Greetings Flare-opaths! By now, all of you that filled-in the form in the bumper Christmas issue, and sent in your (non-refundable) sixpences, should have received your Deluxe Membership Packs and free (while stocks last) mahogany-effect Flare Path flair point display racks. It's a handsome gift, is it not? And so versatile! Gavin Babbington, a member from Plymouth, has written in to say that though he hasn't won any flair points yet, he's currently using the rack to display his collection of SS thimbles. Good work, Gavin! That's just the kind of lateral thinking Chervell Bathgate, founder of the Flare Path movement and keen amateur cross-stitcher/eugenicist, would have approved of.
The 'About' tab on the Outerra menu screen, makes FP forlorn. It describes how the devs behind this remarkable project are busy making...
“a world-building game on a massive, true-to-life scale... Arriving aboard a returning interstellar colonization ship built in the Golden Age of Mankind, and discovering civilization and humanity vanished from our home planet, players must rebuild the civilization - exploring, fighting, and competing for resources, while searching for clues to the disappearance of humanity.”
…when it's plain to anyone with an ounce of sense, they should be making gaming's first great Omni-Sim.
It's impossible to soar above Outerra's handsome highlands, and play with its gloriously friendly road-building tools, without picturing the possibilities. Every fractally-roughened cliff begs to be wingsuited off. Every freshly blazed mountain trail whispers “Where's your Subaru Impreza?” Forest clearings ache for stalkable stags, valley bottoms for snaking rail lines and tussling tanks. Wherever you look, there's a fabulous fledgling sim waiting to peck its way into the light.
The free tech demo lets anyone with an active web connection tour the globe, gazing at, or driving through, topographically-accurate vistas cleansed of Human infestation (At present, environments also lack rivers and lakes, and biome-specific flora). For a true taste of the engine's potential, however, you really need to cough-up £10 for the Anteworld alpha build. Payment unlocks crude but entertaining recreations of a Cessna and an Apache helo, and access to a few basic scenery editing tools.
The reason this FP is a teeny bit skinnier than normal is very simple: I've spent much of the last four hours messing with a feature that would make 88% of flight sims 88% better.
See that fetching forest-capped outcrop down there?
With a couple of mouse-clicks, I can dynamite a runway right through it...
...and then bobsleigh down the still-tacky tarmac in a rapidly accelerating Cessna...
...before taking-off, enjoying twenty minutes of dreamy aero-rambling, and landing on another jerry-built summit strip ten miles away.
Suddenly, Microsoft Flight feels stiflingly conservative.
Road construction is almost as simple and satisfying. Just lay down a squiggle of splines, choose road type, width, camber, etc. and - bingo - you've got a new route to negotiate in either of the sim's two Tatra-esque trucks. A selection of structures and signs can also be erected with ease.
It's not hard to imagine a globe-spanning, open-architecture transport sim built around these features. Ilan Papini's Vehicle Simulator lets me jump from jet to jalopy, and from seaplane to speedboat, but it doesn't give me the chance to combine ride-hopping with bouts of track laying, landscape-gardening, and town planning. It also doesn't allow me play on and above a topographically-faithful rendition of the hill I can see from my window.
In the right hands, I'm convinced Outerra could be moulded into simming's Minecraft. Handled sensitively, it has the potential to bring together the hundreds of thousands of simmers currently simming separately via titles like Railworks, MSFS, Rigs of Rods, and Courtesy Car Simulator (coming soon from Excalibur Publishing) and lure in millions more with the promise of intoxicating creative freedom and vast repositories of user-made steeds. Searching for clues to Humanity's disappearance can wait; I want to hang-glide off a 15,000ft cliff, buzz a narrow-gauge steam train in a Westland Lysander, drive a Stalwart down the Amazon, and land an autogyro in a cavern cut in the side of K2 by my own fair hands,
Talking of self-built scenery, I have a rather big announcement to make. Inspired by Jim's recent disclosure and the news that 777 are working on an English Channel map for Rise of Flight, I've decided the time has come for Flare Path to make the move from poacher to gamekeeper.
Over the coming year my studio, The Water Shed, will be producing a series of unmissable add-ons for FSX. Having spotted a glaring gap in this competitive market, we will - initially at least - be specialising in oceanic scenery packs. Peruse the following schedule, and prepare to PayPal your way to flight sim ecstasy!
Sargasso Sea Xtreme
Pack your eel gun and your seaweed tongs*, Sargasso Sea Xtreme would like to take you on a thrill-soaked journey to the heart of the world's second-largest oceanic division. Over 3000 seconds of research have already gone into ensuring this bar-raising product both raises the bar and changes the way you think about over-water aviation. Fully compatible with all FSX floatplanes and flying-boats.
*eels and seaweed not modelled
Dogger Bank Pro
Those flights from Edinburgh to Hamburg, Middlesbrough to Copenhagen, Newcastle to Kiel, Kiel to Newcastle, Copenhagen to Middlesbrough, and Hamburg to Edinburgh will never ever be the same again! Using high-fidelity hydrological data, we're digitizing over 7000 square miles of Europe's most iconic brine. This “framerate-friendly masterpiece”* promises to take your breath away more efficiently than a Force 10 gale.
*www.rockpapershotgun.com, 16 March 2012
That Bit Of The South Atlantic Just To The Left Of South Georgia
That Bit Of The South Atlantic Just To The Left Of South Georgia is already shaping-up to be The Water Shed's pièce de résistance. Covering that bit of the South Atlantic just to the left of South Georgia with a never-before-seen level of detail, it will come with a lavishly illustrated 70-word manual, plus a video documentary documentarying the making of That Bit Of The South Atlantic Just To The Left Of South Georgia. You thought you knew that bit of the South Atlantic just to the left of South Georgia? Think again.
The Flare Path Foxer
When FP gets a day-off he likes nothing better than wandering Salisbury Plain with a metal detector. Help him identify his latest batch of finds.