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Missions, Briefings and how to tell a story

Posted by Andreas Ludwig on July 20, 2010

The story of Operation Flashpoint: Elite is the same as in the original OFP game for the PC . It deals with a major crisis in the Soviet Union where politicians don’t agree with Michael Gorbatschovs „Perestroika“ philosophy. This overall situation is responsible for Moscow losing control over her military forces located near a group of islands and these forces (or rather their leaders) are supposed to be in touch with those in the Kreml who try to stop Perestroika and who want to take over the power from Gorbatschov. These soldiers are commanded by a General Guba and they are not portrayed like normal Russian units but more like a band of terrorists using strong military equipment and killing civilians in order to break their will. General Guba is actually preparing for an atomic strike against the West and so the story is about stopping this madman and his forces.

So, Operation Flashpoint is part of the hypothetical milsims because its story is about NATO vs. Russian units and the story is actually an interesting one, although it’s not the typical NATO vs. Warsaw Pact story told by other hypothetical wargames, since the islands are fictional.

Custom missions on XBox

After playing through the Cold War Crisis Campaign of OFP: Elite we started designing our own missions using the great mission editor included in this game, but we decided that these missions shouldn’t be unrelated to any storyline. The story told in the Cold War Crisis Campaign and the Resistance Campaign (these are the two big campaigns which are part of the game – Red Hammer campaign was not included in the Xbox version, alas) is about the above mentioned Russian units not obeying to Moscow anymore and acting on their own. Since the game allows total freedom in designing custom missions, we also wanted to tell a story with our self-made missions and therefore we portrayed a situation closer to regular hypothetical NATO vs. WP scenarios.

The mission editor allows dates from 1980 until 1989 and so we have 9 years as a timeline for a story which is told by custom missions and mission briefings. The background story is an attack of regular WP forces on NATO protected islands „somewhere“ (since the islands are fictional there’s no need to locate them in a certain region – we consider them to be located near a WP influence zone in the “real world”) as the start for a war which was believed to be actually possible for many years.

So there’s no role for General Guba as the leader of some disobeying forces, but this General is part of a story in which he is obeying orders directly from Moscow and the Russians are considered regular troops, convinced  by their propaganda that they are liberating people enslaved by capitalist forces. NATO, on the other hand, is responding to this attack according to their own principles and ideology.

Yes, it IS possible to transfer a complex command system to the XBox controller

We started to tell this story with some missions which are available for download here on our website. Generally, our missions belong to  one of three models: Single Missions, Mini Campaigns and Battle Studies (see explanation here).

Everybody is welcome to help creating a story about such an attack of WP forces on NATO countries and to send in their own missions. You can do this by either designing Single Missions, starting new Mini Campaigns (then you should send in at least 2 missions that belong together and portray the story told in the briefings of that new Mini Campaign; from that point on everybody can start evolving this Mini Campaign story into a new direction), using existing Mini Campaigns and designing missions that do tell further events within this Mini Campaign, or designing Battle Studies either about new battles or even about battles that are part of one of the already existing Mini Campaigns. It’s just about telling an interesting story which forms the background for the custom missions.

Writing Mission Briefings

To portray a bigger picture and add more chrome and background information, we use written mission briefings which are helping us „to tell the story“ since this is the only way to do this – OFP: Elite doesn’t allow user made scriptings, in-game briefings and movies etc. so we have to use our imagination and the extensive use of the PDF mission briefings.

The point is to write a briefing which puts the player into the role of the character directly addressed in the briefing – as  if he or she would be actually sitting in a briefing room. If you write briefings of your own missions, please use the HFC Mission briefing pattern, so we have consistent and standardized mission briefings – this helps to create a coherent picture and makes for an easier mission writing for the mission designers as well. You can write in any file format, word document, open office document or even simple text, we will do the layout and converting for you!

Use the given dates of the scenarios already on our website as a guideline for your own missions, so that they are taking place at the right time when you are telling a new part of the story or especially when you tell something close to a mission/story part that is already available for download. For example, if you are portraying a situation where the Russians react on the Black Operation executed by NATO forces in the „Deadly Shadows“ mission, in order to expand the „Debates are over now!“ Mini Campaign, make sure that your mission is set after December 3rd, 1980. This is the date when this operation takes place in the overall storyline, so any mission dealing with a reaction to this operation must take place after that date or it doesn’t make much sense.

OPF Elite allows you to form combat formations and order units and formations very precisely around the battlefield

Also take into consideration how long the preparations for large military maneuvers would take as a “revenge operation” in order to get realistic timelines. For example, when the attack on a Russian camp is executed on December 3rd, 1980, it will be quite unlikely that the Russians are counterattacking on the same day or even the next to get their revenge; some planning must be done to achieve good results, so take this also into consideration.

Apart from this, you are free to design the missions as you see fit and you may write mission briefings in any way you like. Since this is about creating a big picture, feel free to write about any details you consider relevant for your story and make the reader curious about what to expect in your mission – and in future story aspects told by others. Here you have the opportunity to give the story the direction you like, so when you are playing a mission where NATO forces are trying to get back into the city and you feel it’s a tough one, write a part of the story ( i.e. a mission briefing) where the NATO is punished for this attack or design a mission where you send them some bombers and the player is a Russian pilot etc..

Operation Flashpoint: Elite is a great game with fantastic freedom, so we should play it this way and use it as a tool for creating an interesting „what if“ story in a conflict of NATO vs. WP scenario that was considered possible for many years.

Important Note:

Of course, if you don’t want to write about this overall real NATO vs. WP story with your custom missions, don’t bother. We accept any custom missions done for this game, no matter what they are about!

The only thing that is mandatory for sending in missions in order to be integrated into the HFC mission collection is a written Mission Briefing according to our briefing pattern. There are many missions available at the Elite section of the Codejunkies website where you only get very few – if any – information about what this mission actually is about, or the designers post some information in different forums etc..

The islands offer much detail

We don’t consider that a helpful and clever way to get people interested in these custom missions, so a central website with custom missions, good information for the players and a standardized briefing pattern helping new mission designers to write such mission briefings seems to be a better option to us.

Together with the fact that we incorporate OFP: Elite into the overall wargaming information we offer on the HFC website, all this will help to understand where this game actually belongs to – into the hobby of conflict simulation. It’s a serious war sim and the best first person  tactical shooter so far on the topic, at least on consoles where no other tactical shooter comes even close to what OFP: Elite has to offer to the serious tactical gamer.

Although we have such great sim-like games as Battlefield Bad Company 2 on the Xbox 360, OFP: Elite is still the only real WarSim available on consoles (and please forget the horrific “successor” Operation Flashpoint: Dragon Rising on XBox 360, the game had next to nothing to do with the original OFP!).

So we’d be glad if serious OFP: Elite players and mission designers would want to join us here to offer interesting and playtested missions which are created according to realistic military thinking instead of portraying the usual ‘kill everything that moves’ theme.

Elements of the HFC Mission Briefings:

Map:

The Island on which your mission takes place

Date:

The date when your mission takes place

Time:

The time your mission starts

Weather:

Current weather situation; Forecast: how the weather will become during your mission

Type:

Single Player or Multiplayer (versus or coop)

Template:

The template you used to create the mission (Basic, Target, Defender…)

Duration:

How long it probably takes to complete the mission

Player’s side:

NATO, WP or Resistance

Player’s unit:

Squad (Heavy, Normal…), Tank Driver, Helicopter Pilot etc.

Important: Your custom missions must be created for the “HFC” player profile. Missions created for other profiles cannot be included into our mission listing!

Situation:

Tell something about the bigger picture so the player gets some impression of what the mission he’s going to play is about. Explain the reason why the mission will take place, give some information about things that happened in the past and to which the mission in question is probably related etc..

Concept of Operation:

This is the part when your player – together with his comrades – gets the orders in the briefing room. Try to write it as if the player is actually sitting in that room listening to his officer and his orders and explanations. How would the officer – if that would be a real briefing – talk to his men? Give him some personality and emotions. Here is the place to give the player the information he must know to be able to complete the mission.

Intelligence:

Here the Intel Officer (i.e. the mission designer) will give additional details to the soldiers (the player(s)) about what to expect in the mission. Give them some information about the possible threats they will have to face, but try to be realistic – in that given situation, what would Intel actually know about the enemy? Perhaps that is more guessing than facts, but Intel would nevertheless give the information about such speculations to the soldiers because they could turn out true. Some missions will give no details here because the situation portrayed in the scenario will be that there’s simply no information available to the Intel Officer (i.e. the designer uses this lack of information as a means to invoke some uncertainty on the player’s side).

Mission Notes:

Well, here the designer is talking to the actual player. Some missions will make it necessary that the player knows on what basis the mission was created in order to make sure it works. If you need to force the player to act in a specific manner, because otherwise the mission won’t work the way you intend it to, try first in the actual briefing to make clear that certain orders have to be followed strictly. Don’t say ‘Don’t go there because it screws up everything’ but use more real life explanations based on the overall situation  of the  story background  to explain a given order chain to the soldier. Otherwise, allow the player to develop their own strategies.

OFP: Elite is such a great game because it’s so realistic and the freedom to try to achieve a military objective with a unique plan is part of this realism – but a soldier is expected to follow orders, so this freedom has its limits in an actual military operation. The Mission Notes part is more about giving the player some necessary information without the need to incorporate them into the actual story told in the above mentioned parts of the briefings. This here is the designer’s notes part, where you can talk about the background of the mission, what you think makes it a cool experience etc. and why you did things the way you did them.

Mission created/Story told by….

Although we only accept Missions that use the “HFC” player profile (this is just to avoid confusion when too many different profiles are used in the custom missions available on the internet). But of course the mission and the story are your copyright, so we’ll give the author’s name on our website. The distribution on our website is done in order to promote the game and therefore you grant us the right to publish the mission and the story written in your Mission briefing when you send us them as a contribution. Please have a look at our explanations regarding copyright and contributions.


Some notes about playtesting:

As you can read in the mission section of the HFC website, the missions we offer for free use by the players are extensively playtested by us.

There are several missions that were played perhaps 50 times or more with different players, just to make sure they work and that you get a satisfying and realistic game experience when playing them. We know that there are a lot of missions available in the internet that don’t seem to be well playtested and which are not giving a good game experience. So please make sure that the missions you send in to the HFC are playtested to the point that you know that the mission works (with different approaches to solve the given military situation!).

Think about how to make the mission realistic, but beatable and consider the play balance.

Flying and driving vehicles in OFP is a challenging, but rewarding task - due to the realistic driving model

It’s not fun for the player to make a mission where one lone soldier has to escape a camp with 50 enemies and he has no weapons etc.. Think about the different elements of the mission – how does the player get into the action and how long does it take? If it is too short, it is just another one of these “jump right into the action” scenarios which are not really realistic, because any military operation needs some time for preparation.

Consider the battle situation – what if something goes wrong with a vehicle or the needed support from another squad, can the player still beat the situation or is it one of these missions where everything has to work perfectly or else the player can restart because the mission doesn’t make sense anymore? What about after the battle? When you have a short way into the action, then a hell of a fight – where’s the destination point for the player? Things like walking 3000 meters on foot only to reach the extraction point with no enemy contact is no fun at all.

So consider it possible that a vehicle will be destroyed or a helicopter will crash so the player can’t use them – is it still a good idea to have that destination point that far away? Such things are important to create a good mission and often such details are either not considered by the mission designer or they don’t playtest them enough so they miss the fact that the mission can fail because of such details.

We can’t check if the mission you send in to the HFC is playtested enough and working, but expect that we will play the mission to see how it goes. If it turns out to be rather unplayable (in the way that the mission doesn’t work like the mission briefing says) or offers a quite unrealistic or strange victory objective (for example, if you have to fight your way over kilometers through legions of Spetznaz and other elite forces, losing your men in the process, just to finally discover that you have to destroy an empty jeep?!), then we’ll drop you a line telling you about our experience and ask you to find ways to fix it or else we won’t include it on our site.

Simply ensure that the HFC mission collection is offering missions worth playing and a place for mission designers who really polish their missions in order to get the most out of them for the player. This game is too great to have missions that are not playtested well.

Technical Note:

You may send us your mission files by email. Send us your mission files as an email attachment (they are already zipped when you transfer them from the XBox to your PC hard disk drive (for example with a device such as the Action Replay), together with your mission briefing (in any text format).

Important: Your custom missions must be created for the “HFC” player profile. Missions created for other profiles cannot be included into our mission listing!



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