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Written by Matt Clyburn   
Thursday, 12 January 2012 12:20

Scourge Of War Scenario Development Diary

By Matt Clyburn

Part I - Research

This is more of an after the fact development article than a diary.  We wanted to document the process and what is involved with creating a series of scenarios for the Antietam battle pack, released in December of 2011.  This article will go into detail on the research that goes into creating scenarios from scratch.

So where to start?  There are two major elements to a scenario; historical accuracy and enjoyable game play.  There is also the replay value, but the first two are the most important.  First, and probably the most critical step in creating a scenario is the historical research.  Historical accuracy is always at the forefront when any content is created for this game.  I usually start with purchasing books on the battle.  There is also a period of research that goes into choosing the right book.  Is the book acclaimed for being historically accurate?  Does it contain maps?  Does it contain a full order of battle for both sides?  Does it have eyewitness accounts?  All of these things are important for creating an accurate scenario.  The research is ongoing during the entire process.  I design as I am researching, while taking lots and lots of notes, bookmarking, saving web addresses, and highlighting key parts of the books.

For the Antietam Battle Pack, I went with four books, as well as several online resources.

The first book I consulted, which is the most popular standard account of the Maryland campaign of 1862 is Landscape Turned Red, The Battle of Antietam by Steven W. Sears.  This book is a good introduction to the campaign, dealing with the politics and events leading up to the battle, but it also has a quite detailed account of the battle and also a nicely written account (although not as detailed) of  The Battle of South Mountain.

The second book I consulted was Antietam: The Soldiers’ Battle by John M. Priest.  Although the maps in this book aren’t the greatest since they don’t offer an overview of the field, (just small sections of the field where the specific actions took place and the units engaged) the eyewitness accounts are what make it great.  There has never been a civil war book that gave me such a like I was there feeling as this book.  The accounts are complete; truly going into the nitty-gritty and even gory details.  Although the Carmen maps (for which I will discuss later) were the best source for troop positions, Priest’s book was useful in finding which regiment or even company marched where, fought where, retreated where.

The third book, or rather series of maps I consulted were the Ezra E. Carman maps, or Atlas on The Battle of Antietam.  To me, it doesn’t get much more accurate than having a map creator that was actually there.  Carmen led the 13th New Jersey at the Battle of Antietam and later served as the historical expert for the Board that created the Antietam National Battlefield.  I used high resolution JP2’s of the maps which are highly detailed down to the regimental level.  They show all troop positions for both armies for different times of the day.  They also show arrows detailing the movements for the specific actions, which is an excellent resource to consult when scripting unit movement orders.

The fourth and final book I consulted was The Battle of South Mountain by John D. Hoptak.  This book has everything!  Maps, detailed accounts, order of battle, and photos.  It was a breath of fresh air because South Mountain is one of the lesser documented battles and not much can be found on the web.  The maps aren’t the best, but they offer general troop positions at the South Mountain gaps and are hand drawn, which is always neat.

Without going too into detail on the web sources I used since most of it is Googling this specific unit, this specific commander etc., the main web source was antietam.aotw.org.  This site has a timeline of the battle, lots of maps, order of battle, but my favorite part is the commander biographies.  I used these in creating the biographies that go into the Scenario Intro’s.

I also used an excellent battle chronology found at: http://www.jfepperson.org/antietam.htm. This was important in scripting the troop movements and attacks for the 11 hour, full battle scenario “AN17-Sept17-None but Heroes are Left (C-Army)” since it breaks down each significant troop movement and attack by its estimated time.

Another important part of the research although it gears more toward the map making aspect is visiting the battlefield.  For me personally, I won’t even think about re-creating a battle without walking in the footsteps of the soldiers that fought in it.  For the Antietam pack, two other team members (Jim Weaver, Lead Designer and Dave Waltman, veteran Tester) and I visited the Antietam and South Mountain battlefields.  We took tons of pictures to assist with creating the landscape of the field, and to verify certain hills, landmarks, ridges, etc.

One example that we documented was a knoll on the West end of the Sunken road or “Bloody Lane” that was in front of Rodes’ Confederate Brigade.  It was said that the Union solders advancing towards Rodes’ position could not be seen until they were less than 300 feet from the Confederates.  The 5th Maryland took severe losses as they moved up the slope of the knoll to find the Confederates waiting at such close range.  This is just one example of the dozens of areas on the field that must be portrayed accurately on our maps to make the game look and play historically.

So again, research is the first step in designing scenarios for the Scourge Of War game engine and is ongoing throughout the entire development process.  It is important for the designer to become almost to the level of obsessive compulsiveness when it comes down historical accuracy – e.g. this unit was posted here, this unit moved here at this approximate time, this unit fought here, this unit was in skirmish formation, etc. etc. etc.. Since we are re-creating battles that happened 150 years ago, unfortunately many details have been lost, historians have given us conflicting information, and we’ll never know exactly what those Generals we’re thinking.  However, we gather as much information as we can and do our best to piece together the puzzle.

 

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