COOP: Lowest Bidder

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Overall this was a good mission and an interesting mission concept. However, there were several factors that contributed to making this a very tough/exhausting mission to lead and keep the platoon moving at a pace that is enjoyable for everybody. I’ll point out quite a few things here but I want to make clear that those are meant to be constructive points of improvement, not an indication that the mission was bad or unenjoyable as a whole.

1.) Intended Drop Zones VS Actual Drop Zones

This was by far the biggest issue for me throughout this mission. While I understand that this was a thematic piece to the mission, sometimes the theme has to bend to practicality otherwise player fun can take a dive. Of course, real life is full of examples where special operations went badly due to bad resources/intel, but our game sessions are very much dependent on certain timings (op start, reinsertion times, op end) and the "tension-arc" of each operation needs to account for that or else players will feel there’s either "nothing to do" or too much action making it feel like a cluster fuck - striking a decent balance between the two is the goal. Considering the mission asked us explicitly to be as stealthy as possible I believe the drop zones (at the very least subsequent reinsertion drops) should have been accurate according to PLT’s plan, because being stealthy is already very hard in Arma and will require slower paced movement and more coordination between multiple elements (especially in bad visibility scenarios like a storm) than regular ops. Both drop zones were a click off-course, especially the second one was a massive setback for PLT because it forced an uncomfortable decision: do I go again through a hostile city after being compromised with the high risk of CQC and vertical ambushes or do I make everyone walk around the city SE to somehow reach the airport safely. Considering the clusterfuck engagement we had at the reinforced compound I chose the latter which caused PLT and Alpha having to walk for the next 45min without much happening. I strongly believe that if the drop zones were more in line with what PLT intended the pacing of the mission for all players would have been much improved - if this issue wasn’t present all other issues would have been totally fine and wouldn’t have felt as compounding as they did for leadership.

2.) Non-Steerable VS Steerable Parachutes

Non-steerable parachutes open up immediately after the pilot kicks us out (we all forgot about that - not blaming GM for it). This is great for low-flight drops but at 2 clicks altitude, we needed steerable parachutes so we can number our own chalks and call out the drops ourselves while ensuring that players will not drift off too far if someone makes a mistake or misses their timing. The initial drop meant we arrived far later at the AO than originally intended which meant at times I had to make very risky calls to push through due to timing pressures, rather than making more tactically sound decisions.

3.) HVTs should be Civilian or Player Side

One can still dress them up as enemies, but making the AI either neutral or player-sided will mean they still have ACE medical which in turn gives us the option to treat them if they get shot by players or hurt in an explosion. If the Rebel Leader at the mosque was treatable we may have been able to safe him and extract intel.

4.) Sub-Sonic VS Regular Ammo

AI can’t hear muzzle noises or bullet cracks. They only register a.) if a bullet passes close by them or b.) if a bullet strikes a surface close by them. This means sub-sonic ammo has no actual impact on stealth and only impacts gunplay for players. While some may enjoy the alternative bullet trajectory it also poses issues of being very hard to use in low-visibility scenarios (e.g. the laser doesn’t line up with where your bullet will go) and unless you are using tracer rounds (defeating the immersion factor of "stealth") one will struggle to be effective against enemies using AKs. I don’t go as far as to say "don’t issue sub-sonic rounds" but since being compromised is always a threat I think at least issue half the mags as standard rounds so we can level the playing field with the AI once we’ve gone hot.

5.) Don’t Pick Up Enemy Gear in Low-Visibility Stealth Missions

This is mainly about player behavior but I think the lack/unpredictability of resupplies and the sub-sonic-only ammo can incentivize players to pick up enemy gear. I anticipated this issue and briefed all leaders including FTLs at mission start to ensure we stick to our own equipment. But it still would have been cool if we could at least call in one or two small FT boxes as a drop at some point after being compromised since we were on foot all night and thus could not bring our own supplies in vehicles.

Back to the original point which is something I observed in several stealth missions, not just yesterday: low-visibility NVG ops make PID, especially in hectic CQC situations very difficult - now consider that varying player monitor illumination values further complicate things as not everyone will run the same brightness/hardware settings: i.e. just because you see fine in the dark doesn’t mean another player can. Thus having as easily identifiable PID characteristics as possible is vital to avoid blue-on-blue situations. If we run silencers never remove your silencer and only pick up enemy weapons in the most dire situations after getting permission. Enemies have muzzle flashes, we don’t = easy PID, even from the air.

In missions where we expressly don’t have decent resupplies inform your FTL early that you are getting yellow on ammo, they will relay to the SL which can either organize ammo sharing within the squad or request ammo sharing from other nearby elements. PLT element barely fired a shot till we reached the Western reinforced compound and we had plenty of ammo to share. Don’t hesitate to ask for ammo sharing regardless of operation type, we usually have more than enough, it’s often just not efficiently distributed among players.

EDIT: big thank you again to [user avatar=“” name=“Koffer”]5721247[/user] for taking the time to mark every sector and point of interest on the map while I was organising other things. He was doing this unprompted on his own initiative and did a fantastic job! We used these markers constantly to reference enemy movements and positions accurately on long-range radios.

I liked the mission, but it didn’t really give me the "spec ops" feel after we first started shooting. Remember that there are two (more?) ways to build up player engagement - action and tension, and sometimes we get too focused on the first.

Imagine this alternate scenario:

  • The players need to get the VIP out of the city and to safety.
  • Make sure there are at least 2-3 equally likely areas where the VIP could be, to build up the tension and force players to somehow plan for it.
  • There must be no indication that a specop force was in the area - bodybag fallen comrades, or bury them underground (something specop units can do in Arma). Make sure any weapons they drop are collected.
  • There is a Big Clock put on players that forces a dramatic tension, ie.:
  • A hostile commander coming to the city to extract/interrogate/kill the VIP
  • The city is under civil war (two rebel factions) and the front of engagement moves slowly towards possible VIP positions
  • The night ending, daytime coming in 2-3 hours
  • A big force of enemies returning from a distraction caused off-screen by our forces
  • etc.
  • The actual AO, at least until the Big Clock expires, has a limited amount of enemies. The challenge isn’t the combat, it’s finding the VIP before the clock ticks over. The enemy contact is the icing on the cake.
  • However do make it interesting - several POIs like checkpoints, sniper nests, MG nests, social circles around burning barrels, maybe civilians, reinforced FOB buildings with guards, vehicle patrols, limited foot patrols, an occasional static AA for players to blow up, etc.
  • Don’t do the dumb GM thing of equally distributing a group of EI across buildings, putting 1 EI in each. Concentrate forces into groups of activity, giving players corridors of movement without bullshit surprises.
  • Remember that the goal of spec ops gameplay is to make players feel cool, not catch them off-guard. Give them the tools. If they fuck up, it has to be on player skill and planning.
  • Maybe even remind players to plan for multi-stage approach, ie. taking UAV operator / mortars / snipers and placing them outside the city, along with supplies/vehicles, as a temporary FOB. (Just make sure to not force combat on that position as a GM. A nearby patrol is scary enough, it doesn’t have to intersect the FOB.)
  • As a MM, do invest some time into thinking how the players would approach objectives and whether there’s some room for setting up an overwatch to effectively cover an infiltrating "entry team". (That’s IMHO a big part of the specop fantasy.) … Remove any unnecessary obstacles (ie. hide trees in the mosque area).
  • Also consider the environment; an aerial / off-screen support constantly buzzing in the sky and shelling the town with cluster bombs will make any stealth movement much harder.

Again - the mission wasn’t bad, I did enjoy it.

But if you (or somebody else) makes another specop mission, see if any of the above would make it more fun. Start with the idea: (1) what is the feeling/stereotype/fantasy I want to build, and (2) how do I get there.

Basically, a dramatic tension is a question without an answer: Will the players …

  1. find the VIP in time?
  2. safely secure the VIP?
  3. exfiltrate them out in time?

Anytime there’s a definite yes/no answer, the tension is lost.

And also don’t give Mattdogs a pilot seat if you want an accurate insertion (no pun intended). :slight_smile:

ah? Guy was pilot

Thank you everyone who responded with feedback. I personally find criticism like this to be more useful to me than praise.

Let’s start with [user avatar=“” name=“Clarke”]11341464[/user] .

Thank you very much for your post.

  1. Drop zones were done in that way as a theme of the mission. But also, after playing a mission were it was done this way I am in agreement with you. My hope with the incorrect drop zones was to put pressure on the leadership and make them have to come up with a plan on the fly. While that is what happened it also caused massive delays and forced me to try and change some things on my end as well. In the future I will refrain from using this as a way to pressure leadership. I believe this resulted in an situation that was not particularly fun for anybody.

  2. You are 100% right on the parachutes. What I was hoping was that you would free fall before opening your parachutes rather than them opening right away. That was a failure on my part and I apologize. I will make sure to use steerable parachutes in the future as well since they can help speed up the falling process which in my opinion took way too long.

  3. I personally did not know that you could do ACE medical if the HVT is on the civilian or player side. I will make sure to do this in my future ops.

  4. I went with sub-sonic ammo more as a thematic reason but after seeing sub-sonic ammo in action I will be replacing the ammo with super-sonic ammo. I apologize for any inconvenience that the ammo caused.

Thank you again for your constructive criticism. I will ensure that my future ops do not have the same issues seen in this one.

[user avatar=“” name=“Freghar”]13633351[/user]

Thank you for your post. You are right that I could have done much more for this op to give off the specops feel. Your ideas are really good and I will most likely refer to this post in the future when making mission.

I learned a lot with this mission that I will put to good use in order to make better missions in the future.

Thank you again everyone for playing my mission and giving me good criticism.