Vietnam’65 Update – developer Johan Nagel spills the beans

By Nik Gaukroger 05 May 2015 0

No game is perfect on release – despite the (usual) claims of developers and, especially, publishers. Patches and updates are always needed even for the most polished offering. Slitherine’s Vietnam ’65 is no different and last month we brought news that an update would be forthcoming in May. With this now imminent Johan Nagel, the game’s developer, has exclusively given us an insight into what is coming.

If you haven’t got the game check out our review.

 

The challenge in producing Vietnam’65 was not what we should include but what we would have to exclude to make the game manageable and fun to play. Right from the start design decisions had to be made to exclude certain features, units and geography.

When we took Vietnam’65 to market, it was always going to be the first step and the intention to expand the game was always there. What we were looking for was firstly user adoption of the game and its mechanics and then, secondly, gauge what direction the users would want the game to go in.

In the last two months, following extensive Beta testing and user engagement, we decided to work on a free update for the game, really wanting to display commitment to this franchise right from the outset. This is not simply an update to correct bugs, but rather a considerable step forward in the evolution of this game and the COIN concept it simulates.

We have been inundated with requests from users, mostly in respect of new units and expanded gameplay. The list of enhancements and additions to Vietnam’65 has grown ever longer and we are very pleased with that. Once again, we have needed to make some design calls and decide on the features we wanted to include from this expanding list.

In making these decisions we focused on the features that would enhance the gameplay and fit into the current architecture of the game, as well as giving priority to the most requested.

In no particular order, these are the features that have made it into the update:

 

  1. Hex grid overlays

This was one of the biggest requests received and we have implemented it as a toggle on both the Intel map and main in game scene. This will assist the player in determining distances when deciding on base placement etc. Another feature we have include with the hex grid on the Intel map is the demarcation of the detection ranges of the players units, this give the player a view of the coverage of the province and will assist in the placements of assets.

 

 

  1. Fog of war

This is very similar to the hex grid and in effect shades out the areas out of detection range in the main in game scene. This visually assists the player in determining detection ranges. It is important to mention that we have tried to keep a distinct separation of the Intel map (2D planning space) to the main in game scene (3D real world space).

 

 

  1. Custom unit naming

This is a very simple but powerful addition in the update. Requested by many, mostly the more hardcore war gamers. The player will now be able to name their units (and bases), by doing so create depth in the immersion aspect of the game. I, personally, really like this new feature and use it all the time. The reason it was omitted in the release was that Vietnam’65 is in effect an abstract representation of the war and I did not want to get embroiled in the historical accuracy debate. But after the demand increased, we are very happy with its inclusion.

 

 

  1. Village names

Once again, a simple inclusion but creates a great deal of immersion, the names of the villages in Vietnam’65 are randomly selected from a list of actual village names in the Ia Drang valley.

 

 

  1. Weather

This was always on the list and we decided to bring it forward and include it into this update. I don’t think you can simulate Vietnam (abstract or not) without rain. With this inclusion, the player now gets a three day weather forecast and when the heavens open up, unit movement and combat effectiveness is affected accordingly.

 

 

  1. Combat modifiers

Many players requested more information on the calculation of the combat odds, so with this update the player will see icons representing the relevant modifiers. We do not want to get into a deep debate on the extent of these modifiers as it would lead to endless debate, rather we wish to preserve the simplicity of play that Vietnam’65 offers. A few modifiers, other than the standard terrain and unit strength have been added, for example weather and close proximity to friendly forces.

 

 

  1. New animations

As we have been busy with the internal mechanics of the game, we have also taken the opportunity to enhance it visually as well. We have introduced a number of new animations which will enhance the overall experience of the play. These new animations include green/red hearts emanating from villages as and when their hearts and minds score are effected, grids and zone of control animations when player units set up ambushes or sweep for mines and (a personal request) the recoil on the howitzer when firing…

 

  1. Custom game option

This is a big step forward in the evolution of this game. Due to the large request from players asking to make the game both easier and more difficult, we took the decision to include an option for the player to play a custom game. This is a tough decision as you cannot please everyone all the time, but at the same time want to maximize the player’s enjoyment of the game. With this custom game option, the player will now be able to set the key parameters of any new game, the only downside being that no awards/medal etc will be forthcoming in the custom game.

Vietnam’65 should still be played in the balanced and format as originally designed, but should players wish to change things up a little, they are now able.

The parameters that the player can change range from the level of enemy aggression, concentration of jungle on the map, weather, victory conditions and village hearts and minds scores.

 

  1. UI improvements

We have done extensive testing of various improvements to the UI model, including button sensitivity and placement. Long debates on whether the current radial format for the action buttons should remain have been had, and continue. As with all design decisions, there are pros and cons, which we are busy sifting through and testing, as we are committed to ensure the best possible player experience. New improvements like keeping units with indirect fire capability out of the unit cycle loop unless there is a target and giving the player the option to include units with standing orders into the unit cycle loop are examples of the incremental enhancements being made. With this continuous incremental improvement, we will end up with a very solid base to expand this franchise on.

 

  1. AI improvements

As and when players figure out ways to win the game that were not originally intended in the game design, the AI needs to evolve and we have made a few modifications in this update. The main change is to the strategy of the player to simply station infantry units into each village and then just sit it out. This was always in the game design, to prevent this particular strategy as this would result in a very boring and static gameplay. It would seem that not enough was done in the AI to prevent this simple strategy from being successful and new modifications to the AI will change all that, enough said as I don’t want to give anything away….

 

In summary, this update will materially enhance the playing of Vietnam’65, both from an immersion and enjoyment perspective. The user input has been incredible and we have found it to be very supportive and constructive, as both parties want this game to be everything it can be.

This update is a substantial and first step in the journey for this game. The learnings we have experienced from the input has been profound and we will use this new found insight to ensure that successive productions, albeit it new theatres or expansions for the Vietnam War, will encompass them all (eventually, as the list is long).

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