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The Flare Path: A Plague Of Caterpillars

Simulation & wargame news

There are many different ways of gathering sim and wargame news. Me, I like to get up at the crack of dawn, grab my metal detector, and head into the forests that surround my hometown. It's amazing what you find amongst the pines and birches: press releases, beta announcements, busts of Hitler, bog-entombed T-70s... Why, just yesterday I discovered a cache of Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition info, a Ski Region Simulator demo, and some pages from a Rise of Flight diary stuffed into the barrel of an ivy-shrouded Jagdtiger.

 Steel Beasts Bestiary To Expand

Anyone that likes their simulated tank interiors cramped and dotted with Cyrillic signage, is in for a cracking Christmas. We've known about Steel Armor: Blaze of War – Graviteam's exotic T-62/M60A1 sim - for a while. What's only recently been revealed, is that eSim, the makers of the pricey but peerless Steel Beasts Pro Personal Edition, have also been crawling about with cameras inside Eastern Bloc AFVs.

Hull-down at the heart of the upcoming $25 SBPPE upgrade, will be the sim's first crewable Soviet MBT – a T-72M1. That 'M1' tagged on the end means you won't get to spit Svir missiles from your 125mm main gun the way you can in Iron Warriors. It also implies racks full of substandard 'monkey model' ammo.

Against SBPPE stalwarts like the Leo and M1A1 the debutante seems destined to struggle. Where it will doubtless come into its own is in clashes with another newcomer the (sadly, AI-only) Centurion, and in brushes with the sim's impressive array of contemporary American and West European APCs and IFVs. Even a dodgy export-grade APFSDS shell should be able to make short work of a Bradley or an M113.

There are images of the new T-72 in this SimHQ forum thread along with pics of another 2.6 upgrade surprise: chunky infantry. For the last 11 years, Steel Beasts users have been mowing down man-shaped sprites with their chattering MGs.

What the devs haven't quite got round to yet, is modernising their lighting. Sixty tons of trundling steel still fails to cast a shadow of any kind. If that seems ludicrous in this day and age - a reason to sneer or steer clear – bear in mind that players that stick to gorgeous sims never get to participate in amazing co-op engagements like these:

Cover image for YouTube video

Cover image for YouTube video


Sward Into Snowploughshares

Having spent 10 years scratching a living writing about PC games, I think I'm about ready to make the traditional move into PR. Intuition tells me that GIANTS Software, the creators of unusually decent Euro-sim Farming Simulator, is a studio destined for great things/unimaginable wealth. Convincing them to hire me could be tricky. I'm going to start by having a bash at rewriting their latest press release:

“In Ski Region Simulator 2012 Ski Resort Simulator 2012 there is an almost endless variety of gameplay possibilities. In the career mode you enter a huge winter landscape to and experience the day-to-day running of a Swiss Alpine ski resort. In this accurately modelled world decadent bourgeois playground you are free to explore, manage the resort in real-time, and watch the outcome of your decisions operate ludicrous vehicles like snow cannons and snow groomers, hurl snowballs, and search for 100 lost garden gnomes.

By a process of careful management and decision making savegame file hacking, you will build up your finances and can purchase better equipment and machinery to develop and maintain the resort. We have accurately modelled authentic Pistenbully snow ploughs and Pistenbully equipment (thanks to their cooperation and licence agreement from of Kässbohrer) which you take direct Pistenbully control of in the Pistenbully game.

Pistenbully. Pistenbully. Pistenbully. Pistenbully. Pistenbully. Pis. Ten. Bully.

And if the wide variety of vehicles and machinery included isn't enough ... then there's plenty of vehicles, equipment and other mods you can download from the internet we will hurl ourselves off the top of the Reichenbach Falls intoning “Please forgive us!” until we are smashed to pieces on the jagged rocks below.

Look, basically its Farming Sim with snowier, slopier fields, weirder tractors, and numerous purchasable hotels, ski-schools, and fondue booths. The demo doesn't let you try much, but it does let you collect gnomes, walk for miles, and mess around on one of those Pistenbully snow-strokers.

Release: Fall Autumn 2011


The Fokker Splurge (Part II)

As Tim seems to have lost interest in chronicling my adventures it looks like I'm going to have to do it myself. From now on, the story of Gunther Ground – a Nuremberg wheelbarrow operator turned Rise of Flight Fokker demon – will come straight from the horse's mouth. Pour yourself a schnapps, tuck your feet under a warm dachshund, and we'll get started.

If you recall, Tim left me spiralling towards Belgium in a rudderless Eindecker. Thanks to an over-enthusiastic dive and Anthony Fokker's scandalously frail design, my first day with Jasta 2 was looking like my last. Fortunately, Fate and Physics had other ideas. Moments before ground and Ground merged, my little monoplane seemed to come to her senses. A crash was unavoidable, but when it arrived the impact was flat and slow rather than vertical and violent.

Soldiers of the 6th Bavarian Reserve Division (one of whom, an intense Gefreiter with an Iron Cross, claimed he'd almost been killed by my plummeting rudder) helped me from the wreckage, and bundled me into an ambulance. The next thing I knew I was waking up in a requisitioned doll factory surrounded by the blood-badged nuns and chewed-up infantrymen that would be my companions for the next five days.

I returned to Velu on the evening of Sept 7, a wound badge tucked sheepishly into my top pocket. There were a few back-slaps and nods from the mess-room regulars, but behind the smiles I could sense a hint of accusation. Luck was something you earned, and I'd done nothing yet to warrant my generous share. I yearned to get back into the air and prove the doubters wrong. The chance arrived sooner than I expected.

Early the next morning Christian Albrecht, Andreas Wagner, and myself clambered into our Eindeckers and set off on a four-leg patrol over the Front. A tentative take-off and some experiments with fuel-mixture settings meant I was trailing far behind when a glinting speck low on my eleven-o'clock pupated into an approaching DH.2. This time there'd be no frame-fracturing kestrel dive. Cocking my single MG14 and chopping my throttle, I let the intruder pass beneath me before I dipped my port wing and gently descended.

The next few minutes were a blur of trigger-clenching, stick-wrenching, throttle-blipping uncertainty. I poured fire at the wooden skeleton bobbing in my rectangular grid sight; he jinked . I unjammed an overheated MG; he almost turned the tables when I misjudged a turn. Eventually, the head of my adversary pitched forward and disappeared from view. The fellow was either fumbling for a dropped humbug, tying his bootlace, or...

A calmness came over the British machine. It stopped weaving and began to wallow and lose altitude. I circled, watching as it grazed treetops then flopped into a pasture and shuddered to a stop. A less nervous pilot would have landed beside the wreck and removed a rudder or roundel- emblazoned section of wing canvas as a souvenir. This one was content to take one last lingering look at his devilish handiwork, and turn for home.

Home! Foolishly, I allowed my thoughts to hurry ahead of my Eindecker. A mile or two out from Velu, I was blipping my throttle in order to bleed speed, when the engine coughed and died. By the time the prop had ceased its reassuring rotation, I was already bathed in sweat and as frightened as a hare in no-man's-land. Should I try to restart the motor with all the distraction that would entail, or resign myself to a nerve-wracking glide to the ground?

In the end I chose the latter option, and pushing pictures of planes crumpled in trees and upturned in ditches out of my mind, managed to land clumsily but safely in a field half a kilometre from the hangars. It wasn't the conquering hero's homecoming I'd visualised, but – as I later learned – it was more than my unfortunate comrades Andreas and Christian had managed.

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Rise of Flight


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Tim Stone