As many of you know I have been relatively busy at work and that when combined with my other hobby pursuits has meant that Ancient Armies hasn’t quite got the attention that it deserves.
However, development is still continuing where I can grab those odd free moments where my brain can strut its funky stuff! ….That funky stuff currently being column movement.
I want to simulate column movement with a relatively high level of fidelity as it has a large impact on battles. In fact, some of the famous battles like Lake Trebia and the Teutoburg Forest cannot even be simulated without accurate column mechanics.
Given the inherent complexity, I thought I’d start out with some requirements:
It all starts with requirements!
Getting the requirements down took several iterations as I had to figure out how to combine high fidelity column movement with Ancient Armies’ existing sub-systems.
The first challenge was integrating columns with the formation and manoeuvre modelling systems:
Column movement integration in the Army Editor.
This involved a minor headache trying to get column movement to fit in. The big hurdle being that unlike other formations, the column formation has to be closely tied with its associated manoeuvre. This is because a column is both a formation and a manoeuvre.
To make things complicated you couldn’t have one without the other…
In the end I decided to make the manoeuvre (the right had red ellipse) the master reference. The designer would add one of these which would automatically add the associated formation (the left hand red ellipse).
The column formation can be edited and even have additional frontages and densities added to it to allow players to select from one of multiple columns where required. Given that a column formation can have multiple frontages and densities I decided that a designer would only be allowed to add one column formation to a unit at most.
This design decision was made easier by the fact that one can only add a particular manoeuvre to a unit once. When adding the column manoeuvre, its associated formation would automatically be added too – problem solved! (Column formations cannot be directly added as formations)
Next up was the integration with the orders sub-system:
Column movement is now integrated into the orders sub-system!
Unlike other orders, column movement can have multiple waypoints – up until now all orders had just one waypoint each.
This involved super-charging the orders system to allow it to deal with orders that have multiple waypoints. Again, this caused a bit of head-scratching to work out the best way to achieve this within the confines of the current system.
The next bit of work would be even more difficult…
I would have to add code that would be capable of calculating a unit’s path in column formation based on the waypoints that the player provided:
This might seem to be a trivial issue, but alas, we are dealing with mathematical curves that are actually composed of many triangles:
*Wireframe Mode* Calculations were a little hairy thanks to the vectorised nature of Ancient Armies!
These triangles all have to be calculated in realtime as the player places that unit’s waypoints! Getting this right was a major milestone, but one that has now been achieved! 😎
When a unit adopts a column formation, you will eventually be able to see columns peel off from the originating formation from right to left – hence why the columns shown above are on the right of the units.
As the columns peel away, the column feed will move left across the source unit depleting and shrinking the width of that unit. The opposite will happen to the destination unit. This part hasn’t been implemented yet, but the column positioning at the peel off point has.
Overall, the column model is pretty complex. It has a source and destination unit model that will strip-down and fill-up in real time. In addition it will also include the Bezier calculated column routing that will move as the unit proceeds up it.
Obviously, these are early days and we are still far away from where I want to be, but quite a few technical obstacles have now been resolved!
Alas, the price so far has been quite high in terms of time taken:
Nearly 16 hours ploughed in and I’m beginning to suspect I won’t make my estimate…
I had estimated it all taking around 3 days of development effort, but given where we currently are, I can see me blowing away this estimate in a very big way.
For more information and a demonstration of this milestone pop over to You-Tube and watch this video:
Updates will be irregular whilst I try to find enough free time, but stick with me to see the evolution of what will be one of the most accurate simulations of column movement ever put into a wargame!