Making of an Aces High Scenario, Part 2by Mike "Jordi" Bowman
Article Type: How-To
Article Date: October 03, 2002
Product InfoGame 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
Go Back To Part 1
What is It?Aces High is a 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.
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 ScenarioThere are several phases to scenario design and implementation.
They are . . .
- Birth of a concept.
- Refinement of the concept.
- Picking of the Commanding Officers for both sides.
- Hashing out the rules set.
- Running the registration.
- Assigning pilots to squadrons.
- Practice makes perfect.
- The first day of the battle arrives - Butterflies!
- Running the frames.
- After action reports from the frame.
- Deciding the winner and loser of the scenario.
- Rinse and repeat as needed for the NEXT scenario.
In the first installment we went over the beginnings of a scenario. This installment will take us through steps 3 and 4.
What Goes into Making a Good Commanding Officer for a Scenario?Scenarios are a lot like most professional team sports. You have a coach (commanding officer) his assistant coaches (The CO's command staff) a team captain and co-captains (flight leaders) and the players (scenario pilots).
First, it helps to have played the game at some level. You can not expect a person, off the street, to coach a professional team, no matter how much we think we can do a better job than that bleeping-good-for-nothing-can't-fight-his-way-out-of-a-paper-bag coach of our favorite pro team. Just the same, one would not expect a totally new person to the game or one with very little scenario experience to be able to step right in and start out as a good scenario CO.
I may not like the way the head coach of my favorite pro football team does his job, but I doubt very much I could do anywhere near as well with little or no knowledge of the inner workings of football beyond what I have picked up from watching it on TV. The same is true for Scenarios and the Commanding Officers position.
Second, a good CO has worked his way up the ladder of success in scenarios.
Typically, an aspiring CO starts out as a regular pilot following orders from above and carrying them out to completion.
After being a regular pilot for a while, one becomes a flight leader—a leader of other pilots. This gives the prospective CO some command experience. It also helps others to see if the person is fit to command in an online setting. Players get to find out various aspects of the flight leader's administrative abilities, such as…
- Punctual with emails or forgets to send important info,
- Replies ASAP to player emails or lets emails languish in the inbox,
- Takes the initiative and helps with ideas for formulating mission plans,
- Stays in close contact with the pilots under his or her command,
- Most importantly, does the aspiring CO trust the other pilots to carry out the orders given to them
The next step toward becoming a CO is an executive officer position (XO). The XO helps directly with the CO in planning and running the show. A CO may have more than one XO depending on the scenario. A CO may have an XO to handle all of the fighter groups and one for the bomber groups and maybe one for ships and or land vehicles. As in any organization the CO must delegate. He can not do it all on his own. He must be able to trust his XO's and lean on them for help and advice and to help run the show during the actual frame. They all must be on the same page.
CO's must use all of their combined experience as a regular pilot, flight leader, XO and other CO commands they may have had to make the current scenario run smoothly and so all involved have fun.
Some people just live for scenarios. They are scenario junkies. I am one of them. Although I am not the best pilot around—far from it, in fact—I do, however, consider myself a good CO.
I have been flying in scenarios in first in Air Warrior and now in Aces High for more than seven years. I started out as just a pilot. Give me the orders, tell me who to follow, and where to drop my bombs.
Then that fateful day. It was a USAAF vs. Luftwaffe Air Warrior scenario. It was to last for six days over three weeks. I was just a lowly bomber pilot—no different than the rest. The first frame I flew just like normal, but it was not a normal day. Our flight leader was not there so we had to fly along with another group. After the mission the bomber XO asked for a volunteer to take over as flight leader. Stupid me I stepped forward (or everyone else took one BIG step back !). So the next mission I was a flight leader. The following mission the XO had me lead not one, but two, flights of bombers and by the end of the scenario I had control over half of all the bomber pilots…and I loved it! I was hooked from that point on. Almost all future scenarios I participated in one form or another as part of a command staff.
It was not too many scenarios later that I was asked to be the CO for the Japanese side for the Air Warrior scenario "Leyte Gulf". We were not expected to win but with the excellent command staff I had recruited and the long hours of practice the pilots put in we won the scenario.
What are bad traits for a CO?There are several critical factors that can make for a bad situation if you do not have the right person for the CO Spot.
- Individuals with a short fuse do not last long as CO's; they tend to burn themselves out,
- Those who get upset when they do not get what they want.
- People with poor administrative or organizational skills. Being a CO is a J-O-B. It is not something one can take lightly and expect to do well at.
- People who can not delegate. A person who tries to do everything as a CO and has his hands in all the pots will get burned out.
A lot goes into picking who will be a scenario CO. CO candidates have to work well with others. They have to get along with the CM Staff. They have to be willing to immerse themselves into the spirit of the scenario.
Once those people are found and the CM Staff agrees on them they are given their CO positions.
Aces High Pilots “NASO” and “Grimm” were selected as CO's for the scenario. At this point they do not know which side they will command. Once most of the rules have been hashed out and things pretty well set a coin flip determines who will command the Imperial Japanese Navy or the United States Navy.
What Some CO's do to Get Into the ScenarioGrimm is one of the CO's chosen for "CLASH AT MIDWAY"
He is the Executive Officer of the Aces High Squadron, Cactus Air Force.
Once he found out he was selected as one of the CO's he started getting into the spirit of the scenario. The following images show just how far you can get into this spirit:
|IJN CO, 'Grimm,' has turned his basement room into a command center.|
|This is the left side of all the hardware...|
|...and the right side of all the hardware.|
|Grimm's Command and Control Organizational Flow Chart - left side|
|Grimm's Command and Control Organizational Flow Chart (right side)|
Rules! Rules! Rules!There are always rules one has to abide by.
As the designer of the scenario, my rule set usually starts out small and simple. As more pairs of eyes start looking at the rule set they start playing devils advocate. They try to poke holes into the rules and see how a CO could bend or break or even avoid the rules during the scenario.
One has to be constantly thinking outside of the box to anticipate what may go wrong and how to avoid it with a rule. You do not want too many rules or the CO's will feel straightjacketed and the scenario may feel scripted. You want to give the CO's some rope to play with—maybe even enough to hang themselves with. Sometimes a CO can be too smart for his own good and gets so caught up in the rules and how to beat them that he forgets why he is there: to have fun and to win.
Most ruled tend to carry over from scenario to scenario. Where one typically gets into problem areas is when you try something new that has never been tried before. Forget that one little feature that opposing CO could exploit and it can ruin your day!
We did something new for the Midway scenario. Usually, when you select a CO, you tell him right away that he is going to be the CO for side A or side B. Since most of the rules for this scenario were so new we gave each CO about a week to read the rules and ask questions and clarifications from both sides. They looked at the rules from both the IJN and US side and came up with ideas and comments and questions regardless of what side they would end up on.
This allowed everyone involved to take a dispassionate viewpoint to the rules. Once you are assigned a side it is much harder to look at a new rule or a change of a rule without feeling that this or that rule "is going to hurt my side!" The more the rules can be hashed out before the sides are assigned the fewer internal problems you run into.
Now the fun part begins. Both CO's have been told what side they will be commanding. Now they will look at the rules again and see what they agreed to beforehand may now give them a disadvantage, or it may have given the other side an advantage! Now they may ask for rules changes or clarification that they want to benefit their side—and oh by the way, it may just hurt the other side, but they just want to make things "fair and even".
The next installment will be about…
5. Running the Registration.
6. Assigning pilots to squadrons.
Aces High (all versions)
- 1999/10/20: Preview: An Inside Straight With Aces High
- 2000/02/01: Review v1.00
- 2001/01/01: Review v1.05 - Adventures in Humility
- 2001/07/10: Review v1.07
- 2002/04/09: Review v1.09b
- 2002/09/26: Making of an Aces High Scenario, Part 1
- 2002/10/02: Making of an Aces High Scenario, Part 2
- 2002/10/10: Making of an Aces High Scenario, Part 3