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Behind the scenes of Autumn ’44: Drops Drops Drops!

Another challenge we faced immediately during campaign planning was the question of how to handle the C-47 transports.

The problem was multi-faceted; while it was clear that C-47s and paratrooper drops had to be included in the missions, certain concessions would have to be made. Specifically, the main issue was one of capacity. We did not want to overload the server in terms of performance, making the mission unplayable for a large amount of people. On the other hand, we did not want to create a turkey-shoot scenario for the Luftwaffe, where they would be able to shoot down large amounts of aircraft in a totally a-historical way. Nobody wanted to have pilots claiming multiple Dakotas across many missions throughout the Market Garden phase.

On the issue of server capacity, we undertook a fair bit of testing, which gave us the solution that was best in each scenario. Three waves of 4 aircraft each would pass through an area, with about a 30 second gap in between. During drop we would only have every other plane release paratroopers as it seemed to help with server performance and FPS reduction, but still generated the desired „sky full of paras“ effect. Through careful set-up of way-points and timing of despawning C-47s we could then have 3 waves of such 3×4 groups separated by 10 to 15 minutes. Overall server load remained OK and no major adverse effects were seen. So we went with this set-up for the campaign.

The second problem was much more challenging. Historically, the Allies managed to screen the transports very well, mostly due to employment of forward patrols and fighter sweeps way ahead of the transport streams. Creating a situation where the Luftwaffe in our campaign would observe the transports across the overall campaign phase would already be out of touch with historical fact. Furthermore, given the game mechanics and the level of pilot experience, any such exposure would result in multiple downed transports, which would not fit the narrative. Historically the Luftwaffe managed to get through to the transports only on one of the days of MG and we created a separate mission around that.

For all other days the choice was clear; not to build a plan which would actually have Luftwaffe fighters and transports in one area. So in most missions where such drops were briefed, we actually never had C-47s in the air. In fairness, this is very much what actually happened, as very often the Luftwaffe response was delayed and fighters either arrived after the actual drops had occurred or were intercepted way before entering the drop zones.

Now the point still remains, how can we engage with the C-47s in a fun manner and not have Allied planes just escort transports without opposition. Or, in that vein, have paratroop drops happening without any witnesses. Great inspiration has been provided by the war diary / book of a P-38 unit we used as material for the campaign, thanks to Crane on procuring the book:

Image

This short text created a great scenario opportunity, whereby we could have a group of transports escorted by Allied fighters, with the opposing force being various flak positions.

To avoid escorting fighters just flying ahead and „triggering“ flak without any danger to the transports, Berethor had a brilliant idea to play a bit with the factions in the editor. By having transports as a WW1 faction we could have various AA positions only appear when the actual C-47s arrived and being de-spawned if „only“ an Allied fighter was in the vicinity. This way we were able to recreate the scenario as outlined in the above historical example: German flak positions would not open on the fighters but wait until the transport planes arrived to start shooting. Allied escorting fighters would need to be constantly on their toes and suppress the flak positions as these appear.

I really liked the scenario as it offered a different game mechanics not present otherwise, was fun and followed closely a historical example lifted directly from the source.

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