The Flare Path: Waives and Waves

All that needs to be said about the tragicomic Flight Sim Labs affair has been said several times over. I could add my tuts to the tut heap or write something confessional about the handful of times I’ve found myself mingling with pirates and cracksmen, but I think I’d rather devote today’s FP to sky sailing and semaphore signals, BoBing wargame makers and bobbing whalegame players.

If the first thing that comes into your head when I say the word ‘condor’ is a large South American vulture puffing on a pipe at the controls of either a catamaran ferry or a Class 28-hauled freight train, the following sentence is going to lack impact and require elaboration.

There’s a Condor 2 at long last!

Enjoyers of engineless aviation have been waiting for a follow-up to what’s generally regarded as the PC’s most realistic glider sim for almost a decade. That follow-up arrived on Wednesday.

Uroš Bergant and Chris Wedgwood have been hard at work since 2012, even if the screenshots on pages like this one sometimes suggest otherwise. Condor 2’s DirectX 11 rendering means rosier sunsets, hazier haze, and far more sophisticated shadowing. Aircraft and airfields have been rolled in glue and sprinkled with extra polygons. Hills and mountains are 300% knobblier.

I suspect the invisible changes will generate as many sales as the visible ones. Apparently, C2 recreates ridge and sail lift subtleties much better than its predecessor and the climate code is now clever enough to conjure up ‘blue’ thermals (thermals sans white fluffy hats), and cloud streets on very windy days. Here’s the complete rundown of what’s been added and revamped.

Only available direct from Uroš and Chris, Condor 2 will set you back 50 Euros and definitely won’t purloin your Chrome passwords when it installs.

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The delightful $15 Diesel Railcar Simulator blew a raspberry at Dr Beeching last week by opening a sizeable new route. The free tangle of main- and branchline is fictional and a little fanciful in places (Oskari gets a bit carried away with the viaducts near Haverford West – a terminus named after the sim’s first purchaser) but beetling between its semaphore-sentinelled 1960s stations in a swaying, voluble DMU has already brought me a lot of pleasure.

The vast timetable that accompanies the route includes around four hundred different services ranging from ten-minute empty stock runs to and from depots to 135-minute ‘slow stoppers’ calling at 20+ stations. Interesting trackwork and plenty of junctions, curves, and inclines mean you’re generally too busy to dwell on the strange shortage of woods*, hedges, and farms in the surrounding countryside.

*single trees are plentiful

The new potter-space was part of a gratis update – 1.2 – that also enriched sounds, touched-up textures and added Class 117s to the sim’s multiple-unit fleet. With simple route and timetable editors, and a loco on the way, DRS’s reputation as the poor/thinking man’s TSW looks set to solidify in coming months.

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Although there are no hexes in my dream WW2 air combat tactics game and no ugly on-screen equations…

…I’m confident I’ll be able to wring some pleasure from Check Your Six!, a potentially passable substitute on its way from Slitherine and Lordz. Due mid-March, CY6! derives the vast majority of its rules from the popular tabletop wargame of the same name. That debt should mean the aerial aggro is fairly transparent and essentially credible. Sadly, it’s also sure to mean our PCs aren’t worked as hard or used as ingeniously as they might be.

The initial release (Slitherine and Steam, price TBA) aims to simulate the Battle of Britain using 18 single-player scenarios (presumably the same 18 scenarios that form the two campaigns) and 14 aircraft types.

It’s good to see supporting players like the Boulton Paul Defiant amongst the British selection. I wonder if the Luftwaffe AI code is sophisticated enough to simulate the two very distinct phases in this turret-fighter’s brief daylight combat career – the period when it was often mistaken for a Hurricane, and consequently prospered, and the later phase when its Achilles heel – no forward-firing weapons and relatively poor performance – was fully understood and ruthlessly exploited.

Hopefully the absence of “configurable skirmish mode” in the feature list is merely a blurb writer’s oversight and the DLC releases through which Lordz plan to expand the game’s frontage won’t be too costly or numerous. When I was a lad, you got French aircraft and dynamic campaigns with your BoB wargame.

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Thar She Blows!  Part IV

Welcome back to Flare Path’s ongoing whale tale, a calamity-rich collaboration between Nantucket (plot and inspiration), myself (incidental detail and rash decisions), and a plucky band of Flare Path readers (brawn and bathos pathos).

It’s hard to believe over a year has passed since that unforgettable August day when we quieted O Inquieto Du for good. Since I last put quill to foolscap, Flora has roamed the Globe like an albatross with a faulty biocompass. She has shaded coral reefs as pretty as Persian carpets, gingered ice hunks as blue as sapphires, and played perch to parrots, peregrine falcons and vampire bats. In all that time, I’m happy to say, all her sorrows have been trifling ones. Stugle’s needle has only been called upon to patch sails.

Of course, there have been close calls…

Finding no suitable replacements for Velko, Faldrath, and Rituro in Cape Town, we did not linger there. Seamus “Celtic” Seaworth (medic/zoologist), Overload James (zoologist/medic), and Mooncabbage (carpenter) were winkled from various crannies in Horta’s waterfront with promises of adventure, wealth, health plans and time off in Looe.

The adventure came soon enough. Enroute to a balmy spot the locals call ᑲᖏᖅᖠᓂᖅ to search, on behalf of the Hudson’s Bay Company, for signs of the vanished Knight Expedition, we paused to hunt steeple-browed Bowheads. For Celtic and Mooncabbage, their first taste of whaling was almost their last. Reduced to 4 hitpoints apiece in the first round of the fray, only a generous helping of luck and some timely self-help prevented baptisms turning into funerals. The scare, coming so soon after our costly contest with The Restless One, wrought a permanent change in my hunting tactics. Never again would the frailer members of Flora’s crew be permitted to accompany harpooneers and boat handlers.

On the day 1828 gave way to 1829 we found ourselves four hundred miles off the coast of Brazil gallantly saving a beleaguered trading sloop from marauding pirates. Three weeks later while rounding the Cape, the unfeeling Fates reminded us of their power by sending Shiloh plunging from the crow’s nest like an evicted squab. Unfazed by my boatswain’s protruding femur and blood-curdling threats, Celtic and Overload-J did a splendid job setting the bone and dressing the wound. Their patient will walk with a slight limp for the rest of his days, but won’t sport the ‘maimed’ trait that seemed likely.

It was wealth not wanderlust that wafted us into the South Seas in early 1829. After porting a cargo of coffee, Brazil nuts, and underrated race sims, from Imbituba, Brazil to Kororāreka, New Zealand, and investigating an alarmingly sharky whale haunt in Antarctic waters, Flora pointed her bowsprit toward faraway Honolulu where a payment and a brace of upgraded cannons had been gathering dust for far too long.

A pleasant time was had by all in Hawaii. My attempt to return Kahekilli II’s spear to its rightful owner proved unsuccessful, which pleased Mr Gity, the custodian of the weapon, immensely. On hearing the story of the hunt, and examining the myriad scars that illustrated it, kindhearted Kahekilli III insisted we keep his ancestor’s blubber jabber.

Arioch_RN, Shiloh, Overload-J and Canadave were determined to visit a spot called “Pearl Harbor” for reasons I didn’t fully understand. Rorschach and Celtic spent much of their time ashore sourcing noisy souvenirs (a new parrot and a tiny guitar, respectively). Meanwhile, Stugle, Mooncabbage, and Burn3r, quite by accident, started a new craze while salvaging planks from a shipwreck off Waikiki Beach.

The lotus eating and wave riding ended on April 17th. Appropriately festooned and accompanied by a flotilla of sleek outrigger canoes, Flora was chivvied out of paradise by an impatient Captain and an insistent six-knot breeze.

Three thousand miles of featureless brine stood between us and the real purpose of our Pacific cruise. According to the Inuits we’d questioned the previous autumn, James Knight had found the Northwest Passage. Canada’s western coast held the secret of his disappearance and, perhaps, his triumph. Guided by a helpful postage stamp pinned to the chart, finding the ice-entombed remnants we sought was as easy as falling off one of Stugle’s wave planks. All we had to do was return the musty tome we liberated from a locked bureau on deep-frozen Albany to the HQ of the Hudson’s Bay Company to claim a valuable unspecified* reward.

*Rather foolishly I’d failed to ascertain the exact nature of the remuneration before accepting the mission.

That return voyage dragged like a lead travois. Panama taunted us with its slenderness as we snailed past. As much to alleviate boredom as to fill our yawning hold, we hunted now and then. One tally-ho with a trio of migrating devilfish almost cost Shiloh dear. The newborn was swiftly dispatched but its elderly parents, 65 point bruisers with hides like rhinoceri, caused us no end of trouble.

How things stood at the end of Round 1…

And at the close…

Without our Hawaiian talisman, the outcome might have been very different.

November 1st, 1829. York Factory, Hudson Bay. In a stuffy room lined with wolf fur and leering trophies, we gawp and fidget while a pale, mutton-chopped plutocrat examines Knight’s log.

“Is it…” I begin.

The pelt dealer raises a bony index finger.

Five minutes later…

“We were…”

That finger again.

An utterance from Bess, Rorschach’s parrot, finally does the trick.

“Good manners cost nothing! Good manners cost nothing!” (Bess spent her formative years in the home of a missionary, a fact not disclosed to Rorschach at the time of purchase).

Amused, the Company Man breaks out the smiles and the whisky, and two convivial hours later we stumble outside into a night illumined by celestial krill and curdled rainbows. Nestling in my satchel is a volume that will, Neptune willing, make us all rich men in the years to come.

*       *       *

This way to the foxer



  1. Syt says:

    Achtung Spitfire. I miss that game. It was difficult to get, and I by chance found it in a bargain bin in Hamburg for a 5er. :(

    I’m not ashamed to admit I was always hoping for a Star Wars game in that vein …

  2. Stugle says:

    Hooray! No-one died! Even if poor Shiloh did get the short end of the stick not once, but twice. I personally seem somewhat worse for wear, but Shiloh’s but a whisker away from a watery grave in that last screenshot.

    Leave the whale-tussling to the manly men with manly hitpoints, I say. Perhaps I should not be amongst their number, I add. :)

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Arr! Me parrot be polite! Taught to speak by a missionary, ‘n not an interesting missionary, one that spits hellfire and damnation from the pulpit, but the kinda missionary that travelled half across the world to arrange village fetes ‘n coffee mornin’s!

      She keeps me awake with “There is a lot to be said for that point of view” and “That would be an ecumenical matter” at all hours of the middle watch!

      p.s. “Time off in Looe.” Heh, I’ll have to remember that one :)

      • Stugle says:

        Oh, I see – it’s a pun on ‘time off in lieu’. I had wondered what was so interesting about a small Cornish village. :)

    • Overload-J says:

      Glad our medical skills proved up to the task. (No, I’m not reading, er, re-reading, a First Aid manual, why do you ask? :) )

      • celticdr says:

        Overlord-J can you look up what this thing I’m holding does? *holding Laennec’s recently invented stethoscope*

        So glad I’ve managed to get a berth on the Flora, and a ukulele to boot! Three cheers to Cap’n Tim!

        Glad to hear that Shiloh pulled through too – we can’t be doing without our wheelman.

  3. trjp says:

    I picked-up Diesel Railcar during a silly-cheap sale they had and I’ve not only had my money’s-worth, I feel guilty for paying that little.

    It’s charming-as-hell, being a lovely place to potter-around in DMUs – it offers some ‘game’ (it offers scores based on driving accuracy) too

    Whether it will bloom into a full Train Sim I’ve no idea (plan is for DRS to just be DMUs but for a 2nd game to include other trains) – I’m taking it as it comes but it’s a breath of fresh-air after all these years of TS “issues” and the nonsense that is TSW

    • Tim Stone says:

      Oskari does plan to add at least one loco – with carriages and wagons, naturally. From a recent comment on the game’s Steam messageboard (DRS will arrive on Steam on March 5):

      “…Mk1 coaches plus some kind of goods wagons depending on the models I can find. I have obtained the models of two locos and one of them happens to be Class 08 so you’re in luck! The model is not of very high quality though and I’ll need to try to improve it with my limited modelling skills.”

      His exciting plans in full:

      *****Route editor update*****
      •First version of the route/timetable editor
      •New train: loco + wagons or coaches. The class is to be announced later

      *****Train editor and scenery update*****
      •First version of the train editor
      •Increased terrain resolution and more textures
      •Grass and bushes
      •Fields and forests
      •More realistic roads and fences
      •More and better house/building models

      *****Infrastructure update*****
      •More realistic and detailed track models
      •Uneven track 3d-models to match rails to wheel movement
      •More realistic signal placement
      •Better signal models
      •Improved and more flexible bridge models
      •Better station platforms, buildings and props
      •Stopping markers will be moved onto the platforms where they belong

      *****Train update*****
      •Improved train exterior and interior models and textures
      •New DMU classes (to be announced later)
      •Missing train physics will be added (handbrake, stopping of engines)
      •People inside the trains

      *****Final update*****

      “This isn’t a comprehensive list of all the planned updates. An improved user interface and Steam workshop integration is also planned, as well as a number of smaller fixes and improvements where required.

      The intention is to release an update every 2-3 months with the final one around March 2019, but this cannot be guaranteed”