The Flare Path: Pace Notes

Right 6 into left 4 long, 100, left 3 over crest, bump, right 3 into right 6 over jump, caution, keep mid over jump, 60, dip, 100, left 2 tightens around DiRT Rally recommendation, don’t cut, 50, crest, right 4 into left 5 long, 80, bump, right 6 into crest, right 5 into left 4, keep in, 100, hairpin left, 50, past Scourge of War: Waterloo news, left 4 into right 4, bump, crest, jump dull paragraph, immediate turn hairpin right, 120 past Order of Battle: Pacific words, left 4 over crest, 60, right 3, left 2, don’t cut, right 3, caution, typographical error, hairpin left, 80, jump, keep mid, 80, caution, questionable statement, dip, left 3 into right 3 opens, caution, alarming alliteration, 100, keep in through dip, right 3 long, left 2, glib conclusion, jump maybe, 100, caution, foxer, left 4 into right 6, 80 to FINISH.

 

The Flare Path Word of the Week this week is hurtle. Thanks to Early Access DiRT Rally I’ve been hurtling a lot lately, and (channelling Marsh Davies for a moment) that’s hurtling in both the modern sense of the word – to move at a tremendous lick – and the original Medieval sense – to crash into stuff. Many are the Welsh spruces, Greek boulders, and Monégasque retaining walls that now sport crimson paint scuffs and glass chip tiaras courtesy of my accident-prone Mini Cooper.

Blaming regular prangs on dubious physics or exaggerated topography would balm my battered ego but would be very unfair on Codemasters, the makers of this refreshingly serious/straightforward addition to the DiRT canon. There’s not a polystyrene smash wall or rubber-caked doughnut zone in sight in DR. Rewinds, Baja buggies, menus masquerading as winnebagos… they’ve all been jettisoned to make room for rock-solid rally sim fundamentals.

Thus far I’ve done the majority of my rallying in the Issigonis-styled Jack Russell pictured above. Plausibly planted and pointable, and exhilaratingly eager, it’s the perfect introduction to a driving model purged of much of the fuzziness and fudge that characterised DiRT 3. No, you don’t get quite the high-res sophistication of a Richard Burns Rally or an Assetto Corsa – there will be moments when you lose control or accidentally put a wheel in a runnel when the forces feel slightly bogus, the communication from tyre and transmission a tad monosyllabic – but usually there’s enough reality in evidence, sufficient differences between surfaces and vehicle types, to trick the inner ear and endanger bodywork.

A set of 36 beautifully realised stages spread across three countries make minor handling misgivings easy to overlook. Tearing through the dank mist-wreathed heart of a Welsh Sitka plantation, you can almost smell the trampled fungi and fragrant timber stacks. Clattering along a gravel-strewn Greek cart track, or pivoting round a slushy Alpine hairpin, transposition is guaranteed. Narrow, winding, and sprinkled with complex camber combinations and spectacular views, the stages really are DiRT Rally’s crowning glory. It’s almost inevitable you’ll find yourself wishing they were a bit longer (most can completed in under ten minutes).

For an Early Access offering, DR is already remarkably structured and content heavy. Solo career mode offers the chance to compete in multi-stage championships with persistent damage and limited repair opportunities. The higher your finishes and the less time your team of hireable mechanics spend replacing and fixing components between stages, the more credits you earn at the end of a championship. Credits buy new vehicle types which in turn open up new championships/eras. All 17 rides can be test-driven via the custom event mode so there’s no danger you’ll end up squandering an afternoon’s earnings on a machine that turns out not to suit your driving style.

Multiplayer competition comes in four flavours, all of which stay true to rallying’s stopwatch-centred modus operandi. Codies provide open-to-all daily, weekly, and monthly challenges while player-created leagues permit cosier competition between smaller groups.

Over the course of the coming year, all users will be introduced to hillclimbing and rallycross disciplines. The 2015 timeline also hints at new free vehicle packs and venues. Hopefully, expansion development won’t get in the way of engine tweaking and bug fixing. My complaints list is relatively short at present (No manual headlight controls. Limited gamepad configuration options. No mouse steering. Occasional freezes between events force Task Manager terminations. The brilliantly voiced co-driver sometimes gets a little ahead of himself…) but the impressive DiRT Rally still has a few bends to negotiate and ravines to avoid before it can be certain of victory.

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The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo fast approaches. I hope you’ve made appropriate plans for the big day. Personally, I intend to spend the morning of June 18 painting kilts in my soon-to-be-despatched Airfix Waterloo gift set (if there’s time, sporrans and hackles may also receive attention), the early afternoon watching Rod Steiger brood, and the remainder of the day playing the latest Scourge of War offering.

Out on the 11th next month, Scourge of War: Waterloo is something of a departure for NorbSoftDev. After a decade spent crafting ACW wargames, the studio that emerged from the acrimonious ashes of MadMinute Games (Take Command: Bull Run, Take Command: 2nd Manassas) is finally experimenting with its unique real-time battle engine in a European context.

The success or failure of SoWW may well hang on how well that engine copes with Napoleonic peculiarities like infantry squares and cavalry charges. Whatever happens, SoW’s unusually honest approach to army organisation (forces are hierarchical with lower ranking leaders receiving and interpreting orders from superiors) and order dissemination (messages are conveyed by interceptable couriers), means we’re certain to wind-up with the most interesting and chaotic Waterloo depiction since Peter Turcan’s 1989 type-em-up.

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Before DiRT Rally bundled me into a mud-spattered Mini and began hurling corners at me, I was happily dawdling my way through Order of Battle: Pacific’s Allied campaign. This £30 Panzer Corps successor has, so far, managed to keep my Chronic Panzer General Fatigue at bay with an adroit mix of high-quality presentation, natty novelties (I’m thinking mainly of the new supply element), and excellent scenario design.

It’s not easy to turn historical retreats and defeats into fun wargame scenarios, but somehow the Artistocrats mission moulders have managed it. By dotting early Philippines battles with tempting secondary objectives that reward doughty delaying actions and well-timed back-pedalling, and providing opportunities for small but cathartic counter-attacks, they make tactical withdrawals in the face of an irresistible Japanese invader feel both courageous and valuable.

Using similar techniques, the devs even succeed in turning the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour into an enjoyable experience for the US player. My abiding memories of my OoBP Day of Infamy: raising the alarm with a gallivanting jeep, manoeuvring scant AAA assets into positions of advantage, and hunting fleeing bombers through fleecy Fog-of-War.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s en pointe principal was AFKAMC. The footsore corps de ballet comprised billy_bunter, Shiloh, AimHere, All is Well, phlebas and skink74.

(theme: Swan Lake)

a Curtiss O-52 Owl
b We’re Gonna Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line (1940s card game)
c Swan Hunter logo
d Bolshoi Baltisky
e Publicity still from Odette (1950)
f Message from arcade game Crossbow (1983)
g Veronica Lake
h Staff from Loom
i Battle of Shiroyama, Satsuma Rebellion

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I hope Salisbury’s returning officer likes foxers. Yesterday, as per usual, Roman indicated his preferred parliamentary candidate with a collection of sketches rather than a boring old cross. He was in the booth for almost an hour carefully drawing…

*A GPS-guided artillery shell
*Druids Bend, Brands Hatch
*An English Electric Thunderbird missile
*A LSWR N15 class locomotive
*Greg Stafford
*RN submarine P232

All answers in one thread, please.

60 Comments

  1. AFKAMC says:

    FOXER: The biplane is a Gloster Gauntlet, I think.

    • AFKAMC says:

      Are the pixelly block things from 3D Ant Attack?

      • iainl says:

        They are indeed. Good old Sandy White. The town’s called Antchester, in case the theme’s mis-spelled city names.

        • iainl says:

          Arrgh. That’s what I get for relying on memory. It’s actually Antescher, according to Wikipedia.

    • Premium User Badge

      Syt says:

      There’s a cover from an Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy book on the left, but I have no idea which one.

    • Shiloh says:

      That’s an Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy cover, that is. Specifically, Bloodbones.

    • iainl says:

      The Fighting Fantasy gamebook goes by the title Bloodbones.

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      Syt says:

      Hidden by the Fighting Fantasy book cover is a Wehrmacht cuff band: “KRETA”:

      link to wehrmacht-awards.com

    • Stugle says:

      The USMC photographer is William Eugene Smith.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Well done.

        I had it down to Richard Tregaskis after a big meal or Johnny Depp in a failed audition :)

    • AFKAMC says:

      The chap on the right I have seen before; I was thinking Hogarth’s Gin Lane/Beer Street, or maybe A Rake’s Progress, but apparently not…

      • Shiloh says:

        I think it’s an Albrecht Dürer woodcut of a syphilis sufferer.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Tentative: The Invasion of Crete was Operation Merkur (Mercury).

          Mercury was considered a treatment for syphillis.

          • All is Well says:

            And isn’t manifold pressure measured in inches of mercury?

          • All is Well says:

            I think you have it, Rorschach617! After quickly reading up on William Eugene Smith, it seems he did a photographic report on mercury poisoning.

          • Stugle says:

            Wikipedia seems to suggest that the Bristol Mercury engine was used to power the Gloster Gauntlet.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Could it be as simple as Ant Attack was published by Quicksilver (Mercury)?

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Or Quicksilva?

          • Rorschach617 says:

            In the Fighting Fantasy book “Bloodbones”, the pirate you have to defeat is called Cinnabar. Cinnabar is the name for mercury ore.

            All this from wikipedia, btw, not from memory :)

          • Stugle says:

            Ant Attack was published by Quicksilva.

          • All is Well says:

            Apparently there’s also a mineral ore containing mercury called Livingstonite.

          • Stugle says:

            Augh! There’s a Mercury Bay in New Zealand (as well as the Mercury Islands), but I can’t make it fit with the map top-left. This is going to bug me all day…

          • Rorschach617 says:

            AbyssUK has identified the crab as the symbol of Witchland from “The Worm Ouroboros”. Wikipedia says that the book was set on the world of Mercury.

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Giving up on identifying the island-map top-left. Even had a look through the Med Sea in case there was a famous temple to Mercury on one of them, no luck.

          • AbyssUK says:

            I want the islands to have something to do with Freddie Mercury and Queen but can find nothing….

          • Hydrogene says:

            I also looked at the coastline around Minamata, in Japan, one of the largest case of mass poisoning with mercury in history. No luck.

    • mrpier says:

      The meter looks like a manifold pressure gauge.

    • Zogg says:

      Are we looking at a video game link here?
      Gauntlet video game.
      Eugene from Manic Miner.
      3D Ant Attack was a video game.

    • AbyssUK says:

      Reply fail.. try again the crab emblem is the Emblem for Witchland from the book The Worm Ouroboros by Eric Rücker Eddison

    • Electricfox says:

      Looks like Roman wanted King Arthur Pendragon to win Salisbury, can’t say I blame him…sadly, he only got 729 votes. I blame Mordred.

      • Electricfox says:

        To flesh it out a bit:

        *A GPS-guided artillery shell – The M982 Excalibur
        *Druids Bend, Brands Hatch – Druids
        *An English Electric Thunderbird missile – Not sure about this one…
        *A LSWR N15 class locomotive – aka the King Arthur class
        *Greg Stafford – Shaman and designer of the RPG Pendragon
        *RN submarine P232 – HMS Stonehenge – more druidic leanings.

        And the candidates in Salisbury were:
        John Glen
        Thomas Corbin
        Reetendranath Banerji
        Paul Martin
        Alison Craig and of course, the once and future monarch,
        King Arthur Pendragon

  2. ButteringSundays says:

    Well I spoke too soon – what a great write up for Dirt! I’m having a blast with it, I have PCars arriving today but don’t think I’ll even get round to installing it just yet.

    The courses are wonderful in Rally, and although I’ve played with some of the bigger cars I have enough fun in the mini to not even desire a large pool of vehicles, which is rare for me.

  3. UncleLou says:

    Dirt is just so, so good. Easily amongst the very best games I’ve ever played that involve driving a car somewhere. Accesible and authentic, easy to learn but difficult to master, and it feels like driving a *car*. it feels so good that I am almost a bit disappointed with P:C now (which is also great, mind).

    • inf says:

      I held off on buying Dirt on account of it being early access, bought Project CARS instead, very much disappointed in the (arcady) driving model. Then i see people everywhere recommending Dirt, comparing it with RBR and the like. Good driving physics aside, is there enough content in DiRT Rally to call it a game at this moment?

      • Premium User Badge

        Grizzly says:

        There’s a modest line up of cars from the 1960’s onwards, and 36 rally stages spread across several locations. It’s not much, but it’s enough to keep you busy untill new content arives. Aside from that, the daily, weekly and monthly challenges as well as the league system (shameless plug: RPS is hosting one!) should let you explore quite a bit of that content.

      • UncleLou says:

        Hard to say. One thing first, it is really quite polished. It’s not a half-finished game where nothing really works yet, but more a small game where the core functionality is already working as it should.

        Content-wise, there are three wildly different locations (not just graphically, but from the road surface), each with a dozen or comparatively long stages, as well as several different car categories, with cars feeling really different as well. I’ve played it for maybe 8 hours now, and I am far from bored

        I think that for the current price and with the prospect of more content, it’s a steal, but only you can say if there’s enough game in there for you currently.

    • iainl says:

      Thanks for the info on PCars – I was already putting it off because I’ve got plenty of enjoyment still to get out of Corsa (I’ve falled down a deep, deep Elite Dangerous hole) but I’ll get DIRT Rally next instead, then!

  4. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    Obligatory mention: Yours truly is organizing a Rock Paper Shotgun league, details which can be found over here:
    link to rockpapershotgun.com!

    It’s still a bit of a WIP format wise, but if you ever wanted to battle out percieved slights from other commenters in a competetive setting, this is your oppertunity!

    With that shameless plug out of the way: I wouldn’t mind Baja vehicles in my DiRT rally if that involves point-to-point racing in terrain which simply is not suited for that kind of thing. A bit like the old 1nsane, except more realistic would be great.

    • teddancin says:

      I came, I joined, I’m in third to last – probably should have practiced a bit before posting a time, those were the fourth and fifth laps I took. This feels wayyyy different from Dirt 3!

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I would like to join, but apparently Racenet has not deemed by Steam account worthy of being linked to my CM account.

    • neems says:

      I am only a (very) occasional poster on RPS, but I’ll take you up on that offer. I love me some Dirt Rally.

  5. AbyssUK says:

    The crab is Emblem of Witchland, from The Worm Ouroboros

  6. Mr Bismarck says:

    I’ve played so much DiRT Rally these past two weeks that I’ve started to dream about pace notes.

    I love when the second seat says “jump… maybe?” and also when we’re in Greece and he says “Don’t cut…” and I can almost hear the unsaid “or we’ll both die.”

    • Premium User Badge

      Grizzly says:

      I love how they did pace notes by putting the voice actor into a D-Box seat, so he could feel the bumps as another codie was throwing the car around. The pace notes are unique recordings for each stage too, which is why they sound so utterly good.

  7. peterako1989 says:

    that soldier in FOXER is Johny Depp

  8. RARARA says:

    Seeing Lancia’s current state makes me weep. Oh, how the mighty has fallen.

  9. OscarWilde1854 says:

    So i’ve been on this site for quite some time and I always see these “Foxers” and I realized that it’s never been explained… What is the point? It feels like some club I’m not allowed in. From what I can see, it’s some kind of guessing game, connecting all of the pictures to one “theme”? Or do the pictures make a phrase which relates to a theme? Or is it always different!?

    It seems quite interesting, but every week it just says “answer to last weeks puzzle: && Here is this weeks puzzle:” without ever explaining the premise for new people.

    • Stugle says:

      It might not be explained, but you actually hit it right on the nail. :) It’s a puzzle, the theme or method varies, and it seems to be mainly a chance to show off obscure trivia and/or good Google Image or Wikipedia searches. There are no prizes and everybody seems happy to pitch in and crack the puzzle. It’s a very friendly and collaborative atmosphere. Just make sure you show up early – the Foxers tend to get cracked in minutes, rather than hours.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Most of the time, there is a central theme to the collage that has to be undeciphered, though there are deviations from this concept (usually signposted) to keep the game from going stale, I guess.

        Think of it as a large pub quiz where anybody can just shout out answers. Anything is accepted. Even when someone is looking in the wrong area, it often opens up new ways for others to unlock clues. It has a great atmosphere (I started about 12 months ago and never had anybody treat me as some know-nothing newcomer).

        And make sure you have some large white sheets handy on Fridays. Roman likes to airdrop your Flare Path Points via C-47, it helps to mark out the landing zone with a white cross :P

    • Hydrogene says:

      OscarWilde1854 , you are not the only one baffled by Tim’s often cryptic prose. Even though I follow the foxer every week, and really love following the smart answers given by so many foxers, I sometimes don’t understand at all what the solution is about when Tim Stone explains what it is…

      Maybe it’s beause I’m not a native Englishman. Well, that’s my excuse anyway!

      • Shiloh says:

        The Foxer follows that great British tradition of the “cryptic crossword”, in that the rules are fairly simple and well-defined, but the execution can be fiendishly difficult. The successful Defoxer needs to be able to think laterally when joining the dots, which is why I don’t often get the theme :-(

        There’s more often than not a military or sim feel to the clues (given Tim’s gaming interests) but the themes can pretty much be anything – this week’s was mercury, previously we’ve had Jaws (the shark film), Swan Lake (the ballet), etc.

        Occasionally Tim will chuck in a “spot the location” variant (very difficult), or text-based games (actual crosswords, word ladders), or very very occasionally an honest-to-goodness real computer game – but as I say the majority of the Foxers involve solving the clues and working out the theme from them.

        I was a bit intimidated when I first jumped in but like Rorschach617 says up-thread, there’s absolutely no need to be – it’s just for fun, and incidentally, has rapidly become the highlight of my online week.

  10. Jason Moyer says:

    DiRT Rally is great, and Codemasters seems to be actively trying to get the community involved with fixing it up which is a refreshing change for them. There are only 4 things I can think of that I take issue with, and AFAIK they’re going to be fixed in future updates:

    1. Poor steering wheel support: Cars only use 270 degrees of lock, the on-screen wheel shakes back and forth regardless of what the one on your desk is doing, and the force feedback is very sketchy. There’s also a bug that makes the cars really twitchy until you pause and continue after a stage starts, because the game isn’t applying your controller sensitivity/deadzone/linearity settings until you do so.
    2. Somewhat low car inertia. People like to focus on grip levels when complaining about driving physics, but I’ve messed around with using lower grip (someone discovered a way to do this) and it doesn’t make the handling more believable. Rather, it makes it more obvious that the slightly unbelievable behavior of the cars is due to a lack of inertia, giving silly braking distances and non-existent slides.
    3. Lack of stage variety. There are really only 6 stages in the game at this point (2 for each country) that are chopped up and reversed to make it seem like there are more. And even the longest stages are only 8 minutes long in the slowest cars (Cooper S and Lancia Fulva). While the design of the stages are great and feel like real roads, there needs to be a ton more of them and they need to be longer. Rally is about endurance, not 4-5 minute sprints between checkpoints.
    4. Damage model is not sensitive enough, although the level of detail is promising.

  11. Llewyn says:

    In the unlikely event that anyone interested reads this, Dirt Rally is currently at £18.74 in GMG’s VIP section – link to greenmangaming.com

    I’m pretty sure the only qualification required for VIP is having purchased something from them in the past.