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The Flare Path: Oliver's Armies

Simulation & wargame blather

RPS statement on Tim Stone/The Flare Path

Last Friday, Tim was involved in a fracas with an RPS employee. Incensed by the "wildly inconsistent" curvatures of the bananas in the canteen fruit bowl, Tim accosted and then struck canteen manager Paul 'Do you want custard with that?' Spence. As a result of the incident Tim has been suspended pending an investigation. In place of today's column, we bring you news of an Automation milestone and a staggering solo project inspired by Total War and 18th Century imperialism.

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Total War malcontents come in various forms. There are the forum grumblers, the review ridiculers, the mod crafters, the mod consumers... Rarest of all are the rival builders - the folk whose dissatisfaction drives them to code breathtakingly ambitious TW replacements. Oliver Keppelmueller, the lone creator of The Seven Years War [official site], is just such a malcontent.

For the last three years, this lone strategy visionary has been fashioning, from scratch Empire: Total War's denser, deeper, step-brother. Inspired by his favourite games ("ETW, The Settlers, Hearts of Iron and Railroad Tycoon") and focused on Northern Europe and North America (The plan is to add the Med and Caribbean in a War of the Spanish Succession add-on) The Seven Years War won't offer Creative Assembly-calibre martial spectacle. What it will offer, apparently, is richer economics...

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...greater campaign variety, and - of particular interest to Flare Pathers - superior battle realism.

Scan the feature list and scrutinise the overview vid and several grog-wooing novelties stand out like mitre caps above a parapet. There's the ability to set up your own three-layer army hierarchy then, once an engagement starts, issue orders via any stratum of that hierarchy. Units can be customised with specific leaders and, intriguingly, with specific weapons too. Visible circa 2.20 in the first vid is an eight-slot musket selection menu.

Seven formations, battlefield engineering, telling terrain effects, intelligent VL placement, artillery capture... assuming Oliver's AI cuts the mustard - and, as he cites TW's weak AI as a project motivation, there's grounds for optimism - The Seven Years War's unscripted campaign clashes could be pretty special.

Right now the project is "90% complete" and angling for a Steam greenlight. Oliver told RPS "The next steps are to implement the campaign AI, work on menus and scenarios, and add historical battles. The scenarios will include road to war campaigns as well as short lived survival campaigns. I am confident I can deliver a finished game in Q3 2015. My biggest challenge will be attracting an audience in an environment where effects and graphics dominate and game depth can be underrated."



If Tim had been at his post today, he probably would have wanted you to know about Automation's [official site] arrival on Steam. Though the singular car construction game first Flare Pathed in June 2013 still lacks planned tycoon elements, Camshaft have been far from idle this past 20 months. A steady stream of new bodies, components, UI improvements, scenarios, and physics/chemistry tweaks, mean the Steam Early Access build feels Hummer heavy.

There's now around 50 engine and car construction challenges, and the sandbox is a veritable Sahara of possibilities. With skill, practise, and a bit of lateral thinking, numerous familiar cars and engines can be mimicked.

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Automation has one realism setting - full real. Fortunately, the Antipodean designers realise that not all of us were raised by gearheads and telemetrists. The superb selection of integrated video tutorials has been steadily expanded and updated to keep pace with new features and engine changes. Very few serious sims explain their intricacies better.


Going by his notes and the selection of screenshots he'd prepared for today's column, it looks like the disgraced Mr Stone was also planning to wax lyrical about the "savage intensity" and "beguiling ballistics" of Steel Armor: Blaze of War again




The Flare Path Foxer

According to a recent study, the average age of the average Flare Path reader is "old enough to remember candy cigarettes and the Iran Hostage Crisis". With such an extensive memory lane network at its disposal, it's hardly surprising the defoxing community managed to correctly ID all ten of last week's antique ad fragments.

A. Stonkers (access.denied)
B. Close Combat (phlebas)
C. Patton Strikes Back (AFKAMC)
D. No Greater Glory (Matchstick)
E. Harpoon (Syt)
F. Fire Brigade (Matchstick)
G. V for Victory: D-Day Utah Beach (Spinoza)
H. Panzer General (Syt)
I. Tigers on the Prowl (Philopoemen)
J. Age of Rifles (Rorschach617)



Roman has been a subscriber to XwordXL magazine since 1985. Every Saturday morning he unfolds the kingsize centre-spread crossword and pins it to the custard-spattered noticeboard in the office canteen. Though everyone contributes answers, it's rare for a puzzle to be complete at the end of the seven days. This week, however, we're tantalizingly close. The giant D-Day-themed brain-bruiser currently adorning our chow hall wall, is just 25 unsolved clues away from 'done'. With your help, maybe we can finish it.

7. Overlord's underlord (6)
56. Sea grunge plays havoc with crude SMG (6,3)
80. It harbours silkworms (8)
109. Sound of leather on willow reassures lost paratrooper (7)
170. Allied AFV notoriously hard on the rump (8)
214. Company knot known for its bombers or fighters (8)
244. The timer is mangled! How can we disable the guns? (8)
307. Tasmanian joker unwinds on golden sands (6)
433. TD goes back to front on February 14 (6)
667. These wiry Poles fought for the Germans (13)
699. Treeline visible from Canadian beach (3)

13. He digs graves with HE (6)
212. Assault on Caen confuses Romanian cowhand (9)
283. Cat killers relied on this dog for motivation (5)
285. Flower leapt in one bound by mythical nag (4,5)
321. Terrain the invaders hadn't banked on (6)
324. Normandy veteran spends retirement relaxing in pool (3,7)
465. She waves at pathfinders (7)
468. To build one, simply encase materiel in concrete (8)
503. Rhino stampede (9,5)
511. Anne Bonny slays Panzers without help from Royal Engineers (4)
514. Fuel bill shocks Carentan defenders (5,6)
592. Most windmills conceal a German vehicle (7)
600. Beef and venison are excellent in bridge rolls too (3,3,3)
614. Highest Allied rank (3)

(All answers in one thread, please)

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