Poor user feedback: Out of Fuel

Daz

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Version 5.0.14

I have completed a very fast run though of the Beda Fomm test scenario I have set up, that I hope to write up in detail over the next few days.

When a unit runs out of fuel and stops responding to movement orders, in the E&S tab it is still indicating that the unit has over 100 litres left.

To compound the problem, when the unit stops it sends out a request in the log that reads "Resupply Request", which ordinarily does not cause units,( that are not reliant on fuel) to deploy in Situ to await for supply to arrive.

It can be several hours however before the user is given more details as to why the unit has frozen up with a "refuelling" message in the log.

This "Refuelling" message however is not an indication that the unit is actually taking on fuel that has arrived, as the fuel is still not in transit and is indicated by a "Resupply on Way" message some time later.

It can then be several hours, depending on distance to the base and its fuel delivery method, before the actual fuel arrives when there is a message in the log to indicate this arrival that reads "Resupply Arrived".
This is the actual moment they receive the fuel and can continue on their way again.

This can, and has, lead to the user believing the unit has frozen up because of a bug in the game and not simply a game mechanic working as intended.

As you can see in my example below the unit can be frozen in place for a very long time from first sending out this request.
About eight and a half hours in this example below that ran out of fuel at the bottom of the map about 25km from its base.

My recommendations are to change the wording in the log to give better user feedback as to what is actually happening to the unit when it runs out of fuel and change the E&S Dialogue to read Zero fuel when a unit has stopped because it has no fuel.

For example the first "Resupply Requested" message should read "Out of Fuel".
The "Refuelling" message, should read "Requesting Fuel"
The "Resupply on Way" message should read "Fuel on Way".
The "Resupply Arrived" message should read "Fuel Arrived"

refuelling-Beda-Fomm.jpg
 
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Daz

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Just noticed a factor that may be complicating this test that I didn't think about.

The supplying base for the unit was actually moving when the request for fuel was sent and the fuel was not sent until the base deployed, when the bases own organic transport ran out of fuel.

Ill do the test again later, but I have to go out now.

This is a quick surrender image of the test, so you can see roughly what I have done.
Its taken a few hours into the test.
I started with all the units lined up at the top of the map and have given them orders to move via the shortest route to the bottom.
A distance of about 48km.
The units are a mix of foot infantry and motorized infantry.
More details to follow... if I get time.
Beda-Fomm-test-1.1.jpg
 

Daz

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Well this is as far as I managed to get with the detailed write up of my test I'm afraid. I'm sad to say I have not even pushed the play button yet!
I spent all day fitting a roof rack, that should have taken 30 min max, but ended up taking all day trying to sort out wrongly provided parts by the supplier.
We need it to go away with for fitting the top box too and it don't look like we are going to get the missing part till early Monday morning. About an hour before we have to catch the ferry!
I'm off out for a beer tonight so I think I am going to have to shelf this until I get back.

The supply for the fuel seems to be working ok, its just a lack of player feedback as to what the hell is going on when the unit suddenly becomes unresponsive for hours that I am concerned about.
By bringing this to peoples attention here though, I guess I have already done part of the job of making players aware of how the supply can cause units to look like they are bugged, but are actually just waiting around for fuel, in what is a very large map, with lots of ground for the supply convoys to cover.
Its unlikely I am going to get any more time on this before the game goes to the final build.

Please move this thread to the Feature Requests Forum Dave and have a well deserved break while I am away :)
Beda-Fomm-test-1.2.jpg
 

Daz

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Well, I'm back on the Beda Fomm scenario so frustration due to lack of fuel is back on the agenda again.

I would say that the number one most helpful thing that could be done to assist people to understand why a unit has stopped for refuelling, and how long it has before it is going to stop, would be to set the fuel gauge in the E&S tab to read zero when the unit physically stops to refuel.
I can't imagine that would be a very difficult thing to fix?

Another helpful thing that may be included some time in the future, would be a percentage remaining figure next to the fuel and basics and even the ammo in the E&S that gives the remaining fuel and basics as a percentage figure, rather than actual quantities, as each unit will obviously have different stock levels depending on its size.

This percentage remaining will be useful to the player to determine when the unit is going to emergency request for more supply.
I am assuming that this is how the resupply works at the moment behind the scenes and a unit requests for more supplies when it reaches a specific percentage remaining?
Then in the Edit Tasks dialogue box instead of the user selecting min/norm/max which means almost nothing in terms of when the unit is going to request for more supply and how much it will get, the user could select say 10%/20%/30% and monitor how far from this the unit is from the percentage display in the E&S tab.

The most useful future feature as far as supply is concerned, would be a "Request Emergency Supply NOW" button, included in every units E&S tab that put the units request at the top of the bases to do list..
 

Iconoclast

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Well, I'm back on the Beda Fomm scenario so frustration due to lack of fuel is back on the agenda again.

Haha, I have been distracting myself with that scenario during the last days too, as you know. I feel your pain.

I would say that the number one most helpful thing that could be done to assist people to understand why a unit has stopped for refuelling, and how long it has before it is going to stop, would be to set the fuel gauge in the E&S tab to read zero when the unit physically stops to refuel.
I can't imagine that would be a very difficult thing to fix?

I was wondering: Wouldn't it be nicer to have the gauge in the general tab?

Then in the Edit Tasks dialogue box instead of the user selecting min/norm/max which means almost nothing in terms of when the unit is going to request for more supply and how much it will get

So, what does the 'fuel' min/norm/max setting do? I thought that unit would be prioritized for that supply good?

But as usual, I agree with your concerns.

Cheers
 

Daz

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So, what does the 'fuel' min/norm/max setting do? I thought that unit would be prioritized for that supply good?
What does it mean indeed?
Prioritized in what way?
If you set the supply to max how much extra supply will you get over the units that are set to min?
At what level of supply will they request for emergency when set on max compared to min?
Will setting supply to max allow you to build up a higher level of supply than those set to min in order to prepare for an offensive?
Will units set to max jump the queue if requesting supplies after those of the ones set to min?

Its very vague as to what it actually does to be honest and very hard for the user to see its effect on the unit compared to just leaving it on normal, especially when rationing is in force.
Rationing is another thing that is hidden behind the scenes that should be displayed to the user in some way with a percentage figure as to the level of rationing in force for a base.
 
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GoodGuy

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Version 5.0.14

1) It can then be several hours, depending on distance to the base and its fuel delivery method, before the actual fuel arrives when there is a message in the log to indicate this arrival that reads "Resupply Arrived".
This is the actual moment they receive the fuel and can continue on their way again.

2) As you can see in my example below the unit can be frozen in place for a very long time from first sending out this request.
About eight and a half hours in this example below that ran out of fuel at the bottom of the map about 25km from its base.

1) Historically, this is not correct, at least for the German side of things. Even though a Coy's supply column of a motorized or armored unit was rather small, a Bn's supply columns (consisting of the Coys' columns, and an additional Bn level supply platoon, IIRC) were often combined, so that resupply missions could be coordinated and then carried out in a timely manner. Also, if not combined and busy with other missions, the Coy's supply trucks kept certain amounts of fuel available (right on their trucks, during offensive operations), which was easy, as fuel was distributed to front line units in canisters, drawn from barrels stored at depots, camps or generally safe positions afar from (or - if safe - even close to) the frontline.

If the supply line was not broken, and if there was enough fuel in the "Hinterland" in Army or sector depots, fuel resupplies could be brought in from more distant storage points (which then took hrs, or even a full day), but emergency/quick refuel missions (not necessarily providing a full tank) could always be performed, usually, even IF a base/depot was moving. The German supply system was not using a "just-in-time" ;) delivery policy and sub-units tried to grab as much fuel as possible (unless superior echelons would deny this, or unless fuel wasn't available), knowing that timely/sufficient fuel supply was a constant issue (that started to seriously limit ground units ~1943 already).
That said, one or another emergency supply run could be performed by using "local" (means Coy's, Bn's or regt./divisional) resources (that were "bunkered" by organic supply elements), before the division ran out (and where its columns then had to either draw from the nearest Army depot, or fan out to get some fuel from "somewhere"). Also, in emergency situations, and to enable "frozen" units to withdraw from the frontline at least, non-combat vehicles (or units that were not operational, or not used for the mission) could also be "milked" (which happened quite often in 1944 and 1945).

The German supply situation during the Ardennes offensive is somewhat special (as there was enough fuel stored on the right bank of the Rhein river, but where the fuel supply system crippled, due to the change in weather and the increasing number of truck breakdowns and losses), as supply requests were made from distant advancing units, and as the Germans had then tried to move over the task of resupplying (fast) armored units to horse-drawn vehicles, in an attempt to compensate the high amount of truck losses.
But even in the Ardennes, the remaining motorized supply elements had (very very limited) emergency supply resources, which quite often were made available by ditching unarmored vehicles or halftracks and milking them to regain mobility, they were that focused on keeping up the advance.
This worked for one or another day (and was even already performed during the PREPARATION for the offensive, where many tanks started the advance with 60% fuel only), but then the supply chaos (created by the need to shift to horse-drawn supply vehicles even for a vital amount of supplies for the fast units) and the lack of fuel kicked in.

Whatsoever, the supply rules (that a moving base cannot supply units) should be revised with the details above in mind, and despite the special supply situation (which was correctly implemented) in the Bulge scenarios, imho

2) That's not historical. Considering that the first few emergency requests could be fulfilled by a Coy's organic (and following) supply elements, a time frame of 8.5 hrs would be totally unrealistic

A supply column using the widely used 3.6 ton-truck Opel Blitz or a (Ford) derivate, with a 3.6 liter engine delivering 68-75 HP and providing a max. speed of around 85 km/h, should have been able to cover a distance of 25 kilometers within 1 or 2 hours, where then at least a part of the supply train would have reached the requesting party, max. 3 hrs with indirect routes or detours, caused by say an unfavourable road layout or by rough terrain, and including the actual refueling process (which just involded lifting the canister, so pumps were not needed for such emergency resupplies). Travelling through contested territory (and avoiding enemy units) surely took more time, but I am guessing that there was no enemy force between the requesting party and its base, in that scenario.
 
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Daz

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The fuel supplies at the start of this scenario are being delivered by horse and cart, that's part of the reason the journey takes so long.
The other problem is the base is overloaded with requests, as all the units moving in the Bn's are making requests at the same time due to them starting with about the same quantity of fuel then traveling together the same distance where they request for more and run out at about the same time.

This is compounded by the inability of the Base (a bug) to keep moving down the road in order to close the distance, thus making the journey for the horse and carts between unit and Base much shorter.

Another problem is a game mechanic, which I think we will just have to live with, as I can't see a way around it other than to start the scenario with all the Bases already on the map.
In the game as far as supply is concerned, there is no supply structure in place until the unit and base arrive at the edge of the map.
In real life of course there would already be a supply structure in place while the unit is traveling to the edge of the map.
This lack of off map supply structure causes problems when the units arrive on the map many hours before there organic base.
As far as the game is concerned their Base doesn't exist, but in real life it would be just a few kilometres down the road just of the edge of the map and closing fast.
In the mean time they could either be assigned a base that is to small for them, and not capable of handling the quantity of units already on the map, or may not get any emergency supply at all, until they are assigned a base after the first routine supply event that could be 12 hours away if they joined the map just after the first routine supply event at 06:00 or 18:00 hours.
 

GoodGuy

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The fuel supplies at the start of this scenario are being delivered by horse and cart, that's part of the reason the journey takes so long.

Oh I didn't know that horse-drawn supply was set.

What's the reason for setting horse-drawn supply for the Beda Fromm scenario?
Basically, the Afrika Korps was a motorized force. All supplies were handled by trucks, since there were pretty much no usable railway lines during the advance. Air supply was also in place, but that was usually restricted to transportation of the wounded, urgent reinforcements and mail. The "Gigant" ("Giant") transport planes established some kind kind of air bridge (with ~300 flights, IIRC), when the German/Italian convoys kept losing ships/supplies/materiel, transporting desperately needed materiel, specialists, officers, guns/trucks, and even complete Inf Coys on one or another occasion to Africa, and picking up wounded or redeployed soldiers for the return flights. There is a nice documentary (German/Italian production i think) that tried to investigate the wherebouts of 2 Giants that were shot down by British fighters over the waters around Sardinia, which also tried to investigate life/careers of the soldiers onboard and also showed the exploration/diving mission down to those wrecks. One of the Giants crashed on the water (few soldiers survived, IIRC) and is still there, in relative good condition, it just lost the covering, but the frame survived all those years in the salty water, it turned out that the other one had crashed on the island and burned out with no survivors. Italian fishermen, who witnessed the crashes when they were kids, described their observations. Pretty interesting. One of the passengers was a paymaster(?), who was supposed to be flown to Sardinia to pick the up pay (on Sardinia) for the soldiers in his unit, which was deployed in North Africa.

The Gebirgs-Jäger-Regiment 756 (Mountain Regiment) deployed to North Africa in December 1942 had around 2000 mules at its disposal, but all of the mules drowned during the transfer through the Mediterranean, when the ship got torpedo'ed.
The mountain Rgt. was then pretty "immobile", because there was basically no transport capacity for their heavy weapons, let alone their troops, so they were 100% "non-wheeled". Only during or after their first few engagements they were able to "acquire" some horses, from the French Spahi-Cavalry units they had engaged. They also bought some Arabian horses, but the horses appeared to be showstoppers, as - outside cities, afar from coastal roads, maintaining a proper food and water supply for the horses turned out to be a major problem, with the heat in the rough desert or the lack of water in the mountainous areas, let alone the fact, that mules can climb mountains more easily.

It seems like the AOK in North Africa used some horses for shorter distances, but frontline troops fully depended on truck deliveries/supplies. I wouldn't rule out that one or another unit had a small contingent of horses, but that was not the case for the rest (say 98%) of the units deployed in Africa, and that includes the Italian units, which totally depended on German fuel supplies, btw.

This is compounded by the inability of the Base (a bug) to keep moving down the road in order to close the distance, thus making the journey for the horse and carts between unit and Base much shorter.

Another problem is a game mechanic, which I think we will just have to live with, as I can't see a way around it other than to start the scenario with all the Bases already on the map.
In the game as far as supply is concerned, there is no supply structure in place until the unit and base arrive at the edge of the map.
In real life of course there would already be a supply structure in place while the unit is traveling to the edge of the map.
This lack of off map supply structure causes problems when the units arrive on the map many hours before there organic base.
As far as the game is concerned their Base doesn't exist, but in real life it would be just a few kilometres down the road just of the edge of the map and closing fast.
Well, maybe not in Africa, every little piece of supply/materiel had to be hauled from distant depots. Local stocks were built, sure, but the Germans were concerned that such stocks could be either captured or bombed, so they tried to play it somewhat safer in Africa. Rommel did not care about logisitics, that's one reason for the various problems in NA, another reason was the weak convoy system in the mediterranean.
In the Ardennes, one large German unit sent out most or even all supply columns to organize fuel/basics on the 25th of December, but had not heard anything from the columns by the 31st of December. :p

In the mean time they could either be assigned a base that is to small for them, and not capable of handling the quantity of units already on the map, or may not get any emergency supply at all, until they are assigned a base after the first routine supply event that could be 12 hours away if they joined the map just after the first routine supply event at 06:00 or 18:00 hours.

In order to avoid this, bases have to be deployed on the map first, then, I guess ... lower echelon bases at least.
I am guessing that say a regimental base can draw from the supply point? If not, the sub units will have to use up their own resources, and live off of the resource pool of the Rgt. base until the superior base enters the frey, otherwise.
The player should have the possibility to set distinct supply orders, like several options:

  • 1) distribute supplies evenly, even if the number of requesting units is really high (so that each unit will get something at least), or
  • 2) supply armored elements first (too maintain speed of advance), or
  • 3) supply foot units first (might be good to keep momentum in areas that are not accessable by wheeled units), or
  • 4) preserve ammo, water, food, fuel (pretty much like a "only shoot, move and fight, if necessary, until proper supply can be restored).
 
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Daz

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The Beda Fomm scenario does not feature the Afirca Korps mate.
This takes place before they arrive on the continent.

This is about the withdrawal of the Italian 10th Army from Cyrenacia, after Operation Compass during the winter of 1940.
They are basically running for their lives, unaware that the British are about to cut of their escape route, down the coastal road, at Beda Fomm.
So the whole of what's left of the 10th Army and its supplies are heading down that road. All the Bases for the entire force are less than 24 hours apart stacked up along that road.

One of the supply problems of this scenario is the way the various units and their Bases trickle onto the map in their historical order.
This causes problems as I have mentioned because there is no supply structure for these units until their base arrives on the map and then only when they get one allocated after the 06:00 and 18:00 supply events.
This can lead to the only base that is on the map at that time, having some very serious problems with overloading.
 

Daz

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I'm wondering if the reason the scenario designer made such an incredibly long map, was because he was well aware of the off map supply restrictions in game and his intention was to give the Axis player time and space, to either consolidate his forces and establish a proper supply structure, then attack with a reasonably well organized and supplied force, or to make the same mistake the Italians did historicaly and just feed men into the Allies meat grinder piecemeal.

If that was his intention then this scenario is even better designed than I thought and since I have started playing it I have held it in high regard.
Its certainly got my brain working hard.
I would like the base freezing problem sorted so I can have another crack at it.
 

GoodGuy

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The Beda Fomm scenario does not feature the Afirca Korps mate.
This takes place before they arrive on the continent.

Rah, I am silly. I thought the battle took place when the very first German contingent had engaged already. Well, *%&!#* happens, if you don't care for Italian campaigns. :p

This is about the withdrawal of the Italian 10th Army from Cyrenacia, after Operation Compass during the winter of 1940.

They are basically running for their lives, unaware that the British are about to cut of their escape route, down the coastal road, at Beda Fomm.
So the whole of what's left of the 10th Army and its supplies are heading down that road. All the Bases for the entire force are less than 24 hours apart stacked up along that road.

Yeah, I'm on the same page, now, that's the operation that was both, a cut-operation AND a raid. The 10th was a mix of fully motorized units, mechanized and non-motorized inf units, where Maletti's Group was the main wheeled unit, I guess. Gotcha. Until the British raid/cut-off, the supply was motorized, in the main, afaik (well, not my field of interest/expertise, tho :)), the Babini group was a "makeshift" armoured unit, and the Blackshirts were not trained to coordinate with their new organic motorized elements.
 
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