Tiny Combat Arena: Trying Out Mods
An introduction to modding and initial concerns Did you know that to this day, Why485, the main developer of Tiny Combat Arena , still goes by the name "Only the Harrier is Flyable" in the MicroProse official Discord? It is a very direct reminder of how Tiny Combat Arena (TCA) maintains its player controlled aircraft focus on the AV-8B Harrier. While development of an official second aircraft has been referenced by the developer, screenshots of players flying many aircraft in this game that are definitely not the famous "Jump Jet" have been appearing in social media. What is going on? Official Mod Support
On November 1st, 2023, a side project from the developer was announced and released. Why485 stated that the game had always been built with the inclusion of mods in mind at some point, leading to the creation of Tiny Combat Tools . This software tool kit was designed to assist with the process of creating and uploading mods for Tiny Combat Arena. This is some of the clearest and well documented official mod support you can get from a game this size. It should be noted that a channel for TCA modding was opened in the official MicroProse Discord on February 22nd, 2022, where many hypothetical discussions for modding were had before this tool kit was released. Though, the primary destination for mods in this game is the TCA Modding Community , which was intentionally established outside the MicroProse Discord to clearly separate the mods from the base game. This way any mod related questions or troubleshooting stay within its designated server, away from any bug reporting the base game receives. Do keep in mind that creating mods for this game does mean designing them from scratch. A skill set with programs like Blender and Unity will be needed to bring your ideas into TCA. This example video from a user named Caboose gives players an idea of what fledgling modders are getting into: Caboose takes it a step further and offers a mod base for initial experimentation. Another user, Topfighter101, has also provided an hour long tutorial video focusing specifically on creating an aircraft model in the TCA style from scratch. This includes any weapon models that are being added for these aircraft to carry into combat. Further steps will need to be taken to make sure the aircraft, other vehicles or their weapons are also animated and coded to work correctly in game. It is a lot of effort to get content like this working and working consistently. You have to respect that. Installing Mods Installing and using mods is very easy thanks to the developer doing some thinking ahead and the modders themselves keep things as simple as possible. Simply go to the TCA Modding Community , search the Mods forum, click on the thread for the specific mod you are interested in, make sure you are downloading the latest version of that mod, then drag and drop the files of those mods into the Mods folder of Tiny Combat Arena. It is that simple. From there, launch TCA then do the usual process of aircraft selection and loadout selection. Some mods are for AI units only, meaning they cannot be flown by players. A little reading will help differentiate things. Concerns About Mods I am writing this article as someone on the outside of the Tiny Combat Arena modding scene, only now starting to pay serious attention. As such, I do not have a lot of time with the various mods that are currently available. This may sound strange, but my initial reaction to seeing the mods being produced is one of concern. Coming into this, I have the opinion that many of these mods may not fit TCA as it is now. Of course, mods are completely voluntary. I am not going to pretend like they "destroy" what TCA is or anything. But I believe I can put my concerns in perspective. Via mods, players will have access to an entirely new selection of aircraft. Not just in game non player controlled models now being modified for player use. Some mods seem to fit well with the level of technology currently seen on both the friendly and opposing sides in game. Though, when we go beyond the perceived Cold War era Tiny Combat Arena represents, things begin to change. You can find aircraft like the Mitsubishi F-2A and Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. Even fictitious examples like the Ace Combat ADFX Morgan and the UD-4 "Cheyenne" Dropship from the Aliens series. While genuinely cool, do remember that the opposing computer forces do not even have the SA-2 Guideline surface-to-air missile yet. The most advanced air defenses are short-range infrared missile carrying SA-9 Gaskin and the ZSU-23-4 Shilka self-propelled anti-aircraft gun weapon system. The deadliest fighter in the skies hunting players is the MiG-23MLA Flogger that first flew in 1978. Some TCA modders have already added advanced modern weaponry like their own renditions of active radar homing missiles, long-range air to ground munitions and even nuclear weapons. At this point, the balance of power seems so uneven, I would think the overall gameplay experience would change. Dipping into Mods After a few hours of testing a handful of these mods myself, I can say that the experience does change, but it depends on how players use the mods and which mods they use. For example, spawning within 5 nautical miles of enemy air defenses will negate any advantage even the most advanced fourth generation fighters have. If you are so close even the most basic anti-aircraft gun can hit you, an air launched cruise missile cannot help you. However, someone that knows they can stand-off at over 20 nautical miles away while casually raining down 'Fox Three' missiles and glide bombs like the AGM-154 JSOW will breeze through any mission put before them. Using a Strike Eagle with six AIM-120 AMRAAMs to its maximum potential in a Quick Battle Dogfights results in the battle being won within seconds without the opposing force even getting close enough to fire back. Mods that are more era appropriate, like the JA-37 Viggen or Mirage 2000C match with the current level of base game units players would be fighting against. The weapons they could potentially deploy also fit the level of aggression doled out by the NPC enemies. It helps that in Quick Mission mode, player controlled mods and AI only mods can be set as enemies, increasing the difficulty against the player as they have access to more advanced aircraft. A flight of F-15 Eagles versus a flight of Su-27 Flankers does even things out. But so far this does nothing for the Arena Campaigns, which are the bread and butter of Tiny Combat Arena. Though there does seem to be one ambitious mod that does address this. I want to take a closer look at that on its own as a separate article, without quickly glazing over it. Personally, I do not see myself extensively using mods of highly advanced aircraft but swapping in new third generation aircraft and early fourth generation aircraft could be a nice way to mix things up from time to time. Few flight games are this open to the addition of mods. People who are even vaguely interested should take the opportunity to dip into the modding scene and see what is being produced. As further updates to the core mechanics of Tiny Combat Arena are prioritized by its developer, dabbling in mods is a fine way to see how robust this platform can be. About the Writer Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile .