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Exclusive Falcon 4.0 LAN Report
by Dan "Crash" Crenshaw
 

Falcon 4.0 is perhaps the most sweeping military simulation ever released for the PC. In spite of the continuing issues, the dynamic campaign environment and the multiplayer abilities (particularly via KALI) make this simulation an excellent online experience.

Naturally, testing continues and patches are still in process to stabilize multi-player in F4. The 209th VFS Delta Hawks tested the latest (middle of March) network code during our LAN meet. While still not complete, the potential and the direction of what this game will be is stunningly apparent.

Friday night was a bit frustrating. True BETA testing is not all that much fun or as glamorous as people think. We worked directly with the programmer working on the network code, calling and e-mailing back and forth for several hours. We could get into missions, but with no better stability than our 1.03 attempts and with never more than 3.

Late on Friday night, after trying about 6 new executable files, we were contemplating what to fly for the weekend. We had a TV crew coming to do a piece on our squadron and wanted to fly FALCON to show off what we do in all of its glory. But FALCON wasn't cooperating.

We spent some more time on the phone with the programmer as well as SLEEPDOC who is running what is being referred to as the I-Beta team, a small group of testers who are focusing solely on Internet Multi-Player code.

There was a difference of opinion on exactly which object files should be used with which executable. We decided that some of the files we had added to our directory from other beta builds might be the culprit in our lack of success. So we completely uninstalled and reinstalled F4 afresh, then patched up with the files we thought would give the best stability based on all of our guesses and input.

By the time we completed this process it was past 10 P.M. and we had been working on getting into the game together for about 5.5 hours. We were going for a minimum of four players, so we began to enter the game using our standard methods. I was running my P2 450 at 504 Mhz with 256 megs of RAM, so I served.

After we all connected in the COMMS section, I started a campaign. With what we call the "209th VooDoo" we never try to have two people enter any area of the game simultaneously. (This is being corrected as I write this and has already improved greatly.) After I got into the campaign, RHINO entered, next was BIGFOOT and then CENTRAL. Four players in the interface so far so good.

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LAN Meet
LAN Crew.

The next question: could we get into a mission? Well, after several tries we decided that the AI was still not where it needed to be for us to taxi out and the "Charlie Foxtrot" on the runway caused at least one of us to get killed in an accident in every attempt. I had a talk at MicroProse the previous Monday about this very issue and discussed several options that are being considered. This situation is being addressed currently and there have already been improvements here.

Back to the "209th VooDoo" (we called it this in 1.03 as well.) We would wait until our flight is in the air to avoid the runway antics of the AI. BINGO, success! At 11 P.M. and we had four players in a campaign. All of us were in the air and flying. But for how long?

After 3 missions or so, we decided that we had pretty decent stability with four players and the voodoo. Now it was time to up the ante. We had ten pilots present on Friday night, so we decided to give it a go. Using the entering the game "voodoo," we had ten players in the multiplayer interface!

As we started to set up missions, we noticed some issues and started a bug report list. As we entered these missions, we were still doing well. Four players in, then give, then six then we lost one. We brought in someone else, and lost two. Back to four players, with three players yet to even try and get in.

After we worked out the rest, we had lost all but three players: the server and two others. We reached too far too soon. After a few more trials, we found that we could occasionally get five in, but six would always cause a problem. Four players in the game was very stable. The game plan was made at 3 A.M.; we would split up and fly multiple campaigns for the weekend.

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