One of four Ace Combat 7 related lectures given at CEDEC 2019, Narrative Director Kosuke Itomi and Radio Script Writer Masahide Kito focused on the techniques, concepts, and tools used in developing Ace Combat 7's narrative elements. Though these slides exist to complement the lecture given by these two Project Aces members, they provide a brief but fascinating look at how the story of Ace Combat 7 was constructed, along with the tools used to share and test ideas before settling on the final product. What were these techniques and tools? Read more to find out. (Note: View the page on your desktop or laptop to view the embedded videos and for the best experience) [READ MORE] Skyward Flight Media does not claim ownership of copyright of the source material used to create these translations.
For years now, the Royal International Air Tatoo (RIAT) has been one of if not the largest airshow in the world. It has brought together aviation fans from all over the world to partake in a celebration of aviation and military aviation. Sadly, due to this year's situation, the physical event had to be cancelled, but that did not mean that there was not a RIAT in 2020. This year RIAT moved to the virtual space, livestreaming a two day show free for everyone to see. Instead of the numerous real life demonstration teams that usually attend, this was the first time that virtual demonstration teams took the main stage and showed the world that the virtual side of aviation also has something to present. There were seven acrobatic display teams of various sizes that participated. Virtual Patrouille Suisse, Virtual Patrouille Française, Virtual Swiss Hornet Solo Display, Virtual Belgian F-16 Solo, Virtual Rafale Solo Display by Jetesons, Virtual Red Arrows and our friends, the Frecce Tricolori Virtuali (FTV). Today in this short interview we had the chance to talk with the FTV about their time during Virtual RIAT 2020 and the experience they had during the event: Q: Getting invited to RIAT is not something that happens that often. How did you guys feel when first getting invited to perform there? A: Excited ! We actually could not believe [that during such difficult times] the world was [going] through, it turned out [to be] an incredible opportunity for us in the virtual world. It then took a couple of days to cool down and let us realize the correct methodology in order to correctly [structure] our training sessions. Q: To your knowledge, before RIAT 2020, has there ever been a real world airshow organization that has worked with virtual demonstration teams to create a program? A: Not on a macroscopic scale such as the Virtual RIAT in 2020. Many airshow organizers are considering involving a virtual counterpart not being the star of the show (unfortunately or luckily …it depends) but to let the everyday people have at least 1/100th of the feelings of what they are showcasing in the air. Q: Because RIAT was such a unique opportunity for FTV and virtual demonstration teams as a whole, was preparing for RIAT more stressful or complicated than your past shows? A: It was the natural step [forward] for us. No one [improves] by being stagnant and not stressed, at least a little bit more than before. So it was for us the mental preparation the 2 months before the show. Q: How long was the team given to prepare for the event? A: Not everything was ready [at the time that] the official communication that we would take part on the show [happened] (and that is normal business), so to some degree this question has [several] answers. In fact, our routine was slightly changed starting from 2 months before to accommodate for the different ways we would start and finish the show. The team continued to train and as the show approached, a few but significant additional features (the scenario, the length of the show, etc) were added and so our training sessions increased to accommodate those additional modifications. Q: Did RIAT ever give the team a time limit for the routine? Did you guys have to adapt your usual routine to fit this time slot by leaving some maneuvers away? A: We were given a certain amount of minutes that were aligned with our show and we did not cut away any maneuvers. Q: What maneuvers does the team feel were the highlight of the routine this time around? A: The correct positioning and harmony of flight of the two sections while in front of the crowds are always the most difficult and the most proudly accepted among our team and the viewers. Q: There were other virtual acrobatic teams participating during RIAT, like the Virtual Red Arrows. Did you guys watch their routines? What do you think about how they performed?
A: The Virtual Reds have always expressed a high level of technical maturity and preparation. They displayed very well during the RIAT 2020. Those performances should constitute the “raised bar” every major team should want to reach. Q: You guys closed Day 2 of RIAT but your time slot seemed quite short and was not included in the official public schedule for that day. Was the team aware of this prior to the live show? A: Unfortunately, no one could [have been] aware of the technical difficulties that could arise. Q: How does the team feel in regards to the technical difficulty that cut several minutes from the routines you had recorded? How long was the routine originally? A: FTV were not very happy in the beginning, but the organizations explained the reasons, so] that we completely understood. The standard FTV display is about 23-25 minutes, shortened to 15 minutes by rules. Q: Do you feel like the RIAT organizers should have done something different? What would be your recommendations for them so that they can improve? A: It [was] a first and so it worked out pretty well I should say. There is always room to improve and the [organizers] should take [note] of what [is] necessary to introduce close to the show and [to try] to let everyone know more in advance. To conclude I would like to thank Duke, as he is our main contact point with the FTV as a whole. Grazie mille, amico mio!
Their entire Virtual RIAT 2020 display is available to watch here, so be sure to give it a watch if you have not already: About the interviewer: 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
Balsa Model Flight Sim (Beta): More Content, More Fun
2 months ago, I got to try out the demo for Balsa Model Flight Simulator and had a pretty fun time. (check out the first impressions piece for the demo here!) This time, I got to play around with the more feature-rich beta. Here are my thoughts on the content and some things I would like to see going forward. NEW CONTENT One thing that immediately caught my eye was the addition of 3 more maps to fly around in: Glider's Cay is a small island with a large hill that's perfect for testing glider designs; Wirraway Bay was in the demo, and has a nice urban port surrounded by some mountains; Weatherfall Islands is a wide-open arctic map with some neat icebergs; and Rovin Harbor is a large city which allows for some challenging urban flying. I personally liked Weatherfall Islands since it feels vast and some of the icebergs have natural arches/holes to fly through and do stunts around. I appreciated the variety in the landscapes and scenery in these maps and hope to see more in the future. Another new feature was the addition of action figures. I think these are meant to be collectibles that are unlocked in the Career Mode, but they are available for any scenario. Though they look really cartoon-ish, you can add them to your plane (as long as you added seats) to give a sense of scale for your plane and really bring your creations to life. I think the best feature of these action figures is that they allow you to fly your plane in first person view. Since there are small cameras and FPV goggle kits that people add to their RC planes in real life, I think this is a really neat feature, and is especially useful for dogfighting. Also as a nice touch, the player model sports FPV goggles whenever an action figure is added to the plane. Speaking of dogfighting, there beta officially added parts for weapons. Well, they're paintball guns, but they're pretty satisfying to fire. There are two types of guns so far, the hard-hitting "Thud" cannon and the fast-firing "Hailstorm" that deals less damage. Each pod has 58 and 240 rounds respectively, and though the "Hailstorm" is technically weaker, I prefer it over the "Thud" since that fast fire rate allows for more hits against nimble RC planes. Learn to aim it well and it can deal critical damage to enemies. Just be aware that these pods are pretty heavy, and will affect the center of mass and performance of your plane. The game also allows you to create weapon groups, so in case your plane can carry both kinds of guns, you could map your keys in a way that allows you to fire the different gun pods separately or together. Interestingly enough, you can place these pods so that they're entirely hidden inside your aircraft and still be able to shoot paintballs, almost as if they phase through your airplane. Not sure if this is a bug, but it's something that I personally think the game should keep as is, since it allows your aircraft to look cleaner. Now, if there were some targets to shoot at... Thankfully, there are some new "Scenarios" added in addition to the free flight mode for each map, and these are "Free for All," "PvE Combat," and "Team PvP Combat." In these modes, the map is populated by AI planes that you can use as target practice. For the combat modes, you choose a team and attempt to shoot down enemy planes. If the enemy crashes or gets shot down, they lose a point, and vice versa. The team that reaches zero first is then defeated. Since I couldn't find people online, I didn't really play the PvP mode that much, but it seemed identical to the PvE mode except that actual players can join the enemy team. I didn't play long enough to see what the ultimate result screen looks like, but you can have some good fun and learn how to aim the guns. In terms of on-screen information, a reticle is displayed in front of your plane in third person view if you have guns installed, but for first person, you'll need to equip the gun reticle part in the cockpit. Enemies also have brackets around them that makes spotting easier, and the plane name and their distance away from you are displayed as well. All in all, these are some pretty fun, laid-back modes. NEW MODES There were two new modes added to the beta: Career mode Online mode. The online mode allows players to host lobbies for up to 16 people, though you can limit the maximum amount of players when setting up a room. The game also allows you to name and add descriptions to rooms so people know what to expect. I would've liked to test for any connection issues, but sadly no one was on when I was playing around. The career mode will be the bread and butter of the single player aspect of the game, and also serves as a tutorial. You start off in Glider's Cay and learn how to move around, pick up your glider, and throw it. As you get more used to the controls, the various events and missions ramp up in difficulty as you learn to pilot powered planes and practice taking off and landing on a runway. Each event also has optional objectives that allow you to get higher ranks. This nets you more "funds" which are used as in-game currency to buy planes, action figures, and unlock new maps which will let you fly in more events. This cycle of flying, getting funds, creating/buying more capable planes, and flying in even more challenging missions is really fun, and the sense of progression you get is pretty satisfying. I wasn't able to progress too far the career mode, but I'm excited to see what they will add in the future. One thing that I think would be a cool addition is monthly limited-time events or challenges when the game goes live to keep players coming back. I hear a race mode will be added down the line, so I'm excited for that. One thing to note, all parts are available for you to use when creating planes in the workshop and making the planes themselves are free. However, in order to be able to fly them, you will need to purchase the aircraft. Be aware the more complicated/more parts your plane has, the more funds you will need to be able to buy it. Each part has an associated cost that is listed when you're building, so keep your eye on that. You can go back and edit vehicles that you have already purchased, but be aware that if you add more parts, the cost will increase. WORKSHOP Now let's see if there were any changes to the other core aspects of the game. The one thing I really wanted from the demo was improved aerodynamic stability tools, and the beta did a great job of implementing them. You now have indicators for both the center of mass and center of lift, which gives you a much better idea on the stability of the plane you're building. When used with the stability graph at different airspeeds, you can determine the overall pitch behavior of the aircraft without leaving the workshop to flight test it. Here, you can see how the center of lift changes vectors at different airspeeds, along with how unstable the design is with the stability graph. The orange indicates that the plane wants to diverge from the direction of flight, which in this case is desirable since the X-02S Strike Wyvern is supposed to be highly maneuverable at lower speeds. Along with all of these changes, the mass of certain parts seemed to have been reworked as well, since the position of the batteries affect the center of mass MUCH more than they did in the demo. Since batteries tend to be one of the more heavier items in an RC plane, I'm really glad they fixed this. Speaking of batteries, the beta also added a "Connect" tool that visualizes and how the electrical/power components are hooked up and allows you to edit these connections. This was also a nice addition since a major part of RC plane building is determining the optimal way to connect all of your components. Of course, it's much more complex in real life, with having to acquire the right connectors, using batteries with the correct voltage, etc. but it's still nice that there is a tool that emulates this. The workshop tool automatically connects the parts together, but you have the option of changing this if you desire. For example, my X-02S has the batteries and motors connected in serial, but I can choose to have one battery powering each motor separately. After all of this tinkering, it would be nice if you could give your plane a fancy paint job... Oh, the beta added decals? Nice! The workshop now features a "Decals" tab, and at least in my testing, seems to let you add as many decals as you want. Combined with the "Paint" tab, you can create some really flashy liveries. There are numbers, letters, and various icons that you can rotate, scale, and change color however you see fit and lets your creativity run wild. The decals also don't seem to affect the cost of your airplane, so that's a nice feature. One thing I would like to see is some sort of text box editor, since at the moment you have to move and place each letter separately, and could get time consuming. FLIGHT MODEL I wasn't too impressed with the flight model in the demo, and it doesn't seem to have changed much in this beta since I'm still seeing some stiff yaw and roll movements as well as some violent shaking on occasion. The X-02S I made isn't the most stable thing, I get that, but I don't think the plane should be moving like this when all I'm doing is pitching up at an angle: Even in more stable aircraft, there is a weird wobbling going on, especially at higher speeds. I know the aerodynamic forces and physics on RC planes are vastly different than on full-scale aircraft, but it's not quite right yet. Really hope they adjust the flight model or physics of the game so things don't feel so shaky. It doesn't have to be perfect, but as long as the stiff yaw and roll reactions are fixed, I'll be happy. Other than that, the flight model is fine. CONCLUSION All in all, I had an really enjoyable time with the Balsa beta. The new additions like the career mode and workshop tools worked well for me and and made me excited for the full game. There are still some kinks in the flight model and physics that I would like to see fixed, and some other changes like replacing percentage sliders with actual measurements in the workshop, but I'm sure those will be addressed. I'm definitely excited to see how this game evolves! If you're interested in this game and want to support it, I recommend wishlisting on Steam since it's supposed to be released as early access soon. Writer: TaskForce23
Review: IL-2 Desert Wings-TOBRUK by Team Fusion Simulations
After a very long time in development, Team Fusion Simulations has finally released a new expansion for IL-2 Cliffs of Dover-BLITZ on August 6th, 2020. This comes in the form of IL-2 Desert Wings-TOBRUK, a very huge expansion that will mainly take you to the skies of Africa to participate on historical battles for, or against the Afrika Korps. As usual, with my reviews I will separate this into several categories so that you, the reader, can formulate your own judgement as to whether this expansion is for you: Introduction Scenery and Aircraft variety External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight and damage modelling Single player content Bugs, issues and the promising future Is this expansion for you? DISCLAIMER: I was given a review copy of this expansion by Team Fusion Simulations themselves, which was very kind of them. Even then, they gave us complete creative freedom over this review and the opinions that will be written are my own. INTRODUCTION If any game deserves to have its development story told, it's this one. It is a story of a game that was launched in a sorry state to later be fixed by a dedicated community of modders, who eventually became the sole keepers of its code and kept the project alive. The official developers moved on, allocating their full resources to their newest game, IL-2 Great Battles. Launching in a broken state in 2011, Cliffs of Dover was naturally met with mediocre reviews. The sim was absolutely riddled with bugs, many of which made the experience quite the hassle for customers. That's where Team Fusion comes into the scene. As a group of modders, they dedicated themselves to keeping CLoD alive while also maintaining a community of fans of the game entertained with fixes and patches. This all changed when 1C Game Studios announced that Team Fusion, now known as Team Fusion Simulations, would take over development of CLoD while 1C focused themselves on the development and maintenance of the IL-2 Great Battles series. This left two active series on the IL-2 franchise: IL-2 CLoD and IL-2 Great Battles, both are independent from each other and add-ons are not compatible between them as they both use different engines, CLoD's being the older one of the two. Please keep this in mind as it will be important later on.
It is truly inspiring to see how a group of passionate individuals, against all expectations, became something much larger and I congratulate them for it. They now have managed to release Desert Wings after its development started in late 2016 with an initial release date of 2017 that got delayed little by little until it finally released a couple of weeks ago to very good reception. SCENERY AND AIRCRAFT VARIETY Set in the desert of North Africa, this expansion brings to life a somewhat overlooked side of WW2. From Tomahawks and Messerschmitts duking it out in the skies over Egypt to Heinkels intercepting allied convoys on the Mediterranean Sea, it truly lets you experience this side of the war in an unprecedented way.
The map is pretty decently sized with 385 kilometers square of play area for you to fly over, which is divided somewhat 60/40 between ground and sea with most of the ground areas being filled with endless desert. Coastal regions are pretty attractive with cliffs and beaches and the few cities that there are have enough detail to make them pop when you see them. Although, that being said, do not expect this to have the graphical quality of its younger brother: IL-2 Great Battles. The color pallet seems to be a bit weird which makes the sand sometimes look a bit too bright but that is not the norm. It is noticeable that the devs are pushing this game engine to its limits, at least when it comes to graphical fidelity.
But if there is one thing that this expansion does better than its successor is that it provides an impressive amount of aircraft to fly with several new flyable aircraft and a lot of new variants to the already available aircraft from CLoD. There are three of these that caught my attention: DEWOITINE D.520 This little bird won my heart the moment I set my eyes on her. From the way that it looks to the way she flies, this has got to be one of the most impressive ones included in Desert Wings. It is available in both standard configuration, and its tropical variant. While it does not boast the heaviest firepower around, it can still defend itself quite well while fighting early BF-109 variants. Additionally, just like the aircraft that I will highlight next, this is the only modern game to include this beautiful machine in a flyable state. GRUMMAN MARTLET MK.III Powerful, chunky and with a lot of charm. That's the best way to describe this version of the Wildcat under RAF colors. While it isn't the best dogfighter in the allied roster, it does have very good survivability when compared to some of the Nazi aircraft. Also, as far as I am aware of, this is the only modern simulator to include this bird in a flyable form which could not make me happier. VICKERS WELLINGTON If you want to go big, you have this. Amazing to fly and easy to operate, this heavy bomber will either be a pleasure to use or a pleasure to die on. Available in both conventional and torpedo capable versions, it brings a completely different type of aircraft to the game. There are a lot more aircraft than these three, including a couple that I wasn't expecting such as the Fiat CR.42 and the Gladiator, overlooked biplanes that served for the Italians and British respectively during this conflict. Recon/training aircraft, dedicated fighters, fighter bombers, medium and heavy bombers, this expansion has them all; making it of the most attractive parts of the product. I am sure you too will have a very enjoyable time flying them over both the deserts of Africa and the skies of Britain and France. EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS Out of all the areas that I have evaluated for this review, I was the most impressed by this one. The developers have one quite a good job with the modeling and texturing of their assets, mainly with aircraft. Some of these do look a bit too glossy some times, but that is something that is not as bad as it sounds. External models are brimming with details, rivets and panels are discernible when the sun hits them, glass looks like glass although it might be a bit too reflective. Markings are modular giving you the chance to represent a large amount of squadrons regardless of allegiance and time period. In the customization menu you are able to do something that no other game can do, this being the capability to add or reduce texture weathering effects which has been a feature since CLoD released.
In my honest opinion, the cockpits are significantly higher quality than the external models. They have very high quality textures, detailed models and semi-clickable functionality. Are they study-level? No, but that was never the point to begin with. They look realistic enough to immerse you into the game and that's what matters. Here are some of my favorites, but keep in mind that these screenshots do not do these cockpits justice as too much detail is lost on the larger zoom settings as it is natural: The way the light shines on the gauges and the way it is reflected from the different types of materials inside of the cockpit is truly wonderful, even more when you consider that this expansion is built on a 2011 game engine. I applaud the developers for their work on this department. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS This area is a bit of a hit and miss. While the visual effects can be pretty good at times, even when considering the age of the game engine, the sound effects can be a little off. Don't get me wrong, it is not that the sounds are terrible, it is that there are times which sounds were the factor that took me out of the immersion of flying in this simulator. Engine sounds are better inside of the cockpit, mainly regarding the engine. The aircraft's engine will still communicate critical information to you constantly with its sound and it does it quite well. This is more notorious when you have already received damage either through combat or incorrect operation of the engine. Metal cracking sounds from high stress scenarios will communicate to you the limits of the airframe you are on. Gun sounds and external sounds are the part that suffers from most problems but it is also the one with more exceptions. While some external engine sounds are wonderful, such as when they are taking off, some of them are not. The one I would consider to be the most problematic would be the "fly-by" sound as it sounds like a time accelerated engine sound instead of a dynamic one. I sincerely hope that this could be addressed on a future patch as it would improve the experience significantly. Visual effects are of better quality than I was expecting, but one has to remember this is an expansion to a relatively old game. Even when taking that into consideration, I was pleasantly surprised by some of the things I saw. From oil leaks on the canopy once the engine had received some damage or the flames coming out of a downed bomber with pieces of fuselage coming out as it tumbled down into the coldness of the Mediterranean Sea.
I do have one small gripe with the flight control surface animations. If you move them slowly there's no problem but if you move them rapidly they seem to act in a weird way, skipping some positions and moving in a janky manner. I had noticed this way back when I bought CLoD BLITZ but I hoped that this release would have addressed it. It is not a game-breaking issue but I do hope that it is addressed in the future if possible. FLIGHT AND DAMAGE MODELING More important than both sound and visual effects, this is the category that both makes and breaks a game. It can be difficult to get a flight model to feel right as there are so many factors that can interact with it. Fortunately, flight models of both CLoD and Desert Wings received some attention and has been noticeably improved! Torque effects seem to be more natural and trimming now feels smoother. Pulling tight turns is now a pleasure on fighter aircraft, making you feel completely in control with your aircraft. This is also noticeable on the less maneuverable aircraft like the Wellington or the He-111, which feel heavier and at the same time more powerful. They take time to react to your inputs, which is natural for a larger, heavier aircraft. Damage modeling is also pretty extensive with simulations of oil, water and fuel leaks, overheating, asymmetrical lift due to wing damage, etc. You can lose parts of your engine or even your entire engine or wing if you are that unlucky/unaware. I was honestly impressed by the flight models, they are fun to fly. I am glad that Team Fusion improved them over what they were on CLoD, and they were not bad there. SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT This expansion oozes with content of all shapes and forms. From quick missions, pre-arranged dogfighting scenarios, short missions and expansive campaigns across both Africa and the Channel. The highlight of this gigantic content pool comes in the form of the previously mentioned campaigns, which are, in no particular order: Gravity is my friend (Ju-87 Desert Campaign) Blue Wellingtons (Wellington Daylight Desert Bombing Campaign) Rising from the Ashes (Beaufighter Interceptor Channel Campaign) Desert Hawks (Tomahawk Desert Campaign) Eagles over Tobruk (BF-109 Desert Campaign) On ne passe pas! (Dewoitine Channel Campaign) Operta Aperta (Gladiator Desert Campaign) Tempesta sull'Africa (CR.42 Desert Campaign) Rats over Tobruk (Hurricane Desert Campaign) Nine different campaigns that cover several different aircraft and timeframes. That's quite a lot considering that some of these campaigns were made with realism in mind, following routines and combat mission records from the war to allow the player to experience something akin to what the real pilots went through. I, for one, quite enjoyed the addition of these campaigns as they allowed me to immerse myself in some of these combat missions. But realism comes at a cost and that is time. Some of these missions can be quite lengthy at times and, as it was routine back then and now, you will have little to do on the way to the area of operations. Whether that is a good or a bad thing is up to each person, but I personally don't dislike it. Time acceleration can help with these long stretches, minimizing the downtime and making more efficient use of your time. Additionally, you do have access to a full mission editor that allows you to create the missions that suit your taste. Do you want to fight a cloud of He-111 with a Gladiator while escorting a British armada? It is possible with the mission editor. It is a powerful but somewhat unintuitive tool so it is recommended that you read or watch some tutorials on how to properly utilize it. BUGS, ISSUES AND THE PROMISING FUTURE I have spent 20 hours in-game since I received the expansion and in that time I have encountered some bugs, but surprisingly, none of them were major or game-breaking. I have mentioned some of them throughout the review but there is one still that is noteworthy:
Under certain scenarios, like engine damage, the propeller effect can be seen duplicated/out of sync which makes it seem like there are two counter-rotating propellers. This is not that bad but it does happen from time to time. The only other issue that I have with the game is not related to the expansion but to the game itself, and that's the UI. There are multiple issues with the UI that could be improved with a bit of design work and coding, but since I am not a coder I can't tell how easy it would be to reprogram this.
The part where this is more apparent is the Quick Mission Builder, as here the amount of icons and text on screen can be a little confusing to the eye. It becomes usable once you start to work with it but that does not make it less cluttered or unintuitive. This is the biggest flaw that this game has had since it launched way back in 2011 but I hope that Team Fusion will allocate some effort into redesigning it. What brings me a bit of hope is the fact that Team Fusion has stated that they are now dedicated to continue bug fixing and to start feature development for the game. These improvements include but are not limited to VR support, new weather system, a dynamic campaign generator and improved ground rendering. All of these improvements will be released for both owners of CLoD and Desert Wings in the form of incremental updates free to all users. More information on this on their forum announcement. IS THIS EXPANSION FOR YOU? At a price of USD$69.99 this expansion can be a hard buy for many people. It is on the same price bracket as the expansions for its younger brother, IL-2 Great Battles. But comparing one to the other wouldn't be fair as they run on different engines and are developed by different development teams. But with the amount of content that it provides it is hard not to somewhat justify the pricing a bit as it includes nine different campaigns and single missions, over 40 aircraft including 8 rare warbirds all which sport very detailed and well made 3D models, an expansive map, new ground and sea assets with the possibility of controlling them in the future with an upcoming update. If what you want is: An immersive desert warfare experience. the possibility to fly some very rare warbirds. Experience an overlooked side of WW2. If you don't mind: Some of the bugs The current UI design. The somewhat dated sound design. The somewhat high price If some of all of the above is what you want, then IL-2 Desert Wings-TOBRUK is for you.
Once again, we would like to thank Team Fusion Simulations for providing us a review copy of their expansion when we got in contact with them, so thanks to both Mike and Pete for trusting us. It is a gesture we appreciate a lot. 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 Thanks to Aidan, Prov and Hueman for their proofreading of this article.
After surviving the first half of the ambush, the only thing keeping me alive is system energy management. With just the right balance of energy to the engines to maintain distance from pursuers and energy to slowly recover shields, I find myself in a high-speed chase. Mulling over a strategy to break up the fighter formation chasing me and limit their ability to attack me as a group, I realize that only the shields I've been nursing back to full strength will make this possible. With my hull armor at less than 10%, there's only one chance to survive this encounter, but first... the tense wait. This is the level of strategy that can be experienced throughout Absolute Territory: The Space Flight Simulator. Released on September 1st, 2020, this game is a product of passion. A passion that extends back to the time of Wing Commander on the Amiga 500, Buck Rogers, Babylon 5, original Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, and Star Trek. After our interview with Digitum Software in July 2020, I awaited the full release of the game sometime this year with interest. Shortly after learning what the official release date was, Skyward Flight Media was provided with a copy of the game ahead of the public release on Steam. This review is for the launch version of the game. It will not reveal spoiler information about the story but will discuss the game modes, gameplay, and other aspects of this single player space flight simulator. From the start of the first tutorial, the overall feeling of the game becomes apparent. The vastness and solitude of deep space can be felt in each mission. That is not to say that it felt incomplete. While traveling across thousands of miles of deep space, one cannot expect to always pass by exotic star systems and space stations. Not pursuing elaborate settings like that is also a realistic production goal for an indie developer of this size. All communications are conducted through text boxes; there is no voice acting. Certain sound effects and limited background music do leave a bit to be desired. But all of that only slightly diminishes the overall experience. Absolute Territory is a title that has its strength in gameplay more than anything else. Gameplay-wise, space flight feels closer to what piloting a fast-moving craft in space probably should be. For those in need of a quick big name reference, the flight is more in the style of Battlestar Galactica than it is Star Wars. With Newtonian style physics applied to the game, the flight computer and highly responsive Reaction Control System (RCS) allows for precise and daring maneuvers, depending on pilots' skill. Simply rolling a direction and pulling back on the stick won't be enough to survive the battles ahead. Maneuvering the spacecraft from maximum velocity in one direction to near-zero velocity because of a sharp turn to a different direction is an excellent way to become a static target. By learning to fly with the RCS both enabled and disabled, it's possible to stylishly slip sideways past warships while attacking them, slide through asteroid fields and incoming laser fire, and make efficient turns that keep players alive longer. While the developer did consciously apply some unrealistic force numbers to the physics model to make it easier to maneuver, space is space. The learning curve is there but it's small and it can be overcome relatively quickly. The energy management system is what adds strategy to the battles that goes beyond out maneuvering enemies. Every fighter in the game has this system built into them. As mentioned in the introduction, more often than not, managing energy to either the engines, guns, or shields is a deciding factor. This game mechanic is easy to manage and becomes a factor in the player's mind for each engagement. This effectively changes the way combat is approached the moment players interact with it. Driving power to the guns can quickly destroy targets, but leaves the craft less shielded and moving slower. Pushing max energy to any other system causes similar adverse effects. Finding the right balance of power as the situation calls for it is something only experience in combat can bring. There are 11 spacecraft players can pilot depending on game mode. Each has unique handling characteristics, mass, and thrust. The spacecraft roster is split between the two factions in the game. This means that fighters from the opposing force will not be available during the single-player campaign. Depending on the craft, they may come with two primary weapon selections and up to four types of secondary weapons. Light, medium and heavy fighters are designed for different roles and as such may fly faster, have more armor be more responsive to flight inputs, etc. The designs of the spacecraft fit the 90s style sci-fi well. In particular fighters from the Endophora faction have an organic, bug like design to them, which conjures up memories of past sci-fi series. There are some restrictions that do hold back enjoying the fighters a bit. Their specifications are only available during the briefing screens of the campaign. While the cockpit view of each aircraft is modeled, the external design can only be seen from the rear while in third-person view. It's unfortunate their external designs can't be appreciated more. If there was a way to add in something like a unit database that would have all information about the craft on a single page, that would be ideal, but guides created on Steam would suffice. Besides the fighters, there is a small selection of transports and warships with varying levels of armor and firepower. Yes, that does mean there are escort missions, but at least the ship(s) being escorted can actually fire back and destroy some of their attackers. Still, they won't handle being swarmed by enemies, so do keep close to them. The game modes available are: Campaign, Squadron, The Gauntlet, and Mission Editor. The 21 mission campaign represents Absolute Territory well. As a pilot for the Imperial Hemogony, the player is thrust into conflict against the Endophora Empire; a faction that invades a territory called Bold Peace. This disruption of the Hemogony's 'absolute territory' leads to a regional conflict while political deliberations are held elsewhere in the galaxy. The missions frequently involve patrols and raids on enemy forces, something standard in any actual conflict. Of course, there are unexpected twists that can develop even during the most routine patrols. Some notable moments from the campaign involve being forced into whirling combat in the middle of a minefield, multi-part pursuits of enemy warships, and an eyebrow-raising clandestine mission. One mission uses the tried and true waypoint navigation system in a memorable way that demands players stay close to an immensely dangerous enemy for a ludicrous amount of time. The common threat players will have is flights of enemy fighters. The campaign shows that this is not a title where massive fleet battles will occur. Larger skirmishes are mentioned in mission briefings, but the most complex engagements players will find themselves in consist of waves of fighters, transports, and warships jumping into the battle area with no allied fleet in the vicinity. You won't see dozens of warships in formation like you'd see from a sci-fi TV series season finale or Hollywood movie. Absolute Territory finds a balance in its mission types and gameplay to show that it does not have to over-extend to that scale of conflict to be enjoyable. The two instant action game modes are good for quick play sessions. Squadron mode has the player flying against each type of Endophora fighter as they appear in waves. The Gauntlet operates in a similar manner but includes Imperial fighters as well. Results of each mode's playthroughs are then posted up on a scoreboard for those seeking to make their name known. The Mission Editor is advanced enough to construct detailed scenarios without being overly complex. Surprisingly, the entire campaign was created with this editor. Within 10 to 30 minutes, a mission with multiple waypoints, custom weapon loadouts, conditional actions, a briefing, and a debriefing can be built. User-created missions can then be shared with the Steam workshop. This increases the value of the game in the long-term. Even if/when the developer moves on from this title, content can still be created by anyone that has purchased it. Note: the mission editor is the only way that players can pilot spacecraft from the opposing force. the Endophora Empire. The editor is also the only mode that players can choose their craft and weapons before each mission. Absolute Territory is currently listed on Steam with partial controller support. The developer had always intended for this game to support joysticks and HOTAS (Hands On Throttle And Stick) controllers along with gamepads and keyboard mouse controls. Other peripherals like rudder pedals and Thrustmaster MFD Cougar cockpit panels are also supported. For those seeking an experience that can utilize their advanced flight controllers, this is a solid option. Absolute Territory: The Space Combat Simulator presented an experience that more than fits its price point of $18.99 USD; not including a 10% launch discount from September 1st - September 7th, 2020. This is a solid first release from Digitum Software that is sure to inspire players that have completed the campaign to produce some interesting scenarios in the next few weeks. I look forward to seeing and discussing some of the more interesting missions in the near future. Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza is 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 sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870
The story of the "ADFX-01 Morgan First Prototype" feat. Scale Aviation vol. 135
Scale Aviation is a "visual bi-monthly [magazine] for scale aircraft modelers" and often features incredible models and commentary by the makers on their build process. In this volume, pro modeler Pooh-Kumagai (@poohkumagai on Twitter) talked about the build process of his scratch-built 1/72 ADFX-01 Morgan and includes fantastic photos of the model. Though the commentary on the build process was fascinating, the most interesting part was the supplementary world-building information that was included by the Project ACES team to introduce the Morgan to those who are unfamiliar with it. However, there were some brand new, never-before-revealed details included within. Here's what it says: (Told from a military reporter's point of view) On June 30, 2020, the Osean Air Defense Force displayed a certain aircraft at a ceremony commemorating the 25th anniversary of the end of the Belkan War. It was a former test and development aircraft whose existence had been reported on intermittently up until then, but specific details were unknown. Its origin was the former Belkan Air Force. In the ceremony held as part of the Osean government's efforts to make information regarding the Circum-Pacific War public, many members of the military and media from all major countries were invited to a static display and presentation, as well as a demo flight. They even allowed for approved photographers to ride in an Osean F/A-18F chase plane to take aerial photos. Behind all this appeal to the media by the Osean government, there was the sense that they were trying to present this aircraft as a vestige of Gründer I.G. which was in the process of being reorganized after the Lighthouse War. The model number of the test and development aircraft is "ADFX-01." Development of this aircraft, code-named "Morgan" within the air force, began in 1985 by the former South Belka Munitions Factory as the Belkan Air Force's Advanced Dominance Fighter (ADF program). The aircraft has quite the eventful history, since a technology demonstrator was thrown into combat by the coup d'etat forces during the Belkan War in 1995, and the Osean military continued development using a captured aircraft as a base. This one in particular is the first Osean-made prototype and was completed by bringing in Belkan engineers who were involved in the development of the original aircraft. The ADFX-01 is categorized as a 4.5-generation fighter with multi-role capabilities. It could be said that its form, with the forward-swept wings and canards that are excellent at reducing drag at high angles of attack and large twin engines is an embodiment of the traditional Belkan ideology that puts an emphasis on dogfighting. Though it is very large for a fighter, it does not have internal weapon bays, but the four under-wing and four over-engine hardpoints allowed it to be equipped with heavy weapons like multi-purpose burst missiles (MPBM) and a tactical laser system (TLS) that were not able to be miniaturized at the time. Though it is a pure canard aircraft with no stabilator in the rear for pitch control, it was very maneuverable. During its demo flight, unburdened by heavy weapons, it even performed a "cobra" post-stall maneuver and thrilled the spectators. Apparently this was unplanned and instead a tactful decision by the pilot, but I remember that the atmosphere clearly changed at the ceremony grounds when it happened. The ADF program that had continuously sought the "ultimate answer" for fighter aircraft is right now, at a critical moment. It transforms as it responds to the times, sometimes taking the shape of a fighter jet, and has even shattered the very concept of war. As the aircraft, the genetic origin of these "answers" took flight, it almost seemed to be asking us once more, "what does it mean for humans to fly?" There were also some observations and additional info as captions to the various photos of the model. For the demo flight: -The ADFX-01 overtakes the F/A-18F camera plane, banks easily, then turns. Perhaps due to the forward-swept wings, it has a exceedingly high roll rate, and seems to have blended the stability of canards and instability of forward-swept wings quite well.
-After the aerial refueling display, the ADFX-01 flies near the tanker once more per requests by journalists. It does not seem to be affected by the slipstream of the tanker, and was very stable with very little vertical movement. The tanker at the time was an Osean Air Defense Force KC-10 Extender. From shots taken from the boom operator's seat, it was clear that the gun port was on the upper surface of the nose, right behind the radome just like a F/A-18. The gun caliber is large at 30mm, and has the ability to make strafing runs on ground targets that is on par with attack aircraft. It goes without saying, but note the inward-canted vertical stabilizers and thick engine nacelles.
-A picture taken right after the ADFX-01 took off. The reason the gear is still up at this altitude is so that it can perform a dirty roll. During this ~20 minute demo flight, it executed all kinds of maneuvers and gave a performance that showed it was not inferior to state-of-the-art fighters. For the static display: -The inward-canted vertical stabilizers have the effect of maintaining stealth characteristics as well as preventing turbulent flow from being generated when installed with large weapons such as the TLS unit. During the demo flight, it was observed that the flaps also move upwards, confirming that they act as elevators.
-The demo aircraft was displayed as an untouched prototype that only had the primer undercoat, and gives the impression that it had time-traveled from the beginnings of its development. It has not been formally adopted by the Osean military, but there have been reports stating that due to its ability to carry immense payloads, a few had been produced and are being used as testbeds for new weapons development.
-The oddly long nose (relative to the small wings) catches the eye, but this is to securely house the 30mm cannon. This design also allows the aircraft to remain stable at low altitude and high speed, and enhanced its ground attack capability as an aircraft with high wing loading. The tandem double-tire main landing gear was also used to allow it to operate from unmaintained, front-line runways, and this aircraft possesses excellent traits as an attacker. These excerpts from Scale Aviation has been confirmed as official by Masato Kanno, and "can be considered [like those materials] from ACESweb." Also many thanks to Twitter user @fofohg14 for providing images of the text.
Aft-Launched Missiles: Ace Combat Fiction, or Russian Fact?
Ace Combat Zero, mission 6, Diapason: you’ve just liberated the Ustian capital of Directus. Ready for your victory lap, your celebration is rapidly cut short by a pair of bogies. A pair of Belkan Air Force Su-37 Flankers of the aptly-named “Gelb” squadron. You rush to engage at close-range. Their maneuvers are familiar to you—in Ace Combat these super maneuverable fighters are always helmed by pilots too eager to exploit post-stall maneuvers, slowing into a “Cobra” to force an overshoot or slipping into a Bell to drop a missile on the pursuer. Besides, just two bandits? You feel confident having faced five-on-one odds in a previous life—this is a cakewalk. You draw no quarter in your pursuit and drag the first Su-37 into your HUD. But just before you fire, your radar warning receiver catches alight. You quickly scan the skies, but the only other bandit is being hogtied by your buddy. Ground forces have cleared surface-to-air missiles on the ground. The light becomes a solid tone. You look forward just in time to catch the smoke of a launch from the fighter you are pursuing. In a split-second comes the impact of the missile against your airframe, and you go down in a ball of flames. What kind of fake Ace Combat skullduggery is that? Aft launched missiles? Seriously? Were they so desperate to make the game a challenge that they had to resort to something so outlandish? Well… let’s back up a bit. If you’ve been following the Ace Combat series since the PlayStation 1, you might have come to the conclusion that this was a callback to an old fight. The final mission of Ace Combat 2 featured a ZOE fighter that did the same trick: the ADF-01. This was its signature move before it was given a laser weapon for its reintroduction as the Falken in Ace Combat 5. But you would be forgiven if you said that Ace Combat Zero and the Su-37 was a really strange game, and a peculiar aircraft to make such a callback with. Despite it all, it still belongs in the realm of fiction. Right? The 2006 release of Ace Combat Zero had been during an explosion of information and interest in advanced fighters breaking cover all over the world. The Americans were on the cusp of initial operating capability with the F-22A Raptor and had just revealed the EMD configuration of the F-35. The Eurosphere was ramping up production of its delta-canards, and the Russian Federation was well into a recovery of its post-Soviet economic slump. With this came a rapid re-organization and rush to redevelop aging Soviet equipment. In professional circles, the F-22 was rightfully seen as a fighter aircraft second-to-none. A king of many roles, it seemed like there was no other fighter that could best it on the horizon. But on the internet, with a young and budding community of aviation enthusiasts, there seemed to be room for debate. A dump of information became quickly accessible about Russian fighters, and a host of unusual and interesting details about their MFI programs came with it. Three fighters stood out at the time: The Su-47 Berkut, the MiG-1.42/1.44, and the Su-27M. For years known in the west as the “Super Flanker,” the Su-27M was developed into a number of different technology demonstrators, the most famous of which is the Su-37—also known as Su-27M Bort 911, the yellow and brown splinter-painted fighter dazzled press and enthusiasts at airshows, demonstrating the pinnacle of what was termed “super maneuverability” or the ability to continue in controlled flight post-stall. The most famous of these maneuvers remains the “kulbit” or “Super Cobra,” where the Su-37 would execute a flat-planed somersault in mid-air. With this maneuver, a new appreciation for older fighter designs developed, and a new debate started raging amongst those new aviation enthusiasts: “F-22 vs. Su-37: Who would win?” These debates have since died down, but it still occurs to the present from time-to-time. Today it might seem sort of silly with what we now know about the Su-37. Though perhaps more combat capable than western prototypes, it was at its heart a tech demonstrator. With its outdated proto-PESA radar, Soviet-era electronics, and redlined AL-37FU engines, it was never meant to be anything more. The loss of the prototype in 2002 terminated the program. But why make a more combat-capable fighter if not to expect it to enter production? That seemed to be Sukhoi’s question—it’s why they pushed for the Su-35 and Su-37 designations for their uprated Flankers to begin with. But Russia had other plans for these fighters. Rather than evaluating the airframes for their own merits, instead, they used them and their at-the-time advanced avionics to experiment with novel ideas to keep their air fleets relevant. The Su-37 acted as the ideal flying laboratory. An advanced, but relatively inexpensive and familiar airframe to equip any number of prototype weapon systems in its enormous internal volume. There were reports that the aircraft’s rear-stinger was reconfigured as a Kevlar-constructed radome, and a small fire-control radar was held within. But such a radar would have been too small to serve the purpose for detection. Russian radar technology was still several years behind the west, and AESAs were not yet available, so radar warning detection or IFF was unlikely. So why perform such a modification? There were reports of a new Russian missile: An R-73 that could be mounted on either rotating gimbles or fixed backward on wing pylons, which could be used to attack pursuing aircraft. This seemed outlandish, but there was photographic evidence to go along with it. The previous reports of a rear-facing radar would bring new credence to both claims. It would fit snugly in with Russian missile engagement doctrine, launching both a radar-guided and infrared-guided missile per salvo against an enemy deploying countermeasures to increase the chances of impact. Evidence that the system would ever be used with the R-27 does not appear easy to come by, but it is possible that the radar could have been used to hand off guidance to the semi-active radar receivers in these older designs to perform such a feat. But it was hard to deny that the rear-firing R-73 was a real system. Though appearing to hold a new designation of R-73R, it is difficult to determine whether it was truly a new model or merely a new designation. Being a short-range infrared platform capable of firing at ranges as close as 1 km and as far as 13 km, it shares the specifications of its host platform almost identically. It has a mass of 115 kg, measures 3.2 meters in length, 0.17 meters in diameter, with a 0.404 meter wingspan. The R-73R is equipped with the advanced seeker head of the R-73M, mounted on a gimbal enabling a 60° to -60° search cone. When it acquires the target, a loud buzz is generated as a notification for the pilot (typical of IR missiles), and the pilot is ready to fire. The pilot presses the release button, and the missile ignites its booster, at first, the missile airspeed is slower than the launcher aircraft. It accelerates and matches the speed of the aircraft, and finally, it turns in pursuit of the target at a higher speed than the launcher aircraft. The combat loadout of these missiles was only theoretical; we can’t be sure how many would be equipped per aircraft, or if it would be used as a standard air-to-air loadout. With the perfection of off-boresight maneuvering and automatic target handoff, the interest in a rear-firing missile faded away. Modern missiles from NATO and the CIS now have the ability to engage to the rear using advanced motors and missile approach and warning sensors. They can effectively fire at the merge and expect a kill without having to turn their aircraft. This leads into a logical realization: in 2006, the fight over Directus in Ace Combat Zero might have felt like you were hit with a slap to the face—a fictional weapon meant to make a fight harder with a stupid AI. But it reasons that even a generic representation of modern air combat would make such a game mechanic nearly universal. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. About the Author 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.
Entering early access in December 2015, the Mirage quickly established itself as one of the best dogfighters in DCS' competitive environment. Having one of the most polished flight models in the game, it also provides more than great Beyond and Within Visual Range (BVR and WVR) combat capabilities as well as some ground-pounding potential. In this review we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this beautiful French lady is a fit for you. These points will be divided in several sections: 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 Externally, the Mirage has got to have one of the most recognizable airframes out there, mainly due to the very similar shape it has kept ever since the Mirage III came out in the 1960's. Razbam, thankfully, has done it justice with this module by giving it a very gorgeous exterior and interior which are full with detail everywhere you can look. Exterior-wise this module boasts a very appealing model that is full of detail, complex curves of the Mirage show all their grace. All the animations, such as the intake shock cones movement or the flight surface movement while taxiing, are fluid and give the plane a bit of life. For the rivet-counters out there, this model should be a feast for the eyes. COMMITMENT TO DETAILS From the inner side of the turkey feathers on the engine to the emergency canopy release handle, the work that went into getting these very easily overlooked details shows that Razbam researched this aircraft to a very high degree, which is commendable and applauded. Interior-wise this module can only be described as gorgeous. It received a major update in late 2019 which aimed at keeping it kind of up to date with the Mirages currently in service with the Armée de l'Air (AdA). This included the addition of a Night Vision Goggle (NVG) mount along with a rework on how the NVGs worked in the module, an updated radio panel and an ECM annunciator on the right side of the dash. The way the annunciator lights shine gives them a very believable feel, a feel that is exacerbated by the flood lights reflecting off the surfaces and screens. I'll take my hat off and applaud Razbam's work, they really did well in this regard. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS Apart from being well modeled, this module also has some of the best looking visual effects out there; on par with the Viper and the Hornet. When at high AoA scenario, the amount of vapor that's produced by the vortex generators, the inner corner of the leading edge and the massive clouds that form above the wing left me speechless the first time I saw them. These are the kinds of details that make a module feel alive. Sound-wise the M2000 has a very distinctly sounding engine that gives the pilot a lot of feedback, at least while you are on the ground. In the air the engine's sound is not as clear as it is on the ground due to the extremely loud noise generated by the wind hitting your canopy. Don't get me wrong, I like the realism aspect that comes with the reduced auditory feedback that the engine gives at high speed but, and this is my personal opinion, sometimes it is better to sacrifice some realism to improve usability. I know that you can enable the "loud afterburner" option in the menu but I write these reviews in function of a unhampered experience, with default options.
As I put it in one of my earliest reviews, the one I wrote about the F-5E-3 Other modules such as the AJS-37 "Viggen" give you a very distinct engine sound when your aircraft goes into afterburner at the cost of realism. We as players need that feedback since we cannot feel the vibrations of the engine or the rumble of the wheels. Overall, sound design is very solid in this module but as always I will let you, the reader, be your own judge in this regard as this category can be very subjective: EXAMPLES: 1. Engine while on ground: ( Idle-->Full Afterburner-->Idle ): 2. Engine while in-flight @450 kts: (Idle-->Full Power-->Idle) 3. Fly-by at +550 knots, full afterburner: (Volume warning) FLIGHT MODELING Over every other category, this is the one that makes the Mirage shine. It has the best-feeling flight model currently in DCS, period. From the buffeting at low speed to the highly responsive flight controls, this flight model truthfully represents what I have heard from real Mirage pilots. This bird excels in a dogfight thanks to the advantages of the delta wing design, these being good nose authority at high AoA and stellar low speed performance characteristics. She is a fierce dogfighter and she knows it. The Fly-by-Wire system (FBW) gives you very precise control over the aircraft making it feel snappy and responsive while keeping you, the pilot, away from a deadly stall. Unlike some of the other aircraft that have FBW, this one feels less restrictive. It has two modes: Charges and A/A. Charges will limit your maneuverability to a mere 5.5G, and your roll rate to 150°/sec. This mode is to be used when you are heavily loaded, as the name implies. A/A mode will raise the amount of Gs you can pull to 9Gs and roll rate to 270°/sec, which is immensely useful during a close range combat scenario. It is difficult to put into words the feeling of flying the Mirage, but if I had to describe it briefly I would have to say that after I flew it the only other plane that could match its snappiness was the F-16CM, but even it lacks that spark that puts this French marvel above everything else. It does have some quirks that you will have to get used to such as the slow engine response time which can make air to air refueling a bit tricky at first. Once you get used to it, though, that is when you will learn to appreciate this beast for what it is. MISSION CAPABILITY Even though the Mirage is capable both A/A and A/G missions, it truly shines in the air to air role thanks to its design as a capable dogfighter and interceptor. It is able of operating independently without the direct aid of either a Ground Control Intercept (GCI) station or an AWACS due to its capable radar. Operational range is not a problem as long as you conserve your fuel or, alternatively, have a tanker at your disposal. LIMITED BVR CAPABILITIES It has the same limitations as some of the Russian aircraft present in FC3, this being the lack of any actively guided missiles (Fox-3 type). While the Super 530 is a great semi-active missile (Fox-1 type) it does lack active guidance. This limits your capabilities in an engagement as you will have to keep the target locked all the way to impact, so no fire and forget. Doing precision bombing on the Mirage will be a bit tricky considering that you do not have any targeting pod (TGP) at your disposal. Guiding GBUs will be the job of either a JTAC or a friendly aircraft equipped with a TGP, so better be prepared to communicate a lot in order to get those lasers where you need them and when you need them. That being said, low level bombing can be done very effectively on the Mirage. Dropping either BLU-66 canisters or Mk.82 Snake eyes on a target while going as fast as possible can be one of the most rewarding things you could do on the Mirage. ARMAMENT DEFA 554 30MM CANNONS These two cannons might not fire as fast as a rotary but when they hit, they hit. Just a couple rounds should be able to annihilate most aircraft, turning them into a burning wreck. Note: Do conserve your ammunition as you only have 125 rounds per cannon. Make them count. MATRA R550 "MAGIC II" As your sole option for heatseeking, this missile has solid all-aspect guidance and relatively high maneuverability when compared to some competitors, such as the R-60 or the AIM-9P5. Overall, it is a solid missile and it should serve you well. MATRA SUPER 530D Just as the Magic II is your only choice for heatseeking, the Super 530 is your sole option for radar guidance. Its range is average and it has above average maneuverability but with a little practice this missile becomes a deadly weapon. It is semi-active, though, so be careful not to drop your lock by accident. Mk.82 BOMBS (SLEEK AND SNAKE EYE) Whether you know the target's location or not, these will never fail you. The only unguided bombs that you have are these wonderful Mk.82s in both its low drag and high drag variants. You are guaranteed to have a blast when you use them, literally. CLUSTER MUNITIONS Do you want to bomb a big strip of runway or a large area full of enemy units? Then these puppies should do the trick. You have two different cluster munitions at your disposal, each with a different purpose: BLG-66 "BELOUGA": This one was designed to quickly deal with densely populated enemy areas. They can be launched as low as 1000ft while in level flight. BAP-100: Designed to effectively deal with enemy runways. They can be quite the asset to use early in a conflict to avoid the enemy from launching more aircraft. GBU-SERIES (LASER GUIDED BOMBS) Even if you are not able to guide them by yourself, having the possibility of doing pin-point strikes is always a welcome addition. You have three sizes at your disposal: GBU-12: 500lb bomb GBU-16: 1000lb bomb GBU-24: 2000lb bomb MATRA ROCKET PODS Carrying eighteen 68mm rockets each, these pods ones are one of the most fun weapons available in the M2000-C arsenal. They are very precise and able to destroy most armored targets upon direct impact and COUNTERMEASURES The Mirage has a very complete countermeasure suite on board, including both flare and chaff dispensers and an internal ECM. While not being the most powerful jammer, it should still gain you some precious seconds to get your Super 530s out of the rail.
You also have the option of equip the ECLAIR pod, which would increase your countermeasure expendable stores at the cost of removing the drag chute. So, when equipping this pod, you should always take into consideration yoru mission profile and the length of your airstrips as that drag chute might come in handy on a short runway. Thanks to Butterfly 055 from the TTI server for pointing this out. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE: This is not a difficult aircraft to learn at first glance. The cockpit layout lends itself to being simple and easy to learn but the difficulties start to show up once you have learned how to take off and land the aircraft and you start learning the more in-depth systems such as radar modes, weapon management panels and navigation.
The navigation panel on the M2000-C is not for the impatient out there, just like the Tomcat's. In order to correctly start your flight you will have to learn how to properly align your INS, which can be a bit of a daunting task for a newcomer. This is not an American aircraft and as such it comes with some quirks that you will have to learn to love, such as the solid five minutes you will have to wait to get your INS aligned after you already spent one or two more minutes imputing the coordinates into the panel. Personally, I am one of those guys that loves learning this kind of stuff so I am not bothered by the initial shock that comes from learning these systems. But that might not be the case for a newcomer. This module is not a good first buy, that title belongs to aircraft such as the F-5E-3 or even free mods such as the MB-339 or the wonderful A-4E-C. Rather, it is an aircraft that you should approach if you already have some experience with other NATO aircraft and want a different yet oddly familiar experience. SINGLE PLAYER CONTENT One of the most positive aspects of this module is the fact it comes not with one but with TWO single player campaigns created by one of the most respected mission creators currently in DCS, Baltic Dragon!
The first of the two, which takes place on the Caucasus map, is a training oriented experience which guides the player through some of the more tedious parts of any module in an interactive way, slowly easing them into combat scenarios. Great for beginners and available for all to play, playing this campaign is a most. The second one, only available for those who also own the Persian Gulf, takes more of a focus on the combat scenarios which play out on a fictional UAE Coup d'Etat. Playing the role of a French pilot based at the UAE as the Coup erupts, you are forced into combat with unfriendly forces. This campaign is a blast to play, even more given that it comes with custom comms outside of the DCS ATC system, a feature which is impressive to say the least. Seeing as most modules tend to lack when it comes to single player content, these two campaigns are a breath of fresh air for any player that either does not feel ready for the multiplayer arena or for those that just want to have a short, fun session after a day of work. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: A powerful dogfighting platform. Good single player content made by a very good creator. A solid flight model that will have you coming back. A experience that only a European fighter could give you. If you don't mind: The quirks that come with a non-American aircraft. The lack of a targeting pod for your laser bombs. The relatively steeper learning curve. Not having access to actively guided missiles for BVR engagements. If all or some of the above is what you want, then RAZBAM's M2000-C 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
Interview: ThinkingStars, developer behind D.E.E.P Battle of Jove
During and after the Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition 2020, Skyward Flight Media has written first impression articles and interviewed the dev teams of flight and space titles that had demos publicly available. D.E.E.P. Battle of Jove visually defined itself with fast, arcade action, transformable spacecraft and bosses and vivid visuals. Our first impression article discusses the three mission demo in more detail. During the festival, Skyward contacted the development team behind the game to schedule a post-festival interview. In the interview we discuss various aspects of the demo, its reception and future developments with 'Martho' from the ThinkingStars development team. Hello and thank you for this interview. Could you introduce the ThinkingStars development team? First of all, a big thank you to Skyward for making this opportunity available to us. We are a game development team from Beijing, and our studio name is ThinkingStars. We are currently working on D.E.E.P Battle of Jove and we have 6 members, including 2 art design, 3 programmer and 1 level design, but of course every member of the team is actually working on the game design! Our pleasure. How long has the dev team been together? Is D.E.E.P. Battle of Jove the team's first game? The studio has been around for 5 years, the core members of the team have known each other for quite some time, and we've all been working in the game industry, developing games for mobile in the early days. In addition to working on D.E.E.P Battle of Jove, there is another game in development called ANNO: Mutationem. It is an action-adventure game that combines pixel characters with 3D scenes and has a strong cyberpunk feel to it. ANNO: Mutationem: Twitter | Trailer and Gameplay Mix Skyward gave a first impression of what we believe the story of D.E.E.P. Battle of Jove is, but to clarify, what is the story setting of the game? Haha, we have to be honest and say that the characters and backstory shown in the current demo are temporary substitutes, and the part about the backstory is just an early idea. The character set-ups and dialogue of the characters currently seen will be replaced in the official release, and even these character images will be completely replaced in a way that is more appropriate for the current style of game graphics. One thing that is certain is that players will be able to experience a full single-player story mode where many characters will appear, contain different forces, and take unexpected plot twists. The game will have a full voiceover. All I can reveal right now is that the plot can remind you of some classic Japanese cartoons. It's a bit early to ask these next questions, but how many spacecraft are planned? Could you describe some of them? Currently we plan to offer 5 different classes of spacecraft, including Scout, Interceptor, Fighter, Bomber, Gunship totaling 5 types. The scout class is the fastest and most agile, but is nimble, weak in armor, and has fewer missiles to load. The Fighter class spacecraft is the most suitable for dogfighting as it offers a well-balanced flying and handling experience and can be loaded with a wide range of weapons. Bomber class spacecraft are slower flying and less agile in steering, but capable of carrying a greater variety of missiles and more powerful Armour. The fourth craft of the demo was called the Beatle. It was unavailable to fly, so could the team tell us about it? It looks really heavily armored! It's a Gunship class Spacecraft, which will be a bit bulkier to handle. It can be equipped with more types of Guns and Missile, and has great firepower. Players will be able to fly it in some specific levels. Strike Mode on the Firefly-MKII in the demo was very interesting. Do other spacecraft have this ability or similar modes to transform? Originally we were only planning to add a Strike Mode to the Fighter class, as only Flight Mode would limit the player's experience to more possibilities, such as more flexible panning control, but also exploration and item scanning in Strike Mode. Since we received a lot of inquiries from players during this Steam Game Festival about similar questions about Strike Mode, we've decided that players will definitely want other planes to have similar modes, so we're going to plan for all other classes of spacecraft to have a more unique transformation, but it will be different from the Fighter's Strike Mode, so we'll keep you posted as to what it will look like. Staying on this subject, the boss battle in demo mission 3 used transformation well to both provide a challenge but also give visual cues to players to show their progress during the battles. Are there other bosses in the game that transform? Yes, we want to make that giant battleship boss, but we also want the player to quickly understand that this giant battleship has a weak point to attack; a flurry of attacks is definitely not an option. In order to keep the player's attention, we'd like to add a few more variations at different stages of the battle to keep the excitement going. So with the addition of the transformation design, Nintendo's Star Fox has actually inspired us in this regard. We'll also have some bosses in the game that have similar designs, but will definitely be different from demo. And don't forget, we also have the Ace fighter bosses, so players can get a good taste of the intense dogfight. Ace pilot encounters! This is an unexpected addition. How is the initial testing with enemy Ace pilots going? Ace Pilot is actually the first type of enemy boss we considered making. We prototyped the Ace Pilot before we made the Dreadnought boss! Since the demo showed off a boss character so well, I had expected more bosses but not Ace pilots. Can players anticipate something like 2 vs 1 or 4 vs 1 encounters against enemy Aces? I'd say all of these scenarios should happen, and there will definitely be a 1 vs 1 situation, where the Ace pilot that comes along will be the toughest. Of course there will also be Ace pilot squadron situations, where it will be 1 vs 2 Or more situations. The player will also have the assistance of teammates. There will be 5 different forces in the game, each with their own Dreadnought, as well as an Ace pilot. Is there an idea about how many levels the game will have? We plan to offer at least 20 mission levels, and more challenging missions. It takes about 10-15 hours for the player to finish the campaign mode, depending on the difficulty. The sample of the ship customization in the demo was good. The Steam page mentions more parts can be upgraded or changed in the full release of the game. What are some of these parts? How can they be unlocked? In addition to weapons, you can customize your own body modules and enhancement chips. The body module can be divided into three parts: wings, engine, and cockpit, which can be customized by the player. These modules will not only affect the performance, but will also change the appearance of the Spacecraft. WING Module: Affects armor performance, shield recovery and other related attributes, missile lock ability, attack power and other related attributes. COCKPIT Module: Affects armor performance, shield recovery and other related attributes, missile locking ability, attack power and other related attributes. ENGINE Module: The engine section mainly affects the acceleration and maximum speed related attributes of the fighter. Enhancement chips can be installed in the above body modules to enhance existing properties. Players can progressively unlock them in Tech-Tree by acquiring Credits. Was the usual Six Degrees of Freedom seen in space simulators left out to keep this game more accessible? Yes, we hope that casual shooters will also accept this current mode of control, and we will also find a way to add vertical and horizontal movement as well, so that we can still retain the full 6DOF mode of control. How was Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition 2020 for the team? Our team was very excited to be a part of Steam Game Festival this year, and many of our players gave us encouragement and valuable feedback. One of the things that touched us was a father and son who played the demo and then wrote a long review for us, saying It's been a long time since they've experienced such a cool space shooter, and they said they're looking forward to the final product. Wow, that makes it all worth it. If I may ask, what is some of the feedback or suggested changes the team received? Have the team’s plans changed after the festival? As already mentioned, many players want other spacecraft to have similar strike modes. I think our development team will be working on that soon. And there's the fact that in addition to the space scene levels, we're going to have levels on the surface of planets, in canyons, in skyscrapers and jungles. We've already completed some of these, and when the time is right we'll publish them to let you know. The team's plans haven't changed, more fighters, more levels, more exciting boss fights everything is in intensive production and hopefully we'll be able to meet you all soon. Our final question is about another unexpected twist: the team introduced concept art for anthropomorphic animal characters. There was a public poll about it, which is a great way to get feedback, but how does the team feel about potentially making these character changes? It seems like it would be a fun change of pace. Haha, glad that was mentioned! One of the greatest joys of making indie games is actually the variety of situations you can try. The flight theme itself is a bit more niche than other types of games, and we wanted to expand the group of players we could attract, and we didn't want to make the game too serious, so it might be a good idea to add anthropomorphic animals, because after all, we all love animals, right? Of course, maybe it'll end up with both human and animal characters. I’d like to give our thanks to the ThinkingStars development team for this interview and for their work on DEEP Battle of Jove so far. Thanks to Skyward for providing such a valuable opportunity to let our readers know about our game. If you are interested, you can download our free demo on steam and try it out! Please add to your wishlist, if you like the game. Currently, our development team is working hard on it and we hope to see you all there soon! About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza is 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 sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870 |
Review: DCS AV-8B N/A Harrier II by Razbam Simulations
Initially released into early access in late 2017, the Harrier II is one of the most interesting modules currently available in DCS:World thanks to its unique design, advanced systems and special flight characteristics. In this review we will be taking a look into several different parts of the module and evaluating if this powerful chubby bird is a fit for you. These points will be divided in several sections: External and internal 3D models Visual and sound effects Flight modelling Mission capability Armament Ease of use and learning curve Companion AI assets Is this aircraft for you? DISCLAIMER: This module is still in early access (EA), therefore, it will be reviewed as of the last update available to the public (STABLE 22.214.171.124437) EXTERNAL AND INTERNAL 3D MODELS RAZBAM has done quite a good job modeling the Harrier to near perfection, both externally and internally. This is something not uncommon with this third party developer as they have shown similar levels of quality on their other modules.
The external model has each and every centimetre covered in detail, from the nose-mounted camera to the beacon lights. The animation of the nozzles are pretty good and the stair that deploys when the canopy is open give the Harrier a very believable feel to it. Let's hope that they keep similar or better attention to detail on their upcoming modules. ATTENTION TO DETAIL One detail that I found pretty amusing is the wind vane that sits right in front of the canopy. This vane's illumination is controlled not by the external lights panel but from the cockpit lights panel. It is one of those details that would normally be overlooked but seeing it work correctly gave me a pleasant surprise. The cockpit is absolutely sublime. It has a weathered-out look which makes it feel lived-in like many operational birds out there, even the screens have fingerprints on them! The internal lighting is marvelous, in part due to the way that the roughmets were made and the way that they reflect the light from the flood lights. Overall, this has got to be one of my favorite cockpits currently available in the sim, both from a design and modeling standpoint. VISUAL AND SOUND EFFECTS Visually, this aircraft has some pretty good looking effects such as over wing vapor while at high AoA (Angle of attack). This, alongside the abundant smoke produced while on VTOL or even during cruise flight, gives the Harrier a nice immersion factor. Next is the sound. This is one area which RAZBAM had to nail perfectly. The Harrier has such a unique sounding engine that getting this part wrong would be a detriment to the module as a whole. I am happy to inform that the sounds are brilliantly done and implemented like they should be. From start-up to shutdown, you feel the engine alive behind you, roaring with the identifiable high pitch tone of the Pegasus!
This aircraft has got to have one of the loudest engines in-game, which makes it a joy to listen during a fly-by if you are wearing headphones. It is also one of the most identifiable sounds from the ground, even from miles away, thanks to the very high pitch frequencies of the Pegasus engine. That and the smoke plume which can be seen from even more far away. EXAMPLES: Engine while on the ground: (Idle-->Full Power-->Idle) Engine while in-flight: (Idle-->Full Power-->Idle) Fly-by at 480 knots, full power: (Volume warning) FLIGHT MODELING If I am completely honest, this is the hardest category to comment on when it comes to the Harrier. Seeing as it is the only VTOL jet in the simulator, there isn't a direct comparison to be made with any other module as of the writing of this review. It feels "right enough" as there are some things that do feel a bit off, such as the lack of a more pronounced buffeting effect while entering a stall. In other words, sometimes it feels like there isn't enough feedback being given to the player in either high AoA or stall scenarios.
Don't get me wrong, this module is a joy to fly in almost every circumstance. If I were to describe flying it, I'd say it is a mix between the Viggen and the Warthog. In a quote from one of my inspirations, Laobi, on his first impressions of the module back when it first launched: "It neither crawls around like the A-10 nor does it split spacetime like the Viggen". That being said, having the possibility to do VIFFING in DCS is amazing and I wouldn't take it over anything else. Even with its flaws, which I hope can be addressed during the EA period, it is still one of the most enjoyable aircraft to fly in DCS right now. MISSION CAPABILITY This bird can do almost everything you could want, all with the exception of beyond visual range (BVR) air combat or prolonged dogfights. The Harrier is a ground pounder through and through. It has a pretty considerable loadout option and pretty acceptable range with the help of air to air refueling (AAR). It is also a bird of the night, as this version has been specifically designed with night operations in mind. INTEGRATED SENSORS These include the integrated TV Camera and the FLIR sensor at the nose, two systems that give you excellent attack and navigation capabilities in adverse situations. They also allow you to opt-out of carrying the LANTIRN pod and replace it for the ECM pod for self defense when the situation merits it, such as when there are multiple SAM installations in the area. When it comes to mission types it can do plenty: Low-level attacks, Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD), Anti-Ship, Close Air Support (CAS), and many more. Being able to perform multiple of these in one sortie, though possible, is not recommended if there are not any support aircraft to perform AAR. ARMAMENT GAU-25 EQUALIZER 25mm CANNON (POD) This cannon, even with its limited 300 round drum, has the potential to annihilate every single lightly armored vehicle and even some medium armored ones with ease. The ammunition should last for at least 10 seconds of sustained fire which would give you plenty of chance to get rounds on target, be it an aircraft or a very sneaky APC. This pod is one that I recommend in every loadout as you do not know when you will need it AIM-9 SIDEWINDER Your only true air-air missile. This will be your self-defense weapon during most if not all strike missions so you will have to learn to love it and its little quirks. Who knows, you could also learn how to dogfight the big air superiority aircraft and one of these could bag you a kill! You have access to: The AIM-9M (All-aspect seeker) The CAP-9M (Training variant, not for combat operations) UNGUIDED BOMBS For almost any occasion, these unguided packets of death will serve you well as you can equip 3x Racks for a total of a lot of bombs. The best part is that you have sizes and flavors to chose from. Small diameter, cluster munitions, high and low drag. The Harrier sure treats you well with these:
You have access to: Most of the Mark 80 series: Mk.81, Mk.82 and Mk.83 (Low and High Drag configurations) Mk.20 Rockeyes (Cluster Munition) GUIDED BOMBS When it comes to precision bombing there are also some options for you. Thanks to both your DMT and the LITENING II pod, self-lased bombing is something you will do very often once you learn the system. Same goes for GPS guided munitions. You have access to: GBU-12 and GBU-16 (laser guided munitions) GBU-38 (GPS guided munitions) Both the GBU-12 and GBU-38 have the option to be mounted on 3x Racks for a total of at least 6 bombs per sortie, with a theoretical maximum of 12 bombs. That's a lot of bombs, but I would not recommend a full bomb loadout unless you are crazy. AGM-122 ANTI-RADIATION MISSILE It might be just a modified AIM-9C but this little missile is more useful than one might initially think. It opens all SEAD missions for you, giving you the capability to directly attack enemy SAM installations from longer distances than you would otherwise. I quickly fell in love with this compact stick of death and I hope you will too. AGM-65 MAVERICK (LASER AND IR) Anti-Ship, CAS, Anti-Armor. This missile does them all. Both the IR (AGM-65G) and Laser guided variants (AGM-65E) are included, giving you the possibility to attack targets in any situation at any time. You can self-lase or call one of your buddies to lase for you. It is safe to say that this missile is one of if not the best weapon available for the Harrier just due to its versitality. ROCKETS When you want to obliterate an area in the most flashy way possible, this is the way to go. Your effectiveness will depend greatly on what pod you equip and the type of warhead that you go with, but be sure that all of them will end up in a satisfying explosion.
You have available: LAU-10 (4 ZUNI rockets) LAU-3 (x19 2'75 inch rockets with either HE, HEAT or WP warheads) LAU-68 (x7 2'75 inch rockets with either HE, HEAT or WP warheads) The LAU-68 pod can be equipped in 3x Racks on the internal pylons, giving you a maximum loadout of 56 2'75 inch rockets. COUNTERMEASURES: You will inevitably be attacked by either a MANPAD, a SAM installation or another aircraft. This is why you carry a lot of both chaff and flares (120 flares and 60 chaff in a standard loadout). These, alongside the optional ECM pod, will give you a small advantage by making it a little harder for the enemy to lock on you or to evade an incoming missile threat.
Additionally, before anything is fired at you, your trusty radar warning receiver should give you an idea of what threats surround you and what are their intentions. LITENING POD Nothing is better than to know what awaits you in an area of operations long before you get there, a task that the LITENING accomplishes with very little effort. Equipped with both IR and TV imagery, this pod will be your best choice for precision weaponry deployment and recon in all scenarios. EASE OF USE AND LEARNING CURVE The Harrier has a cockpit layout that is similar to that of the Hornet, in a sense. It is very easy to learn where each panel is, giving even the more inexperienced players a welcoming time. Even with the systems being this well designed, most newcomers might find it a bit challenging if they skip on a critical part of the module: the tutorials. RAZBAM did something that I was not expecting when I first bought this module. They assembled easy to follow tutorials that are even separated in smaller, mini-tutorials for those times in which you need a little refreshing on a specific weapon system or sensor. This was the cherry on top for me as these tutorials made my transition from the other modules I have to the Harrier a walk in the park. These tutorials are all voiced, have good scripting and provide players of any level the help they need to get themselves immersed into this aircraft's systems. There are even some easter eggs at the end of some tutorials which made me giggle. This is something that no other developer has done, as far as my knowledge goes. With all that being said, I do think this is an aircraft that one should buy if you already have experience with another high-fidelity module. COMPANION AI ASSETS Alongside the Harrier, RAZBAM also launched two other "companion" AI assets to give a better home for the Harrier inside of the DCS ecosystem. These being its home, the U.S Navy LHS Tarawa and the KC-130, an air refueling version of the C-130 Hercules that is typically operated by the U.S Marine Corp as a support aircraft. As far as I am aware, these two assets are available to use for any DCS user. The first of these two, the Tarawa-class Amphibious Assault Ship, is the one that gave the Harrier a home at sea. Being able to take off and land from this massive ship is simply fantastic. It has a very detailed 3D model and ATC integration, as expected. Of note: There have been some issues with the AI behavior of the Harrier on the Tarawa for a long time now, but in the latest Open Beta version these seem to be fixed. The second AI asset, the KC-130, is one that is useful to every player in DCS even if they don't use the Harrier. It is a slower tanker that fares better with a larger assortment of aircraft when compared to the KC-135 MPRS, which tends to fly comfortably at a faster speed. The refueling position is much more comfortable than the one present on the Stratotanker, being more centered and with more accessible visual cues to help you keep position. IS THIS AIRCRAFT FOR YOU? If what you want in a module is: A good learning experience full of tricky challenges along the way. A quirky flight model that is forgiving yet difficult to master. To be able to fill the attacker role with a carrier-borne aircraft. To take off like a helicopter and fly like a fighter. If you don't mind: The relatively steeper learning curve that comes with VTOL. Playing through tutorials just to learn some of the basics all over again. The quirks of vertical landing operations or rather, enjoy them. Not being able to launch AMRAAMs from 50 miles away. The module still being on early access. If all or some of the above is what you want, then RAZBAM's AV-8B Harrier II N/A 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
A complete guide on how to build a DIY head-tracking setup, from start to finish. In twelve years of playing flight simulation games, I have only experienced a couple of hardware upgrades that have truly reshaped the way I played. The first one was when I started using a joystick. The second one when I replaced my joystick with a HOTAS (Hands on Throttle and Stick) and the third is when I built my own head tracking equipment. These are changes so substantial that I could never find myself going back to my old ways ever again.
I had known about head tracking ever since I saw a video from one of the YouTubers I followed, Ralfidude, in which he talked about his TrackIR setup and my mind was blown. I knew that motion tracking/capture existed but seeing it in action made me want to use one instantly. I went to see how much it cost, realized that it was way over my budget and told myself that I was never going to get one.
The situation stayed the same until I started seeing some people building their own head-tracking systems. This reignited my interest in the topic, pushing me to start my research into what materials I needed. In this article I will share the results of that investigation and the process I had to follow to build the system I currently use with as much detail as possible so that you can build your own. STEP 1: UNDERSTANDING THE TECH AND YOUR NEEDS Before we get deeper into the building process we must first take a look into what this tech is really all about and the build alternatives you have at your disposal.
In layman's terms this is basic motion tracking technology. The software has been designed to track a specific pattern of identifiable points to determine the position of your head in a 3D environment. It transmits said position to the game of your preference if it has head-tracking support.
This is usually done with an Infrared (IR) sensitive camera and a tracker which emits an IR signal, be it self-powered (IR LEDs) or through the use of IR reflective surfaces. TYPES OF TRACKERS There are two types of trackers that have become the most popular options for gaming related applications. These are clips and caps. Clips are usually self-powered trackers that come in a vertical 3 point layout comprised of three IR LEDs. These are pretty popular for their self-powered nature and ease of use. Caps are usually powerless trackers that come in a variety of arrangements but usually they use two or more reflective surfaces which don't require power to work. The main aspect of the cap-type trackers is that they are always mounted on top a cap to allow for ease of use. WHICH TRACKER TYPE SHOULD YOU BUILD? Clips usually offer the most consistent and stable experience when compared to caps. By virtue of being self-powered it becomes a little harder to build as you have to design your clip layout and your circuit. There's always the option of 3D printing an opensource file to use as a base. You will always have to solder your own electronics so please keep that in mind. If you don't posses any experience dealing with electrical circuits, then a cap-type tracker would be your best alternative and one that would give you a similar if not indistinguishable experience.
This guide will follow the process of building a clip, so if you are going to build a cap you can go directly to step five for software configuration. STEP 2: PREPARATION The entire set up will consist of a PlayStation 3 Eye camera (PS3 Eye Camera), which we will modify to turn it into an IR sensitive camera, and a simple clip-type tracker which will be a basic 3v circuit. DISCLAIMER: I am not an electrical engineer, so please take caution with the procedures that will be described in the following paragraphs. Safety first. Manage your tools correctly and take the necessary safety measures to ensure that. TOOLS You will need these tools to continue forward as they are crucial for everything we will do. Hot glue gun Solder iron Electrical solder and flux Xacto knife or equivalent Patience, a lot of patience MATERIALS For the clip we will be building a simple 3 volt parallel circuit with three IR LEDs connected to a CR2032 battery. Be careful with the ones you buy since this could cause the circuit to not work.
You will need: One (1) CR2032 PCB Battery Holder. Three (3) IR LEDs rated at 3v. One (1) 6 pin push switch (Mini DPDT Push Switch). At least three (3) meters/nine (9) feet of UL2468 cable . Three (3) meters/nine (9) feet of 1mm steel wire. One (1) 2mm thick balsa wood plank. Electrical tape. You will also need a PS3 Camera which can be found for cheap and a floppy disk, but we will go more in-depth on that during step four. STEP 3 (1): BUILD THE FRAME Now it is time to build and for that we will be using the following printable template: In the first step we will cut away the two balsa wood sections and bend the wire frame using the template. Now apply glue to the bottom wooden section with your hot glue gun and adhere the bended wire frame to it. Make sure that the frame is straight as any excessive bends will affect the usability of it. Before it dries, apply glue to the top wooden section and adhere it in place. Let the glue dry a bit. The frame is done!
The frame will also need a base to be held on your headphones but that one will be up to your design as each frame will have minor differences that have to be taken into account. STEP 3 (2): WIRE THE CIRCUIT To start, let's have a look at the electrical diagram of the clip that we will be building: A very simple parallel circuit with a switch and 3 LEDs, as you can see. Since we will be using 3 volt LEDs this circuit doesn't need any kind of resistor, making everything easier.
The layout will be a little more like this: The process will be quite simple, but have patience: Cover the tips of the frame's legs with electrical tape before soldering to avoid any kind of undesirable contact later on.
We will be soldering a bit so please do educate yourself on how to solder first.
Measure using your wires the length you will need according to your frame's dimensions. Since each frame might have slightly different dimensions I won't give any measures whatsoever. You will need the following cables: (It is recommended that you cut them a bit longer what you will need since mistakes do happen and it is always better to have the excess than to) Two running from battery (notice the length difference on the negative cable due to it's role with the switch). One from switch to the negative junction. Two from the negative junction to the corresponding LEDs. Two from the positive junction to the corresponding LEDs. NOTE: Remember to remove the isolation from the tips of your cables and secure your connections with the hot glue once you are sure that no more changes are needed. Now onto the first electrical part, the battery. For our purposes we will be using only two of the three pins of the battery holder. Since we will be using a CR2032 PCB battery holder, we will need to run cables from it as you can see above. IMPORTANT: Please make notice that the POSITIVE side of the CR2032 is going to be facing UP, which is marked by the positive sign (+) on the battery holder. Paste the battery holder to the frame as indicated in DIAGRAM N°1 and follow the cabling routes. We will run the negative cable directly to the push switch, connecting it to the middle pin which would be pin N°2 as per DIAGRAM N°2 (bellow) which is a top side view. Securing the cables can be quite tricky at first, so have patience and continue until both the output and input cables are secured on their respective pins. For more information on this type of switch, this Hackster.io guide is highly recommended. The positive cable will stay disconnected for now, just solder it to the battery holder and secure it to avoid any possible damage. After you have tested the connectivity and the switch's functionality with one of the LEDs by using your phone's camera to see if it lights up, secure the switch to the frame with the hot glue gun. Make sure that they have no play/slack and are stable.
Now we move on to the major part, which is the connection of the battery with the rest of the cables and the front LED. This part will require that you remove the isolation from the ends of the cables, both for the upper and lower frame legs.
Follow this diagram to see how the connection is done. Note that the front LED lacks any cable connections and is soldered directly into the joint. Trim the LED legs accordingly and please make sure that the polarity of the LED is being soldered into the correct joint. The longer leg on the LED typically is the positive anode. We are almost done, now all that's left is soldering the other two LEDs. This step should be pretty simple since you have already made more difficult joints. Now that you are done, make sure that everything is working by checking the LED's functionality with your phone's camera as we did previously. Once that's cleared out, secure the cables and the LEDs to the frame with hot glue to avoid corrosion and any kind of damage.
At the end, you should have something like this: STEP 4: MODIFY THE PS3 CAMERA For this step you will need the PS3 Camera and the diskette/negative film that I mentioned back in step two. There are TWO types of PS3 Eye cameras, one of which will be useless for this project. Thankfully, these two are very distinctive from one another when it comes to the lens.
You DON'T want the one that has the flat lens. This one cannot be modified and would be a waste of time to even open it. Here is a reference so you can see the flat lens: Please note the flat lens cover and the ring. These are telltale sings of this model of camera.
The one we want has the rounded lens, which is very evident once you see it: This is the one we want as it has a modifiable lens, specifically, it has an easily removable IR filter. This will allow our camera to become very IR sensitive.
Since I modified mine off camera a long time ago, I cannot provide you with my own photos as examples. Instead, I will guide you to the video I followed when modifying mine. It was made by Vazina Robertson: STEP 5: SOFTWARE To get your computer to recognize the PS3 Camera, you will have to download drivers for it. The only one that's completely guaranteed to work is CL-Eye so look for that one. Make sure that it is working properly.
For our tracking we will be using OpenTrack, which is an opensource head-tracking software that's very reliable and relatively easy to set up.
When you first boot it up you will be greeted by this window: Although it might look a little crude and daunting at first, this software is very intuitive once you are done with the initial setup. Before you do anything else, please click on the hammer that's next to PointTracker 1.1 Make sure that your device is set to the PS3 Camera and that all the other parameters are good to go. Once you are done with that click on the Model tab. Click on the correspondent tab and adjust the measurements to your specific profile, be it a clip or a cap. Calibrate your model position too, that will help the software to make more precise calculations.
We are now done with the model side of things! Now we need to set up our curvatures and game detection. To make OpenTrack function with most games, you will have to go to the Game Detection tab under Options: Click the + icon and add the executable name and a profile. It is that simple! To set up the curvatures we will need to click the Mapping function on the main menu which will open this window: These values are completely up to your discretion and will be completely dependent on your setup, distance to the camera and head position. This will take some effort and time to get right but you should be able to tweak this values down to your liking. STEP 6: ENJOY! I hope that this guide helped you build this game changing tool and I wish that you will enjoy it as much as I do. Please contact me if there are any mistakes on this guide or parts in which I could expand upon. 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
Interview: Digitum Software, developer of Absolute Territory
Absolute Territory: The Space Combat Simulator debuted a publicly available demo during Steam Game Festival: Summer Edition 2020. At first glance, Absolute Territory's promotional material invokes a nostalgic feeling from space sims of days past. After hours of playing the demo, I was intrigued by how "right" maneuvering in space felt. The experience was further enhanced when I was able to use more advanced flight equipment, that I would not expect a demo to recognize. The experience of managing energy levels in combat and sliding through space with relative ease left a lasting impression on me after the festival. With questions on my mind, I reached out to the developer, Digitum Software, for information about this game's development and their game festival experience. Hello, thanks for this interview. It's nice to meet you. Can I ask you to introduce yourself? Hello, thank you for having me. My name is Dan I.B. Woods. I am an indie developer currently hiding behind the guise of Digitum Software. I love Sci-fi in film, TV, video games, especially space combat action/simulation set in futuristic settings. I also enjoy programming. Combining these elements, I decided to develop my space combat simulator Absolute Territory. Watching the promotional and test footage of Absolute Territory gives off a nostalgic feeling. What was your inspiration for making this game? Nostalgia is what has driven me to make Absolute Territory. When development first began, there was no more interest (outside of an indie setting) for space combat simulation games. Rather than wait for someone else to make one, I decided to make my own. I have a love of Sci-fi. Watching the original 70's Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars, Buck Rogers, Star Trek, Babylon 5 in my youth enflamed a passion within. I spent many hours playing Wing Commander on my Amiga 500. As time went on, I found that I enjoyed playing this genre, somewhere in between arcade and realistic simulation, which the Wing Commander series hovered around (with the one exception). TL;DR: A love of sci-fi and video games and the drought in the genre (at the time!). Before starting game development, Digitum Software created VUME. What type of software is it? Video Uploading Made Easy (VUME) for YouTube Content Creators. It's a companion app for YouTube, on Windows PC, designed to simplify uploading and publishing videos. I used to make videos for my gaming channel and found YouTube's service to be lacking in some areas, especially for those who upload content regularly. VUME's main feature is multiple upload defaults, a feature the competition offers as part of a recurring paid subscription. You can define many defaults for the title, description, tags, etc. for say different topics, or if you are a gamer, video games. VUME takes this a step further with variables, which you can pass via the video filename to auto-select the template and auto-populate metadata, making each upload specific to the video content. You can say goodbye to copying pasting text and manual edits. VUME includes other features, like auto-posting to Twitter and Tag analytics. Are there plans to continue software development alongside game development? The plan is for a Tick-Tock cycle. Tick, let's make an application. Tock, let's make a video game. After Absolute Territory releases, I will re-review that original plan. Currently, I expect to be making further updates and improvements to Absolute Territory after release for some time. You have reminded me I have a bug fix update I need to test and publish for VUME. On Absolute Territory: one thing that is clear from the promotional material but can also be felt immediately through gameplay is how the ships maneuver. It feels the way I would imagine a more simulator style space game should handle. I suppose that stems from Wing Commander 1/2 and the I-War series. I loved using the Shelton slide in WC1/2. Hit your afterburner to reach full speed, then turn and pepper your target with hot laser bolts as you slide past them! Fun stuff! I-War took the physics more seriously and probably provides a more realistic idea of how corvette sized space ships would handle. Slow and sluggish! After a lot of hard work, I ultimately used Physics to apply forces for rotation and velocity (speed) changes, for example, to correct your forward velocity based on your facing direction. I found attempting realism wasn't fitting for smaller space fighters (imagine dogfighting in the NASA Space Shuttle). Unrealistic force numbers are applied to tighten up the controls, without making it feel too much like flying a fighter jet in an atmosphere. If I pulled the veil on the force numbers, you would see that the rotation forces are almost as high as the main engines to propel you forward! The Shelton slide! There's a name I have not heard in a long time. This video demonstrates a unique (and daring) level of maneuverability. How is this possible? What are some of the advantages of flying like this? Physics! To expand on above, all ships in Absolute Territory have a Reaction Control System (RCS) controlling velocity and rotation based on the pilot's input, to compensate for zero drag with no atmosphere. The RCS's only goal is to keep the ship flying in the direction pointed. The RCS manages lateral (vertical/horizontal) thrusters and engines applying forward/reverse thrust. Making turns at speed creates a sliding effect as the RCS works to correct your direction to keep you heading where the ship is pointing. One advantage is the manual override of lateral thrusters, where you can 'jink and juke' to avoid incoming weapons fire. You can also perform a Shelton slide either as I described earlier with WC1/2, or use a manual override to disable the RCS and keep your nose pointed at your target while momentum keeps you going as you where. There is also a disadvantage where if you turn too sharply, you can end up making yourself a sitting duck as the ship has to slow to adjust for your new direction. Absolute Territory does not fly like most other space combat action games or like the ships in Star Wars, or the Freespace series, where you always go forward without any implied 'drag' simulated or otherwise from steering. While playing the demo, I was intrigued at how the simple addition of energy management within the ship's engine, shield, and weapons systems could change gameplay in a meaningful way. What are your thoughts on the energy management system? Will it be more complex in the future? As I playtested, I felt Absolute Territory was missing something to help the player get out of sticky situations or take advantage. Energy management has been used in many previous space games to good effect, some taking it much more seriously than others. I wanted the player to be able to manipulate energy management with a minimum of effort and concentration, not take away focus, or too complicated it got ignored. I like the idea of how Rebel Galaxy Outlaw allows you to dump energy from your gun energy into your shields and vice-versa. I can see that feature making its way into Absolute Territory. I'll also be open to suggestions and feedback from players. The mission editor of Absolute Territory sounds like it will be quite advanced. Is it true that the editor is so detailed, the single-player campaign was built using the same editor players will have access to? It is true. The Absolute Territory mission editor was 100% used to create each mission for the campaign. The mission editor is embedded, allowing players to test ideas as they create. You could recreate the campaign missions yourself with the mission editor if you were inclined to do so. Players will be able to share their creations, with the minimum of effort, to the Steam Workshop for others to play. It sounds like the editor is designed for long term use. That is to say, no need for hacking or code work to remain in operation. I have spent a lot of considerable effort on creating the mission editor as I wanted players to be able to continue playing Absolute Territory by sharing and experiencing new adventures with the community. The crux of the mission editor uses Conditional Actions. These respond to and drive events in the game world, using conditions (i.e. when the player reaches a waypoint) to drive actions (i.e. spawn in some enemies). I have designed the mission editor to minimize the amount of coding required to add additional conditions and actions in the future. If more can add depth to Absolute Territory and I will look towards adding any in future updates, I'll also consider requests from players and creators. The mission editor sounds rather robust. Are there any limits at all that players will run into while using it? The only specific limit is the size of the nav point area. You can think of a nav point being a stage in a mission. There is no limit on the number of nav points to place. I do not expect the size limit to be an issue. Its set at 100,000m diameter and used to limit the placing of game objects in the world using the mission editor. This is a design decision rather than a technical limitation. You'll find that most of the missions in the Absolute Territory campaign are broken down into nav points. In the campaign, each nav point is designed to be within 10,000m diameter for pacing reasons. However, if you prefer to create missions in a single nav point, like Freespace 2, there is nothing to stop you. When it comes to using Conditional Actions, described elsewhere, you are limited to the Conditions and Actions made available. More can be added, but that will require additional coding and testing by myself. I am open to suggestions on what any additions could be in a future update. I feel the need to mention modding possibilities. While you can share your individual missions using Steam Workshop, you are currently limited to Absolute Territory's existing assets. I recognize that providing modding support in the mission editor would open up more new possibilities and experiences for creators and players. I will be looking at the feasibility of adding mod support, to at least be able to add new ships and weapons, after Absolute Territory's initial release. The screenshots and video of the asteroid field are exciting and look challenging. Was it difficult to design the asteroid field? The theory on the asteroid field design (or what I call hazards, as there are also minefields), is relatively simple. They are identified using spheres in the game world and then only appear to the player when nearby, helping to improve performance. However, when you are dealing with thousands of asteroids, there is going to be a performance hit. Thankfully, Unity has been working on a Data Orientated Technology Stack (DOTS) to manage thousands of game objects in large game worlds. It's still early days for DOTS. The current hazard implementation took a lot of head-scratching and debugging. For those who don't know, Unity is a 3D development platform and is my development tool of choice for Absolute Territory. It's majorly used for game development for indie developers, like me, with a free to use version (there are alternatives). It has taken some flak over the last several years due to low effort releases by various indie developers, using so-called asset flips. Though, the results of using a tool are only as serviceable as the individual who wields it and the effort put in. Anyone seriously interested in video game development should check it out. I know I'll do this eventually, so I'll ask directly. If I direct all energy to the spacecraft's shields, is it possible to survive running into an asteroid? That will entirely depend on the velocity of impact and the ship you are flying. Each ship has its maximum shield strength. Directing energy to shields will help decrease your mortality chances. More power increases the recharge rate, and more importantly, the maximum shield strength, at the expense in performance within the other systems. I shall look forward to adding you as a statistic, all in the name of science. This next question might be a bit too early to ask, but: will there be allied units? Potentially some large scale fleet vs. fleet battles? You will come across allied units in the campaign. These will be fighters, transports, and destroyers. Allied fighters will assist you in combat, therefore make sure to look after them. Transports and destroyers are generally used in escort/protection, or assaults/strike missions. While they do have anti-fighter weaponry, we won't be seeing any fleet engagements, i.e destroyer vs. destroyer, during the Absolute Territory campaign. I can say for certain as I have just recently finished creating the 21 missions that make up the campaign. It would be something I'd love to include in the future. The main game loop is around combating against several enemy fighters as you progress through stages, to keep the gameplay and progression flowing. It's a mechanic I remember the developers of Halo talking about, as not to bore or overwhelm the player with a constant stream of enemies. I think the most enemies you will encounter are around a dozen at once, with several allied units to back you up. I do not fancy my chances in those odds on my own. Absolute Territory is mostly about making tactical combat decisions when facing 3-4 opponents at each stage, sometimes with allied help. The control style of Absolute Territory certainly "feels right" when I think of a space simulator/game. Thank you for the detailed explanation as to why that is. Will the missions only take place in deep space, or will there be combat near moons or in the atmosphere of planets? Missions take place where you get to appreciate the vast emptiness of space interspersed by asteroids and minefields. Adding planets in Absolute Territory as a decoration is on my wishlist. I have already purchased the relevant assets. It will be a case of being able to embed them into the mission editor as an update after release. I have an extensive list of wishlists and ideas. I'll avoid saying anything more, as I do not want to fall into making promises or suggesting features that have not been decided. With the focus being on smaller engagements, is there a possibility that players may run into an 'Ace' - a single or maybe a small group of highly skilled adversaries? The focus on smaller engagements is for players to learn their and opponents' fighter strengths and weaknesses, then exploiting them to be the victor. I could have added an enemy Ace with increased health, speed, and more weapons. Going up against faster and tanky opponents, of the standard fighter, is not the experience I'm looking to create. Each difficulty level in Absolute Territory alters the AI behavior and damage dealt/received. Rather than having individual pilot skill levels, the focus is on skills based on the selected difficulty. Since the game festival demo release, significant effort has gone to improving AI combat behaviors. AI should appear less predictable, and more accurate, providing a rewarding and enjoyable combat experience overall. All enemy fighters you encounter will be similarly experienced as each other based on the selected difficulty level. Most recent improvements made to the AI steering behavior means all fighters and missile are much more accurate and deadlier than before. How was the game festival? Has any of the feedback changed Absolute Territory's development? The Game Festival was great, it certainly helped to make more gamers aware of Absolute Territory. I ended up with more wishlists in that weekend than I did in the previous 90 days. I highly recommend any game developer to take part in the future with similar events. The inclusion of the demo, a requirement for the festival, helped. In retrospect, it highlights my need to promote and get the word out about Absolute Territory. The demo released to coincide with the festival was as good as an experience I had hoped to present to gamers, based on closed beta feedback and meeting deadlines. I am actively seeking feedback to improve the player experience. For example, the current mouse flight implementation felt twitchy for several players. They also had problems of losing the mouse cursor and found it demanding to keep track of that when fighting more than one opponent. Based on that feedback: I've reduced the baseline sensitivity, increasing its maximum, for mouse flight; Players have a more choice in finding that sweet spot; You can always see where the flight cursor is, identified by breadcrumbs leading to it; The maximum pitch and yaw are now recognized by confining the cursor to a boundary; The gun reticule is no longer obscured when the cursor is near. With these improvements, flying your space ship feels much smoother, less twitchy, and overall, more natural using a mouse. I was able to use a HOTAS, rudder pedals, and a multi-function display with no problem. Was the use of more advanced equipment considered during game development from the beginning? That's fantastic news! I've been waiting for feedback from flight sim enthusiasts. In the beginning, I only had a Joystick (with throttle and hat). Setting up Unity with the default implementation was an absolute pain and problems with axis lag only ever-present in Unity games for Saitek joysticks. Unfortunately, it wasn't even considered a Unity issue, and very few reports at the time. I used my Xbox controller to get around this, eventually adding mouse support. Yet, I didn't want to be releasing a game where players would not be able to use their choice controller. Supporting a wide range of devices, with the default implementation, would mean significant development time and testing many different controls making this unfeasible. Thankfully, there are options. One of those, Rewired. This is a fantastic asset I purchased from the Unity Asset Store and allows developers to support a wide range of controllers and devices. I always intend Absolute Territory to be used with either Joystick / HOTAS controllers. The fact you can also use more peripherals is a massive benefit and should please fans of flight simulation. Thank you for this interview and your efforts in creating this game. Thank you very much for your interest. A demo for Absolute Territory is available for you to try from Steam. Go ahead and wishlist and follow to be notified when Absolute Territory is released. About the Interviewer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza is 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 sims with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. | Twitter | Discord: RibbonBlue#8870