WDS – Lockdown Update #1

Hi All,

We hope you are surviving the lockdowns wherever you are

We have been truly fortunate that here at WDS we have managed to keep working despite the current global challenges. Being a distributed team with members across the globe we have been used to tele-working and have probably been more productive due to a reduction in normal day jobs and other responsibilities.

We thought it worthwhile to share with you what the extended team has been working on during 2020 as well as starting to reveal more of our next release, Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ’44. We have a lot to show you and will spread all the information over the next couple of blog posts.

This post is going to focus on graphics upgrades. Over the last couple of weeks John Tiller has provided WDS with an enhanced Napoleonic engine that adds two big graphical enhancements. The first is a true ‘zoom’ for the 2D graphics rather than the current magnified view. The current view just doubles the size of the graphics resulting in a pixelated image when zoomed in.

Below is an example of the previous magnified view. The original, pretty average graphics (on the left) are then doubled in size via magnification. This just makes a single pixel, a clump of four pixels now as each hex has gone from 30 x 30 pixels (900 pixels total) to 60 x 60 pixels (3,600 pixels total) with no change in colour graduation or any other enhancement. (All images can be clicked for full size if required.)

With the new engine, the 2D now allows all 3,600 pixels in a hex to be changed and drawn. This gives much higher resolution graphics and allows all 3 zoom levels to be modified rather than the legacy two. In the two engines that WDS codes we have already made this change in the Panzer Battles (PzB) and American Civil War (ACW) series. Working with the JTS team, we decided to move the Napoleonic’s series over to a slightly modified ACW graphics suite. The decision was made to do this as both series are at a similar scale and any enhancements could be shared across either.

Here is the same image as above but with the revised graphics and the ‘new ‘natural’ zoom level;

The ACW graphics have been around for a couple of years and though utilitarian do the job. Here is the complete map for this particular Napoleonic scenario;

The winter graphics have also been redone. Here is a shot from the Berezina scenario from the Napoleon’s Russian Campaign title;

As well as standardising the terrain, the iconography for the units has been cleaned up and new unit types added. Below you can see the key used for the new icons allowing easier identification of unit types on the map;

Another cool change is a tidying up of the division colours. Below you can see the previous way this was handled. A small coloured square on the counter – as shown in the left-hand image. On the right is the new way with a coloured stripe on the left-hand side of the counter. This is the same way the ACW series handles Brigade colours. More significantly, stacked units will show their divisional colour on the spine of the counter. See the stack indicated by the blue arrow;

The second big enhancement for the Napoleonic’s series is the inclusion of 3D hand painted maps that Frank Mullin’s does such an expert job on. Hand painted maps first appeared in the ACW series and it is planned they will appear in selected Napoleonic titles. For those titles that don’t get the new maps, we plan to review the 3D terrain graphics and provide the best available version. Here is the 3D map for the scenario (Getting Started scenario) we have been showing to date.

This screenshot is at the 3D zoomed out level;

Here is a shot at full zoom;

Now for the news that I am personally super excited about! With the addition of the 2D natural zoom level in the Napoleonic’s series, we asked if there was any chance of doing the same for the Panzer Campaigns series. Panzer Campaigns is on the cusp of its 24th release, Scheldt ’44 covering the fighting in Holland in Autumn 1944. Scheldt ’44 is the first full Prucha/Michas release with JTS/WDS. We will be covering a lot more detail on exactly what is in the game as well as depth of research done to deliver this interesting and unique title.

Scheldt ’44 will be releasing with the first iteration of new, high-resolution graphics after John Tiller agreed to add it in for the series. This gives us so much more ‘canvas’ to work with and today we wanted to share the current draft of these graphics. They are draft as they have only been created in the last week or so and we will be tweaking them as we work on the three zoom levels and get feedback on usability etc. As an example, rivers, streams, and canals need further work to ensure visibility, but the base is there.

Let us show you some in-game shots. Again, please note all images can be clicked for full size.

Firstly, here is the existing graphics using the current magnified zoom;

And here is the new hi-res version of graphics of the same screenshot. I have labelled a few terrain features as we have changed the colours of some components like roads etc;

Here is a first shot of units in game. This is using the Graphical Unit Icons option under settings. The higher resolution is allowing us to have Panzer Battles sized counters and hence can get a decent graphic overlaid. Please note that the Graphical icons are pretty generic. For example, German and SS infantry will use the same Graphical Icon. There is no differentiation between the different arms of service.

This next shot shows the NATO icons in game. The larger counter has allowed us to put finer detail into the icons;

Here is the same shot with Divisional Markings turned on;

The NATO icons shown are based off the format that historian Leo Niehorster has used;

Here is the full counter list as currently in game. This is all currently WIP;

We are currently experimenting with the different ground states. Traditionally soft ground has been created using more saturated colours than the normal palette. For this first iteration we are trialing a subtle blue overlay. For Mud we have done the same with an equivalent brown overlay. You can see the variation (or otherwise!) in the following screen;

Another simple technique that we have determined is to vary the shading of the embankments, escarpments, and cliffs. Again, a subtle change but one that helps the overall image

Another area that we are trialing is a ‘better’ way to represent entrenchments and movement impediment like obstacles and mines on map. Here is an example of a German defensive position. Squares represent entrenchments while circles represent impediments. If a unit is in the same hex as one of these items there is a small tab on the left-hand side with a character representing what is ‘under’ the unit in the hex. For example, you can see unmanned bunkers in the top left corner and manned bunkers below them as indicated by the yellow ‘B’ next to the infantry units. The artillery in the centre of the shot is in trenches and a major defensive position is shown on the right-hand side. There are minefields, obstacles and pillboxes shown. The minefields are level 3, shown by the 3 on the red tab. The pillboxes are designated by the ‘P’ on the tab.

Here is the same shot with ‘Special Markers on Top’ showing all positions sans units. The type of entrenchment/impediment is shown on map in this view;

Mines and obstacles work the same way. Here a US tank force is going to advance along a railway against Germans in trenches;

You can see the tanks have stopped in a minefield and the minefield is shown in the red tab to the right of the tank unit indicated by the arrow;

Here are a range of shots from the current Scheldt ’44 build. This first shot is a larger shot from the immediately prior series

Walcheren Island never gets old. This is prior to the dikes being destroyed and the island being flooded. That said the blue hexes in the centre of the island are flooded fields. Still crossable but with penalties;

This shot shows Canadian, British, Poles, Belgian irregulars as well as German Wehrmacht, SS and Luftwaffe units;

Here is the Waal river with both damaged and intact bridges as well as ferries;

Zooming out one level you can see the northern side of the operation;

And at maximum zoom, this is essentially the whole are the first campaign covers. All the graphics shown in the last two shots (zoomed out) have only just been created and are subject to change;

The game will include actions beyond Holland, including the clearing of the channel ports that were happening simultaneously. Here is Operation Undergo at Calais;

There is a plethora of smaller scenarios included that should enhance the appeal of the game;

Here is a final shot from Scheldt covering the fighting near Dordrecht. Some swamp is evident on the right-hand side of the screenshot;

We do plan to update all the Panzer Campaigns titles with the new graphics over time after Scheldt’s release. We are very aware that the graphics were changed in the Gold releases and they will be left as an option in any patch or future build. There will also be ‘hex-less’ versions include where the light hex shape shown is removed.

As a final bonus for all, we will share a few shots of the new graphics in a Panzer Campaigns Eastern Front title currently under development. None of the Graphical Icons are ready for the ‘East’ but we can show with NATO icons.

We will have more to share with you very soon. Do start getting excited about Panzer Campaigns Scheldt ’44. I expect it to be a bit of a ‘sleeper’ title.

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