The Flare Path: Flustered By Flux

By Tim Stone on April 6th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Did you know that Flare Path had an older brother – an older brother that met an untimely end? Tarquin Flare Path hated change and hatched a plot to purge it from the world. If it hadn’t been for a vigilant off-duty bobby, a faulty Schottky transistor, and an escaped circus tiger, you and I would dwell in a perpetual June 14th 1997. Poor old Tarquin. Perhaps it’s a good thing he’s not around today. Watching as wargame devs flirt with new platforms, and Joseph Mangan plans the reinvention of civilian flight simulation, even the most progressive progressive could be forgiven the odd flicker of unease.

The Wright Stuff?

My head is spinning like a Black Hawk with a trashed tail rotor. I’ve just read that traditional PC-based flight simulation is obsolete. I’ve just been asked to imagine…

“…flying with millions of other pilots in a massive peer 2 peer Virtual World Simulation.”

“…being an integral team member in the testing of the next generation of business and commercial airliners, helicopters, and spacecraft.”

“… being able to design your own aircraft, online, utilizing the very same Structural Analysis, Flight Dynamics, and Computed Fluid Dynamics technologies used by actual aircraft designers.”

“…never again having to be angry and disappointed at having bought yet another flight simulator product or add-on, overhyped for years, only to find the shipping product is alpha or beta quality, with lots of missing functionality.”

…a free, open-architecture flight sim smart enough to pipe its visuals to me via Outerra, Google Earth, Google Earth Liquid Galaxy, Lockheed Martin Prepar3D, Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004, X-Plane, or Flightgear.

The man causing my thoughts to swirl like starling murmurations at dusk, is Joseph Mangan, CEO and founder of Coanda Aerospace Software. In a rash of forum posts over the last few weeks Joseph has announced TestPilot, a sim that won’t so much pick up and run with Flight Simulator’s discarded torch, as snatch it, motorbike it all the way to Mordor, then hurl it into Mount Doom’s fiery maw along with Everyone’s Outdated Expectations Of What A Civilian Flight Simulation Should Be.

You can read chunks of the unexpurgated Sermon on the Mount here and here, but the gist – as far as I understand it – is that Coanda is aiming to turn software originally designed for testing airliner avionics, into TestPilot, a browser-based open-source flight sim. The free phoenix/cuckoo will be compatible with all Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons yet incorporate a proprietary flight dynamics engine capable of providing flight models superior to anything available in Flight Simulator or X-Plane.

It sounds dangerously ambitious, but the fact that Mr Mangan has already convinced two ex-ACES staff to join his team, suggests there’s method behind the monumental mission statement. Just how these new recruits will get paid, is one of the more confusing aspects of the project. Crowdfunding and kickstarter are talked about, as is a system where customers buy development hours in return for credits mentions. The Flare Path crosses his fingers and prays that TestPilot won’t plummet to earth in a fiery ball of bankruptcy and legal writs.

 

Keep Calm And Carry On

All the wonderful pics in this section are taken from Battle Picture Library #1597 'Battle Drop'.

Not since SturmSoft – the makers of Hot Lead, Cold Steel, and Stalingrad Slaughterhouse I to VII – announced they were renouncing violence, and moving into apiary sims, has a bit of wargaming news surprised me more than the unveiling this week of Combat Mission: Touch.

While Battlefront aren’t the first mercers of martial or mechanical truth to explore mobile gaming (Laminar Research and Matrix/Slitherine have already despatched expeditionary forces) their unexpected move does make the phenomenon feel more like a trend than a blip. The time when the PC loyalist could be certain of being the apple of a dev’s eye may be coming to an end. Should we be worried?

All the wonderful pics in this section are taken from Battle Picture Library #1597 'Battle Drop'.

YES! Development of light versions of greats like Combat Mission will be a dreadful distraction. Modules and sequels that already spend far too long glooping their way through the industry’s PLUTO, will be delayed even further. Worse, some studios, realising that there’s big money to be made coding for iPads, will simply turn their backs on penny-pinching, hyper-critical PC gamer for good.

All the wonderful pics in this section are taken from Battle Picture Library #1597 'Battle Drop'.

NO! Sensible devs will do as Battlefront have done and farm out secondary projects to external teams. The extra revenue generated may actually mean our beloved realism-rich PC playthings arrive faster, and end-up plumper or cheaper. They may boast crisper, cleaner design too – a consequence of devs forced to return to basics while overseeing mobile endeavours.

A profusion of iPad wargames should also mean a steady dribble of new grogs and grog provisioners entering The Hobby. Some of the souls currently outflanking panzers on their way to work or school may, in a few years time, find themselves arguing about turret traverse rates and mortar dispersion patterns on the forums at Matrix Games and Battlefront.com. Perhaps more significantly, some of the folk currently cutting their teeth coding the likes of Battle Academy and CM Touch may go on to found the Battlefronts and SturmSofts of tomorrow.

 

The Flare Path Foxer

This week’s foxer is a tribute to Otto von Bönninghausen, Das Reich’s puzzle-page editor 1941-45. In the final Spring of the war with morale on the German home front at rock bottom, Otto came up with a feature he called “Spot The Schreck”. Every week a different grid-draped combat photograph was printed, and readers were asked to use all their knowledge of man-portable anti-tank weapons, to guess the square that had – before the paper’s art department removed all evidence of it – contained a speeding Panzerschreck rocket.

The puzzles were an instant hit. Goebbels and Goering are said to have been avid players. Within weeks, imitations were appearing (Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung had its ‘Find The Faust’, and Völkischer Beobachter its ‘Locate the Geballte Ladung‘…) Just about the only people that didn’t like them were the unfortunate Panzarazzi tasked with getting the action-packed source images.

Happily, no-one was hurt getting the picture for my ‘Spot The Schreck’ homage. To play simply choose a likely square. The actual rocket location will be disclosed next week, and the closest reader rewarded with something extra special from the Flare Path flair point cabinet.

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34 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    Is it still April 1?

  2. Damn You Socrates says:

    4B

  3. DogKiller says:

    Where do the images for Flare Path always come from? The black and white ones remind me a lot of those Commando comics that were handed down to me as a kid.

  4. Inigo says:

    The free phoenix/cuckoo will be compatible with all Microsoft Flight Simulator add-ons

    I smell a C&D order.

    • Meusli says:

      Who from though. MS does not own the expansions and I imagine the makers of these would welcome the extra money seeing as they are frozen out of Flight.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I think there are massive tech barriers, before you’d even get to a C&D. Many payware planes have custom plugins for more accuracy, or to add controls and operating 3D parts that can’t be done with the basic flight sim engine. Also, each current sim platform has its own control scheme and UI conventions. For example, in FS you have popup windows for a GPS, in X-Plane it’s always in the cockpit panel.

      When a company like Carenado that’s been marketing to FS9 and FSX crosses the fence and starts selling models for X-Plane (which it’s started doing now), it can re-use most of the 3D art assets, but the plugins and some of the instruments have to be reworked.

      Believe me… people would LOVE to be able to use the better commercial plane models for FSX in X-Plane, and X-Plane is starting to get some work that I’m sure the FS folks would love to port into their sim. It’s just not that easy to port between platforms, or you’d be seeing more of it being done already.

      So this smells like smoke and mirrors. It’s a cool idea to use cloud computing for storing and loading scenery-on-demand. I think the X-Plane devs have talked about eventually going there. But this idea of seamlessly using existing payware planes and other add-ons just sounds like wishful thinking.

  5. varangian says:

    Well if I was firing a Panzerschreck at a tank destroyer I’d aim for the side armour and, unless I was feeling particularly suicidal, do so from the tree line. On which tenuous basis I’m going to go for N4 as the lucky square. Not so lucky for the armour obviously.

    • timmyvos says:

      The armour on the American and British tank destroyers was hardly any better than that on most armoured cars. I read somewhere that the side armour on the M18 Hellcats could be penetrated by most anti-tank rifles, not to mention Panzerfausts or Panzerschrecks. The only thing most tank destroyers could stop was small Arms fire and the autocannons on the armoured cars. If anything with more than 30mm of penetration hit it, it would almost certainly be dead in the water.

  6. MD says:

    O3!

  7. Premium User Badge

    Man Raised by Puffins says:

    P5. That fleeing soldier has a mighty suspicious bulge down his trousers, I’d hazard that the ‘shreck is in fact a decommissioned war trophy surreptitiously strapped to his garter belt.

  8. Fishbed says:

    O4 for me!

  9. Premium User Badge

    Ham Solo says:

    N3

  10. danimalkingdom says:

    N4 I say

  11. Noc says:

    It’s a trick question. There is no shrek, and there never was.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Chaz says:

    N8

  13. BooleanBob says:

    D7. Coming in low to the ground and hungry, like some sort of HEAT dachshund scurrying home on chops night.

  14. Snuffy the Evil says:

    L3. That shrubbery looks wonderfully concealing.

  15. Hydrogene says:

    K4. It’s hidden IN the tank destroyer. Crafty, heh?

  16. JFS says:

    K7. Fully in the face.

  17. Hydrogene says:

    Also, TestPilot seems to be a joke. Can you trust a man who names his company after a man that thought airplanes coulf fly without propellers? Crazy, I tell you.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coandă-1910

  18. orranis says:

    N3. Also, I finished off last week’s planes. Cheers.

  19. theleif says:

    So, Combat Mission:Touch surprises you?
    How about Hearts of Iron III for Xbox 360?

  20. JS says:

    M4!

  21. thebigJ_A says:

    I’m going to say C4, ’cause it feels right.

  22. Zenicetus says:

    In other civilian flight sim news, Microsoft Flight is now available on Steam. As with the original direct marketing, the base game is free, and you pay for the add-ons (with a mandatory GFWL login, I imagine).

    I don’t know if this means that MS Flight is doing so well that they can afford to take the hit on DLC from a reseller like Steam, or if it’s doing badly, and they’re starting to get desperate about expanding the reach of the game. But I have my suspicions…

  23. Electricfox says:

    C4 for me.

  24. Crazy_Gweilo says:

    A4 for me!