Post news RSS Cover, Line of Sight and Christmas Competitions

An update on our thoughts on Cover and Line of Sight for the new Jagged Alliance: Flashback game and news about two Christmas competitions for backers and what our plans are for the next year.

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Hi all,

Christmas is right around the corner but it has not really hit the office yet. We are pushing hard to give a first view of the first sector with final assets before we close down the office for a short Christmas break. The first view will be either some screenshots, a small 360 video or a small test scene like the Diorama.

As mentioned in the last update we have been discussing elements such as Cover and Line of Sight (LoS) lately and therefore we would like to show you what we have planned for these points so far.

Core Game Mechanics - Cover & Line of Sight

To start off we would like to outline the considerations and thoughts behind Jagged Alliance: Flashback’s cover and line of sight system. First, we will talk about previous titles in the JA franchise and what other games did, talk about our design philosophy in regards to JAF, and what those things mean for the direction we are headed with Flashback.

First thing we do is of course ask ourselves “What did JA2 do in regards to cover?”. The simplified answer would be: It’s unclear and not communicated well to the player. While there are mechanics in place, just from playing the game, the player will hardly understand to what extent an obstacle between an attacker and a defender provides cover.As Flashback’s game mechanics are underlying a grid based shape, we can look at what other games of the genre did before us. Silent Storm falls into a similar category as JA2 in that respect - probably even more elaborated in regards to cover, LoS and destructibility mechanics, it fails for the same reasons - player communication & feedback. As an example, when moving a soldier to the edge of a truck, the game does not provide the player with a clear indication whether his unit will be in cover, or be able to see the enemy. For JAF, one of our design pillars is to make the game mechanics visible to the player, and let him take informed decisions.

Obviously, one does not get around XCOM: Enemy Unknown in that regard. Playing XCOM, the player knows more or less exactly in what situation his Merc is in, and what the effects of cover are. The four different states (no LoS, no/partial/full cover) used in XCOM which are easily communicated and do the job very well, and we will most likely stick to that basic differentiation for JAF.
However, such a large amount of abstraction from reality comes at a price - let me say the simple-but-effective cover system works well for XCOM, but not necessarily for the JAF we imagine.

In JAF we are aiming to create a system that gives the player the best of both worlds - an accessible system that informs the player about the state of his Merc in relation to the gameworld, as well as creating opportunities for deep and complex tactical gameplay. While it will always be an abstraction of reality, we are creating a model as close to reality as possible without compromising usability & accessibility.

There are a few mechanics that make the JA franchise special, especially in regards to cover and LoS. In JAF, we have to establish how a Merc stance (Prone/Crouch/Stand) corresponds to the height of object a Merc is behind. Subsequently, we have three base height levels for objects - low height, half height and full height. The way an object's height and Merc stance correlate in regards to cover is outlined in the figure below.

Cover is based on a basic Line of Sight. In JAF, we have a distinct view direction and Line of Sight for every Merc. Instead of giving a Merc a certain cover value based on his immediate surroundings, every Merc will receive a cover value based on his tile, and the tile he is attacked from. Essentially, we draw an imaginary line from the attacker’s tile centerpoint to the defender’s tile centerpoint. If this line touches or crosses one or more objects providing cover, the defender receives the highest appropriate cover bonus. An example sketch can be seen below.

This system allows us to reproduce a detailed simulation of cover without sacrificing accessibility. In our mind, it is easy to understand as it is intuitively understandable through its approximation of reality - it works similar to how you would think it does in real life. Furthermore, in connection with the various stances fundamental to the JA experience, we create a system of rules that are flexible enough to create a variety of different situation and game design opportunities, rather than creating an arbitrary set of rules that cover various circumstances.

So, what’s next? The above rules do not detail how verticality and distance to an object affects LoS - what happens when a Merc is standing adjacent to a half-height object and is himself shooting at a target some tiles away? What does cover actually mean for our chance to hit calculation? These are some questions we have thought about, but have not made a final decision on yet.
Please be aware that this system still in its development phase - we have tested it on paper, but will further playtest the system and see how it feels once it is implemented in the game. Based on this, there is still a lot of room for change ahead.

Christmas Holiday Competitions (only available to backers)

You can still support JAF as a Slacker Backer, we set a shop up on our new site:

To celebrate Christmas we have decided to host two competitions for backers so they have something to challenge their creative minds with during the holidays. We recently released some history about San Hermanos, you can find it here, and we decided that this Caribbean Paradise should have its own flag, which we thought was a great challenge for the community to take on. Furthermore, we have had a poll running on the forums on what sort of competitions you would like to see and the top vote was mercenary competitions, so that’s what we’re going for this time. We will however keep the poll in mind for future competitions as well.

The deadline for both competitions is (06.01.2014) you can send your contributions to See more info on the competitions below:

Flag Competition

The task is simple, design a flag that you think represents the San Hermanos and you almost have complete creative freedom. However, the flag must be in Aspect Ratio 3:2 e.g 900x600 or 450 x 300, as long as it’s 3:2 ratio then all resolutions are good. Once the deadline is reached we’ll pick a winner and announce it in the next update. The winner will get “A Special Thank You in the game credits” and the flag will be in the final game.

Here is some inspiration for the flags:

Mercenary Design Competition

We decided that we wanted to add a community created mercenary to the game, so here’s your chance to shine. We’ll pick the 5 we like the most and leave it up to the community to vote for their favorite. We will create the stats and the portrait for the merc at a later point based on the description of their appearance and their bio.

What we need from you is the following:

- Bio ( Max. 535 characters with spaces)
-Taglines (3 Unique lines, Max. 150 character with spaces a piece)
- Name (Surname, Name, Nickname)
- A description of their appearance (Feel free to send a reference picture)
- Nationality
- Quirks/Additional info (similar to the picture above)

We look forward to receiving a lot of Mercenary entries and colorful flags :)

Team Portfolio

Our 3D artist and animator, Christian, introduced himself on our forum recently and we wanted to share the thread with all of you, if you haven’t seen it already. We’re updating the thread once in a while when the team finds time to make their profiles.

You can find the thread here

What’s next?

Our office will be closing down for Christmas and New Years and we’ll be back on full throttle in the new year, where our focus is on making the first playable sector.

Happy Holidays!

The JAF Full Control Team

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