A couple of weeks have now passed. Now the dust has settled and I've had time to reflect on a lot of things, I thought I'd write everything down and break it down step by step. In the hopes it can give you all some insight into the process, what we have learned and all that good stuff.
This will no doubt turn into a lengthy post, so settle in, get a drink and snacks and prepare to do a deep dive into the madness that was D11.
The Very Beginning
Initial plans for a WW2 themed event were first laid out years ago. The idea back then was to do several different missions using differing factions focusing on different famous battles. I put together a test mission - Omaha beach landings to see if it could work as an overall theme or deployment.
Heres a video from back then when I was first developing the idea:
As you can see a lot of thought was having to go into just the landing itself to create some sense of atmosphere and immersion. After some time I managed to get a mission together.
Obi Luckily recorded it!
Overall the feedback was extremely positive, but it wasnt without issue.
In many respects I had bitten off more than I could chew, the mod selection wasnt quite up to scratch and Arma 3 itself was having a lot of issues around that time. My design plan was to use period accurate squad sizes and compositions, striving for as much realism as possible. After this mission played out It soon became apparent that to pull off a WW2 deployment would take way more effort than I first considered, and I realised some aspects of realism would have to be axed for a cohesive and not too disruptive experience for the community.
Due to all that, the plans were shelved, with little hope of having a full WW2 campaign.
Skip forward to D10, our first foray into Historical gameplay. That deployment was awesome and although it was not too different from our normal gear (auto rifles, jets, helicopters etc) it showed that the community would embrace something so different. The staff also learned a fair bit when it came to development of modpacks. With the feedback being so positive it encouraged me to try and pitch to have D11 be WW2 based.
The 31st May 2018 (right 2018!) it was decided to push ahead with developing a WW2 themed deployment and the brainstorming began. There was an awful lot to consider, mods, gear, mission design... so, so, much.
Surprisingly, even for me looking back, the intitial plan is very similar to what we ended up with. The below quote written by me in the first 'brainstorming pm' on that date:
1st session - opening ceremony - intro to basic kit equipment etc, essentially just have weapons and arsenal everywhere, let people have fun
2nd - Dunkirk - British kit, the fall of france (prologue)
Training - Intro the kit used for rest of deployment
D-Day - Rangers
Market Garden - Airborne
Battle Of The Bulge
Race To Berlin
War in the Pacific
Obviously it was changed and extended a bit, but from the off I wanted to make a deployment that could follow a cohesive path through the war and to try and tie it into 'RG lore'.
Next came choosing which mods would be used and built upon. Nothing could really be made or developed until we had settled on this, or at least not finalised. So for a long time there were rounds of testing and trying out various things until we had settled on a final list. At the same time myself, Caesar and the other leaders were discussing loadouts and requirements and going through hundreds of iterations of each role. And I do mean hundreds.
There are roughly 25 unique slots in any one camo/faction variant. I was (much to the dismay of the Villhelm) adamant that we should use themed gear (snow/camo/ranger etc) so, mutiply the unique slots by the 5 variants, on top of the numerous cycles/changes/additions to each one. It soon mounts up! Good job we started it so early on really...
Finally though, the various design choices were settled upon, the mods chosen and I could finally start building the missions! (I'll go more in depth on them individually later). The key philosophy was immersion and variation on each mission. Many a late night was had by myself and Caesar poring over the maps. Deciding on mission flow overall scenario flow etc. Around this time it started becoming clear that the initial plan would have to diverge somewhat simply down to limited map choice for various theatres. For example the Market Garden mission was dropped due to lack of suitable terrain to do a large scale drop that made sense. We really wanted to include a paradrop mission though, so the idea for Operation Albany was born through that. This happened a few times, what we would brainstorm sometimes wouldnt work on the maps we had, or it would simply not be a good experience for all if we had forced our initial ideas in.
A huge stumbling block for us was re insert and resupply - and due to that, Talon. With such a huge over reliance on air mobility in normal ops, we had to make absolutely sure a resupply chain could be set up on each mission before we even thought about unit placement and objectives. As well as ensuring Talon memebers would be occupied, see the fight or be involved as much as possible. Again, lengthy discussion were had with Talon leaders to get the go ahead on ops as we developed them, at times right up until the week before the mission was run.
Respawns too had to make sense and ensure people would not be out of the fight too long if they died. Keep in mind, this was happening before we had insta death enabled.
There was a tonne of things to consider on every mission.
In reality, missions were being tweaked up until a week before they were ran. But the foundations were laid back in summer 2018.
THE HYPE BEGINS
As we spoke more and started to get into the nuts and bolts of the early development stages, it was clear that it would take a long time to get it 'just right' (or as right as we could at least), although, as summer hit, there were questions starting to be asked about the next deployment, so it was only right to tease a little bit (at the time we really couldnt tell that it would take quite as long as it did)
So, if you werent here back then.
I dropped a little teaser video
Not realising at the time that people actually bloody new morse code! It was solved a bit quicker than I anticipated!
I decided to have a bit of fun with it though and made a small ARG type game for people to mull over
Theres the thread about it, it was pretty fun to create with clues leading to a mission file, which when played had intel in there to lead to a youtube video.
After that, the jig was up, the crowd went wild (ish) and then all went dark whilst we beavered away with development....
Until I got around to making another video where I would show a lot more of what we would be doing. Looking back at this video im pretty pleased I managed to cover a lot of what we did, from mod teases to the missions themselves, there was probably more hints in there than people realised at the time (even the cigs!)
Sadly, things went a bit awry after this, Arma and mod updates were breaking left right and centre and all dev staff were tasked onto making sure the standard RG experience was prioritised (there are threads about this somewhere too. This was one of the main reasons for the lengthy gap in between the hype build and the deployment itself sadly.
An awful long time passed, development ticked a long nicely after a time and we were back on track, some mods were scrapped and others brought in which meant a fresh round of loadout changes and mission changes. real life also got in the way massively, work was busy for a few of us and meant we just didnt have an opening to run missions consecutively.
Eventually though, a time frame was set and plans were put in place were me and Caesar not here to run the missions.
Below is a document/brief I made so with that and the chats we had, people could run the mission were I not there and still keep to the 'vision' we had set ourselves.
Its not complete, or fully comprehensive, but coupled with me talking to people and walking them through each part, it hopefully shows how much planning and thought were being put in so as to provide the best experience we could.
Anyhoo I digress. Finally! We were ready to announce it was coming
At this point (june/july 2019) Everything was more or less ready, certainly in Beta version, just lots of polish to do and finalise the date of launch in concrete. The video again gave further detail on what the deployment was all about, I used the RG units and mission files to make sure all was correct too (albiet things like weather etc hadnt been finalised yet)
Skip forward, more time passes, more testing testing testing,using so many mods did A definitely work with C, did this weapon kill this thing? did this truck work with this enemy? an awful lot of polish to make sure things went as smooth as possible. Sure some things were missed in the end, but honestly by this point it was becoming a 'now or never' scenario.
So boom, were ready to go!
I got a little carried away with the historical lore, but I must admit it was pretty fun to write, and I do love taking screenshots so any excuse right?
They can all be found in this sub forum if you've not checked them out yet.
The date is set, lots of nail biting proceeds as we edge ever closer to the first mission.
I dont mind saying it, I was sh***ing myself. What if it all went wrong, what if things are so broken they cant be fixed, sure we can test, but you can never tell what 50 odd people on the server will do... what if they hate it? what if ive missed something, what if what if what if... itd had been nearly 3 years in the making.... holy anxiety batman!
So it begins... (theodenking.gif)
Operation Dynamo, the incident where British and French forces pulled off a feat so grand, they couldnt quite believe it themselves. It is an iconic moment in history and I thought would be a good way to kick things off.
The design philosophy behind this was simple 'chaos'.
I wanted people to feel overwhelmed, confused, frustrated. Going from full auto to bolt action rifles, no radios, lacking in equipment in general. All these things.
What was in essense a standard defensive mission, was to be broken up by forcing the retreat, tying into the story of RG being the last defenders made sense. I also thought something fairly static would be a good way to ease people in with lack of equipment.
Tensions were quite high, the first mission of this grand campaign, 3 years in the making....
It went well! Better than I expected in fact.
The major downside in this mission was the AI simply not behaving themselves, it was near impossible to get them to move up to close in and put the pressure on players in any meaningful light. However it felt like a great intro, dogfights overhead, the panic when enemy armour came rolling down the road so much going on it was tricky to focus. There were some performance issues, particularly toward the end, and some people saw a little more combat than others. However we also learned how some things could be improved for future missions, such as resupply runs and CAS co-ordination, as well as from a zeus POV and amount of AI that could be placed at any one time.
Still one of favourite endings to a mission I've ever done
Here are some quotes from SQL's after action reports
Pfc Oryou continued firing with the Brengun carrier aimed south at an Armoured vehicle, to distract it from the AT gun that was reloading after a missed shot. The vehicle was lost and Pfc Oryou was injured heavily. Pvt Mereck managed to pull him out of the Vehicle while the AT Gun (operated by members of Cuttless) and save his life, However in the confusion the Entrenching tool was lost.
By the time I returned to the trench, things were calmer and most of the guys were tightly spread on the ramp. We spent the remainder of the time expanding Cutlass/Blade position before the Stuckas and half tracks came. The Sten II’s were largely ineffective throughout, but the Brens compensated for the most part. Fire superiority coupled with effective mortar support from 3-0 with Sgt. Kimbo’s forward observation, successfully fended off 3x halftrack troop carriers and several squads with Blade prior to being ordered to withdraw. As Blade withdrew, Cutlass held position to cover the retreat and were obliterated by enemy artillery; all members were KIA.
After the artillery had finished the Germans followed it up with a hail of constant bullets fired towards our positions, but the two AUR’s (Pvt.Mumbo and PFC.Shrapz) responded with equal tenacity, not giving up their makeshift firing positions, outside the relative safety of the main trench in order to repel the 1st enemy push.
What I loved about this was how into it everybody got, from roleplay to overall entrhuisiasm, it was great to see.
This was the first time I'd put music into a mission, it was an experiment, but with wanting to make the whole deployment 'cinematic and immersive' I thought it was a risk worth taking, seeing everyone run down the beach with the music playing was a glorious sight, which Shlee captured beautifully. Music used was Elegy for dunkirk, from the film Atonement
There were issues sure, but it was a great start!
Next up was Operation Albany,
The parachute landing at Normandy.
Initially our idea was to do a Market garden Operation, but with lack of decent terrain, we figured we could cover parachuting with this.
It was interesting designing this
The map doesnt have an airfield, so we had to make one. It also seems odd to take off from the same map as you are dropping onto. We got around this by using a time skip after a longish plane journey which was to give the sense of time passing.
Also using music again to establish a calm take off and plane ride, to cut to an array of AA and Flak fire when at the DZ also was designed to help with that transition
There was a whoopsie on this, but it was recovered very quickly and Im really grateful to how everyone acted when it went wrong. Soon enough we were back in the air again.
The take off was glorious
This mission was also a good chance to try out some night time action,
The drop was deliberately meant to be chaotic once again, with the hope that people would become spilt up and seperated. Although we didnt want much action during this phase, the enemy threat was kept light but enough to cause issues should they not be appraoched carefully. We wanted people to feel lost, tense and on edge. Flak is something weve never seen before and a nightime op without lots of illumination and NVG's is unheard of.
To make it so you could actually see, lots of testing was done and a script developed so we could set the lighting just right and still keep the actual date to be accurate. Without the script you couldnt see anything at all, and setting a full moon meant you could see too much and it lost the feeling of 'wandering in the dark'. It was a really nice touch that made it so much better and went mostly unnoticed!
Transitioning to day once again allowed us to be a bit more creative with objectives and be in keeping with the 'story' . We didnt want to focus too much on the night time stuff due to difficulty levels.
Moving to a daytime assault on the village of Neaville started the bloody nose that would run through most of the deployment, but it was a sight to see.
I learned here that for towns, less AI in better positions or deliberately fdefensive positions, are 10x more effective than hindreds more randomly placed ai. All ai on this village were placed to be as annoying as possible. But I may have put too many. It was a tough balance
I managed to record all this mission from Zeus perspective so you can see how it was ran
There are some great recordings of the drop from inside tha aircraft, and the mission was a real blast to observe.
Next up we had Overlord,
Much of the design of this was directly from the test mission I had done years earlier. Although I had to add more things down and adjust my strategy somewhat.
For this mission once again, immersion, particularly the 'opening scene' was key. Ripping the opening sounds from Saving Private Ryanand cutting out most of the chatter was a good way to enhance it without physically creating more explosions and gunfire with ai units.
It was a lot of fun timing the trigger activation so the whistles would sound at roughly the time you hit the beach....lots of fun...
However it worked pretty well in the end.
Friendly AI was spawned in to trigger the MG's and enemy positions into firing on them, to again enhance things but also to allow most people to get off the boats.
A lot of attention was payed to the MG's in the bunkers, I couldnt have them too accurate, or engaging too early as nobody would ever make it on to the beach let alone off it. Each MG nest had its values tweaked so they would not be too deadly, but i had to keep them firing too, D-day with no MG42's is no fun at all...
It was awesome seeing the bunkers cleared out on the ridge, and the amount of bodies at the sea wall... good grief...
It was designed to be a rough start, a slaughter in some respects, but not impossible, I estimated about 45min-1hour around that area and that was pretty accurate, allowing the push in land (using a time skip again)
I messed up with that though, as the time skip changed the tides! and now the respawn was under water. Something we corrected for future missions by scripting the respawn loaction to change.
The rest of the mission went well, perhaps a bit too drawn out by me, but on the whole, mission accomplished and again, despite the deaths, feedback was great!
Thats it for now, I'll continue later....