Flare Path War Hero #31. Major Leonard Allday. A trained watchmaker and keen amateur ornithologist, Allday joined SOE in August 1940, and spent much of the war working on a series of top-secret bird and bat-based schemes. While his carrier pigeon munitions and 'Pocket Pipistrelle' personal sonar never progressed beyond the testing stage, Project Pantheon - a plan to disrupt the Axis war effort using thousands of specially trained magpies - was implemented. Trained to steal keys, nuts, bolts, and small machine parts, Allday's corvids were delivered in batches of 24 by lone low-flying Blenheims (later, Mosquitos). By April 1945, over 4000 birds had been dropped behind enemy lines. While the overall impact of Project Pantheon is difficult to assess, evidence gathered after the war by SOE historian G. M. Birkin indicates that magpie mischief seriously damaged production in several key industries and may have delayed the introduction of the formidable Me 262 fighter by up to six months.
This week's column is a bit of a magpie's nest. During the last seven days my busy beak has closed round a new motocross sim demo, an unusually thorough Train Simulator adjunct, a deeply depressing OMSI announcement, and a pair of rather unusual sub sim screenshots. Let's start with those screenshots.
Remember Sub Commander, the FTL-style Cold War sub sim that beaded the brows and irradiated the everythings of Graham and me earlier this year? During the past month, its creator has been working like a navy navvy. Two new vessel types (The Typhoon and November) have appeared in pens, torps have been joined by SLBMs, and - thanks to a new AI diplomacy system - thoughtless weapon launches can now trigger devastating ICBM exchanges.
Remarkably, on top of all this top-down toiling TheGeoff has also been hard at work on a 3D Unity-engined prototype.
“The idea is to make a multiplayer cold war era submarine simulator like nothing else out there. Each player controls an individual crewman on a submarine, and every system aboard the sub is modelled to a Sub Commander level of detail (possibly even more complex). The players must cooperate to control the sub, engage targets, deal with disasters etc. The 'targets' can be either AI controlled surface ships or other player controlled submarines. AI crewman can be added for single player mode.”
Though the Steam-destined project is currently “very, very early” in development (the interiors in the shots above are plaiceholders) rudimentary multiplayer code capable of supporting up to 10 sentient submariners is up and running. It's already possible to trot about inside a Foxtrot, waggle a few levers and - in the event of a hull breach - bawl Russian expletives as brine spreads and rises.
My favourite Hendrix track? Crosstown traffic. My favourite finch? The crossbill. My favourite bun? The hot cross. My favourite motorcycle discipline? Speedway. But that hasn't stopped me enjoying the MX Bikes beta demo released on Tuesday.
One-man motorsport factory Piboso's latest undertaking is a motocross sim aimed at modders. multiplayers, physics connoisseurs, and folk that get a fizz in their stomach when they see a muddy mound approaching at speed. I consider myself one of the latter, and have been fizzing fairly furiously for the last couple of days.
At this stage MX Bikes lacks the physics polish of the hard-to-master-but-easy-to-love MX Simulator, but tearing around the single demo track is still great fun. Once jumps start feeling a bit more controllable and handlebars a little less hostile at low speed, the sim should truly blossom.
Track deformation is on the cards, but, sadly, it looks like MX Bikes, like other Piboso titles, will never echo to the sound of AI riders wringing their throttles and wrapping themselves round trees.
If Rüdiger's Google-translated account of events is to be trusted, the two old friends had a business disagreement in Spring which led to Marcel dissolving the partnership. OMSI 2 patching will continue but there's no telling what will happen to the franchise once that process is complete.
Very, very sad. If Marcel and Rüdiger happen to read this... Thanks for everything, chaps. The hours I've spent beetling around Spandau in my beloved SD77 have been some of the happiest and most evocative of my gaming life.
My weekend plans involve lots of heather, a sprinkling of snow, and a step-fronted British diesel locomotive with a purr that could sunder slate.
Yesterday morning Thomson Interactive released the West Highland Line Extension - a Train Simulator 2015 add-on that looks, from a distance (full report next week) utterly marvellous.
The feature list and pre-release screenshots shout 'labour of love' rather than 'economic exercise'. Alan Thomson has crafted over 50 unique bridges and viaducts for the 50-mile 12-station Scottish route; he's constructed 60 new buildings; he's bolstered TS's painfully familiar flora and terrain texture selection. The bundled loco boasts a fully-functioning RETB device, miniature snow ploughs that actually plough snow, and a purr purloined from a real Class 37.
The Flare Path Foxer
There were ten trumpeters secreted in last week's foxer. Rorschach617, All is Well, JB, Llewyn, Shiloh, skink74 and phlebas found all but three of them. In recognition of this feat, Roman (re-hired yesterday!) will now play Fanfare for the Common Defoxer on the office tuba.
I was hoping to move the foxer to a purpose-built clubhouse today. The impossibly comfy chesterfields, the colossal reference library, the extensive model railway, the (probably illegal) militaria collection, and the pungent taxidermy were all boxed up and ready to go. Unfortunately, a technical issue remains unresolved and it's now looking like the relocation may have to wait until the next RPS redesign. :(
All foxer answers in one thread, please.