Our Quarter One update is a few weeks later than normal, but the first half of April has been hectic!
It may have appeared quiet to you all in January 2023, but that was before a flurry of news and releases in February and March.
Panzer Campaigns Philippines ’44 was released to very positive feedback and has sold well in the weeks since. The Philippines campaign was one of the bigger Asian campaigns that could be simulated in the Panzer Campaigns engine, and we are very happy with the end result. For those uncertain about the title, we included some background and reading materials here.
Campaign Waterloo and the Final Struggle Demo were updated to version 4.05 as a precursor to the rest of the Napoleonic series being enhanced. This allows us to determine any issues before we broaden the rollout. This was a very significant update and you can read about all the details here.
In the same blog post, we also announced the update for the Little Big Horn Demo from the Early American War series. There were a range of changes and updates based upon feedback received post the release last November. The positive response has us considering expanding to cover more clashes in the Indian wars.
Panzer Battles was updated to version 4.01, adding a range of enhancements including our latest user interface changes, the new action speed settings, and other features. We also highlighted addition work from Rick Bancroft who designed the Crusader scenarios in Battles of North Africa 1941 that will be included in a future update, You can read all the Panzer Battles 4.01 news here.
Panzer Campaigns Philippines ’44 was our first version 4.03 title. The Panzer Campaigns, First World War Campaigns and Modern Campaigns have been continuously updated since the release of Panzer Campaigns Rumyantsev ’43 last November. All three series have moved from version 4.00 through to version 4.03 in that time. All versions have bought significant changes and bug fixes. You can read about the specific changes in the following posts:
All in all, forty-three products were updated in Quarter One, 40% of the catalogue. Further series will follow in Quarter Two. The whole team have been very productive both driving new projects as well as ensuring existing titles are upgraded to what we call the ‘WDS standard’.
With that in mind we would like to preview the upcoming version 4.01 updates for the Squad Battles series.
Squad Battles Version 4.01 Preview
Squad Battles has been a series with a significant number of titles (sixteen), comparable in size to the Napoleonic (fifteen titles) and Civil War Battles (sixteen) ranges yet under appreciated in comparison. This was surprising considering the breadth of subjects covered in the series, ranging from the First World War, through the Spanish Civil War, World War Two and on to the Modern War title.
Squad Battles had a granularity of details including weaponry, soldier types, leaders and diverse terrain that normally appeals to anyone interested in tactical squad level combat. Equivalent games such as the boardgame Advanced Squad Leader or the PC game Steel Panthers had proven individual vehicle and squad level play was popular. Yet this had not been the case for Squad Battles.
As we planned to review Squad Battles, we were fortunate to be joined by a number of the communities’ expert players who both helped identify what wasn’t working in the series but also craft fixes and more importantly enhancements that would hopefully revitalise interest in what we viewed as a diamond in the rough.
The team listed out a range of bugs and enhancements that would require either data or programmatic updates. There was also a decision to look at all the games graphics as they were some of the most dated of all series and had had little attention since release.
Nearly eighteen months of labour from many people has gone into the effort to prepare version 4.01 ready for release.
The number of changes made will make these new games, worthy of review for any existing owners or consideration for those with an interest in tactical combat.
Though not exhaustive here is the list of enhancements and bugs fixed:
- PNG graphics support
- Stacking changes to show multiple vehicles/guns in same hex added.
- New version of the Terrain Box added to the Hex Info area.
- Reposition vehicle & weapons image descriptions.
- On map guns now have facing like vehicles.
- Top-down rotating images for all vehicles and guns
- Company markings adjusted to fit into the NATO boxes.
- Added new tabs to identify unit type or unit state.
- Weapon Type support added to the Database Editor + Engine.
- New 2D zoom level added.
- Folder re-organisation.
- New hotkeys added.
- New toolbars added.
- Support for new snow graphics files added.
- A* pathfinding added.
- Vehicles and vehicle weapons now recover effectiveness albeit at 50% rate of other units.
- PDT and engine updates for weapon recovery added.
- Range colour coding like Panzer Battles added.
- Allow Passenger Marker for horse riders even under FOW.
- Support for new Range Effect values added including the Parameter Data Editor.
- Minor uplift for compass to support alt label styling.
- Game Action Speed control has been added.
- Slopes are now drawn after terrain to improve visibility.
- New cursors added.
- New weapon types added.
- Game Action Speed set all default speeds hotkey added (Ctrl+Alt+F6).
- Stacking changes to stop towed/fixed guns concealing everything else in a hex.
- Horse riders will now be visible.
- 2D slopes display added to the map editor.
- Added alternative terrain box label style.
- Added scenario editor pathing (as per NPB). Also provides hex ranges in game.
- Civilians enabled for all games.
- New 2D and 3D game graphics
- When an enemy unit takes opportunity fire during their turn, casualties are not displayed even if the unit is on clear open ground.
- Units with 1/3 movement left can assault a hex even when they'd be impeded to do so by the intervening terrain.
- Surrendered units do not count as casualties and yield no points.
- Surrendering does not seem to be working properly. Units with no clear escape route (i.e., a route that does not cross an enemy unit's ZOC) will instead become entrenched and fight to the last man.
- Fix for explosion animation code
- Targeting Dialog wasn't drawing foreground images using the Alpha Channel.
- Surrendered units’ casualties were not being properly counted.
- Fix to prevent capacity going negative.
- Fixed gun display corruption.
- Fixed unit overlap display on max zoom in.
- Horses can become immobilised due to terrain effects (final fix to reduce "vehicle" capacity).
- Ensure map shading is set and cleared correctly.
- Fix NextStack/PrevStack but still support NextUnit/PrevUnit.
- Don't draw range circles if location isn't valid.
- Prevent crash on new scenario if range highlight is on.
- Compass direction text was too small for 200 zoom.
- Organization dialog(s) weren't properly supporting PNG files.
- Fixed drawing errors caused by compass display.
- The Database Editor wasn't looking for the Movement.dat file in the Data folder.
- File Selection dialog wasn't looking in the Saves folder to delete files.
- PBEM file location wasn't being set to the Saves folder for subsequent turns (likely affected Hotseat as well).
- PBEM file location was only correct on a clean start. Now fixed.
- On map fire results were not present for PBEM/Hotseat replays.
- On map fire results were not displayed if the replay ended right afterwards.
- Battle record file dialog now defaults to Saves folder.
- Fixed drawing errors in the OOB Editor for officers and squads picture display.
- The 3DSides graphics were being loaded into the wrong place.
- dat was being loaded instead of Movement.dat.
- New Range Effect code wasn't considering a range of 0.
- Game Action Speed Clear Message Timer had the same ID as the Auto Scroll one.
- Screen snapshot now defaults to the Saves folder.
- Fixed counter display where towed/fixed guns were not bottom of stack.
- Fixed Campaign Front End display when campaign is over.
- Parameter Data Editor was copying the rest data into weapon recovery when saving.
- 3DEdges50 & 100 graphics were not showing in Normal, Soft & Mud conditions.
- Randomised display of tree graphics wasn't random enough.
- A+ leaders now have a Quality Modifier (0.25)
- When calling in support, movement point deduction is now only done when a target is chosen.
- Vehicles now have movement points deducted for calling in support.
- AI now has movement points deducted for calling in support.
- Closing the targeting dialog without selecting a target now reverts the support unit to available.
- Movement point deduction is now only done when the support call is resolved.
- 3D trails, gullies and streams drawing weren’t consistent with 2D in snow or frozen conditions.
- Weapon Recovery and Range Effect data was missing from the in-game Parameter Data Dialog.
Beyond the code enhancements, the data and graphical work required has been extensive. Many more images for the various units have been included to provide more randomness and this has required every order of battle to be reviewed and adjusted. These changes make every game upgrade a major project and will be the reason that you will see a staggered rollout across the series.
All our efforts have been focused on preparing the three Eastern Front titles, Advance of the Reich, Red Victory, and Winter War for release first. We will then move onto the other titles as time permits. Expect us to look at titles where we can get the best ‘bang for the buck’ where multiple titles can use the same graphics, such as the Vietnam series (Vietnam, Tour of Duty, Dien Bien Phu), Eagles Strike using the Germans from the Eastern Front range or the Pacific titles (Pacific War, The Proud and the Few). The other titles will follow, but please be patient with us as the graphical load for each is heavy.
Following are some example shots of various features. All are 1920 x 1080 and can be clicked for full size. All work is still Work in Progress and may change by the time we release the updates.
These unit images show the original, new, and where available, alternate unit representations. All are taken from Advance of the Reich.
This next series of shots compare the Ternovka scenario from Red Victory. It should be obvious which images are from the existing build and the new graphics. Please note these are soft ground conditions.
This is the new 2D Zoom level that is being introduced into the Squad Battles series. This is particularly good for larger monitors The first image is with infantry 'figures', the second with infantry 'heads'
This series of shots show the original 3D graphics at both zoom levels and the equivalent shots using the new 3D.
These shots compare the maximum 2D zoom out for this scenario.
The following shots are from the Kochero scenario, also in Red Victory, the ground conditions are mud. Again, a comparison between the existing game and the new version.
This is a maximum 2D zoom out.
At 2D normal zoom.
And some shots at maximum 2D zoom.
Here are both zoom levels for 3D compared.
This series is from the Bug River scenario featuring the Italians. Ugly image first!
These winter shots are from the Azur#2 scenario in Advance of the Reich. Again a comparison between old and new.
Maximum 2D zoom out.
Normal 2D zoom
And the obligatory 2D maximum zoom level.
3D graphical comparison
These shots are from various scenarios in Winter War – a very underappreciated title!
Finally, some beauty shots to finish this post.
And finally for those of you wondering here is the Oktiabrskii (Prokhorovka) scenario on a wide screen (3440 x 1440) monitor at maximum 2D zoom.
We hope this post has piqued your interest in Squad Battles. A note on the 3D graphics, the version we are releasing with the 4.01 patch is a definite improvement. We are currently planning to extensively update the 3D with new terrain, infantry, and vehicle models, but there is a lot of work required and that will be sometime off in the future. All going well, we hope to add 3D to games where it had not been available previously.
We are hopeful that we can release this package to you all in the next couple of weeks. The team have really been impressed with the changes that have been made and we hope you are too. There is honestly so much content in these three titles, if you have not looked at them then it really would be worthwhile picking them up soon.
Finally, a special mention to our programming staff. As you can see by the number of patches, updates, and changes to existing series as well as new features and titles, they have been unbelievably busy. We could never have got some of the work you are enjoying without them.
Till our next post.