The Flare Path: A Ponce In A Ponsse

Forestry was one of the industries the Industrial Revolution forgot. The tools used by a British forestry worker at the start of the Twentieth Century would have been instantly recognizable to a forestry worker of 1700. It would be another two decades before the oil dripping, smoke breathing dragon of progress appeared in the UK’s pine stands and oak woods. First came the lumbering tractor, then the chainsaw, an increasingly portable petrol-fuelled marvel that quickly saw off the crosscut saw and eventually banished the axe too. Finally, in the 1990s, something truly remarkable arrived. A machine that, in favourable terrain, made a hard-working chainsaw flourisher look like a hopeless slacker, an anachronism, an irrelevance.

Released last week, Farming Simulator 15’s big thing is a supple 8WD that culls conifers like a prize ratter culls vermin. Familiar with GIANTS’ handsome but shallow tractor recreations, I wasn’t expecting a great deal from the new forestry equipment. I certainly wasn’t expecting to find myself in the rotatable driving seat of one of the most demanding, distinctive and diverting sim steeds in yonks.

It’s actually FS15’s forwarder, not its harvester, that takes the fewest prisoners and generates the most satisfaction. Where a high fidelity flight sim ride humbles with accurate avionics and deep systems realism, this game’s timber transporter makes you perspire and ponder by presenting you with an essentially accurate simulation of the prototype’s hydraulic boom and grab. Able to extend, contract, raise, lower, rotate, open and close in the same dexterous manner as its inspiration, the device seems maddeningly complicated at first. You clout trees, pummel earth, and fumble logs like an inebriated giant until, slowly (probably very slowly if you don’t have access to a gamepad) hand and eye begin to collaborate.

After a few hours of practice, the cylinders of softwood should start moving from heap to load bed with something approaching efficiency. You may even find yourself instinctively executing actions familiar to real forwarder drivers… nudging an errant log into place with a closed grab, steadying a load in transit by resting your weighty steel fist upon it.

The Scorpion has its attractions too. In seconds any conifer on the map (in the world of FS all softwoods are potential fodder for your canary yellow agri-mech) can be transformed into a neat stack of lucrative timber. Position the cutting head as low as possible on the doomed trunk, wait for it to auto-embrace, then thumb the button that pushes the integral chainsaw bar through the bole. The next thing you know you’re brandishing a 25m spruce the way a Medieval scribe brandishes a goose feather quill. Another button press and the spruce is feeding through the head, shedding branches as it goes. BZZZZ. THUMP. BZZZZ. THUMP. BZZZZ. THUMP. BZZZZ. THUMP. And onto the next one.

From a fussy realism perspective, it would be nice if ‘brash’ (the removed branches) didn’t instantly disappear. In real life, harvesters minimize ground damage and bogging risk on soft terrain by laying their own carpets of greenery as they go. I’d also like to have seen visual bark scarring, and an option where log length is automatically determined based on the girth of the log at the head. Currently, if you want to create a separate heap of shorter, thinner pulp wood, you’ll need to laboriously alter the cutting length (only adjustable in 50cm increments) every time you process a tree top.

Exit the Scorpion and try your hand at ‘old-fashioned’ chainsaw felling and the standard of simulation is less impressive. Because the FS15 engine can’t or won’t simulate partial cuts, it’s impossible to make the separate sink and back cuts used by tree fellers the world over. Abandon a cut mid-way through and the trunk is left unmarked and undamaged.

Once trees are on the deck and stationary (conifers on slopes can roll ridiculously for several minutes before coming to rest) realism echoes do, thankfully, get a little louder. Methodically de-limbing a felled hardwood is not unsatisfying. Observing the crown of a large broadleaf shift as a supporting branch is cut, will ring pleasing bells with anyone that has ever dismembered a tree or cut up a freakishly large broccoli floret.

Forestry-Related Stuff I’m Hoping To See In FS16:

* Partial cuts
* Hung-up trees
* Bent trunks
* Wind effects
* Deformable terrain
* Pinched bars and chains
* A gloved hand wrapped around that eerily vacant chainsaw handle.
* Perilous powerlines
* Disgruntled squirrels

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There are no scorpions scuttling about in Battlefront’s latest release, but the $20 add-on isn’t short of crabs, crocodiles, and kangaroos.

You’ll need relevant Combat Mission: Battle For Normandy modules to enjoy everything the ‘Vehicle Pack’ has to offer (plus, I think I’m right in saying, two $10 engine upgrades). After purchase, installation, and, what looks like, a rather elaborate registration dance, suitably equipped wargamers will find their CMBFN skirmishes infested by creatures even the famously compendious Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord didn’t provide. While it’s a pity ‘funnies’ like the AVRE and Sherman Crab, and ungainly exotics like the U304(f) halftrack and the M12 Gun Motor Carriage aren’t accompanied by missions showcasing their unique talents/vulnerabilities, I suspect it won’t be long before most of the newcomers are starring in their own user-made scenarios.

Battlefront’s next battlefront is in Ukraine. In a month or two, the uncomfortably timely Combat Mission: Black Sea should be here, reminding us what could happen if peaceful solutions aren’t swiftly found in eastern Ukraine. Sketched out long before the present troubles arose, a 2017 setting, superpower adversaries, and new features like UAVs , SAMs, and precision arty should mean CM: Black Sea warfare feels quite different from the distinctly asymmetrical aggro served up by CM: Shock Force.

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IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad‘s Metacritic page has reappeared and is already smelling fishier than a sun-warmed dish of Whiskas tuna-in-jelly. October 23rd and 24th were particularly popular days for glowing/scathing user reviews from strident first-time metacritics.

With no sign of significant direction changes on the horizon, it looks like the disappointment suffusing some quarters of the flight sim community, won’t be dissipating any time soon. Recently, complaints about unlocks, EXP grinding, and campaign sterility, have been joined by Flight Model criticism. Videos of Bf 109s and He 111s doing suspicious stunts have provoked a spirited and detailed defence of the game’s aerodynamics from Project Manager Han and a selection of vids showing similar aerobatic feats in other sims like CLOD and DCS. Is something seriously amiss in the FM dept? I suspect not, but I can’t pretend the sight of a Heinkel flitting about like a high-spirited House Martin doesn’t leave me troubled.

In more positive news, 777/1C’s flawed fledgeling lands on British high streets today, and users will soon be able to order around wingmen and gunners with far more precision thanks to a fully implemented command system.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Roman is a real piece of work. When I politely suggested he dial down the difficulty in this week’s foxer (three of the last four collages remain unsolved) he responded by removing a clue!

All answers in one thread, please.

38 Comments

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    Triumph Herald.

    Sea plane is a Beriev A-40 (Mermaid).

    • AFKAMC says:

      The jet flying boat shown in the head-on profile is a Beriev Be-200 Altair.

      EDIT: Or maybe a Beriev Be-42 / A-40 Albatros / MERMAID

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        You could well be right.

        Edit: Altair? Assassin’s Creed!

    • FurryLippedSquid says:

      Sherman tank, or variant thereof?

      • Napoleon15 says:

        It’s an M4A3E2 Sherman, I believe.

      • AFKAMC says:

        The Sherman tank is an M4A3E2 “JUMBO” – not that I knew, I just googled for the box art (it’s from a Tasca model kit, apparently).

        EDIT: Beat me to it!

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Top Left. Shin-Meiwa Flying Boat?

    • foop says:

      Engine is “Jenny Lind”, of the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway. Named after a famous opera singer of the time. Gave its name to the general 2-2-2 engine type of the time, more or less.

      • AFKAMC says:

        I may have it (I think): P. T. Barnum

        Straight from Wikipedia:
        JUMBO was the biggest elephant in captivity. American showman P. T. Barnum simply had to have this huge elephant in his circus
        Barnum started a weekly paper in 1829, The HERALD of Freedom
        In 1842, Barnum introduced his first major hoax, a creature with the head of a monkey and the tail of a fish, known as the “Feejee” MERMAID
        Barnum had become aware of the popularity of JENNY LIND, the “Swedish Nightingale”.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          I think you have it, sir!

        • FurryLippedSquid says:

          Well done.

        • deejayem says:

          Gosh – well done! In which case, the clue that was removed might be The Missing Link (aka William Henry Johnson).

          Edit: And the car top-right is an MG EX135 “Humbug”, again fitting the Barnum theme.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            “Missing link” shown as a removed clue? I am torn between admiration for deejayem for seeing that, and apoplexy at Roman.

            You show me a picture, I try to recognise it! That is how this works! Do not change the rules now, not least on a Friday!

            :)

          • deejayem says:

            In my mind’s eye, Roman has moustachios. And twirls them.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            If he did look like a 1920s cinema villain, It would explain all the trains, anyway

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Cars are my weak subject, but is bottom centre a Triumph Herald, and is it a reference to “The Herald of Freedom”, a weekly paper Barnum founded in 1829?

          • Rorschach617 says:

            OK, I have JUST noticed that Furrylippedsquid recognised the Triumph Herald. Whoops.

        • phlebas says:

          The screenshot detail bottom left appears to be from PT Boats: Knights of the sea. PTB it is!

    • Shiloh says:

      *puff pant puff pant* Sorry I’m late chaps, I’ve been sorting something out, super stoked for the Foxe… oh. Right I see, errm, well done AFKAMC. See you all next week.

  2. Surlywombat says:

    Been really enjoying Farming Simulator, I do wish they could get together with the Spintires guys.

    • Premium User Badge

      Henke says:

      I don’t know if you know, but you do get the “forwarder” part of the action in Spintires. On the coast map there are piles of “secret lumber” that you can manually pick up and load with the crane attachment. link to youtube.com

      • Surlywombat says:

        I was thinking more of the farming aspects, ploughing, cultivating etc.

  3. Napoleon15 says:

    I’m pretty excited for Combat Mission: Black Sea. CM:SF was a buggy, unenjoyable mess when it first came out, but by the time it’d been patched, expanded on etc, it had turned into a very good simulation of modern asymmetrical style warfare and earned a place amongst my favourite wargames.

    • Thurgret says:

      Same here. I do hope it comes with a good bundle of campaigns. I have both Fortress Italy and Battle for Normandy with their expansions, as well as the basic Shock Force game, and at least in the first two (Shock Force felt a bit bland, and I stopped playing) there came a point in campaigns where it felt like missions had been balanced for an entirely intact unit, rather than the somewhat depleted forces that are inevitable in later missions. I think I was pretty good at conserving troops, too.

      • Napoleon15 says:

        I agree with some of the campaigns being fairly tough, although you’ve probably spared yourself some of the pain if you’ve not played the CM:SF NATO campaigns, as they’re pretty brutal. Losing a single vehicles or a couple of men can often cost you the mission in those.

  4. jezcentral says:

    When I saw the screenshots for FS2015, I immediately thought “my son would love that. He’s always singing songs about diggers, front end loaders and trucks”. He’s only 2 and a half, so I may need to wait a bit more.

  5. ru_disa says:

    I have seen a few of those flight model videos where players do impossible aerobatics in order to prove that the FM isn’t accurate… I have tried to reproduce what these people do in their videos, and my attempts have always ended in disaster (as it should be). It seems to me that the FM is at the very least convincing. Landings and ground handling are especially good; the aircrafts have different and discernible personalities and they all behave as I expect they should (I have never flown one of those aicrafts myself, of course, but I have flown them in IL-2 1946 and CloD for hundreds of hours).
    I have no idea in which conditions these videos were taken (version of the game, realism settings, etc.) and I seriously hope we’re willing to do some further investigation before taking them as accurate. From my experience with the game, there seems to be a certain degree of ingenuity behind these videos.

    • Tim Stone says:

      There’s more information about the He 111 vid here….

      link to forum.il2sturmovik.com

      …plus verification from several users. Looping the He 111 in expert mode soon after take-off isn’t hard. Perhaps that’s an accurate reflection of the plane’s capabilities, but it seems a little unlikely.

      • ru_disa says:

        Oh wow… I was not aware of that thread. I’ll verify if I can reproduce it myself with empty loadout and low fuel. If that is the case, though…
        In the thread you linked, people are actually arguing that this *may be* a realistic behaviour! It does seem highly unlikely. I find it concerning that the devs are not commenting on the issue…. Well, I really don’t know what to think now.

      • ru_disa says:

        OK, this thing was bugging me to no end, so I went ahead and fired IL-2 1946. I tried to reproduce the same stunts in a He-111/6 (empty loadout and 10% fuel). I was able to execute a complete loop shortly after take-off and a couple of rolls after that. Not at first shot: I crashed a few times, and I had to try again, but eventually I pulled it off.
        I have to say, though, that the same aircraft in BoS did feel lighter and easier to handle. But the result, in the end, was almost the same…
        Well now, this only served to make me even more confused.

    • Dozer says:

      I haven’t been reading the forums (nor will I) but large aircraft are generally more manoueverable than people expect. Especially when lightly loaded. Look for any video featuring Bob Hoover, e.g. link to youtube.com

      This can be compounded by a sim not modelling what happens to engine oil, hydraulic fluid, and the fuel in the tanks when the aircraft’s g-forces are in certain directions. But that Heinkel video didn’t show anything very remarkable in that regard – the forces were all pretty much straight upwards.

  6. JiminyJickers says:

    I’m really interested in the Combat Mission games, but their DRM is just too much for me. Hopefully one day they will go DRM free, I’ll probably pick up all their games in one go then.

  7. P.Funk says:

    I’m one of those horrible people that the more realistic a fledgling sim becomes the more harsh I am on it and less likely to enjoy it.

    “Great, you started to sim it properly, call me back when that list of ridiculously minor details that in my opinion make all the joy and character of a sim vehicle come alive are there.”

    I’m a snob, I admit it.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    It seems strange to make a simulator where the primary activity is chopping up trees then fail to model the trees so that you can chop them up arbitrarily.

    I mean, it’s hard, but not like it’s a problem that hasn’t been solved in various manshoots as incidental detail.

  9. KDR_11k says:

    AFAIK the even numbered Farming Sims are handheld versions, the odd numbered ones are on the PC. So you won’t see improvements until 2017. At which point you’ll be too busy fighting the alien invasion.

  10. racccoon says:

    I would be funny if all these sim games were fully integrated into one. maybe its RockStars next game! lol