A second seat, a second gun From Day One, gunners in RoF seem overpowered. Against the AI (and most beginner players), the exchange ratio is, well, totally devastating to attackers. Of course, historically, there were many unmodeled challenges facing a gunner who as trying to aim a gun (or even rotate it) in aircraft which were effectively maneuvering “string bags of kindling and wire”, exposed to a 150 kph winds. While the gunner AI is somewhat mitigated by the fact that gunners are currently modifiable, it is hard to find ways to handicap the player (with the exception of building rather improvident and dangerous hydraulic home made basement cockpits). For the player, the gunner position has a floating sight that shows where to fire when aiming at a target which is 180 meters away. Until recently, the sight also automatically helped lead a target. This was removed in the last patch. However, there is a still a lack of optional realism settings for the gunner positions. However, the easy gun controls have also helped human piloted two-seaters survive online. Given the desperation with which online fliers typically cling to any advantage, this may provide a strong incentive to never improve the code — so, it is a serious question whether gunner dynamics will be revisited in the future. The growing significance of ground attacks Some forum members have also argued that the British two-seaters have larger bomb loads than they were typically able to carry. However, a larger issue may be excessive bomb effectiveness: Rise of Flight originally only modeled 25 lb bombs, and may have been over-optimistic regarding their effectiveness (a real temptation when it is the only air-to-ground weapon available). Now that dozens of bombs can be carried into combat, some of the challenge has worn off. We know that the developers are revisiting bomb ballistics, so maybe blast will get looked at as well. Despite the release of two-seaters, the trench lines have remained empty and undetailed, with relatively few targets. A radical approach requiring auto-generating of objects would likely be required to allow this — making it unlikely. However — one can dream… Updating the trenches with 3d models and more complex textures might do the trick. There is also the possibility of invisible sources of machine gun fire (as in the archaic flight simulator “Fighter Anthology”), or spawning infantry running from tents / vehicles behind the lines (as in the original Red Baron II, European Air War and IL-2 Sturmovik — but oddly none of their sequels). So I, at least, will hope for future updates — and at least a few new positionable 3D objects are apparently planned for 2012.
Custom control inputs A massive revision of the user interface allows the player to set up custom response curves for each aircraft. This was a much needed feature — especially for those with older and cheaper joysticks — and allows careful tuning of how the controller interfaces with the simulation. Of course, it is more time to configure (like any modern flight sim), but it allows a revolutionary improvement in our ability to access some of the more twitchy aircraft. This is certainly one of the greatest accomplishments of the year.
New career mode Designing a new campaign generator is a truly tremendous undertaking. The fact that the designers even attempted this is impressive. Reportedly the AI still has some issues (e.g. hyper aggression and priorities) which will apparently be worked on during 2012 — but overall the reaction on the forums has been very positive to the new system. It should also be said that I preferred the Red Baron I campaign to the Red Baron II / 3D campaign — which, according to popular wisdom, appears to mean that I have poor taste in my choice of campaign systems.
According to the preview this new campaign system was originally planned to:
- “Covers 700 days of the Great War. More days may be added if we build planes from even earlier in the war.
- Continued promotion through the ranks.
- Changing Weather with Seasonal Textures (Summer, Autumn and Winter).
- New titles and awards.
- More than 15 different types of missions.
- New types of gameplay, such as adjusting artillery fire or photo reconnaissance, with new interactive elements and equipment such a wireless radio and/or camera added to your plane. You can also watch real-time changes in the world based on the results of your actions such as corrected artillery fire.
- A higher level of interactivity and randomness during missions, for example, flying close to an enemy’s airfield could trigger enemy fighters to intercept you.
- Combines your personal statistics, events and achievements with real history.
- Interactive map of hostilities with information about current operations at the front and the location of various units and squadrons.
- Historically correct squadron’s location and re-locations.
- Historically correct automatic mission completion by AI pilots in missions not involving the player using a new technique we developed.
- Historically correct awards and conditions for awards.
- Realistic calendar of European Weather.
- Virtual “Newspaper”, depicting timely events at the front, new inventions in science and technology, and list of important aces published on a regular basis.
- All virtual AI squadron mates have their own names, grow in rank and abilities, go the hospital if needed and receive awards for their actions.
- Ability to meet historic allied or enemy aces in combat situations. If you kill a famous enemy ace he will not re-appear and his kill total will stop in the press.
- Ability to be transferred to another squadron with promotion in rank.
- Realistic attrition of personnel and material in your squadron.
- Repair of damaged aircraft and hospitalization of wounded pilots.
- Ability to use a custom paint job after 5 kills.
- Opportunity to become a squadron commander and plan missions.
- Planning includes the selection of pilots and aircrafts, which will participate in your flight.
- Editing a route: choice of range, move waypoints, a height indicator, buildings types, speeds and altitudes.
- Many new villages, town and industrial areas added to the map along with windsocks at airfields.”
Dedicated server improvements Input/output modules were added to the dedicated server system in order to allow interfacing it with third-party programs written in other software languages. This allows servers to create custom programs to modify mission environments. This is intended to allow for programs similar to Air Dominance War for IL-2 (a project once worked on by some members of the Rise of Flight team), which combines some of the features of campaigns and co-op missions with dogfight servers. Additional improvements include, new commands were added to the dedicated servers, the ability to set minimum fuel levels (to keep players from flying with five percent fuel on dogfight servers), and the optional addition of flash animations to how the missions are displayed. Map updates In collaboration with volunteers, numerous “new villages, town and industrial areas added to the map along with windsocks at airfields”. This significantly improves the variety and accessibility of targets for ground attack and makes the “maximum realism” experience of unassisted navigation more engrossing. New “mods on” loading process Until recently missions could take several times the amount of time to load when the option to have modifications was switched on. This was changed to make the load times almost identical — a major boon for players with slower memory and hard drives. This makes it easier to fly with tweaked artificial intelligence, bomb detonation delays, tracers and gunner behaviors.