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2013-03-18 ArmA 3 Alpha support Zoom

With the new Arma3 alpha being released, here is the ability to generate Arma3 single-player missions right from your browser.

PlannedAssault supports infantry teams (including diver teams starting at sea), AI teams mounting and dismounting transports, AI mortar units, AI gunships and transport helicopters. Infantry teams are available in different sizes, and customized differently (plate armor and helmet carrying assault troops as well as cap and backpack wearing light patrol units).

Automatically generated briefing (Arma3)

Attack at dawn (Arma3)

Heli insertion (Arma3)

But... All of this comes with a big warning: Arma3 is 'alpha' for a reason: it needs testing, bug finding and -fixing. Currently in need of improvement are the automatic vehicle placement (trucks rolling over upon spawning in 'formation' on a slope) and vehicle AI (trucks getting stuck, helicopters not progressing to next waypoints).

MH-9 carrying infantry fire team (Arma3)

Ifrit and team leader scanning (Arma3)

Frogmen insertion (Arma3)

I'm supporting Arma3 this early to help test Arma3 thoroughly. I'm trying to keep up with the development branch. If it is your purpose to test Arma3, then PlannedAssault will help you. Otherwise, you're better off with PlannedAssault generating missions for your Arma2 or Iron Front while Arma3 gets rid off its rough edges.

AI diver team ingressing stealthily (Arma3)

AI crewed mortar with hostile gunship overhead (Arma3)

OPFOR hit by AI mortar strike (Arma3)

As the screen shots above show, there is a lot to like in Arma3: the weather, the infantry animations, kit customization, the built-in configuration viewer, and the use of well understood file formats for terrain (I just need help parsing the new road format).

 

Enjoy,

 

William

2012-05-27 Bridges over troubled waters Zoom

Bridges and rivers often lead to interesting battles. Also in Arma2. Recently, two new Arma2OA maps were released that featured bridges which the Arma2 AI is capable of crossing most of the time*.

To benefit from this, PlannedAssault now recognizes bridges and includes nearby bridges in its defensive plan.

One of Zernovo's five bridges (Arma2)

An M1 Abrams platoon crossing the bridge under fire (Arma2)

AI and players are given explicit instructions to defend a bridge (Arma2)

With Jakerod's Zernovo map and =KCT=Blackmamba's Faysh Khabur map, we have been given two beautiful maps that happen to work for the Arma2 AI. Zernovo is a small map designed around a real-life German river section. That rivers is crossed by multiple bridges so they connect several small towns. The map features West-European farm lands with subtle height differences separated by tree lines. Roads are slightly elevated, enabling hull down positions.

 

Faysh Khabur represents the Iraq-Syria-Turkey border area in Iraq's Dahuk province. The area is partitioned by a wide yet shallow Tigris river, with just two bridges allowing traffic to cross. The terrain is barren, offering little concealment and long engagement ranges.

 

What these two maps have in common is that their bridges present great tactical opportunities, especially for the defender. Unless the attacker is capable of amphibious assaults, the bridges funnel him into predictable approaches, as you can see from the screen shots in this update.

A pair of Stryker MGSs blocking the bridge (Arma2)

Faysh Khabur's northern most bridge (Arma2)

Modern Russian infantry ready to the stop the enemy advance (Arma2)

To make the defender benefit from bridges, I've extended PlannedAssault with the ability to (1) identify bridges and causeways in Arma/VBS2 terrain, (2) include nearby bridges in the selection of defensive sectors, (3) explicit generation of 'defend bridge' orders for AI and player teams, and (4) pre-registered artillery targets at the far side of bridges included in the defense.

 

To identify bridges I've had to perform some new terrain analysis. The Arma/VBS2 terrain files do not indicate which objects are bridges, the default location types don't include bridges, and the in-game scripting API does not support queries for bridge objects.

It isn't too hard to identify bridges: typically they are roads with water on both sides. It proved harder to get rid of the false positives: roads with water on both sides that aren't bridges, such as piers and harbor installations and land ends.

All maps featuring bridges (Zernovo, Faysh Khabur, SaraLite) and causeways (Quesh-Kibrul) have been updated with a new terrain database identifying bridges for mission planning.

New: bridges are included in the defensive plan

Amphibious vehicles don't need bridges to cross rivers (Arma2)

The 'defend bridge' order and corresponding sector (Arma2)

To identify the most important defensive sectors for an objective, I generate set of sectors around the objective and test which of those sectors are likely to be used by an enemy trying to attack, with infantry or with vehicles. I've updated this approach by adding nearby bridge sectors and giving these bridge sectors a bonus for predicted enemy attacks across them. This bonus reflects bridges being effective bottlenecks that are more easily defended than a wide sector.

 

One of the pictures in this update shows the difference between defensive sectors as selected previously versus defensive sectors selected while taking into account bridges.

 

When bridge sectors are included in the defense, the teams are given explicit orders to defend the bridge, per the usual tasks generated with each and every PlannedAssault mission. These are shown in the briefing, and in the HUD as 'new task assigned'.

Artillery fire into the pre-registered far side of the bridge (Arma2)

Spetsnaz GRU patrol in Mtn Flora/Sumrak camo (Arma2)

Modern Russian infantry manning a D-30 gun (Arma2)

The final bridge related improvement is a continuation of the earlier defensive behavior. At the far end of each of the defensive sectors a pre-planned fire support target ('TRP') is defined, into which fire support is requested by the AI when hostile ground forces are observed there. This means that the far side of the bridge is 'prepared' for a quick artillery mission. When the attacker moves into this area and, typically, bunches up to get across the bridge, this pre-planned fire support may take a lot of punch out of his attack.

 

Something not related to bridges: I've been testing my generated missions for Zernovo and Faysh Khabur using two new Russian Federation add-ons. First is Colonel Stagler's Spetsnaz GRU in various kinds of uniforms and camouflage, with and without backpacks. Second is Cmp's Russian modern moterized infantry, in flora, digital woodland and desert camo. Both have been added to the add-on database for Arma2:CO.

 

Enjoy the bridges!

 

William

 

*: Although many more (Arma1, VBS2 and Arma2) maps feature bridges, on very few of those maps the AI is able to reliably cross these bridges.

2011-06-14 New: mission generation for JCOVE/lite (VBS2/VTK 1.22) Zoom

As of today, PlannedAssault generates JCOVE/lite (VBS2/VTK 1.22) missions. Initially, missions can be generated for two areas near As Samawah.

I'm quite happy with the results of this first step: combined arms maneuvers working for single player missions, involving armor, infantry, artillery and rotary wing CAS.

JCOVE: battery of AI controlled AS90 self propelled guns firing

JCOVE: British infantry and WMIKs move up under AW-1 cover

Insurgents forming up for an attack

The biggest three rough edges are unit placement, air landings, and warnings about missing marker icons. The problem with unit placement problem is that groups spawned in 'FORMATION' (which means VBS2 selects the exact positions) sometimes end up with group members or vehicles placed on top of buildings or in walls, and being stuck there forever. The work-arounds for this problem include: (a) in PlannedAssault position units away from buildings and/or (b) inspect and fix unit start positions in the generated mission using the JCOVE/VBS2 2D mission editor.

Air landings with Mi-24 Hind gunships under fire may suffer from pilots failing to land. I'm not yet clear on if this is due to the Hind being a gunship instead of a transport helicopter, or something else.

UK infantry with chest rig and PRR

JCOVE: generated briefing shown in-game

Pinzgauer 4x4 truck and Jackal patrol vehicle patrolling

Mission generation with PlannedAssault for JCOVE/lite is similar to mission generation for the Arma series (and these video tutorials, on editing, transport and air assaults apply).

PlannedAssault created missions include plans for both sides, a briefing for the player's side explaining the role of each group. The missions include instructions and scripts for the AI to:

  • form up and attack abreast with multiple groups, in straight and flanking AoAs
  • mount and dismount multiple vehicles,
  • fire pre-planned artillery missions and AI triggered defensive artillery missions
  • fly gunship CAS missions and engage targets from a distance
  • execute air landings
  • select and man defensive sectors while hide non-combat vehicles
  • trigger and perform a armored counter-attack

Not yet supported for JCOVE are fixed wing CAS. PlannedAssault doesn't support paradrops and UAVs yet.

JCOVE: Using the Javelin

JCOVE: generated mission loaded in editor

JCOVE: Challenger2 troop counter-attacking

In order save time authoring missions, PlannedAssault offers a large database of units (groups in the 2D VBS mission editor) with custom configurations. Examples for JCOVE include the UK soldiers equipped with other weapons than the LA-85A2, and insurgents manning civilian cars. (For Arma2, PlannedAssault uses custom configurations to provide Bundeswehr mechanized units featuring correct battailon logos, and company designations).

 

I'm looking forward to explore and support more of VBS2.

 

William

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.