A is for Alphabetised wargame, sim, and site news. Once a month, assuming I can persuade Austerity’s Blackburn Cirrus Bombardier engine to perform the miracle of internal combustion, I spend a day or two scouring Simulatia and Grognardia for stories with the potential to fascinate, startle, cheer, dismay or amuse. Those stories are then dehydrated, alphabetised and delivered, via articles like this one, to people who’ve got better things to do than plough through puff and platitudes.
B is for Brachiation
While I’m a tad disappointed by Broken Rules’ eleventh-hour change of theme (in the alpha demo of Gibbon: Beyond the Trees you played an 18th Century English historian who, for a bet, attempts to traverse the county of Hampshire without touching the ground) this winsome “hand-drawn adventure” (ETA Feb 25) is sure to end up installed on the THC toe-warmer before Winter is over. Inspired by real threats to the gibbon – deforestation, palm oil production, and poaching – the game’s narrative almost writes itself. Assuming locomotion is as pleasing as it looks to be, and the devs resist the urge to anthropomorphise their hirsute gymnasts, all should be well.
C is for Cretan clash
Having chit shuffled in the vicinity of Maleme Airfield numerous times, the idea of lead slinging and grenade tossing amongst the olive groves and sun-baked terraces is seriously appealing. Thanks to officially-supported modders, all Post Scriptum owners can now experience one of Operation Mercury’s fiercest and most pivotal engagements as either a besmocked Green Devil or a bare-kneed Kiwi. Eventually, ‘Chapter Mercury’ will also boast a Rethymno map and Greek, Australian, and Italian play options.
D is for DeGenerals divulge
Eager to learn more about game #8 on my Tipped Ten list, I sent DeGenerals a clutch of Tank Squad questions last month. The answers that came back from Łódź reveal a developer keen to restrain expectations, and still weighing up options in important areas.
“We do not want to make another Steel Fury or IL-2 Sturmovik: Tank Crew – we know that competing with these veterans is out of our reach. There are already other very interesting tank sims in development, one of which is GHPC. We won’t take up direct battle with them, instead we want to connect our previous work with some simulation and arcade systems, and make a game that’s both playable and exciting.”
Some of the dev’s deference may emanate from a mistaken belief that a planned third-person camera and control option (first-person play will, of course be possible) will turn-off hardcore simmers attracted by the truthful ballistics and damage modelling. On behalf of all those raised on Panzer Elite Special Edition, I’d like to reassure them that very few potential customers will be deterred by the presence of a kestrel cam.
One of TS’s most unusual features, dismounted first-person activity, will be no gimmick by the sound of it. It’s going to be included not so claustrophobic FPS fiends can go on killing sprees with SMGs and grenades, but because WW2 tankers conducted recon, made repairs, and fought fires on foot. “During battles, repairs will probably be limited to fixing damaged tracks, replacing wheels, and connecting tow ropes to other tanks – relatively simple stuff. Obviously there will be risks attached to temporarily quitting a tank in a battle zone” I was told.
One of the more important design decisions the Poles are still pondering is “Should recovery vehicles like the Sd.Kfz. 9 ‘Famo’ be player-drivable?”. Another is “How exactly should bogging and de-bogging be simulated?”. Axes and shovels will probably prove useful in TS. Whether track anchors and grousers will ever save bacon is less certain.
Unless pipped to the post by some currently unannounced thunder stealer, Tank Squad is set to be the first single-player armour sim to incentivise careful camouflage application. The speed with which enemies spot your steed won’t just be influenced by range, speed, smoke, and experience levels, the amount of greenery festooning your AFV will also have an impact. Forgotten to apply decals or stick a flag on the rear deck after a repaint? Your risk of falling victim to friendly fire increases.
E is for Emulate Earhart
The Fokker Trimotor add-on that hit the Marketplace this week is manna from heaven for Flight Sim owners with high boredom thresholds and passion for aviation history. Using it you can recreate several landmark flights of the 1920s. Richard Byrd’s controversial trip to the North Pole (1926), Amelia Earhart’s crossing of the Atlantic (1928), Charles Kingsford Smith’s trans-Pacific flight (1928)… they’re all simulatable in MSFS now, albeit without the period airstrips that, in places like Suva, were barely fit for purpose.
F is for Free Titanic tour
Bearing in mind the quality of the décor modelling and texturing, and the percentage of the titular ship that’s explorable, I’m surprised the Titanic: Honor and Glory demo that arrived on Tuesday weighs in at only 12 GB. James Penca and colleagues have made available around 30% of the vessel they’ve been lovingly researching and replicating for over a decade.
G is for Growth spurt
It’s amazing the difference a few new bridge models and a bit of lineside vegetation can make to a rail sim. Already uncommonly evocative, Diesel Railcar Simulator’s transportational powers threaten to reach supernatural levels once this WIP scenery update drops later this month.
H is for Hire a new sim correspondent, you cheapskates
Not content with summarily dismissing their longest-serving columnist after said columnist declared that he wasn’t a fan of cancel culture or the erosion of women’s rights, RPS are now recycling the poor schmuck’s work in the laziest, most inept way imaginable. Littered with outdated inclusions and inappropriate and missing images, this “25 best simulation games on PC” piece masquerades as a new Holly Alice article when in fact 99% of it was penned by me in May 2015! Poor show, RPS. Your readers deserve better.
[EDIT 12/02/2022. The article referred to in this entry has now been restored to its original form.]
I is for Invaluable information exchange
Compiling A2Zs would be a piece of Battenberg if every simulation and wargame subgenre had an equivalent to Subsim.com. Neal Steven’s virtual seamen’s mission turned 25 last week, and remains as popular, useful, and focused as ever. In a sector where long-term survival is hard and unsympathetic takeovers not uncommon, a quarter of a century at the heart of a hobby is quite an achievement.
J is for Jam-worthy escapade
The hopeless (for the Allies) WW2 battle at the centre of the next standalone Strategy Game Studio title ended with a flight that would make a splendid Escape & Evasion Game Jam entry or Commando comic chapter. Desperate, bloody, but ultimately successful, ‘The Christmas Day Dash’ involved 68 men including a courageous Chinese admiral with a cash stuffed prosthetic leg, five MTBs and a motor launch, and a veritable whirlwind of Japanese munitions.
K is for Knowledgeable knewcomer?
Dear (£46.50), thematically conservative, and visually primitive, Panzers on the Steppe has secured a slot in the next 3×3 only because I happened to Google its creator’s name. It turns out that Demetrios G. Glinos – whose interest in military history isn’t limited to WW2 – teaches courses in AI and programming at the University of Central Florida. Promising.
L is for Legio Ad Signa
Orbi Universo, a moreish curio I described as “basically freeze-dried, turn-stripped Civ. Civ without bourgeois luxuries like maps and movable warriors.” when it first hit Steam a couple of years ago is nearing the end of its developmental journey. Now that 20th Century delights like fascist dictatorships, Moon landings, and thermonuclear war have been added, the French devs are shifting their attention to Legio Ad Signa, a very different animal. Potentially playable in Early Access form before the year is out, LAS is a tactical wargame that “recreates ancient warfare battlefields with a graphically minimalist, non-arcade and in-depth systems approach. You play as a general from Rome or their enemies in the midst of a battle, up to 200k soldiers simulated at the same time. Your role is to organize and lead your army until your enemies rout, and unlike most other games of this style, it will heavily focus on the simulation aspect in which the hierarchy of armies, partially autonomous officers and the non-immediateness of orders are the rule.”. A 2D Roman-themed Take Command then? Bring it on!
M is for Miniature interview
…with Luke Hughes of Green Tree Games.
THC: How fuzzy are Burden of Command’s AI routines? Testing familiar scenarios are you ever surprised by enemy behaviours?
Luke: The AI’s decisions are fuzzy in that they are utilitarian but probabilistic. Meaning the AI scores all possible plans on their bang for buck (“Utility Analysis”) and then proportional to that score throws marbles into a metaphorical bucket of choices. Then it picks a marble (i.e. plan) from the bucket. So if ‘retreat’ is scored 8 and ‘shoot’ is scored 2 then there is an 80% chance it will retreat but also a 20% chance of it unexpectedly shooting! So the AI doesn’t always do the most ‘predictable’ thing. I have a slider too which I can play with how ‘predictable’ the AI is. So yeah we get surprised!
THC: Will BoC penalize inconsistent commanders?
Luke: In a word ‘yes’. Akin to Disco Elysium’s Thought Cabinet we have leader mindsets. Picking narrative choices that aren’t close to a leader’s dominant mindset (see design doc image above) stresses them (Stress is an RPG attribute affecting morale). In other words, acting inconsistently mindset-wise adds stress. The further from your core mindset, the more the stress cost. So a ‘zeal’ focused leader would have a hard time picking a ‘cautious’ choice.
THC: Interesting. Say I’ve managed to get a leader seriously stressed through erratic decision-making – how would this manifest itself in game?
Luke: Stress for leaders currently means that they may eventually narratively have a breakdown (PTSD in modern terms, ‘combat fatigue’ then) with possible significant consequences. The breakdowns are character backstory driven as well. That is, a person’s nature and history influences how their breakdown is expressed.
As you know in WWII – or any war – the evidence suggests everyone, besides a few pathological exceptions apparently (those who enjoy killing) – breaks eventually with sufficient combat exposure. It’s just a question of how long.
Units will acquire stress based on exposure to casualties (definitely), suppression (maybe), and narrative events. R&R will alleviate it.
THC: The longer and more public a game’s gestation, the more chance there is of copycats muscling in, and cynics crying “vapourware”. Do you ever wish you’d announced Burden of Command later?
Luke: The benefits for a small indie of getting the word out early outweigh the downsides. We don’t have big budgets to push the message so we need sustained time. But maybe not as much time as BoC took. 🙂
THC: Name a game, either upcoming or released, that you think deserves more attention.
Luke: Creativity often comes from left field so I will make two untraditional suggestions for this digital wargaming audience
1. Sacred Fire. There is an emerging genre of psychologically focused RPGs and tactical games. This is one of them, focused on Romans and Celts and how you manage emotions in confrontations.
THC: Thank you for your time
N is for Name embellishment
The closest thing Tally-Ho Corner has to an on-call WordPress wonk did some site tweaking over Christmas. One consequence is it’s now relatively easy to display tiles besides user names in the comments. If you’re one of THC’s vital airlifters and would like to see your tile whenever you comment, notify me via a comment or an email and I’ll arrange it. Not commissioned a tile yet? Be my guest.
O is for Overdue review
Apologies for not delivering a The Troop review by the end of January as promised. Distracted by CS: Vietnam, I’ve only recently started playing Giant Flame’s hexy battler in earnest. Will my growing misgivings about AI competence, camera restrictions, and the lack of opportunity fire, eventually displace my early enthusiasm? Find out next Friday.
P is for Pretty pro sim
The days when recreational combat flight sims made their military-issue siblings look frumpy may be numbered. An outfit called Meta Immersive Synthetics are busy combining the Unreal Engine with a proprietary physics system, and the result – I think you’ll agree – looks pretty swish.
Q is for Quick tea break
R is for Referee Simulator
Few people realise that 95% of the recherche sim concepts hatched in Poland every year are the brainchildren of just one man. Known as ‘The Source’ to his employers, PlayWay and Movie Games, 78-year-old Marek Lipka spends his days riding trams, sitting in parks, and loitering below the open windows of conservatoires in his hometown of Katowice. On a good day he returns home with two ideas as dazzlingly why-has-no-one-done-this-before? as Referee Simulator.
S is for Stanier stalwarts
I expected Train Sim World’s first steam locos to come with a research-friendly British heritage line. Kudos to Dovetail for aiming higher. The recently announced Jubilee and 9F are to be accompanied by an apt period route – a 1950s recreation of the thirty-four mile portion of the West Coast Main Line between Crewe and Liverpool Lime Street. Junction and signal rich, the modelled metals would have been incredibly busy and (in rolling stock terms) cosmopolitan circa 1958. Can DTG convey that activity and colour? I doubt it, but if the locos and lineside scenery captivate, overlooking dull/empty yards, sidings, and MPDs shouldn’t be hard.
T is for Things I’ve never done in Flight Simulator #73
Pranged a Cessna on a level crossing then been rescued in the nick of time by plucky police officers.
U is for Unavailable on Steam
Higher frame-rates, gentler learning curves, the lure of groaning mega-mods such as Operation Desert Storm… there are numerous reasons why a fan of swept wings and Sidewinder sport might opt for the dowdy Strike Fighters 2 rather than the debonair DCS World. Cost should be a factor too, but thanks to Third Wire’s unyielding approach to pricing and marketing, the family of SF2 sims aren’t quite the impulse buys they might be.
V is for Valor & Victory: Stalingrad
Might Valor & Victory be ready for a THC assessment at last? The £7 Stalingrad add-on that launched yesterday was accompanied by a free update that addressed some of the base game’s more glaring omissions. Mortars, flamethrowers, off-board artillery, air support, snipers, and minefields can now influence scenario outcomes.
W is for Wire-frame nostalgia
A screensaver discovered on an ancient PC once owned by Lockheed Martin has prompted David Walters to rethink the training segment of his upcoming retro chopper sim. Now novices in Untitled Helicopter Game will learn the ropes using the sort of cock-and-bull ‘VR’ view that Hollywood adored in the ’80s and ’90s.
X is for Xtra angry abodes
Swollen by many fee-free updates over the years, Tank Mechanic Sim gets its first priced adjunct this afternoon. First Supply contains fabulous replicas of the Churchill AVRE, King Tiger, IS-2, BT-7 and Hellcat, as you’ll discover if you win the following subscribers-only competition. The first three airlifters to email me (tim at tallyhocorner dot com) the identities of the three Google Street Viewable Bovington exhibits in this collage will win activation codes for TMS and First Supply
Y is for Yugoslavia next
My last visit to Attack at Dawn’s Steam forum wasn’t a total waste of time. Although I still can’t tell you when precisely in ‘Spring 2022′ Panzer Division Games’ WeGo (or turnless, if you prefer) debut will debut, I do now know the setting of its sequel. Tomislav Čipčić is staying close to home for Project #2. For the first time ever, Yugoslavia’s complicated WW2 history will get a computer game all to itself.
Z is for Zonked
Since compiling my Tipped Ten, Second Front has gained an ETA – “2022”. Project lead, Jo Bader, tells me that he’s currently working dawn to dusk, seven days a week on his hexy WW2 opus and that it’s “stable/robust and alpha-tested”. “Very confident” he can deliver in the next twelve months, Jo won’t be relaxing any time soon. Areas still in need of attention include “sounds, the manual, localization, paintings, buildings, vehicles, behaviors, tactics, strategies, scenarios, campaigns (including “Player is defending” campaigns), options, map exit points, Steam trading cards and partisans.”