Sunday, September 22, 2013

Command: Modern Air Naval Operations - Preview

I’m staring at a modern naval clash of a magnitude and intensity that could change the world's order, completely oblivious to the fact that I am in front of a cheap computer monitor, interacting with the good old standard Windows interface. In a matter of minutes, I’ve established a rapport with a US Navy task force consisting of one carrier, one guided missile cruiser, one destroyer, two destroyer escorts, two guided missile destroyers, one fast combat support ship, ten helicopters, and seventy fixed wing aircraft.

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The number of sensors from my ships alone is one hundred and three. The different type of weapons must in the high fifties.  Each of the above modeled meticulously. Yet I’m doing this by myself without losing my sanity. My virtual sailors and pilots have an understanding of how their weapons and sensors work and will maximize their potential based on the mission/order they were issued. The lack of micromanaging in Command has finally opened the gates of hard core naval warfare at the grand-tactical and operational levels for me. I am now commanding a naval operation instead of worrying about my patrol aircraft not climbing enough for a better radar coverage. Not that the implementation of such things as radar wave propagation losses is ignored by the engine (indeed Command uses a sophisticated hybrid range-dependent model), it is just that this simulator actually has a tactical AI to manage the details if the player wants so.

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Command: ModernAir/Naval Operations is ready for a much anticipated release next Tuesday, September 24th, published by Matrix/Slitherine. This is the ultimate naval/air war game/simulator with each sensor and weapons platform modelled in extremely high detail. Not even land units were left out. I am looking at the ammunition levels of a US Navy SEAL Team as I write this). The versatility of this engine is tremendous, and the scenarios included in the review version I’m playing range from the 1960s to the near future.

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An easy to use scenario editor is included, which puts all of Command’s database at the disposal of the player’s imagination. The most basic operations of scenario creation (unit creation/initial positioning, stances and waypoints) are straightforward and readily available to the player. 

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I always like scenarios with high replay value and the first thing that I checked out in the scenario editor was the ability to place units at random locations within an area. Check! The scenario editor can do that. This random location trick is not part of a menu or completely straightforward. Indeed, it requires to go a bit deeper into the features of the editor. But it will not require you signing up for a college-level programming course. The other powerful tools in the scenario editor are customizable events like triggers and specific actions. When combined, these events can create an additional layer of flexible responses from the computer opponent, or a changing set of victory conditions. As for how to create maps, well you may not need them because Command uses a virtual globe as the "map". It is possible to add layers to the virtual globe, like specialty maps or satellite pictures of certain areas.

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Built from the keel by hardcore naval enthusiasts, Command is just a few days from setting a new standard in naval/air warfare war gaming. Make sure to check out the official website and forums for updates and news about the release.

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Besides the gripping tales of vague contact reports, metal-piercing missile salvos, betraying sound waves, sneaky submarine strikes and all the technical geekness you can imagine, there is an additional storyline coming out from every info screen in Command. It takes a lot of vision, discipline and leadership to accomplish what you will play next Tuesday. How a group of enthusiasts undertook this gigantic project and brought it into fruition is in itself a remarkable story. But that’s the subject of another article …

Cheers,

34 comments:

Doug Miller said...

My only regret about this sim is that I'm not playing it already. Insta-buy!

Anonymous said...

Played the original Harpoon on a 286 back in the early 90's.... first time in 20 years I'm excited about the genre again!!!

Unknown said...

Me too waiting for this one, but a lot of friends said that this game would need a lot of patch before being very playable :/ unfortunately this could be another PoA 2 maybe?

Dimitris said...
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Dimitris said...
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Dimitris said...

Hey JC! Thanks for the coverage.

Big day today!

Peter Moore said...

Its REALLY impressive that such a small independent team went so far as to released such a complex simulator.

Great job!

Chuck "Magnum" Ankenbauer said...

Was looking forward to this, but 80 bucks is pure greed. Hope most agree and refuse to buy till they drop it to a proper PC price. JMO

Still JC, love the articles. ;)

Johan said...

Why expect a "proper PC price", when this is by no means your average PC game?

People pay 50-60 dollars for mediocre games that only gives maybe a few dozen hours of game time. Considering the many hundreds of hours that the Command player is likely to spend with this incredibly advanced simulator over the coming years, the price is more than worth it.

Expecting a quality sim to sell for the same price as a dime a dozen PC game is not logical.

RangerX3X said...

Just my personal consumer opinion in the current economy, $80 for the download and $95 for the boxed edition are simply ridiculous. Whether it is truly “worth” it or not, the cold hard fact is that some people simply cannot afford those prices.

Alan Giasson said...

I have issue with paying a minimum of $85 for a game. Prices in general a so high now that I can not by on first release of a game. I have to wait for a sale. Just can't afford it.

Jason Rimmer said...

It really needs a demo..no way can i risk this sort of money without knowing I'm going to love it.

GunnyHighway said...

I bought it already, and the price is Justified, the quality is there.

High price for Steel Beast Pro PE, VBS VTK and it is also justified. It just depends what your area of concentration is.

GunnyHighway said...
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Erich said...

Sorry for people who can't find the extra $85 (or $100 like I did). You're missing out on the best game I've played...maybe ever. The Holy Grail of wargaming has always been AI - especially friendly AI. This one finally nails it so that you can sit back and actually focus on the big picture. Unbelievable - they did it. Somehow they did it. I've been waiting for this kind of thing since I first played Combat Leader on my Atari 800XL in 1984.

Jason Rimmer said...

Still wont risk it as this isn't my normal type of wargame.Now if the ultimate turn based tactical wargame came out like I'm hoping the next Steel panthers will be then I'd pay that price no problem.

Erich said...

$80 is "pure greed"? How can you make that statement without knowing the amount of time and effort which went into this sim? I guess a $250k Ferrari is also "pure greed" because, uh, I can't afford it.

Please. You're just annoyed that you don't have enough money (presumably) to buy this Ferrari of Air/Naval sims. Anyone without a spare $80 probably shouldn't be spending anything on games - I sure wouldn't.

Anonymous said...

I think the re-playability of this simulation justifies 80 bucks. How many of us have spent 40,50 or 60 dollars on a piece of software that we play once or twice, get bored with it and throw it on the pile?? Guilty as charged. From my experience stationed within a shipboard CIC this is as close as it gets to the real thing. No joke. I highly recommend it.

Mike in Akron OH

Misternizz said...

I finally read the comments to this article. Wow, some folks get arsey when someone mentions they're not eager to spend 80 plus bucks on a computer wargame. Me, I find myself in agreement with that guy. This game might be the best thing since aerosal cheese, but without a working demo, who are you supposed to believe, the other guys who are cheerleading the game? User experience and user satisfaction varies wildly from person to person. I've dropped a big dime on computer wargames in the past (the most recent painful example being Empire in Arms, from the same company), and sometimes, big ticket, complex games are just steaming piles of unplayable poo. I know a lot of time and talent has gone into making them, but the end product has to entertain me for a very long time to earn that 8initial purchase price back. When you fork over 80 dollars plus for ONE crappy Matrix Games experience, you get a little bitter and VERY cautious about the next big ticket item. More power to the guy who says "nope, I'll hold off till I'm more certain/have seen a demo/etc."-- there's no reason to sneer at him.

Jason Rimmer said...

" Anyone without a spare $80 probably shouldn't be spending anything on games - I sure wouldn't."

What a stupid comment. Some people only have a spare bit of "spend on me" money which might only be $30 a month..or even $10..they have all essentials paid and have abit of spare cash.

Johan said...

Jason, if someone has less than $80 available to spend, they really, really need to save that money to have some buffer for future emergencies, not blow it on a computer game.

But if they still want to get Command, they can just save their money for a few months.

Anonymous said...

I don't buy Betas, pre-releases, join Kickstarts or purchase overpriced games (not even a demo in this case!)

A fool and his money are soon parted.

Crazer said...

Not going to spend 80$. The game isn't flawless, just read the official forums. Somone praised the allied AI here--it's plain lies. Friendly AI is simpistic at best. The interface could be much better too.

JC said...

I'm going to stay away from this discussion but I am watching. So keep it civil. At the end of the day is just a game.

Cheers,

JC

Anonymous said...

I agree with you JC it is just a game. Supply and demand will adjust the price accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Odd that there isn't anyone complaining over at the Steel Beasts article. It's a bit more expensive than this title and I'm sure has its own fair share of bugs, interface, and AI issues.

gabeeg said...

Considering the research put in and the number of potential gaming hours it will provide, I think that the price is not unreasonable in the least. That said, I for one cannot afford it at this time...but when I do have the extra disposable money, this is on my list of potential purchases.

Andrew W said...

Johan, I think the point trying to be made was not that they have less than $80 to possibly spend, but that they budget less than $80 for themselves to spend on extras, like games, or movies, or whatever. The argument is that after they're done putting things toward bills and savings, getting that "buffer", what they have left to spend on entertainment is less than $80.

If they were really interested, then that just means tightening their belt further, forgoing use of that entertainment/whatever budget, until they had enough. From those championing the game, it sounds like it would be money well-spent -- if they like it.

I understand that Matrix Games is nearly dead-set against demos (nearly). It seems their main argument is that they don't generate enough sales to off-set the development costs. I think it would be great if they released the game without access to editing capabilities, only 2-3 scenarios, and heck, even a 30 minute time limit per scenario. I don't think that would cost a lot, but I'm no programmer.

For the argument that people spend $60 for bad games so why should they spend $80 for a good one, I think the problem is that bad games can cost $60 in the first place. But of course, good or bad, a game can cost pretty much anything.

The bottom line for this potential consumer is that I won't spend $80 on a single game without seeing a whole lot more about it. Right now I'm a "no." If there were a demo, maybe they could've already gotten a "yes" from me. For now they need to wait until my knowledge of the game reaches a sort of "critical mass" before I can possibly make a decision.

I can tell you if the game were in the $40-60 range, they'd likely already have my money.

Andrew W said...

Also, JC, I love this blog. Been reading it silently for a while. Keep up the great work!

Erich said...

I'm sorry - I would think that anyone who is old enough to be "into" this sort of material (which is fairly dry), would not have a problem with the price. When $59.99 gets you something as vapid as the latest Call of Duty, it really puts this encyclopedic game's price into proper perspective. Steel Beasts Pro PE is another example of a Pro-quality "game" that has a much steeper price and no demo until very recently. I believe it simply comes with the territory.

Many years of painstaking research and fine-tuning of AI behavior went into this thing. And unlike those who enjoy running around and shooting stuff randomly, the people who play this kind of wargame are exceedingly picky - so it *has* to be right. Add in the fact that the "game" is already well-regarded even by military professionals, and you quickly realize that you're getting something with effectively infinite replay value.

As for the person who said the great AI was a "lie", I just watched a mixed strike package with escorting EA-6's and Wild Weasels employ doctrine-perfect tactics when they came upon a previously undetected SA-5 "Gammon" site. The Prowlers hung back and did stand-off jamming, the Weasels then rolled in and lofted their Standarm ARMs to max out their ballistic range, and meanwhile the main strike package hung back and let the boys do their thing. All without me having to micromanage. In other words, my airmen are actually *trained*, which frees me up to decide things at the macro-level.

I'm sorry - I've never seen anything like that before in my entire history of computer wargaming which goes back to 1984.

GunnyHighway said...

I bought it, played it, and returned it because it is having too many simplistic views and calculations of ASW.

Jason Rimmer said...

Great review by Tim STone..when he speaks I listen.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/10/04/wot-i-think-command-modern-air-naval-operations/

Dimitris said...

Yes, Tim's review was dead-on on the things we need to improve.

For us v1 is the beginning of a long road. (And the second step, v1.01, is on the cusp of release).

Chumbaba said...

Great Game!

The price is ok because of the work they did.
It's not a mega seller from any of that multi million dollar companies.
It's an indie game, made for fans from fans with really possession for that genre. I am so glad, that any of the talented people redone and ofcourse revised the technic and design without losing the spirit of Larry Bonds Harpoon series.
I am about to read Tom Clancy's Red Storm Riding again and i am feeleing like in a movie with this wonderful piece of software.