Battle of Britain Tutorial I
by Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson
Game: Battle of Britain
Version: UK Release
Category: Air Combat Simulation (WWII)
Developer: Rowan Software
Publisher: Empire Interactive
Release Date: Released
[ Playable Demo ][ First Look ][ Preview ][ Pilot Career How-To ][ Flight Models in BoB ]
[ The Strategic Side of BoB ][ Creating Aircraft Skins in BoB ][ Ju-88 Gunnery in BoB ]
Article Date: February 5th, 2001
Article Type: Training
Battle of Britain is an unusual game, welding simulation and strategy into a single unit. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and the sim benefits by the strategic interface, while the strategy game gains immersion via the simulation.
The Operations Room is the central nervous system of the simulation. Once you are in the room, many things will be revealed, my son! But reaching that goal can initially be mind boggling. Don't sweat. We'll get you there in one piece. After that, well ....
If you can't wait to fly and experience the simulation in all its glory, follow these simple steps.
- Buy a force feedback controller! Seriously. You have just purchased one of the best WWII combat prop simulations ever designed. Yes, it has a few glitches and bugs, but overall this is a fantastic simulation with very good flight models and awesome action. Rowan has also included the most detailed force feedback options ever. If you really want to experience the thrill of flight, you need a force feedback controller. I recommend either the Microsoft Sidewinder Force II or the Logitech Strike Force 3d, with a slight preference to the latter.
- In the controller options in the controller screen, switch from "realistic" to "SIM". Leave the SIM option flight model setting on realistic. Turn ON force feedback if you have it, and set initial options to MEDIUM for all except GUNFIRE to low. You can always increase it later.
The Controller Options interface
- Turn OFF wind gusts.
- Select 32 bit color. Much richer textures and skies. Set GAMMA to low.
- Getting weird cross-stitched terrain? Try turning anti-aliasing OFF or ON or try a later video driver.
If you have a GeForce 2 board and are getting weird results the cardbase.rc file in the game's install root directory allows for the graphics engine to be tuned by hand and for specific machines and tastes. Also a graphics chipset may be used by a number of card manufacturers to build their own cards some of which need different fixes. What Rowan has provided is a generic set of solutions that also allows fine tuning and tweaking. Open the file called cardbase.rc (root directory of BoB) with any text editor and delete the # symbol before the word DEFAULT. Then add these words on the same line..
If you have less than 128MB and/or less than a PII 400 set Auto Frame rate to 15. If you have greater than a PIII 600 and more than 128MB you can probably turn this off entirely. Systems vary and of course video drivers and video hardware don't always interact with a particular system in predictable ways.
The Flight Options interface
I recommend that you leave Engine Management on AUTO for now, and set Luftwaffe and RAF skill modifiers to MEDIUM. Turn ON Complex Pilot AI for the best dogfighting. Later you can play with horizon settings, target size and the like. Of course, if you happen to fly MiG Alley, this is all familiar territory.
Note that when flying the Spit or the Hurricane you don't have cannons, so all your guns will fire when you press the trigger. On the Me109, however, this isn't the case. To fire all guns you must use the "N" key to toggle all guns. Set the Gun Camera to "TRIGGER" in order to record gun camera footage every time you pull the trigger.
Setting Target Size to low may seem natural for some, but if you want more accurate damage modeling this is also the best choice. This will also reduce mid air collisions if you happen to leave air collisions ON.
In actual combat trim was critically important and the same is true in Battle of Britain. If you have time to trim your aircraft prior to an engagement set your trim at about 200 miles per hour to begin. This is a common engagement speed unless you are running at more than 75% throttle. (Why would you?)
The Quickstart Mission interface
The Spitfire requires a lot of left rudder trim, and is in general the toughest to trim. The Me109 by comparison is a dream, though less maneuverable. If you have any kind of programmable stick you'll want the trim commands on your stick.
Rowan has included the most flexible view system since Total Air War. Padlock and view options abound. This is both a blessing and a curse, since configuration will again drive you nuts. Personally, I think the options are fantastic, but they take some work to set up correctly.
BoB's view system is extremely flexible.
Initially I tried using the NumLock ON option in order to use snap views in the cockpit, with my mouse available for panning views. I found this less than ideal, so I decided to program the snap views to my Logitech Strike Force 3d. This gave me the added option of using a toggle switch on the forward view for UP and FORWARD (hold down SCROLL LOCK while pressing HOME). The up and forward view not only gives you an upward look but also gives access to your rear view mirror!
Rowan offers an optional Auto External padlock view. When you engage the padlock this view comes into effect when the enemy leaves your forward field of view. If you have also zoomed your cockpit view back (CTL KP-) this won't happen quite as readily. The view works by switching to an EXTERNAL padlock view looking across your aircraft to the target. Not only does this allow you to continue your maneuver when the bandit leaves your forward field of vision, it is a great training aid for air combat maneuvers.
External Player to Target View
I recommend that you turn AUTO EXTERNAL Padlock OFF for now and get used to switching to an outside view of your own accord. The ENTER key will switch you between internal and external view padlock when you need to. You can also use the F8 key to make your cockpit invisible. Some players find this a great aid to making the final kill, especially since the head bounce feature can't be turned off at the moment.
Assuming your controller is already configured in Windows, you can now click on Quickshots and then on Basic Training. This should bring you to Advanced Training. Click twice where it says "Follow the Leader" to be taken to Free Flight. Can't wait to fight? Then click on Advanced Training again to get to Dogfighting, or scroll down the list until you get to Historic and fly in Adlertag (Eagle Day).
To Use Directives, Or Not To Use Directives?
The Directives are Rowan's way of simplifying life for the simulation gamer, and at the same time giving the strategic gamer a tool he or she can use to streamline the required tasks.
The Directives dialogue box.
Whenever you launch a new campaign or move into a new time period in Battle of Britain, the Directives dialogue pops up. There are three engagement periods for each day in Battle of Britain: morning, afternoon, and evening. At the beginning of each period the Directives screen allows you to automate a host of tasks, as well as modify your overall strategy for the engagement period.
In general, I recommend that you make use of the Directives initially. After gaining ten or twelve hours of experience in the various phases of the campaign, you can then begin to interfere increasingly in the strategic war and probably improve the odds. So, what do you need to do with this dialogue initially?
I recommend that you leave the REST category alone. I recommend that you assign four Squadrons to patrol 11 Group airfields. This pulls down Squadrons from further afield, and they will come in handy if the Luftwaffe fields a major offensive.
Early in the campaign I have not been patrolling industry and factories. So far, so good. I do, however, assign 4 Squadrons to patrol holes in radar. This is good policy and you'll find that you often vector these Squadrons to needed intercepts. Having Squadrons aloft shortens response time.
On the other hand, I have sometimes NOT assigned any patrols for 11 Group, and then waited until an hour or so into the morning to put up patrols. This simply extends their time in the air to later in the morning before they are forced to land and refuel. It is greatly annoying to have your patrols out of action when the Luftwaffe shows up, and since the Luftwaffe rarely shows up prior to 9 AM, why waste precious air time?
I usually assign 2 to 4 patrols for convoys, though I don't always do this after the CONVOY phase is finished. Later in the war you'll have to steward your limited resources more closely.
Lower half of Directives dialogue box
Under Sanctioned Responses, I leave all default settings except checking the Automatic Scrambling option. If you plan to carefully monitor the strategic situation, you can leave this unchecked. But if you plan to fly a lot, you must enable this option.
Toying with Patrol Size is not recommended until you have more experience as a Strategic Commander.
Finally, just because you make all these selections doesn't mean you have to abide by them. You can tweak to your hearts content as the game unfolds, ordered intercepts and patrols and tasking missions as they come up. You can also turn OFF the Directives entirely at any time by placing the phone “on the hook” via the icons at the bottom of the Operations Room map. This signifies broken contact with the Sector Ops and you must manually assign targets and patrols.
Those Colored Balloons
When first you begin to play the strategic game, you'll notice some odd symbols appearing on the Operations Room map. The ones that caused me confusion for some time were the colored balloons.
Having heard that the online HELP was fairly exhaustive, I searched for "balloon." Hmm, maybe the British spell it differently? Try as I might, I couldn't find any reference to the mysterious markers associated with British Squadrons.
Finally, a note from Rowan informed me that the markers are "lollipops" and not "balloons." The code is as follows...
Operations Room map.
Look first at the British flight, denoted by the blue and white marker. You can see that this is a flight of six aircraft. The lollipops represent sections of three aircraft each, in this case Red Section and Yellow Section. The box denotes the Squadron ID number.
The Luftwaffe marker is tri-colored, and broken into three segments. The topmost yellow segment contains the Hostile ID number. The red segment indicates the estimated number of aircraft in the group. The blue segment gives the estimated altitude.
But the other piece of information escaped me for a time, until I noticed that the arrow that indicates the reported direction of the group changes color from time to time. These arrows are colored to indicate 5 minute periods of time. When first detected a red arrow will appear. After five minutes the arrow will turn yellow, then five minutes later it will turn blue. This way you know at a glance how old the information has become. The most up to date reports on position and direction will be shown by red arrows.
Tomorrow: BoB Tutorial II - Assigning a Squadron
On to Tutorial II: Assign A Squadron
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