Wednesday, November 30, 2016

New on Marooner's Rock: Backlog Burndown #6 - Victory Volvos

New Backlog Burndown column over on Marooner's Rock. This week I take on Volvo - The Game, a free racing title from Sector3 (formerly SimBin) where you race, surprise! BMWs. Just kidding, it's Volvos.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Aircraft of Battlefield 1 - An Overview

Battlefield 1 has quickly become my current multiplayer game of choice. Set in approximately the 1917 time frame after America entered the war, it showcases the clash of old and new technologies that defined the Great War. Horse-mounted cavalry charge alongside the first tanks. Infantry combat mixes machine-guns with spiked trench maces. Overhead, wood and canvas biplanes and triplanes duel to the death.
Official game art from EA. Fokker DR. 1 triplanes, a rocket armed SPAD XIII, and a Zeppelin!
 Aviation is my specific fascination; as regular readers will already know. Military aircraft evolved during World War 1 at a prodigious pace, moving from slow, unarmed reconnaissance aircraft whose pilots waved to their foes; to relatively fast powerful fighters armed with two or three machine-guns battling the first aerial bombers.

Battlefield 1 divides its aircraft into three types: Fighters, Attack, and Bombers. If you’re looking for accurate, simulator quality flight models, this is not the game for you. The aircraft look fantastic, however, while the game trades flight model fidelity for simplified fun that fits well with the rest of Battlefield’s vehicles.

For the next few weeks I’ll be doing a deep dive into some of the history and stories behind these aircraft.

First, the fighters. Battlefield characterizes fighters as anti-air focused, single-seat aircraft, with limited ground attack capability. The designers choose four of the most iconic aircraft of WW1 for this role: The SPAD XIII (France), Sopwith Camel (England), Albatros D. III (Germany), and Fokker DR. I (Germany). All great choices, particularly the iconic DR. I triplane, although I would have loved to see a Nieuport 11 and Fokker Eindecker from earlier in the war represented as well.

Nieuport 11 (replica)
Attack aircraft, which Battlefield defines as two-seat multirole aircraft with both air- and ground-attack abilities, draw from both fighter and reconnaissance aircraft used during the war. German gets the Rumpler C.I and Halberstadt CL. II, while the Allies get the Salmson 2 and Bristol F2B Fighter. The “Brisfit” is a particularly inspired choice, as its reputation was built on its success at fighting like a smaller, nimbler single seater.

Finally, for bombers, Germany gets the Gotha IV, while the Allies get the Caproni CA.5. Why an Italian bomber rather than a French or English design, I don’t know, but it does mean that all the major powers to field indigenous designs are represented.

World War 1 is an era that is seriously underrepresented in gaming. Here’s hoping that Battlefield and a couple of other games will turn developers’ eyes back to this tumultuous setting.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving! My Favorite Thanksgiving Story

For those living in the United States, Happy Thanksgiving! May your tables be free from political arguments, and filled with good food. And if you participate in Black Friday sales, then may you find everything you are looking for tomorrow.
Muppet parody of Norman Rockwell's famous painting Freedom from Want

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New on Marooner's Rock: Backlog Burndown #5 - Jisei

New Backlog Burndown column over on Marooner's Rock. This week I played a visual novel called Jisei from sakevisual, and talk a bit about gaming comfort food.

Jisei title screen

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Let's Play: Star Wars: X-Wing vs TIE Fighter: Balance of Power - Rebel Campaign Mission #12

We're getting towards the end of the Rebel campaign here, and the difficulty curve, already high to begin with, has definitely taken a turn for the nigh impossible.

I'm not sure whether it's a bug or a design feature that killing capital ship components is basically impossible on Medium and Hard difficulties, but it definitely pushes a very difficult mission even more towards the impossible side. I highly recommend playing this mission on Easy, since I cannot believe that disallowing component destruction was an intentional feature.

In this mission, your only ship choice is the X-Wing. You have no warheads, a static asteroid base to defend, and a bunch of ships to inspect.

The inspection portion is simple enough, at least at first. While keeping an eye out for late arrivals, inspect all of the capital ships, and send your wingmen after the enemy T-Wings that jump in to engage the base. The T-Wings are armed with Proton torpedoes, and while they won't get in a lot of hits, each one will come back to bite you later.

Once you've inspected all the transport craft, help destroy the T-Wings. There's a total of twelve of them that jump in, after which the party really starts! A straggling Corellian Corvette will jump in, followed closely by an Imperial Star Destroyer, and groups of two Assault Gunboats. Send your wingmen after the gunboats, and inspect the Corvette quickly before the ISD can destroy it.

Try to position yourself to intercept some of the torpedoes that the Assault Gunboats launch at the R&D station. The gunboats will come in with six waves of two, and once they're finished, you'll still have to drive off the ISD, which will come into range of the R&D outpost to finish the job that the T-Wings and Assault Gunboats started.

This is where component destruction comes in really handy. If you're playing on Medium or Hard, your only choice is just going to be to try and hammer the ISD with everything you've got until it runs away. On Easy, you can take out the shield generators, then start targeting laser turrets until the ISD starts to go away.

Once the ImpStar is either destroyed or jumps away, you just have to wait for the remaining Rebel transports to jump out! Only a few missions left!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Virtual Wings: Slayn & Korpil A/SF-01 B-Wing PIREP

The corporation had one final Alliance fighter for me to try: the Slayn & Korpil A/SF-01 B-Wing, or "Blade Wing" to its pilots. Developed as a replacement for the venerable Y-Wings that provided the backbone of the Rebellion's strike packages during the Galactic Civil War, the B-Wing packaged a light capital ship's firepower into a slim, single pilot snubfighter.


Other innovations included a gyroscopic stabilized cockpit, modular weapon pods adaptable to varied mission profiles, and rack launch/storage similar to TIE series craft. The stabilized cockpit proved a particular point of debate. It added significant maintenance complexity to the design, and proved a difficult adjustment for most pilots, as I would soon find out. However, it was an important design element for carrier operations, since while the B-Wing could be rack stored in the vertical position, it took off and landed in a horizontal position.

Climbing into the cockpit provided a huge contrast to the A-Wing I'd recently flown. Where I'd practically needed a shoehorn, second person, and a vat of droid lubricant to fit into the cockpit of the "Slim", the B-Wing's front office was almost big enough for two. In fact, a two-seat variant for armed VIP transport did exist, and required very little modification to the cockpit area.

Startup procedures for the Quadrex Kyromaster engine were conventional, and familiar to any YT-1300 series light freighter operators. The corporation normally uses TIE launch racks for its B-Wings. However, for this flight, I took off conventionally, departing the hanger under repulsor power, switching to engine thrust after exit, and opening the S-Foils once I'd cleared the arrival/departure lanes.

In standard configuration, the B-Wing held a perfectly acceptable 91 MGLT for top speed. Increasing charge to one system dropped speed to 80 MGLT, or the same as a flat-out Y-Wing, and with all systems at maximum power, the B-Wing positively waddled at a max speed of 45 MGLT. Pushing all power into the engines gave an absolute maximum speed of 137 MGLT. Not bad, but definitely no speedster.

Maneuvering the B-Wing was unlike anything else I've flown. Pitch-only motion felt normal enough, but the moment any yaw or roll movement entered the equation, the cockpit would begin rotating to maintain level. Save for completely disabling the gyro system (a solution favored by some users both for its simplicity and maintenance) I could not find an adjustment that would prevent some quantity of uncomfortable side loading during aggressive maneuvers. Ultimately I tried to get as comfortable as I could manage before engaging in some mock dogfights.

Like the Y-Wing, the B-Wing is slower and less maneuverable than the common interceptor and space superiority fighters field during the GCW. It is faster than the Y-Wing, and carries a massive set of shields, allowing it to soak up an impressive amount of fire from both enemy fighters and capital ships. A typical weapons configuration of three lasers and three ion cannons backs up twelve proton torpedoes. In combat I did okay in one-on-one and two-on-one engagements, but even with the heavy shielding, going to four-on-one was simply overwhelming, with enemy fighters able to use their superior speed and maneuverability to pick me apart.

My time testing Alliance fighters from the GCW era complete, I would consider the B-Wing the third best of the bunch. For me, the X-Wing probably ranks on top for its sheer adaptability to all roles,while the A-Wing is one of my all time favorite hotrods. The B-Wing provided an excellent replacement for the Y-Wing, but definitely suffered from a few oddities.