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Old 12-09-2019, 07:40 PM   #18
Join Date: Apr 2005
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I've found it interesting recently to consider the possible roles and organisation on playable escorts. It seems fairly obvious that as far as practical, these should be organised along very similar lines, with a few additions and omissions, to those on the U-boats. The advantages being that players are already familiar with them, and therefore if you like playing one on the U-boat you'll enjoy the same on the ship and vice versa.

So, I think we'd "need":

Convoy commander:
Sets intitial disposition of AI escorts, the correct station of which remaining visible to human players who subsequently take-over escorts as captains. Can detach some, but not all, escorts to prosecute dc attacks, and or call them back. Sets overall speed of convoy to speed of slowest ship. Sets intervals heading changes, which AI merchants and AI escorts follow. Human controlled escorts are shown on map where at any instant they should be to follow commanded zig-zag path? CC can also change the positions of AI merchants to fill "holes" in the convoy if ships are lost. Such ships fill in from the rear of the convoy, and can only do so in the event of a sinking. This prevents continuous reorganisation being employed as an exploit to keep ships on unpredicatable heading changes.

Captain - decision maker as on the U-boat, being fed information from various sources. Authorises searchlight use. Has authority to ring DC Klaxon independent of DC officer?

Helmsman, almost exactly the same as per U-boat but fed information from asdic operator so as to bring escort over the top of asdic contact or as directed by captain. Also able to adopt a pre-programmed "lost contact" set of manoeuvres/telegraph speeds to help asdic operator reacquire the U-boat.

Asdic operator/Hydrophone operator. As these two roles are mutually exclusive, it seems sensible to combine them so a human player can do one or t'other. Early asdics purely aural, later with graphical trace and still later with depth trace (slant-range). Has "simultaneous echo" bell, the sound of which alerts DC officer to drop charges. Captain (alone) may also, independently, ring the bell, to allow for non-standard routine, allowing him to bet on which way the U-boat may turn during evasion period of DC attack.
(we don't want the situation where escort crews are compelled to drop DC's at 'simultaneous echo' ensuring a miss provided that the U-boat crew evade at full-speed/hard rudder over, at "splashes".)

DC operator. Hears bell, hits klaxon button, causing some or all dc weapons, be they over the back, squids, (hedgehogs fired separately), to fire. Alerts captain when all reloaded. DC must fuse all DC's 30 seconds before launch to depth ordered by captain or asdic officer. Such depths are in bands A, B, C and so forth which relate to depth intervals, the charges exploding somewhere within the band set.

Lookouts. During day operate binoculars, serve as gun-crews as applicable. At night operate searchlights at direction of captain.

Guns: Operates principal (front) main armament, and has range-finding optics. Other players may man rear turrets if available, being fed range as per Gun's rangefinder value. Used exclusively for U-boats caught on, or compelled to, the surface.

Radio Operator
Liases with other escorts, if Convoy commander exists on his ship, transmits his orders via signal lamp/morse. Any lookout with eyes on another escort using signal lamps causes meaning to arrive on signal log, in similar manner to radio messages arriving in the U-boat log. Recieves DF plots from UK of the "4 U-boats thought to be in your area" variety, and can locally DF transmitting U-boats with a single bearing if he acquires and monitors the correct wavelength. If U-boats sending unencrypted, he receives as plain language, if not, merely the cypher-text.

Navigator/ Has charted plot of convoy, automatically overlain with zig-zag paths and positions of escorts. Advises Convoy commander of nearest escorts to detach for DC attacks. In all likelihood it would be unusual to detach corvettes because of their limited speed.

So much for the positions on escorts.

Other thoughts:
1. DC's should be limited, but great in number.

2. Explosion of DC's should make asdic unreliable, increasingly with every dc dropped, for time taken for water to de-aerate, so broadly speaking, if you continuously drop charges deep in a single area, it will become harder to discriminate clear return echoes, and will persist longer with depth of detonation.

3. Explosion of DC's should confer vertical control difficulties to U-boats, possibly causing inadvertent surfacing. Any human crewed escort's guns must be crewed to open fire, else AI fires star-shells in general area if at night.

4. Destruction of U-boat to bring air, small to large oil patch and flotsam to surface. Non-lethal damage to U-boat may create small oil-trail to appear, eventually, on surface. U-boat captain may fire flotsam, air and oil to attempt to fool the escort above, which may work if he's undetected during the escorts "lost contact" asdic search.

5. Consideration should be given to more progressive and nuanced damage-model to U-boats, so that they experience (typically) more and more dc's, but with less permament damage unless a near direct-hit is achieved. The aim being to give the crew below a lot to contend with to keep the boat under-control, and not broached or sunk to crush-depth. It might be a nice feature for both U-boat crews and escorts to see a playable film post-mission, showing the dc's exploding as they were dropped during the game, with the ability to "step into" either escort or U-boat to experience the action from either point of vie; post game. Post viewing, these could be converted to a viewable film, or, as a file playable within an installed copy of Wolfpack, so we could all have a laugh about who we were sure we'd sunk but who wriggled away, or the "fluke" hit we achieved. Or indeed the teamwork within the U-boat to contend with all the problems the dc attacks were causing!

Evidently this is a more or less complete "wish-list", I'd be interested to hear what people think, and what other wrinkles they can think of I've overlooked, beyond ruining the poor dev's vacation plans!
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