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The Flare Path: Happy Trafalgar Day

Simulation & wargame news

Most years I celebrate Trafalgar Day by getting tanked-up on Nelson's blood then nipping down to Warsash and chucking lit matches through Ian Brennan's workshop window. This year I thought I'd try something different. I thought I'd stay in and relay news of The Hunter, Unity of Command, rFactor 2, Automation and Kart Racing Pro, with the aid of my trusty Mackenzie Mk. IV electro-semaphore machine.

There's a Battle of Trafalgar ship in this image too. Name it to win an FP point carved from a piece of genuine 19th Century ships biscuit.


"Urine Is No Longer Gender-Specific"

Have you Nature Trekked yet? My one ramble provoked Botany Rage rather than relaxation. Bluebells and poppies flowering together on sunny grassland slopes? What devilry is this?

The game industry's rural illiteracy probably deserves a Flare Path all to itself. One of the few studios that seems genuinely interested in producing plausible green spaces, has recently unveiled a patch that makes exploring their stunning Washington State slaygrounds that bit easier.

The purchasable dome tents included in the latest update for picturesque online deer/bear/coyote/pig/pheasant/turkey stalking sim The Hunter mean you don't have to start every session from the same handful of lodges and official camp sites. Exhausted after hours of tiptoeing through bosky copses and peering intently at far-off stag-shaped rocks, you can now bed down almost anywhere.

Also bulging the update rucksack, was a new stealthy slaying tool - the TenPoint Carbon Fusion Crossbow - and a major ballistics overhaul. Projectiles are now nudged off-course by wind and slowed down at different rates by different air densities. As each ammo type has its own weight, drag coefficient, and silhouette area, wise hunters might want to leave their man-portable ballistae at home on particularly blustery days.

Until adjustable weapon zeroing is added, Arma's ballistic authenticity crown won't be under threat, but the realism gap is definitely closing. In one grisly respect the countryman is actually ahead of the soldier. Post-update you can now tell from the colour of the blood spots sprinkled by wounded prey, roughly where that prey has been hit. Dark red equals a lung shot and a potentially short pursuit. Light red means you've got a hike on your hands, a hike perhaps with nothing at the end of it except disappointment and a gnawing feeling of guilt.


"Za Rodinu! Za Stalina! Zagreb!"

In the couple of weeks since the Unity of Command T-34 broke cover and began racing towards the line of dug-in Pak 40s that is The Games Press, a lot has happened to it. It's been described as having "a beast of an AI" by a man that keeps his AI hyperbole in a padlocked chest at the bottom of a flooded mineshaft. It's acquired a release date (November 15). It's fired-off the following rather nifty trailer, and, most recently, it's stopped to pick up some tank riders - wily wargaming veterans Matrix Games/Slitherine.

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The lads from Zagreb will also be selling their wares directly through their own website, and possibly via Steam too. Fingers-crossed that Steam deal works out. Having seen a lot more of the beta code since sharing those early impressions, I'm more convinced than ever that UoC has the potential to flourish outside of the usual groggy circles.

Thanks to a trim and logical GUI, and scenarios usually petite enough to be fitted into a lunch hour, the Stalingrad-focussed fun is as approachable as a hungry anti-tank dog. What really impresses though, is the way that approachability doesn't come at the expense of depth or flavour. When you're sitting there musing on how best to utilize shivering Italian reinforcements, or defend a scarily vulnerable supply line (The AI loves to punch through fronts and perch on logistically critical hexes) the game feels every bit as Ost Fronty as more detailled, less wieldy offerings.

I realised the other day that Nenad Jalsovec, one half of 2x2, is actually no stranger to RPS. Counterclockwise, his mesmerising remake of Spectrum oddity Knot In 3D was recommended by Jim, Kieron & myself many moons ago. Returning to CCW's claustrophobic, confusing and dangerous spaces today, I realise now it was really just a very clever, very pretty Stalingrad metaphor.


"Any colour as long as it's Midnight Charcoal"

Yesterday Jim asked 'Where can racing games go?' if they want to stay fresh and alluring. Here's four suggestions from the simmy end of the genre.


Those that demand brute power and leonine engine notes from their race sims, should probably give Kart Racing Pro a wide berth. I've met mosquitoes with deeper voices than the rides in this sim. On the other hand, anyone after nip-and-tuck racing underpinned by authoritative physics, might want to give the free beta (soon to be updated for the last time) some attention.


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ISI are yet to respond to my 168-page 'Why You Guys Should Make A Roman Chariot Simulator' proposal, but they are moving slowly in the right direction. As this vid illustrates, some of the open-wheel action in the upcoming rFactor 2 will take place at a time when skirts were short, the lives of F1 drivers shorter.


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While the first incarnation of Automation will focus purely on the design, production, and marketing sides of the post-WW2 car industry, comments from Camshaft Software's Caswal and Andrew on the tail end of this introduction/investment appeal, suggest the game may eventually let you drive your homemade hatchbacks and saloons, or at least watch from the pit-lane wall while AI drivers do it for you. The whole idea of sims letting you design your own steeds, is a criminally under-explored one. I've had the blueprints of a WW2 boffin game sitting around on my mental drawing-board for years.


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There isn't a race sim in existence that wouldn't benefit from a healthy dose of Rigs of Rods' unhealthy destruction physics. Because this open-source sim features vehicles built from lattices of distortable rods draped with deformable bodywork meshes, no two prangs are ever the same, no plunge from an alpine road an entirely negative experience.

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