WarBirds III - The Latest
By Len "Viking1" Hjalmarson

Article Type: Update
Article Date: August 19, 2002

Product Info

Game Title: WarBirds III
Category: MMOG WWII Air Combat
Developer / Publisher: iENT
Release Date: Released
Required Spec: Click Here
Files / Links: Click Here


What's New

As WarBirds III heads for the release of the boxed version on a shelf near you, continuing improvements are occurring for both online and offline play. The most recent changes are very welcome, including graphical enhancement, ability to include AI wingmen for bombers while online, and even the ability to order various formations for your AI wingmen.

WarBirds Graphics

The graphic engine changed last year and has far more flexibility than the previous one. Initially changes were gradual and barely noticeable, with the more recent changes including enhanced tracers, object detail, and cockpits.

I downloaded the latest update, which is around 34 MB, and installed as usual without any issues. I fired up the game and chose the online WWII arena. Forty-five pilots were online when I entered the arena, a lower number than usual.

I had a couple of lockups in my first half-hour of flight, an experience I can’t recall in the last few years of WarBirds. I’m still not sure if these initial issues were with sound or video drivers or a code problem. I changed my CPU setting from INTEL to AMD (the cpu.cfg file in the root directory) and I seemed to have fewer problems after this.

Launching WarBirds

Video setup in WarBirds

As I was looking for the new effects I discovered that if I chose the stencil buffer setting upon entering the program I could enable shadows! Unfortunately, using the stencil buffer on my Ti4400 caused constant crashes and blank screens. I went back to no stencil buffer and the crashes disappeared.

Meantime, I observed many of the new effects.

B-25C with two engines afire

As you can see, smoke and flames are much better modeled in the new update. Happily, this applies to both air and ground environments. When you destroy a ground object like a hangar it will send up smoke that can be seen for quite a while and from a good distance (perhaps ten miles or more). This then becomes a significant feature for SA since you can observe a battle from a much greater distance, and even use smoke to track to a target area.

One change that surprised me is that I had leaking oil on an engine in a B-25C and I simply ignored it. About five minutes later my engine suddenly burst into flame! I can’t recall this kind of cascading damage experience before; perhaps I simply didn’t notice it when the effects were missing?

Observing bomb impact

Observing bomb impact

The impact of a 250-pound bomb can now be easily seen from 10,000 feet, and the 500-pound bombs and 1000-pound bombs create a much larger impact. Flames and smoke can be seen on initial impact, as well as what looks like a good deal of dirt and dust. When the dust settles the smoke continues, depending on the object hit.

Selecting Aircraft and Runway

The aircraft selection interface has changed again, this time with a new button for selecting the runway.

Field selection interface

Clicking on the plane icon brings up a zoomed-in map view of the selected airfield. This makes changing runways a snap by simply clicking on the takeoff point. If you need a longer runway or just want to take off in a different direction, it is finally a matter of point and click.

Runway selection

AI Wingmen

AI wingmen seem to do quite well. They are enabled by the host for up to three wingmen per bomber pilot (currently there is only a single wingman enabled, and a limit to a maximum of 15 pilots with wingmen).

In order to access the new feature you click on the setup tab and select “Flight”. Then type in the number of wingmen you want (even though you type in “3” the host sets the limit) and when you find yourself on the runway your wingman will go flying past you, already airborne. When you get airborne he will gradually get into proper formation.

B-25C duo in echelon formation

Not only do these drones follow you dutifully to the target—adding their extra firepower to yours against attackers—they also drop ordnance when you do. Yes, you just doubled the amount of iron you can put on target for any flight.

Previously while I really enjoyed flying bombers, it was always a drag to fly alone. It’s not difficult to find a human wingman for fighter pilots in WBIII, but it isn’t always easy to find someone who wants to fly a bomb run. When you do locate such a buddy now, you will have four or six bombers in your formation. Very nice.

If your drone wingman is damaged, he may decide return to base. Furthermore, if you are killed, your drone wingman simply disappears. Until such time, however, he is a great asset.

In order to alter the formation of your flight you can issue a number of commands, each of which allows the ability to select the spacing.

To alter your flight's formation, you bring up the chat bar with the forward slash “/” key, and then change one of your radio channels to channel 114. Do this by clicking on any channel number and then typing in the proper numerals.

Next, select channel 114 by clicking on the round button. When the channel is selected you type the formation command in this format:

F []

The formation can be one of:
  • VIC
and the spread (optional) is in feet.

For example, I like to use the FIGHTING_WING formation when there are bandits around, since they tend to attack from the rear. I type “f fighting_wing 80” to put my wingman on my tail 80 feet in trail. You will see your wingman respond in the chat bar like this:

Fighting wing with B-25Cs

At the moment drone wingman do not know how to land, so they simply fly around until you land and exit to refly.

Scoring with drone wingmen works like this: their ordnance on target counts along with your own, and they drop one bomb for every hit of the B key. Any air-to-air kills they make, however, count as gun or ack kills and do not add to your total. Similarly, if your drone is shot down by a human pilot the kill counts as a gun or ack kill and does not add to your opponent’s score.

This makes your drone much more expendable than you are…and of course, even if your wingman is shot down you can keep on flying. This means that you will now reach your target more often—a serious consideration since climbing to bombing altitude alone can take ten to fifteen minutes!

I’m hoping we will see the host setting for a single drone wingman changed to two wingmen for the major scenarios. When there are only thirty or forty pilots in the arena, it makes sense to limit the bomber drones, but when those numbers climb it will make good sense to increase the drone allotment.

The Boxed Version

The jewel case

Currently the boxed version is planned to go gold on August 19th. This means it could hit the shelves in early September. Two months free online play are included in the price, and after that unlimited play is $9.95 per month. This is quite a bargain considering that in the “old days” a player could spend $25 US per month for unlimited air time, and the game did not have the flexibility or depth that it currently has.

How much will online numbers increase when WarBirds III becomes an in-store product? No one really knows; but it’s safe to say those numbers will increase. That means more players online, and more fun for all.

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WarBirds 2.x:

WarBirds III:


FILES: WarBirds 2.7x:

WarBirds III: