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B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th!
By Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
The Campaign and Mission Flow
Most simulation fans agree that there are two approaches to campaign dynamics that work well. The first is a well designed branching structure with a persistent environment and resource modeling. The second is a fully dynamic campaign system. In the dynamic campaign, events are determined by an interaction of the player’s choices with a fluid combat environment. The world endures from mission to mission, so that targets that are destroyed stay dead or have logical repair times. Events connect logically to following events. Resources are tracked, so that destroying the enemy’s supplies or aircraft on the ground mean less opposition in successive missions.
Approaching the Target
In B17 if the player elects to bomb a target in mission one, but only hits half the target, when returning to that target the next day he will see a partially destroyed target. Furthermore, if that target was a factory making bearings for fighter aircraft, the enemy’s war effort will be slightly impeded. The campaign AI will recognize that fighter production is affected slightly until repairs can be made.
Furthermore, there is a higher degree of randomness in a well designed or dynamic campaign. Missions do not play out the same each time. Fighter positions and strength will vary with each flight, just as cloud cover and wind will vary.
Morale factors in B17 add a higher degree of variation. The ability of the crew to grow in ability over successive missions adds a variable that increases replayability in B17. Furthermore, you will tend to get attached to your crew.
When asked about the dynamic campaign engine Andrew Walrond responded that,
“We looked at the campaigns in other World War II flight sims and found them very linear. Rather than pretend that the player can affect the progress of the war directly, we decided to model the effects of his more fully within his Squadron. What we've set up is a simulation of the wartime environment, and we change that environment according to the dictates of history.”
“For example, as the front line moves flak and fighters in the way of the player will be swept away. With successful missions, targets will be liberated and, therefore, no longer eligible for bombing. Progress will never be without losses to the player’s squadron, but when the Ground Troops push the Germans back, he'll be cheering for them!”
Me262 in Silhouette
The game offers the usual options: training missions, quickstart missions, historical (single) missions, and campaign. There are two campaigns, Bomber Commander, and Squadron Commander, and these are the heart of the game.
Bomber Commander Office
The Bomber Commander mode allows you to command a single bomber and its ten crew positions in a full tour. You don’t have the luxury of choosing targets and planning missions. You just fly what is handed to you. But you define your crew’s success with medals and promotions, and nurture them to get the most from them. You set the pace. Your goal is to fly successful missions and bring your boys home safely.
In Squadron Commander mode (SCO) you have control over the aircraft, crew and mission structure. As SCO you are in charge of sixty crewmen and 6 bombers, though when you fly your squadron will consist of up to 18 ships (the “ghost” ships don’t actually drop bombs but they will add to your defensive screen).
Squadron Commander mode is the strategic portion of the game. HQ will tell you the priorities, but you decide how to implement those orders. Following the strategic priorities will get you a higher rating if your missions prove successful.
The priorities are communicated via the mail IN-BOX in the SCO’s office. After my second mission in the SCO campaign I received 41 pages of reading material, including post-mission reports, commendations, and letters of condolence to the families of lost crewmen. Among those pages were the following communications:
Letters from HQ
Letters from HQ
As SCO you order recon flights to keep Intel current, up to three recon missions for every flight you make. Using reconnaissance data and weather information, you plan the best missions that you can. In this mode you interact not only with one crew, but rather the entire squadron. In flight, the SC mode allows you to switch between your six bombers.
TIP: Monitor Crew in Other Forts
Switching between bombers is a good way to monitor crew performance of your entire squadron in flight. Even though the bombers you don’t occupy are automatically on the highest level of initiative, under certain conditions crew will not attend quickly enough to a wounded comrade, meaning that their defensive capability and their morale will suffer. Your occasional checks of the other Forts while under defensive conditions can increase the success of your missions.The Operations Room is only available when you have chosen the Squadron Commander campaign. All mission planning takes place from here, including Recon flights and selecting targets and ordnance.
The operations map is on the large desk at the front of the image. On top of the map are the ordnance file and the target intelligence file. Check the B17 briefing on the ThrustMaster website for more information on choosing ordnance.
Operations Room Map
On your desk in the SCO’s office are the Crew Information File, Bomber Information File and Medical File. Clicking on the folder opens the file and you can page through each report.
Squadron Commander Office
The bookcase in the corner brings up the Squadron History file – a detailed report on each of the missions flown by the Squadron since the player started the game.
You click on the window to leave for your jeep. There you find a clipboard with a list of your bombers. Click on a name to proceed to the flight line and visually examine each aircraft after the mission. Meanwhile, your driver will arrange the paperwork on the jeep bonnet, including the Mechanical File, Crew Management File and Crew Replacement File. The Mechanical file is a list of faults with the aircraft, and the crew chiefs estimate of the time and cost of repair. As SCO you have the option of scrapping a machine for parts.
The Crew Management file is similarly detailed, offering details about each bomber crew. Before each flight the CO must go through the management file to assess the status of each bomber crew. After my first mission I grounded the pilot of the LEAD aircraft, and assigned a better performing pilot from another bomber. It’s important that the performance of the LEAD bomber be top notch, since all the other aircraft bomb in accordance with the LEAD.
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