World, Ahoy!

The state of Task Force Admiral as of October 2019

Fellow gamers, followers and virtual sailors of all kinds and all seas,

Welcome to our world, welcome to Task Force Admiral – welcome aboard! We’re breaking ground here, making waves for our first post on our humble dev blog.

It has been six months since our lead developer JB started to work full-time on the game. Finally; we are happy to use the opportunity offered by this brand new website to show our progress to our future audience. Most of the features you can read about in these pages are still in their infancy and might need some more work before going public. Still, in the following short tech demo reel you will be shown some of the features already unveiled to a few people around the internet in the course of the past summer. We hope that they still look solid enough in their current state, even a few months later!

The following tech features are showcased in this short film. You will witness:

  • Take-offs and formation flying involving some F4F-4 fighters ;
  • A zoom sequence taking us from the map view to the actual 3D world in real-time, along with custom map labels ;
  • A demonstration of our procedural terrain generation made from actual level maps ;
  • A showcase of our dynamic day/night cycle and weather system ;
  • A quick look at our in-engine physics showing how ships roll dynamically in heavy seas ;
  • A few glimpses of our early FX effects for naval artillery ;
  • A detailed view of our engine for ballistics and naval damage ;
  • A few details about how textures an dynamic decals/markings are managed by the engine (skinners, rejoice!) ;
  • A few shots of the player’s command hub – that is, the Admiral’s Flag Plot – and faces of some of the men you will interact with during the narrative sequences ;
  • Some of the 90+ 3D ships models expected at release for Vol.1 ;
  • Some TBDs demonstrating our early carrier AI landing routines and wing folding (yes I know, it’s too fast! But at least it works properly for now) ;
  • Our dedicated Air Boss AI in action, shuffling around the planes on the flight deck and clearing the bow for a group take-off ;
  • A F4F-3 Wildcat painted as Butch O’Hare’s number 15 harassing a bomber formation not unlike the one he faced off Bougainville in his Medal of Honor moment, as a preliminary test for our dynamic air-combat AI (work in progress, don’t worry about the ammo count and the damage model, it is just a prototype) ;
  • A TBD making its R-1830 Twin Wasp roar, demonstrating the current state of our sound engine ;
  • A few sequences showcasing what we plan for environmental sounds of all sorts.


Saying that the road is still long would be quite the understatement. Even though activity is happening 24/7 in our worldwide workshop as I write these lines, we are still far enough from a playable vertical slice that promising it for 2020 would feel premature, if not bold. Still, progress is steadily being accomplished every day, and I thank my team for their dedication and their trust in this endeavor. However, any machine, as efficiently designed or managed as it may be, needs some form of fuel to run. That fuel that keeps us going is coming from you.

By the end of this development cycle, we hope to be fortunate enough to meet your expectations, to succeed in crafting enough of a jewel to find our audience and redefine, with your precious support, the very genre for the years to come. In the meantime, always expect the utmost honesty and openness about our work, our results and delays – and, please, do not shy away from asking questions. Each and every new element you might bring to the table will be food for thought and could very well end up being that additional twist or bit of soul we were looking for.

Don’t hesitate to drop us a line, it means the world to us. Wish us fortune, for the seas will be heavy on our long journey to Point Luck! o7

Amiral Crapaud & the Team

A New Dawn

Hello there everyone!

Sorry for the lack of feedback – when May finally came, I found that our forces were needed on the frontlines, leaving us with little time for an actual, solid April update. Oh well, initially I feared that the stuff I had ready was a tad bit underwhelming. But now it looks like we are faced with the opposite problem, that is an embarrassment of riches on our hands. I made a small-ish selection of what should feature more prominently, and I sure hope that the menu will be agreeable enough!

Here’s the menu – click on the links if you want to jump to whatever interests you most. Otherwise, feel free to start your journey and – oh boy, believe me, it’s quite the journey!

Press Release : The MicroProse Adventure
Press Gang : Them Friendly News
Pressing Matters : April Anniversaries
Under Pressure : Tales of Models & Rivet Counters
Press to Release : Development, ahoy!

Press Release : The MicroProse Adventure

As usual, much progress was witnessed on all fronts, but most importantly, the team has been kept busy throughout April with the assets needed for our teaser trailer and our Steam page. I doubt whoever is reading these lines has escaped the news, but here’s a link to our humble storefront.

Now, the Steam announcement was a big affair indeed, not the least because it came together with the officialization of our publishing deal with MicroProse. I thought that this update would be a good opportunity to share a few words about this agreement.

For those who would be too young to remember, MicroProse is a household name for everything strategy & simulation. It pretty much rhymed with the genre back in the 1990s, and we are happy to be on the frontlines for its rebirth as an independent, ambitious label along with our friends from the Second Front & Sea Power teams both joining at the same time. This agreement allows Task Force Admiral to reach a much wider audience, some additional financial security and, last but not least, an actual, genuine link to one legacy we haven’t ceased to honor during the early days of our development. If you see what we did there in the picture just below, computer games-wise you probably had a very happy childhood!

Indeed, Task Force 1942 and 1942: The Pacific Air War were seminal inspirations from the get-go, and it is safe to say that this game wouldn’t exist at all if it had not been for them. My own interest in the era and the theater directly stemmed from these roots, as MicroProse games used to come with extensive historical manuals and reference books which were to form the very basis of my WW2 PTO culture. To a 10 years-old kid living in France, dreaming about naval stories from days & places so remote it was a miracle in itself that I got to know about them, these precious nuggets of knowledge and history were worth their weight in gold. Game-design wise, the influence of the combat map of Task Force, the choice of a 1st person bridge view or the Carrier Battles mode of Pacific Air War were probably obvious to those among you who indulged in the same hobbies. Be certain that we will only double our efforts to have our agenda stay close to this honorable lineage and reward you – and ourselves – with the pleasure of experiencing that sort of immersive thrill again. Tim Stone at Rock Paper Shotgun, always the true Gentleman, is willing to give us the benefit of the doubt when it comes to following in the steps of our elders – please bear with us, and hopefully we might deliver just that 🙂

Last but not least, this partnership came also with the nice perk of providing with with a dedicated Discord platform. Discord users who want to follow the development from up close and interact with us regularly are welcome to hit that button and join! This Discord server will also be used to host our internal development channels, so expect to come across a few major players down there who were kind enough to accept to advise us on technical aspects. More about that in the June update.


Press Gang : Them Friendly News

In the wake of our Steam page & publishing deal announcement, we were blessed with the kind coverage of several noted experts of our little niche.

First of all, we would like to thank Magz who made a full segment about us on his Youtube channel MagzTV. Jump beyond the first minute if you want to go directly to the original content. Some of the footage is actually from an earlier build and was captured back in November last year, but you will also get to see longer sequences taken from scenes specifically filmed for the May Steam teaser.

It is refreshing to know that there are some people out there with the actual knowledge & historical background who are interested enough in the game to provide that sort of educated commentary. We sure are grateful for the positive feedback, and we will make sure to follow up with a proper interview in no time. Don’t forget to drop Magz and his video a like, and subscribe for more of that great simulation & wargame-related content of his.

We were also happy to be mentioned along with the rest of the new MicroProse line up in the latest issue of the Single Malt Strategy podcast, dedicated to the clever kind of strategy games. The Strategy Wargamer, TortugaPower & The Historical Gamer talk about how they feel following the reveal and what they expect from the return of MicroProse. We have talked a lot in the past at a time the publishing deal wasn’t public just yet, and I am sure that we will have a lot to talk about in the future. At any rate, we will do our best not to let you down, guys!

In the meantime, if you want to jump directly to the part about us, Sea Power and Second Front, here’s the menu!

More coverage is expected in the days to come (crossing fingers!). In the meantime, besides the Task Force Admiral-specific content, don’t forget to pay a visit to the websites which covered in deeper details the return of MicroProse, including this interview from David Lagettie, MicroProse’s CEO, and Wild Bill Stealey, one of the original founders himself – a great read!


Pressing Matters : April Anniversaries

April is synonymous with a certain legendary event that took off the flight deck of USS Hornet 78 years ago. We couldn’t ignore this opportunity to give the lady a well-deserved shout. As the last Doolittle raider veteran sadly passed away a year ago, it is all the more important to contribute at our own humble level. Let’s start with some beautiful digital art by our resident artist Julien.

Early on in the drawing process our Twitter & Facebook community had a preview when she didn’t have her planes just yet. Some among you pointed out that she was very pretty like that already – so here are two versions of Hornet for you to enjoy: one with the planes, and one without. Click on this link to download the wallpaper version for those who fancy having a big, beautiful carrier on their desktop.

Please feel free to download both paintings in high resolution by clicking on this link, and make Hornet your new desktop wallpaper. Come on, don’t be shy!

As you can see below, Hornet is nearing completion in her 3D form too. The greenlighting of Hornet being more of a stop-gap affair in the years before the war, she was only commissioned in October 1941. By then, Yorktown had been in service for more than four years, and Enterprise three and a half years. A lot had been learned in the meantime, and she was designed with a few modifications. Some of these were external, as you can see for yourself on these screenshots where the conning tower of Yorktown, Enterprise, and Hornet are placed next to each other. Others not so much, including probably the single most important improvement she received: an early version of what was to become the ubiquitous Command Information Center (CIC), a room that has been present in a form or another aboard most American fighting ships since then.

Please note that there is still a lot of work ahead of us – the sisters are yet to be fitted with their full sensor array – but we want to make sure that the main subclasses on the US side all receive fair treatment. Can’t be perfect of course, but we’ll do what we can – after all, to our knowledge, it is the first time that anybody has tried to recreate them separately in a video game.

As you could already see with the Yorktown sisters above, our 3D artist Rizki had a very busy April. As a nod to her fate 75 years ago, he also tackled a monument that many of you wanted to see for some time: the most famous floating 5-star hotel in the South Seas area, a.k.a. Lady Yamato.

As some sort of bonus, here she is the configuration she had when she went down in April 1945. By then, she had received a major increase in anti-air firepower at the expense of her secondary batteries. This did not make much of a difference eventually, except esthetically that is of course – look at that monster!

These Yamato models are still to undergo the detail analysis that will make sure that every configuration is as accurate as it can get. We’re not there yet, so just cut us some slack for the time being and enjoy her nice shapes. We’ll get back to her in due time!


Under Pressure : Tales of Models & Rivet Counters

Yamato is only one of our numerous models to reach this stage. I cannot stress enough the great proficiency of Rizki’s work, which is made all the more apparent by the line-up you can admire below. The sheer amount of ships is a reassuring thought – and an exciting one too. We are firmly on schedule, and our way to deliver you with one of the most complete 3D rosters ever to have seen the light of day on this topic. As you know, our objective is to remake no less than 90+ ship models needed for the carrier battles of 1942 – and as you can see for yourself, I’d say we’re 30% there. Of course, the road is still long, but give us your support and I don’t doubt that we will get there eventually!

This allows me to give the spotlight to our ship research group and to the tremendous work it has been providing for weeks now, all in order to provide you with the most accurate visual experience one can hope for. Granted, none of these models is going to put World of Warships or Warthunder to shame considering our limited polycount budget, but I cannot hide my admiration for the professionalism our advisors have been displaying so far. Because pictures sometimes speak more sense than a thousand words, just look at this and marvel at the work that went into this very selfless rivet-counting duty!

Akos and Ian were the contributors in this case. Akos is the curator of his own blog dedicated to warships that sometimes were – and many others that never came to be. His website, warship projects is a great source of information for some fan-favorite monsters the likes of Yamato or the US interwar battlecruiser program. A lot of good, well-informed reading to have by simply clicking on the banner below:

Ian is one of the co-founders of Shipbucket, a web community dedicated to producing ship and aircraft drawings of all eras in a uniform scale and style. Shipbucket’s archive of nearly 8500 naval drawings can be browsed here, at http://shipbucket.com. If it ever floated, Shipbucket probably has a plan for it!

The archive is continuously updated with new work and has an extensive USN & IJN collection. Besides, the Shipbucket community has a rather dynamic discord server that you can join freely by clicking on the link below.


Press to Release : Development, ahoy!

Naturally, during all this time Jean-Baptiste our developer was also very busy all this type with his own under-the-hood kind of business. In order to look pretty for the teaser, the game had first to undergo some accurate & efficient tweaking.

The FX and the air-to-air ballistics were worked on to allow for some of the shots you see in the teaser, with the integration of new tech to the engine. Explosions look more convincing, light and heavy Flak both look deadly – and muzzle flashes sure are impressive. Here’s another look at the teaser where some of these effects are showcased. They will do nicely as placeholders in the eye candy department until we find time to improve them somewhat.

Another topic that kept Jean-Baptiste busy was vegetation management. The conundrum here is that we want trees to look convincing from any distance – that is, both thick & pretty – while keeping performance at a reasonable level. Naturally, it is easier said than done, and a lot of coding and experimental effort had to go in what might sound like a pretty mundane task – but a strategic one in a theater-like SOPAC, the landmasses of which are pretty much all covered with jungle terrain.

Finally, the 3D world didn’t only get populated with new features on the surface, it also developed into a much more complex affair ashore. By using the data extracted from the awesome GEBCO Grid bathymetric initiative, we were able to reconstitute accurately the coastline in-game, not leaving a single shoal or sandbar untouched. With this level of detail, you will now understand why iconic areas such as the Iron Bottom Sound required ships to use specific, well-identified channels in order not to run ground and possibly bring their whole task force to a halt – and their mission to an end.

As a US Navy flag officer who would have advanced his career in the interwar years, the memory of the so-called Honda Point disaster in 1923 is certainly still vivid, and you might want to avoid making a WW2-rendition of the event – that is, if you want to keep your command operational for your next encounter with the Imperial Japanese Navy!

We also added a few effects to the coastal waters in order to make the surf look a bit more relatable. So far so good I’d say – so much that I’d definitely go out there have a digital cocktail by the beach or attempt some good old surfin’, if there were not more pressing matters to address first. And believe me, these have never been in greater number …

The next stage will be primarily about refining Air Ops planning. This means a lot of work happening behind the scenes, and perhaps fewer colorful screenshots indeed. But as one of these functions which fuel the core experience of the game, Air Ops have to be as well-thought as possible right off the bat. More on this in the next update, or so I hope!

Cheers, and everybody please stay safe!

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!

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?
Effigies
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!

Wallabies in the Year of the Rat

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.

It is a bit of a long read today, so here is the summary if you want to jump to what interests you most :
New Ships comin’
New Tech happenin’
New Guys joinin’
New Year wishin’

Tales of fair Ladies & Sheilas

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.


Tackling Air Ops Management

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!


Ad Astra

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…


Smart Shenanigans

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!


The Team grows bigger

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 :

Bertrand, aka Tiger_33
Sound Effects Designer

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!

Malcom Wright
Technical & Historical Advisor

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
Gallant Proofreader

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!


Love in the Time of Pneumonia

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!

Cheers!

New Year’s Resolutions

Yes, we’re still alive and kicking – and by the way: Happy New Year!

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…

Original ocean sound by F. Reichelt @ https://instagram.com/florianreichelt/

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.

You can run, but you can’t hide!

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

Career:
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).

Wartime Service:
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!

Making waves!

A follow-up to our earlier announcement

Ah dear, this post took its sweet time! Here it is, at last. It sure was not a short one to write, but hopefully those who might find an interest in the game will probably appreciate getting to know it – and know us – a bit better. Still, in order to make this wall of text a little bit friendlier to the eye, we inserted some of our latest pics and videos for you to watch. Let’s go!


A big thanks and a few apologies

First of all, I want to tell you all people how much of a joyful ride these last 10 days have been. Following the announcement of the game, we were blessed with a very positive coverage of our humble tech demo. Gotta thanks Magz, the History Guy & Tim Stone for their support and their kind words, not to mention other gentlemen (Hetstaine from the Il2 subreddit, Spelk from the Computer Wargames subreddit, Rocketman from A Few Good Men…) whose posts definitely helped raise awareness. Following this initial powerful kickstart, it seems that Youtube algorithms have taken the lead and are providing us with a constant flux of new visitors and – hopefully – followers.

Big thanks also to 总捅达人 for sharing our video on Bilibili, which is the closest thing to Youtube the Chinese internet offers these days. With more than 10k views already, he reminds us of the potential of our Chinese audience. Exchanging with the Chinese players so far has been a treat and a great, original personal experience. It’s a good thing that I happened to speak a few words of mandarin too, it helps with the overall mood 🙂

Overall the number of people interested in knowing more about the project comforts us in the idea that such a game was long overdue. We will move forward confident about the potential of our game – but all the more aware that we will have to do right by you and your expectations.

Finally, I wanted to personally apologize for the time it took me to post this new article, and for my lack of reactivity when it came to replying to new comments last weekend. I happen to be often away from the computer and from my social tools due to my real-life job. I suppose community management requires much more time than I have right now in my hands, but as long as we are self-financing this project, I will have to make both worlds work together in the long term. Still, sorry if I have not answered your comment, your email or your request just yet, I might need some more time to catch up with all the stuff in our mailbox! Now, about the game…


Wait, what kind of game is that anyway?

We are happy to see that our original bet based on the premise of making a game at the crossroads of different genres was confirmed by the reactions we have seen so far. The game resonates with digital veterans from the Il-2, Battlestations, World of Warships, War Thunder, Task Force/Great Naval Battles fanbases alike, all for different reasons, and we are grateful for the enthusiasm they have showed to us. Granted, we have been witnessing a few charming occurrences of worlds colliding – for instance when it comes to decide what’s “good looking in 2019” – but overall, people either praise the graphics, or otherwise are ready to cut us some slack because there’s nothing else to play on the topic, so… so far so good!

But with this community blossoming before our eyes come responsibilities. One of them is to keep you entertained in order not to lose you along the way of this long development, of course, but the other one is all the more critical to the trust we are building between you and us.

Coming from different backgrounds, each and everyone of you hopes to find in Task Force Admiral that follow-up to the game that meant so much years ago. But we have also to come clean about what this game is and what it isn’t, if we want to start this journey on the right foot. In order to give you a practical idea of what we are making here, I decided unimaginatively to invoke the spirit of our elders and betters in order to illustrate our vision using more commonly-known experiences. It is not a 1:1 thing, but it will help :

  • The Wargaming/Strategy gameplay is SSG Carriers at War on steroids – that is with pausable real-time instead of Run5 (which was, by all means, a way to emulate real-time back then), advanced carrier ops and proper surface combat ;
  • The C3i management, the fog of war and the narration is more akin Radio Commander. Although you will not have to place your counters on the map by yourself, you will still have to rely on an inaccurate picture in a chaotic environment ;
  • In the event of a gun engagement, surface combat itself will be SSI Fighting Steel grade. Don’t expect it to be as innovative as carrier ops will be, but at the very least you will have a workable, enjoyable experience if a slugfest was to take place ;
  • Finally, the environment itself is “sim-like”, that is close to what you would expect from Il-2 Great Battles or Il-2 1946, for instance. It is somewhere in between, in terms of graphics, physics and the likes. Although we will make sure to have a good base for further development in this direction, for now you will not be able to man the guns or fly the planes: it is a command simulation, not a flight simulation.

We hope it makes sense. We’re not cloning Carriers at War. We’re not remaking Battlestations. Or designing a PTO Il-2. It’s a new game, but with familiar traits that most of you can relate to, in a way or another. At any rate, for further info, don’t hesitate to browse this website – or wait until we finally release our first actual gameplay video, this should help you to make up your mind too!


Regarding why the game is about the US Navy (again!)

Alright. There were a few other comments, some showing disappointment, some showing deeper feelings, regarding our choice to focus the first volume on the US Navy (USN). I thought it would be a good opportunity to clarify the reasons of such a choice in here.

First of all, unlike what some people might be thinking, this was not an easy choice to make at all. Everybody in the team, of course, is quite passionate and knowledgeable about the War in the Pacific and all the same frustrated by the limits we had to set for ourselves. But eventually, this choice ended up as the most logical thing to do, for several reasons – please bear with us :

  • We had to make sure that the very first product would reflect properly the gameplay we envision for the series. In that regard, the command decisions you have to make are, for some of them, based on actual events happening right then, right there in the stressful environment of the flag plot. In regard of historical accuracy, details about these moments in history are much more accessible in the existing literature dedicated to the woes and conundrums of carrier command on the US side. You will find plenty anecdotes of that kind in books the likes of J.Lundstrom’s Black Shoe Carrier Admiral, providing us with readily available historical contents that we would be silly not to adapt. Why dramatize and make up things when you have this sort of resources at hand? In that regard, a Japanese version of this system will eventually shine all the same, but will require much more research in order to come up with a convincing, comparable experience. And I am not even mentioning the additional work needed to bring a Japanese command simulation to the same level of polish as the one we plan for this game (aka hundreds of lines recorded for radio traffic, custom art & music, 30+ portraits, etc…). From that perspective, which is the need to be realistic about our means while doing the best job possible, it felt like that limiting ourselves to the USN was a better choice in order to make sure we are doing right by one single side, instead of botching up the work on both. We want to deliver a carefully-crafted jewel, not just a rough diamond.
  • Besides, in terms of gameplay modes, we had to limit ourselves to single engagements (aka single battles: Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, etc.). In that regard, the narrative is arguably more attractive on the US side than it is for the IJN. From December 1941 all the way to the Enterprise vs the Japan period, the USN is the underdog, on the brink of losing everything in every single battle. Even Midway, because of all the shortcomings and mistakes we are well aware of, is as dramatic as a victory gets. What do we mean by that? We mean that historical single scenarios are not necessarily the best way to introduce IJN to our peculiar gameplay right off the bat. We are convinced that one really needs to provide the IJN player with more options in order not to frustrate the player base, and by that (beyond the obvious what-ifs) we mean some sort of campaign-based gameplay, allowing for dynamic setups which will, in return, provide dynamic results. We were not ready for this in Vol.1 just yet, and we decided to start small, but nice & beautiful.
  • Finally, I have to mention the undeniable pragmatic advantage of going USN: the audience is huge. Although it might be the result of a bias of confirmation, preliminary metrics show that we are doing very well with the US audience so far, and this is encouraging for the future of the game. As we explain later on in the next section, we need a strong start if we want our next stages to happen at all, and it felt that this was also the safer road to get there. Still, our feeling – not just based on the metrics, but also on the fact that our core team happens to be made of three Frenchmen and one Indonesian fellow – show that USN battle history, and carrier battles in the Pacific Theater more generally DO appeal to a much broader audience than just American history buffs. We are the living proof that the topic transcends its natural cultural base, and we are not worried about players (including Japanese players) enjoying our game despite these necessary, albeit disappointing limitations. Of note, the only wargame released about this topic in the last five years was Carrier Battles for Guadalcanal for iOS, which happens to be designed by a French gentleman too, which is yet again a telling illustration of the broader appeal of this topic (by the way, please do not hesitate to pay their website a visit and say hi, they will release a PC version shortly. Highly recommended!)

Regarding the Imperial Japanese Navy and the Royal Navy

Besides explaining why we went for the US Navy first, I suppose it is important to say where we stand when it comes to the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) and the Royal Navy (RN) – not to mention the ANZAC squadron and other Allied forces.

First of all, I want to make things clear: our current focus on the USN doesn’t mean that we have no love for other navies. Quite the opposite actually, if you look at the facts: go check our warship feature list on this very site, and you will see that we ambition to have the most extensive collection of 3D IJN warships in the history of gaming since, probably, 1942:The Pacific Air War (or Fighting Steel in its NWS form). Furthermore, we will do right by some of these ships like no-one did ever before, by making sure that each Kongo class battleship gets its specifics done right, or every Japanese DD subclass gets its own treatment. We do not plan on giving these ships a lesser treatment than the one we will give to the player’s own units, and for a good reason: we fully intend to make them playable sooner than later.

We were not very vocal about it before because we did not want to sound too preposterous by talking about future plans while the first game isn’t even nearly there, but – believe us – it is already all part of a larger picture. The same way the USN and the USMC hopped from an island to the next (if I might be allowed to make this dubious historical parallel…) our roadmap is made so that we will build and consolidate a solid base with the first volume, and then expand progressively afterwards methodically, step by step. We might further expand the scope of the game vertically – onto new game modes, larger or smaller scales of command – but also horizontally, to other services and theatres.

As said previously, Task Force Admiral Volume 1 already introduce most of the ships in service in the IJN in 1942 – Volume 2 will be built on these strong foundations, and bring the Japanese side up to the level of simulation and flavor the US side will enjoy in Volume 1. But making the Japanese playable implies opening the game scope to new theaters – Oahu, Indonesia or the Aleutians, true enough, but the Indian Ocean too. The same way we will complete the US line-up in order to properly recreate Pearl Harbor then, we will need to simulate the Royal Navy and the Fleet Air Arm in all their glory too. Once the Royal Navy will be accounted for, it will be time to move to other latitudes, taking advantage of the RN ships to explore the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, and so on. As the saying goes, it’s all part of the plan!

Good things take time, and believe us, restricting ourselves is as much a torture to us than it is to you. But we are convinced that this game universe and its engine are destined to great things, and as such we fully intend to make the best use of both. So no worries, we got your covered, but we need to impose ourselves some self-discipline, we need you to be patient, and more than anything, we need your on-going trust and support in our quest – for the road is long, but we will get there, eventually.

This brings me to the last point of the day. We have started our community building – which is not a small feat, considering we went for several social platforms from the get-go. Along the way, Youtube unexpectedly became our largest hub (with more than 450 subscribers in total, most of them in a matter of days) and we started to post on Bilibili too, which has social functions Youtube doesn’t feature – and might very well become our mainstay platform for our Chinese audience. Twitter and Facebook are faring alright I’d say, but it is disconcerting to end up having the actual social platform trailing the pack in terms of exposure and numbers. In that regard, we thank in advance any supporter who will be willing to become our subscriber, whether it’s on Facebook or Twitter. Any new follower adds mechanically to the traction overall, and it is always more pleasing to post new contents when you know that people will actually get to see it. You are welcome to head over to our social accounts if you want to see the kind of features that are embedded in this post without having to wait for the next devblog!


Pheeew. That was quite the long exposé. I promise to be more concise in the future – but some things were in need of a statement, and hopefully these additional facts will make sense to those among you who had their doubts.

Allow me in the name of the whole team to wholeheartedly thank again all those who decided to trust us with their expectations lately. It is truly a pleasure and an honor both to know that our audience is made of so many passionate and dedicated souls, and we can’t wait to repay your kindness with some more in-game contents. Stay tuned for more news in the weeks to come – and in the meantime, fly & sail safe!

o7 to all.

Amiral & the DDG Team