Barbarossa developer notes #2: Where are the Vital Organs? We’ll be Operating Tomorrow

continued from developer notes #1

Which elements to Model?

Determining which elements of Command and Leadership to represent isn’t easy. They are both fairly abstract concepts. How do you program into a game characters who may, or may not, be willing to follow you, the Player?

How, for example, do you portray the war induced stress and pressure that those characters are under?

You could, perhaps, have a selection of soundtracks that play on demand for a certain character. As his sense of humour progressively fades away he could be made to swear at you in an increasingly vocal and inventive manner. But would having a nebulous, computer generated character, casting aspersions on your mother and your ancestry be an enjoyable experience?

What would your wife or girlfriend say when they heard the high volume, barrack room rant of an unhappy, stressed, character? Would the crude bluntness of the language prevent you from playing the game only after your kids had gone to bed and were safely asleep behind closed doors?

Could you resist the urge to start swearing back at Colonel Rat face because he isn’t snapping to attention and doing what you ask? Is your relaxing couple of hours in the evening to become a stand up, full on, swear fest as you attempt to give back as good as you are getting?

It wouldn’t be long before you are being asked – more likely told – by your better half to take your computer and to go and play that disgusting game in the cold, poorly lit, garage.

With the dog. The dog would keep you company.


Clearly there are limitations in what can be achieved.

But if we take a step back there are a number of easily defined elements that could be modelled in a manner that didn’t involve you spending quality time shivering in the cold with your dog.

There is a Chain of Command. Superiors and Subordinates. Decisions. Delegation. Resources.

There are other, subtler, aspects.

Imperfect knowledge. The fact that the people you are dealing with have their own concerns and agendas. The inevitable politics as people lobby for scarce resources. The restrictions that operating within a hierarchy might place upon you. The Dark side of the war. The uneven, stop-start nature of Command where sometimes it rains and sometimes it pours.


Posted in DC:Barbarossa, Game Design | Leave a comment

DC:Barbarossa cover artwork revealed!

And it looks bloody amazing!!



Top left-to-right: von Bock, Halder, von Leeb
Below: Stalin, Zhukov (behind map) and Krushev (right of Stalin).

You might have noticed the image above is not of a DVD-box but actually a book. :) Its the hardcover book manual that will come with the physical copies of the game.

Posted in DC:Barbarossa, Upcomming releases | Leave a comment

Barbarossa developer notes #1: What is Command?

Prior to release of our new game BARBAROSSA we are publishing a series of developer notes by designer Cameron Harris. Part 1 follows below, more parts will be posted in the coming days.

The Last Commander I Met Was Made By Mattel

- Defining Command

Before going any further it’s worth discussing what is meant by Command. How does it differ from Leadership and Management?

A Manager is a title given to you. It’s a position within a hierarchy. A Leader, on the other hand, is a title that other people bestow upon you.

Command could be defined as the exercise of authority over military forces. A Commander is a mix of both a Manager and, hopefully, a Leader.

Your rank, akin to that of a Manager, is something that is given to you. In a military context your rank alone provides a proportional measure of authority. People will do as you ask, because of your position, as to do otherwise would incur adverse consequences.

This is no different to being a Line Manager in an Company making widgets. People below you will do as you ask because you are their boss. Ignoring you risks them being fired.

Leadership is what makes the difference between an ordinary, run of the mill, Manager and an effective one. People are hard wired to go the extra mile for somebody they respect rather than a person merely going through the motions because they’re either not interested or they’ve been promoted above their level of competence. They aren’t a Leader.

A Military Commander has an advantage over a Line Manager in that the hierarchy he is operating within is a more strictly defined one and his subordinates have a greater likelihood of obeying his orders.

But without the skills of Leadership he will still run into the same resistance and push back that a ‘by the rules’ Line Manager would. His subordinates will find ways to subvert his orders just as much as the group of team leaders on the factory floor will be creative in ignoring the demands of their Line Manager boss.

Effective Command therefore infers Leadership.


A no nonsense definition of Leadership would be the art of getting people to do what you ask, willingly. A Leader brings people with him. Leaders have followers.

But enough of these Management Consultant cliches. There is a war on, you say. It’s different to the world of business or bureaucracy. Resources are limited. The raw material of decisions isn’t money, it’s people’s lives. You are playing for bigger stakes.

There isn’t the luxury of being able to sit down, form a committee and argue over a dot point list of future actionable items. Time is critical. Something needs to happen. NOW.

You would be correct. There are unique aspects to Military Command that aren’t found elsewhere. But Command, for all it’s differences, still involves people.

People require Leadership.


Posted in DC:Barbarossa, Game Design | 1 Comment

Vics Barbarossa AI Log #3 : Missing some je-ne-sais-Guderian

After improving the Soviet artificial intelligence (AI) I am now turning my attention to the German AI. In this AI log we’ll take a look at how it is doing right now.

The German AI is basically not doing so bad and in the end managed to get one of the three major objectives. It is already in quite good shape, especially considering that is facing more Soviet units than a human player would be fielding. However as discussed in the video above I feel it is missing something. I’d like to call it a certain je-ne-sais-quoi… Its a bit of that edge that made commanders like Guderian and Manstein so effective.

But what is that edge? If I drill things down I think the issue with the German AI is it needs to take calculated risks at the right spots. The spots are where their four ‘Panzergruppen’ are and the risks are that these ‘Panzergruppen’ need to advance more while leaving some Soviet units in their rear. Furthermore the german Infantry divisions need to accept that sometimes higher casualties can be acceptable if it leads to capturing essential terrain or opening up the road for those ‘Panzergruppen’.

Sounds like a tough lesson to teach :) When I have a new German AI ‘Guderian’ version running I’ll report back here if I succeeded.

Best wishes,

Posted in Artificial Intelligence, DC:Barbarossa | 2 Comments