Multiplayer connectivity has long been alternately EECH’s finest feature and worst downfall. The stability of multiplayer games has historically been a tenuous affair, but things do appear to be getting better due to the hard work of people like Werewolf, Jabberwok, Schorpp, Jens Wegener, and Kimchoc. Last year I had good success joining on Kimchoc’s server several times, although keeping the server from crashing required regular attention by the host. The cool thing about joining a MP server is that the war is going on in real time for the duration, allowing you to hop in whenever you find time (for either side!), contribute to the campaign, then hop back out. A single human player on the server can make a significant amount of progress in the campaign, so instead of feeling like a very small part of the overall scheme of things your role can be very important and your efforts will be contributing a large part toward victory (or defeat!). A great feature is that you can join in on a flight that is already in progress. Simply pick the flight that you see your human friend flying, select the icon for the flight and jump into one of the AI airframes to take control.
To test out the MP connectivity for this article I joined the owner of SimHQ, Doug “guod” Atkinson and his friend Jim “Woxof” Hart, who have been regularly flying EECH in MP mode for many years. I had to retro-grade my install to match their installs which did initially cause some issues for me. For our flight we used executable version 1.6.0W15 with no WUT file loaded. My biggest problem with this “older” install was that my Saitek X52 and CH Pro Pedals would not work correctly with this older version so I had to use a very poor substitute, my Logitech WingMan RumblePad (not highly recommended). Also missing from this older executable are many of the cool new features that make the most recent version so incredible.
Once I had my configuration issues sorted out, Doug hosted the game and Jim and I had no serious problems joining the game. It should be noted that if you DO have an error of some sort during the joining process, the best possible solution appears to be a total reboot of all of the systems participating in order to start the process fresh.
Once you enter the server’s IP, you can go to the CAMPAIGN or SKIRMISH menus to look for and join the game you are looking for. We flew a couple different skirmishes which are nice because they can be very short with limited goals required to win the game. Once you click on the campaign you chose a side and are presented with the familiar campaign planning and mission selection screen. From there you can choose your own flight or join your friends and fly with them in their mission.
Here the three of us (with one AI wingman) are all lined up in formation heading toward the target on autopilot. For voice communications we used Roger Wilco with great results. By checking the SIT REP menu on the map page you can readily see what the overall goal of the campaign or skirmish is. Just remember, when you are in the map and other screens your helicopter is barreling ahead unattended if you aren’t on autopilot. This caused me to impact terra firma once during our session.
Here are Doug and I in formation heading for our strike. Doug and Jim were much more mission capable with their helicopters than I was using my little gamepad to attempt to fly. It was all I could do to maintain a hover, let alone use my weapons and sensors. While Doug and Jim systematically disassembled the enemy, I wandered over a ridge and was promptly engaged by the machine gun on a T-80 tank. Ducking back to the cover of the ridgeline I saw that all of my systems were out and I would have to dead reckon back to base for repairs. The ability to repair and rearm at a FARP or home base in EECH (MP and single player) is a great feature that lets you get back to the action relatively quickly.
Doug and Jim cleaned house on our last mission of the night and on our previous mission Jim and Doug muscled the enemy into submission resulting in a victory. My performance was so poor that I’m guessing they will invite me back but make me fly for the Red side next time!
The MP action was great fun and once the connection was made the session was pretty stable. I had one abrupt CTD when I was outside the aircraft, panning around in my attempts to take screenshots for this article (combat photojournalism at its finest!) but I was able to rejoin the game with no problems. The ability to save the game at anytime during the progression of the campaign is useful; if the game does crash you can reload a saved position and continue on your merry way. In the newest version of the EECH executable there is an autosave feature in the code that will allow for automatic saves based on a set period of time that you define in the eech.ini file. I’m not sure if the autosave works with MP server games or not, but it sure would be useful if it does. I had a great time flying with Doug and Jim and hope to do more EECH MP very soon.