After all the love and hate that I got last night I thought it deserved an AAR from my perspective. Now that I'm rested I can do it.
I got some messages from people who absolutely loved the concept and the experience, mainly for being something "different" than a mere attack/defend/shoot at things. But I also got a lot of frustrating messages, which makes it clear that balancing it won't be easy task. Which is why everyone's help and feedback is even more invaluable than usual. My purpose for explaining my take on the concept of the mission is not to witch-hunt or call anyone out but just to gather feedback in order to improve the concept. So please do throw your perspective and yours thoughts in here.
What I've put in place in this mission is trying my best to encourage and reward good planning, communication, and teamwork on blue's side. At the same time, failures in planning, communication, or teamwork should be punished harshly. And that's what I think happened last night.
Also, in many of my missions I try to punish a mentality of "let's just go there and shoot at things". This is one of them. It is designed to be a catastrophic failure should people approach it with this mentality and attitude. I'm happy to discuss further, either here or on TS.
Technical issues aside, the mission concept is incredibly frustrating. The HVT can escape very, very easily.
I'm not saying the current mechanic is good or that it works as intended, because I don't think it did and even if it had there's always room for improvement. But what I'm trying to guarantee is that if blufor fails miserably at its job, then the HVT should be able to escape very, very easily. They've failed after all. Also, there's a whole other objective (the mine) that was completely ignored for some reason.
In my opinion and from my perspective, blufor failed miserably last night.
The element of surprise is central to the first objective. It's its whole point, in fact.
My thought: If you're trying to arrest someone who lives in a place surrounded by a lot of jungle, you don't do it by loitering with a military helicopter above the town for 5 minutes prior to having any other elements in place on the ground to seize him.
While true surprise is impossible to simulate in our environment, there are scripts on the mission that have a go at trying. Most importantly, as stated on the briefing, the independent players can only leave their areas after blufor has been spotted. And the HVT's area is only his mansion. He is trapped there until blufor moves in or does something stupid, whatever comes first.
Now in my mind blufor would, in this case, at least try not to get spotted before being ready or setting the trap. Yet in yesterday's playthrough we had the helicopters flying ahead of the convoy toward the enemy and circling above the target area. Guess what? Those big, noisy things were spotted. Go figure.
Perfk did suggest to add a timer. So instead of freeing indfor's movement immediately when blufor gets spotted, have it with some delay. I'll likely introduce that, but so far I'm not inclined to include a big delay either. Maybe a minute or two, and see how it goes from there if the mission ever gets played again.
But they have vehicles! They do and they don't. Some times.
Indfor does not have vehicles in the mansion, or in the town for that matter. They only have vehicles at the mine, about 1km away. These vehicles are "badly maintained". There are two scripts in place: 1) One that randomizes the damage that they start with. Often none of them will be in running condition; 2) They fall apart when running. Literally. They may get flat tyres, their engine mail fail. It's all "may", as it's all random. If yesterday they managed to escape, well, good for them.
Partially to counter the vehicles I've given blufor the UAV. It should be easy enough to spot them driving around on the open roads (the jungles are too thick for them to drive into!).
The vehicles can also only leave the mine once blufor is spotted. So after blufor is spotted, they need to drive 1km on open roads to the mansion, pick the HVT up, and then drive away. This would be easily seen by blufor if anyone's looking. But no one was looking. To my knowledge, no one paid attention. Even from the helis anyone could have spotted this but I don't think anyone was looking for it.
Funnily enough the UAV was still packed at this point. During briefing Perfk had pointed out that the UAV getting spotted prematurely could also allow the HVT to escape, so the CO decided to have the UAV packed until reaching dismount point to avoid being detected too early. I can't be the only one who thinks it's hilarious that this care was taken regarding a tiny quadcopter, but no shits were given about the two big and noisy Blackhawks flying much closer to the enemy than a quadcopter with good optics would have needed to in order to monitor the HVT's mansion.
So why not just remove the vehicles?
Well, it's certainly on the table to do. Prima facie I don't want to because I want to keep possibilities open, and variation. I want both Indfor and Blufor to have several ways of approaching the objectives. That, of course, given that they'd have appropriate counters. I thought, and am still not completely convinced otherwise, that blufor has good counters for the vehicles in the way of superior surveillance -- Should they decide to survey at all in the first place.
The HVT is slipping though our fingers, and questioning civilians.
This is where the civilian interaction comes in. I can't say much about what went on on the ground because I was in a different element, far away from the town. I've heard that blufor ran out of civilians to question?
Anyway, second to the surprise element, the civilian interaction is central to this objective. The more of them you question, the more information you get. After questioning a couple of them blufor will already get a marker on the map pointing to the HVT's exact location. If they question even more civilians, then this marker will update (almost) real-time on the map. If the HVT has fled the AO, the civilian will tell you that. If the HVT has been killed, the civ will tell you too. Small town, you know: Everyone knows everything.
The caveat is that the information and markers are only displayed to the person actually questioning the civilian. That is so if I'm 2km away I can't see the marker. Again, this is a conscious choice in order to foster communication: It doesn't make sense if a squad in the jungle is magically informed of the HVT's exact position. So one needs to question the civilian and then broadcast the obtained information over the nets.
I have heard that blufor ran out of civilians to question? I'd love more info about that. I have a couple ideas about how to improve this mechanic but it'd be easier to remedy with more feedback about how it actually went.
The HVT has ran away and we can't track or find him. So why not do the other objective?
Yeah, well, tough luck that you let him slip. But why should it be the end of the world?
Blufor has two objectives: Arrest the HVT, and seize the mine. It doesn't say that one is any more important than the other. In fact, the score card gives them equal value.
Did anyone even attempt it? Or even acknowledge its existence? I found it odd to join spectator only to find a lot (if not all) blufor elements deep into the jungle looking for this one guy who had ran away while completely ignoring a huge, just as important, static objective just sitting there.
Playing as HVT and escaping is boring.
Yeah, well, this is valid concern. Especially if blufor fails to pose any threat (wouldn't most missions be boring in this case?). But I'm very open to suggestions on how to improve enjoyment for the HVT too.
What went on last night was not that cool though. Indfor briefing states:
Mission: - Your main task is to PROTECT the HVT as well as DEFEND mining operation;
Commander's intent: - The HVT has a choice: He can either attempt to flee the AO (he'll succeed if he reaches and stays in the yellow areas of the map) or stay and fight;
Again, why does everyone just ignore the mine? Anyway, I digress.
Apparently the HVT chose to flee, which is fine. But he later, after reaching the edge of the AO, regretted his decision (saying that he thought it was boring) and came back into the AO by himself. But he didn't come back to fight either, he just decided to hide in the jungle and do nothing for the remainder of the mission. He didn't attack blufor, he didn't defend the objective, he didn't attempt to flee. He went prone in the jungle and stayed there.
That, in my humble opinion, was just not cool. One bored person deciding to make it frustrating for 50+ others.
Sure, the mission could well have even more scripts in place to prevent this kind of behaviour (improving the civilian mechanic could help, for example). But two wrongs shouldn't make a right.
TL;DR: Mission was too easy for Indfor. But it should be too easy, if blufor fails miserably. And blufor failed miserably. Yet I don't think the mechanics are perfect or even good, so I'm wide open to suggestions and feedback.