Friday, June 29, 2007

More chitter

Firstly, apologies to those of you who are more keen on the tabletop experience than that which has presently grabbed my fancy. I am obviously, however, thoroughly enjoying the challenge of flying the flight sim IL46, and gain a lot of satisfaction from the civilised (generally) online interaction which accompanies my present flying. I have just completed about 90min on the Wildcat v Zeke server, flying over Okinawa. This is a full realism server, so it was quite a challenge.

Was nice to be able to hop back into a mustang, which though it is crap at turning I am at least familiar with. Also managed to get a badly shot up Ki84 down in a crash landing, and another to a undercarriage crumpling halt on the deck. For first time ever I used teamspeak with someone who I only know as a fellow pilot (from NSW). It added another set of eyes to my surveillance of the sky. Good fun.

Secondly, I went to a hobby shop today to look at model planes (1:72 and 1:48 scales mainly). It was pretty good to see that most of the (generally russian) planes that I either fly now or will soon are available in model form. I didn't get any, but a 1:48 IL 16 type 10 grabbed my fancy. It was a bit pricey at about $60, but would be fun to make up in the skin of a Spanish Civil War plane. I believe it's the right model. That would make an interesting photo essay I think.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Talking Online

I have now got the TeamSpeak system running on this computer. That means that I can hook up with other users of Teamspeak online, one by one or in groups, and talk away to heart's content over the internet. Don't think it costs anything. No doubt, the conversations will be analysed to some degree as they occur, and they don't have the immediacy of a phone (they 'lag' a bit), but sure is cool.

Of particular coolness is the added dimension that realtime talk adds to online fling with other hardy souls. Wayne and I hooked up over Hawaii last night on the Phantom (Pacific Fighters) server. It was pretty excellent to further immerse in the online soup. The intriguing thing now is to learn how to use these comm's to best effect.

The capability will probably increase the speed of learning the finer points of the art of flying.

I hope.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Australian Skies

I have just flown on the 'Australian Skies' server, between 16 and 18 planes flying almost full real version of '46. I flew two sorties in about an hour. Got shot down both times, without causing any damage to either air or ground targets of which I'm aware. Flew P-40C Kittyhawk, generally against Ki43a ('Tony'(?)). At various times I got guns on target in the air, and managed to drop a bomb on an (empty) airfield.

Most of my fellow pilots, on both sides, were australians. They were all quite serious, however, there being none of the usual banter I so enjoy. Perhaps that's because there were so few americans (like, one)? It's funny, as I'd just been telling my wife how my countrymen seem to shoot you down as soon as look at you, no matter what your skill level, while those from other nations will be more willing to offer a bit of advice before the coup de grace. Then, I hop on this server for the first time and notice that 'vulching' (strafing planes on or near the ground) is expressly permitted on this server - it is banned on most others. Mercy is discouraged on this server.

To make up for this, though, it is a fun server because it leaves you to try and construct missions within the parameters of the server's scenario - with achievable victory conditions for both axis and allied. When either side reaches its victory condition, the server reboots with another map and mission. The two scenarios I saw appeared to be fairly historical and intelligently put together.

My only gripe wasn't against the server or the pilots I flew with and against (many of whom belong to the Wedge Tailed Eagles online squadron). Rather, it was against the pilot 609_Jericho, he was a 'friendly' who shot at me as I went to bomb enemy airfield and then proceeded to hunt me down. I noticed that his kill previously had also been against a 'team mate'. This is very fustrating. A server message encourages to report 'team killers' to the server. I am waiting to receive my registration, and will report this player when I do so. Hope he gets banned.

Cruel server indeed...

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Pacific Air

I have been flying online again, about three hours over past two days. I've been playing IL 46 mainly offline, trying to get my skills up a bit (lots of landing practice, getting better).

Last night I thoroughly enjoyed myself flying over the Libyan desert on the 'Internode' server. I think this server is physically located in Adelaide. I think this because my 'ping rate' was down to '20', which is less than one quarter of my previous lowest ping rate (90). [Ping rate is better low than high, it measures roughly the lag/delay experienced in the connection between you and the server, too high a ping rate (eg over 500) and you increase the risk of the dreaded 'lag' effect]. In any event, there were three other flyers over the desert during my visit and all were from Australia (Adelaide, Canberra, Melbourne and Brisbane).

I enjoyed the experience of flying with fellow aussies. Their humour was one that meant I didn't need to make the irony obvious for it to be recognised, and I understood their wit. It's funny how on the web we can obtain so much 'emotional data' through the sparse words we get to type in. Not that I don't like flying in the company of folk from all over the planet, it was just unusual and nice to be able to be amongst my own. Though, with the names two of them had ('Thor'and 'Krakenwolf') I could have thought I was 'flying Norwegian' (if I ignored the desert (!)).

Speaking of which, I went onto the Norwegian Pacific Server this evening for about an hour. It was nice to fly over familiar territory (Palau etc). I was the third person to fly on the Pacific server in its resurrected state. Therefore I am third on the statistics for both bombers and fighters on the server's Stat Page (see Norwegian link on sidebar to right of screen).

In the Norwegian session, I was shot down by AAA three times, including once when I managed to get back to airfield with only half my tail and no rudder (crashing in flames never-the-less), and another when I successfully bailed out over the ocean only to be mercilessly gunned down in my raft by ship based AA guns. Deadly!

Even though my ping rate here is usually around 300, I have no troubles. And I like the oddball company of flyers who regularly visit the site and servers. Thus is international cooperation made.

And now that I can fly in the clean air of the pacific again, I'm sure I'll return more often...

Monday, June 18, 2007

Political Games (long post)

DISCLAIMER - This is NOT a political blog by another name. The following post is not typical of posts on this blog. It is offered in spirit of honesty with readers and arises from the urge to write on last day of my holiday break. I apologise in advance if anyone is offended. It's just my attempt to engage with a topic dear to my (non-gaming gene) heart.

A week ago I said, "Don't some of our american cousins understand what a bad look they have when the get on their white horses to go fight red demons?" on this post, drawing this response from Maksim-Smelchak. You can see my initial response immediately following his comment (and, before you ask, I know he's a 'he'). I said I'd take up the point in a post.

The synchronicity of the whole event leading up to this post was that, immediately prior to reading the comment, I had been thinking that I'd write a post to do with politics. Of course, I wasn't particularly thinking of my politics (which are somewhere left of hippy - just to make that clear for all time), but instead of a gaming angle.

You see, I've thought for a long time that a boardgame based upon either parliamentary democratic process or electioneering would be a fascinating project to undertake. If done properly, I believe such a game could also be emminently marketable. That thought itself arose while listening to some pollsters on a radio magazine show, talking about present Australian politics (we move through our triannual national election year here in Australia).

I was going to make my off beat political prediction on this blog in the game terms of just such hypothetical game, hopefully amusing most readers, and not too heavy for those with an opinion in the Real Life counterpart of the scenario I'd have outlined.

The predictive scenario / game illustration would have been something like this:

"I take my Pugnacious Leader, making a Big Lie Play as I Strut Across the World Stage by crossing my Conference Card (pre-played at start of game) with a Security Scare, reveal my Secret Link with Big Business, and collect the Industrial Muscle Bonus they provide. This then allows me to Cross the Threshold on the Mugscale and, thus gaining Political Momentum, I take the Initiative the following week and Steal the opposition's Rat in the Ranks Card for my own use. This is followed by the Bread and Circuses Effect of my other pre-played event ('Racetrack Festival'), and I roll into Election Day as Underdog with a Poll Driven Push."

All the terms in Italics would have fitted within the game mechanics. Thus, election on weekend after the Melbourne Cup which itself follows APEC Summit in Sydney. As to who wins - we can but Live in Hope!

Back to the comment - I was talking about our American Cousins with their Red Demons and the Bad Look this creates with reference to the basic ignorance/arrogance seen as typifying americans by many Australians / Canadians / Kiwis / British / Asians / Europeans. At the same time as recognising the fact that there are many good things about the US (or, at least, that some of what it has done in the past has been good) I believe that they would be one of the least popular nations around. This isn't what things were like maybe 20 years ago. No one wants to go there anymore (except for thousands of south and central americans and haitians following the dream).

Once I became aware of the phenomena I started asking people why this was the case for them, and they all responded something along the lines of 'too many americans'. This sounds like a poor and tasteless joke, but it's actually the truth. When I think of the number of americans whom I enjoy their company on the web, I feel sad that things are as they are. But I doubt I'll visit US in the foreseeable future myself, I think my mouth would soon get me into trouble!

I suspect that views of Australians around the world are getting increasingly similar, primarily due to our country's involvement in Iraq and our own xenophobic national policies. I recall how a feeling of shame amongst people with 'progressive politics' grew up about the poor form our country increasingly displayed internationally during the mid nineties - the idealism of the best of our past was being converted into narrow self interest at the cost of those already worse off than us (we are a relatively rich country). I suspect this was a global phenomena, but it was also very personal.

If there's something which would perhaps make us aussies palatable as global citizens it is that same thing that has conistently led a large majority of people to (sometimes quite vocally) oppose the Iraq war. And who, being aussies, will let you know their view if asked. The shame is that the game of politics down here allows war criminals (which is my considered legal opinion about the status of our leaders for their war of aggression if no other reason) to continue to run the show. Would make for a good game if not so seditious!

That was a long vent. If people want to take up on what I've said here, we'll have to sort out another blog or something to conduct that on (interactive blogging?). Let me know if you're interested...

PS - One of the things about maps that has always interested me is their innately political nature, they are artifacts of the power relations within Real Life. Isn't it interesting that I put up a post with maps on it and we end up here?!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Weird Linkages

Came across a forum thread at Ubisoft, where different flightsimmers reveal some of their musical experience. Wow! And I thought I was a bit unusual with my mixed interests in gaming and gigging!

There's a couple interesting observations to make. Firstly, the odd appropriateness of posting up a link to my band blog on a flightsim site just goes to illustrate how the internet connects and people expand those connections. Secondly, how long some of these guys have been playing [music] for - since the pre-transistor age in the extreme! The flightsim mob (and 'serious gamers' in general) seem to tend to be older than the general pools of populations in espace. Is that some form of elitism?

For the record - I love the music of J S Bach!

Simming and Skinning

Came across the Flying Legends site (click here), another great source of flight sim news and downloads. Like all such finds, it’s presently on my sidebar (at least, until that grows too unwieldy). I have so far used it to download new Spanish Civil War (Republican) ‘paintjobs’ for the Il 15 and Il 16 planes I’m presently flying in ’46.

It’s nice to be able to modify the look of the planes one flies. The art of doing this is called ‘skinning’ – after the ‘skins’ which are the graphic bitmap ‘bit that you see’ in the game. Thus, a green skin will create a green plane. The creation of skins is basically a graphics exercise, using programs such as paintshop on a pre-created template for any particular type of plane.

Skinning has been well beyond my time to develop the skills necessary to do properly. And, as there are so many skins created by enthusiasts freely available out in cyberspace, I’ve always seen my limited computer flightsim time being better spent flying (eg. learning to land). I’ve just never actually gotten around to working out exactly how to get other skins to work for me…

That is, until I visited the Flying Legends downloads section, where there’s heaps of downloads available for all versions of the IL 2 family of games. All you need at one spot. For example, I got myself a ‘skins manager’ (originally created by ‘Serval’ and sourced from Simmers Paintshop) to simplify the process initially, and a ‘skinpack’ of SCW republican skins by ‘Harpia Mafraa 55’. Within 5 minutes I was flying my first Spanish plane!

The joys of the internet (though still no further luck with the Teamspeak challenge).

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Thoughts on MERP & the Barrowlands

Have again been reading Jeffs Game Blog (<----- link is on the sidebar to the left - click here for the post I've just read). Again, he's brought up a topic which strikes a chord with me, the nostalgia of the ICE system of Middle Earth Roleplaying modules. Unlike Jeff, I never ever saw the MERP game rules. I did however pore over a couple of the adventure modules - "Witchking of Angmar" and "Bree and the Barrow Downs" from memory.

I have been a LOTR fan since I was about 13 (read The Hobbit and LOTR trilogy in the one glorious year(along with Willi Heinrich's "Cross of Iron" and Frank Herbert's "Dune") - what a year!). I loved the movies (saw them once each at cinema, and Return of the King once on commercial telly - Cross of Iron only on video). My enjoyment of the modules didn't suffer from not having MERP rules to hand - I experienced my perusal of them as an immersive continuation of the escapist enjoyment I'd derived from the books.

I think that I was breaking away from what I was beginning to see as the homogonisation and routinisation, the complexification and commodification, then occurring with AD&D (around time of release of Fiend Folio). Little did I know how bad that particular trip would become (you'd need a bookshelf just to hold the systems and rules of D&D these days, as well as a tidy bank ballance to buy it)!

Instead, I went down the path less trodden. I recall coming up with a simplified set of rules (which were probably most akin to Call of Cthulhu of the games I now know - though I was only to actually see a copy of CoC nearly a decade later). I then dropped some players in a land recognisably similar to the Barrow Downs and we had a total ball - with total player group annihilation the end result.

I'll revisit this episode in my gaming past sometime later, as I have now to go and enjoy the rest of the day!

[I'm building up quite a list of tasks to type in nearish future, aren't I!]

[Almost all D&D players get a bit upset when they realise how tenuous a grip their characters have on sanity and life when one moves over to CoC type games.]

Whilst driving across the hills today I came across a - Aviation Museum!

Well, yesterday's 'tomorrow' brought a lovely day today! Got up feeling the best I've felt for a couple weeks (been fighting a headcold), and it was a nice sunny winters day. So I went for a drive in the country, up to the town of Riverton in the 'midnorth', back through the Barossa Valley. (Click here for a photo taken near where I was today (It was a lot greener today than is shown in the link)). We had some friends over home for tea in the evening. A really nice kind of day. And, as a bonus, there were a couple of things that occurred that had to do with my gaming gene.

Firstly, I was taking a dirt track 'shortcut' between two highways across a ridge of hills when I came across an aviation museum! Fascinating, the guy lives just north of the town of Greenock, renovates and models planes. Everything from 1400 scale models (most being 1:72 scale) through displayed engines (such as a merlin, and an anson), numerous cockpit assemblies, a couple of aircraft in various degrees of renovation (of which a De Haviland Mosquito was probably most impressive), a complete Vampire jet trainer - and, outside, a Canberra bomber and mocked up P51D mustang. As you might imagine, I was fascinated.

Secondly, four of us played a game of Guillotine after tea tonight. The couple who visited aren't gamers, but took to the spirit of this simple but entertaining card game. The women won after three days of headchopping, the difference between them and their men basically being that they'd taken the king and marie antoinett's heads (one each). The goal is, obviously, to collect the most valuable heads over three rounds/'days'. Vive la revolucion!

I got photos of both the aviation museum and the cardgame, will post sometime soon.

For now, I'm off for a latenight flight over russia!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tech and Teamspeak

I've been making a few recent alterations to this Blog. They are of the nature that most readers won't have had cause to notice them as they haven't affected the overall appearance.

1 I have gone and reviewed comments - came across one from Wandalen on my Online Squadrons page, this necessitated some edit efforts on that page to correct things. Have also most recendly added a link on the page to the RCAF site - a most particularly user friendly look into what's involved in online flying with lots of easily found links to useful resources.

2 I have set the time to the correct time and date here in Adelaide.

3 Have continued (and will continue) to update the various panels on the sidebar on the left of screen on this blog.

For example, you might note that I've put a link to Teamspeak in my 'Flight Sims' links section. Most squadrons and servers use this application, but the RCAF site made it downright easy to actually get hold of. If you download the client, you have all you need to log in to real time voice connections whilst flying online (amongst other uses). Not sure yet if this costs anything via our ISP, the software is free - and we already have a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) headset to use.

Anyway, very keen, I've been onto a few servers via hyperlobby - even though I'm flying strange russian planes and my skills aren't upto it even in a familiar plane! - just to try out the Teamspeak. I've been able to hear online chatter, even people asking me why they can't hear me, but haven't yet been able to be heard.

At least I know it works.

Now I've got to get it to work for me!


I've had nearly a week away from work at present. Sadly, haven't done much in the way of 'recreational pursuits' beyond sleeping and a bit of reading. And this with the Il 46 installed! I am, however, also recovering from a fairly nasty head cold and enjoying the wintry coolness which is as cold as Adelaide gets. (Still feels bloody cold though!)

I've been checking out what is contained in Il 46. The game engine etc is pretty well identical to that of Pacific Fighters. What is awsome about it is the fact that there are now literally hundreds of types of aircraft that can be flown over dozens of geographical areas, and the online pool of players at hyperlobby seems to be never less than a couple score playing, with hundreds regularly flying. Thus, Il 46 has a far greater scale in terms of gaming opportunities than did Pacific Fighters.

I wonder if the game has reached its peak, with the only WWII type development to go being 'niche' activities (eg. Battle of Brittain product recently released (?) - though I DO like the cloud, climate and weather engines that feature in this game)?

Anyway, it's about 2.30 am on thursday 14 June as I write this so I will 'hang up my dice' for a little while and see what tomorrow brings.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

IL 46 Arrives!

While I flew to Melbourne for a few days at the start of my week and a half holiday from work, my darling wife went and got me a copy of Il 46. How absolutely lucky am I to have a wife like her!

I've loaded the single DVD disk, patched it with the one required patch, glanced at the huge range of planes I can now fly over the incredibly varied landscapes available (basically, all of WWII and more). I will shortly go onto one of the big mashup online dogfights which seem to occur 24/7 over at Hyperlobby (under the 'Forgotten Battles' game listing).

If you're wandering, IL46 is a combination of my beloved Pacific Fighters game with those that preceded it together with their expansions. In other words, a WWII flightsim paradise!

Maps and Games

I like maps. This is good as a gamer, because maps are so often the foundation of any number of games. And, if not maps, then spatial relationships still often play a role. So, the two interests combine neatly. Show me a serious gamer who hasn't bought a game for its map alone...

I've produced a lot of maps for my own games over the years. Perhaps I'll dig around for a few to show how they can be used and how they have evolved. But, that's a task for another day.

For now, I'll just say that I was cruising the web a bit this morning (being on a short holiday) and came across the following two maps within a couple minutes of each other in real time. Found both quite amusing, and some of the bile drawn out of american readers of the forum from which the first came from was also strangely intriguing. Don't some of our american cousins understand what a bad look they have when the get on their white horses to go fight red demons?

I think you could set a pretty funny pulp/FPS/Strategy/RPG game in the world portrayed on the first map. Similarly, on the second. Sources of inspiration for games can be quite weird!

Above: map from forum thread "for the hippies on here" (click here to visit the lengthy thread). Below: map from Jeff's Gaming Blog (click here), originally from "'Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earh'[, a] Kirby-created post-apocalyptic fantasy adventure series published by DC in the 70's".

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


I've just been reminded here that today (it's 6 June as I write this) is the anniversary of D-Day. As a bit of a WWII history freak, that means something quite significant to me. I have played a couple most memorable games of the actual landings themselves, and a fair number of tabletop battles set in the Normandy campaign which followed the initial landings.

The first 6mm wargame I played was 'Bloody Omaha', at the South Australian Historical Wargaming Society when they used to meet on Waymouth Street (in the classiest wargames club you could hope for - bar included). I had the (mis)fortune to be one of the german commanders. No matter how many landing craft I shot out, or tanks destroyed, there always seemed to be more. And whenever I moved out of my bunkers I got hit by jabos (divebombers). And my armour never got within cooee of the beach. Very fustrating. Very educational. And I learnt to detest that archetypical nerdy wargamer who worships the SS because they were 'cool' soldiers (had a lot of advice offered me during that game). For the record - a butcher is a butcher is a butcher.

I've read quite a few books on the landings and the campaign. I will one day list them. What's amazing in my mind is how close the actual event actually was to never happening, or to happening entirely differently. Also, how much scholarship there is on the subject, how complex the operation was, how huge a topic it is when you get into it. I am sure that long after I am gone there will still be new perspectives being developed on WWII and the mamoth campaigns of which it was composed.

Just thought I'd share that with you.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Conan and friends

Reading Jeff's Game Blog recently, I came across this post (click here) which quotes the prologue of Robert E Howard's Conan stories (at least, as intoduced in the print run that had intoduction by L. Sprauge-de Camp). It evoked a lot of old stuff in me, resonated within. Check the comments on the post for what I thought, especially in response to the lit-crit of another commenter.

The old pulp genre adventures, be they by Lovecraft (horror), Doc Smith (sci-fi) or Conan (swords and sorcery), certainly have a special place in my reading history. They brought about a love of language for its sonorous effect, of tight but wild plot lines, of mystery and adventure as an escape to something rather than a retreat from.

Waylander and Druss, heroes of the worlds of David Gemmel, seem to evoke the same sorts of imaginistic adventurism amongst his fans. Trouble is, too much crossover to the 'realist' genre and the novels could transpose themselves into post 9/11 gore, too little and the books get put down by the TV generation. It's a fine balance that isn't caught by too many authors I've been reading recently.

PS: I'm a little chuffed to have turned up on Blogroll of Jerusalem Games, Yehuda is a pretty keen blogger. As he's probably into counting these things, would be nice if a little traffic went from this site to his.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

RIP David Gemmell

The BBC reports here that popular fantasy author, David Gemmell, has died following complications after a heart bypass operation at age 57.

I haven't yet read any of his books, but my stepson has been a keen fan for several years so I no doubt will get to read him eventually. From what I gather, Gemmel's heros are the dark violent types, often amoral, in the tradition of Conan (books about whom I devoured in my teens, providing countless ideas for RPG and fantasy wargame campaigns).

An author of 30 novels, Gemmel, sounds like a colourful character who will be missed by his fans. My sympathies to them, and his family and friends at his passing.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Podcast Gamer

As I write this it is Friday morning and I am having a day off from work (equivalent of a flexible rostered day off). I've just sorted out some computer issues - spent about 1 1/2 hours getting rid of various objects that have somehow found themselves onto our computer and were making the online experience not much fun at all. Eventually downloaded and ran adaware (type it into google if you want to get to a decent freeware bug killer for you computer). Restarted the computer, and eventually all is cool.


I am listening to a really cool podcast about gaming. It is by Mark Johnson, a dude from california who regularly produces podcasting blog called Boardgames to Go. There, he discusses games. I've not been into podcasts much, so this is a pretty cool experience.

I am listening to an entry called "Introduction to Strategy Boardgames". Very good. He discusses the modern Eurogames/German Games, such as Carcassone, Settlers of Catan, etc. I've not much played these games (and none of those named).

He sees the 'new games' as generally showing the following traits:

Of moderate length 1-2 hours
Not Brain Burning
Strategic elements
Social elements
Thematic (not very abstract)
Look Great
"Neat simple elegant rules that make a fun game to play"

Sounds a bit like what I regard as the requirements of a good game in any genre, on any platform. Which is comforting, because it kind of supports my hypothesis that the gaming gene is of universal application.

I might have a go at this podcasting caper sometime soon, sounds like fun!