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The Flare Path: A2Z

Alphabetised snippets of sim and wargaming news

A is for Antediluvian art. Go to iEntertainment for your WarBirds 2020 information and you're sure to come away unimpressed. The pics on show here suggest this imminent MMO sequel is going to stick out like a Sopwith Camel in a sky full of Spitfires and Bf 109s when it appears this autumn. Confusingly, cockpit images recently tweeted by resurrected developer MicroProse give a very different impression.

B is for Barfyscaphe

V = vomit in the current demo build of UBoat Sim. Don't interpret that as a lack of seriousness on the dev's part, though. Overworked Studios is aiming to deliver incomparably authentic Type VIIs.

C is for Challenging cartography

Creating the map for Battle of Bodenplatte has pushed 1CGS map makers well out of their comfort zone. Not only is it the biggest environment the studio has ever created (“In addition to the Rhineland it also includes around 70% of the Netherlands, 85% of Belgium, 50% of Luxembourg and a small bit of France”) studded with over 220 cities and towns it's also the most highly populated. The number of unique aerodromes has complicated the task:

“Seventy airfields are already on the map, but we hope to add twenty more once we get data for them. The area we recreated in the sim undoubtedly had the most advanced and developed airfield system in the world at that time. And most European airfields were huge unique facilities rather than pre-fab designs. So, we had a humongous task in front of us - to find many reference documents and photos and recreate these bases as realistically as possible. We would like to thank our special community members who helped us to find aerial photos and plans for almost all airbases that we needed.”

D is for Dangerously distracting deck details

Sadly not a screenshot from a hardcore alternative to Carrier Deck, this is in fact Supercarrier, a coming DCS module. The Nimitz-class vessels (Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John C. Stennis, and the Harry S. Truman) in the adjunct will boast interactive 3D ready rooms, Air Boss, and Landing Signal Officer stations, plus oodles of working gadgetry and bespoke audio.

E is for Ezra explains

In his latest blog post, veteran ding-dong digitiser Ezra Sidran explains that's he's delayed the release of his comeback project, General Staff, because the AI was too good. Well, he doesn't put it quite like that. As originally coded, his silicon generals were so rational, so clinical, that they refused to undertake unwise attacks or divide their forces foolishly. Consequently, accurate simulations of scraps like Little Bighorn and Gettysburg were impossible. A new light-touch AI scripter is his solution. For folk who prefer undiluted dynamism, the option will be there to play without scripts.

F is for Foxer

You can tell them by their inkwell eyes and their involuntary shrugs. The furious way they flick their fag ends into The Abyss. People who have never managed to identify a word in a missing vowels foxer.

G is for Green groundcrew

Wondering why Early Access Plane Mechanic Simulator hadn't spawned a Blenheim, Beaufighter or, indeed, any add-ons yet, I contacted the publishers mid-week and received news that could be construed as either good or bad. PlayWay told me “We are finalizing the transfer of the project to a new, bigger developer. So updates will come quite soon, and they will be important to the game.”

H is for Hot laps

A tarmac temperature model that reflects traffic, sun strength, shadows, surface orientation and albedo isn't sufficiently realistic for the obsessives at iRacing. The team are currently working on giving tracks long memories. A new multi-layered approach will allow circuits to “remember" conditions from hours earlier. “The layers allow a realistic recording of history that the old model simply could not reflect. Think especially about a hot day that has a hint of a late-afternoon monsoon that is only a very short, mild rain shower: in the old model, the track temperature would have plummeted and stayed cold, even after all the water was gone. With the new model, the heat that was stored in the lower layers beforehand can slowly return to the surface and allow it to regain some of the lost temperature, even if the skies stay cloudy.”

I is for Interminable interval

Announced over four years ago, Rome to Victory, the Combat Mission: Fortress Italy module that will complete the story of the Italian campaign should be out by the end of the month. Introducing nearly 100 new troop formations including units of the British Indian Army and the German Gebirgsjäger, and 50 late war AFV types such as the Sherman Kangaroo and the Churchill NA 75, the add-on will end a four-year drought for fans of WW2 CM.

J is for Japanese jiant

A sub game with an I-400 in its pen is guaranteed to untelescope telescopes. In Seahunter, a solo effort publicised through the subsim.com forums, the exotic IJN colossi will come with pilotable Seiran floatplanes, a genre first. This post makes Smoking Head Software's debut project sound closer to Cold Waters than Silent Hunter. Simple controls and simplified torp targeting, freelance-friendly campaigns plus scripted missions, Type XB U-boats in addition to the I-400s... colour me curious.

K is for Kylotonn delivers

Eurogamer's resident wheelman, Martin Robinson, peppers WRC 8 with praise in this review. It seems the Dirt Rally series has a worthy rival at last, albeit a controversially monopolised one.

L is for Loosen that lens

None of the Close Combat - The Bloody First videos I've seen so far answer the question “Why go 3D?”. One of the reasons Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord felt like such a colossal leap forward in 2000 was the exciting new opportunities it presented. Inspect terrain from the vantage point of an infantry squad or AFV. Experience combat at eye-level. Understandably keen to retain the feel of the original CCs, I hope Matrix Games haven't restrained their mobile camera to the point of pointlessness.

M is for Mad museum

You need a scuba set or the lungs of a sperm whale to fully enjoy Jordan's strangest museum. If this year's Comment Commanders had screwed up, Qatab would boast a very similar tourist attraction today.

N is for Nondescript names

Dovetail Games launch a second 'new' train sim later this month. Clever choice of titles means there's no danger whatsoever that potential punters will get Train Sim World 2020 (out now) and Train Simulator 2020 (due on Sept 19) confused.

O is for Oliphantine outing

The latest Graviteam Tactics add-on is a 1980s Angolan affair featuring, amongst other things, South African Centurion tanks and the worlds first Mine Resistant Ambush Protected APC, the Buffel.

P is for Peerless periscopes

In terms of periscope realism, Steel Gear – Stalingrad is streets ahead of Tank Crew - Clash at Prokhorovka at present. The example in the SGS T-34 is only rotatable once the rod that slaves it to the main gun has been manually disconnected.

Q is for Quick coffee break

R is for Rubbery resistance

Owned by Gravity's decision to build dynamic difficulty into Fantasy General II's campaign has to go down as one of their few clear-cut mistakes. It's easy to miss (I failed to notice it while preparing my preview-cum-review) but the number of units furnished by foes is highly dependent on the number of units deployed by the player. Understandably some are far from happy to learn that careful progress actually stiffens resistance. Sensing the mood, the devs have promised to make changes, but it sounds like the rubberbanding won't be entirely ditched.

S is for Substantial sequel

Command: Modern Operations, the CMANO sequel this hawkish trailer scrupulously fails to feature, sounds like it will augment and innovate in all the right areas. While I'm a little alarmed at the thought of “over half a terabyte's worth of satellite imagery and terrain elevation” data, talk of a refreshed user interface, expanded ground ops, enhanced dogfight AI, a new Quick Battle Generator, and Tacview support, suggests CMO may prove a friendlier and more rounded offering than its predecessor.

T is for Toad ride

Diesel Railcar Simulator will be getting Class 03-hauled freight trains soon and, judging by the above video, the assemblages are going to be adorable. The last time I rode a toad I was fleeing from a malevolent dryad and an army of bewitched stag beetles. Cheese and biscuits before bedtime is seldom a good idea.

U is for Unfunded update

The chances of Strike Fighters 2 gaining gratis Windows 10 compatibility before Christmas grow slimmer by the day (With a week of a fortnight-long crowdfunding campaign left to run, Third Wire Productions still has over $20K left to raise) but a payware patch sometime in 2020 isn't out of the question. Strike Fighters 3 on the other hand... "We'd love to be able to do SF3, but we're not ready to commit that much time and money to a new PC game at this point (we still haven't paid off the development cost of SF2NA). A completely new game would take us at least 5 years and cost us at least 2 million. Plus, everyone would expect post-release support for 10-20 additional years, easily doubling the cost."

V is for VR variations

VR has become an essential component of simming for many, but the growing diversity of tech can cause problems for sim devs as this excerpt from a recent Q&A I conducted with 1CGS illustrates:

1CGS: “We constantly improve our VR support, for instance, in the coming update we improve support for canted VR HMDs like Pimax 5K+, its wider field of view will be correct and not distorted. All this new technology like canted displays is exciting, but it takes up a lot of time to support and the technology is changing so rapidly it’s hard to keep up, not only as a developer, but also as a consumer. Jason has had to buy five different goggles in the past 18 months just to keep up. There’s a lot of chaos in the VR market it seems. We feel VR goggle makers really should talk to us and understand the nuances and challenges flight-sims face when supporting VR. Especially since we have unique needs and custom game engines. Our type of product should really be a showcase for their tech, but they don’t seem to understand that and keep shoving new tech and limitations in our face without even considering how that affects our type of product. Like for instance, the new canted displays screw up our zoom function that a lot of flight-simmers rely upon to fly effectively. Very annoying. Trying to talk to the manufacturers has been a less than fun and not a very productive experience for us sad to say. Luckily our team is smart and can figure things out, but the manufacturers really are causing us some pain."

W is for Waterlooware

Paul Bruffel isn't the first dev to break #112 of my wargame design rules by choosing a game name that conjures up an amusing mental picture of raptors strutting in step (Paradox committed exactly the same faux pas in 2013). However, he is, I believe, the first to break rule #43 – “Don't build a battlefield from hexagons then ignore those hexagons from then on”. Contrary to appearances, Marching Eagles: Waterloo uses area movement. Other novel features include rationed command points, a random events decks, optional turn time limits, and an interesting suite of attack options. I've yet to read a detailed assessment of the AI but the qualified positivity of Wargamer.com's Bill Gray and Real and Simulated Wars' JC suggests Marching Eagles is a title I might enjoy.

X is for Xtra capacity

Armored Brigade's most significant shortcoming is dead and buried. True to their word, Veitikka Studios have just raised the unit-per-grid-square limit from one to three, creating much more plausible Cold War clashes as a result. The patch, which also brings AI and pathfinding improvements, has been warmly received by fans. This excerpt from a tester's forum post speaks volumes: “Multiple stacking pretty much solved issues with traffic congestion on bottleneck points like bridges, narrow forest roads etc. which is a huge achievement. For some of us while testing it almost felt like playing a different game... Naturally, it speeds up the tempo of AI operations as well, and making them better coordinated because large formations are easier to control and command and hence less likely to lag behind a smaller groups... AI now reacts to wrecks and losses, and adapts tactically to flank or bypass them, so the chance of situations where well hidden AT teams can destroy a whole company in a small area is reduced and forces the human player to place emphasis on overlapping fields of fire.”

Y is for Yearnworthy

Like a deftly driven Kubelwagen that's trailing a column of dawdling Tigers one minute and leading it the next, Second Front swept to the head of my Highly Anticipated Wargames list in the blink of an eye. By the time I'd finished the first couple of vids in this collection, I was a proto fan.

Z is for Zzzzzzzzzzz