|iMagic Online: Dawn of Aces
by "Bubba" Wolford
Interactive Magic Online is set to launch their next multiplayer on-line simulation. Following their success with Warbirds 3d, Dawn Of Aces takes the player into the WWI arena with the same attention to detail found in Warbirds.
iMagic Online: Everything is bigger in Texas!
For most flight sim fanatics there is a special passion for multiplay. Those of us who play LAN feel especially privileged. The uniqueness of getting a number of people together for a LAN meet is like no other. However, in recent years a new passion has developed that has allowed players from across the world to combat each other. Internet play has become so big that the local LAN squadrons are being overshadowed.
In fact, multiplay is now conceived as worldwide action. Arenas allowing hundreds of people to showcase their talents is what iMagic labs is all about. On my recent visit to iMagic labs in Dallas, I learned of one new flight simulator that will premiere a new era of Internet play and more of an old favorite.
Dawn of Aces
This is a new development by iMagic to broaden their Internet play and draw on the audiences empowered by Red Baron II, Flying Circus, and Flying Corps. This new WWI simulator will use the same core infrastructure familiar to many gamers via Warbirds. What's so special about about porting over the Warbirds essence? The Warbirds flight model, scoring system, graphics engine, damage modeling and gameplay issues have been relentlessly tweaked to accomplish what the developers and customers want. For those who have played Warbirds, familiarity with Dawn of Aces (DOA) will be almost immediate. All controls and view systems will be identical.
When I visited the labs only one of the new WWI planes had been implemented. The British Bristol, a two seater, light reconnaissance and attack plane. In the initial release of planes, iMagic labs did not have a direct equivalent for the Bristol. Besides the British Bristol, the following aircraft were announced to be modeled.. British: SPADS S. VII and Sopwith Camel. The Germans countered with the Albatros D.V. and Fokker Dr.1. However, to counter the Bristol, the folk at iMagic labs have told us about a sixth aircraft, the German Halberstandt C.L. II. Two teams are planned as opposed to the four included with Warbirds.
If the look of the Bristol was evidence of what is to come then WWI fanatics have a treat coming. Painstaking detail had been added. All colors were 16 bit except for the cockpit art, which was 256 color to save on download time. Even so it looked exquisite. The detail on the aircraft is beautiful. Ailerons, rudders, and elevators move as they should and the rotary engines even pulled the aircraft constantly requiring constant attention from the pilot.
As compared to Warbirds, the terrain will be unique to the period and place. Scales of 1/3 the actual distances were discussed. Clearly, these planes fly MUCH slower and no one wants to spend 45 minutes flying to the battle area only to die in 1 minute of fighting all the while paying for each hour. Also, the actual specs for each planes armor and guns have to be modeled including a fixed convergence distance.
Voice communications like Warbirds will also be present. Period shifts from Day to Dusk to Dawn will benefit from Warbirds testing as well. Again, since the refinement of all these features in Warbirds, players benefit immediately from what is essentially a product long polished. Thus, all the features that are implemented from Warbirds will be looked at again, tweaked if necessary, and made specific to DOA.
Given planes in WWI were much lighter and not armored, damage and flight modeling will be different. Clearly the flight models of the planes are different, speeds are slower and stability is an issue thus allowing much slower merges and dogfights. Don't expect to see the swooping and dramatic plane fights we see on TV. These planes while light are horribly underpowered. Pull too many G's and expect parts to fly off if the plane doesn't snap in half entirely.
Specific features for specific planes will be modeled like the bottom wing failures in "high speed" dives in the Albatros D.V. They will act just as in real life. Sometimes the wing might fail other times it may not. Due to slower speeds and merges, skilled players can target specific parts of the plane for damage. Damage to the fabric wings will be negotiable at best and may not hamper the plane at all.
However, targeting of the pilot himself is something the folks at iMagic labs think people will have in mind. Simulating a hit on the backseater in the Bristol caused him to slump over thus allowing the pilot an unabated view of the rear of the aircraft. Hitting key systems like fuel and the engine will have the expected reactions. Explosions like those in Warbirds will be familiar. Details down to allowing players to use "blip" switches to turn off the engines in high overtake and landing situations is being considered.
Graphics will feature resolutions from 640X480 to 1024X768. Specific Voodoo 2 support is being considered but owners of the 3DFX brute can expect to play in 1024X768 with one V2. In fact, voodoo was the 3D card benchmarked in testing. Graphics mimicked Warbirds 3D using D3D. Although a 2D version will be available, expect all iMagic games to port to 3D only within the next 12 months as 3D cards continue becoming standard equipment.
We have covered what is familiar about DOA and how it compares to Warbirds, but what new ground will it introduce that Warbirds will follow later? According to Doug Balmos (Project Manager) and Dale Addink (VP of Development) DOA will introduce a new scoring and reward system. There is talk of different color schemes or different paint jobs for better players thus enabling everyone to know who the "King" is. In addition medals and special rewards can be earned for certain feats like 5 kills on one sortie or 500 kills over a specific period. Six medals per side are planned as of now.
Ranks were still something of a mystery as to how they would be a direct benefit to players. Besides bragging rights, they will likely being tied to the "color" schemes players can obtain but might include special abilities during campaigns. Obviously, to keep track of all the "feats" a numerical scoring is planned for all players. However, with regard to rank, increases will be more difficult as a person's rank climbs. Thus the gap between a Lieutenant and Captain will be lower than that between Captain and Major and so on.
Dawn of Aces is slated for a summer release. An open beta like that of Warbirds is planned. The fees for Dawn of Aces are undetermined but will probably mimic Warbirds.
From iMagics Press Release:
Albatros D.Va - Central Powers
The Albatros D.Va replaced the Albatros III in April 1917 and was then superseded by the Va in October of 1917. The Va was the last in the line of Albatros fighters to see operational use in WWI. The Albatros Va saw use to the end of war with its peak usage occurring in May of 1918. Armament consisted of twin 7.9mm LMG 08/15 machine guns. The Albatross could fly up to 115 mph for up to 2 hours. The Albatross V was fitted with a 180hp Mercedes engine, and a 220hp Mercedes and a 200hp Benz engine were used experimentally. Initially, the structural integrity of the Albatross Va was suspect, but later alterations improved the reliability. However, pilots were still warned not to dive too steep. The Albatross D.V and Albatross D.Va flew with German units in Italy.
Bristol F.2B – Allies
This British two-seater biplane was used for reconnaissance and as a fighter plane during WWI. The Bristol was made of plywood, aluminum and fabric. It was armed with a fixed forward firing 0.303 Vickers machine gun that was synchronized to fire through the propeller. The Bristol was also armed with one or two flexible Lewis 0.303 machine guns, which were attached to the tail of the plane and used by the gunner. The Bristol could fly up to 123 mph for up to 3 hours.
Fokker Dr.1 - Central Powers
The Fokker Dr. 1, a German tri-plane, is known to many as the plane that the infamous Baron Manfred von Richthofen, or the 'Red Baron', flew during the World War I. The tri-plane was known as being one of the most nimble aircraft in that time period. Only a small number of Fokker Dr. 1 tri-planes were ever built, but they shot down many times their own number.
The Fokker is made of materials almost identical to the Sopwith. The Fokker Dr. 1 was armed with two synchronized 7.92 mm LMG 08/15 machine guns. It could fly at a maximum of 115 mph for an hour and a half.
Sopwith Camel – Allies
The Sopwith Camel, a British biplane, was a tricky airplane to fly, but once, mastered, was the most successful and popular of the fighting scouts of what was know as the 'Kaiser's War'. The fuselage of the Camel was a wire-braced wooden box covered with aluminum, plywood and fabric covered the plane's tail. The most important design feature was the concentration of the propeller, engine fuel tank armament and pilot's cockpit within the front few feet of the fuselage.
Because so much weight was concentrated in the front of the airplane, it was extremely maneuverable. The Sopwith Camel was armed with two 0.303 Vickers machine guns on the nose and synchronized to fire through the propeller. It could also carry four 25-pound bombs on external racks. It could fly at a maximum of 117 mph for up to 2 1/2 hours.
Spad VII – Allies
When it appeared in 1916, the SPAD S.VII, a French biplane, was a remarkable fighter. It was heavier and much faster. (Although it was lacking agility and did have the alarming tendency to break up in the air during prolonged maneuvers. The wings of the Spad VII were made of remarkably thin aerofoil (basically heavy aluminum foil). The Spad VII was armed with one fixed forward firing Vickers 0.303 machine gun. The Spad VII could fly up to 132 mph for about and hour and a half.
On May 7, 1917 the first Halberstadt CL.II production order was placed. When it arrived to The Front in August of 1917 is achieved immediate acclaim. It's excellent maneuverability, good climb rate, and wide field of view for the rear gunner enabled this two-seater to hold its own against enemy single-seaters. The CLII became the mainstay aircraft used to provide protection of reconnaissance aircraft. Approximately 900 CL.II were built through 1918. The CL.II armament consisted of one forward firing Spandau and one flexible Parabellum on a raised ring for the rear gunner. It was powered by a 160hp Mercedes engine and its top speed reached 102mph.
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Last Updated July 29th, 1998