Anything interesting happened in Gameshire during the past seven days? I confess I've been so busy lusting after Naval Action, contemplating Combat-Helo's changing fortunes, and toiling away on 50 Mission Candy Crush (My Operation Little Vittles wargame. Think 50 Mission Crush but with lollipops and gum instead of GP bombs and incendiaries) that I haven't had time to follow this week's news.
The Game-Labs sirens don't sing. They scrawl developer diaries and release screenshots.
Not content with having one title in the FP Fancied Five...
…the mayhem-hemmed Kievites behind UGG are angling for a second. Naval Action is a multiplayer Age of Sail sim currently undergoing tentative sea trials. While trans-global trade, exploration, and clan shenanigans are all on the manifest, the first goal is shipshape ship-to-ship combat.
Touch taffrail, come summer we'll all be pacing splinter-strewn poop decks as beta-testing Bolithos. Comely craft like the Victory, Constitution, and Surprise will be old friends/foes. We'll be intimately familiar with their structural weaknesses (though not their interiors; only topsides are to be modelled). We'll understand how to maximise their manoeuvrability by manually-adjusting fore- and mizzenmast yards during turns (WASD auto-skippering will also be available). We'll know when to switch from round shot to chain, when to ram or board, and - should things go badly - when to start hefting guns, cellos and cabin boys overboard to boost speed.
The devs' admirable respect for Neptune and Aeolus is evident in the gif below, and in encouraging talk of heel angles and ship sizes influencing gunnery (Turn too sharply and you may find your cannons and carronades pointing at sky or swell). Will high seas/winds ever shred canvas, fell masts, pluck gallant climbers from topgallants, or send soggy seamen sliding towards scuppers? The callous Captain Sawyer in me sincerely hopes so.
Although Naval Action won't, initially at least, be the HMS-Surprise-meets-Silent-Hunter game that some solitary seadogs crave, the engine plainly has potential to move in that direction. Right now Game-Labs seem to be drawing more structural inspiration from the likes of EVE Online, War Thunder, and Pirates of the Burning Sea, than SH, but tantalisingly, they have admitted that “The systems, render technology and combat mechanics we are currently finishing will allow [the development of a] hardcore single player ship simulator with sail and yard trimming, individual sail control and deep crew management.”
Whatever the final destination, this is a game I will be watching like a Sea Hawk from now on. If my rum cask disguise works as well as I hope, then a first-hand battle account should find its way into FP very soon.
In my neck-of-the-woods AH-64 Apaches are more common than Cessnas. Spend an hour or two gardening, dogging, or burying unlicensed firearms in secluded forest clearings, and a giant olive-drab robber fly is sure to buzz into view at some point. Usually they just potter about looking mean and purposeful, but occasionally, you catch them doing something spectacular like executing multiple hammerhead turns. It's impossible to watch one of these private airshows without wondering where Combat-Helo has got to.
One of the first games covered in FP, Tricubic's gunship sim has had more ups and downs than a SAR winchman. Recent blog posts by project lead, Richard 'Flexman' Hawley, scotch rumours of a DCS module (“It would require a lot more detail added to avionics”) and tell a cautionary tale of mutated goals, outgrown middleware, and unavoidable distractions. The good news is the game has survived all its travails and should - in a significantly truncated preliminary form - be arriving this Spring.
Shawn of eye-catching elements like a dynamic Afghan campaign and first-person extra-vehicular activity, the so-called 'Gunnery' module will focus on scene setting, familiarisation and firing range fun. In Richard's own words:
“On the whole Gunnery isn't quite the game we set out to make, it's a mere hint of what we wanted to do... The vision in my head of a working live-fire range frequented by gunships from nearby airbases seemed reasonable. Trying to make it entertaining and leave everyone wanting more is going to be a tricky one. Just how much "wow" can you add to a training field? The simple narrative has you preparing for what is to come using lightweight story telling and names that will carry through to later games.... Additionally everyone will be able to edit and load XML based mission files that will spawn objects to shoot at (and some can shoot back)... There will be the live-fire component, flight school grading and score sheets. Exercises will use cannon, rockets and Hellfire missiles (both laser and radar guided)”
I'd quickly lobby for a small slab of a fictional Country X plus some simple Combat Lynx-style base protection duties if I hadn't just noticed John's 'The Ignorance of Crowds: Why Open Development Is Crap' headline, and I wasn't concerned that more feature creep would doom CH to another few years in the developmental wilderness.
Whatever motivation Richard and co ultimately provide, the aviation certainly looks enticing. Ignore the albino firs (temporary billboard tests) and picture those tracks and glades bustling with technicals, BMP-1s, and Blowpipers.
The Flare Path Foxer
Epicurean enigmatists Matchstick, FurryLippedSquid, INinja132, Smion, phlebas, The WhippetLord, Mr-Link, Gap Gen and AbyssUK bolted last week's foody foxer. Only a desiccated portion of Rice Army Airfield remained untouched.
Talking of bolts, FP spent most of yesterday dismantling and mantling Gun Disassembly 2 firearms. Not the most systematic or artful of artificers, his fumblings produced the collection of orphaned components pictured below. Identify one of the ten parent weapons to win a pair of limited-edition Flare Path sunglasses made from Kar98k trigger guards.