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The Flare Path: A2Z

Alphabetised sim and wargaming news

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A is for Afghan annihilation. A British Army defeat so unexpected and complete it caused a Governor-General of India to suffer a stroke on hearing news of it, inspires Wars Across the World’s newest module. In the 16-turn Gandamak 1842 (£2) a vicious kick up the Khyber Pass awaits British players unable to overcome the overlapping challenges of rugged terrain, harsh weather, vulnerable lines of supply, and a steadily multiplying enemy. 

B is for Bale Tetris

Fervent Farming Simulator fans will be converging on the Claas HQ in Harsewinkel, North Rhine-Westphalia in a few weeks’ time. FarmCon 19 is a two-day event combining lectures and presentations with machinery demos and factory tours. The weekend ends with the FSL final – a team bale gathering competition with 100,000 Euros riding on it.

C is for Cowardly cuirassiers

Player inexperience combined with a lack of French aggression helped the Allies secure victory at The Great Game – a recordbreaking tabletop recreation of the Battle of Waterloo held in Glasgow last month. According to this participant, the fact that several players were unfamiliar with the far from perfect Black Powder ruleset and didn’t fully grasp what was at stake at Waterloo, meant Napoleon’s forces weren’t used as forcefully as they might have been.

D is for Dead language

I’d love to be able to translate the above trailer for you, but as my smattering of Latin was acquired mainly from plant labels and RAF squadron badges, that’s not going to happen. For an overview of Field of Glory: Empires, an exciting dual-layer collaboration between Byzantine Games and AGEOD due for release on July 11, read next week’s FP. I’m planning to spend a day or two next week stitching new borders on FoGE’s “living tapestry of nations and tribes”.

E is for Expert analysis

Kevin Miller, a chap whose name graces the credits of several notable flight sims and flight sim add-ons (IL-2 Sturmovik: Forgotten Battles, Microsoft Flight…) has gone through the Microsoft Flight Simulator teaser trailer with a fine-tooth comb. Predictably, his analysis goes a little deeper and involves fewer hunches than mine.

F is for Foxer

A 24-link word chain must be forged if this week’s co-op brainteaser is to be solved.

G is for Gesticulation

This VTOL VR video from Mudspike.com is a delight. The sim’s innovative camera system combined with a pilot model that faithfully mimics all of Chris Frishmuth’s gestures and fidgets, makes for unusually entertaining and informative footage.

H is for Hornet handrest

Thrustmaster’s latest hunk of high-quality ironmongery turns warthogs and cougars into hornets. Festooned with eighteen buttons including a two-step trigger, the F/A-18C Hornet™ HOTAS Add-On Grip is a perfect replica of a real F/A-18C control surface waggler and screws onto the shaft of the company’s existing HOTAS sticks with a minimum of fuss. Although the majority of buyers are likely to be well-heeled DCS users, Thrustmaster believe the £180 adjunct will find gainful employment elsewhere. “The shape of this grip is adapted for many other aircraft and the ergonomics are famous for being some of the best in the world. Even playing Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown or War Thunder, it ensures the user has a great, realistic gaming session.”

I is for Isometric interruption

If you’re a tactical wargamer with a taste for realism, novelty and drama, the latest news from Sean O’Connor is unlikely to cheer. In a recent email the man behind moreish military morsels like Firefight and Slay, told me he was “making good progress on my Ancients game but I think I was maybe over-complicating things by trying to model every footstep, and spear in 3D so people would have to duck past them to get into a close combat fight against say hoplites or Macedonian pikemen. And then I added a physics engine so I could model the impact of cavalry hitting infantryman and bouncing them realistically. It was coming on, but in January a video was posted on my game Slay which seemed to go viral! So, I decided to take some time out and update the iOS and Steam versions of Slay as I’d been wanting to add networking and custom map creation for a while.

Since then I decided to sort of pivot on my Ancients wargame and take out some of the complexity by making it into a simpler fantasy battle game based on an isometric grid, so it’ll be more like a big cartoony Lord Of The Rings/Game Of Thrones battle. That way I don’t have to worry about making things ultra-realistic and I can concentrate on the morale model for when troops e.g. rout, and refuse to charge etc… I’ve taken all the control features from what I’d done on the original game where you drag a ‘goto’ marker forwards and backwards and grab and rotate an end to tell a unit to wheel, and based this new game on my other isometric battle game Snowballs. I’m making good progress on this and I’ve got the troops marching in formation, fighting, shooting missiles at each other and retreating when they’re worried.

My long-term plan is to finish this isometric game and release it as a fun large-scale fantasy battle game, and then use exactly the same morale model to go back and finish off an ultra-realistic battle game which will probably appeal more to hardcore wargamers than the fantasy one.”

J is for Jon says

The Flare Path’s unofficial race sim correspondent, Jon Denton, adored Assetto Corsa and rates its Early Access sequel, Assetto Corsa Competizione, too. His take: “Far from being an open, moddable platform like its predecessor, ACC is focused solely on the Blancpain GT Endurance series which restricts it to just 18 cars and 10 tracks. My personal feeling is that this is a good move. The keener focus has allowed the physics and vehicle dynamics guys to present a level of detail with those 18 cars far and away above anything they could do with a more open platform, and the net result is an absolutely superb driving experience.

They’ve also done a lot of work on the Kunos version of “live track” and the results are pretty impressive, with genuinely variable weather and temperature meaning very different challenges when it comes to setting up your car. This has been a major area of development in the genre for a while and the original AC was some way behind the curve, so it is good to see them taking a big step in this area.

The close relationship Kunos have been able to form with the real life Blancpain teams has given them huge amounts of data to work with and the results show in the detail of the car models, the physics, and the sounds. I’ve not really been a fan of simracing’s recent predilection for GT3 cars, but driving ACC has been some of the most enjoyable sim driving I’ve done in years…. When it’s working.

It’s not all good. Despite a steady stream of patches the sim still has plenty of bugs, game-breaking for some, and this has prevented me delving too deep into the career or championship modes. They have moved from their in-house engine to the Unreal engine and it seems to me that there is some way to go with graphics optimisation to squeeze the maximum performance from the engine, particularly for VR players. Sadly this seems to be an all too common thing these days with sims across many genres that we have to wait a good 6-12 months after release for the updates that make it a solid experience, with any luck ACC will be there soon.”

K is for Kraken on my six!

We’ll never know exactly how many wave-skimming torpedo bombers fell to opportunistic kraken during WW2 but Seamus Trelawney, a marine zoologist/salvage expert/guerilla knitter pal of mine suspects the losses ran into double figures. Above is bound to interest Seamus. Pilotwings meets BOMB meets Sunless Sea, this Danish work-in-progress sadly doesn’t feature 3D cockpits or SB2U Vibrators but does seem driven by a deep affection for aviation and aerodynes.

L is for Looks like rain

In the Anglicised version of Storm Chasers I’ve just coded in my head, you don’t pursue weather, you talk about and forecast it. Passing a Pissing Down resident in the street and failing to make a weather-related comment costs you kudos. As you grow more confident and get better at interpreting cloud patterns, animal behaviour, barometers, pine cones and seaweed, a low-risk “Lovely day!” might be replaced by a daring “Make the most of it – we’re in for a soggy weekend”. Earn a reputation for accurate forecasting and eventually villagers will seek you out with weighty weather-related questions. Should the fete committee hire a second marquee for Saturday? Should Sam the thatcher start on Lilac Cottage tomorrow or Tuesday-week? You’ve not experienced dismay in a videogame until you’ve gazed upon 48 hopelessly bogged vehicles in a ploughing match car park and realised that it’s all your fault.

M is for Market g-forces

The DCS Summer Sale still has ten days left to run. The Tomcat, Farmer, and Fw-190-A8 stubbornly retain their pre-sale price tags, but almost everything else has been substantially reduced.

N is for North African vistas

Single-figure framerates shouldn’t be an issue in the coming Cliffs of Dover offshoot ‘Tobruk’. Three videos released by Team Fusion Simulations during the past week show steeds like the Martlet, Beaufighter, Maachi C.202 and Spitfire Vb capering over GPU-gentle North African terrain. A volunteer workforce working with inherited code means there’s no telling when the new theatre and its thespians will arrive.

O is for Outsized octopus

The Great Model Railway Challenge judges would heartily approve of some of the user-made layouts that have started appearing in Rolling Line’s Steam Workshop since Gaugepunk introduced mixable scenery paint. The picture is from Paint Shop, a creation that boasts two Godzilla-sized monsters busy causing mayhem and whimsical flourishes like this car making an ambitious bid to board a departing ro-ro ferry (the attempt is captivating audiences at a nearby drive-in).

P is for Perpetual puddles

The Automobilista 2 trailer is puddle-rich and proud of it. Whether Reiza’s new sim will be as eager to drain micro-lakes as form them remains to be seen. In Project CARS 2, Automobilista 2’s engine-mate, temperature and tyres had little impact on standing water.

Q is for Quick teabreak

R is for Roger Meatball

Perform 2272 carrier landings in pay-what-you-wish ‘streamlined’ flight sim Roger Meatball and a grinning Eric “Winkle” Brown appears on the flat-top’s bridge with thumb raised. Hopefully. I’ve yet to manage a single trap as the game refuses to communicate with either my joystick or gamepad. Jon Coughlin’s flight model should be fleshy (he’s a bona fide aero engineer) but unless default controls and controller compatibility improve, few will get to enjoy it.

S is for Sod the sod

…give us female footballers. There’s nothing topical about the latest (June 18) build of My Favourite Game of 2018. The result of a year of toil, the Creative Freedom update brings a host of improvements including prettier pitches, improved modabilty, hotseat tournaments, and a more interesting penalty mechanic to Football, Tactics & Glory, but no succour for players wishing to emulate teams like Arsenal W.F.C. and Olympique Lyonnais Féminin.

T is for Tishchenko talks

Discussing his year behind bars with Meduza, one of Russia’s most trustworthy news organs, manual miscreant Oleg Tishchenko sounds remarkably unfazed. Supported financially by Eagle Dynamics during his ordeal, Oleg describes the nine months he spent incarcerated in Georgia (the country) awaiting extradition as “civilized” and the three he spent in Utah as problem-free. “I was a celebrity in jail. Before then, I’d told people about my crime, but they’re simple guys out there. They asked me, “Is that spying?” I told them it wasn’t and explained what I’d done. Then they asked how much time I might have to do. I told them probably five years. They said, “Oh, well then, you’ve had some bad luck. Hang in there.” Everyone was really positive.”

U is for Underground underachiever

The marvellous Moscow Metro deserves better than the mediocre Metro Simulator 2019. Poor performance, miserly route mileage, character-deficient footplates, and an approach to instruction that leaves a lot to be desired are some of the reasons I can’t see myself warming to MS2019 the way I warmed to Kishmish’s last title.

V is for Vladimir verifies

Graviteam CEO, Vladimir Zayarniy, tells me that a couple of neglected/muddy Spring 1942 operations plus an Eighties Angolan outing are likely subjects for coming Graviteam Tactics DLC. In his own words “We plan to consider the combat in March-April 1942, north-west of Kharkov – the operation involving 38 and 6 Armies of the Southwestern front, which remained in the shadow of the Barvenkovsko-Lozovskaya operation and the subsequent disaster near Kharkov in May 1942. As well as events on the Volkhov front around the same time period. And most likely there will be a continuation of Operation Moduler in Angola.” The new ops will probably prompt some changes to the turnbased strat layer. Division boundary lines, and air and artillery strikes on the operational map are being talked about.

W is for Wasp stripes next

Diesel Railcar Simulator’s rail network is set to expand dramatically in coming months thanks to a route editor released on June 11. Solo dev Oskari is now focussed on engineering new rolling stock. The sim’s first loco, a Class 03, and “some freight wagons” will headline the next update, with a Class 37 and a rake of Mark 1 coaches the nub of the one after that.

X is for Xperimental xtras

The French team behind baldly monikered helicopter simulator Helicopter Simulator: Helicopter Simulator continue to pump out tempting videos. The latest suggests that some of the sim’s “special missions” will involve dousing crops with chemicals. Including spraying kit in your heli sim is a bold move. There’s bound to be punters who use the apparatus to assess the verisimilitude of your Vortex Ring States.

Y is for You should read…

Maidens’ Trip if you’re enjoying the latest version of Narrowboat Simulator as much as I am. Emma Smith’s semi-autobiographical tale of a wartime journey on the Grand Union Canal is beautifully written and packed with anecdotes relevant to NS.

Z is for Zaccarian steal

There’s never been a better time to buy dated transportiana for fab, free pinball sim, Zaccaria. Low-tech gems like Supersonic, Aerobatics, and Locomotion are included in the bargain ’27 Retro Tables’ DLC (£0.79). Be sure to play in arcade mode initially, if you’re a genre ingénue.

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