PBEM

Dave 'Arjuna' O'Connor

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This is purely to tease out what the best way would be to handle a PBEM feature in Cmd Ops, were we to go down that track. It is not a commitment to do so.

First off, I don't play PBEM games so my knowledge of the interface used in other games is almost non-existent. I would really appreciate a run down on the different ways of doing it.

There are going to be a number of factors to consider here. I'll start the ball rolling and list a few. Then if you can think of some more please chime in.
  • What time interval to use?
    • Fixed
    • Variable at start only
    • Variable each turn
  • Sequence of user actions
    • Serially - ie P1 inputs, send to P2, P2 inputs, plays through and send to P1, P1 plays through
    • Concurrently - ie P1 inputs and P2 inputs, both send to the other player, each merges the others file, each plays through
  • Need to store random seed for each turn to keep in sync
  • Need to set, save and enter player names and passwords
  • Need for integrity check before playing - including ensuring both sides have input orders and signed off for the turn
  • ?
 
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john connor

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I think you should throw this into the main public forum, Dave. You will hopefully get a good level of response (better than in here, perhaps....) and why not? They will have experience of it, and they will have views on how it should be done.

For me, the more flexibility the better.

I've played Combat Mission PBEM, many JTS games PBEM and Flashpont Campaigns PBEM. The latter has a very complicated system that works really well to simulate different orders cycles and delays (whereby one player - with the better C&C structure etc would get more turns than the other), but I don't think you would need that as we already have delay built in. The JTS games are turn based and hence not much to learn there for CO2. Combat Mission seems closest perhaps - the sequence there is simple and as you described it above under 'serially'. Less files transferred than concurrently, same result, I think.

Thinking quickly, I would think - taking the example of a variable sequence - you could do a serial structure for mailing and then give options like the speed buttons in the present game, representing either 15 minute, 30 minute, 45 minute or 1 hour turns. Why not? I'd be very happy with that. I think I would end up mostly playing 30 minute turns, 1 hour at night.

I think you should have a button - 'AI control of arty' which prevents either side from manually controlling their arty, selected at start if the players want. The present arty control is a turn-off for some players and can skew things dramatically. If the players can elect to have the AI control it at start that would even it out a bit, perhaps. But then, you might need to work on the AI arty code a bit before doing that. (And then if you did that, perhaps we wouldn't need that button....)

Peter
 

Joe98

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I prefer wargaming H2H no matter how good the AI might be. If this goes ahead I will be very happy!


Dave, you need to create 2 folders in the game directory:

PBEM Receive

PBEM Send


The players agree on the options and then Player A sets up the game. The set up must include both email addresses and the name of the file. For example Player A might name the file “Joe-Dave-Malta”.

He presses the big red “End turn” button. It must be a big button so it cannot be hit in error. This does a few things:

  • Adds a turn number to the name of the file. It means the file is now named Joe-Dave-Malta001

  • The file is saved to the folder named PBEM Send
Player A’s email client is opened up with the file attached ready to send. SSG’s games do this beautifully. If for some reason this does not work then a player can select the file from the PBEM Send folder manually and send by email.

Player B receives the file.

Now if anybody were to receive an Excel file by email you will click on the file. It opens Excel and then opens the file. Therefore (drum roll…..) Player B clicks on the file, CO2 opens, and the file opens and the turn is ready to play. 21st century stuff!

Also the file is saved in the “PBEM Receive” folder.

If for some reason the game does not start, Player B can open the game, use File Open and open “Joe-Dave-Malta001” manually

Player B plays his turn, hits the big red end turn button and send his turn back to Player A. As you have guessed the file is now named “Joe-Dave-Malta002” and saved in Player B’s PBEM Send folder. Again if the email does not open the file would be sent manually.

Which means Player A is always playing even number turns and player B is always playing odd number turns. This allows for players who play 2 or more players at a time. Mistakes do happen!

As for the timing: The players agree on this before the game starts. If a scenario lasts 7 days that is 168 hours. If the players select 1 hour turns that would be 168 emails. You need to spell this out in the scenario description. I am comfy with 30 turn wargames. So a 7 day scenario would be divided into approx 6 hour turns making about 30 emails.

A player can of course use fast forward. In the options screen the options might be 1 hour, 4 hours 6 hours, 8 hours, 12 hours and 24 hours. The players need to agree beforehand.

To play a turn:

Firstly you select a “Replay” button so you can see what happened during the opponents turn. Then you give orders, during the agreed 6 game hours or whatever you agreed on you might change those orders and eventually End Turn and send the next file.

In Gary Grisby’s “Uncommon Valour” (great wargame!) the game file and the replay file were 2 separate files and the players sent 2 files to each other.


PS

Obviously during each player’s first turn he creates a password and needs to use the password to open the turn each and every time.

Sometimes in PBEM you go “How did that get there?” so we need to open a turn from 2 or 3 or 4 or more turns ago and watch that replay. “Doh - why did I do that?” These are only replays and we should not be able to replay that turn.

.
 

john connor

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The reason I was thinking in terms of shorter turns than you suggest, Joe98, is orders delay. If the turns were as long as even an hour then your minimum orders delay is 1 hour. If you do 24 hour turns then no orders for 24 hours, plus the ingame orders delay. No PBEM game I've played has orders delay modelled like CO2 does, so that needs to be thought about, no? But you're right, a longish scenario could get to 200 turns on even an hour per turn. People do play long games like this, me included. I'm happy playing 150 turn JTS games where every single bloody counter has to be moved, so I would be more than delighted to play long CO2 games where each move would be much easier in terms of pure clicking. Hence I would need - to be involved - to have shorter turns than one hour. An hour is a long time in CO2. The JTS PC games model 2 hour turns but they're a whole different thing. The JTS Panzer Battles scale of 30 minute turns is closer to CO2, I think. And nothing happens of its own accord in a JTS game, nothing at all, because there's no AI worth speaking of. But all sorts of AI driven things can happen in an hour of command ops. (And then again, almost nothing can happen for many hours - so variable speeds for both situations are needed).

Peter
 

Joe98

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Yes I agree. I can only last 10 game minutes between issuing orders. So a PBEM scenario could only last 300 minutes or 5 game hours.

I have often thought about making a scenario with nothing but arty units. Then rename them all to "infantry". Then you get a section on patrol facing an enemy squad..........
 

Dave 'Arjuna' O'Connor

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The way I would envisage handling the time interval is to allow each player to bid for what the next interval is and then choose whatever is the least - eg if player 1 sets the interval to 1 hour and player 2 to 4 hours then the "turn" would run for 1 hour. That way when both players agree on a quiet period you can advance a significant amount of time but when someone wants to be able to interact in a short while they can.
 
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john connor

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Even for those playing without orders delay 10 mins would be ok, I think. Imposes a 10 min orders delay on them. But I'm guessing not many play without orders delay.
 

Joe98

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In PBEM, my fav scenario length is 25 - 32 turns. I can go to 50 turns and once played 90 turns.

A 90 email scenario takes about 120 days to play.

A 48 turn scenario at 10 mins is 8 hours. So PBEM scenarios need to be short.

OR: Allow the players to agree that the scenario ends at a certain time. When we reach that time the game ends and the results screen appears.
 

john connor

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They don't all need to be short, Joe. Many people are happy to play 120 days of scenario. As I said, I've done it myself. There is no shortage of opponents in The Blitz forum, for example, willing to play all 3 days of the battle of Liepzig PBEM - 265 moves! Some people prefer shorter (me included), but there are plenty who play the big ones. There are a good mix of scenarios in the packs anyway, of varying lengths.

Peter
 

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