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2013-04-15 Getting better at generating missions, CWR2 beta units and Project 82 Pucara units Zoom

"Cannot find maneuver space to execute a coordinated attack...". If PlannedAssault fails to generate a mission, it most frequently is for this "lack of maneuver space" reason. In case of eight 4-tank platoons being asked to attack through a single valley in Takistan, it's hard to blame the mission planner. However, in some other cases, the planner wasn't seeing all the options available.

Form-up position candidates for unit Hotel

Checking form-up positions for crossing routes

CWR2's M2A2 Bradley in combat (Arma2)

I've just updated the planner behind PlannedAssault with a new set of algorithms to identify and select the most promising form-up positions and avenues of attack. The new approach takes into account more candidate form-up positions which also have higher quality. It balances multiple prongs in a joint attack better. This improvement applies to all supported games and simulators, from Arma1 to Arma3, Iron Front and any VBS.

And, most important, it is better at finding maneuver space. It is successful more often based on off-line runs against 100s of your missions.

 

In the first two images above, you'll get a glimpse of the new approach. The image on the left shows potential form-up positions for combat unit Hotel and its transport (not shown), along with course avenues-of-approach to the objective. The image in the center illustrates a sanity check performed when picking form-up positions for multiple units; when a combination of form-up positions leads to units crossing each other towards the form-up, this combination is rejected.

Column of CWR2's new T-64s and BRMD-2s (Arma2)

A CWR2 OH-58/AH-64 hunter killer team (Arma2)

CWR2 SAS engaging P82 Pucara with Stinger (Arma2)

This update also brings a few new (Cold War era) units to the unit database. Ready for inclusion in your mission are new additions to the Cold War Rearmed 2 (CWR2) add-on: the M2A2 Bradley IFV, the OH-58 Kiowa scout helicopter, and Warsaw Pact T-64 tanks and the BRDM-2 family of recon/HQ vehicles.

 

Also new is the Argentine FMA IA-58A Pucara by Foxtrot, which combines nicely with the CWR2 UK forces.

 

Enjoy,

 

William

2010-10-12 Air assault! Zoom

Air Assault! From now on you can include air assaults in your single player Arma2 (and Arma) missions generated here with PlannedAssault. That's in addition to the existing mission ingredients such as multi-group maneuvers, flanking attacks, planned and reactive air strikes and artillery missions, defensive counter attacks, battlefield transport, ...

 

Creating an air assault mission is even easier than creating a ground attack. Instead of positioning your infantry units on the map (which is demonstrated here), you place them in the air cargo area underneath the map. Just make sure to place the BLUFOR unit icons in the 'WEST' air cargo area on the right, and the OPFOR unit icons in the 'EAST' air cargo area on the left. PlannedAssault takes it from there, and generates a mission where these units start on a transport aircraft traveling towards a landing zone. More on that below.

 

When creating your mission, you receive information about cargo capacity, remaining capacity and over-allocation in the info box underneath the PlannedAssault logo. Over-allocation problems can be fixed by picking smaller infantry units, by adding air transport units or by placing some infantry units on the map (so they will have to march or ride to an assembly area rather than fly).

Air assaults are not generated for the defending force (who has an 'Hold' objective). The planner will throw a failure message if you use air cargo units with an 'Hold' objective.

Delta Force teams being inserted in a shared LZ

Web editor UI extended with air cargo positions

Information about transport capacity and infantry head count...

What you get for units placed in 'air cargo' is the following: infantry units start on board of a transport aircraft. Unit assignment to aircraft units is automatic yet predictable, offering you control: the mission generator loads units in order of call sign on the first transport it comes across, and continues with the next units and transports. Up to four units are loaded on a transport unit. Individual assignments of men to aircraft are fully automatic, with groups loaded as a whole in single aircraft when possible, and groups evenly distributed across multiple aircraft when a split up is required.

 

The most appropriate landing zones near the objective are automatically identified, and ingress and egress routes are plotted. Once the preventive strikes (air strikes or artillery missions if you've chosen ground attack aircraft or artillery units) are under way, the transport aircraft fly in formation to the landing zone. They do so in stealth mode, thus with lights off, in order not to give away their position or cause problems to those wearing night vision goggles. The ingress (and egress) routes are plotted to not traverse the objective and to use terrain to mask the approach.

Aircraft will touch down fully (to avoid Arma2 problems) and unload their cargo. Helicopters will leave as soon as the cargo have moved to their designated 'get out' location. After lifting off, the aircraft fly back to their starting position.

Several Delta Force teams ingressing with Little Birds

VDV infantry disembarking from an Mi-8

Yes, that's an air assault mission genereated for Arma 1

Air assaults are dangerous in reality and perhaps even more so in Arma2. Be prepared to receive casualties, lose aircraft or run into Murphy's law otherwise. Based on testing and tweaking air assault mission parameters, here are some recommendations to improve your chances:

  • If the AI is doing the flying, Little Birds can manage all kinds of terrain. Wildcat Lynxes, Mi-8 Hips handle most terrain. Chinooks have a huge turning radius and should be used with care. Blackhawks are problematic. Stay away from Ospreys.
  • In complex terrain or with large aircraft, don't have the aircraft start near each other, so their ingress routes don't overlap and they don't run into each other.

Between last week's post and this one, I've had to rework the AI's landings from hovering above the ground to touching down. Arma2's aircraft currently don't maintain formation when landing, and either during unloading frequently collide or lift off before all passengers have disembarked. This problem is much smaller when I make aircraft touch down fully, hence the change.

In addition, I've added an increased flying height ('setFlyInHeight') for most aircraft to compensate for the deep dives helicopters may perform to avoid collisions when flying in formation.

Since aircraft behavior still is a tricky thing in Arma2, I'd to hear your successes and disasters PlannedAssault forum thread.

An US Army Chinook in a (too) hot LZ

Mi-8 Hip section ingressing stealthily

Night landing of Mi-8 and VDV lit up by nearby explosion

I've had a great time creating and testing air assaults. I hope you will too in your air assault missions!

 

William (now running the web UI and planner with versions 1.38 and 1.50 respectively)

2010-01-08 Arma II support: new task assigned Zoom

Another large update: PlannedAssault now supports Arma II in addition to Armed Assault. This post details what is supported, what's been added to the mission generator, and what is left for future updates.

 

The following areas were picked for mission planning.

  • 'Vybor': The smooth and rolling hills surrounding Vybor make great tank country, and are ideal for large armor maneuvers.
  • 'Chernogorsk': the city of Chernogorsk and the hills north of it offer opportunities for infantry to sneak up on armor.
  • 'Utes main island': the island isn't big, but still great for infantry fights.

I've experimented with Chernarus' northeast area (Krasnostav - Olsha - Guba bay). The ArmaII AI isn't successful in finding paths from Guba bay to Krasnostav for vehicles, probably because of the dense forests. Missions in that area are likely to dissappoint, so I've not added Kranostav area.

 

Parsing the ArmaII maps wouldn't be possible without Mikero's work on PboDLL. The PboDLL source code and adapted LZO library provided all the information necessary to adapt my ".wrp" parser for OWRP24 files. Great job!

Vybor's rolling country side

Chernogorsk city between the sea and the hills

Utes island

ArmaII offers the player a more structured briefing and details the tasks towards mission completion for the player's group. Especially these tasks are a great means to instruct the player on what is expected of his group, as part of a larger coordinated attack. I've extended PlannedAssault's mission generator back-end to generate tasks for all the groups on the player' side, and update the current task based on waypoint progress. The briefing and tasks also reflect team switches, which is illustrated below.

Briefing in ArmaII's diary format.

New task assigned to Bravo on dismounting Delta's LAV-25s.

Tasks for Bravo USMC infantry squad.

Tasks for Charlie USMC LAV-25 IFV section.

Tasks for Echo USMC M1A2 tank section.

Tasks for Foxtrot USMC Avenger air defense section.

An example mission showing the use of briefings and (dynamic) task assignments as part of the generated mission can be downloaded here.

 

For Armed Assault (Arma I) missions, PlannedAssault uses 'Mando Bombs Arma' scripts for fixed wing ground attacks, and Viper's artillery mod for artillery missions. For Arma II, at this time of writing there are no means to make aircraft perform one or two CAS runs before returning to station. The standard 'seek and destroy' OFP/Arma/ArmaII waypoint behavior makes aircraft linger above the hostile forces until all threats have been taken out, even if the aircraft has run out of its main weapons to engage ground targets. That's not a sound way to deploy multi-million dollar aircraft.

 

To address this (and the absence of Mando bombs for Arma II), I've added a small script that supervises aircraft on a 'seek and destroy' task and sends them back to station after a given number of bombs and/or ATGMs have been fired.

 

Artillery support is now integrated in Arma II via the module system. I've post-poned supporting modules for this update (but look forward to dealing with modules soon).

 

The planner and web site now run versions 0.99 and 1.0.3 respectively.

2009-11-21 Multi-pronged and flanking attacks Zoom

After an upgrade of the AI attack advisor, PlannedAssault creates multi-pronged attacks including flanking attacks. Choosing a two pronged attack, flanking or straight, is as easy as picking the corresponding type of 'Clear' objective.

For a two group attack, the planner looks to the positions of ground combat units and transports in order to determine the groups. You control group assignment by placing units close to those units with whom it should form a group, and far from other units.

 

Fire support units, such close air support and artillery units, are not split across the two groups and thus can freely be placed on the map.

With the groups chosen, the planner splits the objective into just as many objective areas as there are attack groups. For each group, the planner will construct multiple avenues of approach into the objective area, taking into account formation width and attack direction relative to the main attack. Finally, the planner will evaluate the combinations of each group's avenues of approach, and pick the most optimal one, based on criteria such as separation (we don't want the groups to run into each other during the attack) and relative approach angles.

Technically, the AI attack advisor is capable of N-group attacks, with multiple direct and flank attacks. For the time being, the advisor is locked down to N = 2, thus just two prongs. Three and more prongs consume more compute power, and offer little benefit for 8-unit missions.

 

A zip file containing the three variants of this mission (with the player being an observer) is available here. Vanilla Arma suffices to run this mission.

 

The planner and web site now run versions 0.97 and 1.0.2 respectively.