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The Flare Path: A2Z

Snippets of sim and wargaming news

A is for Altitudinous apogee. When Mudspike's major-domo heads for the edge of space the resulting write-ups are always worth reading. Chris Frishmuth's latest trip into the wild blue-black yonder involved X-Plane 11 and a $10 SpaceShipTwo recreation. Although the lightly modelled add-on doesn't animate SS2's ingenious pivoting wings - the premature activation of which caused the disintegration of VSS Enterprise in 2014 - the dev's cunning use of inconspicuous drogue chutes mean convincing simulations of SS2's 'feathered' reentries are possible.

B is for Blue beauties

Because of slow growth, flawed physics and some questionable route choices, currently not all train sim enthusiasts are Train Sim World enthusiasts. Judging by the forum buzz, the latest TSW add-on could enlarge the overlap considerably. Northern Trans-Pennine: Manchester – Leeds is set in a time when the diesel locos plying British rails were blue and yellow and manufactured in places like Crewe, Derby, and Newton-le-Willows rather than London, Ontario and Erie, Pennsylvania. Dovetail provide two examples of homegrown haulage – a Duff and Peak –  together with a Class 101 DMU that's bound to bring to mind Flare Path favourite Diesel Railcar Simulator.  At present you can only shuttle passengers along the 43 mile-long route, but hopefully freight options will arrive eventually. Assuming I can drag myself away from DUSK during the Christmas break, I'll share some impressions of this encouraging £25 adjunct in the new year.

C is for Co-op foxer

D is for Desert Storm

The last two expansions for era-fluid TBS Wars Across the World reenact conflicts I'm old enough to remember. In Rhodesia 1972 players have nine years (18 turns) in which to end/preserve white minority rule in the country now known as Zimbabwe. In Gulf 1990 they must annex/liberate Kuwait within 210 days (21 turns) to triumph. Counter-intuitively, the Iraqis are described as the 'favoured' (easier to play) side in the latter scenario.

E is for Erk

Cover image for YouTube video

According to this review of 303 Squadron, a game that bravely attempted to fuse Battle of Britain dogfighting, hands-on fighter repair/maintenance, base exploration and comrade conversation, Atomic Jelly would have been better off concentrating on the bolt loosening and leaving out the lead loosing and chinwagging. Plane Mechanic Simulator, an upcoming title from the home of spanner sims, Poland, may cause me to eat that advice, but I like what I see so far. Three modeled aircraft (Tiger Moth, Spitfire Mk 1, Mosquito)... over 200 detachable/replaceable parts per aircraft... a campaign in which maintenance mistakes may mean your pilot fails to return... it all sounds remarkably promising - promisingly achievable.

F is for FlightSim Store FUBAR

The perils of customer loyalty in the digital distribution age are starkly illustrated by the ongoing FlightSim Store collapse. This large online retailer is in the midst of a messy liquidation that threatens to leave many of its customers without access to thousands of pounds' worth of DRM-'protected' virtual aircraft and sceneries. An unfortunate member of the Flare Path Irregulars (this column's shadowy intel-gathering organisation) is facing the grim prospect of losing a vast collection of MSFS add-ons purchased from the Australian retailer over a 15 year period. In his words “It feels like one wing of my private aircraft museum just burnt down.”. A few developers who sold through FSS are attempting to help by offering recovery options, but often there's a service charge payable for this assistance. I imagine very few people reading this would argue with my correspondent when he observes... “I’m actually surprised governments haven’t woke up to this situation yet and put in place remedies in legislation for consumers to be able to access decryption in case of company collapse.”

G is for Grand Prix Legends

GPL turns twenty this year and cars-wot-go-fast appreciator Jon Denton has marked the occasion by penning a paean for RAVSim that explains beautifully the difference between a good sim and a landmark one. Assuming you're Jon's age or older, the nostalgia-dusted article is guaranteed to make you feel ancient: “My eldest nephew, born in 1998, is a keen simracer but is only vaguely aware that GPL ever existed; to him it appears as aged and weak as the arcade cabinet of Night Driver may have appeared to me in my youth. He will never know the experience of a sim that doesn’t quite feel like driving a car but does a bit. He will never know the crippling pain of driving a 78 lap Monaco grand prix using the keyboard.”

H is for Helpful Hendon

One of yesterday's visitors to the RAF Museum in London left with a lot more than a Spitfire snow globe and a Eurofighter Typhoon key-ring. IL-2 Sturmovik producer Jason Williams is currently winging his way back across the Atlantic after making a special trip to Hendon to photograph the cockpit of the museum's rare Tempest V. Fortunately for Jason and Battle of Bodenplatte pre-orderers, NV778 has recently returned to terra firma after years aloft.

I is for Interdependent industries

Above (click to enlarge) is the most exciting train sim image I've seen in ages. Dotted about Derail Valley's fictional 256 km² map will be 15 industrial sites serving a stylised 36-resource economy. In DV we won't drive canned scenarios or pluck services from a timetable, we'll roam 200km of iron road accepting procedurally generated jobs whenever and wherever we please. Early Accessible from Jan 18, Altfuture's imaginative genre enlivener won't be, as the Steam page cruelly suggests, VR only. The keyboard-bound are catered for too.

J is for Justification for Japanese journeys

If Santa ignores your TrueEarth GB hints this year, or, like me, your HD turns out to be too crowded to accommodate Orbx's latest handsome/huge scenery, then it might be worth relocating to the Land of the Rising Sun for a spell. Yesterday, good Samaritan MisterX6 released a free package for X-Plane 11 that makes Japan look far more Japanese.

K is for Keen on keels

Sly old Game-Labs are following Ultimate General: Civil War with two wet wargames not one! On Tuesday the above image plus two others appeared in a new section of the studio's forums. While we know a little about Ultimate Admiral: Dreadnoughts (see previous A2Z) Ultimate Admiral: Age of Sail is swathed in mystery at present. The screenshots suggest Talonsoft's Age of Sail II gingered up with exciting shore party skirmishes. Snotties will definitely want to keep their telescopes trained on this one.

L is for Lupine liquidity

Cover image for YouTube video

221 USD a month probably isn't enough to keep the wolf from Wolferos' door indefinitely, but hopefully it's sufficient to allow this pair of ex HoI4 modders to complete their ambitious Patreon-supported debut project, Fields of History: The Great War.

M is for Militarily monotone

I'd be interested to hear what seasoned Paradoxians make of cheap, one-man grand strategy effort Age of Civilizations II. I dabbled with it briefly a few weeks ago and though impressed with the scope (global coverage + start dates from 361 BC to 2018 AD), the accessibility, and the sophisticated diplomacy, ultimately decided to put it to one side until Łukasz Jakowski adds more colour to militarism. Currently all armies are composed of the same generic warrior units.

N is for New hope for MSFS loyalists

Cover image for YouTube video

Designed for desktop pilots who regularly share cockpits with disembodied blue hands but willing to tolerate those of us who fly without them, FlyInside Flight Simulator's most eye-catching feature isn't its launch hangar (Beechcraft Baron, Cessna 310R, T-50 Bobcat, DHC-3 Otter, Boeing 737-200, Boeing 717, T-38A Talon, Bell 407, MD-530, CH-47D Chinook) or default US scenery. I suspect the deal clincher for many Early Accessers will be the talk of open architecture and the implication that beloved MSFS aircraft can be transferred to FlyInside with ease.

O is for Oily overalls

Cover image for YouTube video

Although the Exocets in Wrench pose no danger to warships, they may cause grazed knuckles and crinkled brows. Like the Catfish they share virtual garage space with, they're fastidious facsimiles of high performance kit cars and come with engines, drivetrains, suspensions and exhaust systems that can be stripped down into hundreds of separate components assuming you have the patience and use the right tools. Car Mechanic Simulator might have the automotive variety and the prestigious licences, but the newcomer looks to have the realism edge.

P is for Pilot's postscript

One aviator I'd hoped to involve in my recent piece on chopper sims was too busy avoiding patrols on rain-lashed Bodmin Moor to contribute but did put pen to paper after his 'capture'. A serving RAF helicopter pilot and friend of Flare Path, ∗∗∗∗ ∗∗∗∗∗∗  (name redacted for security reasons) said this when asked to recommend a 'realistic' heli sim:

“I tend to shy away from sim choppers for two reasons that I can't seem to find a way around. Firstly, the control inputs required when hovering a helicopter are minute and no matter how I set up my joystick, I can never seem to find settings that don't end up with a virtual chopper bucking about due to over controlling. Secondly, visual clues and references play a huge part in accurately hovering or flying manoeuvres like quickstops close to the ground, and they are almost impossible to use in a sim. If I try to fly an approach to a specific point I seem to have very little control over where the approach will actually end as it's very difficult to detect subtle changes in speed etc. There is also so much more going on with rotary physics than fixed wing that it's very difficult to model accurately - both of the full motion sims I have used, the Griffin and Puma HC2 have difficultly accurately reflecting the real machine during various phases of flight (hovering being notably bad) and this difficulty obviously spills over into desktop sims.

In summary, I simply don't get the enjoyment out of helicopter sims that I do from fixed wing, because the fidelity just isn't there. That said, some of that is probably down to my lack of determination to fiddle endlessly with the controls, and the fact that I am very definitely still a fixed wing pilot at heart, so I'm probably not qualified to give an opinion anyway! I am however tempted to try the R22 in AFS2.”

Q is for Quick sherry break

R is for Rich rewards

The day when “esports racing driver” is a practical career choice may have finally arrived. During the past month iRacing has announced two championship series with $100k prize pools. A tenfold increase in prize money will mean, next October, the winner of the 10th eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series is likely to be significantly happier than the winner of the 9th eNASCAR PEAK Antifreeze Series was last October. Win both the 10th eNascar and the inaugural Porsche iRacing World Championship Series and the day job could start looking decidedly dispensable.

S is for Showers = silage

In Early Access agri sim Cattle and Crops, “Make hay while the sun shines” isn't homespun philosophy, it's a gameplay tip you'd be mad to ignore. Since the game's last update - the biggest yet according to devs Masterbrain Bytes - grass cutting, wuffling, windrowing and baling has been possible. At least three rainless days are required to turn grass into hay, so, during an unusually wet summer, C&C users may have to settle for a fermenting green harvest rather than a fragrant golden one.

T is for Tin triangle

Cover image for YouTube video

The price of Just Flight's just released FSX/P3D Vulcan has surprised some, but as Alan Bradbury points out in this informative impressions video, Avro's 'tin triangle' has never been digitised this diligently before. If, like me, you recall the days when Vulcans always stole the show at air tattoos, your first flight in this legend will involve at least one low, slow pass ending in a steep toddler-traumatising climb.

U is for Unfinished business

Last week's Flare Path was the most foxeric ever, and would have been even more foxeric had deadlines and fatigue not got in the way. The three solo puzzles that missed the boat occupy the next three alphabet slots. Like the original batch, they may prove fruitful if solved solo inside a week and complete or partial (see individual instructions) solutions are sent to me - timfstone at gmail dot com.

V is for Vergeltungswaffen

Free Panzer General-like Order of Battle refused to go gentle into that good night. Endsieg, the game's £12 sixteen-scenario swan song, is rammed with the sort of late war vehicles and weaponry that throng the following image. Identify seven collage components to qualify for the Endsieg draw, all ten to go into the hat twice.

W is for War in the West

There was a time not so very long ago when Slitherine eyed Steam with suspicion – when the Surrey lizardmen thought high-brow brow-furrowers like Gary Grigsby's War in the West should be kept away from the high street hoi polloi. Thankfully that time has passed and now anyone with £60 £22.50 to spare can see, and ride, one of the genre's most elephantine elephants. If you've completed your groggy apprenticeship (Panzer Corps, Unity of Command etc) and fancy experiencing digital wargaming at its most ambitious/detailed/demanding, why not try to win a copy of WitW by sending me the solution to this west-infested crossword:

1. A parasite fighter powered by a Westinghouse turbojet
3. Adam West played him
5. A designer at Westwood Studios
6. She was renamed 'Westpreussen' during WW2
7. A West German chancellor

2. A Japanese movie remade as a Spaghetti Western
4. A name carried by one of the Class 52 'Westerns'
8. An ex-West Ham footballer who appeared in 'Escape to Victory'
9. A country in the West Indies
10. A character in All Quiet on the Western Front
11. A Westland aircraft

X is for X marks the spot

Fancy a copy of Every Single Soldier's logistics-obsessed Taliban-taming game, Afghanistan 11? One of three Steam activation codes could be Chinooking its way in your direction if you send me the correct answer to the following question before 13.00 GMT Dec 28.

Where am I?

I'm 300m away from an Afghan restaurant. There are five police vehicles close to me. I'm next to a recycling point. I can see a school named after a physicist. A railway once ran next to this road. I'm in a country that borders more countries than Austria. If I flew around the world at this longitude I'd pass over this airport. The nearest beach is 220km away. The city I'm in has something in common with this Japanese city. The closest capital city is in another country. I'm at the same latitude as this English pub.

Y is for Year of the yak

Cover image for YouTube video

Eagle Dynamics would make awful zookeepers. This year they've managed to release a very aggressive hornet and a playful yak into the wild and have made no attempt whatsoever to recapture them. Reducing the prices of most DCS World modules by 50% for the Christmas period by way of an apology while simultaneously hinting that a certain rapacious raptor may well gain its liberty next year only underlines the studio's cavalier attitude to animal incarceration.

Z is for Zeros versus wildcats

Like many solitaire board wargames, Carrier wasn't a diversion for the lazy or unsystematic. Highly regarded despite its myriad charts, turn phases, and rule clauses, the Jon Southard design was adapted for iPad a couple of years ago and is presently heading for PC at flank speed. The desktop version will go by the slightly misleading name of Carrier Battles 4 (Carrier Battles was a quite different board wargame) and, when it arrives in June, join a surprisingly small and antiquated taskforce of flattop wargames.