The Flare Path: Tales Of The Unexpected

By Tim Stone on June 13th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

Blimey! What a week! Not only did Harris, the Flare Path quartermaster, pick up twenty thousand exclamation marks dirt cheap at a local fire sale, the world of flight simulation was rocked by a trio of 2000lb news Paveways!!! We literally can’t move for !s in the office at present! I’m actually thinking of taking a saw to some of them! Extra full stops and ‘i’ dots are always useful, and the uprights could be resold as war clubs! For ants!! Or other tiny invertebrates!!! With a fondness for melee!!!!

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Remember Jet Thunder, the standalone Falklands War flight sim described by this column as “imminent” in June 1923 and “probably dead” in August, 2013?

It has Lazarused!!!!! Again!!!! Aerosoft, the publisher/mentor, and Thunderworks, the British/Argentinian/Brazilian dev, surprised cynics last week by releasing super shots of super Super Étendards preparing to sup from a C-130 tanker, and super shots of super Super Étendards soaring over supine South American airbases.

Since we last eyed it, JT has transitioned to a new engine that is, according to Aerosoft boss Mathijs Kok “modern and far more capable than FSX”. It has also acquired an extra coating of gravitas. Mathijs again: “For sure this is a serious simulation, you’ll be using checklists (for the Harrier you seem to be reading checklists all the time).”

That mention of FSX is interesting. Mathijs has talked about developing an MSFS replacement before. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jet Thunder was a stealthy stage in this grand scheme, a test-bed for technology that will, one day, prove as useful to high-altitude globe-trotters as low-altitude ship savagers.

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Flight, Microsoft’s own attempt at an MSFS follow-up, had only been aloft for a few months when the money men came along and rolled up the runways and felled the wind socks. For those of us excited by the project, the hasty abandonment felt deeply unfair. With the right add-ons and feature tweaks, Flight’s future could have been bright.

Happily, it seems there were others that felt the fledgeling wasn’t given a fighting chance. Last week, news emerged that the franchise had been sold by MS. According to Avsim.com the new as-yet-unidentified licensee is “not one that we would have thought to have been a logical candidate” . And according to SimFlight.com they’re “no stranger to the simulation market”. Feeding these two clues into Flare Path’s ancient-but-indespensible Speculatomat 400 produced the following results…

LIKELY PURCHASERS OF THE MICROSOFT FLIGHT FRANCHISE

  • (31.43% probability) World of Tanks/Warplanes/Warships powerhouse Wargaming.net
  • (24.35% probability) Train Sim railway barons Dovetail Games
  • (21.50% probability) War Thunder wunderkinder Gaijin Entertainment
  • (11% probability) Energetic euro-sim entrepreneurs Excalibur Publishing
  • (5.72% probability) Tata Group
  • (3.91% probability) John Travolta
  • (2.03% probability) Carol Vorderman
  • (0.06% probability) Microsoft (clerical mix-up)

Flare Path is in the process of contacting these organisations and individuals (So far Excalibur and Dovetail have both issued denials) and hopes to clarify the situation in next week’s column.

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The last of the week’s flight sim bombshells fell slap-bang in the centre of DCS: WW2′s worryingly quiet work-in-progress runway. Out-of-the-blue Matt Wagner of Eagle Dynamics announced that project initiator/chief designer Ilya Shevchenko was no longer involved in the Kickstarter-funded sim. From now on DCS:WW2 will be developed internally alongside ED’s various DCS:World undertakings.

We may never know what prompted Luthier’s exit (many of his RRG colleagues have stayed on as direct employees of ED) but the explanation of where future funding will come from now the $159k of Kickstarter cash has been spent included some startling financial revelations.

“The vast majority of funds needed to finance this project have and will continue to come from Eagle Dynamics (not Kickstarter). To give you a feel… just the Eagle Dynamics developed and funded flight model for the Bf-109K has already cost us about 120k USD (that does not include external model, cockpit model, cockpit systems, etc.)..”

Excuse me while I scoop a handful of exclamation marks out of this sack by my desk and repeat that last bit…

“The Eagle Dynamics developed and funded flight model for the Bf-109K has already cost us about 120k USD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

120k USD for a single flight model? A tiny part of this sim correspondent’s heavily-callused headlump is impressed by this level of realism respect. A significantly larger part is, frankly, appalled. Unless ED’s overheads are astronomical, their largely Russian staff incredibly well paid, then, presumably, somewhere in Moscow right now is at least one developer who has spent the last year toiling exclusively on a solitary Messerschmitt FM. When the construction of your aerodynamic look-up table ends up consuming more man-hours than the construction of the real plane that inspired it, then it’s possible, just possible, you’re working too hard for your public.

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!                           !

The Flare Path Foxer

Roman has been sent to Coventry by two of his closest Ouija board chums! Amy Johnson and Amelia Earhart won’t forgive him for leaving their deathplaces out of last week’s foxer. The aviatrices don’t seem to understand just how difficult it is to Street View-snap the middle of the Thames Estuary/Pacific Ocean.

Of the eight personal heroes Roman did include in the puzzle, six were superbly surmised by demon demise demystifiers AbyssUK, Mark Judd, SpiceTheCat, Panzerschwein, Runty McTall, skink74, El Mariachi, and Shiloh.

a. Guy Fawkes (Old Palace Yard, Westminster)
b. T. E. Lawrence (Clouds Hill, Dorset)
c. Henri Toivonen (Castirla, Corsica)
d. Frederick Banting (Musgrave Harbour, Newfoundland)
e. George S. Patton (Mannheim, Germany)
f. Winfried Freudenberg (Zehlendorf, Berlin)
g. John Lennon (Manhattan, NYC)
h. Vincent van Gogh (Auvers-sur-Oise, France)

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According to an article in yesterday’s Daily Mail, the world’s reserves of foxer themes will be exhausted by 2023. It’s all down to the Chinese and Indians, apparently. In Delhi, Mumbai, Beijing and Shanghai there are cryptic collages just like the one below on every fag packet, bus flank, and oil-filmed puddle.

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29 Comments »

  1. skink74 says:

    The molecule in the background is nitrocellulose – gun cotton

    • Ernesto says:

      Could that be a Unimog in the lower left corner?

      • Premium User Badge Llewyn says:

        I don’t think so. Unimogs have always had very short front overhangs, so the cab generally extends behind the front wheel, at least for the iconic smaller models (’50s 404, ’60s 406 & ’70s 424).

        Nothing constructive to add on what it might actually be though, I’m afraid.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Actually, you might be right. I know nothing about trucks and less about Unimogs, but an image search of Unimog 530 brings up a rear axle that looks a lot like the Foxer image, down to the wheel arch and banded tank in front of the rear wheel. If these are signatures of the Unimog design, you have a winner.

        On the other hand, like Llewyn says, the driver’s cab extends well behind the front axle in all the images.

        What I cannot find is an exact match for the Foxer image. No sign of any Unimog so far with that configuration of machinery behind the cab.

      • mrpier says:

        Best guess on the truck is some kind of Iveco Eurocargo 4×4 (could be DAF or MAN or something else). There must be hundreds of variations of unimog style trucks.

  2. All is Well says:

    Top-right airplane looks to be a Bf 109 of JG 54, “Grünherz”, or more specifically II./JG54

    Edit: Even more specifically, I think it’s a Bf 109G-2, as it lacks the lower-front windowpane of previous models, hasn’t got the bulges behind the engine of G-6/10 and still retains the straight-framed cockpit glass.

    • All is Well says:

      And the top-center aircraft looks like a Hawker Sea Fury of the Iraqi Air Force.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Bottom right, Churchill tank driver and bow gunner positions, interior. MkVII Churchill

    • All is Well says:

      And, if I had to venture a guess, I’d say the locomotive is an English Electric Type 4 / British Rail Class 40.

      • Danny252 says:

        My thoughts as well – too beefy for a 37.

        • All is Well says:

          Yeah, and also the vent or grate or whatever it is is situated too close to the front on the 37, while the 40 has a bit of space between front and vent, like the one in the picture.

  3. Spinoza says:

    No time for anything fox related but loving to say go buy Ultimate General Gettysburg now. I know its on weirdo early access and on steam on top of that but its only 6£ and a lot of fun.
    !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Shiloh says:

      Sold. Baggsy be Winfield Scott Hancock.
      !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Tony M says:

    Tim Stone is lovably mad. I have no interest in the simulation games he writes about, but this column always gives me a laugh.

    (!)

  5. Napoleon15 says:

    That DCS WW2 news is pretty disconcerting. I mean, it’s good that ED are stepping up to the plate, but still… Ran out of money, I guess?

    And speaking of ED, are these guys the only ones still making serious study sims these days?

    • Meusli says:

      They won’t disclose what happened, nor do I feel they need to as I still get my game. I am worried about what this will do to them as a company though so I wish them all the luck in the world.

    • P.Funk says:

      BMS is still being actively developed and it looks as if their version of the F/A-18C will come out first, as will the SevenG version of the F-18. All in all Eagle Dynamics is the only studio sized developer of high fidelity cobat study sims but the question really is, when will they actually release something that has any avionics it next?

      So much of their development since the A-10C and Black Shark 2 has been either to rehash their Lock On models yet again (Flaming Cliffs 3, then a string of stand alone versions of FC3 aircraft, then a better flight model for the F-15C), support the third parties who are only themselves making aircraft with no meaningful modern avionics (Huey, Mi-8, etc) or keep promising that one day there will be that new graphics engine and a new map and some actual dedicated server code.

      So, with ED taking on WW2 and mumblings that their F/A-18C hasn’t even begun to be coded beyond the external model, it is worth asking yourself if you can still call ED a developer of modern combat flight sims. It doesn’t help that they basically shut their community out on information until the product is basically ready for closed beta.

      ED has a very uneasy feel to them. I wouldn’t trust anything until I see it. So far every third party project announced has either had some scandal or been removed from the forums indicating a thinning prospect of release with the lone exception being VEAO. Belsimtek doesn’t count as they’re apparently just another part of ED now.

      For me ED represents unrequited hope and constant frustration.

      • buzzmong says:

        ED are being slow because they’re currently rewriting large parts of the engine. I suspect once their new terrain systems and graphics renderer finally launches then production of actual game modules will ramp up.

        You’re partly right about the third party devs though. Although goods news on that front is that Mig21Bis is expected to go into public beta at the end of the month as Leatherneck have submitted it to ED for testing.

        • P.Funk says:

          When you actually look at how much new content they’ve created you suddenly realize that not a whole lot has been done since the days of Lock On other than updating the original assets to be basically resalable.

          Case in point is this thread (that I’m trying to find and will add to the end of this post if I do) which discusses the source of so many graphical slow downs in some areas of the map. The consensus is that the result is several objects being ported over from an older iteration of the engine render inefficiently and create immense graphical slow downs as a result. The solution is pretty simple, and requires not a lot of work to fix. Sadly they won’t ever fix this, or many other obvious bugs, because they’re always busy with something else.

          The more things they put on their plate as time goes on the more I become certain we’ll see less and less from Eagle Dynamics itself. One person I know who says he has had contact with some members of the ED deve team says that most of their energy is currently being spent creating third party APIs. Its not just EDGE that’s distracting their development.

          Frankly when you look at how much money they’re milking out of content they created for the first Lock On eons ago you realize that the percentage of legitimate original content that ED creates per decade is pretty astoundingly thin. Nevada, EDGE, F/A-18C all relegated to the “patient bear is patient” column while in the last 2 years alone we’ve seen the Lock On models re-monetized twice. Flaming Cliffs 3 was said to be their last gasp with that particular bundle of old parts. But wait! They released slightly improved stand alone versions with no real improvements as far as the simulation fidelity is concerned of those same FC3 aircraft and are continuing to dedicate more money to developing them into newer iterations yet again.

          The future is on hold yet again for more monetization of old content. Of all the DCS things how many are truly original? P-51, A-10C, Black Shark. Black Shark was already remonetized with the slightly improved Black Shark 2. The A-10C is of course an improved version of the A. So basically the Ka-50 and the P-51 are the only truly new aircraft from ED since Lock On came out.

          I’m not holding my breath for anything to get better once EDGE finally comes out, whenever that is. If history is anything to go by that will create a mountain of new bugs that will take ages to fix and inevitably some things will be permanently broken as their interest in fixing them wanes, like we see now with bugs in disused modules such as the A-10C which receives nearly zero patch notes these days, as is the same with the Ka-50. There was an entire 3 months where AAR was broken for the A-10C because apparently they either didn’t notice it or didn’t care to fix it before releasing the patch. To this day radios are still bugged and have not seen a fix in several patches.

          There is still so much more to be said… but I grow weary.

  6. BooleanBob says:

    Good article Tim. I’m going to go right off the deep end and suggest that Flight was bought by EA on behalf of Maxis. EA have taken considerable steps into the free-to-play arena already… and Sim Copter counts as flight simulator experience, right? A one-of-a-kind flight simulator experience, no less!

    • Premium User Badge Martel says:

      I like your guess, especially since it doesn’t say they have experience in flight sims but just in sims

      “no stranger to the simulation market”

      And nobody has more visible of a sim market than EA/Maxis.

  7. Premium User Badge phlebas says:

    I think those icons with the F-key shortcuts belong to 1914:Shells of Fury.

    • guidom says:

      that’s two “Fury”s, linked to the Iraqi Sea Fury. That’s about all though.

  8. Zenicetus says:

    According to the AVSIM post, it may not be just the “Flight” title but the “FS Franchise,” which could mean a possible real successor to FSX instead of the more lightweight Flight game. That could be big, but it will depend on how the add-on developers react, and what the deal is with Lockheed. Here’s the main part of the AVSIM news:

    AVSIM is being told by multiple sources that Microsoft, after years of dickering and sometimes murky intentions, has sold the license to the FS franchise. We are not able to name our sources, but we can say they are authoritative and have been involved at various times in pursuing acquisition of this license. We can also tell you that the licensee is not one that we would have thought to have been a logical candidate in terms of direct knowledge of the product, leading us to conclude that this licensee had the deeper pockets.”

    That doesn’t sound like it’s not a flight sim developer at all, just that they don’t have “direct knowledge” of FS, like Lockheed or one of the big FSX add-on developers. My wild-ass guess is Bohemia Interactive, since they’ve dabbled in civilian sims with Take On Helicopters and that new Mars thing. I hope it isn’t purely deep pockets like EA or Ubi, because they won’t understand how to develop a niche product like this. Microsoft didn’t understand it either, which is why Flight failed.

    Edited to add: This is also potential good news for my personal favorite: X-Plane, because that’s been the default “still in development” civilian sim for a while now, and they’ve been just lazily drifting along, very slowly with a too-small staff, and not much pressure from Lockheed with its P3D development. The X-Plane devs could use a big kick in the butt from someone fresh, aggressive, and with deep enough pockets to push the civilian sim market forward.

  9. dufus0057 says:

    Foxer! KaBoom!

  10. Shadowcat says:

    Jet Thunder lives?! That’s unexpected-but-awesome news. Fingers are crossed!