Tropical Inceptions

Hello there, ladies & gentlemen of good taste!

It is me your host Amiral Crapaud for a March update regarding our progress – albeit a tad late, but we will still be on schedule as long as I do my homework in time for late April. No worries though, you will see that the extra few days were totally worth it.

First of all, as a sad echo to our message to our Chinese audience two months ago, allow us to wish the best to all among you who are affected by the on-going crisis. We hope at the very least that the contents of this update will bring a little bit of change, if not a tiny bit of sun to your daily routine. All our hopes of good health and our prayers are for you and those you care about, our dear fans.

More than it is usually the case, as a Producer I would like to make good use of this update to show my appreciation and my gratitude to my team. This post will showcase the work they accomplished over the course of March, and you will certainly quickly grasp the level of awesomeness they have accustomed me to on delivery. And – oh boy – do they deliver.

We Built our Own *3D* World
One Simple Idea: in the mind of a 2D Artist
When Dreams are Collapsing: introducing chaos to air operations
Waiting for a Train – and a Publisher!

We Built our Own *3D* World

Let’s start with the work of Rizki, our busy 3D artist.

Never was the “artist” moniker more fitting and deserved – for this man is clearly not only blessed by skill, but also by the best Muses of Creation. His creativity and ingenuity in learning his trade has never failed to impress the rest of the team, and his productivity is second to none. Here are a few examples of the ladies who recently joined our virtual fleet. We hope that we will soon have an opportunity to show them in motion – and in-game, of course.

Learning by doing, his technique naturally evolved over the last year. USS Yorktown (CV-5) in particular was one of the very first 3D models to be made for Task Force Admiral, and has gone through a thorough refit to put her at the level of the newer warships. The result is beautiful and deserves its own space in this monthly column.

Don’t get overexcited, it is not because we are trying to provide Yorktown with a crisp hangar that we will let you walk all around the place. This will have to wait. But the hangars of American carriers back then were boxes with openings on both sides of the ship, and we do not doubt for a second that the player will try to trick the free roam camera into checking the belly of the steel beast. If he or she was to do so, we will make sure that it will not involve disappointment, at least from a distance.

At any rate, the lady received a complete overhaul, from her plating to her outriggers, everything that could be improved – we did improve. Rest assured that her sisters will get the same treatment, in order to account for their differences, and all their refits too – with at least 6 different “hulls” for the Yorktown family alone.

Rizki has also been busy working on the good old Zero, whose 3D model was showcased in our previous blog post. Since then, we received the invaluable help of Ryan Toews, one of the most noted experts of the legendary plane. He took part in the reconstruction of a flying example, the famed Blayd Zero, and as such he is certainly a most exceptional guest to have on-board with us. Hopefully our Zero will make him proud – and make any fan of the bird happy!

One Simple Idea: in the mind of a 2D Artist

The second member of the team I would like to put in the spotlight now is Julien.

As some of you may know already, he is pretty well-known in the aviation art world for his regular covers of Le Fana de L’Aviation, the prime French aviation history monthly. He brought to us his knowledge and his love of the topic, and his obvious skill, that we have shown in a video a few weeks ago already. Yes, this is a free-hand drawn Zero and yes, displaying that sort of talent sure is unfair to us plebs!

Besides the good looks of our interface and loading screen art, Julien is also involved in the texturing process of our ships, planes & environment. His work on the Zero was on these pages not long ago – now witness him in the process of bringing the Admiral’s combat quarters to life through the magic of Substance Painter.

Unfortunately, recent deep research on the topic has revealed that navy mugs were simply not in circulation yet back in 1942. Believe it or not, the US Navy used to embrace the sacrilege of using very British-like teacups, even when drinking coffee. Halsey had them in 1942, BB Iowa had them in 1944 – even Gary Cooper in the 1949 motion picture Task Force drank from one! The mugs apparently only appeared aboard American ships following the rise of the Victor Mug, as an answer to the pleas of the aforementioned service looking for a way to upgrade its sea-going table set with innovative tech. Hence, we will have to correct this minor yet – obviously – revolting anachronism soon enough.

Julien is quite the researcher in his own right. He has dedicated some real time this month reconstituting the wall painting in the hangar of USS Yorktown to properly revamp her. Unfortunately, the fragmentary nature of the info we had made this task quite the obstacle course. We could only find two sources depicting this painting, and both were naturally incomplete. Like some sort of cyber archeologist, he embarked himself on a peculiar adventure, bringing the pieces together into the result you can see below. The kind of fit that reminds me of how lucky I am to work among giants. A big thanks too to those who helped with the research and pointed us in the direction of Robert D.Ballard’s book dedicated to the ghosts of Midway and the wreck of USS Yorktown. The few lines mentioning the mural over there were quite the eye-opener.

At any rate, if another photography or any detail regarding this painting was known to you, please don’t hesitate to share, we will be happy to take into account any new intel to do right by this good ship dear to our hearts.

When Dreams are Collapsing:
introducing chaos to air operations

A dev blog update wouldn’t be proper without a look at the work being conducted by our Dev Jean-Baptiste under the hood. He has been spending the better of the quarantine period programming our mission planner and the AI logic that will power it. Although this unholy amount of time spent on these mechanics might sound less than exciting, these elements are actually at the very heart of our simulation and will be the bread and butter of any commander.

On the screen above, you can see the flight plan provided by our mission planner. This sort of information will be available to the player during the preparation, and already gives you an idea of the constraints one has to consider when designing such a tool – and the corresponding simulation engine with it:

– The take-off waypoint takes into account the time needed to prepare the planes, and its position will be that of the carrier at the time when the launch is supposed to take place.

– If the target is a moving one – such as an enemy task force – the attack waypoint has to be tuned to its expected position. The calculation uses the known course and speed of the target at the time of the planning but will have to be updated until the actual launch.

– Finally, the landing waypoint (or “Point Option” in WW2 carrier slang) is right at the spot where the friendly carrier is expected to be cruising by the time the flight returns.

An interactive timeline keeps the player aware at all times of upcoming activity on the flight deck. As the Air Boss has to deal with punctual operations, Combat Air Patrol rotations, or even – as shown below – strike packages that might need no less than three successive deckloads, the flight deck can quickly become a busy place. A most worrying problem if you happen to only operate one of these…!

Of course, your launch procedure might take longer than planned, the enemy might very well maneuver and change his course in-between the last report and the launch, or your own ships might very well not be where they are supposed to be due to other air ops or even a sub scare… Cruel yet common woes, that American fliers had the doubtful privilege to experience fully at Midway.

Add to this recipe all the specific parameters of carrier air ops, such as:

  • The kind of arming and spotting sequence you wish to follow (arming and static spotting on deck, ready to take off at a moment notice? Arming in the hangar, to keep the flight deck open for other operations?);
  • The kind of departure the package will use (normal, deferred, or even emergency mode);
  • The balance between loadout and range considering the distance to the target;
  • The tactical orders, specific to each kind of mission (target priority, search pattern in case the target is not found…);
  • The flight plan characteristics (should speed be privileged? Attack coordination? Overall endurance?).

All these settings are interconnected, and influence dynamic values, such as the deck length a given plane needs to take off, the number of deckloads a flight package will require, the order of departure…

The player is allowed to meddle with this framework, by making choices that will directly define the profile of the mission. Although the commander will be prevented for ordering an actual suicide run, the tolerance margin itself can be elastic and allow for some over the edge action. If you plan on racing in the direction of your planes once you launch them, you might very well close the distance and allow them to strike further – but don’t hold your hopes too high, this kind of plans rarely worked in 1942. You can bet that the enemy AI & our random event generator will do what it takes to show you why!

In the meantime, here are our early experiments involving all these parameters, including our carrier task force turning into the wind for launching and recovering its planes. It might not seem like much, but it is akin to watching a baby walk the first time. Indulge us for this time, and we should be able to show something a bit more spectacular next time.

Talking about spectacular, and as a last element of gameplay for today, I naturally encourage whoever hasn’t seen our TBD attack video yet to check it out. Although it was made from earlier footage captured back in December, it is a good demonstration of what we are aiming to achieve in terms of AI tactics. We tried to make it a bit informational and easy to the eye at the same time, hope that we achieved that well enough to make you eager to enjoy the next one!

Waiting for a train… and a Publisher!

Finally, a little unexpected bonus to this monthly update. I am proud to announce that Drydock Dreams Games signed with a publisher just a few days ago in order to bring Task Force Admiral vol.1 to a new level of potential and polish. This is the result of a long and productive discussion we had with like-minded people. I wouldn’t call this so much a negotiation than a mutual, open-minded exchange on how to use this opportunity to redefine the usual Developer-Publisher relationship. I am happy to say that we reached a consensus which, in our humble opinion, might deliver soon a paradigm shift in the way this business is done in our niche – that is, wargames, history games & simulations. Stay tuned, you might hear of us in the upcoming weeks. Naturally, we will make sure to keep our community informed the moment a press release is published through our usual channels – and these include our mailing list, so don’t forget to subscribe!

As always, a line, a subscribe or a like on the social platform of your choice will always be much appreciated. Our follower numbers reached new milestones over the course of the last month, and we do not doubt for a second that we are just at the beginning of our adventure. In the meantime, please feel most welcome to spread the word, share the dope and see you again in less than a month with some hot intel – I can already tell you that you will not be disappointed 🙂
Have a nice day, take care and, more than anything, stay safe!

2 Comments on “Tropical Inceptions

  1. Pingback: The Flare Path: A2Z | Rock Paper Shotgun

  2. Pingback: The Flare Path: A2Z | Rock Paper Shotgun – Yugodi Feed

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