The Flare Path: Considers Going Rogue

Ever fallen out of love with one of gaming’s Big Themes? As a youngster sci-fi was my soylent green. I watched it, read it, and played it avidly. Sometime towards the end of the Eighties, however, something changed. History books and less fantastical forms of fiction began muscling out the Asimov and the Aldiss, the Bradbury and the Sheckley. Dust layers deepened on stacks of Starblazers and 2000ADs. Progress on my Blake’s Seven RPG/wargame slowed then halted. I stopped fantasising about Jenny Agutter in Logan’s Run.

Okay, maybe I didn’t stop fantasising about Jenny Agutter in Logan’s Run (I suspect that particular fantasy is with me for life) but the world of disruptor pistols and droids, dropships and death stars did lose much of its sparkle. Today, to be honest I’d much rather be loosing electric torpedoes than photon ones, and dogfighting Starfighters than star fighters. Given a choice between a tank that defies gravity and one that emphasises it, I’ll take the caterpillared trundler every time.

It takes a very special sort of game to make this self-imposed sci-fi exile feel nostalgic. Fleet and flavoursome FTL was probably the last title that managed it. Might Rogue System be the next?

On paper Digits Crossed Interactive’s early accessible space sim looks like the button-nosed bastard child of Falcon 4 and I-War 2. Lone creator Michael Juliano is aiming to weld the deep systems realism of an aeronautical study sim to the rigorous Newtonian physics and far-future flavour of an unusually serious space combat game. Few can be in a better position to undertake such a task. Michael’s CV includes spells in the game industry (Atomic Games, Acclaim Studios Austin, ISI…) and time in the USAF. When you’ve spent eight years tinkering with the cockpit vitals of B-1 Lancer bombers daydreams about complex futuristic warbird simulations must be almost inevitable.

Eventually Rogue System’s mod-amenable $30 ‘core module’ will offer three ships: a nimble interceptor/escort, a beefier strike vessel, and a craft designed for search and rescue, ship recovery, and mine and satellite deployment. Hidden beneath the hull plates of this trio will be a tangle of plausible systems you’ll need a tablecloth-sized schematic and a physics degree to fully understand, and several spare minutes to manually cold-start.

Lasers, torps and energy bolts won’t pluck at integrity variables in RogSys, they’ll cause control issues and plasma leaks; they’ll leave you scrambling for extinguisher switches and shutdown buttons. Damage control, even with the capable Ship Onboard Intelligence assisting, promises to be as exciting and challenging as damage dealing.

Hopefully, Michael won’t be so busy ensuring his craft function and malfunction believably that he forgets to build in a few naturalistic quirks. One of the reasons I think I prefer bimbling about the blue in simulated WWI or WW2 warbirds than bimbling about the black in simulated WW9 or WW38 ones, is that the former, when modelled well, can be cantankerous beasts. Most real historical combat aircraft have their fair share of flaws. Whether it’s the Spitfire’s gravity-fed carb the Bf 109’s narrow undercarriage, or the Greif’s wing-mounted arsonists, there’s always something there to remind you that designing flying machines, particularly fighty ones, is a tricky business. Without idiosyncratic shortcomings, to me at least, a sci-fi aerodyne will always feel somewhat synthetic.

I think I’m also drawn to historical flight sims because their stiff-winged stars have such rich and interesting lore attached to them. A Lancaster isn’t just a robust, heavily armed HE delivery system with an unusually capacious bomb bay, it’s the machine that developed from the decidedly disappointing Manchester, breached the Möhne and Edersee Dams, and slew the Tirpitz. The plane comes with mountains of historical baggage and the more familiar you are with that baggage, the more rewarding the virtual version is to operate. Fingers-crossed DCI have plans – even modest ones – in this area. When I strap myself into a RogSys vessel for the first time it would be nice to know whether that vessel is cutting edge or past its prime, an unknown quantity or an old campaigner. What are its nicknames? How do my fellow pilots feel about flying it? What does it smell of? Help me believe, please.

In terms of campaign structure it sounds like DCI’s sim has little to learn from its airy contemporaries. The military sortie sequence at the centre of the core module will combine randomly generated missions with scripted story-propelling jaunts. Results from the former will determine the selection of the latter. In theory we get the unpredictability of a simple dynamic campaign together with the narrative arc of something more rigid. Between outings there will be the chance to float? stroll? around an Orbital Station base interacting with squadron mates, overseeing repairs, and digesting briefings and debriefings. Bases will remain oases of calm until the second of three $15 expansion packs arrives, bringing with it breaching and FPS combat (Modules introducing open-ended entrepreneurial play and multiplayer are also on the cards).

For a simmer more familiar with wing warping than warp drives, one of the most eye-catching sections of the RogSys feature list is the section devoted to AI. Can Michael really deliver opponents that fly with the same FMs as the player, experiment with manoeuvres, run when things look bleak, and remember acts of bravery (fight gallantly one mission, and later an enemy pilot that was present may spare your life)? Having heard other devs discuss similar delights in the past, I think it would be sensible to leave the excitement switch cover in place for the present.

An impressive prototype ship, a clutch of tutorials, and a sheaf of tantalising plans… there isn’t a great deal to Rogue System at the moment. Purchasing the early access build is an act of faith. If DCI fail to secure the funding necessary to build a bigger team then – and they’re quite open about this – long delays or a ‘Plan B’ feature set may be the result. If the prospect of an austerity Rogue System fills you with horror, then you know what to do.

**************************************

 

The Flare Path Foxer

The ‘quick’ version of last week’s foxer (only available to members of the FP Platinum Club) included a snap of George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, plus a pic of the flag of Liechtenstein. The standard version, partially defoxed by Matchstick, AFKAMC, billy_bunter, Rorschach617, zabzonk, phlebas and Arglebarf, incorporated a..

(Theme: Whaam! by Roy Lichtenstein)

a Napier Sabre engine
b Royal Airlines aircraft (ICAO: ROY)
c Magna Carta seal
d POP rivet
e R.E.8 (‘Harry Tate‘)
f The Rocket
g SM-64 Navaho
h Men of War: Condemned Heroes shortcut
i Lichtenstein radar antenna pattern diagram

******************

Roman returned from his latest Grand Tour with a suitcase full of souvenirs and a gut full of Campylobacter. Though he’s spent most of this week locked in the office water closet, he did find the time to turn nine of his holiday snaps into the following quiz. Your task today is to identify the pictured locations all of which feature a place, landmark or structure named after one of my Chief Foxer Setter’s personal heroes.

All answers in one thread, please.

41 Comments

  1. All is Well says:

    Foxer Thread

    Picture B is of Trajans Column in Trajans forum, in Rome.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Oops sorry I’ll repost in here where it should be

      I’ve found the location for E on Street view but not quite sure what the landmark is ?
      the Cisco Building ? Tasman Station ?

      link to google.com

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        Striuctly speaking it’s Cisco Build O in the middle of picture E or it could be the Samsung Building beyond it ?

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Or it could simply be the bus stop we should be thinking about. Given that we know the structure is named after a personal hero, there wasn’t a Mr Samsung apparently and Abel Tasman did exist :)

          • Rorschach617 says:

            Or Cisco Adler, Cisco Houston or the Cisco Kid.

            Ahh, dammit! I’m so damned useless at this form of foxer! Good spots, Matchstick and All is Well, but I am going to shut up now.

          • AbyssUK says:

            I am going to say Abel Tasman, the explorer who found/mapped Tasmania and had lots of crazy adventures is the link.

    • LordBilisknir says:

      F is Sydney Airport aka Kingsford Smith Airport

      • Llewyn says:

        I’ll stop looking for better aerial shots of Cristoforo Colombo in Genoa, in that case!

    • phuzz says:

      I’m pretty sure i is one of the launchpads at Baikonur cosmodrome. And I’m slightly less sure that it’s the one Gagarin launched from, named fittingly, Gagarin’s Start.

      • phuzz says:

        Yup, this is it.
        (It’s still used for manned launches).
        Apart from Gagarin I’m not sure who else has stuff named after them around there. Korolev? Laika?

      • LordBilisknir says:

        Confirmed via Google Maps

    • Syt says:

      D looks like the modern day bridge in Arnhem.

    • Shiloh says:

      I thought C looked like an Italian airport terminal building but I can’t find anything. Then I thought H was the main stand at a racecourse, and for no good reason thought it looked French. G I thought looked Dutch, again with nothing to base that on. Finally, A looks Eastern European.

      I realise I’m not helping much today :-(

      • Llewyn says:

        If it’s any consolation I’d come to very similar conclusions except that I thought the “racecourse” looked German. I think I’ve exhausted Italian airports named after people though, so am leaning towards that one being Spanish or maybe Portuguese instead.

        I realise writing that that I don’t even know if the Germans are into horse racing at all.

    • LordBilisknir says:

      G is somewhere in the UK as the building on the right has *******.co.uk on the top

      • Premium User Badge

        Matchstick says:

        It definite looks bleak and desolate enough to be a UK University Campus…

      • Zogg says:

        The building on the left seems to be a Hilton. Probably not a University Campus.

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          That looks even less appetising than a Premier Inn !

        • All is Well says:

          The building on the right is apparently called One Park West, and the centre as a whole is called Liverpool One. I can’t seem to find a heroic reference anywhere though?

          • Zogg says:

            Thomas Steers (way) A civil engineer.

          • All is Well says:

            I think the park itself in the middle of the buildings is called Chavasse park, after Noel Godfrey Chavasse, who by all accounts seems to be a genuine hero, so I think that might be the link.

            link to en.wikipedia.org

    • LordBilisknir says:

      C is the Gare de Saint Lyon TGV

  2. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    I’ve found the location for E on Street view but not quite sure what the landmark is ?
    the Cisco Building ? Tasman Station ?

    link to google.com

  3. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    I’m always a sucker for fancy control panels, and if they’re the interface to a spaceship, so much the better.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Rogue System is extremely interesting. It’s also extremely limited at the moment but if you just want to give it a try you can get access to the Early Access version for just $10.
      This ONLY gives you the Early Access version and *not* the full game once it’s released, but if after trying it out you want to upgrade to something that will give you the full thing you only pay the difference.

  4. AbyssUK says:

    Liverpool One, The Park i think this is the reference for G

    “The park is named after member of the Chavasse family, including Noel Chavasse, a local war hero and one of only three holders of the Victoria Cross and Bar.”

    • AbyssUK says:

      Stupid reply and beaten to the punch anyway by “All is Well”..

  5. All is Well says:

    I really like the sound of the planned campaign in Rogue system. If they can get it right, that is. Also, thanks to Mr Stone for continually making Fridays better with phrases like “wing-mounted arsonists”!

  6. cptgone says:

    mr. Stone’s opting for the correct spelling of the word “rogue” makes me wonder if he’s throwing us another foxer there. clearly he means “rouge” instead. either he got a new camouflage makeup set, or he’s contemplating defection to the stronger side in the war of the sexes.

  7. Kerr Avon says:

    Ah, Rogue System… I’d forgot! Yes… vaguely remember stumbling over a WIP on youtube a few months ago; glad to see it’s coming! And Tim, I know what you mean about knocking about in a WWI or WW2 crate than a fantasy sci-fi one. When there is “real” history going on outside the cockpit, our game-space is set in a bigger world. One feels more involved, somehow. Greater immersion? Not to mention the libraries of history books and memoirs we tend to digest along with Tea and Bourbons between myriad missions (I’m reading ‘Ace of the Black Cross: the memoirs of Ernst Udet’ at the moment). The exception probably being LucasArts’ X-Wing / TiE Fighter, since the Star Wars universe has ‘that’ wealth of back-story (i.e. the Sourcebook, endless novels, strategy guides, etc), not to mention the Stele Chronicles… Guy Siner helps too, in his “little tank”. Oh BTW before I forget, did you see Panthercules’ latest mod on the Rise of Flight forum? Give his ‘Scarf and Streamer’ mod a try. There’s a few to choose from but the best part for me is I can now finally edit ‘banner.dds’ to any personal design combo I like (in the same way we edit our pilot faces and aircraft skins). Don’t forget you can edit the alpha channel in banner.dds too to give a nice weathered tattered and torn effect. Have a nice weekend old chap, cheers!

    • Gap Gen says:

      I feel like the conceit works in Star Wars because the technicalities of the thing really aren’t important, it’s people flying about in space with lasers, and if it’s cribbed from WWII fighters firing tracers at each other then that’s fine. For a simulator it feels a bit more odd, but sure, why not?

    • corinoco says:

      For me Elite has that backstory; and it is us. I have my own memories of three different prior versions of Elite, and all the attendant fiction around it. I get just as much kick of nostalgia flying the Cobra as I do flying a Piper Tomahawk in FSX – one of two marques of real life aircraft I have flown.

      Oddly RogSys doesn’t do it for me – its too real. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE playing Orbiter with the marvelous french Apollo add-on that can even simulate the DSKY. It’s just that real spacecraft and weaponry would make for a boring game – when you can kill someone with frozen urine at orbital velocity. Real spacecraft are too fragile, unless RogSys is proposing a sheild-like function – in which case you have I-War or Elite.

      Give me I-War 3 and I will be very happy.

  8. Skodric says:

    Hm, Jenny Agutter in Logan’s Run, hm, isn’t it? Hm? marvelous.

  9. Arglebarf says:

    I was wondering why the cockpit had such convincing backlighting until I read that he had spent time working on B-1s. Having spent some time with navy helos, I have to say he nailed the look of night lighting in a cockpit. Along with the NVGs in Chaos Theory this is one of the few cases where I’ve said “Yup, that’s what it looks like.” Strange to be saying that about a SPAAAAACE game, but hey, credit where credit’s due.

  10. frightlever says:

    I read Bonfire of the Vanities, picked up on a whim at an airport bookshop, while inter-railing for a month and suddenly realised all the SF&F I’d been reading was crap. Didn’t read any fiction for about a decade afterwards and when I got back into reading it was historical fiction that grabbed me. I do read SF&F these days as well, but I’m a bit more judicious about it.