No sleep till Athens: The 8th Command-PE User Conference

September 28, 2021 · Posted in Command PE · Comment 

Crossposted from: https://pro.matrixgames.com/news/8th-command-professional-edition-user-conference

8th Command: Professional Edition User Conference – Stafford, VA

Matrix Games, LLC hosted the 8th Annual Command: Professional Edition User Conference outside the gates of Marine Corps Base Quantico from 13-17 September 2021. The five days event included a host of in person and virtual users of the Command software, in a week focused on helping the defense community get the most from this incredibly powerful software. Event host Iain McNeil, Director of Development for Matrix Games said “this event gets bigger and better each year, and one of the most important aspects of the event is the ideas shared between our community, not just the information we share with them.”

Participants in this year’s event represented over 35 different defense organizations, and in a first for the event, members of Matrix’s Command development team led parallel sessions for beginner and advanced users. This year’s topics included creating scenarios, editing the database, Lua scripting, Monte Carlo mode, mechanics overrides, running via the Command Line Interface and more.

Dimitris Dranidis, lead developer and “father” of Command, led several discussions, including an overview of Matrix’s plans for future development of the Command Platform. These improvements include enhancements to Command’s land warfare capability (a.k.a. Project Hannibal), the amphibious operations planner, manned-unmanned teaming, improvements to communications networks, as well as backend developments that will bring a 64-bit version of Command and all the possibilities that come with it.

Rory Anderson, technical lead, previewed the new real-time multiplayer mode for Command, which allows real-time vectoring of Command entities to support your team and defeat your opponent with up to 16 players simultaneously. While there’s still significant work to be done before this is complete, Rory and the team connected three systems to the server, an umpire and a red and blue side, and started the game. While the two sides fought for supremacy in the skies, the umpire was tracking not only the battle, but could also see exactly where red and blue’s attention was by showing both where their focus and their mouse were on the map in real-time.

In addition to presentations from Matrix, attendees both formally and informally shared how they are using Command to meet their objectives across a wide range of areas, including: concept development, wargaming, education, and logistics analysis.

  • German Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Silier showed how the Luftwaffe uses Command to augment the Air Force Academy’s Air Power lessons for new officers. Their methodology has won awards in Germany and has inspired many of the Academy’s students to fight their own battles using Command in the school’s wargaming club.
  • Ryan Reeder from the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab showed how they use Command as part of its concept development efforts. The Lab has been driving some key new features that have been developed for command including the Amphibious Landing Planner and Passive Coherent Location Systems.
  • Ryan McKendrick from Northrup Grumman shared how Command has served as the training environment for it’s Artificial Intelligence in DARPA’s Gamebreaker Challenge. He talked about the innovative techniques being used and the impressive results after looking at 200 quadrillion variants (that’s a 2 with 15 zeros after it).
  • LtCol Doug Downey shared how Marine Corps University’s Command and Staff College uses Command to support the school’s education of majors and lieutenant colonels in learning the Marine Corps Decision Making Process. Under the supervision of military faculty and retired senior USMC leaders, students prepare plans and orders for simulation and adjudication in Command by expert operators. In coordination with MCU staff, the expert operators execute these orders and provide outcomes and situation updates to the students the next day so they can plan for the next wargame turn.

In addition to Command users, the event’s location near Marine Corps Base Quantico and in the Washington, D.C. area provided an opportunity for several distinguished visitors to attend. MajGen Julian D. Alford, Commanding General for USMC Training Command was given a demonstration of Command and provided the attendees with some remarks on the value of the right tool for training. Also visiting the event was Colonel Scott Gilman, Deputy Director of the U.S. Army Modeling and Simulation Office. His team attended to learn more about Command and to discuss setting up a US franchise of the wargaming-for-education focused “Fight Club” in the United Kingdom. Fight Club is a bottom-up initiative that uses commercial off the shelf wargames, including two of Matrix Games’ products, Combat Mission and Flashpoint Campaigns, to improve military thinking.

“The combination of topics and contributions from our attendees made this our best event yet,” said an exhausted JD McNeil, Business Director for Matrix Games, “and we are already looking forward to our next one.”

       

 

The Second Coming: Command Pro Edition v2.0 now available

May 26, 2021 · Posted in Command PE · Comment 

“How do you improve on perfection? You can’t. You just offer more of it.”– From a Newsweek retrospective on The Godfather Part II

This has been a long time coming, and the wait is now finally over. Previously announced at Slitherine’s massive HOW Live+ event earlier this month, Command Professional Edition (CPE) v2 is now available for new and existing customers alike.

Easily our biggest pro-oriented release since the early days of Command pro, CPE v2 includes the additions of the latest v1.15.5 update while introducing a whole host of major new features:

All of the benefits of CMO: CPE v2 is built on the battle-hardened foundations of Command: Modern Operations, the successor to CMANO and winner of the Charles S. Roberts 2019 award for best modern-era wargame. CMO introduced a large number of groundbreaking features both on user interface and simulation mechanics, and CPEv2 inherits them, together with 18 months of refinements & improvements since its original release. Descriptions of the new features are available in these articles:

Run as non-admin: CPE v2 offers a revised filesystem layout for its writable data, which enables the application to run in a restricted (ie. non-administrator) mode. This makes it possible to install and run CPE in high-security environments, where admin powers for an application are a non-starter.

High-resolution terrain: While it can still use CMANO/CPE v1’s DTED-0 level terrain elevation set, CPE v2 now also offers the option to use a global-scale SRTM3-format terrain dataset with 90m/cell resolution (DTED-1 level). When activated, the higher resolution automatically applies to calculations dealing with the terrain elevation, such as terrain slope for ground units navigation, line of sight, surface/bottom clutter for look-down sensors, etc.

Offline map layers: All map layers (apart from those provided externally by Stamen Design) are now bundled in their entirety as part of the installation (including, optionally, the massive “Sentinel-2 Cloudless” layer) and can thus be used in offline machines. This greatly enhances map quality and performance in systems that are isolated from the Internet (incl. highly-secure networks).

(NOTE: The files for the high-resolution terrain and the offline S2C layer are huge, increasing the full installer size to over 160GB, which can be impractical to distribute for some customers. For this reason, they are offered as a separate optional “HD data pack” rather than as a mandatory part of the installation. The “core” installer package is a mere 18.6GB in size.)

Distinct mobile ground units (also in v1.15.5): In addition to modelling mobile forces as “aimpoint facilities”, it is now possible to explicitly model individual vehicles with their own customized properties such as armor, propulsion, mounts, sensors etc. These new units now have their separate data annex (“Ground Units”), and can be browsed on the DB viewer:

The introduction of distinct mobile vehicles has enabled the modelling of new unique features such as true amphibious vehicles and highly-dispersed artillery & SAM batteries.

Interactive-mode CLI (also in v1.15.5): You can now launch a CLI instance in interactive mode, using the Lua TCP-socket as the control interface. This ability combines the high-performance, low overhead and parallel execution benefits of CLI with the full-control interactivity of the full-GUI client.

Energy-based boost-coast missile model: Most rocket-boosted missile weapons now use a realistic energy-based flight model: After their initial boost, they coast and lose speed due to atmospheric drag (variable with speed and altitude), especially when they maneuver, and also gain & lose speed as they dive and climb respectively. Aircraft default evasion tactics have also been adjusted to this new reality, and aircraft will actively attempt to drag/outrun incoming missiles with beaming used only as a last resort. Detection ranges for incoming missiles have also been significantly reduced in most cases, which makes it harder to visually pick up missiles at long range and outrun them (this also reinforces the importance of automated missile-warning systems).

Improved ballistic missile & ABM modelling: Ballistic missiles now use true-to-life trajectories depending on their range profile (with accurate burnout elevation angle, velocity, altitude and apogee figures), and MIRVed missiles release their re-entry vehicles sequentially instead of all of them at the same.
ABM missiles also have improved kinematic & guidance profiles, and the interception altitude envelope limitation is taken into account during the pre-fire checklist (e.g. SM-3 will not fire against incoming BM/RV if the estimated intercept point is within the atmosphere).
Combined, these changes model much more faithfully the challenges of BMD siting, engagement windows and general operations.

New sensor type: Passive radar (PCLS) (also in v1.15.5): For a general background on PCLS, see here. PCLS systems can be very useful both as a covert means of airspace surveillance and as a potent counter-VLO asset to be combined with other, more traditional sensors. They do have several drawbacks and vulnerabilities (for example, they can be limited in altitude coverage because of their bistatic nature, and each receiver must have clear LOS to both the target and the transmitter in order to process the reflection), but as long as these can be accommodated, PCLS sensors can significantly enhance an IADS and complicate enemy efforts to disrupt it.

New bathymetry layer: The “Relief” map layer has been enhanced with its marine counterpart, a rich bathymetric map that illustrates the differences in bottom depth on different map locations. An example screenshot:

Sim-pulse control on MC & CLI: Users can now configure the simulation pulse time-slice (coarse or finegrained) while running a scenario in Monte-Carlo mode or while using the command-line edition. This allows better control between performance and fidelity in simulation execution.

Benchmark mode: This provides an objective way to measure & compare a system’s performance and suitability for CPE, by repeatedly running any selected scenario in headless mode (similar to Monte-Carlo execution, but without any analysis results). The execution is run using finegrained pulse mode (ie. 0.1-sec pulses) in order to stress-test the simulation engine and the hardware resources.

Database selection improvements: The “Database” section of the Editor menu has been significantly redesigned for ease of use. Instead of a long list of available registered & custom DBs to choose from, only the latest registered DB3000 & CWDB databases are displayed for quick selection, along with the option to manually select another database to load from the file system. It is also now possible to directly select a specific DB to migrate a scenario to:

New satellite-pass prediction UI: Apart from the classic tabular format for presenting forthcoming satellite passes and dwell times over a specified point, an additional graphical view has been added, which makes it easier to visualize the same information:

Area & reference-point manager: This offers a centralized interface for editing reference points on large-scale scenarios. Ref-points and zones can be organized by tagging and visually distinguished by different colors:


Command Pro v2.0 is available to new and existing customers on MatrixGames’ new pro-dedicated site. The development team is already busy absorbing the feedback from early adopters and preparing the first post-release updates, continuing the proud tradition of continuous support and development. Stay tuned for more!

Don’t stop me now: Command PE v1.15.5 now available

March 8, 2021 · Posted in Command PE · Comment 

It has been 10 months since the last official PE release, and the WS dev team has been pretty busy on multiple fronts. The time is now ripe for another significant official update: Command PE v1.15.5 is now available to new and existing pro customers.

The new update brings a deluge of additions and improvements big and small, including some features explicitly developed as customer requests. These include:

New sensor type: Passive Coherent Location System (aka “Passive Radar”). For a general background on PCLS, see here. PCLS systems can be very useful both as a covert means of airspace surveillance and as a potent counter-VLO asset to be combined with other, more traditional sensors. They do have several drawbacks and vulnerabilities (for example, they can be limited in altitude coverage because of their bistatic nature, and each receiver must have clear LOS to both the target and the transmitter in order to process the reflection), but as long as these can be accommodated, PCLS sensors can significantly enhance an IADS and complicate enemy efforts to disrupt it.

New major feature: Distinct mobile ground units. In addition to modelling mobile forces as “aimpoint facilities” , it is now possible to explicitly model individual vehicles with their own customized properties such as armor, propulsion, mounts, sensors etc. These new units now have their separate data annex (“Ground Units”), and can be browsed on the DB viewer:Apart from the obvious benefits of easier targetability and clearer per-unit cargo assignment, the new-style ground units have unlocked certain brand-new capabilities, such as true amphibious vehicles (with distinct speed & fuel consumption properties overwater and on land).

New feature: Formation presets. You can now quickly arrange the members of a group using any of a range of formation presets:

The presets work with any unit type and allow quickly positioning units relative to each other and to the group’s lead. You can either assign the relative positions to the group units or, if in ScenEdit mode, you can directly “teleport” the members to their assigned positions (this can be very useful for scenario authors, obviously).

Major enhancements to Command-CLI. Command-line execution was one of the hottest new features of the v1.15 upgrade (see this article by Northrop Grumman on how they have been using it for a DARPA initiative to train AIs with literally quadrillions of scenario variants), and we have receive lots of feedback and suggestions as to how to improve its utility. Two big new features are:

  • You can now launch a CLI instance in interactive mode, using the Lua TCP-socket as the control interface. This ability combines the high-performance, low overhead and parallel execution benefits of CLI with the full-control interactivity of the full-GUI client.
  • CLI mode now supports both coarse and finegrained timestep modes.

Improvements to Multiplayer. The layout of the various MP-specific UI elements has been improved to be less intrusive, the transmission delay of scenario snapshots has been sharply reduced using a “delta” comparison engine, and various fixes and tweaks have been added.

New doctrine/ROE/WRA feature: You can now define decimal figures for WRA engagement and self-defence ranges, using the relevant Lua methods. For example:
ScenEdit_SetDoctrineWRA({guid = ‘d7db0f50-bf1a-4977-ad57-15c30ef3f91a’, target_type=’Aircraft_Unspecified’, weapon_id=134}, {‘2′,’inherit’,2.5,7.8})

In addition, a new message type (Doctrine/ROE) has been added to the message options, and thus can be configured to appear on the message log, raise a pop-up etc. This makes it easier to receive immediate feedback/confirmation on script-driven WRA changes.

Various tweaks & improvements on the event-export tables, directly based on user feedback.

You can now control the jettison of aircraft stores through Lua. This is a more powerful and flexible method than the GUI, as it allows dumping stores at any arbitrary point (not just when under attack), and provides finer control as to what items will be jettisoned (all stores, externals only, heavy stores only, or even a specific weapon ID)

Plus a wide assortment of other tweaks, fixes and improvements across the various functionality tiers of the application.

Work is already underway on the next update releases. Stay tuned, as there are some impressive things on the horizon!

Climbing ever higher: Command PE v1.15 released

May 7, 2020 · Posted in Command PE · Comment 

It has been almost a year since the release of PE v1.14.5, and a good 3.5 months since our most recent user conference at Farnborough. We are confident, however, that our pro customers will agree: Command PE v1.15 is here, and it has been worth the wait.

You can read the full release notes for the new update HERE.

Arguably eclipsing v1.14 as the most significant CPE release so far, v1.15 incorporates two brand-new features that have long dominated the wishlists of our customers:


1) WEGO-style multiplayer. Users can now host, join and play multiplayer game sessions using the familiar CPE user interface. There are several important characteristics that define this functionality in its current implementation:

  • Currently up to 16 players are supported per session. These can have any type of posture between them (friendly, neutral, hostile etc.) so both vs. and cooperative play is possible, in any number of combinations (8v8, 16 vs AI and anything in between). The server runs at the customer premises (not hosted by WS or MatrixGames), and the overall architecture is optimized for a LAN environment.
  • Being a WEGO type, play flow is broken down into simultaneously-resolved turns (those familiar with Combat Mission or BSG:Deadlock will feel right at home). All players submit their orders and then the scenario state advances over the specified turn duration. During execution, the players (optionally) receive snapshots of the scenario progression in order to visualize what is happening.
  • Both the time available to issue orders (described as Order Submission Time or OST) and the actual step duration (described as Variable Turn Time or VTT) can change dynamically from one turn to another. This allows incorporating into the same session both long-duration events with minimal player intervention (e.g. a long transits) and also rapid action events where player intervention is frequent (e.g. close combat). Changing the OST value allows for providing the players with ample time to consider their decisions (in an MBX-style game) or, conversely, placing them under very limited available time to increase pressure.
  • Both umpire and observer roles are supported. The umpire has complete “God powers” (ie. access to all scenario-editor features), and has two chances per turn to use them: First, immediately after all players commit their orders but before the turn is executed (at that point he can also change any of the player orders to his whim), and then again right after the turn execution and before players resume control. He can also change the OST and VTT durations as desired, as well as force-commit all players (no laggards!). If no player takes the umpire mantle, the pre- and post-turn adjudication phases are skipped altogether. The observer role has the same omniscience powers as the umpire, but lacks its omnipotence – he can only watch.

The initial version of the MP functionality is already in use at the USMC wargaming center with feedback having been nothing short of enthusiastic, and suggestions for tweaks & improvements are already being absorbed by the development team for future iterations. (And to pre-empt the question that everyone in the commercial space is about to ask: Yes, MP is also coming to CMO, but later. The commercial market has different priorities and the system must be adjusted to them before general release.)


2) Command-line version. The heavy-duty analysts are going to be giddy with this; think Monte-Carlo on steroids. the command-line version shares the same simulation engine as CMANO/CPE, and all the powerful-pro only features, but completely ditches the graphical user interface in favor of using a console for basic feedback (plus of course any generated outputs as configured). The benefits of a command-line version of CPE are mainly two-fold:

  • Being scriptable and thus automated. It can thus be incorporated into an automated analysis toolchain. It is trivial to launch either one or multiple instances for different analysis jobs, both in-sequence and in parallel.
  • Lacking the GUI elements of the full-fledged CPE edition, this version is even faster and more efficient (as a point of comparison, the CLI executable is just over 5MB in disk size, compared to full-CPE’s 12MB). This makes it possible to run even more instances in the same machine.

Both the automation ability and the increased performance and instance density point to usage in massive-scale analysis, machine-learning inputs and other similar tasks.


These two features are not the only ones by far in the new update. Other additions include:

  • All the features and improvements of CMANO v1.15 have been incorporated.
  • Substantial performance improvements both on the GUI and core simulation engine.
  • All the tweaks and additions since the release of PE v1.14.5 have been rolled-up.
  • A new UI feature (fixed-side colors, useful for MBX-style games) has been added.
  • The Monte-Carlo mode can now run in both coarse (1-sec pulse) and finegrained (0.1-sec pulse) time modes.
  • A new mechanics override has been added: Public.NoContactExchange. When activated, friendly sides do not automatically exchange contact information (new or updated contacts) or any contact-related messages. (The default behavior is that they do). This can be useful in order to route contact information & exchange through other network-modelling systems.
  • Simulation tweaks for submarines, including new behaviors for vessels with lithium-ion batteries (such as the new submarine Ōryū).
  • When using DIS to connect to a federated simulation, it is now possible to “pin” a specific network adapter.
  • The Lua TCP/IP socket now supports a range of different encoding modes (Big-endian, Unicode, ASCII, UTF-7/8/32 etc.), to better adjust to different connector types.
  • The formation editor is now also usable for airgroups.
  • Updated content (databases, scenarios, tutorials, Tacview objects etc.)

Command PE v1.15 is now available for download by professional users. The WS development team is already busy collating early feedback and integrating it in future iterations of the product.

For more information on Command PE, see the dedicated product page here.

 

Another week with the pros: Fifth Command PE users conference concludes

February 2, 2020 · Posted in Command PE · Comment 

FARNBOROUGH, UK – It has been an intense and exciting week at BAE Systems headquarters in Farnborough as the fifth Command PE event came to a close. This time Slitherine and WarfareSims put together a week-long conference for a diverse set of participants, from existing professional users, to new clients, to prospects and existing strategic partners.

Over one hundred delegates coming from all over the world attended both plenary sessions and one-to-one meetings to debate about the future of professional wargaming and simulation and on the specifics of what is now an established benchmark software in the sector. Command PE has taken the lead as one of the most powerful and flexible software for planning, analysis, and training in the defense and military simulation sector and the amount of interest towards this product has grown immensely over the past few months.

The list of attendees to the Farnborough training week includes representatives from both public institutions such as USMC, USAF, DSTL, Luftwaffe and RAAF and private corporations such as BAE Systems Air, BAE Subs, Microsoft and Improbable. The presence of the latter two companies, in particular, is the testament of how closely the videogames and defense/military sectors can interact when it comes to developing game-based experiences for professional purposes.

Slitherine and WarfareSims thank all attendees for their presence and extremely helpful feedback, and are already looking forward to the future. The next CPE user conference will take place at the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) during June 15th-18th in Dayton, Ohio. If you would like to attend, please get in touch!

 

Next Page »