Sunday, September 26, 2010

Falcon 4 Allied Force - Learning from the computer pilots

Word association game ... I throw you a word and you tell me what words come to your mind!

Falcon 4?

My words for Falcon 4 are: "staying power".

This game, in its original or modified form, has been in the hard drive of all the computers I had since 1998. Falcon 4 never ceases to amaze me. The fact that nobody yet could come even close to create something like the fantastic virtual battlefield built around the simulation will likely be the topic of another blog entry, but let me vent some right now. We live in a world where the quality of a simulation is measured in number of polygons and textures. Yet, we still come back to Falcon 4, Close Combat, Combat Mission (the original three) or [insert your oldie here] ... We play them, mod them, resuscitate them from an old operating system. Anything to keep the lights on within some niches that mainstream game development wants filled with dirt. The other day I was talking about this very issue with a reader of this blog: where did creativity go?

Enough digression. Let me share something about a dogfight I had yesterday.

My office has a window to the Balkans.
The "3" key opens a virtual, non clickable cockpit that can be viewed with TrackIR. Great for dogfighting.
No amount of TrackIR goodness is enough to replace bad aerial tactics. In this screenshot I'm looking at my six, keeping an eye on a Mig-29 that is saddling up on me.

This one you will need to click in order to see something. It's an ACMI tape that shows my plane (Viper1) slowly climbing at 197 knots (surely I will get no prizes for energy management) and ready to get some lead from a Mirage 2000. The camera is positioned to my plan'es left and looking down towards the action. Blue lines are altitude poles and the red-green lines are wingtip trails. Note that the Mirage's airspeed (239 knots), a tad higher than mine (197 knots), can result in an overshoot.

The computer controlled Mirage does not overshoot. He pulls up and rolls into my slowly climbing Falcon. This maneuver is similar to the so-called a "high yo-yo", or maybe to a lag pursuit roll. The wing trails in the background show my turn as tighter than the Mirage's one. That explains my lack of airspeed egressing from the turn fight.


Vulcan said...

Hi there!

You may want to consider forcing some anti-aliasing + anisotropic filtering on from your graphics card's settings there :) (Just a suggestion). Personally I have a profile in ATI Tray Tools (in Windows 7) for starting F4:AF with 8xAA (box filter), 8XAF and VSYNC forced off (from Direct3D-level). These with "-hires -g4" in F4:AF start-up parameters result in a pretty good looking and smoothly running simulator, IMHO :)

Regarding the 1 vs 1 situation with a close bandit in tail: what worked for me is to go very low (~200ft), slowing down as slow as possible (without stalling) while flying horizontal scissors with the enemy (using TrackIR continuously to see his position and actions). It requires very active throttle control to keep the plane flying as slowly as possible. This has gotten at least veteran -level bandits in MIGs to overshoot (and some human players in IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946 multiplayer :)

Just my 2 cents. Keep up the good work.

JC said...

Hi Vulcan,

Thanks for your comment and advice.
I have to work out my graphics in all games. I have very little patience and time. Your recipe is quite welcome!

As for the dogfight, some nerves of steel there, Vulcan! :)
Does it work when the bandit is loaded with missiles?


Vulcan said...

With missiles: I don't know for sure but don't think it would :). They like to launch all of their missiles long before they are in range for possible overshoot to happen. The scissor flying is there to complicate his guns-solution.

Other problem with the tactic is that there is very little energy after the bandit overshoots. One gun snapshot possibility gets offered in the scissor following his overshoot but when I add throttle power to line up the gun (I do get the snapshot chance but) it also causes me to overshoot :).

So I think the best that has come out from this tactic has been when the bandit disengages for a while with a high yo-yo thus giving some time to turn on him and transition from a "going to get gunned from behind in any second" -position into a head-on and a turn fight. Basically what I do is a version of the "Gun Defense" on manual page 196.