Feature: The 2010 Sim Year in Review
Continued from Page 1
Helicopters - Air Combat
EECH / EEAH
EECH Central's v1.13 update to the venerable Enemy Engaged: Comanche Hokum was released on May 14, 2010. The complete package is over 700MB, and is installable over the base EECH install from CD. This update is comprehensive, and is an "all-mods" package containing years of developments. The latest package adds a new, flyable AH-1Z "Viper" helicopter, UDP and SIOC-compatible data exporting for modding, adjustments to in-cockpit sound values, various bug fixes including the squashing of a frame-rate bug within the arneh-created Mi-24V cockpit, and TOW labeling for the MFDs, HUD, and arming screens in-game.
The last Razorworks EECH release, 1.4.7x, was some eight years ago. It is amazing to boot into v1.13 after flying an older iteration of the game and feel the changes. "Feel" is the operative word for this. It really feels like a helicopter should feel. Weapons have been heavily tweaked as well, showing flight characteristics and engagement envelopes that play like they're ripped directly from the literature. With the release of the EECH source code to the modding community in 2003, those most invested in this, the last simulation with a truly dynamic campaign, can finally build their own simulation without worrying about intelectual property issues. And it shows here. The creativity abounds. The game feels alive, even allowing for the paucity of voices present. One thing that stands out about flying on the Red side now is the prevalence of Russian speech on the radio. This lends great immersion. And functionality grows with each release. The current version of the Apache helicopter has nearly as much functionality as its twin in the the legendary Jane's Longbow. The places to fight have grown exponentially, and the battlefields look fantastic, taking full advantage of the elderly, but stil relevant graphic engine.
Installation of the 1.13 version has not been without difficulty. Many users have had trouble getting v1.13 to run, particularly in 64-bit environments such as Win7/64, Vista, or XP-64. The best solution appears to be installing v1.13 over a fresh-from-the-CD installation of EECH Version 1. Still, some have it running just fine on their Win 7 64-bit install on an ATI-equipped video card without problems. EECH v1.13 is well worth the flying experience.
If you haven't bought EECH and EEAH yet, both are available from Good Old Games.
DCS: Black Shark
Late in 2009, Eagle Dynamics gave us the first patch (1.0.1) for the simulation that kicked off the DCS series: Black Shark. This was followed closely by some regional updates (1.0.1b and 1.0.1c). In May of 2010, they released 1.0.2, which included a much anticipated feature: multiplayer compatibility with Lock On:Flaming Cliffs 2. Patch 1.0.2 also updated the sound engine, added a "Central Mode" to the controversial Trimmer, and improved the cheat detection/protection capabilities of the multiplayer server. Go here http://forums.eagle.ru/showthread.php?t=54012 for more info.
Longbow 2 resurrection
World War I - Air Combat
Over Flanders Fields
After delivering Over Flanders Fields Phase 3 - Between Heaven and Hell to accolades from the flight sim community and then topping it with the equally stunning Hat in the Ring Expansion Pack, the developers, OBD Software, have been working for some time now on Phase 4 in which they aim to raise the bar once again. The team says on their web site, "We have improved areas that people said could not be improved on. Also, the OFF Manager has a lot of new features and looks great." From the Phase 4 preview screenshots on the Over Flanders Fields web site it looks like Phase 4 is to yet again add to the already beautiful graphics, the number of flyable airplanes, the scope of the campaign, and the level of immersion that lets one feel transported in body and soul to the world of 1914-1918 over the Western Front. Look for Over Flanders Fields Phase 4 in 2011.
Probably the most improved game of the entire year has to be the Rise of Flight series. Some games get one or two patches to either correct issues or add features. ROF looks to be remaking itself and has gone from a pretty good game with nice graphics but missing much wanted features to a game that not only runs well, looks great and has good depth but also one that continues to add and grow as time goes on. Few companies actually both listen to the voice of the consumer and do as much as they can to implement these desires like 777 Studios and Neoqb. In the opinions of some of the writers here Rise of Flight and Rise of Flight: Iron Cross Edition is the best all around flight simulation ever made. As far as prop simulations there is no simulation better and only few that are its equal. If there is a modern day classic of the simulation genre it has to be ROF. Great planes, decent flight models, excellent graphics, improving online presence and more and more interesting campaign structure have made this the most impressive game released in quite a while.
Rise of Flight
Of all the sims we’ve reviewed and re-looked, Rise of Flight has definitely taken the prize in evolution from release to current version. Our initial review (http://www.simhq.com/_air13/air_415a.html) in 2009 highlighted a good but flawed offering with six flyable aircraft, no mission recorder, joystick inputs that couldn’t be customized, and an “always on” Internet connection required. During 2010, the developers heard us and fixed all of those issues (although there still remains limited functionality when not connected to 777/Neoqb servers) and expanded the flyable plane number from six to twenty, including the huge multi-place Handley Page bomber (with the Gotha not too long until release) and taking us back to the start of the war with the Fokker EIII and the Airco DH2. Graphics received an upgrade as well, with more options for dynamic lighting and a truly blinding sun to hunt out from. Windsocks, flare guns one can select color for and aim, persistent multiplayer modes (the surprisingly good Capture the Flag and “dogfight” ways to play), improved chat functions, and a multiplayer lobby that informs one of settings and who is in the server before all push the sim into the “must have” category for those interested in WWI aircraft and combat. The last remaining hurdles to greatness – a campaign engine to match the technical goodness and give us a rich world to fly in – is in the works.
Even after producing update after update, 777 Studios managed to add a few new planes to the RoF lineup including the Fokker E.III Eindecker (the famous monoplane "scourge" of the WWI skies), the Sopwith Pup (an easy to fly plane with good handling characteristics), the Sopwith Triplane (an agile high-performer with a unique look), the Handley Page O/400 (a classic WWI British bomber with three gunner positions and a working gunsight for the bombadier station) and the Gotha G.V (currently available for pre-order, the Gotha was huge, Die Mutter of all Kampfflugzeuge).
World War II - Air Combat
Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory
Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory saw a good year in 2010. The Battle of Britain Developers Group (the BDG) released update version 2.11 for the title, bringing an additional 200 ground models to the sim, a brand new ME-110 model, updated flight models and other treats for fans of the simulation. Every detail was painstakingly and lovingly researched and recreated for maximum historical accuracy.
The Tiger Moth which has been in developement for some time, has now been released and the creators recommend doing a separate install for this addition to the hangar.
With the historic anniversary of the Battle of Britain, SimHQ pilots flew the entire campaign which featured Battle of Britain II: Wings of Victory. If you haven't read the reports of the pilots who participated, read them here.
Storm of War
In 2010 Oleg Maddox, the man behind the wildly successful IL2 series, gave WWII air combat fanbois something to look forward to every Friday: weekly updates on his latest project, Storm of War (SoW). Set during the Battle of Britain, SoW boasts a much more detailed damage model than IL2, more involved flight dynamics and aircraft realism, and a generational leap in graphics. Oleg's regular updates including screenshots showcasing the latest state of the sim, highlighting dynamic lighting and shadows, exhaust from individual cylinders, specular reflections off of aircraft textures, and ladscapes that were simply breathtaking, especially when considering the project was still a Work In Progress (WIP). No release date has been set for the sim, but you can check the Forum 1C forums http://forum.1cpublishing.eu/forumdisplay.php?f=98 for the latest Friday update.
Wings of Prey
On Christmas day 2009, Gaijin Entertainment released Wings of Prey. So although it is technically a 2009 release, coming at the end of the year, we made the decision to include in our 2010 Review. With over 40 aircraft, 50 missions, and six theatres of WWII, Wings of Prey is an ambitious project. We thought it delivered, especially with the graphics. Terrain and some new damage effects, plus the aircraft models are outstanding. Sound was equally good. Some people thought it was a little more game than simulation, but we thought that on simulation settings it was a simulation. We were a little annoyed by the requirement to connect to the host site, YuPlay, but we understood the reasoning behind it.
European Air War
OK, starting with the main events, we have the release of the 1.28E exe, with much enhanced online play elements and a wide range of improvements to the offline game too. We have the development from that release of 24 bit colour and 512x512 skins for all the elements of the game. The improvement of the 2d screens to 1024 x 768 size....and the discovery of the d3dwindower which between them solved most of the 7217 problems. The upgrading and release of Rotton50's Spanish Air War and VonOben's Finish Air War for the new exe and the upgrading of a number of existing campaign packs from the 1.26 standard to the new 1.28E standard by Jelly. The appearance of the individual plane skin packs from Iron Mike bringing the game forward and allowing for individual plane markings within the game for the first time and the addition of new action codes allows us to model damage on the aircraft for the first time... the ability online to select airbases and plane types for all 4 squads in a mission is a big change as is the ability to re-arm players planes on airbases. We have the ability to have the game select seasonal terrain settings based on the time of year of the mission now too. For the mod makers we have not only the improvement in the size and colour definition from moving to bmp based 24 bit colour but we have increased the number of ground items both in terms of number of types of object and the total number of objects that we can place on a tile. The number of airbase types is increased from 11 to 30 and the non-target items from 64 to 128 per tile and the number of tiles for the tile map has been increased slightly too allowing us an extra 5 tiles from 59 to 64 available to us. We have increased the number of ground model types from 73 to 256 for placing in the world so we can hope to have a lot more diversity both in target and non-target objects to bring the eaw world to life in forthcoming campaigns... EAW addition/edit - From Mr. Jelly.... What Pobs has written is fine. However, the biggest feature in 1.28E is the breaking of all of the "30 plane" files such as "planes.dat". This means that individual plane packs can be assembled quite easily, with a skin set, flight and loadout data, minipic, hangar screen, aircraft name, country/nationality name, and probably other files which I have forgotten about, for each of the 30 slots. 1.28E was released with four plane sets making use of this system, ETO early, ETO late, Russia early and Russia late, plus the EAW default set in the CDF. They are selectable, along with a number of other features from the EAW configuration page.
Coming in at the end of the year is Rising Sun, an awaited add on for Strike Fighters or Strike Fighters 2 by the YAP team. The year is late 1941 or early 1942 and you are flying missions that made headlines in the opening months of the war. Rising Sun boasts some of the most impressive ship recreations of all time; Battleship Row looks absolutely amazing and every single mission in the game is a recreation of a true event flown by a real pilot during the war. This is supposed to be the first of a four part series covering the major events of the Pacific War and something WW2 fans should look forward to.
In January, the Daidalos Team officially announced they were working on Patch v4.10 for the IL-2 Series. Over the course of the year, we saw regular updates on the progress they were making, including detailed screenshots and videos, revealing one feature at a time. We saw screenshots and read discussions about new aircraft including the Do 217, A-17, Hs-129, and the Fairey Swordfish. We saw videos of new weapons like the Fritz X, Hs 293, Razon, and Bat guided weapons and the LT 350 Motobomba FFF and 45-36AB-A (45-36AV-A) circling torpedoes. More importantly, we learned about all the new capabilities the team was adding to an already great sim, including structural G limitations, Full Mission Builder updates (copy and paste units!), a new "Moving Dogfight Server" mission type, improvements to AI realism (friendly fire check, can't see through clouds), etc. This list, of course, just touches the surface of all the changes Daidalos has been working. Read here and here for more details and the latest news. The recently published readme PDF file is here.
The 4.10 update was released on Christmas Eve. Not all the content listed above made it in, but Daidalos says the missing features (AI and clouds, trigger updates, complex MDS, ship damage models, and radar) will be included in a to-be-announced 4.11 patch. The SimHQ mirror of the files is here (you must be logged into the forum to access the page).
Modern Era - Air Combat
Flaming Cliffs 2
If you enjoyed the original LockOn: Flaming Cliffs, you will enjoy the latest update from Eagle Dynamics Flaming Cliffs 2. Every human controlled aircraft from the original is added to the virtual environment seen from their DCS titles. This release update arrived between their popular DCS: Black Shark and the pre-purchase / open beta for DCS: A-10C Warthog. Flaming Cliffs 2 has greatly improved the graphics, provided solid multiplayer and other improvements. One significant feature is permitting FC2 pilots to fly multplayer with the Ka-50 from DCS: Black Shark.
Lock On Platinum
In May of 2010, The Fighter Collection/Eagle Dynamics released a Platinum package that included two all-important discs: an installation CD for Lock On: Modern Air Combat and a disc containing the Flaming Cliffs 2 update. For you sim-pilots that somehow missed the Lock On phenomenon, this platinum package is your chance to get your piece of some epic action! Read more about the Platinum package in the SimHQ interview here: http://www.simhq.com/_air13/air_441a.html.
Third Wire's expansion pack(s?)
20mm comments on the Strike Fighters releases for 2010, "Regarding the latest Third Wire remakes, that's fine. If the members want to have them as choices in our yearly poll, by all means. I have SF1 and WOV1 and the two YAP projects. I may well get Rising Sun, we'll see. But honestly, this Third Wire cow has been milked to death and needs to be put out to pasture. The graphics, especially the terrain graphics, are woefully outdated. And I cannot begin to say how irritated I get with a wingman twanging an Arkansas trucker accent about a bogey on my six. Regardless of where the hell I am (like in Israel). And the lack of a good multiplayer component. Pu-lease. Again, I salute the YAP crew for their fine efforts in improving a sim that has seen its better days, but let's move on."
DCS: A-10C Warthog
At this years E3Expo, The Fighter Collection / Eagle Dynamics teamed up with Thrustmaster, SC Simulations, and the Virtual Thunderbirds to unveil the new Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog™. The event which was by invitation only for the flight simulation press, had several simulators running to show how the HOTAS Warthog™ would work with various flight simulators. The featured simulator was DCS: A-10C Warthog. This was the first public appearance of the new air combat flight simulation.
SimHQ Contributing Editor Stephanie *Panther* Lessentine writes, "Producer Matt 'Wags' Wagner launched the beautiful sim with the engines cold. He slowly began to flip various switches to bring the A-10C to life. As he was flipping switches, I didn’t know what switch was doing what. I knew the obvious; JFS, fuel pumps, and electrical switches, but I didn’t know what the CDU, EGI, IFFCC, JTRS, or CICU was. I have a background as an F-16 mechanic, but anything on the A-10C was foreign to me. But that didn’t matter because I was eager to learn the sim from ground up."
On October 4th, Eagle Dynamics opened up an offer to pre-purchase DCS: A-10C Warthog and with the pre-purchase came access to the current beta. The open beta was designed to help the developers spot any issues with user’s hardware. However, the open beta quickly turned to where users were reporting everything from typo’s in the simulator to errors in the manual. The Eagle Dynamics beta forums were frantic for the first several days after the open beta was announced.
She continued, "I built a brand new computer to run DCS: A-10C Warthog as my previous was an XPS laptop. It ran my previous games acceptably, but DCS: A-10C Warthog brought her to her knees. After upgrading, I was able to run the simulator on maximum settings and fly around with little stuttering at the highest settings. Since it’s beta, I can expect some FPS drops or stuttering. An awesome addition for the simulator is the HOTAS Warthog and MFD Cougar pack. Both are plug-and-play devices with DCS: A-10C Warthog. No need to spend countless hours trying to perfect a HOTAS profile because the simulator assigns the appropriate functions to each controller. Since early October there have been multiple beta updates released. The one question that remains is, will we see DCS: A-10C Warthog gold before calendar year 2011?"
Falcon 4.0 / Falcon 4.0: Allied Force
From a resurgence of multiplayer activity, FreeFalcon's 5.5x releases, the Skunk Works mod, mysterious rumors of a new release by BMS...or Lead Pursuit's status, to BeachAV8R's Training Missions and Campaign Reports finding permanent homes, to some spiffy new terrain textures for Global Falcon (it says here), we once again see The King lives on!
Late in the year it was announced that long-awaited Jet Thunder had been picked up by a publisher, Aerosoft. Known for their wealth of MSFS addon products, Aerosoft is an established name in the business, and it's nice to see them branch out to a full-featured air combat simulation. The plan is for Jet Thunder to be released in stages. The first, to come in January 2011, is Jet Thunder: Ground Attack; it will include the BAe Harrier GR.3 and the FMA IA-58 Pucara. The Jet Thunder: Air Combat add-on will then be released next June; it will include the BAe Sea Harrier and the Mirage. Finally, the Jet Thunder: Falklands/ Malvinas full title will be released in September 2011; it will include the A-4B Skyhawk and Super Etendard, as well additional simulation features. The Jet Thunder team has been hard at work as privateers for many years, and we wish them luck.
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