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2013-10-27 Mechanized attacks: dismount on contact, behind smoke screens (Arma2*, Iron Front, Arma3) Zoom

Ever played a mission as a soldier, boxed into a claustrophobic APC/IFV, without seeing where you go? And then being ordered to dismount, disembarking into confusing situation with bullets flying and smoke obscuring much of the situation?

Now you can! And with your favorite units in any Arma2, in Iron Front:Liberation 1944, and in Arma3.

AI commander orders to dismount from Stryker (Arma2)

Covered by the Stryker's smoke screen, infantry dismounts (Arma2)

Armor advancing behind an infantry screen into town (Arma3)

Until today, PlannedAssault offered one flavor of ground attacks: dismounted attacks. Infantry might have traveled with trucks, APCs, or IFVs to the form-up point, but they always would continue on foot, advancing to the objective and attacking through the objective.

 

Panzergrenadiers riding their panzers for speed and protection (IF44)

Wehrmacht tank riders disembarking, throwing smoke grenades (IF44)

Wehrmacht tank riders advancing after disembarking (IF44)

Now, a second flavor of ground attacks has been added: mechanized attacks. For teams with with sufficient space in the armored personnel carriers (APCs, IFVs) to transport the infantry, PlannedAssault will now prefer to mount the infantry early in the mission and start the attack with infantry still mounted. This will result in faster, more exciting missions, and in engagements that start quicker and more violent.

The infantry will be kept mounted all the way to the objective, unless threats are spotted within 400m (RPG range, 300m for WWII). When close-by threats are spotted, the APCs/IFVs will order their infantry to disembark and the infantry will screen ahead of the armor to suppress anti-tank teams / guns.

Once at the objective, the infantry will disembark if it didn't do so already. The infantry and armor will continue to attack abreast.

A grenade smoke screen concealing infantry dismounting (Arma3)

A vehicle smoke screen concealing infantry dismounting (Arma3)

Modern Russian Federation MSV infantry dismounting at dusk (Arma2)

When the infantry is ordered to get out on contact, they will be given a smoke screen to conceal their dismounting. When the APCs / IFVs are equipped with smoke launchers*, the vehicles will provide the smoke screen. When the APCs lack smoke launchers, the first infantry men disembarking will throw smoke grenades to conceal their fellow dismounts during the dismounting.

These smoke screens add a lot to the battle.

RHS's Armed Forces of the Russian Federation MSV BTR-70 (Arma2)

MSV infantry and their BTR-70 advance together (Arma2)

Mechanized infantry disembarking under smoke in an ambush (Arma2)

The Arma2CO unit database has been updated with armor and MSV infantry for the RHS Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.

 

William

 

*: At this time, Arma3 vehicles are still very prone to getting stuck, halting the movement (and mission).

**: Many APCs / IFVs in Arma2 and IF44 lack the configuration to use their smoke launchers: you can see the launchers on the vehicle models, but you cannot fire them (and neither can the AI). Specifically many of the P85, BWMod, RHS APCs lack functional smoke launchers.

2013-06-18 Medics, ambulances, wounded state and first-aid for Arma2*, Iron Front:1944 Zoom

More diversity and chaos in the missions you can build here at PlannedAssault! New is the option to enable injuries, dragging and first-aid in your missions for Arma2 and Iron Front:1944.

To enable this option, on the "Add-ons" tab of your mission, just scroll down to the 'Logic/systems add-ons' and tick either the Arma2:CO First Aid module, or DAP's AI First Aid Support module. Continue to build your mission as usual, perhaps throwing in an additional 'ambulance' unit...

UK cold war soldier dragging crew member (Arma2)

US Army medic and M1133 Stryker MEV (Arma2)

Bundeswehr M113 ambulances hurrying to provide assistance (Arma2)

Arma2, from its launch, features three modules that together add a 'wounded' state, enable dragging of wounded soldiers, enable requests for assistance from ambulances and add first-aid actions. These modules (or their Arma2 community-made alternative: DAP's First Aid Support module) aren't perfect, but they add a whole new feel to battles.

PlannedAssault will take care of the placing the necessary modules in your mission, and synchronizing all relevant units to these modules.

 

Be warned though that the first-aid behavior resulting from Arma2's modules has some rough edges. Medics seemingly only heal their squad members, and occasionally prefer to fight distant threats instead of offering casualty care to nearby friendlies.

I haven't found the time to check out (and make provisions for) ACE2's first-aid system.

Bundeswehr M113 ambulance disembarking (Arma2)

US Army medic providing first aid (Arma2)

Bundeswehr sanitaeter having just disembarked (Arma2)

Since Iron Front:1944 is built on Arma2, it offers the same first-aid capabilities. So I have added the ambulances for the Red Army, Wehrmacht and US Army, and assigned additional medics (or Sanitaeter) to these ambulances.

 

To prevent ambulances from being the first unit to arrive in a FUP (form-up position), I've added delays (wait tasks) for ambulance units, based on their travel time compared to the travel time of combat units. This is something to keep in mind when playing a mission as medic or ambulance driver.

Wounded Wehrmacht soldiers waiting for a Sanitaeter (Arma2)

Wehrmacht Opel Blitz Sanka (IF44)

Wehrmacht sanitaeter providing first aid (IF44)

Having now had the opportunity to play missions from a medic, Sanitaeter or combat life saver perspective, I should have added support for first-aid sooner. Anyway, here it is.

 

Enjoy,

 

William

 

p.s. I've updated the Arma3 unit database to the lastest alpha, now including sniper units and more cargo space in the MH-9 BLUFOR helicopter.

2013-02-14 Better defense: spread out more, concealed better, and covering the avenues of approach (Arma2OA/CO, IronFront) Zoom

The past couple of weeks have been spent improving the AI's defense in PlannedAssault's missions, and now the results are hard to spot!

 

As the first screen shot makes clear (can you spot the two concealed and spread out M1036 TOW HMMWVs?), attacking a position becomes a lot more interesting when it is properly defended. With PlannedAssault-generated missions now offering stronger defense for Arma2OA/CO and Iron Front missions, I'd like to explain the changes.

Two TOW vehicles spread out amidst trees and buildings (Arma2)

Planner input: the position to defend

Planner analysis: likely threat avenues of approach

The improvements in defense mainly come from a combination of terrain and threat analysis (as performed during mission planning, by PlannedAssault) and better position selection (as performed by a new script during as part of the mission itself), as follows:

  1. In the mission planner, the position to defend, and the likely position of hostile forces are analyzed.
  2. In the mission planner, the defensive position is partitioned in 'pizza slice' sectors. Potential threat avenues of approaches are generated, and analyzed for traversing a defensive sector's front or area.
  3. Finally, the mission planner selects the key sectors to defend based on expected threat movement. The defending forces are assigned to those sectors in a way that best matches the expected threat type for the sector. Sectors likely to be used by hostile (armored) vehicles are preferably defended by tanks or units with an 'heavy AT' capability. Sectors likely to be used by hostile infantry are preferably defended by IFVs and infantry.

Planner analysis: chosen sectors and allocated forces

Generated mission: sectors and threat avenue of approach

In game: candidate vehicle positions in Keiler's sector

  1. During the generated mission, the defenders each are ordered to move into their sectors. For each sector, the mission planner has included in the mission a list of positions representing the likely threat avenues of approach (see the black dots in image #4). Once the defending unit arrives in his sector, he will use this list of positions to pick the most suited defensive positions.
  2. As soon as the defending unit arrives in sector, a newly developed script is triggered. This script first generates number of candidate positions inside the sector that are suited to hosting the unit's vehicles/men: empty positions for vehicles near houses/trees, and bush / forest edge positions for infantry.
  3. This script then tests each of the candidate position for having lines-of-fire onto the threat avenue of approach positions, and for being placed central and deep in the sector. The most suited candidate position then is selected, neighboring positions are culled, and the next best position is selected for the next vehicle. Rinse and repeat. This yields nicely spread out positions in the sector.

In game: chosen vehicle positions from the candidates: spread out...

In game: the result, one of the Keiler group vehicles positioned

In game: the result (continued): another vehicle from Keiler's group

  1. This script finally sends each vehicle to its individual battle position and orders it to orient itself towards the threat avenue of approach. Image #7 shows the result: a hard to spot Bundeswehr Jaguar tank destroyer positioned near and in front of houses. He has a good view at the road where hostile forces are expected, while at these hostile forces will have troubles spotting him. (The pink floating ghost HMMWV is a debugging marker I use to be able to easily spot assigned vehicle positions - you won't see it in generated missions).
  2. Image #8 shows a second vehicle from the same Jaguar tank destroyer platoon being positioned 50m east wards, covering the second incoming road in the platoon's sector. (Again, the pink floating HMMWV is a debugging marker to facilitate spotting the Jaguar, and isn't shown in generated missions).

AAVP platoon spreading out to cover two access roads (A2CO)

Better positioned defenders: the attacker's perspective... (A2CO)

Dangerous crossing: road sections covered by Milan gunner (A2CO)

Once positioned, a defending group will remain in position until (a) triggered to fall back to a 'GUARDED_BY' trigger position or (b) engaged by an enemy. It retains its traditional dynamic (GUARD) defensive behavior.

With these changes, defenders will occupy better positions offering more visibility and lines-of-fire into potential threat avenue of approaches, while occupying less conspicuous positions and spreading out vehicles better. Also, static vehicles with anti-tank capabilities will keep their crew fighting for longer after being hit.

 

Please remember, this is still Arma2's AI, which means some things cannot be controlled from my new defensive positioning script. In particular, armored vehicles cannot be told to face a specific direction with their hull and turret, and they risk being recalled into 'formation' if the group's lead vehicle is late moving into position...

 

However, the script is effective most of the time, an improvement over the vanilla defensive behavior, and a gap filler until the time Arma's AI receives an understanding of battle positions like Steel Beasts does.

 

Key ingredients in the defensive positioning script are the selectBestPlaces, findEmptyPosition, lineIntersects and terrainIntersect(ASL) commands. They are the reason this improvement is implemented for Arma2:OA, Arma2:CO and IronFront but not for Arma, JCOVE, and VBS2 1.x.

I should be able to make this work for VBS2 2.0 as soon as BI Simulations releases the VBS2 2.0 upgrade for my PE license.

 

William

2012-12-23 Iron Front: honorable mentions in mission making competition, 1.05 patch, D-Day DLC, improvements Zoom

Hurrah! I participated in the December 2012 "Iron Front Mission Maker Competition 2012" with a PlannedAssault generated mission with surprising results. I received honorable mentions, a free D-Day DLC for Iron Front, and the opportunity to include the mission in the next Iron Front patch. Not bad for a computer generated mission, is it? And congrulations to the three winners!

Here at PlannedAssault you now have the same means available as I used to create and submit my entry. The mission I submitted was unedited, straight from PlannedAssault. I've now been asked to edit it slightly to support translations (to German and Russian), and to replace Waffen-SS by Stormtroopers.

Waffen-SS infantry mounting Tigers (IF44)

Soviet Lend-lease M4A2 Sherman destroyed near Gagolin bridge (IF44)

StuG-IIIs carrying infantry (IF44)

This week, I've updated PlannedAssault's support for Iron Front with the following. First, the Tiger Ausf.E tank and the StuG-III capability to transport infantry have been added (as introduced in Iron Front's patch 1.05). Second, I've added the Baranow Gagolin area centered around the ponton bridge across the Wisla river. Although crossing bridges isn't one of the Arma2 AI's strenghts, AI units are able to cross the pontoon bridge, albeit slowly and with some losses.

Third, I've added support for SofD's improved explosion effects, one of the few available add-ons for Iron Front. You can select it from the optional add-ons when creating a mission.

Fourth, since all of Iron Front's Wehrmacht tanks were designed with destructible body parts (notably the skirts and fenders, additional armor plating on the turret, and spare track links on the hull), I've added a script that makes those tanks drop a couple of parts at the mission's start, to reflect wear and tear from transport and combat, and scarcity of spare parts.

US Ranger squad advancing from the beach (IF44)

A P-47D Thunderbolt over Normandy's coast (IF44)

US tanks and infantry advancing (IF44)

Furthermore, I've added support for the new units and terrain from the D-Day DLC for Iron Front. The DLC offers US units, two additional Lend-lease vehicles for the Red Army (the M3 White halftrack and the M4A2 Sherman) and almost all of Omaha beach (beaches Dog White through Fox Red and the corresponding in-land area).

For the US Army I've added all units to the PlannedAssault unit database. I've also defined Ranger squads (see screen shot) with the 2nd Ranger Battailon orange diamond markings on the back of the helmets and blue emblems on the upper left arm. The game solely features the diamond with vertical 'officer' stripe, and lacks the NCO and private variants, so all units currently have the 'officer' stripe behind the ranger marking.

For mission generation, solely the in-land terrain is available. This is because PlannedAssault today doesn't support amphibious landings, and the Iron Front / Arma2 AI vehicles struggle to navigate the beach's obstacles.

Mark IV and Tiger E tanks showing wear (IF44)

The ponton bridge near Gagolin (IF44)

Tiger Ausf.E engaging distant threats (IF44)

Finally, I've fixed a number of bugs that arose from planning missions for Iron Front. Unique to Iron Front is that virtually every tank is also able to transport infantry, which generates way more options for the planner to consider. In some cases, the planner hit its limit (1600 steps) and aborted without an explanation. This is now fixed, both with an explicit message and smarter pruning of bad transporter & cargo combinations.

Another bug caused mission planning to fail when static weapons (such as anti-tank guns) were being placed close to the objective to defend. This has also been fixed.


William