PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Panzer / Allied General Remake: Strategies, Tactics, Efiles, Custom Campaigns, Customizations, Documentation.

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PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by HexCode » 2019-10-13 17:18, Sunday

INTENT & UTILITY
================

Elsewhere in this sub-forum:
Posting commentary and pursuing active discussions exclusively under "ephemeral" topics not dedicated to building a virtual library hosting permanent documentation so as not to interfere with the aimed at "reference materials continuity". I hope we all rise to the admittedly somewhat challenging and, by necessity, enduring occasion.
The present thread is intended to serve as an omnibus "ephemeral" topic. Depending on the commentary's relevance and solidity, reference materials may be modified accordingly.

Topics exclusively hosting reference materials sport titles starting with "[REF]".
Last edited by HexCode on 2019-11-27 17:19, Wednesday, edited 3 times in total.

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Help with PGF modification tooling

Post by re-enlist » 2019-11-20 07:35, Wednesday

Gents,

I need some help. I am not a computer genius..... :thud
Since a couple of days I am using FPGE to slightly modify PGF scenarios for my own use.

1. I would like so slightly alter some unit specifications in the equipment file. Can i use FPGE for that as well? All i see is an export equipment file function but no way to alter units specs in FPGE. Or should i use another tool for the equipment file?

2. I try to add some deployment hexes. I FPGE using the "D" buton i can specify those hexes. See th black outline around them. But when playing in campaign mode i do not see them and can't deploy in them. strangely when i use the overview function at the start of a scenario, showing the whole map in a small window they show as deployment hexes but as said i cant use them). Does anyone see what i'm doing wrong?

Thanks in advance for helping.
Frans

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Re: Help with PGF modification tooling

Post by Radoye » 2019-11-20 12:46, Wednesday

Hi Frans,

It appears what i said on the old forum isn't entirely true - i seem to remember being able to edit unit stats using FPGE (but in a very unintuitive way), however i can't find it anymore. I must've been mistaken.

But just like most other data files in FPGE the equipment file is basically a tab separated text file and can be opened in a spreadsheet editor (Excel or some such). I find this the most efficient way to edit PGF equipment - especially if you freeze panes so that you have the unit names on the left and the column headings at the top - this way you can scroll the data up, down, left, right and still see where you are. You can also temporarily sort the file (my preferred method is by nation, then class, year, month) to group units together - just don't forget to sort it back according to the unit number before saving.

As for the deploy hexes not sure what is wrong. If you want you can send me the files so i can take a look (but you might have to wait a few days before i have the time to do it). I'll PM you my email address.

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My Posts

Post by HexCode » 2019-11-21 16:25, Thursday

Verify, Don't Assume...
Who Speaks for Them ?
End of Decade Remarks
H2H Play Isn't... "Broken"
"Ephemeral" or "Developmental" ?
Why Am I Doing "This" ?
Greatly Exaggerated...
No Way...
Unorthodox... PBEM
Ten Years are About Right...
Content Design Degrees of Freedom
Experimentation Pays Off
House Rules: Basic Concept
House Rules: Scenario Uniqueness Enhancements
House Rules: FoW Examples
Going Up the Modding Ladder
Scenario Balance is Elusive (Part I)
Scenario Balance is Elusive (Part II)
PGF's AI vs. PGF's AI ?
Content Conversion & Adaptation
Engine Entrails...
AI Module: Play Balance
This Is IT, Then !
No "Saved Game Editor"
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-06-30 16:28, Tuesday, edited 11 times in total.

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Re: [REF] Modding Technical Hints

Post by re-enlist » 2019-11-27 10:44, Wednesday

I can modify PGF files with excel and/or notepad. However when saving they are saved with type "TXTfile" instead of for instance PGEQP. Even if i rename it with the correct extension, in properties it wil say its a txt file.

Does the executable have a problem with that filetype?

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts

Post by Radoye » 2019-11-27 13:03, Wednesday

Those files are txt files, just the file extension is changed.

PGF is designed to be easily modified, that's why most of its data files are tab separated lists saved as plain text files and editable as such, the only thing that distinguishes between them is the file extension (and of course the internal structure of the information within). Scenario files, campaign path, equipment file, briefings etc these are in essence all plain text files.

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Verify, Don't Assume...

Post by HexCode » 2019-12-26 05:24, Thursday

PGF is a remake of SSI's Panzer/ Allied General(s), not a replica. Most players and "light" modders need not overly concern themselves with any... lurking differences. They may as well forget about SSI's "old ways" and enjoy PGF in "as is" condition. That said, certain "advanced" modders better be careful. I'm thinking of individuals possessing PG1-DOS "advanced" modding... credentials :) who decided to migrate their activities into PGF modding territory (I'm one of them). "Advanced" modding is all about nuanced, technical details. To this effect, most differences are to be encountered in such details.

:bullhorn So, "advanced" modders (such as myself) better verify every little detail and assume nothing !
Last edited by HexCode on 2019-12-29 22:06, Sunday, edited 2 times in total.

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Who Speaks for Them ?

Post by HexCode » 2019-12-26 18:53, Thursday

There's quite a bit of PGF custom content "around". However, only a tiny fraction of custom content designers are presumed to be active in this forum (i.e., topics the titles of which are prefaced by "[DEV]"). What about the rest ? Well, the... departed can't speak for themselves, can they ? To this effect, do they really need "someone" to speak on their behalf ? Not necessarily. Why ?

a) Anyone can play through custom content and decide to post "something" about it. If so, any such commentary will be the poster's, not the designer's.

b) Any modder can embark on modifying already existing custom content. The ensuing activities will be 100% attributable to the modder, not to the original designer or to any prior modders, if any.

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End of Decade Remarks

Post by HexCode » 2019-12-30 01:17, Monday

PGF has been around for a decade. The dawn of a new decade is just a couple of days away. In many ways, the present forum is about PGF's future, not its past.

1) Our forum is kindly accommodated as part of a collection of forums hosted by three "Red Administrators" who obviously do care and actively aim for all around success.

2) Our forum's Moderator actively assists posters in accommodating their posts while preserving a "squeaky clean" forum organizational structure.

3) In my opinion, our forum now features reasonably adequate material on "big picture" items such as scope, areas of interest, poster types and the like.

4) Future posts of mine will be focusing on technical matters. By necessity, all such posts will collectively comprise a rather long-winded "project".

5) Future poster participation is currently... unknowable ! :evil
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-05-06 04:11, Wednesday, edited 1 time in total.

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H2H Play Isn't... "Broken"

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-05 22:57, Sunday

PGF AI's many shortcomings have been exhaustively listed and commented upon here:

[REF] AI Module Behavior
viewtopic.php?f=95&t=148

That doesn't mean that H2H play is in any way "broken", far from it. As an old hand in designing scenarios for H2H play under PG1-DOS and a budding such designer under PGF, I can assure interested parties (if any) that H2H play under PGF is just fine, save for a couple of programming glitches that can be dealt with by resorting to observing appropriate "house rules".

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Help: not able to buy core units

Post by re-enlist » 2020-01-07 09:41, Tuesday

In some of the PGF "campaigns" is have the following problem:

I have one or more free core slots according to purchase window. But i can not buy a unit to fill it despite having more ten enough prestige.
If an aux slot is also available then the purchase can be done filling the aux slot.

Does anyone recognize this issue and maybe know a solution.

i experience this issue so far in the following "campaigns"
- French general
- Cowboy attack

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Re: Help: not able to buy core units

Post by Radoye » 2020-01-07 12:50, Tuesday

There are bugs in some converted campaigns that messed up the player side - i don't remember the details anymore, been a while i last looked into it, but in essence you're playing as Allied while the game thinks you should be Axis and assigns purchase slots to Axis side instead (or vice versa). I made fixes for these, you can find them here:

http://www.mediafire.com/file/5epq8qkja ... s.zip/file

http://www.mediafire.com/file/3ar3mn2t9 ... x.zip/file

This makes the campaigns playable but there are other detail issues with scenarios that need fixing (for example - the use of "wrong" air and sea transports). Let me know if you run into other campaigns in need of similar intervention.


(Note: this topic will be eventually merged into the appropriate one)

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Re: Help: not able to buy core units

Post by re-enlist » 2020-01-07 13:01, Tuesday

Thx. I will try these fixes.

You're my hero!

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Re: Help: not able to buy core units

Post by Radoye » 2020-01-07 15:32, Tuesday

You're welcome mate.

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"Ephemeral" or "Developmental" ?

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-10 19:51, Friday

From the standpoint of reference materials augmentation, whether certain "consequential" posts are lodged into the present topic or some topic the title of which starts with "[DEV]" doesn't really matter.

BUT

it makes a big difference whether a poster writes about "archaeology" (i.e., custom content the designers / re-designers of which are not or no longer active in this forum) or about custom content the designers / re-designers of which are presumed to be active in this forum, thereby rendering such custom content "developmental" (i.e., work presumed to be in progress).

"Advanced" modding is all about coming up with novelties based on extracting advantages from as well as avoiding pitfalls lurking in technical details. If so, it stands to reason that "live" discussions involving the active participation of designers should directly impact the latter's development activities in a beneficial way. Equally important, compared to "autopsy" :) discussions where the relevant designers / re-designers are "absent", "developmental" discussions enjoy the obvious practical benefits arising out of participating designers / re-designers being the most knowledgeable regarding, what else, their treasured... "babies" under discussion. ;)

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Why Am I Doing "This" ?

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-24 15:49, Friday

The other day, I received an Email from someone who wanted to know why I've been posting "all that stuff around here". That person remarked that both PGF and this forum are terminally dead for all intents and purposes.

My answer was this. Irrespective of PGF's current "public" status, very much like yesteryear's PG1-DOS, PGF serves my private wargaming interests quite well. I'm a private content designer exclusively focusing on ahistorical, H2H scenario play. As such, I'm not missing at all posts having to do with historical content and / or campaigns. Of course, I would welcome posts containing interesting technical information / know-how applicable across the spectrum of content preferences (i.e., technical lingua franca). Finally, the virtual library of reference materials which I'm slowly building in this forum is of great use to me, personally. Well organized, easily accessible, flexible, detailed, technical information constitutes a great aid to my finite... memory. :) As such, it renders my content design activities efficient and, hopefully, effective as well. :ihope

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Bob Semple » 2020-01-25 08:48, Saturday

HexCode wrote:
2020-01-24 15:49, Friday
The other day, I received an Email from someone who wanted to know why I've been posting "all that stuff around here". That person remarked that both PGF and this forum are terminally dead for all intents and purposes.
This strikes me as both rude and awfully presumptious. Obviously there isn't a lot of activity around here, but there are evidently still people designing and sharing custom content. :dunno

And, more to the point, some of us do appreciate the technical documentation which you provide, regardless of whether it was intended for any audience. :yes

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Radoye » 2020-01-25 14:40, Saturday

Bob Semple wrote:
2020-01-25 08:48, Saturday
HexCode wrote:
2020-01-24 15:49, Friday
The other day, I received an Email from someone who wanted to know why I've been posting "all that stuff around here". That person remarked that both PGF and this forum are terminally dead for all intents and purposes.
This strikes me as both rude and awfully presumptious. Obviously there isn't a lot of activity around here, but there are evidently still people designing and sharing custom content. :dunno

And, more to the point, some of us do appreciate the technical documentation which you provide, regardless of whether it was intended for any audience. :yes
Hear hear! :yes

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Greatly Exaggerated...

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-26 02:30, Sunday

Mark Twain ... PGF : The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated !

:howdy Hey guys, thanks a lot for your words of appreciation. It`s the long haul that ultimately matters... :2cents

By the way, my recent, ... diversionary :) posting activities in the "Steel & Lace" forum should be coming to a grinding halt by the end of January, 2020. This means that... :evil

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No Way...

Post by HexCode » 2020-02-13 03:29, Thursday

Well, I got yet another email. This time, I was prompted to get in touch with PGF's programmer and attempt to somehow convince him to "finish" PGF...

I believe I've drawn a clear line in the sand when it comes to PGF's programmer. Some of my posts in that "other" Web venue notwithstanding, I've absolutely no desire to post any significant comments regarding him in this forum, ever. To this effect, I've already posted:
It's not my intent to engage in any critique, let alone criticism, of the software's developer or any custom content designer; this includes the actual (custom) content itself. In a nutshell, I'm completely agnostic regarding such matters.
I've also posted:
PGF is freeware and is "publicly" available in "as is" condition.
As far as I'm concerned, "as is" really means "as currently downloadable via the Internet". Therefore, logically, PGF's programmer is a non-factor... :2cents
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-02-13 15:33, Thursday, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Radoye » 2020-02-13 15:25, Thursday

The PGF programmer, having moved onto a commercial product (Panzer Corps) for which he is actually earning money, has effectively abandoned PGF. Furthermore, his contract with the Panzer Corps publisher prevents him from doing any further work on PGF or to share its source code.

So for all that matters, PGF is what it is.

If someone is looking for a "finished" version of PGF i suggest picking up Panzer Corps:

https://www.slitherine.com/game/panzer-corps-gold

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Unorthodox... PBEM

Post by HexCode » 2020-02-14 16:39, Friday

Some PGF aficionado may like to PBEM but can't do so due to opponent unavailability / unsuitability. Also, for whatever reason, he may not be interested in playing PGF Online. Well, if so, such a person may conclude that AI warfighting is the only option available to him...

Hobbyists familiar with yesteryear's tabletop wargames were no strangers to the all too common situation where one didn't have anyone to play with / against. Interestingly enough, quite a few hobbyists had gotten accustomed to playing both sides by skillfully alternating between two opposing wargaming... mindsets. The widespread absence of Fog of War (FoW) definitely helped...

Contrary to received opinion, one can PBEM PGF with / against himself. The trick is to get quite a few scenario fights going. Given some elementary facility with file organization and management, a hobbyist can cycle through, say, 50 scenarios before having to play the "other" side in any particular scenario. This play mode is quite advantageous because:

1) The problem of defeating FoW through knowledge of the other side's force disposition is minimized due to the fact that human memory regarding details can easily be taxed... Even better, with 50 scenarios or so ongoing, chances are that human memory will go wrong, juxtaposing the wrong tactical situation / picture...

2) One doesn't really need all these fancy "battlefield generator" options based on randomization of initial force dispositions. A heavily taxed human memory is tantamount to one being faced with a FoW situation simulating force disposition randomization every step of the way, not just initially ! In other words, a player has to play . . .

. . . the visible part of the board and not the man, every time, all the time...

So, where there's a will there's a way... :ihope

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Ten Years are About Right...

Post by HexCode » 2020-02-18 19:13, Tuesday

Kindly check out:

Verify, Don't Assume...
viewtopic.php?f=95&t=174#p2392

In my opinion, it was a big "mistake" to subject SSI's PG1-DOS to "serious" technical research way back in the late 1990s. Why ? In those days, there was a lot of Player and Light Modder "public" activity which mightily interfered with the... serenity :) and fixity of purpose of a few well intentioned technical "researchers"...

Quite fortunately, PGF's "public" realities have evolved differently. Ten years after PGF's release, Player and Light Modder "public" activity is virtually nonexistent. This has potentially untied the hands of the odd technical "researcher" (i.e., Advanced Modder) such as myself to uninterruptedly pursue all kinds of "serious" ... things ! :)

My view on the admittedly many nuanced differences between PG1-DOS and PGF is this: PGF is it ! Any technical fixes and novelties I might consider implementing better be desirable on their very own practical merits. Whether the impetus behind such envisaged fixes and novelties is some other piece of software or, even, interesting idea is immaterial. In other words, hey PG1-DOS, just take a... number like everybody else ! :2cents
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-04-24 00:08, Friday, edited 2 times in total.

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Content Design Degrees of Freedom

Post by HexCode » 2020-02-22 18:44, Saturday

Whether one likes it or not, PGF's "classic" (i.e., SSI) content has always served as an important paradigm many custom content designers chose to emulate over the years. That's an empirically established and, in my opinion, rather uncontroversial fact.

Myself coming from the... deeply technical side of the "hobby", I've reached the following conclusions:

1) PGF allows for tremendous customization of battlefield initial conditions incomparable to anything feasible in-game.

2) Consequently, standalone scenario design is way more "adventurously free" as compared to campaign design.

However, to each his own !!

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Experimentation Pays Off

Post by HexCode » 2020-02-26 20:11, Wednesday

From a custom content designer's perspective, blind adherence to PGF's "classic" (i.e., SSI) content paradigm considerably limits what may actually be (design-wise) feasible. To this effect, experimentation often pays off big time.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

A) SSI's content designers kept quite a few unit Attack values at zero (0). A lot can be learned and, hopefully, put to good use by specifying positive values and observing the resulting battlefield behavior.

B) More generally, SSI's content has de facto established something akin to a unit attribute ensemble "orthodoxy". Yet, "mix & match" experimentation is bound to yield innovative as well as practically useful, new unit definitions.

In my opinion, custom design experimentation and imagination go hand in hand.

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House Rules: Basic Concept

Post by HexCode » 2020-03-13 23:54, Friday

FPGE and direct editing of content under PGF allow Modders to do many interesting things. However, when it comes to Players, content editing in no way circumscribes the limits of their gaming experience. There's another aspect to playing which enriches gameplay tremendously: "House Rules" (HRs).

HRs are akin to contracts that human players voluntarily enter into (many times just with themselves !) which invariably commit them to abstain from engaging in certain actions that are normally available during gameplay. The main idea here's that human players possess the discipline to police themselves (on the honor system) in adhering to such "contracts" even in the face of... extreme battlefield adversity ! :)

For example, within the context of the rather well known Submarine Stubbornness "oddity", a PGF aficionado clearly possessing a sense of humor posted elsewhere on the Web:

As for multiplayer, there can be just a house rule "we do not set epic fortifications with submarines in ports".

Naturally, this kind of HR applies to human behavior. On the other hand, PGF's AI knows not of honor systems and the like; its sole ethical master is the... source code !

In the past, objections have been raised in regards to the obvious fact that PGF's AI cannot "take advantage" of HRs and consequently (?) it's "unfair" for human players to engage in such... unorthodox practices. My response has always been as follows:

a) Since when are humans obligated to "obey" machines ? :dunno :)

b) Asymmetrical gameplay capabilities aren't necessarily unfair. In chess, Rook vs. Bishop & Knight endings are definitely asymmetrical but hardly always unfair. Closer to PGF, is it not asymmetrical warfare when the AI is often given oodles of prestige that its human adversary can only dream of ?

PGF's underlying programming makes no serious allowances for "sophisticated" play by its AI Module... Now, it may not be totally unreasonable to consider such behavior to be akin to a bunch of AI Module de facto HRs. To boot, adherence to such HRs is one-sided -- at least in principle. Of course, there's nothing that stops an "AI Warrior" from... returning the "favor", thus re-establishing... "fairness" through "symmetry" ! :) It's also somewhat interesting to consider the fact that it doesn't matter an iota whether the AI Module might not have been the beneficiary of top notch programmer involvement... In the present context, the only thing that's pertinent is the AI Module's actual play behavior and an "AI Warrior's" purposive response to it.

Gentlemen, you may try letting your imagination loose and see what happens when one cuts off the umbilical cord of "SSI-Style Campaign Orthodoxy"... :2cents

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House Rules: Scenario Uniqueness Enhancements

Post by HexCode » 2020-03-17 18:13, Tuesday

Throughout the years, I've liberally employed all kinds of HRs to enrich my gaming experience. Interestingly enough, my conclusions in regards to the desirability and practicality of adopting and adhering to HRs bifurcate as follows:

1) Campaign play invariably assumes that the scenarios to be serially played will be subject to play system uniformity, more or less. Although HRs can and, in fact, have been called upon by players to enrich / rejuvenate their gaming experiences, apparently there've been significant psychological barriers at play (no pun intended)... :)

2) Most probably because of my H2H play orientation, I've found HRs to be invaluable in standalone scenario, all-human play. The reason is this. Very much like Avalon Hill's approach to tabletop / board wargaming a few decades ago, the emphasis is not on a few commonalities that a player has to be aware of in order to enjoy many hours of play without having to "study" much any particular situation. Instead, the emphasis is on the unique characteristics underlying the design and intent of a particular scenario.

To further illustrate the point, here's an interesting parallel, courtesy of the late Czech(oslovak) chess grandmaster Ludek Pachman {Complete Chess Strategy}:

The principles of strategy to which these volumes are devoted have therefore limited validity, because events on the chess-board cannot be confined to hard and fast rules and are full of contradictions. In chess we often have situations which cannot be compared with any "model" examples or explained by the principles of chess theory. Such situations arise more and more frequently at the higher levels of play, as chess theory becomes more advanced and complicated, and are characterized by their peculiarity and uniqueness.

However, it is precisely here that the beauty and attraction of chess lie. We are not dealing solely with a mathematical problem but with creative imagination at work. In the games of leading players we see, alongside their thorough knowledge of chess theory (which we can compare with a writer's technical skill), an element which we can justifiably term artistic intuition. It is this which helps them discover the hidden possibilities in a position, create the conditions for surprising combinations and produce games of lasting aesthetic value. In this fusion of scientific and artistic elements lies the true greatness of chess, that wonderful product of the human mind


Of course, one need not rise to such... lofty heights. That said, a little... hiking may not hurt either ! :lol

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House Rules: FoW Examples

Post by HexCode » 2020-03-19 17:10, Thursday

There's no practical limit to HR combinations a Player may decide to abide by. This post focuses on a couple of HR examples specifically addressing play under "Fog of War" (FoW) conditions. Under PGF, FoW prevails when the "Hidden Units" setting is ON (i.e., its box is checked).

No_Screen_Gaze

A Player may decide to:

a) Avoid gazing at the computer screen while his opponent is on the move in real time;
b) Abstain from replaying his opponent's half-turns.


Relatedly, Prima's Official Strategy Guide (PG1-DOS) opines:

When you're exercising this option to watch the enemy units perform their movement (you always get to see them conduct their attacks on your units as well) ... you have some idea of where the enemy is going, but it is more difficult to remember their exact locations ... Honestly, though, watching enemy units move while playing with the Hidden Units ON option is tantamount to cheating (after all, you know about where the enemy is by watching its moves).

No_Sys_Recon

This HR prohibits a Player from utilizing the "Undo Move" button to sequentially and systematically probe ever so deeper into unscouted map (grey hex) territory, by repeatedly moving back and forth one or more of the units he controls, thereby inching ahead one hex at the time and, consequently, potentially avoiding "Rugged Defense / Surprise Contact / Out of the Sun" nasty mishaps...

The foregoing can be distilled into the following readily observable HR:

Any unit provisionally moved to a destination that is an unscouted hex (greyed out / shaded hex) cannot be recalled via the "Undo Move" button and, hence, its provisional move must be completed and made permanent precisely as first attempted.

This is conceptually similar to the "Touch:Move" rule in chess ! :)

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Going Up the Modding Ladder

Post by HexCode » 2020-03-20 17:00, Friday

A) Some prospective Modders wish to use content editing tools that may come bundled with PGF and stop right there. Well, other than a functionality allowing one to convert "tame" PG1-DOS content to appropriately formatted content playable under PGF, PGF does not sport any bundled, content editing tools.

B) Some other Modders do bother to acquire aftermarket editing tools capable of editing content playable under PGF (e.g., FPGE). It's important to realize though that Fred's Panzer General Editor (FPGE) is not a bundled editing tool. Neither SSI nor PGF's programmer have been behind it's original development and long-winded evolution... Therefore, Modders expecting "technical seamlessness" are bound to be disappointed; on occasion, at least ! Yeah, FPGE is just an aftermarket labor of hobbyist love... :yes

C) Even fewer Modders bother to acquire the requisite, technical knowledge which would allow them to "tamper" with PGF's numerous, external support files. Granted. The... good news is that no one is forcing Modders to hit the books... :) If such hobbyists are happy with their custom content in "as designed condition", well, good for them; :bullhorn end of story !

D) Theoretically, some Modder may yet bother to acquire the requisite, technical knowledge which would allow him to hex-edit PGF's main executable (i.e., engine). We shall certainly see about this... :evil

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Scenario Balance is Elusive (Part I)

Post by HexCode » 2020-03-22 17:36, Sunday

Distant echoes...
Identical Opponents

A lot of game balance theory is based on an, admittedly, unrealistic assumption that the opponents involved are omniscient and, hence, perfectly matched at the highest caliber level possible. Once this assumption itself becomes part of the theory, the question of the "first move advantage" can be of paramount importance in certain "symmetrical" games.

Let's briefly consider two dimensional (3x3) Tic-Tac-Toe. It has long been practically known and mathematically demonstrated as well that, the "first move advantage" is not sufficient to carry the day for the player who goes first, given "optimal" moves on the part of his opponent. In other words, this game, when played by two omniscient (well, even "well informed" will do ! :) ) opponents, will always inexorably peter out to a draw ! What about three dimensional (3x3x3) Tic-Tac-Toe though ? Interestingly enough, again, it has long been practically known and mathematically demonstrated as well that the "first move advantage" is sufficient to carry the day for the player who goes first even in the face of "optimal" moves on the part of his opponent. In other words, this game, even when played by two omniscient or just well informed opponents, will always result in the player who moved first winning ! The "god" who doesn't get to move first is doomed from the start....

What can one say about chess, that venerable "symmetrical" grand daddy of all strategy wargames ? Its perfectly "symmetrical" starting position constitutes a seductive invitation to our intuition to proclaim it "balanced". What about white's "first move advantage" though ? Could this be as devastating as in the case of three dimensional Tic-Tac-Toe ? Well, to date, nobody has been able to demonstrate mathematically that white's first move is the prelude to an inexorably unfolding, winning strategy irrespective of what black does to counter this. In fact, the practical, decades-long, over the board acquired experience from playing the game has resulted in a voluminous body of knowledge known as "chess opening theory". The current opinion of chess theorists and grandmasters alike is that, white's "first move advantage" is only a transient factor and that, in fact, best play by black dissipates its advantageous effects around turn 20 ! In other words, although no definitive proof exists, chess is treated by the overwhelming majority of serious players as a provisionally, perfectly balanced game. Nevertheless, just to possibly err on the side of caution, in most "official" chess competition events, players alternate playing white and black (this has everything to do with fairness and does not render chess "inherently balanced" in case the experts and all the rest of us are actually wrong about the importance of white's first move.... :) ).

Turning now to PGF, we immediately realize that things are much much more complex and uncertain than in chess.

1) Classic Chess has only one scenario (i.e., the "standard" set up of the pieces) while even "plain vanilla" PGF comprises 77 (ex-SSI) scenarios !

2) The "standard" setup position in chess is symmetrical. This concept is obviously inapplicable in PGF's case.

3) Since "plain vanilla" PGF scenarios are clearly not symmetrical, the "first move advantage" issue is just one of many other considerations that enter the assessment as to whether a scenario is "inherently / objectively balanced".

4) Ideally, PGF play would involve some a priori assurance that, if two identical (but not necessarily omniscient) players were to play a particularly calibrated scenario (e.g., specific prestige and experience settings) over and over again, each one would be chalking up victories 50% of the time. That's all ! All scenario balancing efforts here would revolve around this a priori expectation. This does not mean that every game would go down to the wire (e.g., air combat uncertainties, weather capriciousness and other imponderables just cannot be exorcised ! ).

5) Unlike chess which has enjoyed a reasonably stable player rating system for decades, PGF play is essentially virgin territory by comparison ! We do not have PGF theorists and grandmasters to play test scenarios for the rest of us. We don't even have a crude system to assist us in rating players on the basis of relative game mastery. Consequently, we wouldn't even know where to begin if someone were to ask us to match players of roughly the same playing caliber over the silicon board, an important precondition for the practical testing of "objective" scenario balance. Therefore, whatever scenario-specific conclusions we were to derive concerning "inherent balance", they would of necessity be quite tentative.

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Scenario Balance is Elusive (Part II)

Post by HexCode » 2020-03-23 18:37, Monday

More distant echoes...
Unevenly Matched Opponents

Such characters locking horns in the context of games have been with us for many centuries. This is a historical fact. Although the underlying unfairness of such contests has, for the most part, been readily acknowledged, the standard response has always been that the less skilled players should grin and bear it. The principal reason given has been that, players generally improve their gaming skills over time by confronting better skilled players and learning from such encounters. If this learning process were to involve some ignominious defeats, well, it would be a reasonable and, perhaps, unavoidable price to pay to improve one's gaming skills.

PGF isn't unlike many other games when it comes to the issue of unevenly matched opponents. In principle, the setting up of scenarios for ideal competitive play is, most certainly, a laudable objective. As already mentioned in the immediately preceding post, such an endeavor would be no picnic; nevertheless, it would certainly be something extremely desirable to eventually achieve. However, the actual modification of an ideal competitive play scenario's parameters and specifications to take into account "perceived" or "objectively documented" differences in player skills so as to re-introduce balance and excitement into gaming is an entirely different matter....

i) First and foremost, even if there were no downside to doing so, one would need a very sophisticated calibration scale to match players ratings differences with, say, specific "re-balancing" Prestige and / or Experience settings. From where I stand, this looks like a technical pipe dream, plain and simple !

ii) Even if such a technical fix were feasible, I'm of the opinion that its ultimate effect would be detrimental to gaming quality. Although the fix would conceivably introduce balance in the short run and, hence, some transient enjoyment, it would impede players' skills improvement and, hence, deliver an indirect but powerful blow to their gaming enjoyment down the line.... You see, I'm also of the opinion that players generally improve their gaming skills over time by confronting better skilled players and learning from such encounters ! Given an appropriately well thought out and fostered friendliness & education gaming culture, these uneven matches shouldn't leave any appreciable bitter residue behind...

Historically, the above caveats have led some hobbyists and play clubs to adopt a "concurrent, mirrored gaming system".

In a concurrent, mirrored gaming arrangement, each player tries his hand at leading each one of the two sides in two separate games conducted more or less simultaneously under as many identical conditions and settings as practically possible.

In my opinion, concurrent, mirrored PGF gaming is very desirable for the following reasons:

1) Ever since the beginning of competitive gaming among humans, a certain time-honored, gentlemanly tradition of giving one's opponent a "second" chance at play has developed over time; the tradition's practical manifestations exhibit considerable resilience and staying power from chess to poker to backgammon and so on. Clearly, such gentlemanly ways have a lot to do with friendliness. At a minimum, there's a recognition that lady fortune is a fickle ally and, hence, everybody should get a fair chance of being bestowed upon with her favors... Concurrent, mirrored gaming addresses such concerns head on ! It also does so in a most efficient manner.

2) Many scenarios involve combat where one side is attacking while the other one is grimly hanging on to fewer and fewer objectives as the game unfolds. Although the defender may eventually prevail by hanging on to that last precious objective, his psychology of being pushed to the wall and witnessing the wholesale decimation of his units can be problematic, to say the least. This represents a tangible threat to friendliness. Concurrent, mirrored gaming seems to be what the doctor would order here... For starters, the concurrent, symmetrical experiences of the two players won't allow either an attacker or a defender type of psychology to rigidly set in. Moreover, such experiences are bound to put a "human face" on all forces on the battlefield, a definite plus for friendliness.

3) The implicit camaraderie fostered by concurrent, mirrored PGF gaming tends to make players more communicative than they would otherwise be. Aside from the obvious boost to friendliness, better communication invariably results in better player education as the two opponents may readily exchange friendly opinions and analyses. In fact, the greatest thing that concurrent, mirrored gaming does is that it allows the players to view the two symmetrical games as one entity to be talked about and, possibly... studied. :) The symmetrical nature of goings on leaves very few things in the dark... The concurrent nature of goings on ensures a positive dynamic in that the two opponents are increasingly drawn together as the mirrored games progress by dealing with and discussing successive layers of common experiences...

4) By playing both sides of a conflict, players develop an all around appreciation of scenarios and the types of forces involved, thus enhancing their education. Even well disciplined and serious hobbyists may exhibit a tendency to gravitate towards certain types of familiar or aesthetically pleasing situations... Concurrent, mirrored gaming is a great way to ensure that such lopsided preferences won't be allowed to interfere with a player's all around education.

5) By its very nature, concurrent, mirrored gaming is ideal as a "research" tool in instances were scenario balancing experimental information must be extracted, massaged and distilled into some appropriate body of knowledge of some lasting utility... Lest I forget, concurrent, mirrored PGF gaming is "fair" if / when such game(s) are registered for "ladder" status. Who knows, such arrangements may even dissuade certain PBEM "wargamers" from... replaying their moves ! :ihope

Bottom line is this. There can be no such thing as "objective" scenario play balance. A "concurrent, mirrored gaming system" goes a long way towards practically ameliorating many of the sharp edges present due to the rather obvious absence of "objectivity".
Ok, all this is well and good. However, what about PGF's AI ? How does it fit (or not) into the preceding... erudite :) oped ? We shall see... :evil

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PGF's AI vs. PGF's AI ?

Post by HexCode » 2020-04-19 01:25, Sunday

Why would anyone be interested in watching PGF's AI playing against... itself ?

1) Entertainment; pure and simple ! :)

2) Players may be interested in zeroing in on PGF AI's observable weaknesses so that they can take full advantage of them thereby scoring speedy, if not spectacular, victories.

3) Players seeking more challenge may be interested in purposely avoiding taking advantage of PGF AI's observable weaknesses thereby pretending that their opponent is human and, consequently, playing accordingly...

4) Custom content designers may be interested in how PGF's AI plays so that they can fine tune their scenarios and campaigns, depending on their particular design aims. On occasion, the AI "show" may reveal design "bugs"...

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Radoye » 2020-04-19 14:11, Sunday

I must say the AI vs AI exercise is much more interesting in the original SSI "general" games than in PGF.

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Content Conversion & Adaptation

Post by HexCode » 2020-04-22 00:44, Wednesday

SSI's PG1, AG and PacG collectively feature more than 100 scenarios. Over the years, custom content designers crafted quite a few, diverse scenarios and campaigns, playable under SSI's 1990s vintage engines. PGF's arrival on the scene triggered considerable interest and activity in (pardon the neo-barbarism :) ) "foreverizing" a lot of the aforementioned, "older" content.

PGF and, to a certain extent, FPGE as well, feature a few rudimentary content "conversion" mechanisms. Fair enough !

BUT

Successfully taking advantage of software conversion features is rather the beginning and in no way the end point in rendering "older" content playable under PGF. That's were multi-faceted adaptation comes in. It's almost an art. Many, many details need be re-calibrated and in many ways modified. In most instances, the nature, capabilities and shortcomings of PGF's AI Module loom large as the critical factors to underlie a designer's content adaptation efforts.

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Engine Entrails...

Post by HexCode » 2020-04-23 04:42, Thursday

Elsewhere in this forum:
JediKnight007 wrote:
2020-04-22 19:46, Wednesday
Regarding PacPG, Pepa told me in an email that he has been working on it, since this pandemic has given people a lot of free time. I also directed him to some technical info on how to hex edit pgf.exe, because his mod uses different movement and weather tables than standard PG/PGF. (Previous attempts to convert PacPG to PGF failed because of this.)
a) It took 20 years since SSI's release of PG1-DOS for considerable, technical information regarding the internal structure of the engine to become "publicly" available. In the case of PGF by comparison, it "only" took 5 years for the same to happen. I call this relative... progress ! :)

b) PGF's developer coined his engine "PGForever.exe". In my case, I renamed it to "PGF.EXE"; reason being, my file is subject to continual ad hoc hex-editing. Hence, the need for clear differentiation... Incidentally,

My Forum Documentation Priorities
viewtopic.php?f=95&t=135#p2519

may be of some relevance... :2cents

c) Obviously, a "reasonably faithful" adaptation of PacPG originally playable under PG1-DOS so that it can be played under PGF as well would necessitate judicious amounts of hex-editing of PGF's engine. :2cents

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AI Module: Play Balance

Post by HexCode » 2020-04-24 04:43, Friday

Earlier, under this topic:

Scenario Balance is Elusive (Part I)
Identical Opponents
viewtopic.php?f=95&t=174#p3797

and

Scenario Balance is Elusive (Part II)
Unevenly Matched Opponents
viewtopic.php?f=95&t=174#p3801

introduced the following key notions:

Concurrent, Mirrored Gaming
Education
Friendliness
Playing Skill Improvement
Symmetry


Up until now, the "presentation" has been all about H2H play. What about PGF's AI Module though ? How does it feature in all this ?

A) When PGF's AI Module is pitted against itself, we come across a textbook case of Identical Opponents. However, the AI Module isn't an adaptive learner. Consequently, Playing Skill Improvement and Education go out the window. As for Friendliness, oh well ! :) Finally, for rather obvious reasons, Concurrent, Mirrored Gaming is perfectly symmetrical.

B) When PGF's AI Module is pitted against a human opponent, we often come across cases of Unevenly Matched Opponents.

1) Once again, the AI Module not being an adaptive learner, Playing Skill Improvement, Education and Friendliness are all but meaningless. To boot, the rationale underlying Concurrent, Mirrored Gaming just evaporates...

2) The human opponent doesn't have to worry about friendliness and symmetry, of course. Playing Skill Improvement and Education do occur naturally via the mere act of playing against the AI Module. The longer a human opponent plays, the more experienced he becomes, but always subject to eventual diminishing returns. :evil In addition, Concurrent, Mirrored Gaming allows the human opponent to appreciate and study a battle all around and, hence, avoid blind spots in his gaming knowledge. Remember. though, PGF's AI Module cannot serve as active campaigner...

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This Is IT, Then !

Post by HexCode » 2020-05-24 19:13, Sunday

It appears that those "other" Web pages containing posts re: PGF (among a few other PG1 variants) have bit the virtual dust... :|

Whether one likes it or not and for better or for worse, this forum is it ! As for the future, well, it's always unknowable. :2cents :evil

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Radoye » 2020-05-25 03:54, Monday

I do feel a bit sad about it all, i mean i was a member there since the last century, but it was about time someone had pulled the plug and put it out of its misery... :|

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Can I change the difficulty level during a campaign?

Post by Tronjer » 2020-06-29 04:00, Monday

Hi
I am new to the forum and not quite sure whether I picked the correct thread for this post.
I am playing Spanish General - Republican (v 0.98). With the default difficulty settings it is impossible to win the first scenario (Extremadura). So I changed the settings to more prestige and higher experience for the Republican player.
Can I change the settings back or modify them for the following scenarios?

Tronjer

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Radoye » 2020-06-29 13:14, Monday

I believe these are fixed once you start a campaign, you can't change them afterwards.

There are tricks to these difficult scenarios under PGF AI, usually involving parking one of your units next to AI victory hex ASAP (to prevent purchasing new units there). The AI will keep reinforcing non-VH cities instead, which you can safely by-pass. I'm not too familiar with this particular scenario but this generally works.

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Tronjer » 2020-06-30 13:34, Tuesday

Thanks for this tip, Radoye.
I thought maybe the difficulty setting is in some kind of ini file, but there is none. Can it be in the pgforever.exe? And can that be edited?

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No "Saved Game Editor"

Post by HexCode » 2020-06-30 16:28, Tuesday

Tronjer wrote:
2020-06-30 13:34, Tuesday
I thought maybe the difficulty setting is in some kind of ini file, but there is none. Can it be in the pgforever.exe? And can that be edited?
The setting resides within a campaign's evolving "Saved Game" binary file(s). To my knowledge, there's never been an aftermarket "Saved Game Editor" for PGF around. Unlike in the case of PG1-DOS, PGF aficionados never saw the need for such a utility to be developed... :| To this effect, the internal structure of PGF's "Saved Game" binary files has never been seriously researched... :evil

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Re: No "Saved Game Editor"

Post by Tronjer » 2020-06-30 17:16, Tuesday

In fact, there seems to be no need to set the difficulty level back, since the next scenarios are as hard as the first one. I am quite happy with my extra prestige and experience. And there is always the last resort of the cheat codes. Not satisfying, but sometimes I really need them.

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Re: PGF: "Ephemeral" Posts (ask questions or comment here)

Post by Radoye » 2020-06-30 18:45, Tuesday

keep in mind these campaigns were not developed for PGF and with PGF's "quirky" AI in mind - i believe these were converted from AG. And this used to be one of the harder custom campaigns in AG as well.

Good luck with your further conquests! :)

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