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Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:37 am
by AlbertoC
In the previous dev diaries, we have talked a lot about new features and mechanics we are implementing in Panzer Corps 2. But what about the core game mechanics which have always been a fundamental part of the game? Will they remain the same, or will they change in the sequel? In this issue of the dev diary, we’ll discuss how some of the core mechanics are going to be transformed.

Turn limit

In a real war, late victory is often no victory at all, and the game represents this. The player must not just achieve the victory, but achieve it in a limited number of turns. This requires proper planning and strategy, instead of just rolling slowly over the map and eliminating scattered groups of enemy units with the concentrated power of the core force.

All this remains true in Panzer Corps 2. But we were surprised how many players feel that turn limit is an artificial limitation which detracts from the fun of the game. For such players, we are also adding an option to disable turn limit completely. Adding such a checkbox is the easy part. The tricky part is to make sure the game remains balanced, and fun with this option turned on. We are making sure that it is not possible to “harvest” more useful resources (prestige, experience) by staying in a scenario indefinitely, and that enemy units provide an adequate challenge.


Prestige

Prestige is this game’s currency, and, as its name implies, it is awarded for your successes on the battlefield. In Panzer Corps, there were certain exceptions from this rule, like Minor victory giving more prestige than Major, and this created a lot of confusion. In Panzer Corps 2 we will avoid any such things. Better performance will be rewarded with more prestige.


Unit slots

Unit slots determine how many units the player can have in the core force, which travel from scenario to scenario in a campaign. In Panzer Corps, every unit occupied a single core slot. In Panzer Corps 2 this will change so that a unit can occupy one or several slots. More powerful units will take more slots.

Such an approach is not a novelty, it was used in a lot of similar games before, and many people thought that we had to implement it in Panzer Corps already. But of course, this change is significant and fundamental. The way it worked before, optimal core structure was obvious – you wanted to use all the best units available. Maybe you were not able to afford these units right away, but this was a clear goal to go for in the long run. It is no longer as clear-cut. What is better: 3 Tigers IIs, 5 Panthers, or some combination of them? Maybe add some Panzer IVs, and Tiger Is to the mix as well? With changed unit slots mechanic, we expect to see much more varied core forces in Panzer Corps 2, and they will probably become more realistic too.

Same is true for transports. Better transports cost more slots, so using them for every single unit in the core might not be a good idea.

At the same time, we are not going to introduce specialised slots, for example, ground-only or air-only ones. We want the core composition to remain flexible, and the players are still free to go with ground-heavy or air-heavy cores if they prefer.


Image


Overstrength

Overstrength units (i. e. units with more strength points than their type has typically) have always been very popular with our players, and in some cases, they become outright necessary, especially when your opponent has more powerful units in his roster. We felt that it was imperative to keep this mechanic in the sequel.

At the same time, overstrength was a big problem with game balance, while its connection to experience felt very artificial, and because of this, overstrength became significant only in the later part of a campaign. We wanted to solve these problems. In Panzer Corps 2, any unit can get overstrength directly in the Purchase screen, from the very beginning of the game. But such units cost more prestige and slots than usual, so you can have fewer of these. A balanced core will include both overstrength and regular units, but the player will need to figure out perfect ratio for himself.


Entrenchment

Entrenchment mechanic will remain fundamentally the same. Stationary units will accumulate entrenchment over time (infantry and towed guns faster, other classes slower), and it will give various defensive bonuses in combat. But in Panzer Corps 2 we want to make this mechanic even more critical. There will be more entrenchment levels, and specialised units (heavy artillery, strategic bombers, engineers) intended to destroy them quickly.

Another significant change is that, unlike Panzer Corps, base entrenchment provided by terrain will not be destroyed. Base entrenchment is a defensive bonus created by the terrain itself (forest, hills, mountains), and no bombardment can significantly reduce this bonus.


Support fire

Support fire is another signature mechanic from Panzer Corps. It is a prime example of interaction between units, and it allowed the defender to create “clusters of defence”, which were not so easy to “crack” by the attacker. All this remains true in Panzer Corps 2 too. However, we felt that in the prequel artillery was not very useful in support fire role against tanks, while the class of AT guns was underused. So, in the sequel artillery will provide support fire against soft targets, while AT units will provide support fire against hard targets.

This is it for today. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about how core game mechanics will work in Panzer Corps 2, post them in the comments. See you in the next dev diary!

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:16 am
by 13obo
The last bit about support fire is huge! Very excited about it. With this mechanic, positioning will become even more crucial and will require chess-like precision and anticipation of enemy moves, which some may like, but others may not.

I feel I will but one thing that I am cautious about when adding more complicated game mechanics is... Will the AI handle it properly? More choice is more fun but I am afraid something Civilisation 6-alike may happen here with all the new mechanics. Civ 6 has many new brilliant gameplay mechanics over civ5, but the AI is so bad that even after a year and more of patching, it still fails miserably and is the most cited reason for a negative review in Steam. I myself played a bit but gave up as the AI was downright dumb.

Hoping this won't happen here! KISS-es (keep it simple stupid)!

Ps. Don't get me wrong- love all the listed changes here, especially for multiplayer. The turn-limit omission is great for those that don't like it, and the OOB-like unit slot mechanic is fantastic. The above was just a concern I have for the AI.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:48 am
by koopanique
The option of disabling the turn limit is another excellent news to me :D

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:37 pm
by hugh2711
I like the idea of being able to turn off the turn limit and not being able to 'harvest' more prestige which brings up another point. Many times in a scenario I would prolong it; not to 'harvest' but to finish it with LEAST losses overall to my army. There is a style of playing that is - 'bash through as quickly as possible' (without actually losing a unit), even though you take lots of losses which you can repair after with prestige. While that is currently sort of managed by restricting prestige e.g. on rommel setting. Rather than a negative reinforcement loop managing that, wouldnt it be better to positively reward (with prestige or whatever) a MINIMISING of your own losses in a scenario?
Philosophically it is much more satisfying.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:38 pm
by Asap
The AI is key for me, if it's too dumb, then I won't buy the game. A dumb AI was the reason I gave up on all the Civ games @13obo.
Btw. why are AT and artillery guns not manned with animated soldiers? :)

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:50 pm
by ErissN6
Weird, I never felt there was a turn limit. I just attack the better. Problem with the option is this will divide the community, we will play 2 different games.
Overwhole, nice ideas for PC2.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:21 pm
by proline
ErissN6 wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:50 pm
Weird, I never felt there was a turn limit. I just attack the better. Problem with the option is this will divide the community, we will play 2 different games.
That's already the case thanks to the bad decision to create a chess mode. That in turn makes the game infinitely easier and less strategic (your units never get into unexpected trouble or have to be rescued, they basically never die), so when someone says they play on Rommel you then have to ask if they play on chess, which they usually do, which means they're basically a General caliber player.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:26 pm
by dalfrede
AlbertoC wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:37 am

Prestige is this game’s currency, and, as its name implies, it is awarded for your successes on the battlefield. In Panzer Corps, there were certain exceptions from this rule, like Minor victory giving more prestige than Major, and this created a lot of confusion. In Panzer Corps 2 we will avoid any such things. Better performance will be rewarded with more prestige.
Doesn't this create a snowball effect, you get behind and can't catch up.
Note: This is a novice issue, the more experienced players won't have a problem with this.
AlbertoC wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:37 am

Same is true for transports. Better transports cost more slots, so using them for every single unit in the core might not be a good idea.
This implies a motor pool, where transport is attached on a scenario basis.
For a defensive scenario no infantry transport, for mud/snow offensive scenario half tracks?

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:29 pm
by proline
AlbertoC wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:37 am
Same is true for transports. Better transports cost more slots, so using them for every single unit in the core might not be a good idea.
1) Transports already sucked. They don't need a nerf. They are weak, non-transferrable, non-sellable, often double the cost of the unit, take expensive damage even during combat when the unit is dismounted, and provide no benefit during combat.

2) No word so far on how you are going to make recon viable. Remove the recon move penalty, make them so ft targets, make them not take up a unit slot, but do something.

3) Why can't you stop backlighting the battlefield so that the parts of the units that we get to see are always black?
dalfrede wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:26 pm
This implies a motor pool, where transport is attached on a scenario basis.
For a defensive scenario no infantry transport, for mud/snow offensive scenario half tracks?
No it doesn't, he just said no specialized spots. I assume he means infantry = 1 slot, infantry with truck = 2, infantry with half-track = 3, etc.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:45 pm
by Kerensky
Interesting diary, but as always I have practical concerns.
I'm surprised by taking the step to potentially disable the turn limit, but I don't actually see it as a problem. The real question is how it will affect individual scenarios. If everyone can potentially last for infinite turns, does everyone need to be configured to potentially last for infinite turns? If it's easy to configure, sure why not. If it's a burdensome chore, you're going to have a problem.

Prestige is always tricky, and however odd it's handling may have been, there was a reason. Pulling the rug out could have bad repercussions if the things they were supporting start go unsupported. Testing will be important. Minors giving more than Majors is a form of wound licking. If in your campaign progress, you seem to lack the CORE strength maybe you need to achieve Major victories, perhaps your CORE is understrengthed and needs help being rebuilt. Hence more money. But if you are earning the DVs, you're also earning other rewards beyond just currency, such as access to special units and special scenarios that you cannot just buy even with an infinite amount of money cheated in. The concepts are simple, special rewards you cannot normally purchase with just more money for the DVs, basic money assets to rebuild your CORE foundation if you only get as far as an MV. A multi-currency, if somewhat intangible, system was created from the uni-currency of prestige. Rewarding good performance and punishing poor performance sounds kind of snowbally to me... Strong get stronger and weak get weaker.

Slots, we'll see. But I'll campaign pretty hard against transports taking up slots. It sounds good on paper, but it doesn't work in reality, as evidenced in other titles. You will end up with transports costing too many slots, and thus never being purchased ever, or transports costing so few slots that they are meaningless. Transport necessity is 100% a slave to scenario design, because who needs ground transports on a map where you are involved in an amphibious invasion and given free naval transport. Or who needs them if you are fighting in a dense and small map. You need them on big open maps with a timer rushing you forward but only limited enemy resistance, like PzC USA East Coast. As soon as your transports increase your core slot allotment of infantry by 50, 100, or even 200%, they're going to all be discarded. It's not a question of cheap transport vs expensive transports, it's a balance of having transports vs having an understrength army. I don't ask if my basic infantry deserves cheap horse or expensive half tracks, I just get more basic infantry all with no transports. Because 1 unit moves 3 hexes at fights at strength 10. 2 units can cover twice as many hexes and deliver twice as much combat strength. What does a transport do? Allow you to cover twice as many hexes, but actually degrades combat strength if you get caught 'in transport'. An interesting idea, a failure in practice unless these issues are somehow addressed.

Hell this is in direct conflict with the ability to disable mission timers, because speed is the only asset transports bring, and the Imagebeing disabled...


Well good-bye slot hungry transports.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:00 pm
by Kerensky
Overstrength. Yea that was talked about, but my major concern was this mechanic was a growth system. Something you slowly earned as you played. It's become a staple of gaming, the need to grow as you play. This is why people hate multiplayer systems that don't dish out rewards, they don't see any reason to play something that isn't handing them rewards and upgrades and ranks and promotions and loot boxes. Nevermind playing is supposed to be reward in itself, that concept is long gone and died with this modern idea of playing games for a living. :P
Anyways point is, as long as other growth mechanics step in to replace the loss of overstrength as a growth mechanic, it should be fine.

I wonder if fire support is for towed ATG only. Because some self propelled AT units are pretty powerfully armed against soft targets, in fact they are designed specifically for that duty. In fact, thinking this through, there is a very tough triangle of units to assault now. 2 Arty and 1 ATG unit. The old method was just throw tanks at this defensive cluster. You absorb harmless arty fire and support and eat their ammo while eating their faces at the same time. And the poor, slow, towed, ATG could only watch in powerless horror. But with the ATG in support, especially something as powerful as a 17 pdr or Pak 88... these things will turn your arty devouring Panzer IV or Sherman into swiss cheese. Again the old answer was to use infantry. Crack that towed AT with infantry assault after supporting artillery swept away, problem solved. But now you need tanks to preclear the arty for the infantry but the tanks cannot act until you preclear the atg, and we're back to step one.

Scary as that sounds in defense, as soon as you self propel the arty and AT units, now you have a rolling fortress that cannot be directly assaulted... I am very curious to see how this actually functions in practice, because it seems to have a major theoretical problem. Just imagine 1 Jagdpanther escorted by 2 Wurfrahmen. The Jagdpanther will turn any Allied tank assault into dust with ease, but no infantry assault will ever survive assaulting the Jagdpanther with 2 supporting units, and even trying to infantry assault a single Wurfrahmen is going to be a costly disaster with the other providing support.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:17 pm
by Kerensky
proline wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:29 pm
2) No word so far on how you are going to make recon viable. Remove the recon move penalty, make them so ft targets, make them not take up a unit slot, but do something.
I dunno, I always found cheap recon to be useful, if expendable. In the Grand Campaign I found them to be necessary, if you got hit by a Grand Campaign-esque counter attack and absorbed the blow directly into expensive, experienced units caught in transport, that was pretty much a save/load moment. With proper recon screens in front to detect (recon) and absorb (cheap StuGs) these counterattacks, that problem goes away. It also translates into multiplayer environment or ironman modes directly, because you don't get to save/load in those settings.

Old Grand Campaign was heavily scripted, but that also meant with enough pre-knowledge you could decipher the when and where of these counter attacks. The new game says it has more random elements, even as far as fully random maps, and in those situations were you cannot predetermine angle and power of counter attacks, that again seems to promote good recon unit usage.

We'll see though. I personally liked the idea of recon units having special vision, allowing them to reveal hidden units. A well entrenched, towed ATG is really hard to spot, and historically was an absolute killer of blind tanks just bumbling forward with these ambush tactics. If you ignore your recon units, and move too far ahead of infantry, your tanks could get zapped hard by surprise hidden ATG units.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:05 pm
by 13obo
Kerensky wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:00 pm

I wonder if fire support is for towed ATG only. Because some self propelled AT units are pretty powerfully armed against soft targets, in fact they are designed specifically for that duty. In fact, thinking this through, there is a very tough triangle of units to assault now. 2 Arty and 1 ATG unit. The old method was just throw tanks at this defensive cluster. You absorb harmless arty fire and support and eat their ammo while eating their faces at the same time. And the poor, slow, towed, ATG could only watch in powerless horror. But with the ATG in support, especially something as powerful as a 17 pdr or Pak 88... these things will turn your arty devouring Panzer IV or Sherman into swiss cheese. Again the old answer was to use infantry. Crack that towed AT with infantry assault after supporting artillery swept away, problem solved. But now you need tanks to preclear the arty for the infantry but the tanks cannot act until you preclear the atg, and we're back to step one.

Scary as that sounds in defense, as soon as you self propel the arty and AT units, now you have a rolling fortress that cannot be directly assaulted... I am very curious to see how this actually functions in practice, because it seems to have a major theoretical problem. Just imagine 1 Jagdpanther escorted by 2 Wurfrahmen. The Jagdpanther will turn any Allied tank assault into dust with ease, but no infantry assault will ever survive assaulting the Jagdpanther with 2 supporting units, and even trying to infantry assault a single Wurfrahmen is going to be a costly disaster with the other providing support.
What you describe is what is great on paper and with perfect positioning and time for that, but what ends up happening is that terrain type, multiple units from different directions, need for resupply, etc. will screw up any "perfect" defence. Moreover, a good player will use his/her artillery to suppress the defender's AA/support, and then use planes/other artillery to conduct the regular attack on the front units. I am very excited about this mechanic the most of all the described changes, but hoping the AI will handle it properly too.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:08 pm
by Kerensky
13obo wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 10:05 pm
What you describe is what is great on paper and with perfect positioning and time for that, but what ends up happening is that terrain type, multiple units from different directions, need for resupply, etc. will screw up any "perfect" defence. Moreover, a good player will use his/her artillery to suppress the defender's AA/support, and then use planes/other artillery to conduct the regular attack on the front units. I am very excited about this mechanic the most of all the described changes, but hoping the AI will handle it properly too.
Well going by Panzer Corps rules as we know them, terrain isn't a factor. Infantry attacking into supported units, regardless of terrain, always get trashed by arty support fire, especially if it has any extra experience or overstrength. On defense, I think it's easy enough to set up this triangle defense well in advance of the enemy approach. And attacking the triangle from any direction is meaningless because each piece of the triangle supports the other two regardless of attack positioning. If the answer to the problem is the need to resupply... that's not actually an answer. You can defeat any enemy with wave assault tactics to drain their supply, but to do so requires overwhelming materiel advantage. The problem of the triangle is you attack any piece, and 1-2 pieces respond. Every attack into the triangle attacks individually, but is answered by multi-unit responses. I don't see any answer of equal materiel weight that can crack a triangle that offers support fire against both soft and hard attacks.

As mentioned, this is hard enough of a static position to overcome, but sure you can use arty and air to attack a static position. On the attack this triangle formation is far more effective. You cannot use arty to suppress well armored SP guns like the Su-122 or ISU-152 or even something like a Wespe or Hummel. It just kind of sounds like a mobile rolling fortress that is immune to counter attack.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Thu Sep 27, 2018 11:13 pm
by proline
Kerensky wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 9:17 pm
Old Grand Campaign was heavily scripted, but that also meant with enough pre-knowledge you could decipher the when and where of these counter attacks. The new game says it has more random elements, even as far as fully random maps, and in those situations were you cannot predetermine angle and power of counter attacks, that again seems to promote good recon unit usage.
That's what I'm saying. The scripting, along with their inherent weakness, made recon useless after your first play through of a GC scenario. After that, you have no need to watch your flanks since you know when and where the enemy will attack. Maybe PzC2 won't need scripting, but I doubt it. The AI is just too dumb to be fun to fight without a script.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:07 am
by Sourdust
The fact that art can't provide support fire against tanks is an interesting design choice - somewhat ahistorical, as in the real war artillery was often very effective against armor - not necessarily direct kills, but lots of damage and disruption. (treads, forcing tanks to button up, superficial damage, cratering of landscape and disruption of supporting infantry).

With 3 supporting unit types (Art, AT, AA), it will be difficult to protect units against all threats. A straight defence line might be backed by alternating art and AT, then some AA behind that - but then the AA won't be protecting the front line, just the Art and AT units. It won't be possible to construct a continuous defence where all units have some Art, AT and AA support.

Not saying that's a bad thing, necessarily - but it does change the geometry of the game significantly. I'll be interested to see how it plays out.

Separately, I'd be very interested to see how devs are addressing the snowballing issue. In PC1 I think this was a real problem, especially since you didn't necessarily know whether you were ahead or behind the "power curve" until a dozen or more scenarios down the track, when you suddenly realised you have nowhere near enough prestige to make it through 1944, much less 1945.

The more I think about this and compare with other games (UoC, for instance), the more I think a separation between "victory" points and "buy more stuff" points makes sense. Decisive victories might give more victory points, but less reinforcement points, than marginal victories. This creates a self-correcting mechanism, where successive decisive victories are harder and harder to achiever, but marginal victories give you more of a chance to catch up on the power curve. A pure prestige system with more rewards for greater victories is a vicious cycle, leading to the snowballing effect.

It also makes a bit of historical sense. After a decisive victory, there is a push from high command to exploit the victory immediately by pushing ahead, without taking time to reinforce and rebuild units. Thus lower reinforcements points. Also, if you've just achieved a decisive victory, resources might flow to other fronts that appear to be more in need.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:23 am
by jeffoot77
no more limit turn = no more rush !

it is great ! At last, i will play slowly without rushing a town hoping that my planes don't meet AA ...

Just a strategy i could never have done in PC1 : some paratroopers far behind enemy lines to take an airfield: it takes so many turns to make them travel, land, and make them their way until the airfield that the countdown is already finished...

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:28 am
by zakblood
my opinion is, there should be some penalty for no turn limits, as no war is fought forever, supplies and equipment are needed elsewhere on given dates, or other battles and fronts suffer?

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:43 am
by 13obo
zakblood wrote:
Fri Sep 28, 2018 9:28 am
my opinion is, there should be some penalty for no turn limits, as no war is fought forever, supplies and equipment are needed elsewhere on given dates, or other battles and fronts suffer?
The diary already said "turn limit" will be an option that can be turned on or off, so why not just treat it like a "difficulty" setting up to the player to decide how they want to play it? Someone can choose to play hardcore with turn limit on and minimum prestige gain, another one may wish to have low prestige gain, but no turn limit (simulating a penalty like you suggested), etc.

There's no need to add stuff that will not add additional granularity of difficulty.

Re: Panzer Corps 2 - Dev Diary #4

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 12:04 pm
by ErissN6
proline wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 8:21 pm
ErissN6 wrote:
Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:50 pm
Problem with the turn limit option is this will divide the community, we will play 2 different games.
That's already the case thanks to the chess mode. your units never get into unexpected trouble, they basically never die
Yes. Maybe the chess mode has to be balanced strategically with randomness added in the scenario (chance of enemy reinforcement),
and the no time limit option is to be balanced with enemy reinforcement arriving along the time.