Hello there, Ladies & Gents !
Another small update with the latest news regarding the project. Most of this info was already published on our social accounts, so if you follow us there these will not be news – but not everybody is expected to be a Facebook or a Twitter user, so here we go! We will throw in some more context as a bonus, naturally.
Well, we are a bit late for Australia Day – but still, better late than never! The ANZAC crowd is joining the fight in Task Force Admiral as of today. Please say hi to our 3D model of the Kent-subclass of County-class heavy cruiser & Leander-class light cruiser. Ships of both classes were treaty-era British-made warships which saw ample service with the Australian and New-Zealand forces during the war in the South Pacific theater. They operated together within the Royal Navy ANZAC squadron, formed into Task Force 44 by mid-1942.
This HMS Kent model will serve as the starting point for HMAS Australia & HMAS Canberra – although in their cases some modifications & refit specifics have to be ironed out first. They featured extensively in the fighting in the SOPAC area, HMAS Canberra being one of the very first unfortunate warships to fall victim to the Solomons campaign meatigrinder at Savo Island on August 1942. The original photo below is that of HMS Kent herself, to give you a better idea of the work accomplished by our talented (yet exhausted !) 3D artist Rizki. We will update our work once we get the specifics of the Australian ships right.
Next, this brand new 3D model of the Leander class stands for both HMNZS Leander & HMNZS Achilles (that one, of Battle of the River Plate fame). Note that HMAS Perth, HMAS Hobart & even the unlucky HMAS Sydney (which is sort of outside of our time frame, having sunk in her encounter with Kormoran before the hostilities began against Japan) will have to wait a bit longer, as they differed noticeably externally from their Kiwi cousins in a few ways. Their stack arrangement, in particular, was of a later design, as required by a different engine configuration giving them a characteristic twin-funneled silhouette.
Over the last few weeks, the Allied roster was also reinforced by some iconic American hardware. Today’s update features two versions of the CL-40 Brooklyn-class light cruiser – one with early anti-air artillery, the other with reinforced anti-air as of late 1942 (with added Bofors 40mm & Oerlikon 20mm mounts). One of the model was based on USS Boise (CL-47), perhaps primarily known in the Pacific for her action at Cape Esperance (and the damage she suffered there) ; the other model is based on USS Nashville (CL-46), an early companion of Task Force 16, infamously known for the… excessive ammo expenditure she needed to sink a mere Japanese picket trawler during the Doolittle Raid. Other ships of this iconic class of “machine-gun cruisers” will naturally feature prominently, as regular screen companions within your carrier Task Forces.
The CA-26 Northampton-class of “treaty” heavy cruisers also joined the fray, with no other than USS Northampton in her late 1941-early 1942 paint scheme. Her fancy Measure-5 fake wave at the bow was designed so as to confuse enemy observers regarding her actual speed, but the design had pretty much disappeared from Pacific Fleet painting habits by mid-1942. The Northampton-class will eventually feature its two sub-classes – the common and the “flagship” version, which had a slightly different superstructure designed as to accommodate the requirements of a flag officer and its staff (aka you and your boys). Except for USS Augusta which was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet during most of the war, the other five members of the class saw furious combat in the Pacific, with three of them (USS Houston, USS Chicago & USS Northampton herself) paying the highest price, falling victim to Japanese torpedoes during surface and air action. Just like the Atlanta and Brooklyn-classes, expect to encounter them often in your escorting screens, where they served valiantly and contributed critical anti-air support during the early days of carrier combat.
Less eye-candy, more actual game mechanics now. January was marked by quite a few experiments, as new mechanics were implemented and tested within our engine. We experienced on the interface, the damage model, the weather and, well, the sky in general – here’s a sneak peek at what has been going on.
The first interesting tech nugget is an early version of the flight deck planning interface, with a very work-in-progress take at an interactive timeline. This module shows the Player the current and future state of the flight deck, by indicating when it will be in use, and to what end.
The screens below show the spotting duration (that is, the time the plane handlers need to bring the planes assigned to a mission on the flight deck and organize them for take-off), the take-off duration proper and the time needed for recovery later on. All the info is indicated on the timeline and will allow for an innovative, direct access to the mission panel in case new – and often contradictory – orders were to be suddenly issued.
Below is our first very early prototype from back in October, which shows how a dynamic alteration of a given flight plan effectively affects the flight deck schedule.
Eventually, Task Force Admiral will allow the player to have a complete vision of the Air Ops. Understand that the game is not an “aircraft parking simulator”: you do not get to position each and every plane on the deck. What you do is set-up your missions, and then your hardworking Air Boss AI will try to make things work out in the most efficient way.
Missions will be planned using an advanced interface that will allow you to micro-manage flight ops to a certain extent, including making a mess of the on-going schedule if you need to recover a flight or relieve your Combat Air Patrol in a hurry. Naturally, your AI opponent will be subject to these very same constraints, in order to recreate the sort of random SNAFU that characterized the chaos of Carrier Battles. Needless to say, we are very excited by the system we are putting together, although we are treading carefully in unknown territory. To the best of our knowledge, simulating carrier air ops to this degree in real-time has never been attempted in a commercial game. We want it to be user-friendly, efficient and realistic all at the same time, which is quite the challenge. Wish us luck, and cross fingers, for you will be soon enough on the receiving end of this effort!
A comprehensive air/naval simulation requires particular care when it comes to its representation of the Sun, the Moon and the stars. Sunrise was critical to air ops, and the single most important condition to achieve surprise in a morning strike. Sunset was a main factor in launching and recovering planes in an afternoon strike, and Coral Sea, Midway & the Philippines Sea all did show that the risk of a late launch was always taken with no small consequence. Some surface battles were fought or avoided on the sole pretext of a bright Moon. In other words, in 2020, no simulation that wants to tackle this topic seriously can reasonably ignore the peculiar tempo of the celestial bodies.
Knowing this, we implemented a system that makes sure that the Sun and the Moon will be at the right spot, at the right moment of the day or the night, in accordance to their actual position in 1942 (well, anytime actually). Fortunately, considering such info is easily accessible online these days, a simple experiment allowed us to check both at the same time. Remember the December 2019 eclipse, observable in Southern & South-East Asia? Let’s try to recreate this sort of phenomenon with our own tools.
Original Loc & time: Kuala Lumpur 26.12.2019 around 7:10 AM UTC.
From left to right: the larger picture (courtesy of NASA),
the online simulation (courtesy of www.timeanddate.com) and the in-game result. Check!
Of course, it might not be as spectacular as a bunch of SBDs warming up on a flight deck, but when time comes your pixel pilots will be happy to have reliable astronomical objects to rely on! Don’t take this as a gimmick: the eclipse business was simply a convenient way to have both the Sun and the Moon feature on the same plan – the exercise is amusing, but nevertheless telling and reassuring. Next step: we still have to put some actual stars up there, and our sky will be convincingly set and geared for in-game gleaming glory, whether you are steaming near Midway, the Equator or Guadalcanal…
As alluded earlier, January has seen some more new tech implemented in-game, one step at a time. We will keep most of it for a future update, but still, here’s a quick look at what is currently baking in the oven.
Our Dev Jean-Baptiste has been very busy recreating the internals of a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier in order to feed relevant, credible data to our new damage model. The critical part was naturally to deliver a convincing system for ship buoyancy. Once the basics were right in place, it appeared that reproducing the watertight system deep within the ship was a necessity in order to mimic the sort of situation where the free surface effect comes into play – bringing a ship from a small list to actual capsizing in case damage is not contained properly. The few screenshots below are the results of these early efforts. More on this later when it will be more advanced, but believe us and bear with us: this is going to be great (well, ok not so much for you if you’re standing on the bridge, but that’s another problem entirely, right?)…
Another aspect receiving our attention these days is the dynamic weather system. It wasn’t uncommon for task forces less than a hundred miles apart to experience radically different weather conditions. The occasional rain squall would often add to the confusion, whether you were manning a ship or flying a plane. An otherwise well-coordinated strike could very well see its efficiency drop dramatically if a talented captain was able to steer his ship under a thick cloud cover. Such tactics, whether they were intended or or simply the result of luck, did save Zuikaku entirely at Coral Sea and USS Enterprise from further pounding at Santa Cruz.
Knowing this, we needed to design a theater-wide weather system that would change during gameplay, forcing the player and the AI to adapt in order to use or avoid bad weather. We are happy to announce that we are slowly but surely getting there! Our prototype fits nicely the sort of pattern that you would expect from a cloud formation over a given area, for a short period of time – the average scenario in vol.1 as it goes extending rarely beyond 3 days, it is just what we need for now. Besides the obvious clouds in white, the blue areas in the model below are dynamic patches of rain occurring once barometric conditions are met in the zone.
This sure fits nicely with our new layered, improved clouds, contributing to the good looks of them busy and unpredictable Pacific skies. We managed to obtain a nice, streamlined result that looks convincing enough at any distance, from any viewpoint. The overall performance was improved too, and the worst weather ultimately impacts the gamer’s experience only so negligibly. Here are a few eye-candy shots showing the variety of our homemade cloud cover. More in the next update!
Over the last few months, since our first public announcement, we were glad – and very touched – to receive a number of proposals for collaboration. These include active members of the communities we belong to, along with Jean-Baptiste’s own old friends & collaborators. Please allow us to introduce three new members of our enlarged team today :
Having a passion for video games since 1988 and the Great Era of Amiga 500, he was quickly aware of the great possibilities offered by the rise of the PC. Since then, he has played hundreds of different titles of all sorts, although he has a soft spot for the world of computer aviation – and warbirds in particular. For years now, he has been connecting two of his passions – sound & flight sims – by producing new sound effects mods for the games he loves, starting with Flight Simulator, European Air War, Jane’s WW2 Fighters, moving eventually to Il-2 and Il-2 Great Battles. Today, when real life agrees to cut him some slack, he still finds the time to play – and when he is not playing, he might even find some time to make new sound effects for us!
Mal is an Australian maritime artist from Adelaide whose art also includes quite a few wargame-related pieces. He also indulges in game-making himself, being a board & miniature wargame designer specialized in WW2 naval topics. A noted author on the Royal Navy with three published books already, he kindly proposed to help us with the colorful paint schemes of the ships of this troubled (and definitely black-and-white…) era. He also happens to be the curator of the Naval Wargaming Facebook group – so don’t hesitate to go over there have a look if you’re into miniature or pixel warships!
Mark’s first board wargame was Avalon Hill’s Guadalcanal and his first computer wargame was Chris Crawford’s Eastern Front on the Atari 400. He has never looked back and looks forward to the next innovative wargame experience. After 30 years in IT, he awaits his next big challenge, retirement. But in the meantime, he is fine enough a lad to find time for us. Just like Steven, Mark is a member of the Grogheads community who offered to help very early in the development, and has been hard at work trying to correct our clumsy English since then. Although we didn’t have the opportunity to ask him to proofread most of the gibberish we posted since December, we will make sure to make good use of his kind services in the near future!
Finally, we wanted to dedicate this update to our friends from the Chinese community. Not just because we entered the Lunar Year of the Rat last week, but also because Mainland China is currently going through one of its most challenging crisis for a few weeks now. Let’s spare a thought and a prayer for everybody there, shall we? It is not about being alarmist or patronizing, but sympathizing with the people manning the first line of defense of humanity against this foe is certainly the least we could do. Even Admiral Nimitz has a word for everybody.
So keep the fighting spirit up & 大家一起努力, 一起加油加油!
Despite the grim days we are going through, life still goes on, and the Chinese New Year was a good opportunity to celebrate our Chinese-speaking followers. Our 2D artist, Julien, took on his own time to pay tribute to the Year of Rat.
Yeah, “Rata” was the nickname the Nationalists gave the Polikarpov I-16 (one of its many nicknames by friends and foes alike, besides “Donkey”, “Fly” and… “Flying Squirrel”) but still, the iconic, agile beast sure wears it like a badge of honor. Happy Lunar New Year to you all, your loved ones and – above everything else – our best wishes of good health!
As a final word, please take time to follow us on our different social accounts. As you can see below, we are already present on quite a few ones. Following us there will allow you to see our latest, smaller updates. Please also consider subscribing to our mailing list – we promise that we will not spam you with the smaller stuff, but we want to be ready to sound general quarters for the day we are going public on Steam, Kickstarter or elsewhere.
Well… That’s all folks, see you next month for our next installment – in the meantime, take care and thank you for your time and your friendship!