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The Flare Path: A Stoichiometric Mixture

Simulation & wargame blather

FP likes his driving games the way he likes his Nineteenth Century literary heroines: lots going on under the bonnet, keen on cross-country rambles, accomplished on the pianoforte. Small wonder then that when he's not being kind to servants or being cruelly misunderstood at dances, he's usually to be found enquiring after the health of Spintires and Automation.

RPS: Hello Mr Zane Saxton of Oovee Studios. How long have you been working on muddy marvel Spintires?

Zane: It's been in development for six years. The majority of that time has been spent creating our own engine. The ‘VeeEngine’ allows us to be very creative when implementing new features. The flip-side of creativity is that we need to experiment and test all of our ideas before we can consider them worthy for a full game release. Needless-to-say though, I think that with each new build the technology has vastly improved and thanks to our recent success with Kickstarter, we can now focus on finalising the technology and shaping it into a real game.

RPS: Is it possible to make a sim like Spintires without first-hand experience of the featured trucks?

Zane: In an ideal world we would prefer to have access to the real-world counterpart so that we can accurately represent the vehicle in-game. We like to collect reference photographs, measurements, capture sounds and just generally get a hold on the handling characteristics. Unfortunately this isn’t always possible. Luckily so far, we have been fortunate enough to gain access to the confirmed vehicles that will be in the full-game. A quick search through our YouTube channel will find you a video that was recorded during a vehicle survey trip for the Kraz 255.

During our Kickstarter campaign we were approached by a gentleman in the UK, who has kindly
donated his time and his truck (currently unannounced *cough Ural*) so that we can perform our normal surveying tasks. I’m mightily excited!

RPS: How large are levels likely to be?

Zane: Difficult question. We haven’t yet decided what scale we’d like to go for but we have discovered that we can increase the view distance to a stupidly high level, without a major performance impact.

RPS: Is randomly generated terrain a possibility?

Zane: We talked at length about this internally, but never came to a solid conclusion. If we decide to have one large map, there wouldn’t be any need for a feature such as this.

RPS: Why won't cab views feature in the initial release?

Zane: I cannot say at this time whether or not cab views will be in the initial release. Since the VeeEngine was not designed for cab views, it would require a considerable rewrite of our particle effects (since the viewer would be closer to those elements at ground level) and various other camera effects. With that said, keep an eye on our developers blog and you may see something in future.

RPS: Have you experimented with tracked vehicles?

Zane: Yes we have, and we also implemented a turret control/firing system for a tank! I must admit that it was pretty epic and with our physics model, it was represented rather well. The tank had 3D tracks that were fully animated (OTT?) and interacted with the deformable terrain. It rarely became stuck, and trees didn’t stand a chance in hell. The VeeEngine coped very well and it wasn’t any different from a heavily ‘wheeled’ vehicle.

RPS: Can VeeEngine do snow?

Zane: I guess it could, but at the moment we want to focus on perfecting the mud and offer different grip ratios for different ground surfaces.

RPS: Will we be able to add vehicles?

Zane: When the full game is finished, users can add anything they like. We plan to make the process of installing and uninstalling modifications easy and brain ache free.

RPS: Deliberate tyre deflation is in; how about accidental tyre deflation?

Zane: Spintires has a soft-body solution that makes the tires appear visually deflated or inflated. The plan is to implement a manual control for this (as seen in most off-road vehicles) so that the user can adjust his/her tire pressure according to the surroundings. We need to work on a mechanic that will change the actual grip dynamics to make this feature worthy of any usefulness. Accidental tire deflation is something we could implement once we’ve completed the above. In multiplayer imagine having to call a friend on the CB radio to ask him/her to bring you a new tire!

RPS: Will we see cracked glass and buckled bodywork in Spintires?

Zane: This is another topic we have been discussing internally and it’s a possibility that you will see a ‘lite’ damage model in Spintires. However, that depends on how difficult it is for us to synchronise this across a multiplayer environment and how much it will affect performance. I think more importantly though and even more probable, is a dynamic vehicle dirt build up feature.

RPS: What are the toughest challenges facing the development team at present?

Zane: The biggest challenge we face as a team is providing a gameplay mechanic that will satisfy the majority of our fans. We can’t please everyone, but we are very keen on trying to find a happy medium. We have been collecting feedback for many years and we are now armed with a truck full of ideas and suggestions.

RPS: Do you have a release date in mind?

Zane: Well providing we don’t crash into many trees, get swamped in a river somewhere or end up spinning our tires in the mud - we hope to have Spintires finished by Q3 2014.

RPS: Thank you for your time.


NOx Operative

If you call yourself a simulationist and still haven't tried the generous Automation demo, blush slightly and begin searching for excuses under your fingernails. Though Camshaft Software describe their début design as a car company tycoon game, the trial proves the capitalism is built on a foundation of engineering science so solid and detailed, it makes other devs seem positively Vauxhall Cavalier in their attitudes towards the internal combustion engine.

Backed by excellent embedded tutorial videos, the free version of the engine editor manages to be both incredibly educational and improbably diverting. Adapt an existing motor to run on low-quality petrol for a planned Kazakh taxi... build a new small, light, rugged engine to power field generators for the US Army in Afghanistan... all of the seventeen included scenarios present technical challenges as plausible real-world problems. With the help of handy graphs, occasional you-seem-to-be-struggling design suggestions, and convenient component explanation texts, progress towards a solution might be slow but it seldom stalls completely. A cam profile change here, an ignition timing tweak there, a minute or two at the test bench, and suddenly the 'SUCCESS' screen looms and you wipe the oil from your hands feeling like a mechanical genius.

Just how accurate is the chemistry and physics behind Camshaft's engine editor? The fact that you can already use the software to create believable versions of historical engines, suggests the devs know their AFRs from their elbows.

The car bodies that will eventually casket your gaskets, blocks, pushrods etc will be sculpted using a designer interface due to be demoed soon. If it lets me build a passable Tatra 603 I'll be impressed.


The Flare Path Foxer

Last Friday, discerning Mosquito pilots skink74, mrpier, corinoco, bungalowjoe, zachforrest, Gaytard Fondue and Dana shot fist-sized holes in a...

and waggled their wingtips at a..

Flare Path flair points carved from Operation Jericho brick rubble are their reward. For spotting an unintended beverage theme, PhilR also receives a piece of pulverized prison wall.

A recent University of Buckingham study suggests it takes 7-9 years to become “consistently good” at cryptic crosswords. True Foxer mastery takes twice as long but being three times as satisfying is statistically a more profitable way to invest your time. Experience that satisfaction by identifying the hidden theme* linking the eight elements in the collage above.

*Previous themes have included illnesses, golf, Amazonian wildlife and Sherlock Holmes.

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