Steel Beasts Pro
Personal Edition
March 12, 2006

By Marcel “Skybird“ Hoell

Page 9: Stability


I did not enter numbers into long tables and did not exaggerate the systematical effort. I also printed no diagrams and did no calculations with my pocket calculator, but I used the editor to set up many non-sophisticated short situations that allowed me to test gunnery questions. So think of these setups as varying gunnery training ranges only. But of these I had plenty, 2-3 dozens – it’s true. Is there a difference on a given target at a given range when using SABOT or HEAT or missile or autocannon? How does amount and kind of damage change with increasing/decreasing firing ranges? How did the AI perform with increasing range? How did damage change when I fired onto the front, the flank, the rear of a target? Is hit probability against a moving target smaller than for a stationary target? How does it change when the shooter also is not stationary, but moving himself? How is it with guns that lost auto-stabilization? And so on, etc. etc.

I have no exact numbers to give you but I spend two days and two nights doing like this, and I must say despite my enthusiasm, that the results I found were in accordance with what healthy reason would let you expect to see when doing this or that. The equation of weapon, armor type, firing range and situation calculated for results that were very believable, that made sense, and that were well-balanced to each other. I let more competent people (who know the real world stuff) judge to what degree the sim’s recreation of damage and weapons effects matches reality. For me, the findings reflect my expectations and are well-balanced with any dynamic change in the weapon-range-armor-situation equation. The reality the simulation creates in regard to weapon effects and damage is a logical, believable system that makes sense to me. I think this is the deciding factor in a simulation, that the various ingredients form reasonable relations to each other, and are well-balanced to each other. Without knowing the details how they did it (but I do know that every round fired is calculated as a separate object doing a physically exact travel to target, it is not simplified to a purely statistical calculation of probabilities), I never had the feeling that on impact just a dice was rolled to see for the outcome. I am very pleased with the outcome of this part of my testing. I’m also pleased that it is over, for on the second day it became very boring.



I never play online, and thus did not test the MP aspect of SBP. MP missions use the same maps/missions that are intended for SP. MP is limited to 8, and it is said to run stable and delivering a very satisfying MP-experience - that is all I know about MP. There is no comment I give on MP. Please refer to their home forum for MP details.



The sim runs rock-solid for me so far I have not faced a single CTD, no freezing, even repeated switching to desktop and back to SBP did not cause problems. However, there are some reports around the web that some people had problems with the latter, especially when they had not switched off music. What music, I must ask. My installation plays music only during the credit screen, and the option page does not list music at all. Music…?

There is little to complain about and at the time of writing this there only were two minor bugs confirmed by the developer. The first is the clipping error inside the turret of the M3, and then there seem to be a rare issue with the frontal armor of the Leo2A5, that in some reports is said to have a weak miniature spot on the bow, where even machine guns seem to be able to penetrate the front and destroy the vehicle. I tested this with a Hummer in front of a tank and peppering its frontal armor with my cal.50. The commander turned increasingly angry that I disturbed his nap, but the tank still is there. Maybe I did not hit the right spot. I cannot confirm this bug, nor can I say it is not there. The developer said he is aware of the problem, confirms its existence and is already working on, or better: testing it – but at the time of writing this he also said that so far he is unable to recreate it. Technically it is possible that the tank is hit by two shots at the same time, of which only the MG hit is shown in AAR, but the developer rates this explanation currently as "not really satisfactory". Nevertheless, being unable to recreate it myself I can imagine the problem will be solved long before most people ever get a chance to witness it themselves. During betatesting they found several of these and squashed them. But this one slipped through.

I did my tests independently from other people of the community. I learned in forums about two issues and one alleged issue, two of which escaped my attention, and the third I did not rate as a bug during my own testing (which was a severe mistake by me, I have to admit). The one that I initially did not rate as a bug (but due to input from others and even more experience of myself tend to see as a bug now) is the symptom of AI gunners shooting too short. This apparently is caused by an error in the randomization of aiming-points of AI gunners, making them sometimes hit a target not before the third or fourth shot, and shooting the ridgeline behind which the shooting (own) tank is hiding. I saw this behavior, but also saw them hitting with their second or first shots, and thus did not rate it as a bug (in dubio pro reo). I must admit that meanwhile I constantly had to upgrade the gravity of this, it is a very severe issue for some people and occasionally can be a source of frustration (in the rare events when you gunner is wasting a quarter of his ammo for just one target). The ratio of my observations of normal and bugged shooting behavior constantly had shifted for the negative. I just want to mention as a last minute-information that this issue currently is passionately debated and needs further priority-examination by the developer, and a solid fix soon.

I also missed a small bug that turrets being ordered to scan a certain direction after too short a while return to their default viewing direction. It's no major showstopper, but it can lengthen the reaction time if you move in formation and want your flanks being scanned, and the gunner does not do that, seeing threads emerging from that direction too late.

And the last thing is forum-input concerning a few allegedly flawed values for armor-sections on certain vehicles, making some of them appear to be too vulnerable to certain types of ammunition, especially smaller calibers. This one I have not noticed at all, and I am still not willing to confirm this as an "issue", I did extensive shooting tests with targets formed by the M1, Leo1A4DK, Leo2A5, M2, T80, T72, BMP2, as described (varying ranges, reflection angles, and target aspect, using Sabot, Coax and HMG from Leo1, Leo2A5, M1, and Humvee). Ongoing public discussions suggest that there are some values that maybe need some polishing, but the outcome of this debate is uncertain, and the reported "doubts" eventually could be caused by lacking technical knowledge of those who complain (like some people did not know that the backward doors of the BMP are vulnerable even too minor calibers, and are firetraps, because they serve as fuel tanks).

The developer has unofficially indicated to me in an interview that he could imagine a first fix for the hottest issues before the first regular update comes out. But take this as an “educated speculation” by the developer only, please. It could take longer.

Soldiers can stay under water and if they suddenly come out of it again, it can be surprising. But tanks tend to get stuck in rivers they tried to cross without a bridge present. This I saw in three situations. I am a bit hesitant to call this a bug. It could be an intentional design feature at least for the tanks. At least it does not violate common sense completely. I would recommend reworking the checking algorithm for infantry near water during the planned infantry update this year.

In VERY RARE battle situations, when tanks needed to maneuver, it happened that a tank in reverse, retreating from the enemy, and then approaching an obstacle (house, tree), made an elegant U-turn, and while still in reverse, approached the enemy again – with his vulnerable back facing him. It is not nice when it happens, but I think it is a rare situation when the AI, controlling the micromanagement of units, is confused by threat vectors from too many different directions. After all, the AI handles vehicles automatically, and we cannot help it, automatics and AI some times fail to meet the needs of a specific situation. It only happens rarely and again I do not list it as a bug. On the other hand the AI is competent in going around obstacles. I even saw it evading a tree that was almost blocking the entrance to a dug-in pit the tank wanted to enter – the AI curved elegantly around it and nevertheless landed in the pit in the first try, not even touching the tree.

If letting several platoons travel on the same road, there could occur traffic jams and vehicles evading into the "offside", eventually there may even be a collision taking place, if the spacing between platoons is too close. I would recommend increasing the space between platoons in this case. It is possible to let a stream of tanks travel the same road but one should not crowd the road with too high a traffic density. Not much different than in real life, or am I wrong?

Tanks traveling through forest can traverse their turrets without their gun barrels being blocked by the trees – they simply pass through them. Again, I do not rate this as a bug, but consider it to be intentional. Could you imagine how much calculation it would need for the AI if treating each of these trunks as separate obstacles for the gun? However, the hull of the tank IS blocked by a tree. Don’t try to sprint inside forest, it could damage your vehicle.

I saw no showstopping problems. This does not necessarily mean they are not there, but I was not plagued by anything, and I am convinced by now the probability for the existence of technical issues is extremely low. My system has run the sim since several days now without a single complaint I could make. Even the bug concerning MGs killing Leos I was unable to recreate. Some of you maybe remember me from the times of Sub Command to be a very critical customer in this regard, hard to be pleased by developer’s standards. But Skybird says this time, all in all they did it extremely well. They did a very competent job in assuring the technical quality standard of their product. Add to this the circumstance, that several real world armies already acted as beta testers for them since years. What – maybe – was there to be found, probably already has been found by them, by the critical eyes of the very demanding customer that I expect the military to be. Many other developers could take eSim’s attitude towards doing their business as a shining example of how business needs to be done, if one wants to claim a justification for getting paid by one’s customers. I also remember the very good ongoing support policy for SB1 for many years. One or more leading dev team members seem to be present every day in their forum. For SB1 the add-ons and refinements came out in reasonable timeframes. It wasn’t years between patches, like it is with some other companies who brought out military simulation-games. Nuff said! For me the outstanding technical quality and stability alone was worth the higher price. I would prefer every time again to pay a 100 dollar price for a sim if it comes in that top shape, concerning bugs and stability.

Next: Page 10: Summary


System Requirements (Recommended specs are in parentheses.): 1.5 (2.5) GHz CPU; 256 (512) MB RAM; 64 (128) MB, DirectX9-Capable Graphics Accelerator (GeForce 3 class or better); 1.6 GB available hard disk space; Free USB port; Mouse; CD-ROM; Microsoft Windows 2000 / XP with Service Pack 2 installed. (Steel Beasts will NOT run on Windows NT.); Microsoft DirectX version 9.0 (or better) installed; For better playing experience, a sound card and joystick are recommended.

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