's the closest thing to being in the military without being in one.  True in that it caters to a small fan base, but one has to remember this was a military training simulator that was later commercialized for public use.  Yet, the game can easily be played by one person depending on the scenario.  There is so much more to it than just gunnery.  This is a very complex simulator that is equal to Command Modern Operations which requires research, training (practice), knowledge, and a bit of skill.  By no means was SB ever meant to be a shoot-em-up, which is why I have supported this game for well over fifteen years.  Could it be better?  Absolutely.  Could it be worse?  You darned right.  Despite whatever shortcomings SB has, I wouldn't trade this for any other tank game that ever existed or currently exists.  In conclusion, SB is the poo.  SB either wows you or it doesn't.  

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29 minutes ago, thewood said:

I mean on the commercial side.  JUst so you are clear, I am referring to the commercial gaming side.

There's no difference. 

 

PE = PRO with less features. 

 

The primary focus for development is FOR those military contracts. 

Edited by Apocalypse 31
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16 hours ago, Ssnake said:

(...) At the same time we're looking at ways how we can add new elements to the tactics aspect of the game that add a new dimension while we're rewriting parts of the code. So, for a while those new elements will be small-ish in development effort simply because so much capacity is tied up with essential tasks, and contractual obligations. (...)


Hi Ssnake,

Which new tactical elements would you dream to add over the next years ? 
(dream = no promises, no guarantees, no roadmaps, just dreams)

Tx !

 

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3 hours ago, RedWardancer said:

one has to remember this was a military training simulator that was later commercialized for public use.

Uh, no, we started with a game (although we considered a secondary role in training more or less from the start, just didn't expect that it would eventually dominate our business).

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3 hours ago, Apocalypse 31 said:

The primary focus for development is FOR those military contracts.

The primary focus is to keep Steel Beasts as a viable product for the next two decades. Military development contracts are, in this context, a necessary evil to keep the show going. It remains to be seen if a realistic tank game like GHPC can also be popular enough to support a larger development team for an extended period while retaining its focus on realism. Also, we wouldn't see modern equipment in SB Pro without access to those contemporary systems, and access to those systems is granted only if you generate value for the owners.

 

Without those maligned military contracts there would have been Steel Beasts 1.x, and the story would have ended right there.

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