Dancing under the stars

Hello there everyone!

We are just a few days shy of entering March, and knowing February updates don’t fare as well in the wrong month, it was about time to give you a small peek at what has been going on over the last few weeks. But, no more wastin’ your time ladies & gentlemen, here’s the dope for the month to the tune of one of my favorite bands:

Our Travelin’ Band doing work
One Bad Moon rising over the Pacific
Have you ever seen the Rain?
Check out our Fortunate Son…
…Up to a Sinister Purpose

Glorious News Nuggets

First, allow us to point you in the direction of two honorable publications. They might tell you more about the game than any sort of sorry trivia we are about to deliver on this page today. So go grab a coffee and sit comfortably for a long read.

We had the pleasure to undergo the careful scrutiny of Tim Stone over at Rock Paper Shotgun, in his most celebrated and respected column The Flare Path. Our small talk morphed into some monster interview that may require your undivided attention for quite a few minutes – but we tried to make it worth your time 🙂

Anybody interested in the very soul of our game, our motivations and our connection to actual Pacific Theater history, is warmly invited to have a look. You won’t be disappointed. That’s our story, and we sincerely hope that it will relate to you in some way.

Moreover, Tim was so much of a gentleman that we ended up being mentioned again in the following issue of the Flare Path. We also took this opportunity to mention the games of a few chaps out there who are working hard on the revival of the naval genre.

Sea Power, Battlestations Torpedo, DSubs… Go support them all, they certainly are worth the click.

We were also blessed this week with a piece from Shamrock, an eminent member of the combat flightsim community, published on his blog Stormbirds. I am particularly fond of Stormbirds as a fine hub to follow the news of the community. However, I am even more elated to see this article as proof that, as we had hoped for, our work can talk to a large variety of gamers with different backgrounds. Shamrock’s effort seems to have found some echo within the community, and hopefully this is not the last time you will hear from him regarding Task Force Admiral!

Shadows in the night

Following our astral escapades from last month, we took the opportunity to make some experiments on our night-time lighting. The exercise delivered us a few interesting shots that we are happy to share with you. We are trying to provide the sort of mood one would expect from a Pacific cruise under a gentle moon, a few hours away from action. The sound is not there yet of course, but I think we got the visuals just right. What do you think?

Of course, the night will not be calm for everybody. The Guadalcanal campaign was known for its ferocious night surface engagements that claimed thousands of lives on both sides. Naturally, we plan to feature them to a certain extent. Just don’t expect our surface combat to be the ultimate culmination of the genre just yet, but people who had fun playing Fighting Steel will certainly find themselves in known – and beloved – territory. It’s all very much a work in progress as you will see, but we are firmly on our way there and we intend to complete our journey.

After the night (usually) comes the day. Let’s close this topic on a romantic shot of dawn justice in the middle of its launch. There again, the work on the lighting is a central parameter in the experience we want to offer the player. Can you imagine yourself standing on the catwalk with a virtual mug of coffee, watching your dawn patrol take off in the promising light of a new day? I sure can. Enjoy the view!

Who’ll stop the Rain?

Weather is never so kind in the South Pacific. Last month we saw how its implementation would be dynamic over the theater for the duration of the scenario. Now witness the waterpower of this fully operational squall formation. It rains on you. It rains on them. It rains everywhere, sometimes hiding you from the enemy, but more often than not hiding them from you! After all, it is a known feeling that weather always seems biased in our disfavor, right?

Talking about water pouring at the wrong spot, we also made progress on the damage model. Careful compartmentalization of the US carrier hulls is proceeding according to the original plans and our experiments are delivering the kind of result one would expect from a simulation. So far so good.

Water, of course, is not the only danger preying on your ships. Fire will be featured extensively, and we want it to look good – aka spectacular and realistic at the same time. We’ve been busy working on some FX in order to render smoke in a convincing way at any distance and in any volume without killing the performance of the game. From what I reckon, we are nearly there!

On the counter-pushing (a.k.a. wargamey) front

Jean-Baptiste’s work fortunately wasn’t restricted to the eye candy business. We advanced on other fronts. One of these was the gameplay itself, with the first iteration of our maneuver board control screen.

This ubiquitous board that you will find aboard any USN warship of the era will serve a dual purpose in our game :
– It allows the player to manage its task force ship by ship by clicking directly on the proper units, going over the existing data, giving specific orders, reorganizing the formation ;
– It also doubles as an interface for fleet defense, where you will get to check the anti-air & anti-submarine detection/firing arcs of your formation, set-up Combat Air Patrol and Inner Air Patrols (a.k.a. anti-submarine) air missions.

Be wise in your meddling, for any hole in your formation might allow an enemy plane or an enemy submarine to infiltrate your screen for the coup de grâce. Note that the air and sub AI will look for the gaps in your defensive perimeter in order to exploit any visible weakness. More on all of this later, when we will be closer from showing you some actual gameplay. In the meantime, let me entertain you (and divert your attention…) with a small intermission, showing the current state of our terrain. We’re trying to make sure the ground retains its charm at any altitude. Although it is still very much work in progress, we are slowly but surely making progress in this department.

Mark it Zero…

Unfortunately, our 3D artist has been struck with a bad case of flu lately – don’t worry though, it is not THAT one flu, but still it’s a bad one. He needs rest and we don’t have that many new ships to show you. Still, we had one important new guest that we made sure to make ready in time for the interviews. Please welcome the Mitsubishi A6M Navy Type 0 carrier fighter that you probably know already under its common appellation of Zero.

As a good showcase of what our engine can handle, we made sure that this Zero would be as clean and detailed as possible. Here are few close-up shots that give you an idea of the sort of (flushed) rivet counting this work has involved. Kudos to Rizki for his diligent work.

Like my new car that I will never get until you guys buy this game, it comes in different liveries and different models. We’re starting here with the infamous model 21, a common sight for your Wildcat jockeys for the whole duration of 1942. As the dedicated fighter platform of the Japanese First Air Fleet, the Zero featured in every carrier battle. It also equipped the elite shore-based Navy air groups, and as such saw much fighting over Guadalcanal from the first day of the American invasion. During this time, it mostly operated from Rabaul in New Britain and would fly 640 miles every single time to reach its objective, a feat only permitted by its remarkable endurance.

As the ubiquitous and emblematic fighter of the Japanese navy, we had to make sure that it will be properly represented. This Zero is from the Akagi air group, in the livery it displayed from Pearl Harbor to Midway. In this photo, it is showed taking part to the second wave on December 7th. The pilot was Sakae Mori.

Next, the Zero below is one of the rides of the shore-based Ace Saburo Sakai from the famed Tainan Kokutai, whose saga over the American fleet on the first day of the Guadalcanal landings is rather well-known to PTO fans.

Our second offering is the remarkable yet vulnerable A6M2-N, a Nakajima-built floatplane version of the Zero designed in order to offer air cover to advanced Japanese outposts. The “Rufe”, as designated by the Allies, saw a lot of action in the South Pacific and over the Aleutians.

Although it had good flight characteristics for a floatplane fighter, it was still fighting at a disadvantage against more classic land-based or carrier fighters. F4Fs chewed through them whenever they came across them. Doesn’t mean you should leave this boy alone with a few unescorted SBDs or TBDs though, for it still has teeth!

…On my Six!

Well, now that you mention that… They are not that defenseless either, are they? We made good use of this new opponent by working on the air-to-air ballistics. What we had until now was baked in so that we could make cute videos with a few FX, but we had yet to come up with an actual simulation for the projectiles. Pictures are sometimes more telling than words, so behold the danger zone created by a dozen .30 cal twin machinegun mounts all pointing at the same target and shooting at the gentle rate of 1,500 rounds/min (which translates to a whopping 25 rounds per second…!).

Fortunately, that amount of lead zipping through the skies is more impressive on paper than it actually is on your hardware. Our tests so far have shown that this is not nearly enough to make a dent in the overall performance in-game. That is good news for all among you who were expecting to fully experience the chaos of air combat, as we will be able to recreate each and every bullet in these conditions.

Combat will be deadly, although one shouldn’t expect a tight defensive formation of American bombers to go down without a good fight. Just like at Coral Sea, good firing arcs and pristine discipline might very well turn the otherwise vulnerable two-seaters into a tough nut to crack. Like someone once famously said, most things in here don’t react too well to bullets – and this includes Zeroes as well! Especially if they were to encounter unexpected guests on their way there…

(Great thanks to the bros over at Triassic Games for the Tomcat cameo on the tail of our Zero! In memoriam The Final Countdown and one of its main characters, played by the late Kirk Douglas! o7)

Well, that’s all for today folks. As usual, don’t forget to drop us a follow on the social platform of your choice. We have some exciting times ahead of us and we will be happy to share them with you on a regular basis. In the meantime, wherever you are in the world right now and considering the news – please be careful and stay safe!

6 Comments on “Dancing under the stars

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