Making of an Aces High Scenario, Part 1

by Mike "Jordi" Bowman

Article Type: Strategy Guide
Article Date: September 26, 2002

Product Info

Game Title: Aces High
Category: WWII Air Combat MMOG
Developer / Publisher: HiTech Creations
Release Date: August 1999
Required Spec: PII 233 or better, Windows 95/98/ME/2K DirectX 8.0a, 8 MB 3D Video
Files & Links: Click Here

What is It?

Aces High is a massively multiplayer WWII flight simulation. It allows instant action in the main arena where one can fly and die repeatedly. On weekend nights there can be over 400 virtual pilots flying with and against each other for the supreme control of the main arena.

What can I FLY and DRIVE in Aces High

Aces High has planes and vehicles from many different countries and ships that the players can control. Some sample planes ( Many have several variants ) include the following:
  • American: A20, B17, B26, Corsair, Mustang, P38, P47, P40…

  • British: Boston, Hurricane, Spitfire, Lancaster, Tempest, Typhoon…

  • German: 109, 190, 110, Ju88, ME-262…

  • Italian: C.202, C.205

  • Japanese: Zero, Val, Ki-61, Ki-67, N1K2…

  • Russian: II-2 Type 3, La-5, La-7, Yak-9

There are also different landing crafts, tanks and other vehicles.

Some of the different terrain maps are specific areas or battles such as . . .
  • Baltic Area
  • Battle of Britain
  • Black Sea
  • Burma
  • Europe
  • Germany
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Norway
  • Philippines
  • Sicily
  • Slot
  • Stalingrad
  • Tunisia

Many were designed by members of the Volunteer Terrain Group that is part of a larger Aces High volunteer group.

There are ships such as carriers you can take off from and land on, cruisers and destroyers that you can man the guns to defend the carrier or to shell other ships and land targets and PT Boats you can take out for a spin and attack other ships.

Check out the online help section for more information about Aces High.

What is a Scenario?

But some pilots like a more structured environment where living and dying take on a much greater meaning. Aces High has a group of volunteers called CM's (Campagin Managers) that put on different events on a weekly of monthly basis. Some types of these events include the following:

Tour of Duty: Weekly, Friday evening and Sunday afternoon squadron-based events. The different days are geared for U.S. or European pilots. These take place over three consecutive Fridays or Saturdays, then a week off, then they start back up again.

Snapshots: These are held Wednesday evenings and are geared toward the individual pilots. These are just a one night event. Each week there is a totaly different Snapshot event.

KOTH: King of the Hill. This is a monthly event that all are allowed to participate in. It is a winner take all event. The winner has to be the last pilot still flying. The first pilot to win three rounds is declared the "King of the Hill" for the following month.

Combat Air Patrol: Take place Saturday afternoons as a squadron- and / or individual-based event. These encompass a continuity of action from week to week. They also keep track of players statistics and awards based on overall performance.

Historical: These scenarios are run once every three months. These are our largest events and the most historical in nature. Scenarios may have months of pre-planning done by the Aces High CM Group, followed by a registration period, then weeks of practice for both sides, then several hours of flying and dying for your side one or more days a week over several weeks.

Scenarios allow LARGE groups of pilots to re-create many of the great air, sea, and land battles. "Bigweek" with B-17 bombers and P-51, P-47 and P-38 escorts vs. the German 190's and 109's. Sicily with invasion forces, ground vehicles capturing strategic land targets all the while a great air battle taking place over head. "Battle of Britain" with the German forces trying to do better than their WWII counterparts with their fighters and Ju-88 bombers trying to defeat the Stubborn RAF in their Spitfires and Hurricanes.

All of these scenario require a concerted coordination between the CM Staff, the Commanding Officers (CO) and staff of each side in the scenario and the pilots who have set aside their own personal time to meet and spend hours online together.

There are several phases in the life of a scenario. I will detail each section then on a weekly basis update the progress of the design and implementation of the scenario from several different angles—from the designer's point-of-view (my own), from the CO's point-of-view and from the regular pilot’s point-of-view.

A scenario has a life like a butterfly: what it looks like when it starts out may be totally different than how it looks when it emerges from its cocoon and takes to flight.

Different Phases of a Scenario

There are several phases to a scenario design and implementation. These are…

  1. Birth of a concept.
  2. Refinement of the concept.
  3. Picking of the Commanding Officers for both sides.
  4. Hashing out the rules set.
  5. Running the Registration.
  6. Assigning pilots to squadrons.
  7. Practice makes perfect.
  8. The First day of the Battle Arrives - Butterflies!
  9. Running the Frames.
  10. After Action Reports from the frame.
  11. Deciding the Winner and Loser of the Scenario.
  12. Rinse and Repeat as needed for the NEXT Scenario.

This first installment will take us through steps 1 and 2.

Step 1 - Birth of a Concept

How is a scenario BORN? It all starts in the mind of the designer. Usually the designer has a part of history he is most intrigued with. The designer could be from England and the Battle of Britain has always fascinated him. Or he could be Russian and the Eastern Front has held his rapt attention. He could be Japanese and the air battles in China versus the Flying Tigers held his interest. Or he could be an American who has been in love with the carrier battles in the Pacific (that is my area of interest as a scenario designer ). All of these ideas are fertile ground to base a scenario on.

We will use my design of the "CLASH AT MIDWAY" as an example of the process of scenario design.

I will have my favorite books and resources to draw from to start the design of the scenario.

First I have to come up with a fair and playable rule set and objectives to keep the command staffs and pilots interested in flying for several hours. I have to take into account what planes and vehicles and terrain were in use during the time frame of the war I am re-creating. I then have to compare what planes and vehicles and maps are currently available in Aces High. Some planes might not be available so a substitute has to be found.

Some scenarios are just not do-able since the planes just are not there or the substitutions will just not FIT—for example, a German plane to substitute for a Japanese plane.

Immersion into an event is important. The closer one can make a design fit what happened the more immersed the player can get involved and the more the pilot feels like "I am really there".

Step 2. Refinement of a Concept

I take all of the available info and create a basic layout of the rules, plane sets, total number of pilots needed for each side relative to how many pilots the arena can hold. I build a FLOW for how I feel the scenario will progress looking through the eyes of the CM's, the CO's and the pilots. I look for glaring holes in the rules. I look for ways a CO will look at the rules and say "Ah ha! They did not think of this". It is always the things you do not think of that may come back and haunt you.

An example was in the BIGWEEK Scenario. The CM's did not think that the Allied CO would send a nap of the earth run of B-17's to the target. Needless to say, the Germans were looking for the planes at 20,000 feet not 200 feet! It was not in the rules that the Allies could NOT go that low. It did not violate any rules but it did violate the spirit of the rules. The scenario was re-creating the HIGH altitude bomber missions. So after the time the Allies went that low a rule had to be but into place for the rest of the scenario that set a minimum altitude for the Allied bombers.

One thing we have done the last few scenarios is get the CO's involved in the rules making process early on. This way they both can look at the rules and suggest changes or additions or deletions. If this had been done in the BIGWEEK Scenario the German CO could have said early on "Hmmm—is there any rule that forbids the Allied bombers from flying lower than a certain altitude?" If this question had been raised earlier then the GOTCHA we ran into would not have happen. I am sure another GOTCHA would have taken its place!

The last thing I check is to see if there is a ready-made Aces High map we can use or will a custom map need to be created? The Aces High terrain team can do wonders with the tools they have to create new maps. The map used for the last Battle of Britain was custom-tailored for the scenario. It allowed several new features to be used in that event that had never been done before. The addition of the changes increased the immersion factor for those on the RAF side immensely. Fortunately, for me, there are just some minor changes that need to be done to the default Midway map. A map room has to be added to allow the Japanese to capture Midway Island. A special laid out Midway airfield tile will be created so it looks the same as the real one 60 years ago. Special fleets are designed to be used just by one side or the other that fit the historical layout of each side’s fleets. There is no Japanese carrier so both will have to use default US carrier ship.

Special Midway Island Design

Midway Island

Once I think I have most of the important stuff laid out it is time to show it to my CM, XO - AUB. AUB looks it over and points out the stuff I forgot or typed wrong! Aub helps play the devils advocate. He may really like the scenario idea but his job is to poke holes in the design that I missed and to fix them so it works as well as possible!

After the both of us have fixed things up—again!—We post it for the rest of the Aces High CM Group to review it. We may already have questions that we can not answer that we'll need help from our fellow CM's. They look at it and poke more holes into it. They answer our questions, come up with fixes and or changes. They basically act as another ten pairs of eyes.

The terrain experts will tell us what we can and can not do. The arena settings experts will tell us what will and will not work. They will tell us what settings work best for different desired results we want to achieve. Do we want KILLER flak or just flak that bounces you around but does not cause much damage? Do we want fuel usage to come into play. Do we want to vary how much damage bombs do to different types of targets? All the CM's combine the vast storage of knowledge to come up with what we feel would give the best possible scenario design.

In the end it is the players who fly the scenarios that are our customers. We may have a killer design, great maps, and airtight rules—but if no one is interested in participating and flying, the scenario it is a total waste of time.

We want pilots to view the scenario rules and designs and say to themselves, "Man I HAVE to fly in that scenario".

Check out the Aces High forum to get a feel for the Midway General Forum postings.

Next Installment
Step 3. Picking of the commanding officers for both sides.
Step 4. Hashing out the rules set.

Mike "DmdJordi" Bowman
Aces High
Scenario CM Staff


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