The Flare Path: Modern Life Is Rhubarb

I remember the days when you could get a hundredweight of hand-picked sim and wargaming news delivered to your door by a man in a tailcoat and a velvet top hat for sixpence. Now look at us. You, peering into your digilink screen like a person who’s dropped their monocle into a bowl of consommé. Me, stripped to the waist in a bomb-damaged Pat Garrett, shovelling raw press releases into the maw of a humming Wordshine 6000. If this is progress, you can keep it! Want to know what 777, Panther Games, Old Brown Dog, and John Tiller Software are up to at the moment? Unplug yourself and head down to the abandoned liquorice processing plant on Canal Street. I’ll meet you there in ten minutes.

Sim realism is a double-edged Supermarine Scimitar. Because the digital dogfighters of today expect this:

DCS World

rather than this:

YSFlight

This:

DCS: A-10C Warthog

not this:

A-10 Tank Killer (Dynamix)

…combat flight sim devs can’t switch theatres at the drop of a hat. Last week 777/1C Game Studios revealed where IL-2 will be heading next. The Kuban Bridgehead – another Eastern Front venue – means the Muscovites can sell us He 111s, Bf 109s and IL-2s all over again. They’re clearly hoping that, come December 2017, we’ll be so enchanted by an enhanced Rise of Flight-style career mode, and debuting aerotica like the Airacobra, Havoc, Henschel Hs 129* and Spitfire Mk.VB* we’ll overlook the conceptual conservatism.

*Collectors Edition

If a few extra flyables and a dash of additional campaign colour/complexity don’t distract critics, then it’s just feasible new anti-shipping ops might. Significantly wetter than the Stalingrad or Moscow maps, it sounds like IL-2 Stalingrad: Battle of Kuban‘s 300 x 400km sortie space will teem with tempting torpedo targets. By the time the Devastators and Kates finally arrive circa (sigh) 2019, we should be able to deliver tinfish in our sleep.

(From the announcement)

“Over the next few years we plan to meet four major goals with our engine, technology and products.

1. Build the technology and features the community wants to see in our products and try to re-capture some of the magic that made the original Sturmovik so much fun. We call it the “Spirit of ‘46”.

2. Continue to use the Eastern Front as the proving ground for our engine, technology and game design for a little while longer. By making Kuban next, we will leave the Eastern Front a well-appointed theater that fans of the Eastern Front can enjoy it for a long time.

3. Move to the Pacific Theater and build a first-class simulation of Carrier Warfare which dominated that theater.

4. Develop features, methods and opportunities to increase community involvement in the creation of interesting content and increasing social interactions between players to build a stronger community.

If our plan is successful, our engine and product line will evolve into one of the biggest and best combat sim series ever. Our long-term vision includes the following battles, but not necessarily in this order and final selection is not concrete.

Battle of Kuban
Battle of Midway
Battle of Okinawa
Battle of ??????”

* * * *

Wargames don’t come any smarter or more slacker-friendly than Command Ops 2. The turnless and hexless Panther Games series that provides players with silicon subordinates intelligent enough to transform swiftly issued, easily nuanced “Attack here”, “Scout here” and “Hold this hill” orders into intricate unit-mobilising battle plans, is coming to Steam along with its various WW2-themed modules.

Hawked in a mainstream marketplace for the first time, the game is sure to draw some flak for its weak audio, austerity graphics, and somewhat atomised interface, but I’m sure the novelty of unscripted battles that seethe and sprawl in an incomparably realistic manner will quickly earn it a new army of aficionados. Hopefully, the injection of funds will allow Panther to forge ahead with a second-gen engine – something capable of combining their peerless AI routines with attractive, free-zooming, easy-to-read Armored Brigade-ish 3D maps.

s

* * * *

Bar the odd mouse and gust of wind nothing has disturbed the carpet of wood shavings in the Rise of Flight airframe workshop lately. Next door in the Wings Over Flanders Fields factory things are a little busier. Old Brown Dog are preparing WOFF Ultimate Edition, a convenient consolidated version of their history-steeped, single-player pampering Great War flight sim.

UE will contain two additional French bomb buses, both of which will be flyable. The two-engine Caudron G.4 with its wing-warping, 77mph top speed, and inadequate defensive armament looks like a real knuckle/hair whitener. Strong and speedy, the single-engine Breguet 14 should be a pique-nique in comparison.

Numerous pilot-hungry French squadrons are being added to the dynamic campaign space to operate the newcomers. Airfields are receiving attention with new layouts and dromes in the works. There’s talk of shader and rendering improvements, new winter trees, and better mod amenities too. As the sim’s current price is a wallet-withering $65 (add another $35 to that if you want the three add-ons. A copy of Combat Flight Simulator 3 is also required) it will be interesting to see how OBD price the Ultimate Edition. I suspect there are many reading this who would have WOFFed long ago if it wasn’t for that relatively high entrance fee.

* * * *

Martin Schweiger’s Orbiter was, I believe, the very first simulator covered on RPS. In the days before complications like deadlines, quality control, and readers, I wrote a brief guide to using the free space flight sim to stage a Sputnik I 50th anniversary event.

Remarkably, nine years later we’re both still here, Orbiter – thanks to a six-years-in-the-making overhaul – crinklier and prettier than ever, me – thanks to a potato-dominated diet and the onset of middle-age – crinklier and pettier than ever.

Glimpse Orbiter 2016’s rewritten physics engine, higher res textures and lumpier scenery with the aid of something unheard of in 2007 – a restless picture or ‘vidyo’ as I believe they are known in some quarters.

* * * *

The scenario/campaign list for Campaign Marengo, the latest helping of history-rich hexware from John Tiller Software, is an arresting sight. Halve it by removing variants specially designed for solo play, and it still makes most wargame scrap selections look miserly.

The product page screenshots are arresting too but for different reasons. Dowdy when it launched with Campaign Eckmuhl in 2001, the Napoleonic Battles series looks positively primordial today. Thank goodness there are willing transfigurers amongst the fans.

While Marengo is unlikely to ever get demoed, you can get a feel for its rhythms and rules by playing the trial for its sibling, Campaign Waterloo. Not nearly as intimidating as they first appear, control and structure-wise the NB titles have a lot in common with their better known forerunners, the Battleground games (originally published by Talonsoft, now available from Matrix). Like them they feature 100m hexes, 15-minute turns, and battalion/squadron-sized units. Like them they allow you to opt out of onerous counter-shuffling chores in large engagements by issuing orders to a customisable selection of battlefield bigwigs.

* * * *

This way to the foxer

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30 Comments

  1. Shiloh says:

    Interesting – I’m a big fan of Panther Games’ Highway to the Reich. And likewise John “Steady hand on the” Tiller.

    I also thoroughly recommend getting the modded graphics updates for “Steady hand on the”‘s games.

  2. Spacewalk says:

    *sigh* I wish that all sims looked like YSFlight.

  3. jimbobjunior says:

    “aerotica”

    Bravo.

    • Stugle says:

      Indeed! I’ve only skimmed the Flare Path so far (too busy with the Foxer), but that one leapt of the screen like a burst of joy.

      The article title and header image are ace, too!

  4. Eight Rooks says:

    Maybe it’s already been used elsewhere, but I care not: “restless picture” is my new favorite RPS-ism. (Didn’t make me giggle quite as hard as Futurama’s classic “You know, like a headache with pictures?” “…an idea?”, but almost.)

  5. binkbenc says:

    I can’t attest to the quality of the games, I’m afraid, but Slitherine currently have a bundle up on Bundlestars:

  6. iainl says:

    I’ve no idea if it’s particularly good value, but I see Kerbal’s down to a smidgeon under £20 at Humble right now. Currently contemplating a purchase for my son, though seeing whether he’d like to try Orbiter first is tempting.

  7. Anvilfolk says:

    Flight sims coming back to the Pacific theater? I will be SO on top of that it’s not even funny.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’m glad to see Midway and (hopefully) the rest of the Pacific Theater in 777’s future plans, but the timeline is disappointing. Sounds like it will be a long wait.

      I flew Rise of Flight for years and bought almost all the planes. I bought IL-2 BoS and barely touched it. The Eastern Front is fascinating from a historical perspective, but I just haven’t been very interested in the aircraft. Probably just a cultural/US-centered thing. I want to fly classic Western Front and Pacific Theater planes.

      Also, 777 really needs to get its act together with campaigns. The initial design of BoS was a real turn-off with “unlocks” and no campaign.

      • All is Well says:

        According to another part of the announcement that Mr. Stone quoted, all the BO*-games will be getting a RoF-style campaign overhaul. No idea when this will be implemented though.

  8. Kolbex says:

    I suspect there are many reading this who would have WOFFed long ago if it wasn’t for that relatively high entrance fee.

    This is me.

  9. peterako1989 says:

    unless 1c drops the arbitrary online requirement of the new IL-2 Im through with them!

  10. Missing Cat says:

    Battle of Kuban
    Battle of Midway
    Battle of Okinawa
    Battle of… BRITAIN!?!?

    Yes, we already have IL-2 Cliffs of Dover (with Team Fusion), I get it. Anyone else think it’d be cool flying some hassle-free 1940 Battle of Britain missions in 777’s sweet RoF/BoS engine though? I just thought the extensive scenery of the area was quite beautiful, what with the cliffs & sparkly sea, chain home RDF, piers, lighthouses, castles, cathedrals, pubs, London itself, etc. Getting back to some Pacific Navy flat-top action is always cool tho (some North Africa love would be a welcome change??) Oh and did anyone else see the Battle of Britain Memorial flight? Always nice to see the Lanc, Spit & Hurri fly over… surprised nobody here mentioned it actually. Sad. Also annoying to hear the news of the BoB section of Hendon Air Museum being closed and “secretly” in the process of being quietly sold off with all those iconic warbirds being dismantled for transport… simply disgusting! It’s as if nobody cares (or knows?) about the Battle of Britain anymore (aside from a few private collectors with money to burn, that is). Brilliant article as always Tim, jolly decent of you old chap!

  11. bktor says:

    Tim Stone, your comedic writing style is masterful.

  12. Williz says:

    Blaine is a pain.

  13. mrskwid says:

    What a long article it must be my birthday.

    What is that engine on cover?
    I recognize it from my RT2 days.

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