Hello there, community!
Before we even begin, allow me to wish each and every one of you Merry Christmas & – of course, first and foremost considering the day, Happy New Year. We sincerely hope that everything is and will remain well with you, your family and your friends. In this moment of happiness and reunion, enjoy every bit of kindness you come across, for there’s never enough of it around.
But it wouldn’t be right for you alone to have all the fun. Julien, our dear 2D Art Lead blessed us with a lovely custom desktop wallpaper for Christmas & a swell greeting card for the New Year – so that your computer might spend the holidays in style too! The Christmas issue depicts a colorful representation of USS Yorktown, while the New Year card is all about USS New Orleans, one of the most decorated ships of the war (we went for the 16 battle stars theory – apologies in advance if we offended anyone…!).
As you will certainly realize yourself, these cards are made from screenshots taken in-game. Julien has added his own touch to Rizki’s beautiful models and the convincing way Jean-Baptiste’s engine renders them. Enjoy this instant of serenity before we get back to the business at hand! Click on the link below the images to download the hi-res version of these works.
Well, it has been two months since our last update. November came and went with a lot of IRL business that kept us busy, and so did December – but as our social media accounts will reveal, we were certainly out there doing some work.
Even though we had stuff lying around we were still wondering what our site update policy should be – as a matter of fact, should we wait for some important feature to come along, or should we simply post stuff regularly instead? Well, from now on, we will try to deliver you content on a more regular basis (at least once a month, hopefully more often). In the meantime, let us share a few highlights of what has been achieved so far, mostly as a sneak peek of our next video update.
After Kaga in October, November saw Akagi rejoin the fleet. The fact that it happened pretty much around the time R/V Petrel found her remains at the bottom of the ocean only makes her resurrection more moving & humbling. Our 3D artist Rizki gave it all, and it shows! Here are a few shots. Don’t mind the mirror-like reflections on the flight deck, these are pre-rendered in the 3D software – and as such, materials do not answer to light as they will in the game proper. The model, as one can expect according to the standards of our game, is relatively low in polygon numbers, which makes the level of detail achieved by Rizki all the more impressive considering the limited resources allowed.
Speaking of Akagi, there she is featuring in a most romantic setting, steaming nonchalantly in the breeze against a setting Sun. She agreed to lend her gracious curves to our lights & waves FX experiment, and we went to great lengths not to disappoint her expectations (KC fans, you wouldn’t dare displease your Bauxite Queen, would you? We know you wouldn’t!). Different materials are present in this scene, and react differently to the same light. Just enjoy the scenery…
Not every ship in the Kido Butai was exactly having the time of their life the same way as Akagi did. Hiryu in particular did not pull a lucky number, as she was thoroughly abused for weeks as the testbed for our dive-bombing AI tweaking.
As of now, our pixel Dauntless pilots are able to proceed to the target area in formation, pick a target and attack according to doctrine in a rather convincing fashion. Although Hiryu was given an escort and a fully operational anti-air artillery complement, news are dire for her: the relative inefficiency of Japanese Navy early-war anti-air is obvious here, and only marginally affects the American pilots in their dive and their escape maneuvers.
In the end, her best defense remains the radical maneuvers she makes in order to disrupt the aim of her tormentors, which sort of validates this historical tactic used by the Japanese navy. Built atop a cruiser hull with powerful machinery, she was a nimble target, able to make good speed with a responsive rudder shift time and a tight turning circle. In that, she compared favorably to her elders Akagi and Kaga, whose larger battlecruiser and battleship hulls didn’t enjoy the same properties. Even then, it is dubious that she would escape punishment for very long – and, spoilers: she doesn’t. Eventually, in our trials, she always got hit sooner or later despite her best efforts to twist herself out of this bad predicament – in a fashion not unlike that of Midway.
Overall, a lot of time was devoted to the building of a convincing AI routine for planes. Knowing that the player will not be allowed to fly them themselves (at least in Vol.1), we wanted the pixel pilots to behave in the most realistic manner despite the absence of a human interference. As you can see below, this includes among other things making sure that planes fly in a natural fashion within the flight engine parameters while executing their directives, which is no small feat with so many smaller AI-driven objects. They all want to be good boys and do what they’re told – and still, they cannot be allowed to be *too* good, otherwise they would simply not look convincing. Ah, them game development dilemmas sure are riveting, but they are exhausting too!
Fortunately, Jean-Baptiste is not the sort of person who is easily discouraged by such puny conundrums. In our opinion, he pretty much nailed it and went on providing us with a very solid flight simulation engine that will give the player just about the right feel. Here are a few more screenshots of formation flying, dive-bombing and torpedo runs. Stay put for some videos in our next update, as they look even better in motion – believe me 😉
On their end, Julien and Steven have been busy working on the gallery of historical portraits that will cross your path in the in-game narrative, spending a few tense moments with you on the radio or in the flag plot. Among the personalities who left their mark during the first half of 1942, we were pleased to feature in our on-line quizz sessions the Carrier Air Group Commanders (CAG) of USS Lexington & USS Yorktown at Coral Sea, CDR William B. Ault & LCDR Oscar Pederson.
The text below is a first look at what the bios provided in the in-game encyclopedia might contain regarding these characters. This is, naturally, work in progress, but it seems to us that Steven, as a former serviceman himself, managed to strike the right balance between the trivia & the historical dimension.
CDR William B. Ault
Born: 06 October 1898; Died 08 May 1942
Ault joined in the Navy in April 1917, serving as an enlisted man until entering the US Naval Academy in 1918. After his graduation and subsequent designation as a naval aviator, he served in a variety of scouting and torpedo squadrons until 1938 when he was promoted to Lieutenant Commander and assumed command of VT-6. In July 1941, he took command of the air group onboard the USS Lexington (CV-2).
As the Lexington air group commander, Ault helped to plan the daring 10 March 1942 attack on transports supporting the Japanese landing at Lae and Salamaua, New Guinea. In the first coordinated strike of the war, the Yorktown and Lexington air wings surprised the invasion fleet by flying a hazardous, 100-mile route through the cloud-obscured Owen Stanley mountain range to attack the Japanese unexpectedly from the west.
The day before the attack, Ault flew to Port Moresby and identified this route after learning of a pass through the mountains.The day of the strike, Ault flew unaccompanied to the pass to help guide the strike through. In the ensuing attack, two thirds of the invasion transports were damaged or sunk, shocking the Japanese military and postponing their drive towards Tulagi and Port Moresby.
Source: US Navy “Combat Narratives: Early Raids in the Pacific Ocean,
Feb 1-March 10, 1942, pg. 59 (1943, reprint 2017)
Two months later, Ault led Lexington’s air group in the Battle of the Coral Sea. On 7 May, he directed the Lexington’s strike against the Japanese light carrier Shoho, resulting in two 1000 lb. bomb and five torpedo hits on the carrier. The next day Ault led his air group on a long-range strike against the Shokaku. Despite discovering the Japanese carrier when his aircraft were at the extreme limit of their range and scattered because of weather, Ault ordered the Lexington aircraft to attack. Because of cloud cover near the Shokaku, he ordered a glide bomb attack from 5,500 feet, resulting in a 1000 lb. bomb hit on its deck.
Sometime during this attack, both Ault and his radio-gunner, ARM 1 William Butler, were apparently wounded and became lost flying back to the US task force. Although Ault established radio contact with the Yorktown, it was unable to pick up his aircraft on radar. When advised he was “on his own” and to try to find land, Ault replied: “Okay. So long, people. Remember we got a 1,000-pound hit on the flat top.” Neither Ault nor Butler was ever seen again.
Ault was posthumously awarded both the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions. The Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Ault (DD-698) and Ault Field at Whidbey Island are named after him.
And last but not least: as one of the brains behind the March 1942 raid against the Lae-Salamaua landings, we couldn’t leave you with a bio of William B. Ault without showing you the progress Jean-Baptiste has achieved when it comes to delivering us convincing ground features. Here is what the famed Owen Stanley Range in Eastern New-Guinea look like in real life (courtesy of Wikipedia):
And these screenshots below show the first prototypes we came up with when recreating the typical South Pacific topography and its rough features. Although these TBDs are not wearing the right markings for the time, their laborious yet realistic climb over the unforgiving heights can be felt in every single shot and certainly look convincing enough. Here they are, trying to keep up with the SBDs in order to unleash hell on the northern side of the mountain range. Wish them luck!
There we go – it was longer than anticipated, but certainly worth the time spent! With time, we will get a good grasp of the exercise and updates are expected to be a bit shorter – and more regular – in the future. In the meantime, in order not to miss anything, don’t forget to keep following us on our usual platforms :
And again, allow us to wish you the best for 2020. We certainly plan to make the most of of this new year by providing our testers with a first playable slice before next December (!) along with everything needed to give you a good idea of what we do and where we are headed to… Hopefully with your blessing and your kind support!
That’s all Folks. Take care & stay safe, pixel Admirals!