At around midnight the shelling began

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At around midnight the shelling began

Postby Waxworks » Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:02 am

All year spent griping about how there isn't enough structure for Rise of Flight multiplayer, and at last Bloody April is here again!

Some early impressions:

Jasta 5's efforts are deeply appreciated, but I still wonder why this event is the only one of its nature? I imagine that it must be somewhat of a burden to host the only campaign of its kind, perhaps a companion effort would be welcomed. As Syndicate are providing servers this year, how about using the experience gained for a similar event run by Syndicate? Cambrai could be run in a similar style, and offers opportunities to have both Central and Entente sides attack and defend. Cambrai would also be about six months on, that's only half the wait!

The event seems to have expanded this year in response to demand, was it only two missions per day last year? Three missions per day allows more participation, also it seems that the missions themselves will be longer, this allows the inclusion of a 'second phase' so that pilots can join after the originals have left or have been shot down. This expansion is very welcome, though it seems possible that it may have placed greater constraints on what can be done with the missions themselves. There was even a practice night for Bloody April, which was well attended.

Whether the principle could be extended is another matter. I've often asked for regular limited machines missions but the response has been that limited reflights and death penalties limit player numbers. It's not that I'm against the vast open participation style, but both types could be run. Ideally I would want the actual missions run some time before the event, so that the 'competition' element was established beforehand. While it hasn't a particular historic basis, Vander squadron competition format has a different approach to secret objectives, though I prefer multiple objectives to the random choice of the objective at mission start. Also Jasta 5 only get the opportunity to run Bloody April III 1.0 missions and this seems a very stressful approach!

Air starts seem to be another feature introduced this year. While the RFC packed as many machines they could onto aerodromes in the battle sector and allocated the flanking wings to support flanking sectors, some of the machines came from headquarters aerodromes further away and which might enlarge the map boundaries considerably if included. As RFC structure had not changed, this would be true of any Cambrai set up as well. It would be possible to have a map extension just for these flights, there is no reason beyond aesthetics why the active mission map has to be rectangular, however this still means the inclusion of extra terrain and more active aerodromes.

While Jasta 5 must be pleased at the RFC Nieuports, I would imagine that they will also look somewhat wistfully at the release schedule, FE2s and Strutters would be very useful. Let's see if 777 can be persuaded to part with a BE2 as well for next year!? That is one potential drawback for staging a Cambrai scenario, there are no new machines to whet the appetite for it. However of the recent releases the CLII and DH4 are both useful.

Again this year there will be a single Bloody April force commander to allocate machines for each mission, a structure that is bound to cause controversy and puts pressure on the force commanders. This seems an area where a different approach could be taken. When you have centralised control the effect must be for each side to try and group forces as much as possible, and this is both unrealistic and might place extra strain on the server when combat is joined. One alternative is to have the campaign run from the squadron level, with each participating squadron playing the role of a squadron in the campaign. This approach is the one I would promote in any comparable event.

While at this pre-battle stage I can't discuss the missions themselves, there are some general observations to be made. Escorts were not often used by the RFC during the Great War except for specific missions, perhaps aerodrome attacks or especially vital strategic reconnaissance. Without radios, escorts could not be relied upon to meet their charges. More importantly, routine two-seater missions often took longer than allowed for by scout endurance. The solution was for scout flights to conduct line patrols to seek out enemies trying to penetrate the two-seater working area. Also, during Bloody April the ratio between scouts and two-seaters was about 50-50, more like 60-40 for the battle sector but then two-seater flights from other sectors had more ability to reach the battle sector. While players typically prefer scouts, if you greatly increase the ratio of scouts to two-seaters and shorten the two-seater missions, it alters the nature of the fighting considerably.

Cambrai offers rather more scope for ground attack than Bloody April, and this would mean that RFC scouts had other tasks than patrols. The design of my original Cambrai maps was heavily influenced by Bloody April II, and what I wanted was a situation where there were many potential missions to be undertaken with the limited assets available, rather than one with fewer options which rewarded the concentration of all available machines. Of course, as you have the Central side counterattack during Cambrai the issue of the side on the offensive having rather more opportunity to score points is somewhat alleviated.

Anyway, on with the show chaps!
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby SYN_Vander » Sat Apr 06, 2013 10:39 am

Hi Waxworks,

Yes, it would be great if we could host a similar campaign later this year. Why we have only done this once (Knights of the sky campaign) is because it takes a huge amount of time to organise such an event. However, I think we may do it again with less effort. Here is what needs to be done:

-Design campaign structure. I think we already know the formula by now. Important is to make scoring / point system 100% clear before you start the campaign.
-Invite players. Register players. We already have a forum that can be used for this.
-Manage, assign players: Who will be commanders/flightleaders etc. in other words, who will run things on each side.
-Create missions. This year I created a template mission that could be used by J5 to generate multiple missions by changing, objectives, weather etc. The more simple we keep the objectives the easier it will be to create missions.
-Setup server and run missions according to schedule. For Bloody April I created some batch files; together with Windows Task Schedular the campaign practically runs by itself. We still need to manually change stats (tour) though.

Here are the job-openings we need to fill before committing ourselves:

-Campaign Manager. This only works if one person feels overall responsible for the campaign. Needed skills: To communicate, plan and motivate other people :)
-Campaign Planner. To determine objectives, keep scores. Assign squadrons to teams etc. Responsible for campaign logic. Give input to mission design team. Post mission briefings on the forum.
-Mission designer(s). Even with a good template, it will take time to build multiple missions and specially, test them so they work 100%
-Server admin. Run the server so missions will start per schedule. Manage statistics site so all missions are in one tour (if needed).

You want to apply for one of the jobs? :)

I'll discuss this with the rest of Syndicate.
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby Waxworks » Sat Apr 06, 2013 3:21 pm

What research and mission design skills I have would be at your disposal, certainly! While my strong preference is that the event should be grounded in history, this doesn't necessarily mean that it has to be in the corresponding month to the date of the campaign, of course.

I have a few books on Cambrai so I'm inclined to that battle, it's also short and has opportunities for both sides to be on the offensive and for ground attack.

The Lens battle in August at the end of the Arras battles has a well balanced planeset, as most of the newer RFC machines had moved north while the BEs and FEs had all been shot down. The area used fits the existing lines neatly as it isn't affected by the Hindenburg withdrawal. However the Central side is restricted in the mission options.

If it is considered an advantage to utilise the Channel map then there are alternatives to Ypres. The RNAS attacks from Dunkirk on the submarine bases around Zeebrugge would be another option for October/November. Gothas did mount at least one daylight raid on Felixstowe in summer 1917, though I'm not sure if a Gotha evening isn't better as a one-off event!

The Amiens battles of August 1918 might allow the use of both French and British squadrons.
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby SYN_Vander » Sat Apr 06, 2013 9:44 pm

I'm all for historical accuracy, but I expect we'll have to compromize because of gameplay and limitations (bugs?) in RoF. A mission set in late 1917 with swarms of Camels on the Allied side and only Albatros DVa on German side will not be very popular!
What would be a correct plane-set for the battle of Cambrai?

A campaign on the Channel map also sounds very interesting. What would be interesting time frames for a battle near Ypres?
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby Waxworks » Sun Apr 07, 2013 12:11 am

The Ypres 1917 planeset is perhaps worse than the Cambrai planeset, because of the lack of the DVa and Halberstadt? Also there isn't a German attack involved. Historically the German air force were very cautious over Ypres, but they made a big effort at Cambrai.

The Lys Offensive of 1918- which you are familiar with- might be an option for Ypres, though you could only have the northern half of the battle, and it is tight against the map edge. The Allied offensive of late September 1918 which recaptured the 'Flanders Peaks' might be another option, though it only lasted a few days and again you are on the map edge. Also, if you were on the Channel map then it might be better to explore the naval side? You would pass up flying boats?

If your priority is a balanced scout vs scout planeset then the Lens battle is good, though it basically uses the same planeset as Bloody April, minus the DH2, Roland and Halberstadt DII and with more historical justification, basically because the RE8 was in more general use. Otherwise there are problems from 1917 on, because of the lack of 1917 variants for the Entente scouts, we only have the Viper SE5a and what I would suggest has to be a later engined Camel. Early 1918 has the Dr1 which is worse than the Camel, then you run into the underengined DVII... but after all, why fly the DH2 or FE2 against the Albatros? Also, you might credit the Bloody April event for the RFC Nieuport, wouldn't you want to run an event that caused the appearance of an Albatros DV and new Albatros FM, or an IIIau Fokker?

Anyway, the scout planeset issue can only be altered by 777, which I devoutedly hope for, or avoided by mission design. Noone complains that the RE8 is outclassed by the Halberstadt, so a greater proportion of two seaters might cover the scout issues. Though it might be considered super hardcore, unescorted bomber squadron missions might only make it to multiplayer in a campaign context, whether Gothas, IAF or the naval campaign against the Gothas. Having ground attack missions is my preferred option- that was why the RFC suffered so heavily at Cambrai, it was the battle that challenged an ascendancy they had achieved at Messines and maintained afterwards. And Cambrai has got Boistrancourt on the map... would Central pilots pass up the Flying Circus out of Camel fright?
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby Waxworks » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:22 am

A Cambrai planeset would be: Camel, SE5a, RE8, Pup(?) vs DFW, Halberstadt C early, DVa, Pfalz DIIIa and for the German counter attack Dr1. The Pups could also substitute for DH5s, though it might help if they carried bombs. The DH4 and Bristol Fighter are options depending on what kind of operation was envisaged, though these machines are hard for the Germans to deal with at this stage of the war. The Camels might be deployed in the same manner as the Halberstadts, against gun positions and machine-gun nests.

There are outstanding advantages to a Cambrai campaign, simply because both sides get the opportunity to attack. The possible disadvantages include that many of the RFC bases are far from the action, the front line is not reflected on the map and the old front with its ambient flak is present and of course doubts about the balance of the planeset. It would be quite a large map. There might be a tendency toward huge dogfights over Bourlon Wood at some stages of the battle.

There are many options for a Channel RNAS/Centre d'Aviation Maritime vs Marinekorps scrap, how about May 1917? The planeset could be Felixstowe, Pup, Triplane, N17 (both types), RE8 (for Strutter) vs DIII, DFW, W12 and Gotha (substitute for the very similar GIV version). The RNAS and French could be based at Dunkirk and the Germans at Oostend and Zeebrugge with the Ghistelles advanced Gotha base. If the map was angled you could have a coastal strip so that most of the operational area was over the sea.

The outstanding advantages for this sort of campaign are that there are many smaller flights rather than huge scraps, the recces are radio-equipped rather than photo machines which spares a lot of controversy about mission completion, and it uses the new and nicer map. There is no front line as such. Having fights over the sea might help with lag(?) The foreseeable disadvantages might be that more creativity might be required with the missions, we are entirely missing some features of this sort of campaign such as airships/zeppelins and destroyers and its on a map that not everyone might have.

I would be happy with either, I have a few books on Cambrai and its the campaign I've always put forward, however there are many intriguing possibilities with the second campaign!
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby SYN_Vander » Fri Apr 12, 2013 7:37 am

Hi Waxworks, That 1917 Channel campaign seems like a lot of fun! The map looks better and it will introduce some new gameplay elements as well (sea, boats, sinking floatplanes :) ). I can see a nice mix of flights over both land and sea.
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby Waxworks » Sat Apr 13, 2013 3:24 pm

I hope that it would be fun, there are elements to it that would be fairly new! But are there any other volunteers to make it happen as a Syndicate project?

I've set up a map which is a coastal strip from Dunkirk up to Zeebrugge to check for possible problems. There's easily enough aerodromes, many German bases will need to be removed. Jabbeke and Koolkerke seem to have been the main Marinekorps bases? Ghistelles, the historic advanced Gotha base, may be too close to the lines for day flights so another base further back might need to be used. A second possible base issue is that the historic Dunkirk seaplane base might be too cramped for F2As. Its the basin just next to the narrow entry. I'm not sure whether F2as flew from Dunkirk? Bray and the Dunkirk bases would be the Entente aerodromes.

The Germans mounted a seaplane offensive in May 1917. One objective was to drive the inferior Entente seaplanes from the skies, unfortunately we don't have those machines and I doubt DH2s would be a useful substitute... However the primary objectives of the campaign involved mines and submarines. German seaplanes would attack the drifters left to watch the nets between the Goodwin sands and Dunkirk and another barrage laid off Zeebrugge and Ostend. German seaplanes would also watch minefields as they were being laid, to render them useless. German minesweepers were watched in their turn by Entente seaplanes, so the swept areas could be relaid.

The reason a machine like the W12 was effective against patrol boats and drifters was that they tended to mount a single low angle gun and were vulnerable to air attack. I wish we had a drifter, the only substitute that seems possible is a barge with the guns emptied? Destroyers would be useful too..

The Royal Navy used converted passenger ships for minelayers so no problem representing those, however a more technical issue is with the patrols, when the target is a ship it would be more effective to have the zone move with the target, but I doubt this is possible? If there is nothing better, one possible alternative is to have patrols completed by damaging the target. Minelaying might not be done at speed- and it might not be possible under machine gun fire? So while W12 could not sink a minelayer, it might be able to prevent a minelaying mission being completed, unless it was driven off?

Dunkirk, Zeebrugge and Ostend were among the heaviest bombed targets of the war, with only a strip of land it might be possible to have night missions? Bomber targets included railroad junctions and sidings at Ostend and electrical generating stations at Zeebrugge.

We have the bottom of the 'spider web' area on the map. The Anglo-Dutch 'beef trade' required escort, also flying boats patrolled the route before it sailed, the British destination was Harwich. German seaplanes screened U-boats near the ports and also Gothas returning from raids. It was very rare that a submarine would be sunk or even damaged, however forcing submarines to submerge restricted their ability to attack and also their time on patrol. It seems that the only U-boat sunk from the air was attacking a monitor off Ostend, two 230 lb bombs being used from 800 ft.

There were artillery duels between Royal Naval ships and shore batteries protecting Ostend and Zeebrugge, the Germans used spotters and the RN may have done so too. . One surprise was that the large German gun firing on Dunkirk from a position near Ghistelles from March 1917 also used spotters, though Dunkirk airspace must have been very busy???

The Strandfest surprise attack which cleared the British from east of Nieuport was in summer 1917, but it would seem reasonable that the German preparations including recces would be underway.

There might be enough possibilities there for a template map? Any observations or further suggestions would be very welcome!
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby SYN_Vander » Sun Apr 14, 2013 2:25 pm

Now that sounds very promising. I have built a fair number of 3d objects for a new campaign. I have also briefly experimented with creating ships (I quickly inserted a carrier, but alas you aircraft will break upon touch-down :) ) and ships are actually not hard to get into the game. The physics model is fairly simple and can be copied from other existing ships.

Do you have more information about these drifters and minesweepers? And would the minefields or mines themselves also be visible? It might make a nice 3rd party add-on. For closed multiplay campaigns it will always be possible to publish a small "mod" that all participants need to install if they want to join the campaign....
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Re: At around midnight the shelling began

Postby Waxworks » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:02 pm

These are the wikis for drifters: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_drifter and for a German minesweeper: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMS_M59

Another useful addition would be coastal motor boats like this: http://www.google.co.uk/imgres?imgurl=http://ptdockyard.tripod.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/40cmb.jpg&imgrefurl=http://ptdockyard.tripod.com/id11.html&h=534&w=1007&sz=43&tbnid=6WniMI-CXyTa_M:&tbnh=64&tbnw=121&prev=/search%3Fq%3Dcoastal%2Bmotor%2Bboat%2Bpicture%2Bww1%26tbm%3Disch%26tbo%3Du&zoom=1&q=coastal+motor+boat+picture+ww1&usg=__ULzfTeW6R2kzySJGZUIiVxDSq4M=&docid=ZhoWD12MnSSxvM&sa=X&ei=PNxqUZ6PNqXJ4AS44IDICw&ved=0CC8Q9QEwAA&dur=3476 and http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30004582

When Culley shot down the Zeppelin in August 1918, with his Camel taking off from the towed lighter, another element of the attack was to drop six coastal motor boats from cruisers to patrol off the Ems. Unfortunately they had no air cover, this being a somewhat novel requirement, and were slaughtered by Brandenburg seaplanes. 'It was the first example of what can happen when warships are caught without cover by overwhelming air forces, and it had been predicted at the planning stage by pilots at Felixstowe and Yarmouth, who argued for Camel cover.'

If even bigger warships can be made then destroyers would be nice, there were lots of them in the Channel! However, proper warships like destroyers are static targets and fast flak platforms, it is the lighter boats that might be more useful and interesting. The W12s wouldn't carry bombs because their main surface targets were more vulnerable to machine guns.

Mines are probably best dealt with by scripting rather than placed as objects, after all if you could see them they would have lost almost all of their purpose. I doubt the nets would be useful either, they are better represented by their tenders.
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