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Conflicts: Comanche Leaves Early Access with Content Doubling Game Mode
The newest entry in the Comanche combat helicopter series has completed its early access period. It has "landed" as a full-game release with double the amount of content it had set out to include over two years. The full release of Comanche was made official on August 26th, 2021, with the game available on Epic, GOG, Steam, the Microsoft Store, and Xbox Game Pass. What was announced in August 2019 as an online multiplayer-only title evolved into a singleplayer rich title with multiplayer capability. I've written about Comanche various times throughout its development, primarily because of its well-known series name and reputation and how publisher THQ Nordic and developer Nukklear Digital Minds would have to find a balance of new and old ideas to maintain the Comanche brand name. With the singleplayer story seeming to come to a close on February 16th, 2021, no one would have expected a new developer to be brought on board to work on a new singleplayer game mode. On April 15th, 2021, Ashborne Games Studio took over Comanche development introducing the new Conflicts game mode. While the Nukklear team successfully made a story-driven campaign with frequent checkpoints, the Ashborne team has created something equally as impressive with more focus on challenging players rather than telling a story. The story of Conflicts mode sends the main character from the campaign around the world with a new task force that is a part of the International Joint Task Force (IJTF) from the campaign. This time around, there are various hostile international, regional, and local hostile forces causing varying degrees of chaos for other alliances, organizations, and countries. Because of this, the IJTF to continue their worldwide peacekeeping-focused combat missions. While the player's backstory and their organization align with the singleplayer campaign, Conflicts is essentially a second story, albeit with a different approach. For comparison, the campaign mode comprises six operations (missions) with two to five segments. Each segment utilizes save points that instantly rearm and repair the attack helicopter the player is flying. An occasional resupply point is available in one or two of the missions. Conflicts mode comprises 11 missions with no automatic resupplies, no checkpoints, no ability to replay mission segments, and resupply only available if a landing zone can be secured by force. The lack of resources slows players down, forcing them to approach situations more tactically, monitor enemy movements, and not overly rely on guided missiles to solve all of their problems. Players will utilize the terrain and low altitude flying more than ever to take full advantage of the defense and stealth provided. The linear intention of the singleplayer campaign is evident even within its level design. In the campaign, there's usually a clear path from objective to objective with physical boundaries like valley walls, caverns, or instant death anti-aircraft networks that act as rails to guide the player along. A few larger areas give room for moments of frantic widespread combat or allow the player to sneak undetected, but that doesn't represent most of the experience. In further comparison, Conflicts gives players a clear-cut objective without a timer hurrying them up and very large areas to operate in. It's hard to describe the difference in scale between the campaign and Conflicts maps, but players can expect to crisscross a map to hit various objectives while running into unexpected situations along the way. Each Conflicts operation features a newly designed map not seen in the singleplayer campaign, making things feel even fresher. Besides the enemy's main force, the action continues with roving patrol units circulating randomly throughout the area. The randomness of combat is present, and the movement of patrols never lets the player settle for too long. While campaign operations had a few memorable large-scale battles in three or four segments, flying into a full-scale battle with computer allies by your side and enemies all along the horizon is a frequent occurrence in Conflicts. The scale of battle has undoubtedly been increased. Each Conflicts operation requires a set amount of points to unlock the next mission. These points are gathered by finishing an operation and meeting requirements for receiving medals. As more operations are unlocked, the cost of unlocking the subsequent increases slightly each time. This makes it necessary for players to challenge themselves to obtain harder medals like never resupplying during an operation or never being spotted before the final phase of a mission. Replayability is also increased with players wanting to get each medal, approaching the same operations with a different plan of attack each time. When Early Access Update #6 on February 16th, 2021, came with the vague announcement of a new singleplayer game mode I was skeptical that anything more could be done with this game's content. But Conflicts has doubled its offline content while greatly expanding on the foundation laid by the campaign while maintaining a price point of USD 19.99 throughout early access to full release. Color me impressed. About the Writer 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 |
Comanche Steadily Expands Single Player Campaign
Comanche (2020) continues to evolve during its early access period. The developers and community team members of NUKKLEAR have been receptive to feedback and requests from their early access user base. The changes and additions to Comanche from March through December 2020 result from voting, Discord discussions, and general feedback on the game. A third-person camera view has been added, new drone skins, improved flight controls, custom button mapping, flight assist programs, and advanced controller support was introduced (joysticks, flight sticks). Even native support for several Thrustmaster brand flight sticks and HOTAS was made possible by working directly with that company. Though there are certainly a few game mechanics that need work, those are being addressed over time, as shown by the game's updates. One of the most extensive additions to the game is more single-player content. Admittedly, Comanche being introduced as a multiplayer-only experience at Gamescom 2019 was highly unusual. Since the 1990s, Comanche is a series that has primarily been known for its single-player campaigns. It seems as though the lack of single-player had been received so poorly, by the time its early access phase started on March 12th, 2020, the developers had already assembled the first mission of a new single-player campaign. Since March, each major early access update has included a new mission, making the campaign as of December 19th, 2020 a six mission campaign; technically, seven if you count how the newly reworked tutorial mission plays. Each mission is broken into multiple parts or chapters, allowing players to restart at specific points in a mission if they are shot down. Now, of course, multiplayer remains a key part of the experience even after months of updates. The recent decision to make the multiplayer segment of Comanche free to play and changes to multiplayer matchmaking show the continued interest in maintaining and expanding its online capabilities. But so far, the single player has shown the most progress over the months. Because the campaign continues to be developed and adjusted, a full review of this game is not yet possible, but the backstory of this game's story and spoiler-free descriptions of the missions can be provided. Following the capture of the RQ-170 Sentinel by Iran in 2011, the United States of America quietly restarted research and development of the canceled RAH-66 Comanche. With the unmanned aerial vehicle being stolen through cyber warfare, the new Comanche program's goal was to fulfill a new reconnaissance and attack role while being able to deploy its own onboard UAVs to further enhance its abilities. New military units that operated the Comanche in special operations were formed and saw immediate, repeated successes. One of these units being the International Joint Task Force (IJTF). The single-player campaign then explains that an act of espionage occurred, and the designs of the operational Comanche design and various proposed prototypes were stolen and uploaded outside of secure military networks. This then gave any nation or organization with enough finances and technology to produce their own versions of these designs along with benefits the other stolen data may bring. The player joins this international conflict as a pilot for the IJTF to destroy the primary antagonist behind the information theft and any other enemies that attempt to assist them. Vanilla 1 (the player) is a silent protagonist character, while Vanilla 2 (computer co-pilot/gunner) handles all radio communication with the other characters in the story. There are a few quick one-liners and conversations that show Vanilla 2's comedic side. But the radio chatter is mostly there to move the story along and explain to the player what they must do to complete their objectives. Occasionally enemy radio chatter is intercepted, but this is an unusual occurrence. There is no taking direct command of allied air, land, or sea forces to order them to attack targets or take objectives. Nor is there a constant wingman or flight of allied Comanches under the player's direct command. But non-player character allies do appear from time to time depending on the mission objective. Meanwhile, enemies frequently outnumber the player, of course, but their damage output is something to note. While it is not overwhelming, the amount of damage the player can take when getting hit by three or more units can amass faster than one would expect. Approaching an engagement in a rushed way can result in losing half of your helicopter's armor in under a minute. So far, the primary airframe players will be flying is the 'Prototype' variant, which is closely based on the actual Boeing-Sikorsky RAH-66. There are missions where other variants of the Comanche can be flown, which opens the door for the other variants from multiplayer to appear as a part of the story. The single-player versions of both helicopters have more weaponry than their multiplayer versions because of the nature of the high volume of enemies encountered in the campaign. Players shouldn't expect to go into only PVP with three or four different types of weapons at their disposal with various types of countermeasures and such. While their multiplayer versions have limited weapon selection, they do benefit from a cooldown timer with an unlimited ammo count, whereas their single-player versions have a set amount of ammunition but better weapon selection. Ammunition and repairs are given as players cross checkpoints/chapters in the mission they are playing. The exception being mission 3, which has players hover over high-tech nano pads that repair and resupply them while in mid-air. The addition of drones to the flow of combat has actually worked out well so far. It's clear that they are primarily meant for use in buildings to interact with computer systems. When deployed, drones are controlled by the player, leaving their attack helicopter to hover in whichever position it was last left in (always remember to auto-hover!). These drones can interact with computers to gather information, plant computer viruses, and many other things. Each drone comes equipped with weapons they will need to fight infantry, defense turrets, and enemy drones. Unlike attack helicopters, drones are disposable. Deploying and discarding as many of them as needed is not a problem. The drones can still cause damage to enemies of any size, albeit with reduced effectiveness on larger enemy units. But the presence of the drone in outdoor combat still draws enemy fire. Using them to get in a few hits on hostile units or placing them in areas where patrols will attack the drone first opens up ambush opportunities for the attack helicopter if it's done right. The helicopter and drone players operate is pre-determined for each mission and cannot be changed. Each mission presents distinct experiences that employ the blend of helicopter and drone combat Comanche is staking its current identity on. The diversity of objectives and scenarios was more than would be expected from a game that most likely was envisioned without a single player in mind. Mission 01: Operation Blind Anvil The first single-player mission was released on March 12th, 2020. In comparison to how it plays after the 2nd early access update, it's noticeably harder. The entire mission takes place throughout a canyon, which widens, narrows, twists and turns with varying amounts of cloud cover. Throughout are small facilities and a few large facilities built into the terrain that requires drones or the 'Prototype' Comanche helicopter itself to fly into. There are times when small and large enemy warships appear in considerable numbers. Using terrain to limit the amount of incoming fire from their formations is a surefire way to increase chances of survival. Mission 02: Operation Door Breaker A stealth mission that has the player sneaking through a majority of the mission while enemy forces patrol around them. Using the optical camouflage of the Ghost-class Comanche, there are tense moments that involve a game of cat and mouse with a heavily armored Rhino-class Comanche actively searching for the player. Trying to fight enemy infantry indoors using a combat drone while keeping a close eye on the Rhino search pattern certainly heightens the level of tension. Eventually, the tip-toeing gives way to an action-packed segment that sets the tone for the campaign going forward. Mission 03: Operation Bank Job The exact opposite of the previous mission. No sneaking, all attacking. While spearheading a ground offensive against a vital enemy facility, areas that are captured by ground forces grant access to nanopads that repair and resupply the players' helicopter. The need to be conservative with weapons is lessened because of this, so feel free to go heavy on the ordinance. This mission quickly reminds players how dangerous recklessly approaching groups of enemies can be. Those looking for a more "traditional" Comanche experience will especially enjoy this one. Mission 04: Operation Fire Sale Using the Horizon-class Comanche's railgun, the mission focuses on precisely hitting targets across different ranges and situations. Flying with the intention to maintain a maximum distance but gain the most visibility over the targeting area is helpful. Unlike most games that include railguns, there are at least minimal ballistics to consider. Understanding the projectile drop at long range becomes immensely important. Each round fired may not be powerful enough to one-shot kill every target. Do keep this in mind, though: a single reload at the wrong time can result in an instant mission failure - especially at the end of this mission. Mission 05: Thunder Flash If missions 1 through 4 were the first act of the Comanche story, mission 05 is the beginning of the second act. What seems like a pretty straightforward objective rapidly becomes complicated. While once again sneaking around in the Ghost-class Comanche, the design of this mission emphasizes low altitude flying. The engagement areas are very restrictive, resulting in frequent close range combat with groups of enemies. Being able to precisely fly at high speeds and turn quickly in a small amount of space are good skills to have on this one. Mission 06: Fly Swatter A lot more open and unrestricted flying for the most part but in turn, larger, more heavily armored, and hard-hitting enemies appear more frequently. The only way to progress forward being to fight them directly. Expect to use a lot of unguided rockets and guided missiles. With the larger naval units in particular, remember that damage to any part of the ship counts as damage to the enemy as a whole. Any opportunities to destroy an undefended section of a warship while it cannot return fire at you should be taken. You're outnumbered, so use any advantage you can get. Honestly, I really wasn't expecting the single-player campaign of Comanche to catch on as well as it has and am pleasantly surprised with a certain twist in the story. It is available on Steam for an early access price of $19.99 USD. The last major update was on December 17th, 2020. These updates sometimes come with little to no lead up so checking in on their Steam page and their Discord server every once in a while is recommended. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza The Director of Operations for 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 |
Interview: Flashpoint Studios, Developer of 'Aggressor'
It has been roughly six weeks since 'Aggressor' began its early access period. During that time this visually striking lowpoly arcade flight simulator has received multiple updates. Flight model tweaks, user interface changes, bug fixes, new aircraft added to the roster and more. Skyward Flight Media reached out to Flashpoint Studios to discuss the game, initial user feedback and to get to know the developer a bit better. Hello, and thank you for accepting our interview request. Congratulations on the release of Aggressor into early access. Can I ask you to introduce yourself? Thank you very much! My name is Mark, solo developer of the flight action game Aggressor. I live in the Netherlands and I'm currently in my first year studying the programming side of game development. I'm 19 and I've got around 4.5 years of experience developing simple light-sim and arcade flight projects. I started out doing game development in my free time just for fun and went from there as ideas started flowing, it's honestly great for me being able to turn this into something more than just a hobby. Right now I'm working pretty much full-time on Aggressor. My goal is to develop it into a complete game with a well-defined start and ending. Before we get to Aggressor, we'd like to get to know you a little better. How did you become interested in aviation? It started early for me since I grew up close to an airport. Was always fun going there and it sort of sparked my interest for aircraft, it's the classic story really. From there on I picked up flying in air combat games and got hooked pretty fast. Were there any flight games or flight simulators that you have played in the past that eventually inspired you to become a game developer? Absolutely. Among the first was IL-2 1946. This game was my first experience with a simulator, essentially it's where I learned how to roughly control an airplane. I played it for about 4 years. During this period there are a few other flight games that I tried along the way such as IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, War Thunder and briefly FSX. In the end I stuck with 1946 because of its seemingly endless possibilities with the mission builder. Before 1946 there was another IL-2 game I had on my Nintendo, but that's really long ago. I've also played SimplePlanes for some time where I got into modding that eventually led me to pursue game development. Interesting, we did not know you were a mod creator. Which games did you create mods for? Are you still actively creating mods? I used to create them for a game called SimplePlanes. I made a variety of mods that are still available today, though I'm not sure if they are in working order. I did this until late 2018 when I stopped to focus fully on game development. Have you always had an interest in game development? Not always. Honestly it was not until I started making mods that I realized how nice it could be to create something yourself and have it work. You can credit SimplePlanes for that. How did the concept for Aggressor form? Aggressor went through many design phases before becoming what it is today. Prior to Aggressor I had been experimenting with flight physics and damage models for a while. I knew I wanted to make a low poly air combat game, but wasn't sure what it should be about. Last year in August I continued work that I abandoned earlier on a sort of part-based flight model that allows aircraft to break apart. To my surprise the initial concept was a lot of fun to play around with. This was all before the project even got a name. At first I was actually going to call it Overkill, having no missions and only a gamemode where you take down waves of aircraft in a sort of roguelike fashion, it would have been a much simpler game for sure. As development went on, the concept for Aggressor kind of formed along the way. The one thing that has always remained the same though is the art style; a lowpoly aesthetic with console-like graphics. This game has many aircraft that are hardly seen in other games. It’s not the same set of somewhat expected fixed-wing fighters that people are used to seeing. How do you think the aircraft selection has been received by players so far? What are your thoughts on the aircraft selection? I've had surprisingly little comments about the variety of types available, but those that do comment are generally positive about it. Personally these sorts of experimental aircraft that you see in the selection interest me the most. It's great fun for me to be able to fly these in a game. Only downside is that for some of them it's hard to find info like handling/performance stats. Though I later found that's not too much of a problem since it's an arcade and the only true-to-life values I really want are weight and thrust, everything else I can estimate from that in flight testing. It's exciting to see some old experimental and prototype aircraft from the 50s and 60s flying. There are a few other uncommon but familiar aircraft in the roster as well. Are there any aircraft you are particularly happy to have in Aggressor? Mostly the more uncommon experimental aircraft are very interesting to me. Especially if I haven't seen them in any other game yet, I'm happy to be able to fly them in Aggressor. There are a few unknown aircraft that have appeared on the official Twitter profile. Referred to as “all black planes”, is there any more info available about them? Are they still planned to be included into the full game? Yes they are. These will belong to a third nation hostile to all the others. Such planes will see action only every now and then, but their impact in battle should be great. Under no circumstances will they be player-controllable though. About the single player campaign, what level of complexity are you considering going forward? The current short mission format or is something more elaborate being considered? At the very least, a mission briefing to help create some context. The short mission format is here to stay, as in campaigns made up of a list of missions. That is until I find a better way to stitch things together. The briefing would happen in 3D, with a simple representation of the map with all allied/axis units deployed. I think Project Wingman does it really well. Right now Aggressor is focusing on air-to-air combat, but are there plans for land and seaborne enemies for more complex missions in the future? Both of those are planned yes. Ground vehicles are work-in-progress right now. Naval targets will be added further down the line. The main motivation for adding other kinds of targets is to get some extra challenges for the player. Also since shooting down aircraft is still difficult to many, ground targets may provide an easier way to acquire cash. There is one thing we found unusual about the gameplay. There was a lack of a dedicated gunsight. Was this an intentional design choice or is it planned to be added later? That was intentional to keep things clean. Basically the idea was constraining most of the UI displays to first person view in order to give the player some clarity in third person. I'm reconsidering this choice though as it is difficult to aim in third person this way. All in all I think the UI needs more time to come into it's own. When done right, it can enhance the player's experience. When done wrong however it can clutter the screen and throw off immersion. What have been some of the most requested features that you have seen since the early access launch? Better controls. Specifically, a mouse aim control scheme like in War Thunder (WT). This is kind of a problem since WT has patented their approach. In fact, they seem to have patented the whole idea of leading a plane with your mouse. I could be wrong, but the more I look into it the more confirmation I get that this is the case! Anyhow, I'll have to get creative. Lots of the reviews on the game contain remarks about the controls and how it is difficult to aim. To a lesser degree, things like more advanced joystick/gamepad support are desired. Also more content; like more missions with different types of targets (ground targets like tanks, AA turrets etc) which were already planned anyways. Takeoff and landing operations are also a much requested feature. Another important thing is a minimap or some other tool to help with situational awareness. For example; variable color displays for the units on the minimap would allow IFF (Identification Friend or Foe) to take place more easily. To further help with IFF, aircraft may also receive color-coded markers in the actual 3D scene. The game definitely has an eye catching, shiny look overall, so concerns about the UI getting out of control are understandable. Have you considered a photo mode? There is actually a photo mode which can be toggled on/off by a button. Unfortunately the control for it was not listed in the initial game release so there was no way to know of it's existence. Truthfully, going off of pre-release media. I was not expecting a damage model of this complexity. The negative effects on flight performance caused by aircraft sustaining damage and losing aircraft parts adds an interesting layer of realism to combat. Why did you choose to include this more simulator style damage model rather than a general flight arcade damage model which ignores more detailed damage? It's really just something I personally missed in these sorts of games. It makes shooting down the other aircraft that much more satisfying because there are many scenario's that can unfold. I think just like anything else, the damage model should be dynamic. Besides that it's also fun for me to work on damage effects. On itch.io there is a development roadmap that was assembled long before the early access release on Steam. Is this still a valid document or should players instead standby for new updates in the future? Except for me not crossing off the features I've completed anymore, it's still very much up to date. I use that list as one of the main references for ideas and plan to add as much as possible from it. There is no guarantee all of it will see implementation, but it's gonna be close. Thank you for this interview! We look forward to seeing where Aggressor goes in its upcoming updates. No problem! The game has certainly got a long way to go and I'm excited to see what the future holds. About the Interviewer 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 |
Analysis: The Standard Missile in Ace Combat
If we could distill Ace Combat to a singular, recognizable trait, what would it be? Silent protagonists? A constructed world of unrealistic air power? A signature console exclusive? Whittling away at this to arrive at that singular eyebrow-raising realization is difficult, but picture yourself playing this game for the first time. Maybe you were a veteran of air combat simulators, or maybe it was your first foray into the unfriendly skies, but I’ll bet the first surprise that caught you was that number “60” flanked by the silhouettes of Sidewinders. The “Ace Combat Loadout” is infamous amongst video games. Even casual players can’t help but poke fun at the idea of a real-world aircraft holding bottomless magazines of complex computerized homing rockets. Yet that it still only the first half of the incredulity of these magic spears: they possess the ability to hit targets in the air—or on the ground--with equal precision and power, limited only by a reload rate of two missiles per salvo. Such a weapon in reality would represent a holy grail of tactical and logistical pursuit. Technological innovation has never quite achieved this goal. But what self-respecting military-industrial complex would let such a theoretical achievement stop them? Often depicted in-game as a NATO-standard advanced, longer-ranged Sidewinder or CIS-aligned extra-lightweight and shorter-ranged R-60, the STDM seems like a simple enough concept in its primary role of air-to-air combat. These missiles were built for true visual-range fire-and-forget engagements, and at that they excel. Until recently, a maximum-range of five miles could be expected, with a very short burn time and the ability to hit a target maneuvering well above a human-sustainable g-limit. Improvements to these missiles in reality have since diverged what semblance of accurate representation they may have shared to their virtual counterparts, but with this base performance in mind, we can start to build out and see where these weapons re-converge into an ideal reality. The Sidewinder itself went through several incremental improvements—the AIM-9M and AIM-9X both being the most recognizable in the modern day, but the advancement of this platform and construction of these new models left quite a few of the obsolete older models in inventory, including the unique AIM-9C radar-guided variant of the Sidewinder. Between 1986 and 1990, it was decided to reuse these airframes and components to rebuild the missile into an air-to-ground, anti-radiation missile known as the AGM-122 Sidearm. The compatibility advantages should be clear; the missile could be mounted on the same platforms and the same racks with the same weight-penalty as the AIM-9, granting a short-range anti-surface capability to fighters and helicopters already wired for the Sidewinder. Though not as effective as dedicated anti-radiation missiles like the AGM-88 HARM, the idea was popular and effective enough to propose another batch of remanufactured missiles under the designation AIM-122B. This proposal was not realized. The lessons achieved by this device were however not forgotten. The AIM-9X was a revolution in the Sidewinder family. It is in fact so different in operation and construction that it holds the Sidewinder legacy in name only—even its base-airframe functions differently than its previous family. Beyond its thrust-vectored exhaust and re-evaluation of control surface deflection to the front-mounted airfoils, the AIM-9X does away with its old analog guidance system and replaces it with a modular, reprogrammable digital array. This allows the missile to be updated with new target info, including new infrared signature data, better filtering algorithms, advanced image recognition and processing, and as a consequence, the capability for a new mission profile: light ground attack. In 2009 a successful test was accomplished with a USAF F-15C attacking and destroying a small cigar boat using a reprogrammed AIM-9X. Bellow you can see an example of the off-boresight capabilities of the missile, which only aided in its new impromptu air to ground role. No hardware modification was required, and unlike the Sidearm, its air combat capability is unaltered. The missile retained its warhead and detonation system, limiting it to unhardened targets. A true force multiplier, the demonstration has opened up new avenues of capability for platforms once solely regarded as air-to-air only, though whether this option was adapted by the USAF remains in limbo. But there’s still a desire to increase the capacity of the fighter. In the past five years there has been interest in the “missile truck” concept, which loads a heavy fighter with a slew of long-range missiles. The F-15C 2020 and F-15X are recent examples of this concept, theoretically being able to mount and fire up to 22 AMRAAM’s in a single sortie. However this is unique to specific platforms, using legacy equipment. The future requires something smaller, faster, universal—and ideally something that can increase the carrying capacity of stealth-capable platforms with internal bays. The Lockheed Martin SACM, marketed as “Cuda”, aims to offer this capability. The F-35 itself is projected to carry up to twelve of these missiles. Changes include pure thrust-vector control for reduced drag and precision to perform hit-to-kill on maneuvering targets. It seems like a previous feature is missing from this system—the ability to engage ground targets. Upon a service requirement stemming from the JDRADM, DARPA decided to redevelop this concept into the T3 program, producing a missile that combines the abilities of the air-to-air AIM-120, and the air-to-surface AGM-88 HARM. The future points to an abundance of firepower, and yet another eerie convergence. What may come off as unexpected is the superposition of the real with the meta; A simple, silly observation that makes the Ace Combat concept function as a game, pursued as a tactical trump card for next-generation air combat—from the air, to the air, and to the ground. About the Author T.J. "Millie" Archer T.J. "Millie" Archer is Life-long realist and aviation enthusiast. Once the co-founding Administrator of the Electrosphere.info English Ace Combat Database. In the present day he is freelance, roving the internet in search of the latest aviation news and entertainment.
Falcon BMS 4.35: The sim that just keeps on giving
It was not so long ago where I did not have a powerful enough PC to run the newest titles that the flight simulation genre had to offer. I had a computer that, by modern standards, was surpassed by some smartphones and even some fridges. But that did not mean that I missed out on one of the greatest flight simulator experiences that is out there. That old PC was able to run Falcon BMS, a free community-made overhaul for Microprose's 1998 title: Falcon 4. Despite its old age and the fate of the original company that made it back when they had not made their comeback, a group of dedicated individuals at Benchmark Simulations have spent the last 18 or so years polishing and improving this sim to the point where it is unrecognizable. And then released every update free for everyone to use!
Disclaimer: This article will not go in-depth into every single aspect of Falcon BMS as that would require a full-on documentary. So if I miss something, please let me know and I'll try and add it in a timely manner if I consider it critical for the article. FALCON 4 AND ITS LEGACY Falcon 4 was one of the last titles that Microprose published prior to its demise and fall from grace back in the early 2000's. The game was, according to people who I have talked to which had it at release, a bit of a buggy mess. Some features were broken at launch, and some were absent. But despite all that it was, undeniably, the most ambitious flight simulator of its era. From a large variety of scenarios to what at the time was the best simulation of the iconic F-16 Fighting Falcon. This simulation had a lot going for it including the legendary Dynamic Campaign Generator, a feature which I will touch upon later in this article. That sparkled interest and created a dedicated fanbase that can still be seen today. It is this fanbase that took it upon itself to fix and improve the title once its creators had moved on. And from those groups that tried and fix it, one stood the test of time: Benchmark Simulations.
This group is the one responsible for Falcon BMS (BenchMark Simulations) and all its versions. It is hard to express how much these people have done to improve the game. From adding core functionality, 3D cockpits and fledging out the Viper to make one of the best if not the best representation of the F-16 to date, system-wise at least. It is genuinely impressive.
Let's delve a bit into what makes BMS, BMS. THE GOOD: THE VIPER, ITS SYSTEMS, THE DYNAMIC CAMPAIGN GENERATOR AND THE PRICE The representation of the F-16 and all of its variants inside Falcon BMS has nothing to envy from Digital Combat Simulator (DCS) from Eagle Dynamics. It is genuinely an impressive recreation, one that is much deeper than what you would see in many simulators nowadays. To operate it you will have to get used to reading tons and tons of documents to figure out your systems and the way that they interact with each other. Thankfully, BMS comes with every document you will need. It has some features which, when I see, wonder why they are not in other sims. One of these is the capability of customizing your Data Cartridge with personalized countermeasure programs, MFD pre-sets, radio frequencies per UHF and HVF radio and even IFF codes! Why isn't something like this in DCS? That's beyond me. I sincerely hope that it will be added later on to aircraft that have data cartridges. Additionally, there is also the fact that the ATC and AWACS systems inside of Falcon BMS are excellent even by modern standards. The ATC will cue up incoming and outgoing flights into patterns to avoid collisions. You are also required to go through the different radio frequencies for ATC (ground, tower and departure) for each stage of your flight. That's just awesome in my eyes. AWACS will also require you to report-in and out of the AoA to get reports, which is awesome.
All of these aspects, while great by themselves, would not be anything without the glue that holds them up together: the Dynamic Campaign generator. This is the defining feature of Falcon BMS and Falcon 4.0 prior to it. This tool allows the simulator to feel like an actual battlefield. The entire area of operations is filled to the brim with enemy and allied aircraft doing their own missions, which makes the entire experience fill much more alive. It also means that each campaign run will be its own unique experience, unlike no other.
On one run you could be assigned SEAD and DEAD missions while on others you could be assigned to do escort or fighter sweeps. All with variation depending on the values you set at the start of the campaign. This is what some modern sims are missing. A mode in which you feel like a part of the battlefield, not its hero. When it comes to the F-16, this sim does it like no other. The 3D cockpit is mostly clickable and nice looking with each button doing what you expect it to do. You have the entirety of the Viper's deadly arsenal to your disposal as well, including some weapons which are unique to later variants of the F-16C, such as the Small Diameter Bombs (SDB) and even Harpoon support! All of these are fully implemented, nothing on beta. Here is a video of me doing some basic air to air against North Korean fighters. THE BAD: KIND-OF OUT DATED GRAPHICS AND UI DESIGN One thing that sets a lot of people back on Falcon BMS are its graphics and kind-of outdated user interface (UI) design. Both of which are completely valid point, and both are a result of the age of this game. 1998 was a long time ago and the fact that the guys over at Benchmark have managed to have it look like it does is an achievement on its own. If I were to compare it to some other modern sims, it would look much more like XPlane 11 or Prepar3D than Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020) or DCS. It lacks much of the polished look and tech that makes something like DCS look the way it does, which is more than understandable when you take context into consideration.
I personally do not dislike the looks, it has this retro-esque aesthetic that makes me a bit nostalgic.
Its UI is also clunky and unintuitive to the point that many players run an alternative launcher just so that they can set their controls outside of the game's horrendous set-up manager. WHAT FALCON BMS MEANS TO ME This is a sim out of its era, one that only been kept alive by its most dedicated fans. Some would even say that this game has no reason for existing seeing as there are titles such as DCS where realism exudes out of its pores. Then why do I keep coming back to this old yet strange flight simulator? Simple. This is a flight simulator where the single player experience reigns supreme. There is no other flight simulator like this out there now. DCS is due to receive a dynamic campaign generator at some point, but all the signs point to that being in the not later rather than sooner.
Also, the entirety of BMS cost me 5$ and that is because you have to have a legit copy of Falcon 4.0 to install it. This has got to be the best 5$ I have ever spent, seeing as this sim just keeps on giving with each update. And I have not even talked about the secondary aircraft that you can use, the multiplayer scene, the community-made maps, the tutorials, etc.
I have much more to say about Falcon BMS and I can't wait to write about it again. About the author:
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and the co-founder of Skyward ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
Hardpoint: Electronic Countermeasures in Ace Combat
Within the Ace Combat series advanced forms of electronic countermeasures (ECM) has exclusively been a non-player character (NPC) feature since it was first introduced. NPC ECM is commonly deployed by enemy forces in an effort to increase the difficulty of single player missions. Electronic countermeasure support is not usually deployed in favor of the player or their allies. Though the presence of ECM cannot be specifically confirmed in Air Combat (1992/1995), mission 6 of Ace Combat 2 (1997) is the first mission to introduce electronic countermeasures within its briefing. A pair of E-767 Vigilante AWACS aircraft disrupted or "jammed" the player's radar, making it harder for them to track the enemy units using their radar. By hindering radar detection from all ranges, it forced the player to rely more on small pieces of information they could glean through breaks in the enemy jamming.
From Ace Combat 2 to the release of Ace Combat Infinity (2014), NPC ECM would become a reoccurring factor in a limited amount of missions for Ace Combat releases on PlayStation 1, 2, 3, PlayStation Portable, Nintendo DS and Xbox 360. As the series advanced in regards to graphics and game mechanics so too did ECM. The basic forms of NPC electronic countermeasures are primarily focused on disruption of navigation systems and communications. More advanced types of ECM are capable of tricking and denying player controlled weapons systems. Often times enemy NPC units will use multiple types of ECM at once to effectively disrupt the player. In Ace Combat 5 Electronic Counter-Countermeasures (ECCM) were also introduced but was closely tied to the plot of the story. It wasn't used much outside of in game plot points which used ECM interference to drive the story forward. As such, allied ECCM wasn't really a factor in game play. A second form of ECM is enemy deployed Electronic Support Measures (ESM). ESM acts differently than ECM in a few different ways, but ESM that is deployed by enemy forces reduces the homing performance of missiles fired by the player or their allies while they operate within enemy ESM range. In that sense, it is a electronic countermeasure. NPC ECM Platforms The electronic countermeasure platforms used by non-player character allies and enemies are usually aircraft or land-based installations. Aircraft are the most common ECM platform used. NPCs frequently use known military electronic jammer aircraft like the Su-24MP, EA-18G, Tornado ECR, along with larger aircraft like E-767 Vigilante, IL-76 and similar platforms. Land based jammers come from specific types of radar vehicles or military installations. Certain notable super weapons like the Excalibur Anti-Ballistic Missile System and Stonehenge Spaceguard Turret Network utilizes electronic counter measures to ward off attacks from close and long ranges. Types of ECM Communications Jamming Experienced in single player missions, frequently used in plot related events. Communication between in game allies is disrupted by ECM causing confusion. Static on the radio and missing words within subtitles are common characteristics. Decoy Projection False targets appear on the player’s heads up display and radar. This type of ECM can lead to the waste of mid and long ranged special weapons fire. Visually identifying targets before firing in necessary. By closing into visual range or using the in-game camera to zoom, the actual target can be located. Radar Suppression
Jamming that blocks out radar. Its severity can range from the disruption of localized areas to complete radar black out in the mission area. The most common visualization of radar suppression appears as a green circle which emits waves of interference at varying intervals of time. The design of the green circle varies in each Ace Combat game. Weapons System Jamming This type of ECM is designed to deny the guidance capabilities, causing guided weaponry to lose lock mid-flight and disabling the heads up display so it cannot show the position of enemy units. The visual effect of weapons system jamming includes scan lines on the HUD and the disappearance of all enemy target indicators for varying periods of time. Notable Uses in Ace Combat Series Morganite ECM System The ADFX-02 Morgan, constructed by the South Belkan Munitions Factory before the events of Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War, featured a set of highly specialized weapons. Among them was the Morganite ECM system which was powerful enough to physically deflect incoming missile and gunfire from any angle and any range. The only weak point was its inability to cover the area around the ADFX's engine intakes. This meant that the only way to shoot down the Morgan was to fire at it from its direct front. From the point of view of game design, it's clear that the Morganite ECM system was created to enable the iconic joust style final dogfight of Ace Combat Zero. Operation Battle-Axe The Belkan Air Force 22nd Air Division, 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron "Schnee" flew F-14D Super Tomcats supported by an EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft. On May 28th, 1995, Schnee squadron was deployed to reinforce Belkan forces during the large scale air battle in Belkan strategic priority one airspace B7R. Upon their arrival they engaged the Ustian 66th Air Division, 6th Air Force Unit "Galm" in an effort to stop the Allied Forces from securing the airspace. The air battle ended with Schnee being shot down and the Allied Forces secured a major victory in the Belkan War by seizing B7R.
Ace Combat Zero, mission 10 (Soldier) was the first time within the series that an enemy ace squadron utilized ECM in such a way. While the EA-6B Prowler remained at high altitude and suppressed radar, the Schnee F-14s engaged the player with close range weapons and long-range XLAAs (AIM-54 Phoenix). Being unable to track targets with radar, the player was much more vulnerable to XLAA missiles as they were unable to identify which direction they should maneuver to evade the incoming missiles. Safe Return A U-2 Dragonlady spy plane with the Independent State Allied Forces (ISAF) was damaged by air defenses from the Federal Republic of Erusea. Mobius One of the ISAF 118th Tactical Fighter Squadron would be dispatched to Gnome Ravine to destroy a network of airships carrying ECM emitters. It was vital for ISAF that the jammers be destroyed since their U-2 was forced to fly at low altitude due to damage from Erusean air defenses. After the successful destruction of a large amount of jammers and the interception of Erusean fighter aircraft attempting to destroy the spy plane, the vital data the U-2 gathered was recovered. Evidence of Erusea preparing Megalith as a replacement for the recently destroyed Stonehenge STN. This is the first time such a vast network of ECM was used against the player in the Ace Combat series. The mission maintained a decent level of difficulty without relying on enemies actively pursing the player. With the radar heavily jammed the player is forced to visually spot the airships they're attacking. Pawns in the Game After the death of the General Resource LTD. CEO Aldair Carlos Nascimento, two factions within the mega corporation began to fall into a power struggle. Sensing that one of the two factions could incite a war with Neucom Inc. the Special Armed Response Force of the Universal Peace Enforcement Organization was dispatched to strike a General Resource armory as a measure to remove that possibility. Utilizing ECM coverage provided by the UI-4053 Sphyrna and new R-211 Orcinus aircraft, the armory was destroyed. After the mission's success it was discovered that the facilities were actually corporate housing. The UPEO raid using Neucom marked aircraft had caused the deaths of many civilians and employees. Full on armed conflict between General Resource and Neucom would start shortly afterwards. Ace Combat 3: Electrosphere [JP], UPEO Mission 14 "Pawns in the Game" was the first time ECM coverage had been provided in favor of the player, rather than against them. A second interesting note is that the airship which had deployed the electronic countermeasures would become an enemy. Next Form of ECM The ultimate form of electronic countermeasures within the Ace Combat series would come with the release of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War on October 21st, 2004. For the first time, players could equip a special weapon known as the Electronic Countermeasure Pod (ECMP) to disrupt guided weapons fired by enemy units. See our article, Hardpoint: ECMP in Ace Combat, for its history, hardware, specifications and more. About the Writer 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 |
Hardpoint: ECMP in Ace Combat
We play Ace Combat for thrilling, high-speed aerial combat. A heroic pilot rushing into the heart of the enemy force, singlehandedly destroying entire squadrons with cutting-edge missiles and top of the line combat aircraft. Getting high completion ranks in Single player relies on destroying enemies quickly, and player vs player victories are decided by outperforming rival players from around the world. Doing something like willingly giving up a special weapon that can obliterate a group of targets from the land, sea or air seems pointless. But it's often forgot that a keen defense is just as good as a relentless offensive. Electronic Counter Measure Pod The ultimate form of electronic countermeasures within the Ace Combat series would come with the release of Ace Combat 5: The Unsung War on October 21st, 2004. For the first time, players could equip a special weapon known as the Electronic Counter Measure Pod (ECMP). The ECMP had a number of unsavory restrictions tied to it from the moment it was introduced. In comparison to other special weapons, it often has the lowest 'ammunition count' and the smallest effective range. Of these restrictions, the lack of aircraft capable of deploying ECMP continues to be a limiting factor, with the average number of aircraft available for use ranging between three to six per game on average. From 2004 to 2010, the electronic countermeasure pod was widely considered by many players to be nothing more than a defense system that fulfilled the role of the traditional chaff and flare dispensers found on real-world combat aircraft. The introduction of a chaff/flare game mechanic for players would not come until the release of Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (2011). Though the limitations of the ECMP didn't change much with the release of Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (2007), the introduction of widely accessible online multiplayer would deepen the understanding and deployment of the ECMP. Ace Combat 6 online multiplayer became a proving ground. A place where their skills and strategies they honed from every Ace Combat game they've played would be matched directly against one another. Within a year of Ace Combat 6's release, many individuals, and online squadrons (groups of players that formed long-term teams) sought new strategies to maintain their edge. The value of the seemingly restrictive ECMP had begun to increase once new multiplayer tactics were developed to utilize the few seconds of coverage it could provide. Some online squadrons would go as far as privately researching the capabilities of the ECMP in private online matches among their squad mates. The information they gathered would later be utilized to deploy and counter the ECMP in official squadron versus squadron matches. The ECMP underwent many changes with the release of Ace Combat Assault Horizon (2011). Its improved default capabilities coupled with further enhancements with "Skill" upgrades made this special weapon a true squadron support tool. The most effective form of ECMP is seen in Ace Combat Infinity (2014) which combines elements of legacy ECMP with the Assault Horizon ECMP variant. Legacy ECMP The first generation ECM pods for the Ace Combat series. This data is applicable for Ace Combat 5, 6, X, X2, Zero and 3DS (Assault Horizon Legacy/Cross Rumble). The exact jamming range of Legacy ECMP could not be determined easily due to the lack of a visual representation of jamming range, as seen in Assault Horizon and Infinity. Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation introduced a set maximum range for ECM. Much of the research for Legacy ECMP started with the Ace Combat 6 variant of the ECMP. For quick reference, Ace Combat 6 jamming range is the inner most circle of the in-game radar display shown in the bottom left corner of the heads up display. Assault Horizon ECMP For a time, the ECMP seen in Ace Combat: Assault Horizon was capable of covering an area large enough to support a squadron of aircraft in co-op and multiplayer game modes. When utilizing the multiple ECM related Skill upgrades, the ACAH ECMP had the largest jamming range in the Ace Combat series. It did not completely disable incoming hostile weaponry in Player vs Player game modes, but it did increase the time it took for enemies to gain a lock onto the ECM emitting aircraft or any allied aircraft within the emission range. With the introduction of compatibility packs (game updates) following Ace Combat: Assault Horizon's release, the ability to stack Skill upgrades was removed and overall performance was also reduced. The special weapon was forced to return to a level similar to that of the Legacy ECMP in which it had a short range and emission time, but successfully disrupted incoming guided missile fire. all Skill stats are null in void during actual game play due to compatibility packs. The Extra ECM skill increases the special weapon ammunition count by four. It does not provide a enhancement to range, emission time or reload speed. As such it is not listed on this information table. Infinity ECMP This version combines characteristics of the Assault Horizon and Legacy jamming pods, making it the best version of the ECMP in Ace Combat so far. The effective range is visible on radar, represented with a large blue circle or a white circle if a friendly aircraft from a different allied flight is emitting ECM. It is important to remember that ECM from a different flight does not protect all aircraft from both flights (i.e. if the friendly jammer aircraft is on Bravo team, aircraft on Alpha team will not receive ECM coverage). In single player and online competitive co-op mode, the ECMP has a significantly extended emission time in comparison to all past versions of ECMP. Its performance can be enhanced by leveling up the special weapon and equipping Aircraft Tuning parts designed for ECM. By equipping a specific combination of parts, it is possible to maintain consistent coverage over an extended area, allowing allied aircraft to operate with minimal concern for incoming air-to-air or surface-to-air missiles. In player vs player game modes (Team Death Match (TDM), Naval Team Death Match (NTDM) ) ECMP performance is restricted. The emission time is reduced to the shortest emission time of all player controlled jammer pods in the Ace Combat series. All aircraft parts that enhance the abilities of the ECMP are rendered ineffective during team death matches. Deployment Notes Effect of Active ECMP
While the Electronic Countermeasure Pod is active, any hostile guided weapon that enters its effective range has its guidance system disabled. After it is disabled it will proceed flying in a a straight line along its flight path until it times out or impacts another object (ground, ocean, building, etc). The effects are immediate and do not require that the enemy weapon(s) remain within jammer range for a set amount of time. One second of contact with an active ECM is enough to jam a weapon guidance system. It is important to remember that while the ECMP is active, any guided weapon that enters its range will become unable to guide onto targets. Even after the weapon has left the emission range its guidance system has already been disabled.
This is the area that the ECMP effects. The exact range varies depending on game, aircraft tuning parts and aircraft level. The ECMP range is recorded using the in-game radar which displays objects in two-dimensions. Through testing, it has been verified that the effective horizontal range is also applicable vertically, which gives the ECM field a sphere shape. If the emission range of the ECMP is 10000ft, it is effective at 10000ft in every direction around the aircraft. Unguided but Dangerous
It is not recommended to proceed flying in a straight line, directly at the weapon that has just been jammed. A minimal amount of movement (yaw, altitude change, rapid change in speed) is required while emitting ECM. After a weapon has been disabled it loses its guidance capability but this does not mean that its explosive charge is disarmed. An unguided weapon will still inflict the same amount of damage to the player's aircraft. Any weapon with a blast radius will still cause damage across that blast radius even after being jammed. Basic SEAD
An aircraft providing ECMP support can utilize basic suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) tactics to ease the level of difficulty when attacking enemy land and sea forces. Using the ECMP to block out incoming missile fire while targeting enemies firing Surface-to-Air Missiles at them. Air-to-Surface Weaponry
The ECMP is also effective on guided air-to-surface weaponry (weapons designed to attack buildings, vehicles, ships, etc) launched by enemy aircraft. This is the most uncommon use of ECMP which requires more effort and planning in comparison to defeating air-to-air weaponry. Attempting to jam air-to-surface weaponry requires that the player deploying the ECMP keeps the enemy aircraft firing air-to-surface weaponry within their range. By utilizing the radar or visually confirming a weapon being fired, the player can activate the ECMP before it can guide onto a target. LAGM, LASM, XAGM: The standard attack profile of these weapons requires them to fly above their target, then perform a sharp dive to attack it from above where it assumed to be thinly armored. Jamming these weapons before they get above target will prevent them from making their final turn, causing them to fly by harmlessly. The attack profiles of these weapons can change depending on game and the distance or angle they were fired at. An advanced understanding of how these weapons operate is recommended. GPB: This bomb utilizes guidance fins to direct itself onto a target as it falls. Enemy aircraft using this special weapon frequently rely on the GPB's ability to guide itself and often won't set up to drop it as though it was a standard Unguided Bomb (UGB). The sooner this weapon is jammed by the ECMP, the better, as it will deny its ability to guide itself onto a target. If a GPB is jammed too late within its drop sequence, the relatively small blast radius of the unguided GPB will still damage or destroy its target. Research The data provided for ECM specifications in this article was gathered through multiple in-game research efforts focused on the electronic countermeasure pod special weapon. The first in-game study was done in 2008 by an Ace Combat online squadron known as 12th MNAT Ribbon. The week long study established baseline data for Legacy ECMP; including the identification of ECM emission time, effective range, shape of the ECM burst, weapons that could be jammed, flight characteristics of jammed weapons and the creation of basic tactics for ECMP deployment in a multiplayer environment.
Much of this data would be reconfirmed and multiplayer tactics were expanded upon in a second study by another online group, Strategic Military Services, in 2009 and 2011. The fourth study would be performed in 2014 by the Sphere Aerospace, a Ace Combat Infinity focused group of members from Electrosphere.info. For the release of this article, information for Ace Combat Infinity was expanded upon with other information being reconfirmed. About the Writer 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 |
Interview: Jose Pavli, Director of Dawn, an Animated Aerowar Audioplay
With its teaser announcement on May 22nd, 2021, Dawn is described as an "Animated Aerowar Audioplay, intended to tell a story about a sortie that stands to change the course of a years-long war and the pilots that weave their way into it." There are many questions surrounding this project. Dawn's director is Jose Pavli, a composer that made a big splash with his work on the soundtrack for Project Wingman. For those unfamiliar with his music for this game, this Best of playlist and Making of videos (part one, part two) for the soundtrack serve as a good introduction. Skyward Flight Media was fortunate enough to get an interview early in this project's development with Jose Pavli. Is Neïwa Interactive a newly formed studio? Yes, it is. It is also a production company. At the moment, we are three persons working at Neïwa Interactive. Me and two collaborators who help me with everything that is not art-related. (Legal, Production, Copyrights issues, Publishing, etc.) On top of that, I hire artists on projects when I need them. That is what I've done for Dawn. What is the creative scope of Neïwa Interactive? I publish my soundtracks through Neïwa Interactive, and to be honest, that is the only reason I created this company a few months ago. I didn't plan to make it a studio, but now that it is the case, who knows where it will take us. We have just started working on Dawn, so one thing at a time. If we manage to get funded and release it, we will see what we want to do in the future. When and how did the concept for "Dawn" begin to form? After the release of Project Wingman, I've received so much love from the community that I wanted to give them something back. Naturally, I have decided to work on an album in the same genre, but only with acoustic instruments, so people could listen to it while doing other things like working, programming, reading, or playing other games. Right after starting working on this album, I've seen Mobius (Creditian Istani, 3D Visual Artist on Dawn) posting a 3D animated short clip, showing two planes flying and shooting missiles. I knew he was a fantastic artist already because he also made the key-art for Project Wingman. It gave me this idea of having those animations in between tracks from my album. I realized that by doing this, the project would become more ambitious. I reached out to Matt (FlyAwayNow, Writer and Producer on Project Wingman) and asked him if he would be willing to join this project and write the script based on a few ideas I had. When I explained to him my idea of blending together an animation, audiobook, and a music album, he came up with the term " Animated Aerowar Audioplay". I immediately loved it, the concept was created. Unlike a traditional audio play, this production is utilizing various 3D assets to create animated scenes alongside music and voice acting. Will the 3D scenes be present throughout the entire audio play or only for certain scenes? Animated scenes will be throughout the entire audioplay. Some of them will be in 2D because our characters are made in 2D, but everything that happens in the sky including dogfights will be animated in 3D, during the whole story. We have a 2D Visual Artist onboard who joined the team recently, he is a great addition to the project, but I can't tell who it is yet. We want to show one of his concept art when we reveal his identity. All I can say is many people from the community know his work. As a primarily audio-driven production, the soundtrack and sound design will be paramount. While your work as a musical composer has been put on display recently with Project Wingman's soundtrack, are you also creating the sound effects and overall sound design for this project? Is this something you've done in past works? Sound design will definitely play a huge role in giving Dawn's characters and lore a unique identity. That's what I chose to work with my long-time friend Anize Amestoy. We've been working together on various projects for years now and I know he will create a sound atmosphere that will enhance the viewer's experience. We've started discussing how we want to use sounds in order to make the whole audioplay even more immersive and I can't wait for people to listen to what he's done. It's intriguing that the story centers on a single combat sortie rather than an entire conflict. Will the backstory about the war and the world this event takes place in be explained either in the audioplay or through other materials? The fact that this is an audioplay, means that we won't be able to expand too much about the backstory, the lore, and the reasons this sortie is so important. We don't know if people will like the format or if they will follow us on this journey and be there when we launch our Kickstarter. So, as Matt told me a few days ago when we were finalizing the script, it's better to tell a simple story strongly, than telling a great story poorly. If we reach our initial Kickstarter Goal, we will tell a simple story, but we can guarantee it will be consistent and deliver what we promised. Now, depending on the resources we get, we do have options/stretch goals to expand the lore if we can. Since it is not a game, we can't tell if there is an audience before we launch our Kickstarter, that's why we've started simple, but efficient. Is there anything else about the world setting that you can discuss at this time? We plan to give people more info about the world as we get closer to our Kickstarter Launch. However, what I can tell you is that it takes place in a fictional world, a completely new one, not related to past projects. While the story focuses on a single sortie, I can tell you that this is an important one and by the end of the audioplay, the story we wanted to tell will be told. You will definitely learn more about the world, the context, and the reasons things are like they are, as you progress through the story. Most of the lore elements will be given to the viewer by the characters you encounter during this sortie. And last info, it is not necessarily an alternate Earth. ;) The assumed protagonist, Zodiac 1, sounds like they have lost much to this conflict. Both family and their pre-war identity. Is this person viewed as a type of heroic figure in this conflict or more of an unknown soldier in the grand scheme of things? Unfortunately, it would ruin the fun if I told you at that point. But it's neither of those. Or maybe a bit of both, I don't know. Will the characters of the story be seen in any way or solely represented by their aircraft and voices? No, you will also have 2D animations of the characters. That's a bold creative choice, I can't think of anything like what we plan to do, in the genre. Now that we have our 2D artist helping Creditian Istani (Mobius) with visuals, we will be able to push that aspect and give every characters its visual identity. It will add a lot of depth to them, and help the viewer like them, or hate them. I can't wait to show you what we have in mind for this specific aspect of the animation. Who are the voice actresses and actors for "Dawn"? Do they have previous experience? At that point, we've only cast the actors of the main characters. They are all very talented and I've been mindblown by their performance so far. They all have experience in the industry, whether it is for commercials; video games, films, etc. Here is our current list of confirmed actors and their links if you want to check them out. Sam Hughes (Zodiac 1) Lara Sawalha Blythe M Sandra Espinoza Was it a conscious decision to keep "Dawn" separate from the established Project Wingman intellectual property? I haven't even talked to Abi (Project Wingman developer) about Dawn happening in Project Wingman. Dawn was meant to be a personal project from the beginning. While most of the team working on Dawn has worked on Project Wingman, it was always intended to be something different. After working for years on Project Wingman, I also feel it is good to try something else, explore new ideas, whether it is with music, or with the world we are building for Dawn. The Kickstarter is listed as "coming soon". Should the public be on the lookout for the campaign to begin in the next month or two? There is a huge amount of visual work to be done by only two artists before we can go on Kickstarter. However, I would say it is closer to two months than one. But we have some juicy content ready; to tease you until we are good to go live on KS. Stay tuned! How many tier levels will there be in the Kickstarter campaign? Will any of these tiers have backers directly involved with the development of this project? The Kickstarter page is still a work in progress, but we currently have 7 tier levels. The highest tier, allows you to give your name to one of the enemy ace squadron pilots. And your name will be mentioned in the story, not just written. But there are only a few slots available, for obvious reasons. We are also considering sending physical copies of the soundtrack to high tiers backers. Other than that, the highest tier you take, the more content you get: Original Artbook, BTS/Unreleased content, High-Quality Soundtrack, etc. Is Dawn going to be a single-release feature or a multi-part feature? Nothing is set in stone yet. At the moment, the plan is to go for a single release for the whole audioplay. Will the final product be sold as a standalone item? Like a movie, for example. Once again, I can't say for sure, but at the moment selling it as a standalone item, and put the soundtrack on streaming platforms is our best option. Assuming that the Kickstarter goal(s) is met, is a 2021 release date possible? That's very unlikely. Quality takes time. We will get into full production for approximately a year after the KS is successful. On a personal note, before your previous work on Project Wingman, did you have any experience or interest with flight games or flight simulators? Well, Project Wingman is actually not the first flight action game I've scored. I also made the music for another one called Vector Thrust. And I am a fan of the Ace Combat series, and its music has always been a great inspiration for me, and probably one of the reasons I am doing this job today. Reading some comments comparing Project Wingman soundtrack to some Ace Combat tracks felt completely surreal for me. But to answer your question, I am definitely a fan of the genre. Thank you for this interview during the early development phase of Dawn. We look forward to the Kickstarter and future developments. Is there anything you'd like to say to readers interested in your project? We believe we have a strong story, with amazing visuals, meaningful characters, and a team made of experimented talented artists. Dawn has all the ingredients to be something people will enjoy. We hope the content we will release until the Kickstarter, will convince the community that this project is worth supporting. It is a new format, we are taking some risks with it, but I can already tell you that it is a breath of fresh air in the genre. Support has been amazing so far, and we want to thank everyone for that! We can't wait to show you more! Stay tuned. About the Interviewer 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 |
Review: DCS MB-339A/PAN by Frecce Tricolori Virtuali
Made by the folks over at the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali team, the MB-339 is a free module based on the famous trainer made by Aermacchi during the late seventies that now serves with the Italian Air Force and many others as a trainer/light-attack aircraft. The type has seen combat over the skies of the Eritrean–Ethiopian War and the Falklands-War where it saw successful combat deployment. In this review of their latest release (v.2.01) we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this pretty but capable bird is a fit for your style of flying. These points will be divided in several sections: Of note: This is a free module made by a dedicated community, therefore, it shall not be judged to the standards of a paid module. External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight modelling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Unique module features Is this aircraft for you? EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS The external model is of very high quality even when compared to professionally made modules available for purchase. From the animations of the landing gear, the deployment of the taxi and landing lights to the fantastically recreated gunpods and weapon models. It has that feel of quality that a passion project such as this can bring to life. One thing that does need to be pointed out as it is of importance. The external model lacks a visual damage state for when you receive damage, enter a collision, etc. This is a minor thing to point out but it is noteworthy nonetheless. A lot of mods in DCS utilize cockpits from the Flaming Cliffs 3 module such as the F-15 or the Su-33. While useful to avoid coding, modelling and configuring a cockpit from zero this practice can prove immersion-breaking to some users. But the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali team went far and beyond with their project. The pilot and instructor cockpits don't not fall behind the external model's quality. With the exception of some systems which are not modeled and all the critical systems are working and all flight critical instruments are working accordingly, such as a fully functional gun sight that looks wonderful in both day and night. The developers have said that many of the systems that are non-functional are being worked on so keep your hopes up for those. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS In this area the module does the job but does not shine like it it does in other aspects. All the bells and whistles are there and in-cockpit lights do serve their job, but they do feel a bit off like they were a bit too unnatural. External lights and effects are good, having configurable navigation lights as well as a beacon and formation lights that have a very nice look to them. When it comes to sounds, particularly in-cockpit sound, things are both excellent and serviceable. Switches sound nice when you click them giving you that feedback that is needed so that they feel believable and tangible. The engine does sound a bit too quiet for my liking but it does have a very clear RPM curve that allows you to know in what throttle position you are without having to look at at the gauge at all. Here are two examples, both on-ground and in-flight: Engine sound while on the ground: ( Idle-->Full Power-->Idle ): Engine sound while in-flight: ( Idle-->Full Power-->Idle ): FLIGHT MODELLING This bird's EFM (External Flight Model) was modeled with the help of retired MB-339 pilots and even a couple of Aermacchi engineers which allowed the developers a step-up their ability to give the Macchi some life. The work put into making the feel of flight has not gone unnoticed as it does feel natural and I can say with confidence that this is the most accurate modded flight model in the game. The Macchi feels like it wants to be flown thanks to its easy and forgiving flight characteristics which is to be expected from an aircraft that was designed to be a trainer. Do not let this "trainer" talk make you think that it is not able to do some incredible maneuvering and very high-g turns for all your acrobatic needs. MISSION CAPABILITY As expected, this aircraft excels in its training role thanks to the way it was built. The cockpit is shared by both a trainee and an instructor that sits in the back. The instructor has mirrored instruments that allow them to guide the trainee in a plethora of scenarios. When not functioning as a training aircraft the Macchi is also capable of being a relatively effective light-attack aircraft. In this role, it performs surprisingly well giving its size and payload. It lacks dedicated air-to-air armament, relying on the use of gunpods to engage other aircraft. You will have to put your trust upon top-cover when you attack ground targets and hope that there are no MiGs hunting you. The MB-339 also lacks any kind of countermeasures which is not rare for training aircraft and is not inherently a negative point but it needs to be noted as it restricts the situation in which this platform can be used effectively during combat. The best scenarios for this machine are low-threat targets such as anti-insurgent CAS (Close-Air-Support) missions in which air-superiority is secured. ARMAMENT GUN PODS: Cost-effective and reliable, these will be your preferred weapons in almost every scenario as they allow for more staying time over the battlefield. They are capable of dealing with both infantry and lightly armored targets.
They come in two flavors: Two AN/M3 12.7mm Gun Pods ( 350 rounds each pod ). Two DEFA 30mm gun pods ( 125 rounds in each pod ). ROCKETS: These are devastating when dealing with convoys and APC vehicles. You can carry a ton of ordinance with these pods and it can last quite a while if you do not salvo each pod like a lunatic. Three pods are at your disposal: LAU-10 ( 4 ZUNI rockets each and a maximum of two pods) LR-25 ( 25 rockets each and a maximum of six pods) MATRA TYPE 155 ( 18 rockets each and a maximum of six pods) You can always mix pods to get a wider variety of pods in your loadout. BOMBS: It is always fun to obliterate your enemy with devine wrath from the heavens, right? That is what bombs do so having them available is always a great thing. You sadly only have one type available to you but it does not mean that this type of bomb is not famous for being a reliable and efficient all-rounder: Mk.82 (500lb~ low drag bomb. Six maximum) There is also the BRD-4-250 Dispenser that comes with four Mk.76 and two ARF-8M3TP. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE As said before, this aircraft is easy to learn and fly with thanks to the way it was designed.
Employing weapons comes with a certain difficult due to its lack of a dedicated HUD or any kind of aiming-aid system outside of its gunsight.
Said gunsight operates in a way similar to most old aircraft seeing as you have to manually set your sight for every type of weapon by introducing a gunsight elevation value in mils adequate to the scenario. High-altitude bombing is out of the question as well.
But once you learn how to use the sight, which is not hard, you will find yourself flying at tree-top level and bombing everything on sight like it was second nature to you. UNIQUE MODULE FEATURES There are a couple of noteworthy features that come packaged with this module which are multi-crew, voice-acted training missions and an in-depth smoke system.
Other trainers such as the L-39 or the C-101 include multi-crew so that they can be used as actual in-game training aircraft. The MB-339 is not the exception to this rule since it also features a multi-crew capable cockpit although not to the levels of detail that the modules previously mentioned include but that is to be expected of a free module. The sole fact that they managed to get this module working with multi-crew is exceptional and remarkable. Speaking of remarkable, the training missions that come with this mission are a treat. They are voice acted and masterfully done with scripts and triggers that give them an air of life that even paid modules lack. Done by Stefano Moretti, these missions are a key piece that makes the MB-339 module even better.
The smoke system that is equipped to the MB-339 thanks to its PAN modification is something that most players will overlook very rapidly. This system has a lot of behing-the-curtain work that makes it stand out from the typical smokewinders. It is an addition that is really welcomed by acrobatic pilots and myself included. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? This is a plane that because of its features becomes a must-download for all DCS:World players. The team of Frecce Tricolori Virtuali gave the community what is a free module that doesn't feel like one and that is admirable. My thanks go to the team for letting the community enjoy this special machine that we would not otherwise be able to experience in our lifetime. Get it here! Rewritten as of the 9th of April, 2020 to improve quality.
Original post date: 24th of March, 2020. About the Writer
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
Review: DCS AJS-37 Viggen by Heatblur Simulations
First hitting the skies of DCS in 2017, the AJS-37 Viggen has established itself as a standard of quality in the game. It was released under Leatherneck Simulations at first but after some internal struggles arose, the entire development team behind the Viggen parted ways with Leatherneck and Magnitude 3, becoming the studio now known as Heatblur Simulations. A ground-pounder by soul, this double delta provides a suite of possibilities like no other module out there. Unique weaponry and a very believable ground radar functionality, this aircraft makes itself shine through raw uniqueness alone. In this review I will dive deep into the Viggen and all its quirks and features to let you, the reader, judge if this Swedish monster is for you. This piece will be divided into several parts: External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight modelling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Single player content Is this aircraft for you? EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS If there is one thing that defines Heatblur it is quality and the Viggen shows it. This aircraft has been modeled to an extreme amount of detail. Nothing comes out as wonky or out of date, which is impressive considering that this module is now over three years old. A lot of love was put into making it a realistic depiction of the AJS-37, down to some things I wouldn't have thought important or crucial. EVEN THE SMALL THINGS The thing that impressed me the most is that this is one of if not the only aircraft with a modeled RAT turbine. This is something that most players will not even notice or care about as it is not a weapon or a system you will rely upon constantly, but it shows the degree of which this module has been modeled. If there is another set of features that I particularly liked, they are all the animations, particularly the thrust-reverser. A unique feature to the Viggen as of the time of writing. While I will not go in-depth in this section of the review on how awesome the reverser is. I will show you its cool animation just because I do not want to think I am the only one that likes things like this. Cockpit-wise, the Viggen continues to impress me with its quality. From the lighting to the texture work, this is one of the only cockpits that I turn in just to look at it. The way the lights react with the weathered textures and the glow of the radar scope give it a very in-era look, which I always welcome. The only "bad" part is that some of the textures are starting to age a bit, particularly on the text, but that is something that Heatblur can improve upon. Here are some day and night shots of it so you can see for yourself: VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS This is an area in which a lot of aircraft do good at and the Viggen is no different. While it does not have any fancy over wing vapor effects, wingtip vortexes can be seen on both the main wing and, in cases of high AoA, on the canards as well. In terms of other external effects that are noteworthy the only one that I can think of my mind is the afterburner effect: The effect is different from other aircraft as the "flame" does not extend too far away from the fuselage, but as far as I know that is by design and correct to the Volvo RM8A engine.
The area where the Viggen shines the most is its sound. It is clear that the developers wanted this part of the module to be much more polished than the rest of the modules out there. From the distinct clanks of the switches to the clicks that the throttle makes as it moves over its detents, this gives life to the aircraft. Afterburners are no joke either, being clearly audible from inside and outside the cockpit, letting you know how your engine is behaving. There is one particular sound in this aircraft that you do not want to hear, but I will go over that in the next section of the review. Overall, the Viggen has one of the best designed sound environments in DCS and I am glad that Heatblur put a lot of effort into it.
Here are some clips so you can hear what I just described to you, pay attention to the clicks of the throttle as I move it: EXAMPLES
In-cockpit on the ground (idle-full afterburner-idle) In-cockpit in the air (idle-full afterburner-idle) External sound on the ground (idle-full afterburner-idle) Fly-by at 900Km/h (Volume warning) FLIGHT MODELING Ohboy, here is the best part of the module. This bird feels authentic not just because it is a joy to fly, but because it can also be a pain to fly. Let me explain myself. The brilliantly crazy people that made this module made sure that even the bad parts of the Viggen's characteristics were there, including the dreaded compressor stalls that one can suffer at high AoA. That is the only sound you do not want to hear in this aircraft; I will leave a sample at the end of this section.
The Viggen likes being down-low, it was designed for it. It has outstanding acceleration on the deck and can out-accelerate most other aircraft but only at low altitude, so keep that in mind for those intercept missions out there. Maneuverability-wise this is not an aircraft you will want to do dogfights in. Even though it has an excellent instant turn-rate, that will stop the moment you run out of energy. Your engine starts starving, craving for air that it is not getting, so be careful with those. It is a relatively stable platform with the help of SPOK, your stability augmentation system. With it enabled, you will notice less oscillations as you get out of a bank or similar situations. It can also help you to land thanks to the AFK, your automatic throttle control. This system will maintain 550kph when the gear is up and an AoA of 12° or 15.5° if you so desire by pressing the 15.5° button. The entire computer suite does feel restrictive but it is good enough to make your life easier while flying. The thrust reverser is the cherry on top of the cake, allowing you to land almost everywhere you want provided that there is at least 500m of level terrain, preferably paved but gravel will do. If you get the Viggen, use this even if it is just to do donuts in reverse to make fun of other inferior aircraft that lack reverse capability. Overall, this is a wonderful little machine with quirks upon quirks that make her special. Here is the sample of the compressor stall, notice the warning that precedes it: MISSION CAPABILITY This is an area in which the Viggen both shines and is at its worst, at least to me. To understand the Viggen's role one must put itself in the shoes of 1970's Sweden. At this time a Soviet invasion was a real possibility, one that was taken so seriously that the entire Swedish Armed Forces were built around it. The Air Force, specifically, had as a requisite that all Swedish Air Force front-line fighters were to be able to operate from short/damaged airfields or even road-side bases in the case the Soviets destroyed all the runways. A PRODUCT OF ITS TIME For that reason, the Viggen we have in game (the AJS-37, not the JA-37) has a very specific role in mind: Anti-ship and low-level precision strikes. This leaves the Viggen highly dependent on pre-planned targets and pop-up attacks that require specific target information to be performed successfully, primarily the target's QFE (atmospheric pressure). To be clear, this does not necessarily mean anything is wrong with the module, it is just that the DCS multiplayer environment does not lend itself that well to highly planned missions outside of smaller, more coordinated group sessions where pre-planned objectives can be followed. The Viggen can be operated on a target of opportunity basis too mainly thanks to the amazingly done ground radar that the module has, but at that point you are missing some of what makes the Viggen such a capable aircraft despite its shortcomings. I love this aircraft but I find myself flying it less than what I would like for this very fact, but for some odd reason I still keep coming back and flying it more. ARMAMENT AKAN GUN PODS 150 rounds (per pod) of 30mm-sized death at 1300RPM. These are for when you want to kill something and you do not know much about it. They can be used for both air to air and air to ground roles. They are pretty accurate, if you aim right. RB-24 / RB-24J SIDEWINDER MISSILES As with the F-5E-3, these are the only dedicated air to air weapons you will have aside from the gun pods. You have access to two variants: the RB-24J (AIM-9P) and an RB-24 (AIM-9L).
They are easily spoofed by flares so you better pack several of them. ARAK ROCKET PODS The most fun you will have with the Viggen, period. These are 135mm in diameter making them deadly even against well reinforced armor. These pods empty in only 0.6 seconds , spitting a figurative wall of death and destruction in the direction of the poor souls who dare stand in front of you. Oh, and they can be used for both pre-planned and unplanned targets. RB-75 MAVERICK One of the only precision guided munitions, and in fact, the only one that has its dedicated TV scope mounted to the side of the HUD (see second picture by clicking the arrow). These are your standard Maverick missiles, so nothing really out of the ordinary. A cool weapon nonetheless, though. M/71 GENERAL PURPOSE BOMBS Capable yet a bit lacking in firepower due to their 120Kg mass, these bombs rely on their numbers to carpet bomb an area into oblivion. There is also an illumination variant that will turn the darkest night into daytime in less time that I empty my ARAK pods. RB-05 RADIO CONTROLLED AIR TO SURFACE MISSILE Manually guided by you, the pilot, this missile will follow your directions to its last moment. Capable of air to ground and air to air thanks to its proximity fuse capability. They are quite a lot of fun once you get used to them. RB-04 ANTI-SHIP MISSILE Packing their own radar, these oddly shaped missiles are the older option for anti-shipping operations. Once launched, they will find their own target and give it a date with Poseidon. RB-15 ANTI-SHIP MISSILE A more modern alternative for the anti-shipping business, these missiles do not screw around. They can be pre-programmed with their own waypoints and search patterns, making them a lot more complicated than the RB-04, in theory. In practice, you can just designate a target with your radar and call it a day. BK-90 CLUSTER MUNITIONS A.K.A MJOLNIR The wrath of Thor will fall upon your enemies once you throw these out. The only thing that they are missing are lightning bolts coming out of them. They are truly bringers of destruction if employed correctly, which can be tricky. They have both an AP and HE variants. COUNTERMEASURES AND ELINT Lacking internal countermeasures aside from the radar warning receiver, the Viggen has to rely on external pods for self-defense countermeasures. One pod for chaff and flares (right) and one for ECM (left). This can be a bit frustrating as you have to give away two of your pylons just to have the ability to defend yourself against missiles.
ELINT allows you to do recon-stuff, data gathering and most things of that nature. Some servers have it implemented as a core feature so it can be useful under some circumstances. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE This is the only part that makes me weary of recommending the Viggen to some of my friends. To put it bluntly, this aircraft is not for everyone. Not because of bugs or anything like that, but because of how different it is from every other aircraft out there. Everything from the cockpit layout to the weapon management system is just alien. Well, as alien as Sweden can be. It was an aircraft designed in-house for the needs of the Swedish nation with little to no external influence at all. This is not a bad thing, it is just something that someone has to get used to first prior to enjoying the Viggen for what it is. It does have its good parts. DESIGN DIFFERENCES For instance, the HUD design relies much more on symbology than, for example, American aircraft. It is absolutely brilliant in its application but for someone transitioning from an A-10C or a F-16C, the HUD might look bare and unintuitive; which it is not. It is in fact rather well designed and allows you to take all the information you might need at a simple glance. A sign of a good design. This is not a novice-friendly aircraft either, mainly due to the way one interacts with the data computer. The keypad, (top of the right console in the cockpit pictures of the first section), is the only way you can interact with it. It relies on a lot of codes to do certain things, like program RB-15 missiles. It is not the worst I have seen, so there is that as well. To summarize: I really don't recommend this aircraft for beginners as the learning process can be quite complicated. But, don't let me discourage you from taking up the challenge. If you feel like you can do it, then go for it! SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT This module comes with two campaigns that are linked narratively. These campaigns offer quite a lot of fun and showcase the pre-planned mission potential that the Viggen has in a way that many other campaigns fail to accomplish. I sincerely recommend trying these out even while you are learning the module. Even if it is just to hone your skills a bit more in something other than a simple training mission. IS THIS MODULE FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: To break space-time on the deck. A very interesting avionics suite. An excellent flight model with a tons of room for fun. A Swedish masterpiece. If you don't mind: The design differences that come with indigenous aircraft. The somewhat limited dogfighting capabilities. The excessively steep learning curve for a novice. Having a lot of patience and time to learn how to use it. If all or some of the above is what you want, then Heatblur's AJS-37 Viggen is for you. About the writer: Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as a writer and content manager ever since. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034
Curious Case of PICO-8 Flying
I was vaguely reminded of something during a discussion about childhood flight games and sims. A classic "what sparked your interest in simulated aviation?" conversation. Many late nights ago, I searched for a helicopter game for Amiga personal computers produced by Commodore in the mid-1980s and early 1990s. To my surprise, I found what appeared to be the entire first level of the game uploaded to a website. Trying to figure out if this was piracy or video game preservation, I was confused to see that it was released on the PICO-8 game console, a platform I had never heard of in years of video game collecting. You can imagine my face when I finally realized this was a demake of the original game I remembered on a "fantasy game console." A brief search for more flight-related games pushed me deeper into the platform and left an impression on me. The development of PICO-8 as a platform is an unusual one. PICO-8 was created by Joseph "Zep" White and is a product of childhood nostalgia, combating boredom, and life of programming from New Zealand to Japan. It evolved from a design exercise referred to as LEX500 to practice for a general scripting component in its sister platform to an easy to access and program fantasy game console. Quoting the official website will describe what this concept is better than I can: "A fantasy console is like a regular console, but without the inconvenience of actual hardware. PICO-8 has everything else that makes a console a console: machine specifications and display format, development tools, design culture, distribution platform, community and playership. It is similar to a retro game emulator, but for a machine that never existed. PICO-8's specifications and ecosystem are instead designed from scratch to produce something that has its own identity and feels real. Instead of physical cartridges, programs made for PICO-8 are distributed on .png images that look like cartridges, complete with labels and a fixed 32k data capacity." While remaining within the limitations of a 16-color display of 128x128 pixels and 4-channel audio output, PICO-8 programmers have created games in just about every genre possible. With either keyboard and mouse or USB gamepads, most of the flight titles in the PICO-8's cartridge library are flight-themed shoot'em ups or flight arcade games that are demakes of existing retro games or are inspired by those same games. In my case, the title I was reminded of was Zeewolf (1994) for the Amiga. What I found instead was Zed Wolf (2020), which was so similar it genuinely fooled me for a short time. Try it for yourself below: Other notable flight titles include a near-perfect demake of X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Attack on the Deathstar from the Sharp X68000, Comanche 1/2 inspired by the series of the same name from NovaLogic and Endless Sky, an original arcadey flight shooter. However, I can't discuss this subject without mentioning Tiny Sim by Frederic Souchu and Thomas Cueni. Tiny Sim is the first flight simulator for PICO-8 based on the Cessna 172R Skyhawk with a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. The flight model was designed using observations of an actual pilot of the same aircraft throughout the game development process. The flight model is a bit more advanced than most would expect, as even the effects of wind on the flight path and indicated airspeed. As detailed in its 34-page manual, the aircraft has many of its vital systems in working order. Horizontal Situation Indicators, navigation radios, glideslope indicators, GPS waypoints, instrument landing equipment, and similar systems are available on the Primary Flight Display screen and Multi-Function Display screen. Certain airfields have very high frequency omni-directional range (VOR) equipment and precision approach path indicator (PAPI) lights to further assist with landing. The manual also includes a flight school section to help players get familiar with their aircraft systems and practice exercises to prevent stalls, different landing approaches, and coordinated turns. Basic airport information and an aeronautical chart are also provided. In its own way, it is charming how the flying games on this fantasy console invoke feelings of nostalgia. Though this article mentions a small selection flight themed games, there are a few other titles beneath specific search terms (flight, plane, jet, etc.) on the official website. But, developers who create games for this console can distribute or sell them as they see fit, anywhere they want to. Who knows how many other flight arcade or flight simulation releases are out there for the PICO-8? 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 |
Sky Rogue on Steam is a Go-to Co-op Experience
Sky Rogue: its cell-shaded look gushes style, the original aircraft selection is wide-reaching, and its weapon options are more in-depth than expected. But I'd say the way it handles co-op on Steam remains a somewhat hidden strength that contributes to its lasting power even after it left early access on August 24th, 2017. Before the time of the widely accessible online gaming we enjoy today, the couch gameplay experience was a definitive part of the way gamers spent time together. The same was true for some flight titles on game consoles as well. Even as high-speed internet spread and online multiplayer became a leading game feature, that fond couch cooperative gameplay experience remains something special that games continue to incorporate. The co-op of Sky Rogue has that same nostalgic feeling in spades with an important supplement via the Steam gaming platform. Something that makes it a fantastic flight game for any game library. Sky Rogue's campaign is easy to jump into with a minimal amount of preparation, planning, or even context needed. Within a few minutes of booting it up, players can be dogfighting with enemy fighters, bombing boats, and pelting aerial warships with volleys of rockets. The spunky roster of original design fighters, bombers, and interceptors are coupled with a sizeable list of weapons, countermeasures, drones, and backward firing weapons. There's a decent amount of content driven by a pleasant fly, die and upgrade game loop which gives it significant replayability. Thankfully, Sky Rogue does not have watered-down co-op. The entire campaign can be played with another person in either horizontal or vertical split-screen. There is no secondary, purpose built game mode that excludes content or only has a limited number of scenarios to play; a significant pitfall that many games from past and present have fallen into. All progress that is made in either single-player campaign or co-op campaign is saved in the save file for player one. This means that player two will always have access to all the aircraft, weapons, upgrades, and other components that have been unlocked by player one. Player two will not be stuck using inferior equipment because of mismatched save progress or not logging in with their own user profile. This is pretty great for couch wingmen, but for people playing on Steam, they can also enjoy the same split screen action via remote play. So long as Steam's remote play internet connection requirements are met, the game can be shared with a second player who also has a free Steam account. Using this method, the other player is not required to own a copy of the game to play. This makes Sky Rogue a flight game that can be shared with friends all around the world at no extra cost for the second player. Some setting and resolution configuration may be needed to smooth out the desired gameplay speed and quality. But a few minutes of potential troubleshooting is a low price to pay for a solid go-to flight game for quick cooperative gameplay sessions. Sky Rogue is no stranger to Steam sales, so keep an eye out for the next one. Note: this article is specifically about the Steam version of the game. Sky Rogue is available on Itch.io, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Xbox game services but I cannot tell you if those platforms support remote play or how remote play works on them, as I have not played this game on those platforms myself. About the Writer 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 |