The Flare Path: Accosts Accomplished Add-On Artisans

2014 wasn’t exactly a bumper year for standalone flight sim releases. Apart from the flak-nibbled IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, and eccentric WWI curios like ILYA Muromets and Canvas Knights simulated clouds had simulated skies almost all to themselves. Fortunately the add-on sector was as vigorous and ambitious as ever. Today in The Flare Path I catch up with five top flight sim supplementers, all of whom have worked their windsocks off this past twelve months. Recently discovered the delights of DCS World or purchased the A380-sized bargain that is FSX Steam Edition? Beware! What follows may pluck at your purse strings.

Looking back on a “busy and productive” 2014, Eagle Dynamics producer Matt Wagner was struck by DCS World’s burgeoning diversity. The WW2 side of the sim expanded enticingly this year with the appearance of two deeply modelled Luftwaffe warbirds, the Fw 190 D-9 Dora and the Bf 109 K-4 Kurfürst.

 

Appropriately, the narrow undercarriage and potent powerplant of the latter makes it a wingtip-grazing brow beader during take-offs and landings. As gallant Galland impersonator 504smudge graphically demonstrates in this informative ‘first impressions’ vid.

 

At some point next year, the Doras and Kurfürsts should find themselves tangling with Spitfire IXs and P-47Ds in addition to the now-familiar P-51D Mustangs. There’s also a fair chance they’ll be able to swap contemporary Georgian skies for 1944 Normandy ones.

Definitely on the cards in the coming months is the preliminary release of the long awaited Nevada Test and Training Range map together with the promising ‘DCS World 2’ engine update it depends upon.

Collaborations were another significant feature of Eagle Dynamics’ 2014. Matt drew attention to well-received third-party add-ons like Belsimtek’s F-86F, Leatherneck’s MiG-21bis (like the Bf 109, a bit of a bowel loosener) and VEAO’s Hawk, and future partner-produced projects like AvioDev’s C-101 and Belsimtek’s MiG-15bis. If you can watch the following without yearning for a MiG Alley 2 then you’re a jolly cold fishbed.

 

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Predictably, A2A Simulations seem to have spent 2014 in much the same way they spent 2013 – engaged in lots of unbelievably forensic research, painstaking aircraft construction, and polite award accepting. Their two major releases – the Cherokee and Skylane – both scooped prestigious PC Pilot platinum gongs making it an unequalled ten top ratings in a row for the perfectionists behind the FSX-stretching Accu-Sim concept.

The studio’s love of aviation and approach to simulation is perfectly communicated in the Skylane promo film below. More powerful, rugged, and streamlined than previous A2A GA aircraft, the C-182 comes with a new hand towing facility that, along with familiar Accu-Sim attributes like persistent engine wear, pre-flight inspection simulation, and superb sound effects, is designed to encourage acceptance of the machine as a physical entity rather than a Cessna-shaped soap bubble.

As studio boss Scott Gentile puts it:

“Pull your airplane into the maintenance hangar and let your mechanic inspect and give you a report on the condition of all the systems. Walk around the aircraft, wiggle the flaps, visually checking the fuel, tires, and oil. Start it up and experience a symphony of sensations, all generated from a living and breathing machine. The engine bucks, the panel shakes, the tires screech, and the prop slices through the air. Apply full power and hold your airplane on the centerline, as it builds up a head of steam. Pull back on the yoke and let the wings lift your entire and amazing machine into the sky.”

 

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Asked to reflect on Aerosoft’s 2014, Mathijs Kok talked mainly of Tomcats and Airbuses.

“For Aerosoft the biggest and most important FS add-on release were the Airbuses without a doubt. Not only because they are big expensive projects but also because they taught us that we should continue on exactly the same path, providing high end simulations of all the systems pilots use day to day while more or less ignoring systems that are almost never used. Some of our competitors [PMDG? Speculation Ed] have modelled systems that have not been used one single time in millions of flight hours. We simply do not see the need for that and would much rather keep the price of a product down.”

 

“Next to the Airbuses I think the F-14  was an important release as it was our first serious military aircraft in many years. Personally I love fighters and my first experiences with this aircraft and TacPack really made me fall in love with flight simulations again.”

Mathijs also mentioned the company’s recent airport output (Heathrow Xtended, Berlin-Brandenburg… ) and – via an X-Plane observation (“Releasing X-Plane 10 on STEAM added many thousands of new customers and made releasing X-Plane add-ons a far better option for many developers. We saw our own sales of X-Plane add-ons grow fast this year”) hinted at the ‘Steam dividend’ heading the way of the MSFS add-on industry in the wake of Dovetail’s FSX relaunch.

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Another big player in the world of sim add-ons excited by a possible MSFS renaissance is British outfit Just Flight. They picked out the well-reviewed Canberra PR9 (the first creation from their in-house development team), the DC8 Series 50 to 70, and the Tristar Professional package, as their stand-out releases of 2014.

The chaps that made the Canberra are now busy bolting together a Tornado GR1.

“We were able to secure access to one of the RAF’s hardest working aircraft – Gulf War veteran ZA465 ‘Foxy Killer”, now on static display at IWM Duxford and this will be the basis for our simulation. We will be building upon the strengths of the Canberra, namely outstanding visuals and very deep systems simulation to hopefully push the bar even higher this time. We are already working on some exciting features for the Tornado, including a Terrain Following Radar and we are looking forward to a release sometime in the new year.”

 

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For scenery magicians Orbx Simulations, 2014 was a year of macro and micro focus. Alongside a bevy of high-detail single airport and single region/country releases, they wheeled out FTX Global openLC Europe, the first of seven planned expansion packs intended to transform all of Flight Simulator’s (and Prepar3D’s) landscapes.

Building on foundations laid by 2013’s FTX Global (basically a re-skin of the entire FSX/P3D globe) and FTX Global Vector (roads, rivers, coastlines etc reworked for greater realism) openLC will, one continent at time, overhaul MSFS’s all important ‘land class’ layer. The land class layer is what the sim consults when it’s deciding which ground textures to unroll and which autogen objects to scatter. Its crudeness is at the root of many of vanilla FSX’s least convincing vistas.

 

The combined effects of the various FTX products – which include vastly improved street lighting effects – can be experienced first hand via the Icelandic demo available here

With Europe’s land class shortcomings addressed, Orbx are now moving on to North America. The coming year will also see a steady stream of HD airports, plus photoreal depictions of the French Riviera and Monument Valley.

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The Flare Path Foxer

If it was up to me All is Well, foop, Guvornator, phlebas, MartinWisse, Gothnak, Shiloh, and Rorschach617 would all have been showered with Flair Points for their efforts last week. Was the ‘émigrés’ theme they flushed out, the theme Roman had carefully concealed? No. Was it close to the intended theme? No. But overlook a rather frail ‘Z’ link and the failure to address an easily missed eighth clue, and the furnished solution was perfectly serviceable.

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Of all the people I know, no-one loves Christmas more than Roman. At about this time every year, my chief foxer fabricator puts on his heavily patched telogreika jacket, collects his sledge and axe from the woodshed, and heads out in search of Jeremy Paul, Leslie Stewart, and Keith Strachan. Sadly, thus far he’s always returned empty-handed, but one day – he assures me – those three holes behind the old mushroom sheds will be filled.

29 Comments

  1. Tim Stone says:

    As today’s puzzle is inspired by a Rorschach617 suggestion, he must sit this one out. All guesses in this thread, please.

    • Llewyn says:

      The truck looks somewhat like a Unimog (U1200?) but doesn’t seem quite right (ladders up the cab doors? exhaust pipes behind rather than at the side of the cab?), as though that picture’s also been torn behind the obscuring coat of arms.

      Edit: And based on AFKAMC et al’s discoveries, this clearly has no relevance whatsoever. No idea what the real link for the truck is.

    • AFKAMC says:

      The Dutch bomber is a Martin B-10; to give the export model it’s precise designation, a Model 139 WH – and I think I found the original picture, which says it’s a Martin 139 WH-3. Phew!

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I think that the bird top right is a merlin, which has obvious aero engine links. It could be a harrier though. Or possibly something else, it’s quite hard to tell from a B&W image.
      Pretty much every bird of prey has an aircraft named after it though.

      • AFKAMC says:

        I think it’s a male Montagu’s harrier – the picture (reversed) appears to be from the RSPB web site.

        • Llewyn says:

          Beat me to it. According to my various bird books the male Montagu’s appears to be the only European hawk or falcon to have both the dark wing tips and striated underwings.

    • Stugle says:

      Googling “Hill 252.2” shows it has to do with the Battle of Kursk, the Battle of Prokhorovka in particular. Now, which game the image is drawn from… Couldn’t tell you that.

      • Llewyn says:

        Assuming AFKAMC is correct, which looks to me very likely, the Kursk link might be that panzer divisions were moved from Kursk to Greece to defend against the fake Allied invasion there, apparently having some impact on the battle against the Russian forces.

    • foop says:

      Top left: a pencil.

      I’m on fire this week.

    • AFKAMC says:

      A wild guess: Operation Mincemeat – planned by Ewen Montagu, the body was a “Major Martin”?

      • AFKAMC says:

        …and among the belongings planted on the body was a pencil stub.

        • AFKAMC says:

          Is the actor Leslie Howard?

          The news of Howard’s death was published in the same issue of The Times that reported the “death” of Major William Martin, the red herring used for the ruse involved in Operation Mincemeat (from Wikipedia).

    • Gothnak says:

      I believe the shield is that of Owain Glyndwr which is the flag of the Prince of Wales, if that helps.

      link to crwflags.com

      Apparently Major William Martin was given a Welsh heritage.

      • Llewyn says:

        Even better link to your find, the body of ‘Major Martin’ belonged* to a Glyndwr Michael.

        *Probably.

  2. Gap Gen says:

    I’m still waiting for a P-51 sim where if you fly close enough to the ground you can hear an emaciated British boy shouting “Cadillac of the skies” at you.

  3. iainl says:

    I don’t suppose Mr. Stone is planning on giving us a review of the newly-out-of-Early-Access Assetto Corsa, is he? Ideally before it stops being 30% off in the Steam Sale, but better late than rushed.

    • SooSiaal says:

      Just buy it, it is the best sim racing experience out there at the moment (coming from someone who was been doing online racing leagues for 7 years)
      Truely hope there will be some leagues popping up now, now that it has reached 1.0

      • iainl says:

        Well, there’s a fairly unqualified recommendation! Will see what money looks like post Christmas (sale finishes on the 2nd, and I won’t get to play it over the break)

      • P.Funk says:

        And there are those who’d say Game Stock Car Extreme is the best sim racing experience, particularly for offliners.

        In the realm of sim racing the term “best” is dangerous to take without asking for the requisite 18 paragraph analysis.

        • apa says:

          I’ll wait until the HistorX modders reveal what sim they are using for the 2.0 mod after rFactor.

  4. Tim James says:

    You may have missed the late-breaking news: ILYA Muromets has been merged into Rise of Flight, which is receiving an expanded F2P edition.

  5. Synesthesia says:

    Man, a flying simulator terrain that does not look like butt?
    I can’t wait.

  6. P.Funk says:

    “Some of our competitors [PMDG? Speculation Ed] have modelled systems that have not been used one single time in millions of flight hours. ”

    Perhaps not.

  7. GT5Canuck says:

    Six months ago screen captures of wargame-generated art were submitted to committee for perusal, and ultimately for a decision over which of the best to publish. Will we have that publication in the near future?

  8. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I’ve been trying to get my sims set up and running and looking nice, and I can offocially say that I am utterly, utterly overwhelmed. The amount of choice, the amount of combinations, airports, scenery, aircraft, sorting our hardware issues, sending back faulty yokes, CTD’s, getting settings tweaked just so …. maybe I have been doing too much of it today and just wore myself out, but Jesus. Flight Simming and the words “user friendly” really do not go together. Hopefully FSX Steam version will manage to get workshop running with it.

    • P.Funk says:

      Its really not that bad. The only essential tweaks are the ones in the FSX.cfg and ultimately my attempts at tweaking lead me to one conclusion: don’t.

      HIGHMEMFIX=1 is about the only thing I would bother doing if I reinstalled FSX, and perhaps a handful of others. Instead I’d min max my in game settings to achieve a good frame rate and look for quality freeware and payware visual add ons that don’t have a reputation for chugging (I’m looking at you FSDT).

      UK2000 is pretty good for visuals versus frame hits. Rex essentials plus overdrive (what a ridiculous name right?) adds nice crap into your game on that ambient level but there are free or less expensive things that can do that as well though not in one package. The Rex clouds are quite nice (if your machine can handle them) though I’d look elsewhere for the weather.

      I gave up tweaking FSX a long time ago. I think its a false hope that some people claim works and fill your head with nonsense. FSX is fundamentally flawed in the multi-threading, 64bit world of today. Accept it, learn its limitations, and relax.

      There’s so much to enjoy and you won’t even bother if you’re annoyed with tweaking. Get the game stable, get it working fine, get some nice mods and play them. My god just fucking play them. I am the worst person about this and for years I would tweak and mod games and realize that in the end I’d spend 1/4 of my time playing and the rest modding. Don’t do it.

      Buy the Majestic Dash 8. Get some UK2000 scenery or some freeware stuff (lots of good UK airports) and hit up Vatsim. So much good FSX stuff to explore that tweaks are a waste.

      Here.
      link to nats-uk.ead-it.com
      link to simbrief.com
      link to freewarescenery.com

      Its incredible whats free and nearly as good if not better than stuff you pay for.