Computer games

Return of the Elite

Why are Nav beacons still in the game? That’s the question. And if you’re interested, I will explain why. In my usual incoherent, rambly style.

About a year ago, at a time when I was absolutely hooked on the game, I wrote a blog post on Elite: Dangerous describing the good, the bad and the utter lack of anything ugly in the game I felt so strongly about. Since then I’ve kind of moved on, I got my Anaconda and combat elite rating so I had sort of reached my personal goals in Elite. I also had a few high workload games I needed to review, so I started spending less and less of my time in Elite, flying around shooting baddies and taking stuff from A to B. The introduction of new ships (that threatened to be bigger and better than my venerable ‘Conda!) and the Horizons expansion drew me back in, however, to see if things had changed significantly.

Well had they? Yes and no. As the hopeful side of me expected, there have been some major additions and necessary improvements to the game. However, the limits of what is possible with the design are looking more and more like impassable barriers just like my pessimistic side feared. Elite: Dangerous is a game for the long haul so it’s a bit early to draw final conclusions at the dawn of season two, but at least I can do some predictions and even if such predictions are by necessity inaccurate, the analysis itself might be interesting. And in the end we just might figure out what’s so important about those Nav beacons.

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Waiting for DCS World 2.0

During the years the flight simulator industry has been experimenting with different business models. 777 Studios went free-to-play with Rise of Flight and then used crowd funding in their recent Il-2 sequel projects (as 1C Game Studios). The older Il-2 titles are basically in the hands of (rather capable) modders as is another illustrious veteran, Falcon 4. One of the more interesting developments of the recent years happened when Microsoft basically pulled the rug from under a huge (relatively speaking) group of 3rd party content producers by basically ending the development of the hugely popular Flight Simulator series.

At about the same time Eagle Dynamics was getting started with an extremely interesting new concept called Digital Combat Simulator World. Basically the idea was to get rid of the constant upgrading process required to keep their existing DCS titles compatible with their new releases – note for example how there’s a product called Flaming Cliffs 3 and yes, it really does mean that you had to buy Flaming Cliffs three times if you wanted to keep it compatible first with the Black Shark and later the A-10C Warthog (or actually the DCS World at this point).

It’s always nice to see someone bump into a problem and come up with a beautiful solution and that’s exactly what happened at Eagle Dynamics. In addition to simply solving the legacy module upgrading issue the DCS World framework has potential to become one of the most important developments in the history of PC flight simulations. The platform is now available for third parties – like the ones abandoned by Microsoft – and we already have a host of modules from a number of developers and a lot more on the way.

The situation with DCS World (2.0) is extremely interesting due to its potential importance to the whole industry. In the following text I will take a look at the current situation as well as what the future potentially has in store for us and at least try to explain exactly why I feel DCS world has so much potential in it, map out the challenges ahead and estimate a bit on where the project is going. And why we might be headed for the mother of all forum wars that could completely dwarf previous battles such as the infamous Cockpit Bar brawl.

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The Hardware Hardships of the 2010’s

This blog entry started out as a reply to a message by robtek on the Il-2 Battle of Stalingrad(/Moscow) forums considering the limitations of the Digital Nature engine used in Rise of Flight and BoS/BoM. You would be forgiven for thinking I’m sometimes easy to launch into full rant -mode since that’s exactly what happened this time as well – and I don’t even really disagree with robtek! However, I do believe there’s an interesting and important hardware-related perspective when comparing the likes of Il-2 BoS and to an extent Digital Combat Simulator to older titles such as Il-2 and Falcon 4.0. So, let’s take a trip down memory lane for a look at how things have changed and how they’ve stayed the same for simulation gamers during the last couple of decades.

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The Sturmovik Controversies

Il-2 Sturmovik is one of the most legendary flight simulation franchises of all time. When the first Il-2 game was released in 2001 it was not only an excellent flight simulator but also a messenger of better times to come; despite many western publishers basically abandoning the genre, a couple of dedicated teams from Eastern Europe would carry on and basically define what simulation gaming in the early 21st century would be like (pretty awesome, actually). However, the long awaited sequel was far from successful and many – me included – thought it might be the swan song for a revered brand. The publisher 1C Company had other plans, however, and when they announced co-operation with 777 Studios (of Rise of Flight fame) for another Il-2 sequel that was to be known as Battle of Stalingrad many – me included – were overjoyed. The initial plans sounded brilliant and the first alpha test versions were basically exactly as promising as one would expect from the team that made the artistically exquisite Rise of Flight.

Of course there just had to be a dark plot twist to this story. Right now, with the dedicated server and mission editor freshly released, we are at a crucial point for the new Sturmovik franchise. With those features included the first installment of the series can finally be considered complete and we get a look at the game in its full glory. Do note, however, that this is not a comprehensive review, but rather a look at some very specific aspects of the game.

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Computer games

Elite: Dangerous or Endangered

Right at the end of 2014 there was a discussion between the Elitists of the Pelit-magazine on the subject of who would write the review. I was quite relieved when we decided that it wouldn’t be me, because rating the game at the time wasn’t a challenge I was looking forward to – and it still isn’t. There wasn’t a grade in this world that would accurately depict both the insane addiction and excitement I felt as well as the myriad of flaws in the core design I had noticed back during the beta period.

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Oculus Rift in Simulator Gaming – Potentially the Most Disruptive Tech Since TrackIR

To keep things simple I’m making the assumption that you already know what the Oculus Rift is (and if you don’t, clicking on the hyperlink will point you toward one of the most interesting technological gizmos of the recent years) and I’m simply left with the pleasant task of telling you what it really is. We are talking about disruptive technology, so it’s not going to be simple or straightforward to assess its impact on simulation gaming (or anything else for that matter), but I can assure you it’s going to be controversial and hopefully interesting so please bear with me even though this is a rather long article.

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