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Old 08-12-2015, 07:53 AM   #1
JHS
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I was awaiting "Atlantic Fleet" with some interest because I thought "Pacific Fleet" was a promising toy, and I thought AF would be something for the more thoughtful naval gamer. Unfortunately, it is just PF on steroids, critically flawed by the premise that naval warfare games have to be dumbed down catastrophically to be salable. Admittedly, the surface naval people are so hard up they take even unbelievable lemons, like "World of Warships" because there never was a second generation of computer surface warship games in the first ten years of the new century like there was for air, land, and undersea games. There still is no second generation. Tank simmers can slum in "World of Tanks", but they do have monsters of detail like "Steel Beasts" if they want realism. AF is not the second generation, it's just another clever tap game for the tablets (by the way, there are great, realistic war games for tablets, the tablet genre is taken seriously by some designers).

What I find most ridiculous is that there are protocols which absolutely ruin the game as a even mildly realistic surface naval warfare game (I am not going to consider the submarine aspect of AF because I do not know enough about ASW to review the game's depiction of it, as for the air game, it is so incredibly stupid, that's the only word for it, it is completely disposable---it clearly is an afterthought, and is only an extension of the toy system in PF). I was not expecting a Naval War College simulator (would have been good), but the protocols of AF were just as inane as PF---and these were overloaded onto a great system which has some very significant advances.

The worst is forcing the players to unrealistically choose between firing main batteries, secondary batteries, and torpedoes. In the middle of a hot battle gunnery officers did not stop firing big guns to give the people in charge of the secondaries and torpedoes a chance to shoot! A giant dreadnought did not cease fire with main batteries to shoot a number of star shells with the secondary guns! This is positively mind-bogglingly ridiculous. Destroyers closed on bigger ships banging away with their main guns to try to knock out directors and, at the same time, fired torpedoes.

Another inanity is to lose your range plot from the last salvo when a target ship starts to make smoke. This makes smoke into a far more effective evasion tool than it was.

Not all ships had radar! The game ought to distinguish between visual sighting and radar plots for ships not clearly visible.

While putting ships right on top of each other instead of using scale sizing creates excitement and visual interest, this really creates a ridiculous image of surface naval warfare. I quit playing with toy ships at the age of eight.

Where are the searchlights!

Before I forget, RENOWN and REPULSE had 9-in belts added in the 1920's. As they stand now, they are fodder for Salmon and Gluckstein.

Be assured, I thought there were many good things about AF. The gun director view is excellent, it is the best thing about AF along with the fine modeling of naval gunfire. Targeting is ingenious. But quit giving the players too much info. Don't tell them exactly which ship they are seeing, don't even give them the class! Let the players figure it out. This is a game, make it a little more challenging. I would like to see a player slip up and shoot one of his own ships, which did happen in night naval battles (SAN FRANCISCO shot ATLANTA to pieces in the First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal).

Varieties of shells are excellent. Would be better to have the ability to choose torpedo speeds and ranges. Torpedo targeting is very good.

I have little quarrel with the ship damage modeling. After many many plays ships behave as they should. EXETER will get hammered by GRAF SPEE, HOOD is always in grave danger vs BIS. Fine.

As it stands now, I find AF very frustrating because it is critically flawed. It falls awkwardly between nursery toy and simulator. Even primarily toy games can be founded on a sound basis, they do not need to force players into doing ridiculous things because of a silly game protocol.
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Old 08-12-2015, 02:42 PM   #2
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Most of the issues you have stem from the fact that since Pacific Fleet was and is a popular game, we didn't want to change the basic game too much. And there's just so much you can add to the turnbased format before the turns start taking forever. Had we allowed firing of all batteries in each turn the battles would probably have taken twice as long. And the bigger ones already take up to an hour to complete.

The ships all have radar because we decided to model them according to their late war refits (1942-43). Mainly because they just look better that way. Searchlights were left out for technical reasons.

The distances are scaled down because at realistic distances, the salvos would take up to a minute to arrive on target. In a realtime game this is not an issue but in a turnbased setting it would make combat so slow as to be unplayable.

Perhaps the smoke is too effective, but then again it has to be because in a turnbased setting you can take all the time in the world to aim a perfect shot at a target with no regard for lead angle. A more traditional game would have just used dicerolls with a negative modifier for smoke and the rest would be up to chance. However in this game you can can use the map to figure out the range so in fact you don't lose the range plot.

If you look at the tactical map after a battle the plot tends to look a lot like the real thing from WW2 in terms of movement. To me that suggests the game does pretty good at depicting reality.

I think if you're going in expecting Silent Hunter or Steel Beasts you are going to be disappointed because the game is more like an old-school 1/1250 miniatures game but with realistic ballistics and awesome explosions and a dynamic campaign engine.
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Old 08-12-2015, 03:37 PM   #3
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I could have easily accepted abrstaction in the time of flight and in ship movement between turns. I think most others could have, too.

And, secondary fire and torpedoes could have been abstracted to center the game on big guns. Certainly, shooting star shells could have been abstracted. Having to laboriously plot a routine star shell shoot is ridiculous.

The great pity is that all this ingenuity is just to give the no brains gamer crowd a nautical "Angry Birds". This is a fairly sad commentary. Everything was subordinated to the high-tech "Angry Birds", the shooting, the torps, the incredibly silly air game.
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Old 08-12-2015, 03:58 PM   #4
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Squiggly lines over a track chart signify a big zero. Realism, no. The old cardboard counter and paper map ship battle games resulted in ships producing track charts resembling Abstract Expressionist paintings. In fact, in real surface battles you do not see a lot of squiggling because shooting accurately required keeping a straight course. I have the impression this is modeled to some degree in the game, but, at any rate, if you want to hit, you sail straight ahead because it is easier for range calculation. If the other side maneuvers, you have problems. I have noticed that turning about 25 degrees to one side or another can usually throw off the firing of an enemy. The trouble is you usually throw off your own shooting.

The game is assuredly popular, but "Likes" do not make something good. There are designers who are making realistic tablet games which are doing very well. No brainer games are not the only ones making money on tablets.
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Old 08-12-2015, 04:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JHS View Post
In fact, in real surface battles you do not see a lot of squiggling because shooting accurately required keeping a straight course. I have the impression this is modeled to some degree in the game, but, at any rate, if you want to hit, you sail straight ahead because it is easier for range calculation.
In WW1 this is true. In WW2 the majority of firecontrol equipment is capable of maintaining the target solution even with ownship doing a 360 degree turn.

We have plots for every historical battle featured in the game and we modelled the AI's behavior after historical research.

Go look at the plots for Denmark Straits and North Cape then look at how the AI behaves in Atlantic Fleet.

If the game is crap, then why has it gotten excellent reviews from the likes of SimHQ, Pocket Tactics and this very site? Are those people no-brains gamers too?
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Old 08-12-2015, 05:55 PM   #6
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Don't worry, I assure you that earning a self-entitled hater is a sign that you've done well with the game
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Old 08-12-2015, 07:52 PM   #7
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If you had done your research, you would know Captain Langsdorff of the SPEE was heavily criticized for excessive helm changes in the Plate battle. It is not true that WWII fire control computers could predict where a maneuvering ship would be from one second to the next. There was no link between the spotter, computer, and the shell like in contemporary munitions. The computers were able to predict where a ship would be if it mantained a steady course. The Gunnery Officer could guess what a ship was going to do, this was his job to override the computed solution if he thought necessary.

The game is a guilty pleasure. It is annoying, but I like it.

These days ninnies like to label somebody a "hater" if they are not completely enamored of something. Linguistically this is absurd. The real hater is a person who hates so much they would sink to calling somebody a hater. If I hated the game, I would not bother to offer some tips. Criticism is not hate.

I wish you would do a "professional version" for all the surface battle gamers who have nothing to compare with "Silent Hunter".

And, the game really needs a save game feature in case you have to go to the door so you do not lose the custom match you had been playing for an hour and a half.
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Old 08-12-2015, 08:43 PM   #8
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The Naval Staff report is in an appendix in Dudley Pope's book on the Plate battle. It specifically states that own ship's helm changes threw off gunnery solutions, and abhored unnecessary maneuvering (Langsdorff was constantly evading). The WWII USN made a cult out of straight course shooting in order to get optimum solutions. This inadvertently played into the hands of Japanese torpedomen in the Guadalcanal surface battle because USN cruisers followed a steady course in battle---and ran right into torpedo spreads. Of course, the late-war USN gunnery radars were so accurate they sometimes gave very good results on the fall of shot. But there was still time-of-flight which could be up to a minute at long range. Nothing could be done to correct the fall of a shell once it left the muzzle.
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Old 08-13-2015, 02:12 AM   #9
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On the other hand the gunnery of the USN and IJN was pretty bad throughout the war.

We actually had an early realtime prototype that played a lot more like Taskforce 1942 with real distances and more realistic gunnery.

You can have that in a realtime setting because everything happens at once. With the turnbased format you have to make concessions to gameplay or the player will have to suffer through excessively long turns and get bored.

We did actually model degradation of ownship target solution when you maneuver. But because the player has an infinite time to figure out the correct aimpoint this matter little because turnbased. Needless to say this worked better in the realtime prototype.

It was just a bit too ambitious for what we felt we could achieve at the time and it's definitely a concept we want to return to. One has to learn how to walk before he can run.
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Old 08-14-2015, 08:39 PM   #10
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After many playtests, I have noticed an anomaly in the wind effects. In "Pacific Fleet" one could aim fairly accurately by accounting for wind direction and strength. In "Atlantic Fleet", there seems to be no rhyme or reason to wind strength and direction. If a very strong wind is blowing in the same direction as my line of fire, I, naturally, aim very short. My shells still fly way over the target, even in the case of very heavy dreadnought shells. I have found no logic to the wind effects. Often, I am able to hit accurately just by aiming right at the target, even when I am shooting in a strong wind. I did check to be sure wind was toggled in preferences.

Same oddness in all varieties of wind and directions. This is frustrating because I basically have no idea where my shells will land, and the AI, unless I am zigzagging or making large course changes, is hitting accurately regardless of wind effects.

In PF, I could aim short to get devastating hulling hits. I try this at cliose range in AF, and found his very hard to to do.
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Old 08-16-2015, 08:48 PM   #11
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Just to check: you're aware that wind doesn't effect shell flight unless you turn the option on to for it to do so?

Wind always effects aircraft payloads though.
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