The Flare Path: Draftees And Deserters

Keeping tabs on all 238 of the world’s active vehicle sim projects week in, week out is an exhausting and expensive business. Why, just yesterday an overworked FP staffer fell asleep at his post, crashing a £12,000 recon drone into The Motherland Calls‘ cavernous cake-hole. It would make life a lot easier for us if there was just one sim – a globe-spanning, multi-discipline jack-of-all-transport. Most of the bleary-eyed blog watchers and forum combers in the FP office think that super-sim should have Outerra at its core.

At long last the world seems to be waking up to the potential of the outrageously capable Outerra engine. Before Christmas, the camo nets were pulled from TitanIM, a new VBS-rivalling training platform powered by Outerra.

Visitors to December’s I/ITSEC Training & Simulation Conference in Florida, got to see the impressed Slovakian pixel pump in action in speciality flight, helo gunnery, boat gunnery, humvee crew, and sniper simulations. They were presented with tantalising video glimpses of TitanIM’s beautiful borderless battlefields, dramatic terrain deformation, idiot-proof scenery editing, and impressive vehicular variety.

David Lagettie, the man behind the independent project, knows a thing or two about turning games into market-leading military training tools. As head of Bohemia Interactive’s Australian arm, he was the chap that realised that Operation Flashpoint might prove as useful to soldiers as soldier simmers.

And just as Operation Flashpoint and Arma benefited from cash generated by and features developed for their serious siblings, Outerra looks sets to blossom thanks to TitanIM. In a recent chat with Flare Path, Outerra founder, Brano Kemen, admitted that…

“The deal has allowed us a bit more breathing space, helping us to stabilize and expand our team. We currently have 4 coders, and are seeking more programmers with C++ and graphics background for our Bratislava/Slovakia office… …Of course, for a global military simulation you need all possible environment rendering and simulation capabilities – capabilities that players and simulator fans will welcome too. We may not use all data that Titan customers require, but all the rendering and procedural generation and simulation techniques and algorithms stay for our use. Titan is also generously donating some of their own work into our demo, this is mainly new vehicle types for which we implement the necessary back-end support, but do not have models of our own.”

The extra staff and funds should help bring Outerra’s dual destinations a tad closer. In addition to building an Outerra-powered promo game, Brano and co. are also working towards that mind-blowing super sim I alluded to in the intro.

The goal is to create a global unified simulation platform that would allow third party developers to produce vehicle models, scenery and environment addons or even games/scenarios running in a single world that combines space/air/ground/sea simulation engines. We are considering the funding options (including crowd funding) needed to create a dedicated team closely working with our core team and with 3rd party developers on the platform, and preparing the necessary components and prototypes that this would require.”

I reckon that deserves a ‘Blimey!’

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If the Second Battle of El Alamein (Oct 23 – Nov 4, 1942) was the end of the beginning, was the First Battle of El Alamein (July 1 – 27, 1942) the beginning of the end of the beginning, the middle of the end of the beginning, or the end of the middle of the beginning? I found myself beginning to ask this question in the middle of a Desert War 1940-43 session I’d begun beginning towards the end of yesterday.

The free Desert War is the work of an amateur coder called Brian Kelly. Inspired by Atomic’s pre-Close Combat output, it currently comes with one AI-equipped scenario (The 1st Battle of El Alamein) and six scraps suitable for PBEM or hotseat play. I can’t tell you anything about the multiplayer side, but having Desert Foxed and Desert Ratted my way through the 20-turn brigade-scale solo clash a few times, I’d be surprised if DW plus human opposition didn’t equal fun.

At the heart of Brian’s design is a wonderful WEGO turn resolution system that puts me in mind of a young Combat Mission. After you’ve set up your movement and attack orders, picked destinations and targets for your air assets, and prodded the ‘end phase’ button, you get to spool through the resulting action phase using VCR-style controls. Bah, my Blenheims were ripped to shreds by AAA and chose to abort their attack, Gah, my fleeing M11/39s were caught before they could reach the safety of Bab el Qattara. Damn, those Kiwis were reinforced before my assault went in. There’s no ritualistic IGOUGO blow-trading here. In fact the metronome rhythm of the traditional turn-based wargame is disrupted so successfully you may find yourself wondering why all hex-merchants don’t do things this way.

Regularly updated, the game is full of intelligently implemented subtleties and sensible automatic behaviours (important considering that WEGO structure). Numbers abound, but thanks to logical design, good tooltips, and a decent manual, any confusion should be fleeting. Grasp basics like the pros and cons of the three movement modes (‘strategic’ – risky but fast, ‘defensive’ – fine for probes, and ‘attack’ – consult the odds predictor before committing) and the importance of readiness (recovered by resting a unit, ideally away from enemy Zone of Control hexes) and it probably won’t be long before you’re soundly whipping a WIP artificial opponent who, though pretty good at coordinating attacks and assaulting from unexpected directions, currently lacks the numerical and positional advantages necessary to be truly competitive.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Sing a song of sixpence (g),
A pocket (h) full of rye (f).
Four and twenty blackbirds (a),
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn’t that a dainty dish,
To set before the king (e)?

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen (b) was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey (c).

The maid (d) was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.

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Since visionary bibliophiles Healthy Planet opened a bookshop just down the road, productivity in the Flare Path office has plummeted. The charity takes books destined for landfill sites and gives them away (donations optional) through a network of 30+ volunteer-staffed shops.

Roman is on a free fiction binge at the moment which possibly explains this week’s puzzle. All seven pictured locations have strong links with famous novels. Name the novels to win Flare Path Flair Points made from frontispiece tissue and bookworm dung.

All answers in one thread, please.

41 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Foxer Answers

    e: location is Woking town centre so how about War of the Worlds

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Agreed. Apparently, a martian war machine is around the corner from there.

      • Pockets says:

        It’s in the photo, in the background just outside fresch.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      d: Monterey Cannery Row Hotel – so I’m going to go for Steinbeck’s Cannery Row

    • Gusdownnup says:

      c: The cobb (harbour wall) at Lyme Regis. Novel: Persuasion, or The French Lieutenant’s Woman (could be either).

      • foop says:

        Damn you. I maintain that if the RPS login system didn’t utterly hate me, I wouldn’t keep getting beaten by 30 seconds each time I find an answer.

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          I’ve switched to using LastPass for password management and while it can’t fix all the peculiarities with the RPS login system it does tend to make them a lot less painful.

    • phlebas says:

      b looks to be Oran, Algeria. The Sheltering Sky is set there, unless there’s a stronger link I’ve missed.

    • Shiloh says:

      Initially (in both senses), I thought “f” might be Castle Bran, Vlad the Impaler’s old gaff, but on reflection I don’t think it is, and Google Earth doesn’t agree with me. Looks mitteleuropaeisch though, particularly the fences.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        I was thinking that the trees were the kind of pines you find in SE Europe/Mediterranean area, but I am know nothing about trees :)

        • Shiloh says:

          It’s just that the castle architecture looks very central European to my obviously less-than-expert eye. Hmm…

          • Rorschach617 says:

            I agree with you about the castle. Definitely looks like a German castle should. But I was following a hunch that led nowhere (its not Name of the Rose), and similar trees could be seen on the Northern Italy film locations.

            On the other hand, its easier to plant an Italian tree in Germany than to build a German castle in Italy :)

      • Gusdownnup says:

        It’s Sacra di San Michele, in Piedmont. Hence the book is “The Name of the Rose”.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Good spot on the abbey!

          Why couldn’t they have filmed there?!?!

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Also, why couldn’t I finish reading the wiki article on the book that would have led to this abbey?!?! :)

    • Smion says:

      The bus stop sign at g seems to have a “H” for “Haltestelle” on it, which suggests its probably somewhere in Germany, Switzerland or Austria.

      • Shiloh says:

        Agreed, and it looks like there’s a little German flag peeping out from underneath the end of the overlaid pen as well.

  2. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Even the free version of Outerra is amazing. With the Oculus it was a near religious experience, discovering the ability to move seamlessly from the surface all the way to outer space, watching the world spin and shadows change as the earth orbits the sun. Breathtaking.

  3. Shiloh says:

    I like the look of Desert War, set in one of my favourite WW2 theatres, thanks for the heads up Tim. I’m currently PBEM’ing a game of Gary Grigsby’s War In The East with a mate, and when that’s finished (some time in 2020 seemingly based on current progress), we may well look to pick this up.

  4. Love Albatross says:

    This Outterra thing looks snazzy. But I would just like an ArmA game that doesn’t have horrendously un-fun controls. Please Bohemia, make an FPS game where you don’t feel like you’re playing a tiny alien trying to control a human robot body.

    • Thurgret says:

      Sounds like you’re looking for ArmA 3.

      • Chaz says:

        Arma3, whilst better than previous efforts, is still pretty clunky. You still feel more like a man sized mechwarrior than a fast and agile human soldier.

        All that talk of them completely redesigning the interface for 3, was frankly BS. It’s still just an overhaul of the same awful UI system they’ve been using since OPFlash.

  5. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    Outtera looks good, if it comes around it will be good for Bohemia to have some competition to force them into overhauling things which haven’t changed since OFP.

  6. Sigwolf says:

    It’s crazy how much I look forward to this column every week… thanks, Tim! How do you even find projects like Desert War?

    • Bfox says:

      I imagine the creator or a fan contacted RPS at somepoint

    • Tim Stone says:

      Nice to know, Sigwolf. Thanks. Forum browsing generates the majority of FP stories, but reader recommendations and press releases also play a role.

  7. ru_disa says:

    If you like hexes and unorthodox turn structures, you should take a look at Schwerpunkt’s WWII Europe. The game looks very interesting, but I’ve found concerningly little coverage in the press. It would be great if Mr. Stone could take a look at the game and let us know wot he thinks…

    • Hutze says:

      Another nice wargame series with a convincing WEGO turn structure is the V for Victory series. Quite old and needs DosBox, but with its nice and crisp graphics still perfectly playable.

    • Tim Stone says:

      Ron Dockal at Schwerpunkt will be receiving a code request very shortly.

    • Soviet Pachyderm says:

      How about Schwerpunkt’s Middle East game? That looks pretty interesting, is it also good?

  8. Philopoemen says:

    Hmm, the reason VBS is successful as a training simulation (and it must be stressed that it is a training tool – it’s not a gaming experience), is because of the ease of the instructor to change things up, and it’s fidelity in relation to small unit tactics. Not the graphics.

    Outerra/TitanIM may look better, but if it needs a decent system to run, it won’t be popular.