The Flare Path: God Quicksave The Queen

By Tim Stone on June 1st, 2012 at 1:00 pm.

Due to some last-minute legal threats from the wet blankets at Wiltshire County Council, the Flare Path Diamond Jubilee street party (this Sunday, 13.00-22.00!) won’t be featuring bunting made from real buntings, an under-12s scythe leaping competition, or a low-level fly past by old Miss Musters in her half-scale Airspeed Elizabethan. The local government killjoys are also insisting we use pasteurised pigs’ blood in our Charles I execution re-enactment, and have all the badgers in our badger-hauled Boadicea races checked for TB. It seems bureaucracy trumps tradition in today’s health-and-safety obsessed Britain.

Just in case we don’t manage to get 48 bad-tempered brocks tuberculosis tested before Sunday, I’m preparing a Plan ‘B’. Fans of cracking whips, splintered spokes and quadruped quartets will be able to retire to the Rectory and play Turnopia’s fab chariot racing game Qvadriga.

Currently available as a free beta, this turnbased top-down Ben Hur-’em-up is as crisp and clever a piece of game design as you could ever hope to find. Three-lap BC grands prix are sliced into ten-second segments. At the start of each segment you choose a single instruction from an elegantly arranged palette of up to 15 orders. Fancy a lane change? Want to have a bash at sideswiping a nearby rival? How about trying to thrash a few extra MPH out of your knackered nags? One click prepares the action.

Orders aren’t guaranteed to succeed and often (sometimes, literally) have nasty flip sides. Too much speed in corners can lead to injured horses, and damaged or destroyed chariots. Over-enthusiastic whip use in the early phases of a race may leave your 4hp equine powerplant too drained to finish a race at anything but a pitiful trot. The decision-making is always engaging and, thanks to a pinch of randomness and some solid competitor AI, quite different from race to race.

How you approach a contest tends to be heavily influenced by the decisions you make before it starts. Through thoughtful faction choice and buff point investment, the combative can equip themselves with big sturdy chariots and big sturdy charioteers, the speed-hungry with light vehicles and super-quick ponies. I’ve had my best results going small and swift, but the approach isn’t foolproof. For every occasion I’ve managed to pelt away from the pack like a pre-Christian Ferrari, there’s been one where bad luck or bad tactics has left me hopelessly boxed-in or foolishly spreadeagled in the Circus dust.

Spanish creator Daniel Lopez Soria is currently working on making the thrills and spills a little more vivid and consequential. Hopefully, at some point in the future we’ll be dodging wreckage and carcasses, and contending with wild pilotless chariots. Singleplayer seasons, multiplayer contest, and new venues are – fingers-crossed – also on the cards.

 

A Falcon For A Knave

The lack of a falconry demonstration at this Sunday’s street party, can’t be blamed on local government jobsworths. Despite plenty of manual poring and tutorial vid viewing over the past fortnight, I still don’t feel confident enough with Falcon 4.0 super-mod BMS 4.32 to fly it in public.

What I can say about this extraordinary labour of love, now that I’ve finally got around to sampling it, is ‘GOSH!’, ‘BLIMEY!’, and ‘I think I need to go and lay down for a bit’.

Where most people looked at Falcon 4.0 and thought ‘So much realism! I never dreamt a modern combat flight simulation could cram so many aeronautical truths into such a small cockpit’ Benchmark Sims looked at it and thought ‘Yes, nice try Microprose, but how about we rewrite and rebuild almost everything to make it even more authentic.’  BMS is basically a free standalone sequel, albeit one that – for legal reasons – won’t install unless it sees an original F4 disc in your CD drive.

The avionic changes alone would fill several B-52-sized blast-pens. Radars, targeting systems, HUDs, data link modelling… everything has been reworked by people that either have first-hand experience of fondling Falcons or have access to people that have first-hand experience of fondling Falcons. All this forensic fiddling means that wonderful original manual that’s been bowing your manual shelf for the past 13 years, is next to useless in BMS. A plethora of new procedures and displays in combination with some disappointingly terse tutorial texts (‘Now set your avionics‘ left this flier floundering on more than one occasion) means most users will need to burn drums of midnight oil reading pdfs, watching tutorial vids, and making copious notes before reporting for duty. An acceptable price for so much verisimilitude? I guess that depends on how hungry you are for a sim that combines Digital Combat Simulator levels of cockpit and weapon honesty with what is still one of the richest,  most replayable and co-op friendly combat flight sim campaigns available.

Because BMS have removed Microprose’s ‘easy avionics’ option and are still getting to grips with their own instructional material, I’m not sure it would be responsible to recommend this mod to Falcon fledglings. If you don’t know your ASC from your elbow you’ll probably fare better with an old boxed copy of Falcon 4.0: Allied Force, Lead Pursuit’s 2005 series reboot. That did at least come with a 100-page paperback to help you through those potentially problematic early days.

Of course, going the Allied Force route means you’ll miss out on numerous visual and flight model improvements. Though crudely sculpted targets and repeating terrain tile textures still give the game away on occasion, the team have done an incredible job of disguising the sim’s ancient roots. The self-shadowing 3D cockpit, high-detail munitions and new structure-strewn airfields are particularly easy on the peepers. Combined with vastly improved pyrotechnics and much livelier aerodynamics, they make even the fairly basic flight and combat manuevres I’ve been practising doggedly for the past fortnight, feel spectacular.

 

 

The Flare Path Foxer

FP owns an ingenious revolving bookcase. In the public side – the side he displays when he’s expecting visitors – he keeps all his poncy philosophy tomes, his heavyweight histories, and literary classics. In the private side – his comfort-reading side – he’s got all his Asterix books, his 2000ADs, his Commando comics, and his Tintins. The latter are falling apart they’ve been read so often. Why, if you showed FP the following image, and asked him to name the aircraft and the Hergé works they appear in, you’d have your answers lickety-split.

 

All the buttons, switches, knobs and levers in last week’s Foxer…

a. Airborne Assault menu screen detail
b. SAM Simulator SA-2E ground mode switch
c. Falcon 4.0 BMS countermeasures program selection knob
d. OMSI SD77 reverse selector
e. Aces of the Deep torpedo tube button
f. IL-2 Cliffs of Dover Spitfire fire button
g. RailWorks Class 76 throttle
h. European Bus Simulator door button

…are now back in the appropriate boxes after some slick sleuthing from the likes of Skiv, Electricfox, gabe, egg651, Dana, Spinoza , BobsLawnService, and nimzy. Please take one of the polyoxybenzylmethylenglycolanhydride flair points from the Honesty Bucket if you helped with the unfoxing.

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31 Comments »

  1. wodin says:

    Don’t bother buying Falcon AF if your a newbie. Go download FreeFalcon instead (it’s better than AF and has higher resolutions and is still being updated and it’s free).

    • Walsh says:

      Do you still need Falcon 4 media to make it legal?

    • pepper says:

      Thanks for that! I am having a blast with FreeFalcon!

    • pepper says:

      Right, so I have a little problem and you might know the answer, why does my engine goes on fire everytime I startup the plane, I followed the checklist and I have tried following online examples. Its always the same, engine fire before I even get a chance to toggle the throttle idle cutoff.

  2. Fitzmogwai says:

    The only one I know is c): a Kubelwagen, from Achtung! Tintin.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I’m reasonably certain that a Kubelwagen has four wheels and zero wings. It’s a car, is what I’m saying.

  3. Thany says:

    is “e” a russian Mil Mi-1?

    in which game you can find it? shiiiit, probably in on of the MS Flight Simulators.

  4. Spinoza says:

    A) De Havilland Tiger Moth – L’ile noire
    B) Savoia-Marchetti SM 73 – L’ile noire

  5. Stranglove says:

    H could well be a boeing 707 from flight 714 OR tintin and the picaros, and the Mil MI1 (E) is also from tintin and the picaros.

    Pretty sure G is a beechcraft bonanza from the calculus affair.

    Both D and F (a spitfire and a dehavilland Mosquito) appear in The red Sea Sharks

    EDIT: The spit is actually in the land of black gold.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    Which was the plane that Tintin shot down with a pistol while in the middle of the sea? That, more than anything as fanciful as Destination Moon, was the moment the books sadly lost all credibility to my ten year old self.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Having rattled through the attic, I can confirm it was a de Havilland mosquito in The Red Sea Sharks, as noted by commenters above and below me. And it was low-flying, and he downed it with an automatic rifle. Still a bit silly.

      • westyfield says:

        Yeah, it was in the recent film that he took down a floatplane with a single pistol shot. The book had slight credibility as he was blasting away with a Thompson SMG (note: not the same as a Thomson SMG) or something.

  7. Spinoza says:

    H) Boeing 707 – Tintin et les Picaros
    E ) Mil Mi-1 – Tintin et les Picaros

  8. Hydrogene says:

    a) de Havilland Moth: Black Island
    b) Savoia-Marchetti SM 73 (Sabena colors) : King Ottokar’s sceptre (and last image of Black Island)
    c) Messerchmitt Bf 109 : King Ottokar’s sceptre
    d) de Havilland Mosquito : The Red sea sharks
    e) Mil Mi 1 (thanks Thany!) : Tintin and the Picaros
    f) Spitfire (Mk V?) : Land of Black gold
    g) Beechcraft Bonanza A 35 : The Calculus Affair
    h) Boeing 707: flight 714

    I cheated for g) by looking at that lovely website: http://richard.ferriere.free.fr/aerotintin.htm

  9. Spinoza says:

    C ) Messerschmitt 109D – Le sceptre d’Ottokar

  10. Brun says:

    Falcon 4! My absolute favorite flight sim of all time! Never had more fun than flying SEAD missions in that game.

  11. Jesse L says:

    Sorry to interrupt the plane-identification spree, but I had to say Qvadriga is really fun. Turn-based racing, I love it!

    • JB says:

      It *is* rather good, isn’t it. And I had the (dubious) honour of being the dev’s first reported CTD. Huzzah!

  12. Undermind_Mike says:

    Can I also please ask – what is the large, smoking, grey plane in the title image?

  13. lamurt says:

    about time flare path has given bms more attention that it really deserves! :)

  14. Hartford688 says:

    Thank you for the Qvadriga – brings back very fond memories of AH’s Circus Maximus.

    Definitely will give it a try!

    Also, yes BMS is a beast. A wonderful beast, but a complex beast…for a lightweight like me anyway.

  15. gabe says:

    I have to agree with lamurt. I’m very happy to finally see some attention on BMS. It is a sim that needs a bigger level of commitment then the others, but it really pays off. And the flight model is unbelievable! Really recommend it!

  16. sgt. grumbles says:

    Also here to say I’m glad the FP took a look at BMS. I haven’t had the time to put into it, but hoping I will soon. It’s definitely daunting, but as others said, worth it. The 3D cockpit — especially with tracking like TrackIR — is beautiful. I even bought a new joystick / throttle for the thing, plus two usb MFD panels.

    One day I’d love to fly public campaigns, but I must level up my training before then.

  17. MrBRAD! says:

    I am willing to bet that Tintin has either crashed, stolen, hijacked or fallen out of all of the pictured aircraft.

    I love the books, but I’ve only been watching the animated series for (mostly) the first time recently and wow, he pulls off some shit that even Bruce Willis would be proud of. I’ve been noting down some of his phenomenal action-movie antics and badassery:

    Clings to the back of fast moving vehicles.
    On a fast moving bicycle, slams into the side of a dumptruck and shrugs it off.
    Takes bullets.
    Punches a man straight in the face and over his desk.
    Puts his hands in a fireplace to burn the rope binding his wrists.
    Rides on the top of trains.
    Flies through glass unscathed.
    Often gassed and rendered unconscious by inherently dangerous chemicals- no ongoing effects.
    Often beaten over the head- no long term effects.
    Crashes a plane into a stone wall/hill in fog. Superficial injuries.
    Steals somebody’s car just so he can travel faster than horse cart which was a little too slow for his liking.
    Gets his (stolen) fighter plane shot down by LOADS of 88mm flak.
    Smiles and shows genuine happiness that he is onto a story immediately after almost being brutally murdered with a large falling crate at a dock.
    Attacks 3 men, one of whom has a pistol. Armed only with a single tin of crab meat (which he hurls it straight at the gunman’s face).

    Balls of steel.

  18. Guhndahb says:

    Falcon 4, throughout its many published and fan incarnations, remains my favorite all-time flight sim. I’m so glad to see BMS covered here although I’ve not yet put time into exploring its depths. My last time flying F4 was with F4:AF and it didn’t quite capture the joy I had with SuperPAK which utterly enthralled me.

    The F4 dynamic campaign spoiled me so badly that I’ve had tremendous trouble enjoying any mil flight sim since. If DCS ever incorporates a dynamic campaign of that completeness and complexity, I’ll gladly throw massive wads of cash at them.

    • Mavvvy says:

      Yeah, about that dynamic campaign…. has me going meh to DCS. oH yes you are a pretty Kamov and yes your 30mm cannon is Soooo big A10, but flying your missions is meaningless, MEANINGLESS!!