Saturday, April 5, 2014

Trigger-Happy! - The New Trigger System in Combat Mission Red Thunder

Triggered actions for the computer-controlled forces are one of the most awaited and exciting features in Combat Mission since the release of Shock Force. As many of you know, up until now the scenario creator of a single player mission had to guess if and when a certain player action would occur and set the computer-controlled faction orders based on SWAG. Not anymore! The new trigger system in Combat Mission now allows the scenario creator to trigger the computer controlled orders based on either the position of enemy or friendly forces. In this blog entry, a look at how this new trigger system works.

This is a setup that I did put together from scratch in 20 minutes or so. Even the map is from scratch. How many games out there can do this?

Keep in mind this is just a demonstration, silly setup. There is no intention of showing anything else but the use of triggers. In this scenario the author wants the player to control the Germans (grey icons) and the computer to control the Soviets (green icons). At the beginning of the scenario, the German and Soviet scouts can't see each other at because a woods-covered hill separates them. Let's suppose the author wants the computer-controlled Soviets to attack once the Germans occupy the barn of the farm in the middle of the map.

In the old times, the author would have to guess both if the player will occupy the farm and if that happens when. With the new trigger system, the scenario author can both set the Soviet attack to happen only if and exactly when the barn is occupied. This is how it looks in the scenario editor.

First, set up a terrain objective for the computer-controlled Soviets. The terrain objective is the barn and its surroundings (grey area indicated with an arrow in the map). Note how this Soviet terrain objective is of a "A.I. Trigger (enemy)" type. The name of the objective is "Saray". This objective is actually a trigger that will fire when the Germans ("enemy" from the Soviet point of view) occupy or touch it.

The Soviets start position ("setup" area in the editor's parlance) is to the south of the hill (yellow area in the map), out of sight from the Germans. In this screenshot, I am telling the Soviets to get out of there towards the next order anytime between the scenario start and end ("Exit between 0 and 28", scenario lasts for 30 min), but to wait until the "Saray" trigger is fired.
And this is where the Soviets will go after the "Saray" trigger is fired (area highlighted yellow): assault the position near the barn.

Scenario play shot. I am playing as the Germans and using the "scenario editor" mode of gameplay so I can see what the Soviets are up to (no fog of war). The Soviets don't move an inch from their setup area. I then order my German scouts into the barn ...

... The "Saray" trigger is fired and the computer-controlled Soviets move to assault the barn (red line is the waypoint created by the computer/AI).

The final destination (red line, white dot) of the Soviets, just as specified in the scenario editor.
The new trigger system is a powerful tool to create a more responsive computer opponent for single player scenarios. Both enemy and friendly forces stepping on a trigger can fire up triggers. Furthermore, within each side (Allied or Axis) computer-controlled orders for one group of troops can be triggered by the completion of orders of another group of the same side. This comes very in handy for the coordination of computer-controlled forces within the same side.

Now with great power comes great responsibility. As you may have noticed in this setup, the computer-controlled Soviet side launched a focused counterattack on an enemy position without having a single simulated eye on the barn, the Germans or anything else than a bunch of trees. It will be up to the scenario creators not to abuse the use of triggers and to bestow a computer opponent with an unfair advantage of a prodigious foresight.



jim said...

Does it mean the triggered group just steamrolls straight towards the objective until they are successful or destroyed/ineffective? Or do they utilise the tac ai?

Johan said...

Jim, triggers have nothing to do with AI behavior, only the timing.

When you order an attack to happen when a trigger is activated, it's exactly the same as ordering a "normal" attack. The attack order is just time-coordinated with the trigger.

andrzej kowalczyk said...

I bought this game but i cannot download it and activate it due network policy. THey just block my isp ( and half Poland) i say to change my isp. But i cant and just dont care.

M.Dorosh said...

They could have used this example in the game manual.