When it comes to monumental transatlantic ambition, no-one takes the biscotto like Gianni Caproni takes the biscotto. No-one, that is, except Four Funnels Entertainment, the Titanic obsessives from the US who want to use a million crowdsourced dollars to build gaming's largest and most elaborate virtual vessel.
If Thomas Lynskey, Matthew DeWinkeleer, and Kyle Hudak get the cash they need to turn their monocle-popping pipedreams into polygons, one day - perhaps as early as 2016 - a labyrinthine virtual RMS Titanic will hove into view off Cape Cor Blimey. The vessel in question will sport ten decks of blueprint and photo-based wander-spaces. Every cabin, lounge, dining room, galley, laundry, hold, engine-room, ballroom, barber's shop, library, gymnasium, sun-deck, sickbay and holosuite, that went to the seabed on April 15, 1912, will be present and correct in Titanic: Honor & Glory.
And, like the infamous iceberg, Four Funnels don't intend to stop once they hit hull plating. The plan is to also model a significant chunk of a city Flare Path knows well, Southampton. The exact proportion of the Hampshire port that ends up sculpted will depend on the success of an IndieGoGo campaign that, with 12 days left to run, is still over $200,000 short of its most modest goal.
Video clips and a small but impressive interactive demo prove that the team's shift from CryEngine 3 to Unreal Engine 4 has paid dividends, and that Kyle and Matthew have the skills necessary to create bewitching maritime architecture. (Kyle's Titanic handiwork has featured before in Flare Path. Long before THG and its forerunner Titanic: Lost in the Darkness pimpled the horizon, he worked on versions of the White Star Line whopper for Virtual Sailor and Mafia.) What remains to be seen is whether Four Funnels have, or are likely to acquire in the future, sufficient talent and resources to plausibly populate their splendid decks and interiors.
You see Honor & Glory doesn't simulate for the sake of simulation. The beautifully decorated environments aren't just curiosity piquers and daydream seeders, they're stage-sets for a Titanic: Adventure Out of Time-esque detective drama. In tour mode the player will be free to bimble about, fingering drapes and admiring crockery. However, in story mode he'll be expected to "live in the confines of 1912 society" and work hard "to clear his name of horrible crimes". Conversations with fellow passengers are sure to be a vital part of that name-clearing process, and with 200-historically based individuals on the manifest, it sounds like the studio's writers, animators, and soundsmiths have one hell of a task ahead of them.
One wonders if the disarmingly enthusiastic devs have a Plan 'B'. If Four Funnels fail - for a second time - to secure the funding they require to finish, will all that research, craft, and graft go to waste? Perhaps their Titanic model could earn its keep by guest-starring in documentaries. Maybe it could be recycled as a European Ship Simulator add-on or as the centrepiece of a standalone story-free ship simulator. Would there be a market for a high-fidelity Edwardian shuffleboard sim do you think? It seems a trifle defeatist to be thinking about lifeboats with twelve fundraising days still to go, but right now, assuming Titanic: Honor & Glory maintains its current course and speed, it's hard to imagine the project arriving at Pier 59.
Due in September, Train Simulator 2016 could well end up shipping with less steam loco content than Titanic: Honor & Glory. While the latter, if it survives, will come with a smoke-wreathed LSWR boat train in Southampton station, Dovetail's recent TS2016 teaser contains no indications that Chatham's most enterprising rail enthusiasts are about to alter their scandalously discriminatory 'no-coal-munchers-in-base-game' stance.
True, the teaser really doesn't contain indications of any kind apart from the obvious one: Dovetail's Head of Nomenclature has sold his or her soul to the devil.
Train Simulator: 2016 Extreme?
Surely one of the main reasons most of us train sim is to get as far away from the 'extreme' as humanly possible. Dovetail, what we're after is the prosaic not the outlandish or the dangerous. Give us extra helpings of nostalgia, physics and atmosphere by all means, but kindly leave the extreme where it belongs - in skate parks and satirical vids.
Then again, if 'extreme' is a sign that you've finally decided to add WW2 scenarios to TS I take back all of the above. Bring it on.
Bearing in mind the 'simulation & wargame blather' header up there and the Hivemind's notorious intolerance of remit renegades, I wonder if I'm wise to use the tail-end of this week's column to remind Flare Path reader #278 (beige cardy, hangdog look, memory like a sieve) that an empty wallet and a borrowed laptop doesn't necessarily mean a weekend without high-calibre WW2 entertainment. For reasons far too dull to go into, I've spent a modest portion of this week swapping lead with startled German sentries. For the umpteenth time I've been sneaking, stabbing and Sten-gunning my way through the gloriously free (but, yes, not nearly as good as H&D2) Hidden & Dangerous Deluxe.
The Flare Path Foxer
a. Henry Folland, designer of the Gloster Gladiator
b. Arena Swimwear logo
c. LA Memorial Coliseum statue by Robert Graham
d. 5 cent euro coin (the obverse side of the Italian coin features the Colosseum)
e. Rocket from '20 Million Miles to Earth' (the film's finale takes place in the Colosseum)
f. Part of Bletchley Park computer Colossus
g. Lancia Flavia Sport (The Colosseum is also known as the Flavian Ampitheatre)
h. GUI element from Lion
i. Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris (Way of the Dragon reference)
Roman's word ladders don't work like standard word ladders. You clamber from bottom to top, placing appropriate five-letter words on each rung. Usually a word inherits three letters from the word below it (the positions of those three letters are inherited too) .The exceptions are the words derived from [A] clues; these are anagrams of the words below them. Clues should make the climb easier, but be aware that the unspeakably fiendish Roman has shuffled the ten clues on the upper half of the ladder (clues 11 to 20). For example '[A] LW fighter formation' probably doesn't belong next to rung 16.
20. ----- WW2 armoured car
19. ----- Curve useful to glider pilots
18. ----- [A] European airline
17. ----- Sweet-toothed SADF stalwart
16. ----- [A] LW fighter formation
15. ----- French aircraft manufacturer
14. ----- Detects underwater objects
13. ----- In the NATO phonetic alphabet
12. ----- 145 served in the RAF during the Battle of Britain
11. ----- British prop producer
10. ----- Rolls Royce aero engine
9. ----- 19th Century peace treaty
8. ----- M3 variant
7. ----- Slang for a plane crash
6. ----- Czech vehicle manufacturer
5. ----- Site of dramatic WW2 uprising
4. ----- Itinerant freighter
3. ----- British Army vehicle inspired by the Jeep
2. ----- [A] A form of drive that's been around since 250BC
(All answers in one thread, please)