SimGuild's Battle of Britain
by RedShad_DD January 3rd, 2000
The Battle of Britain from SimGuild has been in beta for more than a month now. For some strange reason I have found myself drawn to it.
I say strange because my first impression was one of "arcade-lite." The first thing you will notice is the smooth textured ground, clear sky and a fluffy layer of clouds overhead. We aren't talking EAW at dawn here. Then you fire-up the engine of a yellow-nose 109E... hmmm. Well, it IS the sound of the engine! I hope will get some guts added to it as SimGuild progresses with the development of BoB.
A quick look around the cockpit reveals a 2D interior with easy to read gauges, a translucent comms rectangle, a 5-mile threat box (radar), and an optional text readout of vital statistics. Views are limited to forward, up, right, left, rear.
The only 45-degree angle views are forward/up and rear/up. For 8-position POV hats, the diagonal views are currently missing. But this being beta... we can hope. Another view is an expanded instruments view. This view reveals less important instruments like trim settings and fuel gauges. Since we are sitting in a 2D cockpit there is no padlock capability.
One interesting view system note... you can toggle a zoom of your view, enlarging it up to 4X. This is a nifty way of overcoming the limitations of recreating vision with a computer monitor. With zoom on, what are only 1-pixels dots in the distance take on the color and form of recognizable aircraft. The importance of the ability to ID aircraft soon becomes obvious. There are no country tags to tell you who is an enemy and who is on your side! This will be even more interesting as more planes are added.
There are no distance tags that count down as you engage, and nametags are the only labels. These are handled nicely; they slowly fade in as you merge and fade away as you extend. I really like the way this works. I know a particular name or two that tend to give me shivers as I see them creep into view since they spell impending DOOM for yours truly!
A map view is available at the click of a button. This view shows only your own position. I would like to see a grid overlay of this map since it would help when relaying location calls to team-mates.
Flight and Damage Models
I am not an expert on flight models but I like the feel of BoB's FM. However, there are no blackouts or redouts. The only time I have found myself in a spin, it has been due to damaged control surfaces. Stalls appear as a mushy loss of aircraft response and nose drops.
Personally, I don't have a problem with this approach. I have never experienced a spin or stall in a real aircraft so I am not a good judge of the accuracy of these. The man behind the FM is a licensed pilot, and has experience as a USAF officer and as a private pilot. He has flown everything from props to jets. I will leave it to him and those with his experience to judge the accuracy of flight models.
But from what I have seen of other sims that do include the more "realistic" characteristics, I feel they are often overdone. BoB does offer interesting torque effects on takeoff. If SimGuild's Battle of Britain was the ultimate in realism, you would find me on the banks of the English Channel with a fishing rod in may hands rather than risking my life in the skies above!
Other more "realistic" features include trim controls, fuel loadouts and the ability to independently adjust convergence of guns and cannons. But hold the trigger down and machine guns will fire until empty! The reflector site can be toggled from fixed to floating, according to convergence settings.
The damage model is more than a simple "score so many hits and you've blown off a wing." Damage is incurred by calculating ft/lbs of energy, and is measured for each round. Thus hits from far away do less damage than those at close range in a head-on.
All I can say is, steer clear of head-ons with the 109 cannons! One thing I would like added would be a damage status report. Currently you hear a THWAAACK! when you take a hit. When in a h2h merge it is hard to tell if you are hearing damage to your aircraft or that of your target.
Currently there are 4 aircraft available in BoB. For RAF flyers there is the Hawker Hurricane Mark I and the SuperMarine Spitfire Mark I. The Luftwaffe has the Messerschmitt BF 109 and the twin engine Messerschmitt BF 110. Bombers that will be added in the future include the Bristol Bleheim Mark I for the RAF and the Heinkel HE111, Junkers JU87 and JU88 for the Luftwaffe.
The addition of bombers will add a lot of depth to this sim. Teamwork will become more important. Although available to fly, the 110 does not yet have bombs. But what it does have is a dorsal gunner's position. This can be fun; throw it into autopilot and jump back to the rear seat and try to pick off attacking spitfires.
But what has me stuck on BoB is its smooth graphics that actually enhance playability! I have always felt that graphics don't make the game. All too often playability suffers. But the smoke, flack, explosions and dynamic lighting on the aircraft are truly artful! And the action is smooth as silk, even on a 200MHz Pentium with 64mb RAM.
Fly too close to the enemy coast and flack bursts will give away your position from miles away! A well placed hit and your target will pull a stream of white smoke. Get on his six and you may find yourself choking on black smoke before you finally fly through a ball of fire and see his aircraft tumble towards the channel without one of his wings! These encounters often receive comment from those who view them from miles away. Even from a distance, smoke and bits of fire can be seen streaming downward like a 4th of July!
The current version is far from a finished product, but I am excited about the possibilities SimGuild has presented to us in the Battle of Britain. The download is available to the public at SimGuild. The four current aircraft can be flown offline, and online play is available for SimGuild account holders.
As I stated at the beginning, I feel drawn to fly this online sim. There's just something about BoB!
Join a discussion forum on this article by clicking HERE.
Copyright © 1997 - 2000 COMBATSIM.COM, INC. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated DJanuary 3rd, 2000