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.

18 thoughts on “WDS – Lockdown Update #1

  • Fascinating. Thanks, David.

    Since these JTS games have been my favourite games for a long time, I confess to being a little frightened every time you announce you’re going to change the graphics. So, with the Napoleonics, via some modding, the games all look great to me now, much preferable to the ACW series graphics, which I don’t like as much, and hence I don’t buy them. The ACW graphics are much more ‘hexy’, I think, and this would be a comment I would make – without being offensive, I hope – about your work generally, David – it seems sometimes to embrace the hex in various ways I wish you wouldn’t. Because I really don’t like it when maps look like collections of hexes. Collections of hexes don’t exist in nature, in real life, or in normal, real maps. I want the maps to look as natural as possible (even though we all know there’s a hex underlay), so I can go to actual maps and see something similar.

    So I’m relieved that with the PC series new changes you say the old graphics will be an option, including, I hope, the option to get keep the old graphics without the Jison-type hard hexes, which – seriously – if I had only the option to play with those things, I really would not play (or buy) any of these games. I really really do not like the Jison hexes. I know there are people out there who love them, but all they do for me is make a cluttered mess of the map, making it nothing like an actual map at all. Whilst adding nothing.

    But I hope, therefore, that there will be a version of the new title – Scheldt 44, which I was really looking forward to – which will not have either the Jison-type hexes or only the new graphics you display above. Because for me the old maps – lol, they’ve only just come out in the GOLD series – the old GOLD maps are really nice (the non Jison variant). They look the closest we’ve come yet to actual maps at that scale. The towns, cities and urban areas are particularly excellent representations – and yet now, having only just come up with them, you intend, it seems, to get rid of them and have Panzer Battles types buildings as towns? But a map at this scale (the PC series scale), from this period should not have little buildings representing cities as if it were drawn by a Napoleonic staff officer. It should look more like the cities you already came up with in the Gold releases. There should be an attempt to match the scale to the scale of the features – if you’re seeking a natural, normal appearance, as close as possible to an actual map.

    I hope also there will not be ‘resolution’ changes in the graphics files again, meaning it gets very hard to mod the files using files from previous iterations that you might prefer, or meaning all the modding already done now can’t be used in the new packages.

    So, though (imagining everything you’ve posted above without those horrible Jison-type hexes) most things look quite nice, I am a little bothered that you’re moving towards the kind of representation which makes the maps look like toy maps and not natural, military maps. So I fear that all the features – trees, buildings, hex edges etc – seem to get gradually bigger and further removed from a representation of their actual size in relation to the terrain, making all the maps look more and more like a squad level map, which they’re not.

    So, in summary – and sorry if this sounds all negative (but I did just post a ‘thank you’ and praise of your Gold work in the Blitz forums…) I hope we can keep the old graphics, if we choose, with the Napoleonic series, as we’ve been able to with the Gold series, and I hope we can always choose to get rid of the Jison-type hexes, and I hope you will think again about the depiction of towns and urban areas in the Scheldt map. Because what you’ve shown above makes everything look more like Panzer Battles, and the scale here ought to be very different to that. And, as I said, the Gold PC graphics were great. So why change it?

  • Thanks for all the info. Nice to get email like this for a change. I be most excited about the Napoleonic changes. Waterloo I assume will be an upgraded title and I would like Austerlitz as well.

    I’m still holding out hope for Panzer Battles Operation Typhoon 🇨🇦 In 2020

    Tom

  • I should qualify/clarify what I wrote earlier by saying that I neglected to mention – sorry – that aside from the Jison-type hexes and the new ‘3d’ city/town buildings, the graphics in the Scheldt pictures look very beautiful, and, indeed, if you get rid of the hex centres, amongst the least hexy stuff you’ve done – the rivers, roads, streams etc are very rounded and smooth, instead of angular, which makes a big difference. The trees are really nice – though why fill them in right to the very hex edges, as you have, which makes them into rigidly defined hex blocks of forest such as you might see on an old style board game? The polder graphic is lovely. All of the unit graphics look great.

    Why can’t we have different updates for game changes and graphic changes, I wonder? Then anyone who didn’t go for all or some of these graphics changes could stick with what they bought and still be up to date? I have bought 38 of these JTS games and it would be nice to not have to worry about, for example, graphics changes which totally change the appearance of the game I bought, not have to worry about Jison-type hexes (or someone’s ‘top-down’ mod that I didn’t even like) being transplanted later into games which I would never have bought if they’d been in there in the first place.

  • All good stuff! Real excited to see all this implemented. These IMO are all non-trivial improvements that will add to the quality of my war gaming life. Thanks for the update David!

  • Love almost everything but units (specially soldier portraits) still are needed of a revision, aiming for a more professional clean and actual genuine look. Latest JISON unit images could be a good example of the right way to go IMHO, not just a matter of taste. Just my two cents…

  • Will older games be retroactively upgraded with a patch? Or will the improvements apply only to new purchases of older games? Will have an impact on whether I buy now or wait until later. Thanks

  • Happy to see the Napy series finally getting some of the CW series stuff!

    Division colors on the side? Great idea!

    Where I have my doubts are the counters and symbolic depiction on them.
    The CW series had the counters pretty solid colored with just a slight 3d effect. What I see here looks pretty strange, on the sides the counter is dark but in the middle pretty white. I assume this comes from the depiction being mainly black instead of the white/yellow we see in the CW series.
    So, solid colored counters with white/yellow depiction()lines, columns, squares), doesn’t this work out in the Napy series?

    Next the coloring of some Nato symbols. Is that needed at all? Why have green pioneer counters when the Nato symbol seems pretty clear in that aspect. Or the light blue on some cavalry when you can work with letters like you already do for heavy, cossacks, dragoons.
    I think there is a higher chance of mixing them up with base counter colors, like Russian green and green pioneers or restricted infantry gray and Prussian/Austrian gray, then improving the chance to identify the unit type.
    Nato symbols should carry an overall “neutral” color, that can be applied to all counter colors without the risk of mixing them up for a unit of a different nation.

    Last but not least, will there be a set to switch to ingame that has no Nato symbols like it can be done in the CW series?

  • Really pleased to see that when revamped, the JTS Napoleonic games will have dedicated counters for 4 types of Cavalry, 6 (including Pioneers) types of Infantry and 4 types of Artillery as opposed to the 1 of each we have now.

    However I wonder if you could go even further here. For the 4 cavalry types my guess is that only Dragoons and perhaps Cossacks will be able to dismount, so why not use the unused set of 6 dismounted unit icons in the Heavy and Light cavalry icon rows to introduce 2 further classes of none dismountable cavalry, such as Hussars & Lancers.

    Likewise for the Emplaced Artillery the 6 ”limbered up” icons will not be needed either so put these slots to use for a set of warship icons facing in each of the 6 directions and convert the single warship icon which the counter set currently has into a dedicated balloon unit icon.

  • I hope all of the JTS games get the new hi-res graphics. It’s something that should have been done years ago.

  • I really like the idea of the tabs on the side of trenches, mines, etc. But the fine black circle and box outlines leave the look “unfinished”. I would think that a mix of the current symbology with the added tabs would be a good middle ground.

    Though, I guess I could always mod it the way I would like. 🙂

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