Human Combat Overview

Human combat represents the culmination of all Outer Colony’s most advanced features. From both a gameplay and simulation perspective, it is perhaps OC’s absolute zenith, the highest level subsystem that relies on all others to function. Human combat is a lightning fast, chaotic, bloody, violent, confused and nightmarish mess of material modeling, Newtonian physics, mind shattering fear, dismemberment, blaring noise and death. It can’t be neatly controlled like traditional strategy games, and nearly all details of its execution are left to the discretion of individual combatants.

Since combat in OC doesn’t even bear a superficial resemblance to the systems found in most other games, it warrants significant explanation. This article is meant to provide an overview of infantry combat, but the supplemental articles that cover specific combat topics in greater detail are needed to really understand the gameplay. Only with extensive experience playing the game can a player master combat, but if you start with this post and follow through to the other combat articles, you should have the foundation needed to begin fighting in OC!

A demonstration of how to defend a colony from a barbarian raid.

Summary

  • Combat in OC is very different from traditional RTS games.
  • As the leader of an expedition, you issue high level directives to your personnel and combat formations. It’s up to your people to accomplish the missions.
  • A fundamental aspect of human combat (both in OC and the real world) is cooperation. The basis for this cooperation is organization into units.
    • For an NPC to function in an organized, martial capacity, he must be assigned to a military unit.
    • Military units are organized in a hierarchical order, from fire teams to squads to platoons to companies.
    • Units function in different ways, and sub-units within a hierarchy support one another in pursuit of objectives.
    • Within units, sub units and individuals are assigned to particular positions. Each position is associated with certain roles that they satisfy in combat situations.
  • The technical aspects of combat are handled by the intelligence of your combatants.
    • For example, infantry units employ the rudiments of fire and movement to overcome enemy positions. Suppression and flanking are the keys to dislodging an entrenched enemy, just as they are in the real world.
    • These tactics are essential for succeeding in battle. Since single bullets often kill, simply running up to an enemy position and shooting at it would be as suicidal as in the real world.
    • Since the technical details of fire and movement are too complicated to control as a player, you have to rely on your NPCs to execute maneuvers correctly. It’s ultimately a matter of training, experience, and intelligence on their part to succeed. This kind of reliance on NPCs to execute technical details of combat is a large part of what makes OC’s gameplay so different from traditional RTS games.

Mode of Command

From a gameplay perspective, command in OC is much more in line with the responsibilities of a company grade officer in the real world than what you find in traditional strategy games. The abstractions that simplify combat in RTS games, like health bars and special attacks, are what enable you to command units the way you do in those games. In OC, you usually provide general directions about areas to defend, enemy positions to engage, and objectives to secure. You usually don’t issue the sorts of command that are the basis for other RTS games, like “move here” and “fire on this specific guy”.

The primary reason for the difference in how combat is managed comes down to the difference in OC’s core mechanics. Traditional RTS games present players with certain abstractions that simplify combat: health bars, attack power, special moves, and other features that make the game simpler. These sorts of abstractions mean that fighting between units is a matter of walking into range, pummeling each other with their various attacks, and gradually knocking down health bars until one dies.

This makes it easier for developers to control the pace of gameplay and makes for a more forgiving environment. Your units have health bars, and one false move usually won’t get them killed. Health bars give you more time to direct your units, special attacks have game-type properties that let players manage things more numerically, and these factors all combine to make the familiar experience that RTS players have come to understand.

OC is fundamentally different, though. All the previously mentioned abstractions are all gone. There are no health bars. There are no special moves. There is no concept of attack power. A single bullet in OC has enough kinetic energy that when it hits a person’s abdomen, it will spill his guts, leave him hemorrhaging, and kill him quickly. A stray piece of shrapnel that catches someone in the temple will destroy his brain and kill him. This all comes back to the way that OC is built, and how its world fundamentally designed to be more like a real world than a traditional game environment. OC is a world made of materials and structure, not of RTS units. It’s a world of kinetic energy and projectile trajectories, not special moves or attack powers.

What this ultimately means is that it’s impossible to control every detail of your soldiers’ actions in the heat of combat. There’s too much going on. A real world company commander doesn’t say, “OK! Private So-And-So, take 3 steps forward! Oh, now two to the left! OK, take cover behind that tree trunk! Corporal Such-And-Such, make sure you’re suppressing that specific enemy over there! So-And-So, another 2 steps forward!” It’d be impossible. There’s too much going on, too quickly. Fire teams in the real world know how to behave in combat. The NCOs know what directives they need to give to individual soldiers, and individual soldiers know how to perform their specific jobs. Success is a matter of everyone doing the jobs they’ve been trained to do, adapting to specific circumstances, and taking necessary initiative to win.

That’s what your individual combatants do in OC. Like the real world company commander, you can specify that hill X needs to be held by fire teams A and B, and that they should set up defensive fire positions at particular points. But it’s up to your personnel to make it happen. You specify the mission and its parameters, and they execute it. Once you adjust to this mode of thinking, all of the specifics become much more natural.

Military Unit Organization

Military_Unit_Management

Setting up a fire team in the military unit interface.

Establishing a fighting force for your expedition starts with organizing military units and assigning personnel to them. The basic infantry unit is the fire team, which consists of a team leader, a rifleman, a grenadier, and an automatic rifleman. Teams are created and managed via the military unit management interface. Once you’ve created a team and assigned personnel to its positions, it can begin to train and perform various combat functions. Fire teams are needed to effectively man defensive fire positions and to assault locations using fire and movement.

Military unit management will be discussed further in an upcoming article.

Infantry Tactics: Fire & Movement

The core of infantry operation in OC is fire and movement. Effective execution of basic tactics is the only practical way to defeat an enemy that’s dug in and has the advantage of cover. As stated above, a standard fire team consists of a team leader, an automatic rifleman, a grenadier, and a rifleman. Each of these members serves a specific function when engaging and overcoming an entrenched enemy. Let’s watch the .gif near the top of this article to see a fire team in action.

In this engagement, a single fire team of barbarians is attempting to route two core world fire teams that are occupying separate defensive fire positions. At the beginning of the engagement, you can see the attacking automatic rifleman take up a position to the northwest of the first DFP, as he begins to engage the target. He’s firing in a somewhat indiscriminate manner at the general position of his enemies, simply aiming to place a large volume of fire near his adversaries. The goal isn’t necessarily to pick his enemies off (although this certainly can happen), but rather to shoot a bunch of bullets near them, disorienting them, increasing their fear, and making them less capable defending their position. This is called suppressing fire. The team leader stays near the automatic rifleman and aids in this task.

Concurrently, the grenadier and rifleman break off, running to the south and west of suppressed target. These two are flanking. Their goal is to get to the side of the entrenched enemy. Why is this desirable? For the same reasons it is in real life. A person can engage a target or several targets that are right in front of them more easily than they can handle incoming fire from multiple directions. Furthermore, getting to the side of the enemy will put the flankers in a position where their targets will usually present a larger profile, which makes shooting them easier. As the defenders are engaged by the suppressing fire, the machine gun of the automatic rifleman occupies their attention, making them less aware and less able to engage the flankers.

As the fight progresses, you can see the flankers quickly manage to kill another of the DFP’s occupants. This causes the remaining two to panic and flee, having deemed their position untenable. They run directly into fire coming from another DFP, and they were lucky not to have to been killed by friendly fire. Soon, occupants of the second position panic (fear is infectious) and are forced into a rout. This demonstration gives an idea of how fire and movement works in OC.

What does a player do to make these specific actions happen? On some level, the player does nothing. A player can merely specify objectives to be attained. It’s up to your soldiers to perform these jobs in action. You can train your soldiers, equip your soldiers, and prepare them for what they have to do, but it’s up to them in the moment to succeed.

Infantry Tactics: Defensive Fire Positions

What about defending positions from enemy assaults? For adequately trained infantrymen, defending a position is always easier than attacking. From a command perspective, strategy plays a large role in selecting the right positions to defend. Just like with attacks, it’s up to your NPCs to handle the mechanics of defending objectives. However, it’s up to you to set them up in such a way as to give them the best possible chance for success.

The gameplay actions for establishing defensive fire positions are very simple. DFPs are area designations just like any other in OC. Using the area designation tool, a player starts by specifying a location for the DFP, as shown in the screenshot below:

DFP_Designation

Creating a DFP.

Once the area has been specified, all that remains is to assign a fire team responsibility for the position. In times of emergency, like when a general alarm has been sounded, assigned fire team personnel will immediately drop whatever they’re doing, gather requisite equipment, and sprint their defensive position.

Team_Assignment

Assigning a fire team to man a DFP.

As for the mechanics of creating and assigning DFPs, that’s it! The strategy of effectively creating these positions, however, goes much further. The key to effectively defending an area is building these positions in such a way as to make them very difficult to outflank. Interlocking fields of fire allow your defenders to put rounds on assaulting troops more effectively from multiple sources, and this denies them the freedom of movement they need. Note that in the assault shown at the top of this article, the eastern DFP can do little to assist the western one as it falls under attack. It’s behind the target of the attack and can’t deny the flankers the position they seek. This nullifies it entirely.

There’s much more that goes into effective DFP designation. Building them on high ground slows attackers as they climb uphill and provides an ideal vantage point for seeing and engaging enemies. Specifying DFPs on top the roof of a structure will allow combatants to fall back to positions where attackers on the ground can’t see or engage them with direct fire. Experiment with tactics, and see how you can exploit the depth of OC’s world modeling to your advantage!

Combat Equipment: Body Armor, Firearms, Ammunition & More

When sending troops into battle, it’s essential that they be given every possible advantage. A significant edge can be derived from high quality equipment, and there’s no shortage of that in OC. All the intricacy of the manufacturing process goes into building quality gear, and failing to master this aspect of OC can cost the lives of your soldiers. A thorough understanding of natural and synthetic materials is needed to build gear properly. A poorly crafted machine gun barrel that readily overheats will catastrophically fail, which can render the weapon inoperable at a crucial moment.

An upcoming article will provide an overview of the types of combat equipment available in OC, but special care is needed when building these sorts of items. Lives are depending on it!

Combat & Human AI

Almost every aspect of OC’s human data modeling comes into play with decision making in combat. Personality exerts a huge influence over an NPC’s capacity for fear and how it behaves under the stresses of combat. An NPC’s memories and experiences separate hardened veterans from terrified neophytes. Gunshot wounds will rend limbs and destroy internal organs. Social relationships can govern who an NPC decides to protect and who an NPC leaves to die. Fraternization among combatants can be a nightmare that saps combat effectiveness. Aspects of your expedition’s culture can make your troops loyal to death or degenerate cowards. Sleep deprivation can exacerbate bad situations and drive your troops to hopelessness or insanity. Ultimately, all of your NPCs are thinking for themselves, and they will do things you don’t want under extreme stress, whether it be surrendering against your orders or resorting to suicide.

Dealing with all these factors is a part of what makes OC challenging. I think it’s also a part of what makes OC very fun.

Conclusion

This article is meant only to give an overview of combat topics in OC, but there are some important ones that aren’t even addressed here, like inter-NPC communication and military communication protocols. Non-infantry combat and heavy weaponry remain in development, and while they’re not addressed here, they are intended pieces of the version 1.0 release. The goal of this article is to provide a starting point for exploring combat in OC. It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s actually very easy to jump right in and get started with the basics! However, the system’s intricacy gives it depth and nuance that take real skill to master. Figuring out how it all works and adapting tactics to specific situations in innovative ways are big parts of what make this system so fun.

Supplementary articles, tutorial videos, and live streaming will follow this piece to help further explain and demonstrate combat in OC. Stay tuned for more updates! Ultimately, combat in OC is something of a unique and interesting specimen – and above all, I think you’ll find it to be very fun.

Posted in Combat, NPCs, Simulation