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The Flare Path: Draftees And Deserters 

Simulation & wargame blather

Keeping tabs on all 238 of the world's active vehicle sim projects week in, week out is an exhausting and expensive business. Why, just yesterday an overworked FP staffer fell asleep at his post, crashing a £12,000 recon drone into The Motherland Calls' cavernous cake-hole. It would make life a lot easier for us if there was just one sim - a globe-spanning, multi-discipline jack-of-all-transport. Most of the bleary-eyed blog watchers and forum combers in the FP office think that super-sim should have Outerra at its core.

At long last the world seems to be waking up to the potential of the outrageously capable Outerra engine. Before Christmas, the camo nets were pulled from TitanIM, a new VBS-rivalling training platform powered by Outerra.

Watch on YouTube

Visitors to December's I/ITSEC Training & Simulation Conference in Florida, got to see the impressed Slovakian pixel pump in action in speciality flight, helo gunnery, boat gunnery, humvee crew, and sniper simulations. They were presented with tantalising video glimpses of TitanIM's beautiful borderless battlefields, dramatic terrain deformation, idiot-proof scenery editing, and impressive vehicular variety.

David Lagettie, the man behind the independent project, knows a thing or two about turning games into market-leading military training tools. As head of Bohemia Interactive's Australian arm, he was the chap that realised that Operation Flashpoint might prove as useful to soldiers as soldier simmers.

And just as Operation Flashpoint and Arma benefited from cash generated by and features developed for their serious siblings, Outerra looks sets to blossom thanks to TitanIM. In a recent chat with Flare Path, Outerra founder, Brano Kemen, admitted that...

"The deal has allowed us a bit more breathing space, helping us to stabilize and expand our team. We currently have 4 coders, and are seeking more programmers with C++ and graphics background for our Bratislava/Slovakia office... ...Of course, for a global military simulation you need all possible environment rendering and simulation capabilities - capabilities that players and simulator fans will welcome too. We may not use all data that Titan customers require, but all the rendering and procedural generation and simulation techniques and algorithms stay for our use. Titan is also generously donating some of their own work into our demo, this is mainly new vehicle types for which we implement the necessary back-end support, but do not have models of our own."

The extra staff and funds should help bring Outerra's dual destinations a tad closer. In addition to building an Outerra-powered promo game, Brano and co. are also working towards that mind-blowing super sim I alluded to in the intro.

"The goal is to create a global unified simulation platform that would allow third party developers to produce vehicle models, scenery and environment addons or even games/scenarios running in a single world that combines space/air/ground/sea simulation engines. We are considering the funding options (including crowd funding) needed to create a dedicated team closely working with our core team and with 3rd party developers on the platform, and preparing the necessary components and prototypes that this would require."

I reckon that deserves a 'Blimey!'



If the Second Battle of El Alamein (Oct 23 - Nov 4, 1942) was the end of the beginning, was the First Battle of El Alamein (July 1 - 27, 1942) the beginning of the end of the beginning, the middle of the end of the beginning, or the end of the middle of the beginning? I found myself beginning to ask this question in the middle of a Desert War 1940-43 session I'd begun beginning towards the end of yesterday.

The free Desert War is the work of an amateur coder called Brian Kelly. Inspired by Atomic's pre-Close Combat output, it currently comes with one AI-equipped scenario (The 1st Battle of El Alamein) and six scraps suitable for PBEM or hotseat play. I can't tell you anything about the multiplayer side, but having Desert Foxed and Desert Ratted my way through the 20-turn brigade-scale solo clash a few times, I'd be surprised if DW plus human opposition didn't equal fun.

At the heart of Brian's design is a wonderful WEGO turn resolution system that puts me in mind of a young Combat Mission. After you've set up your movement and attack orders, picked destinations and targets for your air assets, and prodded the 'end phase' button, you get to spool through the resulting action phase using VCR-style controls. Bah, my Blenheims were ripped to shreds by AAA and chose to abort their attack, Gah, my fleeing M11/39s were caught before they could reach the safety of Bab el Qattara. Damn, those Kiwis were reinforced before my assault went in. There's no ritualistic IGOUGO blow-trading here. In fact the metronome rhythm of the traditional turn-based wargame is disrupted so successfully you may find yourself wondering why all hex-merchants don't do things this way.

Regularly updated, the game is full of intelligently implemented subtleties and sensible automatic behaviours (important considering that WEGO structure). Numbers abound, but thanks to logical design, good tooltips, and a decent manual, any confusion should be fleeting. Grasp basics like the pros and cons of the three movement modes ('strategic' - risky but fast, 'defensive' - fine for probes, and 'attack' - consult the odds predictor before committing) and the importance of readiness (recovered by resting a unit, ideally away from enemy Zone of Control hexes) and it probably won't be long before you're soundly whipping a WIP artificial opponent who, though pretty good at coordinating attacks and assaulting from unexpected directions, currently lacks the numerical and positional advantages necessary to be truly competitive.



The Flare Path Foxer

Sing a song of sixpence (g),
A pocket (h) full of rye (f).
Four and twenty blackbirds (a),
Baked in a pie.

When the pie was opened,
The birds began to sing;
Wasn't that a dainty dish,
To set before the king (e)?

The king was in his counting house,
Counting out his money;
The queen (b) was in the parlour,
Eating bread and honey (c).

The maid (d) was in the garden,
Hanging out the clothes,
When down came a blackbird
And pecked off her nose.


Since visionary bibliophiles Healthy Planet opened a bookshop just down the road, productivity in the Flare Path office has plummeted. The charity takes books destined for landfill sites and gives them away (donations optional) through a network of 30+ volunteer-staffed shops.

Roman is on a free fiction binge at the moment which possibly explains this week's puzzle. All seven pictured locations have strong links with famous novels. Name the novels to win Flare Path Flair Points made from frontispiece tissue and bookworm dung.

All answers in one thread, please.

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Tim Stone