Barbarossa Developer Notes #5: It Would Help If I Wasn’t Surrounded By Idiots

continued from developer notes #4


Being in Command entails making a lot of decisions. A fundamental rule is that the higher up the Chain of Command you climb the more decisions there are to make. This applies equally to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.

Typically the increase in decisions required escalates in an exponential manner with each step up the hierarchy. It doesn’t take long before anyone attempting to ‘do-it-all’ is overwhelmed by sheer volume. It’s not hard to find examples of people who have reached an evolutionary dead end as a micro manager.


Delegation steps in. Commanders have staff. They have subordinates. Their job is to take care of all the lower level decisions, freeing up the Commander for the important ones.

A model of Command would be very one dimensional if it didn’t incorporate delegation. You would be, once again, elevating the Player up to a God like status where Command is a mere wave of the hand.

Delegation implies tension. You’re busy, you’ve got a lot on your plate. There isn’t time to personally take care of everything, even if your staff have ensured you are only dealing with the important decisions.

Choosing which decisions to delegate is an interesting decision in itself. Having your Chief of Staff deal with a matter is likely to result in a less optimal outcome than if you tackled it yourself. His grasp of the bigger picture, his strategic understanding is at a lower level than your own. As it should be. He’s not in charge, you are.

In order to make this model work there needs to be a currency of Command. A finite resource that is accumulated and spent. Which would be Political Points (PP). These are an abstract concept that encompass your personal time and energy, your political goodwill and your available staff resources.

Political Points allow decisions to be quantified. Yes, you can choose that option but it will require ‘x’ amount of PP’s. Certain decision options require more PP’s than others. At times you aren’t going to have enough PP’s to cover all the decisions. Delegation becomes necessary.

Do you keep a reserve of PP’s against a rainy day when a really crucial decision might turn up or do you spend, spend, spend, moving forward on a wing and a prayer?


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Barbarossa manual sneakpeak!

DC Barbarossa prelims-1-b
It is a bit of a subjective compliment, but truly: Cameron has done an amazing job writing the best manual I have seen in a long long time. It is very complete and detailed. As you can already see here in the tome of contents (PDF).

Also a big thanks to the publisher Matrix Games for doing the staggering amount of excellent DTP work.

Now… detail is important, but at a 300+ page size it is maybe even more important that the manual is well written, witty at times and has 100s and 100s of screenshots. I can already disclose that is the case. More news to follow on the Barbarossa manual in the near future.

Best wishes,

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Barbarossa developer Notes #4: Zen And The Art of Knowing Who To Salute

continued from developer notes #3

Superiors and Subordinates

Once it was decided to model a Chain of Command there was a need to fill the hierarchy with people. For the Soviet side they were all subordinates but the German side involved an equal mix of superiors as well.

Subordinates are easy to deal with. You give them orders and they carry them out. Perhaps not quite how you’d like them to and perhaps with a degree of resistance but, overall, if you ask them, they’ll do it.

Superiors immediately run into the problem of authority. They are your boss. You’ve got one at work and you’ve probably got one at home. Do you want another, game based, one telling you what to do?

Having an upset subordinate yelling at you might not be ideal but having the computer speakers spout forth curt, arrogant, orders from above, demanding that you do this or that, is only going to have you grumpily checking the prices of a new monitor the following day and having to explain why you’ve got a bandaged hand.

A key design challenge that had to be overcome was how to give a sense of being within a hierarchy while at the same time not hobbling the Player’s ability to play the game as he’d like. This is, as you’d imagine, a pretty fine line. Go too far in the direction of authority and the Player ends up chaffing against unwanted restrictions. Swing back the other way and you’ve lost the immersion of having to answer to Superiors.

The German High Command structure helped in this. Rather than the highly efficient, well oiled machine that it is typically portrayed as it was, in reality, a dysfunctional organisation with many quirks. There were reasons for this and it deserves a detailed explanation of it’s own but, for the moment, we can assume that the lines of authority were, in many cases, fuzzy.

Von Paulus (on phone) about his conversation with Jodl on the command set-up in North Africa. All the Führer cares about is that Rommel should not be hampered by any superior Hq. Put over him. Jodl will send up another plan.

F.M Von Halder’s War Diary, 13th May 1941

There were many cases of overlapping authorities and individual power bases. Who reported to who was clear cut only where everybody involved was a professional military officer. Higher up, where there were Party members and assorted flunkies, it was a lot vaguer.

It was greatly complicated by the micromanagement and interference of Hitler himself, the man sitting at the top of the Chain of Command. He hadn’t read the book on ‘How to Delegate, sit back and let your Generals Win the War’. Then again, perhaps he had and it had ended up in the rubbish bin. Hitler’s interference was a doubled edged sword. There were times when his intuitive grasp of a situation was far superior to any of the professional military judgements on offer. As the campaign progressed he became more and more convinced that he knew better. Hubris be thy name.

Eventually the great gambler succumbed to the inevitable ‘reversion to the mean’ that applies to all mortals. Sheer force of personality and a domineering, dictatorial, manner couldn’t overcome the law of averages. Like any compulsive gambler he ended up losing more than he started with.

Which is a topic well outside the scope of this book. But in terms of superiors it offers some interesting angles. The Player has the role of Operational Commander of the Eastern front – F.M Franz Halder. He had a direct superior officer, that of F.M Von Brauchitsch who was Commander in Chief of the German Army. Both are professional military men and it was a clear cut relationship.

Except it wasn’t. F.M Von Brauchitsch was considered ineffectual in dealing with Hitler. Here is a superior who, on occasion, would step forward and do his job but who, most of the time, was too busy dealing with his own problems. Hitler was his personal banker. Von Brauchitsch was in heavy debt to the Fuhrer. He lacked the moral fibre to stand up to Hitler when it was necessary. By the end of 1941 he was gone. A convenient scapegoat for the failure to take Moscow and in failing health. Exit stage right.

Then there were the motley cast of Party characters who were all higher up the Chain of Command but whose influence over the Player’s assigned role varied and was, at times, murky. They were superiors but off to one side, tangential to the main game. But all of them were capable of exerting an influence when the need arose. We could consider them to be part time Superiors.

The German Command structure was unique in that authority over logistical matters was split between two people – General’s Gercke and Wagner. Logistical concerns are always going to play an important part of an invasion of a country as geographically vast as Russia. Gercke and Wagner are destined to have staring roles in a game portraying Operation Barbarossa.

Which raises the question of whether they were superiors or subordinates? They were neither. Both were in the category best defined as ‘unclear’. Both straddled multiple roles in dual headquarters (OKH & OKW).

This is a gift. Here are two characters dealing with the one key function. It’s a little like having two separate builders work simultaneously on an extension for your house. They both have their own teams of subcontractors. They are both jointly building your extension. Yet when there is a problem who do you talk to? Is one going to blame the other? Are you going to have to take sides? How are you going to keep them both happy and maintain the momentum?

What about inter service rivalries? Naval matters were largely constrained to the bathtub. They did play a part but it was the kind of role that you’d hire somebody off the street for. They’d be instructed to say a few lines, smile at the camera and don’t cause any trouble.


For the Luftwaffe, however, you’d need a competent actor, one with enough gravitas to carry the part. It’s a major role. The Air war was an important aspect of the campaign. Hermann Goering, the corpulent, overdressed Reichsmarschall, competently holds down this role with his own unique style. He is both a superior in the chain of command and a character with whom the player will have a lot of contact with. He was colourful, unpleasant, eccentric and a take-no-prisoners political infighter. Perfect.


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Vics Barbarossa AI Log #4 : Ready for balancing

After analysing the German artificial intelligence (AI) I have done a lot of coding and scripting on both sides.

As you can see in the video above both sides are functioning more or less as they should and I am moving over to fine-tuning things now. The latest version of the AI comes with different plans for the German and Soviet AI. Every time the game is played the German AI will be assigned a random plan from a list of about 10 different possibilities. The Soviet AI does something similar. The difference being the German AI really picks different schwerpunkten each time, while the Soviet AI picks a different psychology each time.

So for example one game the German AI might focus on Leningrad and the next game it will try to make a deep envelopment of Moscow from the south. While the Soviet AI might be more or less aggressive and be more or less likely to create ‘fortress cities’. The idea here is to avoid replays to be the same experience. Coupled with the dynamic decisions and events of the game itself I am quite sure we are giving the player a very interesting experience here.

Feedback on the beta forums has been good, but for some players the AI on regular setting was to difficult and for others to easy. To combat this and to properly test all those possible different plans the AI will be using: the newest version of Barbarossa has been equiped with an optional metrics sharing button in the preferences menu. I strongly advise all testers (and in the future: players) to switch this button on in order for us to get some core data on game balance. What the metrics does is sending your game progress abstracted and anonymous in less than a dozen statistics to our server every 5 rounds. It should be enough info to make proper statistical analysis on which plans work the best and at what AI level what percentage of the players get beat. Exactly what we need to know to further balance the game.

Best wishes,

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