Tiny Combat's Interactable Development Path
Updated: Mar 16
I found myself suddenly cheering late in the evening of April 7th, 2020. With indie developer Why485 announcing the beginning of a three-month concerted effort to build upon the progress of Tiny Combat Arena, a feeling of genuine excitement overcame me. With this announcement, a push to move beyond a series of demonstrators to a full-game release began.
Tiny Combat Arena is designed in a way that can appeal to both realistic flight sim supporters and fans of arcade flight games. It looks like it is old enough to have shared retail shelf space with A-10 Attack!, TFX, and Falcon 3.0, but that's intentional. Visually, Tiny Combat Arena is a nod to those flight simulators, but in gameplay modern flight physics and game mechanics are present.
It's not as immersive and task heavy as Digital Combat Simulator but also removed from the unlimited action and unrestricted maneuverability of Ace Combat. This is a game in which aircraft carry realistic weapons load-outs on their hardpoints, turn rates differ per airframe, airspeed matters, and running a missile out of energy isn't as simple as going full throttle. But it's also not a game in which a pre-flight checklist is needed, a flight stick isn't mandatory, and your aircraft doesn't have a 100+ page manual.
Tiny Combat has been in development in one form or another for roughly two years. Its developer, Why485, is a former mod creator that turned to game development to continue his creative interests. His journey has been driven by game development self-studies, a few strongly worded dares, and his passion for aviation going back to the flight simulators of the early and mid-1990s.
The demo that is most frequently seen and referenced is Tiny Combat Arena. It is actually the fifth of a series of demos and games released under the Tiny Combat name. Thus far the games include: Tiny Combat (March 2018), Tiny Combat Redux (May 2018), Tiny Combat Arcade (November 2018), Arena Prototype (April 2019), Tiny Combat Arena (July 2019) and Tiny Combat Arena Flight Model Demo (February 2020).
The development path of Tiny Combat can be tracked through the developer's social media, video and Itch.io accounts. Alongside the video updates, blog posts, and tweets, the demos can still be downloaded. This includes early exhibits using a flying box, a point-based arcade game that encourages high scores, the Arena concept prototype - all of them are available for download.
Reading the updates and playing the demos provides the experience of playing a game from its conceptual stages through its refinement to create the first commercial release. This is uncommon. Even Early Access games on Steam and similar services only allow people to play a game once it has reached a certain point of maturity. Usually the core game mechanics, user interfaces, damage models, aircraft models, etc. have already been put in place and are mostly finalized. While it may not have been planned from the start, part of the Tiny Combat experience is tracking and interacting with its progress from its earliest stages.
Lately, this retro aesthetic game has been making the rounds on social media and YouTube with personalities like BlueDrake42 and PhlyDaily. Even the official Discord server saw a membership explosion. It's great to see this game getting more attention, but they neglected to mention the changes that have been occurring since April 2020. The next demo is going to be very different from the Tiny Combat Arena they had played.
At launch, the commercial release of Tiny Combat is going to be a cockpit focused flight-sim lite that only has the AV-8B Harrier II available. The flight model it is using is different from the version receiving praise from content creators. Aircraft flyable just a few weeks ago will be unavailable and focus on the open-ended Arena mode is somewhat shifting. Aircraft guns now have recoil, multi function displays are being integrated, fuel state will be a factor and battles between ground forces occur. Does that sound different from the videos you've seen lately? Well...
The small amount of confusion surrounding this game lately is a combination of lack of research by multiple parties and the current high-speed development effort put forth by the developer. That's not an insult but it is something that can be cleared up by following Why485 on Twitter and looking at all of his videos on YouTube that detail the latest updates.
For those that are eager to play before the next major demo is released, read this important announcement and the FAQ. Then play Tiny Combat Arena, but be sure to also try the TCA Flight Model Demo to better understand how the game will handle going forward.
Keep your eye on this game and take advantage of the opportunity to see how it is being built!
About the Author
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. A lifelong aviation enthusiast with a special interest in flight simulators and games. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating aviation related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He continues to explore past and present flight games and sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |