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B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th!
By Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Crew Management and Control Interface
The average simulation models two roles for the player, one on each side of the conflict. Some simulations add a third role, as strategic commander. B17 models ten positions on the Fortress, fighter pilots on both sides, Bomber Commander and Squadron Commander.
That’s fourteen positions you can play, in a fully dynamic campaign system, with the choice of seven aircraft to fly!
B17 II evokes a sense of community with motion capture for each crew position, and the entire Fortress reproduced in painstaking detail. The player can choose to play ANY of the ten crew positions, with AI taking over the other positions, or move to each position in turn and try and do it all. If you play as Squadron Commander and your Fort is shot down, you can jump to another machine and continue the mission.
On the last mission I flew I let the AI start the plane, taxi and takeoff. I then watched in outside view until the escort arrived. At that point I jumped into the P38 and enjoyed cruising along with the bomber formation.
Somewhere over the channel the Luftwaffe arrived, with 109s and 190s. I jumped out of the P38 and into the tail gunner’s shoes, managing to wing a Fw 190 on his first pass. One of the crew was wounded, so I ordered a side gunner to attend to him. The escort engaged the 190s, so I took over for the navigator and got a fix on our position. I then jumped into the radio operators shoes and requested a weather report for the target area. Shortly afterward I decided to bypass the primary in favor of the secondary, and went back to the navigator’s position to help out.
Crew management in B17 is a critical game component. First, for morale. If you don’t take care of your crew, morale and performance will suffer. Second, for efficiency. If you don’t attend to a wounded crew member, he will likely die. If that happens, you’ll have a rookie replacing him on the next flight. Instead you want to maintain the same crew as long as possible, since they will grow in skill and contribute to successful missions.
In fact, playing crew positions will help your crew to grow in skill. On your first missions your crew will be very green. If you man the tail gun you have a good chance to do a better job than the rookie gunner. And your activity is recorded as his skill level, so that if you do well, your tail gunner will be credited with increased skill. He’ll improve with experience anyway, but will improve faster if you help him out.
Crew management is relatively simple, given the intuitive interface developed for B17. There are five mouse-able interfaces that help you maneuver inside the Fortress, issue orders, and move to an external view. A sixth interface allows you to move from bomber to various fighters once you are outside the Fort.
The first interface is the one that allows you to issue movement orders to your various crewmembers. The icon rose (so-called because it blossoms around the selected crewman) pops up when you right click on any crew member. The central icon is the instruction you are issuing, so in the image above the “walking man” tells you that clicking on any of the surrounding icons will send the Navigator to that station where he will take over.
Clicking on the central icon changes the instruction and so the central icon. The change will depend on the context, and could be a first aid icon, or a fire control icon, repair, or bail out. When you click on Give First Aid a portrait of any wounded crewmembers will appear. Sometimes you’ll have to choose between one or two seriously injured men.
Some crew members have special abilities, such as the bombardier. Clicking on him will allow you to send him to the chin turret gun position, where you can assume manual control of the guns if you like.
The second icon interface that you will use a great deal is the Crew Views Panel. From top to bottom, this panel allows you to move to an Aircraft (external) view, the Crew view, the Action view, the Instrument view, and the Window view. (Note: the pilots and gunners do not have separate window views. They look left and right using camera keys. The forward window view is the action view for pilots, and the action view for gunners is their view across their gun sights). The panel is accessed by sliding your mouse cursor to the right hand edge of the screen.
Radio Operator Instrument View
The left log book is outgoing messages, the right incoming. The next image shows the outgoing log, which allows you to issue orders, and will change as the mission progresses. The right book records mission events.
In order to issue orders, the player hits the “M” key to move to manual control. Then simply clicking on the order desired issues that order.
Crew Portrait Panel
The Crew Portrait Panel is accessed by sliding your cursor to the top of the screen. Here you can access any crewman by clicking on their icon.
Crew Position Panel
The Crew Position Panel is accessed by sliding your cursor to the left edge of the screen while in any action station. The Panel accesses a particular station, and not the man filling the position. If the station is not manned it won’t show up on this icon tree. This is a good way to know at a glance where there are gaps in your gun coverage.
Compartment Selection Icon
The Compartment Selection Icon is accessed by sliding your cursor to the bottom edge of the screen. Sliding the cursor over a particular compartment is indicated by a red LED. Clicking takes you to the selected compartment. You may then click on a figure to select the crewman to whom you want to issue an order.
Aircraft Interface Menu
The Aircraft Interface menu is accessed when you are in the external view (go external with F2 key or the Aircraft icon, internal with F1).
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