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The Flare Path: How To Draw An Eagle

Simulation & wargame blather

(Next week in The Flare Path: How to Draw a PMD-6 Anti-Personnel Mine)

Going by the number of sketches arriving in the FP inbox at the moment, this column's recent foray into art tuition is going down extremely well. For every RPS reader keen to spend their Friday lunch hour reading about upcoming quadruplex transport sims, imminent Seven Years War strategy offerings, ill-conceived wargame patches, and my ongoing World of Warships dalliance, it seems there are three or four hungry for bite-sized drawing lessons. I'd make some comment about the pencil being mightier than the sword/Schmeisser if I wasn't aware of the experiments conducted in the late 1940s by the Royal Armament Research and Development Establishment that proved the exact opposite.

If you've ever sped through Spandau in a canary-coloured OMSI omnibus, you'll understand why the peaceful regions of Simulatia are abuzz with talk of Lotus at present. Marcel Kuhnt, one half of MR-Software, is now one half of Oriolus Software , a new outfit intent on seeing imitation trams, trains, and buses beetling about under the same skyboxes.

While Marcel focuses mainly on engine engineering and vehicles, the other half of Oriolus, Janine, will be handling communications and quality control, and busying herself with Lotus' GUI, character animations, and scenery. The plan is to deliver the sim in two distinct stages, first a road/reserved track segment, then the full-blown bus/tram/metro/rail mega-package.

In the light of OMSI 2's release issues, it's good to hear that Oriolus have "learned a lot from these mistakes" and plan a "big beta test" to ensure Lotus isn't similarly blighted. Bearing in mind the mountains of fabulous community-crafted content now available for the OMSIs, the news the new engine will be x3d friendly and come with an integrated route editor and mod manager is also heartening.

An OMSI pic. It will be a while before LOTUS images are available

FP is particularly excited about the trammy portion of Lotus. Though dedicated streetcar sims aren't unknown, no developer has yet managed to combine top-notch tram physics, plausible traffic flows, and evocative scenery. Oriolus won't be drawn on an ETA yet, but I'd be pleasantly surprised if we were ding-dinging away-with-the-fairies jaywalkers before Christmas 2016.

Slitherine's quality control standards seem to have slipped of late. Two of the wargame specialist's biggest recent releases shipped with fairly obvious game-stopping bugs. Battle of the Bulge and Heroes of Normandie are now in much better shape thanks to updates, but the patched-in 'solution' to the latter game's difficulty issues may not be to everyone's taste.

As I discovered during my brush with 'Sneaky, Sneaky', the last tutorial mission, HoN pre-patch could be Tiger tank mantlet tough. Rather than address the root causes of the exasperating difficulty (1D6 combat resolution, small maps, short scenarios, and the failure to reproduce the tactical card element of the original board game) Cat Rabbit and Slith have chosen to gloss over the shortcoming with an optional but on-by-default random number generator that quietly modifies runs of bad luck in order to prevent players becoming disheartened.

The mechanism is wrong on so many levels, I'm horrified a professional developer would ever contemplate it. When a designer adds visible dice to a game they are making a solemn pledge. "Lady Luck will be an important participant in what is about to unfold. She may be cruel, she may be kind, but she'll never ever be partisan or predictable". By surreptitiously tampering with its dice, HoN piddles all over that pledge. Respect the bones, Slitherine. Respect the bones!

In happier Slitherine news, players of Gary Grigsby's War in the West with a burning ambition to finish off the Afrika Korps, bludgeon their way up the boot of Italy, or battle a late-war Axis untroubled by Hitlerian vicissitudes, can, assuming they have £14 spare, now satisfy these and similar inclinations via this WitW expansion.

Judging by the feature list and manual the misleadingly titled Operation Torch contains some fascinating scenarios. The Overlord-overshadowed Operation Dragoon gets its own bijou scenario, as does the US Army's first taste of North African warfare. More substantial outings include two air battle scenarios, one of which traces the post-Pointblank efforts of Bomber Command and the US Eighth Air Force to bring the Reich to its knees, and a huge 109-turn late war campaign variant in which the Allies find themselves facing a better led, better supplied foe after the Führer has a run in with a bottle of unusually fiery French liqueur.

Released yesterday, the latest in a veritable Siegfried Line of Panzer Corps expansion packs, offers cheaper, less involved alternative history exploration opportunities.

Oliver Keppelmueller has been slaving away on his staggeringly ambitious dual layer Seven Years War strategy game for almost four years now. Two Fridays from today he finally gets to toss aside his programming mallet, uncurl his spine, and shout "It lives! It lives!", "In your face, doubters!" and "Gosh, I'm whacked".

Of course, five minutes later the "Second Tutorial Mission bugged :(", and "Sweden not playable? WTF!" forum messages start appearing and it's back to the grindstone/coal face.

I'm ashamed to admit that I've spent most of my beta time thus far gazing in horror at the economics screens (So many resources! Loam!!) and peering purse-lipped at the hard-to-make-out battlefield shenanigans.

The preview build comes with a single historical scrap called Gary Clive Colin Kolín. Controls are efficient, and formation options plentiful, but a feeble zoom, a minuscule GUI, and titchy soldier sprites mean following engagements is far from easy. Are those cavalry or infantry down there? Is that juddering splodge of sprites next to the church good news or bad news? The AI shows promise, but I'm going to need better pince-nez and more battle experience to work out whether this one-man, bedroom-coded Total War is for me.

Having lured me to their godforsaken isle, the World of Warships sirens have spent this week chortling at my attempts to master the destroyer.

When I set sail in my trusty/rusty gun-encrusted St Louis-class heavy cruiser I set sail confident I'll return to port loaded to the gunwales with XP. When I venture forth in my sleek, torpedo-spewing Sampson, it's a different story; the only thing I'm sure of is excitement. After the plodding simplicity of the cruisers, the dashing DDs with their array of manually activated tactical tools (smoke, engine boost, torps and guns) feel pleasingly subtle.

As long you keep your distance in a CA, point your guns in roughly the right direction, and avoid terra firma, you can't go too far wrong. In a fragile destroyer, as I've discovered over the last seven days, there are numerous ways to screw up. I've perished painfully early in sessions thanks to a deadly mix of over-eagerness and target fixation. I've failed to make an impact by sitting back and slinging tin fish ineffectually from long range. I've attracted the ire of comrades through 'careless' torp use.

Happily, I'm the kind of easy-going water-off-a-DUKW's-back sort of player that can be called a 'noob' and an 'idiot' by a fleetmate now and then without losing my cool or bearing a grudge. You won't catch me using The Flare Path to point out that reckless cruiser captains like... (consults notes)... vertis90, Jutlander and MerkelsHandbag, determined to operate in front of an active destroyer screen, deserve everything they inadvertently get. That would be petty.

More classy World of Warships observations next week!*

*And every week until I manage to prise Wargaming's King Kongo-sized powder monkey from my back.




The Foxer

Skylark babble, Souad Nofal's protests, my local free bookshop, the sight and sound of a Vulcan in flight, last week's foxer... all wonderful in their own way.

Theme: The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (defoxed by AFKAMC)

a 'The Wooden Wonder' (AFKAMC)
b Lighthouse of Alexandria (Llewyn)
c Colossus of Rhodes (SpiceTheCat)
d Statue of Zeus at Olympia (All is Well)
e Great Pyramid at Giza (unsolved)
f Hanging Gardens of Babylon (All is Well, SuicideKing)
g Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (JB)
h Austin 7 (phuzz)
i Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (Shiloh, Stugle)


Foxer Fact #922

After the Canadian Harold Aarons won the Defoxing World Cup in Cologne in 1937, Joseph Goebbels declared foxers 'un-Aryan' and banned them from German publications. Aarons' victory was particularly galling for the Nazi Propaganda Minister because the defeated finalist was his own half-brother, Gregor 'The Huntsman' Gross. It wasn't the first time Gross had publicly embarrassed his semi-sibling (During a warm-up event, The Huntsman misidentified both a Stuka wheel spat and the Hitler Youth 'Book Burning' proficiency badge) but it was to be the last. Just two week's after the Cologne finals, Gross lost his life in a bizarre cable car accident.

All answers in one thread, please.

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Tim Stone