The Flare Path: Remembrance

It’s poppy season here in the UK. As usual the faux flowers appeared first on the lapels of politicians and TV newsreaders. By Sunday and Remembrance Day itself there will be paper buttonholes blooming in every street and workplace. The public – the communal – remembering will be in full swing.

Bearing in mind the games industry’s complicated relationship with real-life conflicts, it’s pleasing to be able to report that this year more entertainment artisans than ever are pinning virtual poppies to their products, and using November 11 to remind their younger, less historically literate customers of the unpalatable realities of war.

Fire up wargames like the Forgotten Fronts, the Drop Zones, or the Mud & Bloods next Wednesday and you’ll find yourself greeted by a mandatory ‘one-minute silence’ pause screen. Before the order issuing and the counter shuffling commences, fields of swaying poppies or serried gravestones will encourage introspection, the slowly scrolling words of Laurence Binyon’s ‘For the Fallen’ will arrest and challenge.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

Other devs have gone further. Blitzcat (Target For Tonight) and Bulwark (Kohima: Stalingrad of the East) will be temporarily disabling their creations on Remembrance Day. High-handed? Some posters on the official forums seem to feel horribly hard-done-by. I suspect the aggrieved parties haven’t read Fergal Keane’s Road of Bones  or Bruce Lewis’ Aircrew recently.

You’ll be able to play WWI flight sim Camel Squadron on Wednesday but stop one bullet or prang one kite and your fun is over for the day. Magda Ludford, lead designer at Tally Ho Interactive, hopes the 24-hour ironman inconvenience will “provoke thought” reminding players that real Great War pilots often “paid the ultimate price for mistakes and moments of inattention”.

The Powder Monkeys, makers of Great War armour sim Mailed Fist, are planning an unusually elaborate and imaginative Remembrance Day Week digression. Between Nov 8 and Nov 15, users of this nerve-chafing tank game will find their mud-plastered Mark IVs replaced by gleaming 30-inch ATCO motor mowers, and their wire-strung hellscapes switched for pristine WW1 war cemeteries. The devs have gone to the trouble of building a perfect 1-to-1 representation of Tyne Cot, the Western Front’s largest burial ground. Every gravestone is correctly placed and engraved. According to lead Powder Monkey, Patrick Carden-Lloyd “in their new role as Commonwealth War Graves Commission gardeners, players will have ample opportunity to contemplate the horrendous cost of WW1 ‘victories’ “.

The warmachine worship at the heart of the massively successful, massively multiplayer Panzerland and Up Persicope! can leave a bad taste in the mouth. I can’t be alone in wishing multimillion pound outfits like LMF Soft would, occasionally, take a break from the tech tree cultivation and the cash pile snow-angeling and draw inspiration from smaller, more thoughtful contemporaries like Turncoat Studios. On Remembrance Day, the minnows behind Gladiatorial air combat sim Fortress Malta introduce a new load screen system. Out are the pretty pre-rendered battle scenes and the tactical tips, in are a series of collages commemorating the pilots that fought in the skies above Valletta. Every day a different airman will be featured. We’ll read snippets of logbooks and diaries, hear of escapades and ends. Turncoat want players to be intimate with those they imitate. How bally refreshing.

Another sim dev looking to squeeze a little extra history and humanity into firmamental fun is Norwich-based Singed Seraph Games. When B-17/B-24 game Aluminium Overcast finally arrives, the price tag will be a piffling £2. What appears at first glance to be evidence of economic illiteracy, is in fact an attempt to communicate grim military maths through a remarkably unconventional business model. Singed Seraph spokesman Dick Bickers explains: “When you buy AO you’ll be randomly assigned a real WW2 Eighth Air Force flier. It could be a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bomb aimer, waist gunner or whatever. Your install functions for as long as that real airman functioned. If the poor blighter detailed on your title screen perished during a training flight three weeks after arrival in the UK, then hard cheese – you’ll have three weeks’ worth of fun then you’ll have to purchase again. If he bucked the odds and lived to see VE Day, congratulations, AO is yours for life. Life was a fearful lottery for Flying Fortress and Liberator crews – half of the USAF’s WW2 casualties were suffered by the ‘Mighty Eighth’. We wanted to communicate that fact in a fresh and powerful way.”

The makers of digital war fare aren’t alone in wishing to remember and remind. The developers of peaceable sims like Footplate, AgriSim, and Scalpel 3D are also planning to nudge their customers into contemplation on November 11. The PC’s most realistic steam loco simulator will be getting a free ‘Unknown Warrior’ expansion next week. On the morning of November 10, 1920, a special South Eastern & Chatham Railway service conveyed the body of an unidentified British soldier from Dover to London. The add-on will recreate every aspect of that journey from the rolling stock and line, to the mourners that crowded station platforms on the train’s route…

“The train thundered through the dark, wet, moonless night. At the platforms by which it rushed could be seen groups of women watching and silent, many dressed in deep mourning. Many an upper window was open, and against the golden square of light was silhouetted clear cut and black the head and shoulders of some faithful watcher… In the London suburbs there were scores of homes with back doors flung wide, light flooding out and in the garden figures of men, women and children gazing at the great lighted train rushing past.” (Daily Mail)

“The carriage, with its small shunting engine, came in very slowly. The few civilians who awaited its coming on the platform took off their hats. Officers and the Grenadier Guardsmen drawn up at the end of the platforms saluted. There was great silence…. One heard a smothered sound of weeping. The smoke in the roof bellied and eddied around the arc lamps. The funeral carriage stopped at last. The engine-driver leaned from his cab.” (The Times)

AgriSim’s commemorative offering is called Polygon Farm. A picturesque Belgian map dotted with poppy-fringed fields and inviting copses, it looks like the perfect spot for some low-stress virtual cultivation. Only the roadside signposts – Poelcappelle 6km, Passchendaele 10km… – hint at Junebug’s hidden agenda. The free venue is actually located in the heart of the Ypres Salient. Plough a Polygon Farm field and you run a small risk of detonating a century-old surprise. As 350 unlucky Ypres farmers have discovered since 1918, unexploded shells and bombs don’t understand the concept of armistice.

This year’s Poppy Day projects don’t come bolder or more truthful than the upcoming ‘Gillies Pack’ for surgery sim Scalpel 3D. GodWasp have chosen to mark Nov 11 by celebrating the pioneering work of plastic surgeon Harold Gillies. Many video games claim to accurately model the tactical effects of bullets, shells, and grenades. Until now none have had the bottle to accurately model the physical effects of those same munitions.

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The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s collage criss-crossed the Atlantic pointing accusatory fingers at the pre-WW2 immigration policies of several countries as it went.

Theme: the “Voyage of the Damned” (defoxed by Artiforg)

a MS. St. Louis (All is Well)
b Atlantic (AFKAMC)
c Hapag-Lloyd logo (unsolved)
d Gustav Schröder (The Masta)
e Halifax, Nova Scotia (AFKAMC)
f Havana (phlebas)
g Bremer Vulkan shipyard (Rorschach617, AFKAMC)
h Visa (billy_bunter)
i Hamburg (mrpier, Artiforg)
j Évian Conference (Iglethal)
k Voyage of the Damned (Artiforg)

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Foxer Fact #420

Of the clutch of defoxing movies made in the late Sixties, Le Renardiste (1968) is generally regarded as the finest. Tracing the rise and fall of troubled collage cracksman Bernard Bonnodel, the three-and-a-half-hour epic performed poorly at the box-office, baffling many with its pictographic dialogue and bizarre humour. Only France’s disaffected youth, militant trade unionists, and pipe-chewing encyclopedes seemed to get it. In a recent online poll the scene where Bonnodel mistakes an escaped penguin for a tiny nun was voted the 27th Funniest Moment in French Film.

All answers in one thread, please.

75 Comments

  1. Artiforg says:

    Foxer. Are those the Audi Rings at the top?

    • AFKAMC says:

      Bottom left de Havilland Dove (from the first photo on its Wiki page, I think).

    • Stugle says:

      The 300 postal stamp is from Germany, 300 pfennig from the Industrie und Technik series, showing the maglev train.

    • Artiforg says:

      The tarot cards are the 2 of Cups and the 10 of Wands. These ones are the Rider-Waite cards.

    • Stugle says:

      Is the light machinegun the M-249 SAW?

    • AFKAMC says:

      Is there a magic link: wands, sawing a lady in half, dove pan?

    • trjp says:

      If they are the Audi rings – they represent 4 car companies merged into a single company called ‘Auto Union’ – they were originally Horch, Audi, DKW and Wanderer.

      Horch means ‘listen’ in German – ‘audi’ is Latin for listen – both companies were setup by August Horch IIRC?

    • phlebas says:

      Chap on the left is Tommy Flowers, the one who wasn’t Alan Turing.

    • Premium User Badge

      Al__S says:

      The SN badge is, with some deep research, from a FAMULUS RS 14/36. Which is a tractor from Germany.

    • phlebas says:

      The ‘SN’ logo is from a Famulus tractor.
      link to fahrzeugbilder.de

      I didn’t know the word, but apparently

      Famulus: noun, historical
      an assistant or servant, especially one working for a magician or scholar.

      So the magician theme holds up.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      The cannon on the lower right is apparently a “Moncrieff equilibrium mount for 7 Ton guns”, And the engraving is from this book.
      Here’s the full image if that helps someone narrow it down more.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Colin Scott Moncrieff conceptualised the disappearing gun carriage

        • Rorschach617 says:

          p.s. Just spent 30 minutes staring at rifled muzzle loaders and trying to find out if “RML” meant anything :)

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        Ahhh, a Moncrieff mount allows the gun to ‘disappear’ (ie the gun can drop down behind cover, and pop up to shoot).
        So that would be the magic aspect of it.

  2. Shiloh says:

    That’s a great article Tim – and well done to all the developers name-checked in it for marking Remembrance Day in such innovative and respectful ways.

    It’s something that rarely crosses my mind when I’m merrily marching Burnside’s corps under fire around the battlefield of Antietam, or slogging through the rasputitsa with a platoon of tired and demoralised Landsers, but there were real men who lived and died in those battles, and it’s good to remember that.

    • Shiloh says:

      Unnecessarily italicised at the end of my post, I wasn’t trying to ram the point home or anything.

    • phlebas says:

      Yes. I normally glance at the top of the main article then head straight to the Foxer, reading the rest of the article later – no so this week. Splendid stuff.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Having read the article (great as usual), I just have to applaud the developers mentioned for the care and attention to detail that they have taken to find poignant and innovative ways to remember.
      Having read of the no-risk value-led actuarial mindset of so many developers, spending the time and money to produce “content” as apt as this reminds me that there is still room for character and creativity in the industry.

      • colw00t says:

        Ummm… you may want to google some of those developers and games namechecked in the article.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          Had already found out.

          Not believing anything Tim Stone (if that is his real name) says ever again!

          • Hydrogene says:

            Are you insinuating there is no such things as Singed Seraph Games and Turncoat Studios? How disappointing!

            As usual, a great read. Well done Mr Stone. I know I love Fridays, as it’s Flare Path day!

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      corinoco says:

      First reading of article – awesome that these devs are doing this.
      Second reading of article – awesome. You had me!
      I will spend part of the 11th reading through the recently found letters of my great-uncle who left for the western front aged an ancient 21yrs.

      By all accounts his time actually spent in combat was less than 10 seconds – he and a fellow private were hit by a German artillery shell after taking two steps beyond a trench parapet. He never once fired his gun at an enemy.

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      Overload-J says:

      Very well done, Tim!

  3. Moth Bones says:

    “…it’s pleasing to be able to report that this year more entertainment artisans than ever are pinning virtual poppies to their products, and using November 11 to remind their younger, less historically literate customers of the unpalatable realities of war.”

    This puts them ahead of mainstream British culture, which now seems to use the poppy as a form of militaristic fetishism and a stick with which to beat people it doesn’t like. There’s precious little ‘Never Again’ here… link to images.duckduckgo.com

    • Chiron says:

      I dread seeing poppies and really feel that news presenters and politicians wear them only because of the utter and total fucking shit show that ensues if they don’t.

      The shit with Corbyn and “What colour is his poppy going to be?!” back in August/September was shameful.

      • Moth Bones says:

        The annual circus around a footballer from Derry declining to publically honour the British armed forces is the low point for me.

        I think the jingoism has crept in (or become more overt) since most of the original world war combatants passed away.

        • Chiron says:

          Freedom of speech… as long as your saying the right thing. Wonderful isn’t it?

    • magogjack says:

      We do the same thing here in Canada I am ashamed to say.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I do think the potential for this trend to descend into opportunism is kind of worrying. The idea of developers beginning to compete with ever-more elaborate forms of commemoration in sims (and the feel-good publicity to be gained thereby) isn’t one I’m entirely comfortable with.

      But then I suppose the other 364 days of the year they’re still profiting from depictions and realisations of the actual atrocities of war, and we as players are exploiting the very same for our idle entertainment – arguably an order of magnitude murkier. Ho hum.

    • Palindrome says:

      I am a serving regular who has deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan and I agree completely.
      The meaning of the poppy is becoming lost amid a sea of convention, commercialism and jingoism.
      Personally I only ever wear the poppy on remembrance Sunday (mostly because I have to) although I support service charities all year round, which is more than can be said for the majority of pro poppy rabblerousers.

  4. magogjack says:

    I hate this holiday and the way that it is always used in a way completely opposite of the point.

    “Never again, unless we really want too”

  5. Monggerel says:

    “Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth into battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

    For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

    We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

    Happy victory day, folks.

    • magogjack says:

      Vomits

      • Monggerel says:

        that’s okay, we all have to from time to time

        • magogjack says:

          I was just trying to condense what you posted into a verb.

          You of course were being sarcastic?

          • magogjack says:

            errr I mean ironic.

          • Monggerel says:

            No, I just posted part of The War Prayer by Mark Twain because the sacredness we casually afford to war and its numberless dead disgusts me. And yes, I am certain that sacred victims necessarily entail sacred warfare.

            Admittedly, the short story actually has more to do with people’s habit of deflecting personal responsibility than it does with the profane reality of war. And “stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet”, while realistic, is also nose-twistingly acrid in its holiness. Perhaps Mark Twain couldn’t bring himself to describe these same very real people shitting themselves to death from dysentery. The world is sacred all the way down, I tell ya.

            Also, kinda regret having posted the fucking thing at all now. Just wish I did so on a forum where it’s possible to edit or delete posts.

            (also, I realise that this whole thing constitues a personal attack on the writer of the article, but didn’t realise that at the time of posting, because I’m just a shitlord trundling about on the internet. sorry.)

          • magogjack says:

            Thanks for posting, I will definatly check out the original.

  6. LennyLeonardo says:

    The first thing I thought when I saw that header image was, “Oh MY GOD, CORMAC MCCARTHY DIED!” I am dense.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Al__S says:

    Never forget.

    Of course, also never forget the time Sensible Software and Amiga Power properly upset the Royal British Legion…

  8. Eightball says:

    I don’t know what it says about me that for too long a time I didn’t realize the developers and game titles in this article are all fictional…

    • Shiloh says:

      Same here. I’m honestly not surprised though now that I see what Tim’s done, it’s a great way of making the point, and what’s more, it’s very elegantly done.

    • SpiceTheCat says:

      I…oh.

      *goes away to Google*

      *comes back*

      Well, I read the article and thought, goodness me, how touching and imaginative. I think I may finally have grasped the point.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Fictional?

        Dammit!!!!

        Not sure if more disappointed about the the industry or that Tim Stone lied to me.

        • slerbal says:

          I was going to just say ‘ditto’, but on consideration I am actually only disappointed with the games developers, not for Tim for pointing out the strange omission of compassion in games.

    • colw00t says:

      I started to wonder about the time we got to the Lottery Ticket B17 Sim, but wow, yeah. The whole thing hits double now.

      Brilliant job, Tim. Brilliant.

      • Canadave says:

        I was actually completely prepared to pay for the lottery ticket bomber sim…

    • Stugle says:

      Eightball, thank you for opening my eyes. I was clueless, and now I understand better (and I also feel somewhat bad for diving headfirst into the Foxer as usual, and not reading and digesting the article first).

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      teije says:

      Crap – I totally didn’t realize that. Gullible me and very cleverly done Tim.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Ah jeez.

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      Grizzly says:

      I think it has something to do with empathy and believing in the good of all.

      Also, good that you posted this, becuase I missed it too!

    • slerbal says:

      Yeah I only realised they were fictional when I saw your post :(

  9. briangw says:

    As a US Navy veteran, I appreciate November 11th as a holiday (would be better if I had a free, paid day off :) ) but I never viewed my service as that important. I was just an unrated, E-# Airman who’s role was pretty insignificant working in the galley, berthing area and preventive maintenance shop. I was one of the last 2-year enlistment program servicemen where you go in, unrated (basically no role) just to try it out. I wanted the Aviation Electronics Technician rate but the school was backed up for 6 months when I enlisted. I did get to see about 8 locations overseas and assisted in 3 conflicts (Bosnia, Iraq and the failed coup in Haiti in 1994) as a sailor on the aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower. But whenever November 11th rolls around I become very somber in the thought of the people that came before me and since that have done so much and given their lives for important causes.

    I’m hoping to one day visit Pearl Harbor, Normandy, Germany and the UK on a sightseeing tour of important places significant to WW2.

    As a fill in pastor for my church, I was act to conduct this weekend’s service and for my children’s sermon on remembering veterans, found a poem called “Flanders Fields” written by John McRae. This was the basis for the significance of the distribution of the wearing of poppies by our various service organizations like the American Legion over here:

    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.

    Thank you to all of the veterans past and present for the sacrifices you have made over the years. I will be sure to toast you on Wednesday and for every November 11th after.

    • briangw says:

      *E-3 Airman

    • magogjack says:

      Its weird to me to hear someone say they stumbled upon that poem. In Canada we learn it very early. It says so much we so few words.

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      The poem “In Flanders Fields” in Canada is the closest thing we have to a national ode. Everyone knows it by heart – I’m sure I’ll hear it recited at the local Remembrance Day service at the cenotaph in my small town on Nov 11th.

      • Canadave says:

        I live in Ottawa, so most years I try to get to the National War Memorial for the ceremony. It’s something else to hear that poem read while a crowd of tens of thousands stands in utter silence.

  10. magogjack says:

    I would think most of you know about this but in case you don’t I think it would be good to listen to Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armaggedon, it details WW1 from the before it started to the end. Its 7 parts about 3 hours each and free for the moment. It really puts November 11 in the proper light.

    • neotribe says:

      I was going to suggest Carlin’s podcast series as well. It’s excellent, and well worth downloading while it’s free.

      link to dancarlin.com (part I of 5)

      Here’s another poem while we’re at it:

      Dulce et Decorum Est
      (Wilfred Owen, 1893 – 1918)

      Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
      Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
      Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
      And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
      Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
      But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
      Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
      Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

      Gas! Gas! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling,
      Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
      But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
      And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…
      Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
      As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

      In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
      He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

      If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
      Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
      And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
      His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
      If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
      Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
      Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
      Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
      My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
      To children ardent for some desperate glory,
      The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
      Pro patria mori.
      [/quote]

    • Canadave says:

      Also worthy of mention is <a href="link to youtube.com Great War over on YouTube. They produce a ten-minute video every week detailing the weekly events of World War One in “real time” 100 years later. It’s really helped me develop a proper sense for the scope of the war, which was far bigger than much of what I got taught about in school. The videos have really become a weekly highlight for me, and they’ve done a lot of interesting special episodes on things like equipment and the roles of well-known individuals throughout the war.

  11. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    My family visited Vimy Ridge this summer and it was an awe inspiring and moving experience, seeing the trenches and the memorial. Cuts through all the “war is great” crap pretty quickly. My teenage children told us it was the highlight of our trip to France.

  12. Novotny says:

    You’re a fucking genius Stone

  13. Crane says:

    My friends, we tell therein with such high zest
    To children ardent for some desperate glory,
    The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
    Pro patria mori.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Solrax says:

    Wow…. Thank you…

  15. Scandalon says:

    Tim had me at first as well.

    The kicker was the brash “War Thunder” banner ad at the top.

  16. Cederic says:

    I’m glad developers don’t do this. I remember in my own way in my own time.