The best part of Flare Path's day? Probably dawn. That's the time he goes out and checks all his Simulation & Wargame News traps. This morning in the treadle cage by the old pig-sties he found 400 words on a rather promising FSX add-on. The snares in the plantation were empty, but saucer-eyed and struggling in the one in the Chalk Lane culvert was the prettiest little HistWar: Les Grognards snippet you ever saw. Even without the Over Flanders Fields communiqué almost bitten in half by the 7'' gin under the Cottonworth bridge, it would have been a good bag.
Dropping flour bombs from speeding ultralights... weaving a treetop-skimming JetRanger to avoid the rifle fire of fleeing poachers... FSX was full of signs that ACES were almost ready to weaponize MS Flight Simulator. With the mothballing of the Combat Flight Simulator brand, adding a dash of optional aggro to the world's favourite flight sim, always seemed like a logical step. Perhaps if FSXI had boasted a Wildcat, a Zero and some rudimentary dogfighting AI, the resulting salmon-leap in sales would have kept the studio alive for a few more instalments.
Or perhaps not. All I know for sure, is that a certain T. Stone Esq would have jumped at the chance to fly combat sorties anywhere in the world. He'd have cackled with delight if, over time, the thousands of decommissioned warbirds in the avsim.com and flightsim.com hangars, had had their dummy MGs, missiles and bombs replaced with the real McCoy. Just imagine what add-on maestros like A2A would have done with live cannon rounds and heat-hungry AAMs.
Just imagine. Or, alternatively, nip along to the home of Vertical Reality Simulations and read about an imminent FSX revolution called TacPack.
For generations MSFS aircraft, ships and buildings, have lived largely fear-free lives. VRS are about to change that by giving their rather spiffy Superbug F/A-18E the ability to lock-up and destroy almost anything in the FSX world. Don't like the fact the pilot of that Cessna ignored your cheery wave? Rip him out of the sky with an AIM-9. Solent ferry looked at you a bit funny as you came in to land at Southampton? Go toss a GBU-12 down his Red Funnel.
If killing defenceless simobjects chafes your conscience then you'll be able to level the playing field by sprinkling it with a few AI-controlled SAM batteries or Sea Sparrow-spitting ships. Multiplayer will provide the ultimate challenge of course. TacPack's scrupulously modelled radar systems and weapons are as happy waxing fellow Superbuggers as unsuspecting Sunday fliers
The feature list makes no mention of countermeasures or damage granularity, so it will be interesting to see whether a) live foes can wangle their way out of trouble with chaff or flares, or b) a missile up the jacksy always produces the same results. While VRS have plainly achieved some pretty remarkable things with this adjunct, FSX still has a way to go before it can challenge dedicated combat flight sims like DCS: A-10C.
Planned free upgrades for the $35 package include basic defensive AI (That uncivil Cessna pilot may, one day attempt to sidestep your Sidewinder) and an SDK that will allow other aircraft builders to bolt working weapons to their creations. Two or three years down the line FSX may well be as famous for its virtual squadrons as its virtual airlines.
A Bonnier Boney
Like the hair in his garden and the thistles in his ears, FP's List-of-Worthy-Wargames-and-Sims-Waiting-to-be-Played grows longer every day. Unforgivably, he still hasn't spent dirty weekends with either Scourge of War or HistWar.
The latter - a Napoleonic battle sim brave enough to model Napoleonic armies as chaotic composites rather than single-minded monoliths - is about to undergo something of a metamorphosis. Having taken on another coder to assist with tasks like AI improvements, Jean-Michel Mathé is in the process of revamping his visuals. The results aren't going to dazzle Total War fans but, considering the relative budgets and the fact that HistWar attempts things (like 1-to-1 soldier representation) that TW doesn't, I think the results are well worth lemoncurding to the FP fridge.
Obscure Hobbyist Longs To Be Obscure Hobbyist
Last week CFS3-based Great War flight sim Over Flanders Fields was at no.5 in FP's List-of-Worthy-Wargames-and-Sims-Waiting-to-be-Played. Today it's at no.1 all because FP stumbled on a forum post enthusing about a mod called OFFbase.
Read creator Lothar of the Hill People's description of his text-reliant RPG-style OFF campaign enhancer, and then tell me you don't know a sim that would benefit from a similar injection of humanity:
“OFFbase puts you in the shoes of your pilot when he's on the ground. You and your fellow pilots (and in the latest version your squadron adjutant) have unique personalities and memories, with artificial intelligence that guides them in social interactions. How you develop relationships affects the development of your pilot's career. Make friends and advance through popularity or rise on the backs others through bullying and intimidation. Suck up to superiors or try to outdo them. Raise a loyal band of lower-ranked pilots or exploit rookies to make yourself look better. Share quarters with your wingman. Get drunk in the mess. Deal with problematic fliers once you're back on the ground, such as arguing over claims or friendly fire. When all fails, see who shows up at your pilot's funeral.”
The Flare Path Foxer
FP lives within earshot of a British Army artillery range. Yesterday a particularly thunderous detonation caused a game shelf collapse. The resulting clear-up took hours and FP is still struggling to find homes for a few orphaned buttons, switches, levers and knobs. Can you identify any of the controls shown below? (Answers in next week's column)
Fashioned from a rare Girls Anti-Tank Rifle round, last week's Flare Path flair point went to the 2km-long mrpier. Though he misidentified (and therefore misplaced) weapon 'd', his sequence...
f. Frank Wesson Derringer 1869
e. Winchester pump action rifle ca. 1890 (Actually a Colt Lightning 1884-1890)
g. Shattuck Unique pocket pistol early 1900s
c. Enfield no.2 mk 1 spurless hammer 1928
h. Lee-Enfield no. 5 mk.1 1944
d. m60 1940-50s (Actually an FG 42)
b. Colt Python 4″ 1955
a. SVD Dragunov 1958
...was deemed the most accurate of those submitted.