World War II Online: Battleground Europe is a massively multi-player online first-person shooter computer game (MMOFPS). Debut released was on June 6, 2001 for Microsoft Windows, with the Apple Macintosh version being released in 3Q 2002. The game is set in 1940-43 World War II Europe. It is a virtual battlefield, a combined arms war simulation. A player can command or crew a variety of accurately modelled aircraft, armoured fighting vehicles, anti-tank guns, anti-aircraft artillery, and three naval vessels, or fight as a foot-soldier with a variety of infantry weapons. The game is played in real time alongside or against other players as German, British, American and French forces in a persistent world. Command structures and missions provide strategic and tactical layers while ranks provide a RPG layer by demonstrating leadership roles. WWIIOL online uses a ½ scale map of Western Europe with 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) of accurate terrain (800 m resolution satellite data). It is commonly recognized as the first MMOFPS. It is also one of a very few MMO's that will run natively on macOS.
"World War II Online" was re-released in 2006 under the new name of World War II Online: Battleground Europe
There are two sides: Axis vs. Allied. The Axis consists of the German forces and the Allies are the combined British (UK), United States and French forces. The rest of Europe, the rest of the British Commonwealth, Soviet Union, China or Japan have not been introduced into the WW2 simulation yet. Players can choose to play Axis or Allies and may switch sides after waiting a mandatory period of fifteen minutes that begins when they resign from their current side.
Gameplay takes place in a single game world, which is a 1/2 scale map of Western Europe. It is the largest MMOG game world map, at over 350,000 km2 (135,136 sq mi), with most play occurring in a 30,000 km2 (11,583 sq mi) central area in which most capturable cities, airfields and ports have been placed. Two alternate servers are available for training events and beta testing the next version respectively.
WWIIOL is team-oriented. Players are various troops, pilots, gunners, tank commanders, naval destroyer captains, mission leaders, high commanders and are organized into brigades. Everyone plays in the brigade of their choice. Smaller military units of heavily-themed squads are independently managed by players and can use their own tactics but follow the brigade and strategic rules set by the high command players and cooperate with other squads and non-squad players. Being a squad member is optional but encouraged. Some squads have vigorous membership rites. Anyone can, however, form their own squad, solicit members and register the squad with the high command for brigade assignment.
Each player holds a title of rank, based on the military ranks of the time. Ranks are gained through a performance-based scoring system. Rank is never lost as a result of an unsuccessful mission or death.
Detailed statistics are tracked by the server, and made available through a web interface, known as 'Combat Statistics and Records', or CSR. Statistics are very detailed, recording a history of every mission the player has attempted over the campaign. Summary statistics are available to compare player performance to those of other players. Statistics include elements such as the number of kills, damages, deaths, time spent on each mission, and depot captures. The top 100 players in several categories are updated regularly.
The game takes skill, teamwork, tactics, strategy, planning, patience and perseverance to win battles, make progress and individually rank upward.
Communication between players via text is supported by a variety of communication channels for messages exchanged between players. Channels are automatically created for players in the nearby region, on the same mission, and players in the same squad (a voluntary group similar to a clan in other online games). Channels can also be manually created. Additionally, it is common for players to communicate via TeamSpeak, since cooperation with other players can be critical for success.
In total, there are currently 130 different playable weapons. WWIIOL has a variety of playable equipment, each modelled with data from historical references. Like in many other RPGs, more equipment that becomes available as the player gains more experience. New recruits start with a limited equipment selection. As the player progresses in rank, better vehicles and more infantry classes become available.
The damage model in WWIIOL is realism based. Within the limits of modern technology, it simulates real-world kinetic damage to the game world. Vehicles are modelled with their essential critical components, such as engine, fuel tanks, etc. The components interact as if they were the real machine. For example, a punctured fuel tank will cause loss of fuel which will eventually cause the engine to run out of fuel causing the engine to stop. Damaged components also provide feedback into the simulation model; For example, for aircraft, damage to flight surfaces will result in increased drag and reduced performance of the vehicle. Vehicles are modelled, within reasonable technical limits, to historically accurate detail.
The ballistic model is also detailed, taking into account drag coefficient properties, muzzle velocity, and mass of each individual type of ammunition. The game engine considers the physical details of all rounds in flight and at the point of impact, calculating the angle of impact and energy of the round, and the thickness and slope of the target vehicle's armour. Rounds which manage to penetrate may go on to cause damage to components or crew members in the path of penetration. High energy rounds that do not fully penetrate may still cause spall (high-velocity metal fragments) within the vehicle, if close enough to penetration.
Strategic Layer (High Command)
Both sides in Battleground Europe have player-run groups, known as the High Command (HC), responsible for strategic management of the side's forces. High Command players have their own avatar and their player name has a 'C' after it, making their responsibilities easily recognizable to friendly players. An in-game list of all currently logged in HC players is available.
HC players have abilities that are not available to the rest of the player base, namely in the placing of Attack Objectives (AOs).
When an AO is placed on a town, the other side gets an automatic Defence Objective (DO) on that town allowing all players to know that it is under attack. When an AO is first placed on a town, tables appear in the town's Depot Office building, City Office building, and Rail Road Office buildings. These capturable buildings are collectively known as Capture Points (CPs).
Ten minutes after the placement of an AO, a radio will appear on each table signifying that it is now able to be captured ("capped"), by the attacking side. Doing so gives the attacking side control of the corresponding building linked to the Office. If the Office links to a Depot that has a link to a friendly town, the Depot is referred to as "Spawnable" and players may spawn from new missions there, making them an important objective.
When an Office is captured, a table will appear in all the town's Army Bunkers, Airfield Bunkers and Docks. If the attacking side is able to hold ownership of any Office building for 10 minutes, radios will appear in these buildings allowing them to be re-captured. Once all the town's Office buildings, Army Bunkers, Airfield Bunkers and Docks are captured, the AO and DO are lifted and the town changes ownership to the attacking side.
AOs can also be placed on bridges. An AO on a bridge enables that side to destroy it, while a DO allows it to be repaired.
High Command players are able to move their side's "brigades." Each brigade can be moved once every Hour. A friendly brigade in a town allows players to spawn in that town to either defend or attack.
Each army division has a Head Quarters (HQ) unit and three combat brigades. Two of the brigades are Infantry brigades (with a high proportion of infantry and artillery, with only light tanks) and one brigade is classified as an Armoured brigade (with a high proportion of heavy and medium tanks, fewer infantry and artillery). The HQ unit is mostly used to resupply the other three brigades and is vulnerable when placed on the front line by itself. It is common practice to attach the armoured brigade to one of the infantry brigades and use the HQ unit to resupply both.
The game's movement rules only allow the brigades to be moved to a friendly town that is no more than 1 town away from another brigade or the HQ in its own Division. The rule though does not apply in the case that the brigade is the only one left in its division and if this occurs it is free to move to any surrounding town. This occurs through the routing of brigades. Routing removes brigades from the game map for 6 hours and can happen in a few ways. Brigades in a division will normally "fallback" if the AB is captured, but only if the game's movement rules allow it, that is, move to within 1 link of a brigade or HQ in its own division. If none of the surrounding friendly towns are within 1 link of a brigade within its own division when the AB is captured, then the brigade will be routed off the game map for 6 hours.
High Command players that are Commanding Officers (CO) of a Brigade or higher can give out side-wide messages known as dot Axis or dot Allied messages. They are named thus as the command to type one out is, ".axis" or ".allied". These messages are seen by all players on a side and are used for a number of purposes. The usual purpose of the message is to inform players of important battles. The message will tell players what town is being attacked or defended, what brigade or brigades are involved, who the Officer in Command (OIC) of the attack or defence is and what chat and possibly Team Speak channels are being used. Most high command players liven their messages up beyond just the generic and quite humorous messages can often be seen. These messages can also be used to boost the "morale" of the troops by telling them how well they have been fighting and to announce future Operations that are being planned.
As World War II Online: Battleground Europe is an FPS, better-performing systems will result in more responsive gameplay. Unlike the traditional MMORPG, Battleground Europe is a simulation-based PvP. The client system performs military grade simulation calculations regarding ordnance and weapon performance, damage models, collision, and movement across the terrain. WWIIOL also models a 6000-meter visual range, compared to a more standard 500-meter range typical in other games, significantly increasing the number of items that may need to be rendered, and thus decreasing the number of polygons used to detail each item.
The game has a challenging learning curve. This is due to a large selection of user controlled weapons, systems, and a large human-opponent combat environment. In 2008, version 1.29 added the beginnings of a in-game tutorial system to ease the learning curve. In version 1.30 the tutorial system was expanded to encompass many aspects of the game. An official game wiki is also now available for user reference.
After a lengthy closed beta stage, World War II Online went live on June 6, 2001 under the campaign title Blitzkrieg. The release was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the D-Day: Operation Overlord invasion of Normandy.
Like most online games, WWIIOL is a continual work in progress, and so has a history of updates that are frequently released to add new features, fix problems and improve existing features. Updates, or patches to the game code, were released every 6 weeks, on average; but recently have moved to a less frequent but larger content format of 3 or 4 times a year. These patches generally include a wide range of features and problem fixes. Everything from new weapons and vehicles to audits of the performances of existing weapons and vehicles are part of the patching process as well as terrain, structure, gameplay and performance improvements.
The initial launch had a number of technical difficulties. The game required a 70 MB update to be downloaded before they could play online. At the time, the majority of users had 56k modems, requiring around 3 hours to update the game. As the developers worked feverishly behind the scenes to complete other promised features and fix the software bugs on the gold CD, even more updates became necessary.
Three days prior to release, the colocation network facility had a bad fiber optic cable. This failure reduced the player capacity of the server cluster, from 10,000 players down to only 1200 players. As a temporary workaround, Playnet set up multiple copies of the game-world on different servers, distributing the network load, but at some cost in gameplay. This solution lasted for several months while the developers resolved the server-side issues, after which all servers were merged into a single game-world.
Some features advertised on the game box were partially implemented or missing, such as rank and high-command strategic features.
The combination of the above problems resulted in game returns, complaints from customers, and a drop-off in sales as word spread of the game's state. Subscription fees for the first several months were waived until the major problems with the game were resolved. This helped to retain many of the players, especially the long-term fans of the project, but it was not long before Playnet had financial problems. They filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in late 2001, and cut costs, resulting in a number of layoffs within the company.
World War II Online has received numerous industry press awards including GameSpy's 2001 Gamers' Choice Sim of the Year and IGN's 2001 Persistent World Game of the Year.
Despite the problems in the early release, the CRS development team continued to support and improve the game, through frequent patch releases, upgraded servers and periodic investment in an improved network infrastructure.
A number of patches have been issued, introducing significant gameplay improvements, including:
- Expansion of the in-game map (continuous)
- New vegetation and terrain (continuous)
- New buildings (continuous)
- Authentic sounds when possible (continuous)
- Macintosh version (3Q 2002)
- Introduction of ranks
- Introduction of combat statistics (accessible through a web interface)
- Introduction of new vehicles and weapons (continuous)
- Introduction of paratroopers (Christmas 2004)
- Introduction of naval combat (2002)
- Introduction of the "high command"; functionality for high-ranking players with a strategic focus
- Introduction of brigades that regulate force movement (directed by high command)
- Additional in-game support of squads
- Improvements to the graphics engine (higher-polygon object models, improved shading, fog, performance improvements, SpeedTree(tm) technology)
- Improved cover and concealment
- Replacement of impassable "hard forests" with navigatable forests
- Multiple user interface revisions
- Server tracked mortar rounds & objects (allows for persistent player placed objects such as hulks)
- Variable weather states
- Introduction of player-led missions (OIC system)
- Semi-persistent Corpses and vehicle hulks
WWIIOL recently completed a third retail release under the new campaign title Battleground Europe. This new title was chosen because of legal considerations with the old title of Blitzkrieg, whose trademark was owned by another game. The Battleground Europe re-release was distributed across Europe in late 2005 and in the US in early 2006 by the game's new publishers GMX Media (Europe) and Matrix Games (USA).
World War II Online: Battleground Europe was largely a compilation of fixes already available through patches to the original game. However, compared to the initial 2001 release, the game was drastically different due to these changes.
The launch of Battleground Europe included an extensive open beta, and was based largely on a proven product. As such, it was met with considerably more favourable reviews in the media.
2007 to 2010
Some of the features released in World War II Online: from 2007 to the present day include:
- Addition of mortars as infantry units
- Six new medium tier planes (Hurricane IIb, Spitfire IIb, Hawk-87b3, Bf109F-1, Bf109G-6/U4 and Bf110F-B)
- 500 lb MC bombs to augment the Allied GP bombs
- TOEs (Tables of Equipment), allowing better control of weaponry assignment at a strategic level.
- Persistent supply based on dynamically attrited and resupplied from the rear Divisions and Brigades
- Air Warning System, to help airborne players better locate enemy aircraft.
- Personalized vehicle markings.
- Differentiated army brigades - Every division has two infantry brigades and one armour brigade.
- Tutorials, improving the accessibility for new players
- Predefined mouse/keyboard controls for vehicles
- Improved performance
- Improved town layouts and building designs
In 2008, CRS began design on a version of the game for the Chinese market. This version will include Chinese language support, "anti-addiction" software, and in-game tutorials. The Chinese game-version will be played on physically separate servers managed by the Chinese marketing partner. There will be no in-game interaction between US and Chinese game worlds. The Chinese product is currently in beta, as of September 2009.
2010 to Present Day
In late August 2009, Cornered Rat Software unveiled what they had been working on for patch version 1.31. The patch was introduced into the game in June 2010, after two months of beta testing. It adds ragdoll physics and blood splatters, variable weather, new building graphics, improved foliage, removal of the remaining "2D" box buildings, and capture mechanics. Its graphical improvements are based on an overhaul of the graphics engine, labelled Unity 1.5, redesigned to take advantage of modern graphics card features. This is in contrast to the current Unity 1 engine which was written during the reign of the Voodoo 3 using OpenGL 1.2. The Open Beta for testing was released February 22, 2010, and there has been infantry based and set up battles to test bugs.
To provide financial support for new features, devoted players have taken the initiative to organize their own private funding for the game, and private contributions are recognized by the developers through a program known as the "Builder's Program".
Battleground Europe, like many MMOGs is a continual work-in-progress. The game continually expands in terms of gameplay, equipment, cities, etc., often introducing changes to gameplay.
- ↑ Battleground Europe: WWII Online : Game Information About Battleground Europe: WWII Online for Mac and PC at MMORPG.COM. mmorpg.com. Cyber Creations Inc (Jan 12, 2010). Retrieved on january 12, 2010
- ↑ CRS (July 18, 2009). System requirements - Battleground Europe Wiki. Playnet Inc. Retrieved on January 12, 2010
- ↑ Jones, Chris (September 21, 2007). WWIIOL Review. mobygames.com. MobyGames. Retrieved on January 12, 2010
- ↑ Baldwin, Dana (a.k.a. Gophur) (Tuesday, November 25, 2008). 1.29 RELEASE READ ME. battlegroundeurope.com. Playnet Inc. Retrieved on January 12, 2010
- ↑ World War II Online free trial period extended - Gamespot.com, June 8, 2001.
- ↑ Patch notes for updates since 2004 - wwiionline.com wiki
- ↑ 1.28.1 Release Notes - Features released in January 2008, wwiionline.com wiki
- ↑ http://www.battlegroundeurope.com/index.php/component/content/article/10-production-notes/2968-v131-preview-upgrade-includes-variable-weather-and-rag-doll-physics
- Battleground Europe WWII Online homepage
- Battleground Europe Wiki Official Battleground Europe wiki
- World War II Online community page
- Axis High Command Axis strategic coordination site
- Allied High Command Allied strategic coordination site