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Observations on Observing

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I forget whose idea it was, but I thought it was a good one, so I tried doing a career as a tailgunner. Here's what I learned while doing this, in case others want to give this a try:


1. Taking Off

At least if you're the flight leader, you have to start your own engine and get off the ground before you jump into the back. I don' t know if this is true if you do "lead by rank". You can safely get in the back once you're just a few feet off the ground, however. I was rather surprised at this because the only time I've tried manning guns before was also at low level and the AI promptly put me in the trees. But I might have been pretty well shot up by then. Anyway, in an RE8 at least, just getting the nose above the trees at the end of the runway works fine.


2. Looking Around

Not good. TIR has no effect at all in the gunner's seat, at least in the RE8--maybe it works in other planes. Instead, your view is always along the sights of your gun. Thus, your only ways to look around are to move the gun or use the keyboard views. Both of these are limited, however, but the traverse limits of your gun. For instance, the RE8's gun only covers an arc about 160^ wide in the back, and from about +45^ to -20^ in the vertical, so that's pretty much your field of view. To make things even more confusing, the keyboard views are oriented on the current facing of the gun, not of the airplane, so you often end up looking through your own body, which is a bother. You can padlock a target and will look at it no matter where it is, however, although usually with strange partial parts of your body in the way.


Looking around is therefore quite difficult, especially if you're used to TIR. You can't see upwards at all except with the keyboard, and if your gun is pointed up, too, you actually look off at an angle behind you. But if you give up with the keyboard, traversing the gun to look around is very slow. It's practically impossible to maintain SA, and you'll find yourself frustrated for missing shots at enemies passing head-on, because you can't see them or get the gun on them until they're already out of range. Probably your best bet is to use external views most of the time.


3. Cruising Along

This takes a strong stomach. First off, you're stuck facing backwards. Second, the plane is constantly porpoising up and down under AI control, so you can get seasick if you're so inclined. It didn't bother me that much, but I can see how it would get to some folks.


4. Flight Commands

Wingman commands don't seem to work from the gunner's seat. However, being in a 2-seater you really don't have to worry about this most of the time, except to get your wingmen to attack a ground target (see Bombing below). Another thing that doesn't work in the back is SHF-w to change waypoints. To do any of these you have to be in the front. However, warping does work from the back.


5. Bombing

I only went on 1 bombing mission so don't know if this is the general rule, but here's what happened. Being in the back, I didn't issue any attack orders. The AI pilot dove toward the target and the wingmen followed. However, nobody dropped any bombs. My AI pilot made a couple more quick passes over the target, again failing to drop bombs, and then took off for home with the wingmen following. After a few minutes, the wingmen jettisoned their bombs but my pilot kept his. I had to go up front and drop them myself. I suspect, therefore, that if you need to be in the front for the bomb run to drop your own bombs and order your wingmen to attack.


6. Combat

If the enemy dives on you from above, or shoots across your turning circle, you're just screwed. You can't get the guns on him and probably won't see him coming anyway except with an external view. And anyway, attacks from above are pretty much instant death for you due to the huge number of hits you take.


Attacks from behind, OTOH, are rather interesting. The AI fighters I encountered seemed very hesitant and hung back there just out of range for a long time. They followed us around back and forth several times between our arty spotting waypoints without either side ever shooting except for occasional short bursts. Even though we made wide turns at the waypoints, they didn't cut inside to get us in the flank, but just kept following. It was very strange--I'd never seen AI fighters act that way before.


My advice here: Although seeing all of Jasta 5 on your tail is disconcerting, actually that's the best place for them. As long as they're hanging back like that, they're relatively harmless. DO NOT PANIC and tell your pilot to head for home, because this can quickly break up your formation, which is what appears to be keeping the enemy respectful. Once you're scattered, they swarm like sharks and you die quickly. So just keep tooling along like this and hope help shows up :).


7. Shooting

Strangely, the shots you take don't show up in the post-mission stats at all. Even if you shot off your whole supply and hit with 1/3 of it, you just see zeroes across the board for rounds fired and hit percent. I was used to this from flying the Fee where the gunner did all the shooting, but I'm surprised that when you shoot, it doesn't count as yours. Kills, however, PROBABLY go to your credit, just as the gunner's kills in other 2-seaters go. I don't know for sure, though, because I didn't kill anybody in this career.


That said, shooting is fairly straight-forward, as in there doesn't seem to be a need to lead the target any differently than in fighters. Also, without TIR, you never had to worry if your head's lined up with the sights or not. HOWEVER, keeping the sights on is a bit difficult due to the aforementioned porpoising of the airplane, which takes your gun with it. I found it best to use the old naval shooting technique of firing at the top or bottom of the roll (or pitch in this case), in the brief interval before things reverse direction. This, of course, is really only applicable to when the enemy is following along behind you and relatively stationary, but that's about the only guys you'll be able to shoot much at anyway.


8. Landing

Assuming you get back, the AI pilot will come down directly over home drome, then fly off a long way. Perhaps he'll eventually circle back and land, perhaps not. So I say screw it. Just end the flight when you're over the field.

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Pretty much my observations too.

In addition...


1. Taking off

You have to pilot yourself, even if you're not flight leader, and switch back once airborne.


2. Looking around

I don't have TIR, but I do have a POV hat on the stick. Moving the stick directs your machine gun, using the POV moves your view only- with a wider range of vision than the firing arc.


3. Cruising along

Can get very unsettlilng- unless it just happened I got a ham-fisted pilot with a spastic twitch. Not only does it occasionally do the porpoise thing. Sometimes it verges on stalling (force feed joystick) for frightening periods of up to 10 seconds giving you the impression you're about fall out of the sky- but sometimes the pilot throws the plane around in wild contortions for no apparent reasons (ie: no nearby enemies or flak) sometimes losing a thousand feet or more and ending up way off the flight path. I don't why this happens, but it always seems to recover and return to it's orginal altitude & heading. So far....


4. Flight commands

Most don't work from the back - as mentioned, Warp does. However throttle does not. Ergo, you can cut the throttle back prior to warping. That may account for some of the odd gyrations in 3 above... I can't remember now if it only happened during/coming out of warp or in normal flight.


5. Bombing

You definitely need to jump back into the pilot seat to drop drop ordinance


6 Combat

The EA do seem very reluctant to attack at least as long as you hold formation and as long as you're riding shotgun, your plane will stay in formation. They don't seem to attack your flight mates either. Maybe if you lose a couple to flak the EA might come for you, I don't know; but otherwise, even if they have sizeable numerical superiorty they don't seem to want to attack from the rear -or even come within range. (Which, considering what happens to me when I try to take a 2 seater from behind, doesn't surprise me. - Fortunately they don't know I cant hit the broadside of a barnstormer with the tail gun.)


7. Shooting

Right. See above. On the rare occasion an EA comes close, good luck. Forget deflection shooting, there's too many variables, at least for my skills. Either fill the general area with lead or, preferably, restrict your shooting to EA coming directly at you so there's little/no deflection. On the upside, you don't have to worry about shooting your own ass off. I'm still here.


8. Landing.

Once back at the field, I never rode the plane around that silly 7 mile out and back landing approach. (I never do in any of my missions) I just kill all my altitude and land immediately. I jumped back into the pilot's seat to land. Never dared to see if it will land on autopilot - but I'm betting it's the same as on take. You fly or you die. Besides - even in single seater -ever sit on the field waiting an watching your buddies come back after their 14 mile loop. Even *they* can't land without crashing about half the time.


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I fear repeating myself but I would like to add my comments to this thread. Like most my experience with this is limited. I am not an expert by any means.

Taking Off

1). I agree, switch to Observer shortly after take-off.

Looking Around

2). Views. As I've said in other threads, I use a gamepad for the Observer position. The left thumbstick controls gun aim, the directional pad acts as hat switch. I also use Zoom to draw a better bead when firing at E/A.

Cruising Along

3). I don't have a problem with the movements of the crate piolted by the A/I. I am not in control much like the guys that did this in real life.

Flight Commands

4). Controlling the plane from the back just doesn't make much sense so I change positions if needed. It's a simple matter I find.


5). I have to attempt bombing more than I have. I don't have much to say at this time for lack of experience.


6). My experience has been that the E/A are reluctant to press the attack just as we should be if the shoe were on the other foot. They do fire when they are within range. I take their firing at us as indication that they are within our range also. This may take some time to evolve. I've taken hits and I've dropped enemies or at least got them smoking, damaged and falling out of the attack completely. I've seen squadmates go down in flames. Again, I tried this position with my flightstick and was bedeviled to control the gun with any accuraccy. Useing the gamepad helped me a lot to improve my shooting. I do think the style of combat that unfolds is craft match-up dependant. The scout speed v.s the two-seater speed etc. Climbrate, squad ratings and who knows what facters in.


7). I agree with Bullethead and Canvas Wings on this point. And perhaps the post flight summary can reflect the observers actions in P4?


8). The A/I pilot eventually lands the plane. Not as soon as I would and not as safely as I would. But so far so good, although it's been a white-knuckle experience at times, haha. I enjoy watching the flight land. And I enjoy sitting on the feild for awhile looking around and listening to things.


Perhaps observing is not for everyone. I find the way I observe is akin to flying DiD, although I warp. I'm along for the ride and maybe for some that is not a gratifying experience. I was wondering since it seemed the Scout flying/action was so realistic for a sim how about the observer aspect? It is very different from pilot and may be to difficult an adjustment to make. In RL it was always observers becoming pilots, I am unaware of pilots becoming observers. I find the observer experience to be rewarding and another aspect of the war that I will enjoy from time to time. Even the Gotha is flyable and the obsever positions are available, that's fun too.

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I fear repeating myself


Don't. You invented this (thanks for speaking up) so I regard you as the expert grin.gif .



2). Views. As I've said in other threads, I use a gamepad for the Observer position. The left thumbstick controls gun aim, the directional pad acts as hat switch. I also use Zoom to draw a better bead when firing at E/A.


Do you take off with the gamepad, too? I can look around with my hat on my stick, but I find it to be practically useless. For me, the best course is to keep the gun in line with the fuselage and about 5^ elevated. If all the enemy are behind, then watch from the gunner's seat. If they're all around, watch from the external view. Odds are, however, you won't get a shot unless the enemy is pretty much behind you.


I find moving my aim with the joystick quite natural, but that's because I've got years of experience doing that in other games. Geez, I used to sweep the skies with the VT-firing twin 5"/38s on Essex-class CVs in Aces High. One time, I got 28 kills before they blew the ship out from under me by an attack outside my arc grin.gif .


Perhaps observing is not for everyone.


I agree, but I'm liking it so far. You have to understand the limitations of the system, and while it's very different from being a scout pilot, it's also intensely gut-wrenching in a different way. I'll be doing this again.

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Bullethead, perhaps it's a bit like a game within a game. Similar in many ways to piloting a scout but very different. And then there's is Piloting two-seaters, yet another strategm and experience. I use the stick to take off. We are accustomed to TIR for viewing so what can compare to that? I also use my HOTAS as I have my buttons assigned for zoom and external views. I think the challenge of hitting the targets is reflective of RL. This role/challenge may be familiar but it's different. If we choose observer more our skills would develope. I am very comfortable with gamepad as for the last 10 years I've played PS2 and Xbox a great deal. I have not looked into it yet but maybe the pad can have commands assigned along with the HOTAS. I would like to "look" with the right thumbpad. Much to learn. The devs have obviously put work into this Observer position, granted not as a primary concern but it is there for us. If I had more playing experience with CFS3 I would see the limitations that the devs. are dealing with too. One thing to help pass the time during lulls in the action is to select other craft to view and cycle through that action. We've putted along and in the distance there may be a furball that is watchable and entertaining(at least to me). I've been impressed by seeing sometimes 6 or more types of craft in the nearby theatre this way. Still I have much to learn and stradegy to develope. Some sandbox we have ,huh?

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If I may add as well, I've noticed over the brilliantly short careers my recce crews have had, if you get paired up with a decent AI pilot you've got it good. I've had a few 'fresh out of flying school' types (noted due to crashing... a lot, or falling out of the sky...a lot) and a couple of really good AI pilots- including one who turned easy, allowed me to line up shots well, and another who thought he was flying a scout because he often chased enemy machines, threw our Roland all over the sky (oh look, I just blew chunks on my boots again). Oh, and don't rely on escorts to be there when the brown stuff smacks straight into the fan. Just my two pennies worth. drinks.gif

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OO... Reading this thread has got me interested in flying as a gunner in Campaign too!!


Thank you

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I've found that one of the most rewarding gigs in OFF is two-seating in early war aircraft - Strutters and FE's spring immediately to mind. There's little to compare with the pleasure of persecuting EIII's from the front seat of an FE as they slowly plod up behind you and attempt to bring you down as you hunker down behind that enormous engine and paste them with machine gun fire. They might as well assault you with harsh language, so ineffectual are they.


Once into the later war, life becomes exceedingly short and brutish, as my brief existence as a DFW pilot/observer proved. Brevity is indeed the word applicable to such careers, although having said that I'm having a splendid time as an RE8 team in 1917 and have managed to rack up about 9 hours thus far. Not bad for an aircraft that had a reputation of being something of a deathtrap for crews.


If you've not tried life as a two-seater pilot, then you've really not explored all that OFF has to offer in the way of game experiences. For those of you who need weaning off fast and agile scouts, a great transitional aircraft is the mighty Brisfit, a plane I will happily take into a fight against all comers - twin rear guns really are quite a fearsome weapon...

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For those interested in this thread I have done a little more reresearch into the Observer question.


While observing from a DFW we encountered Spad VII's. I targeted them for view for identification.



I became a little anxious as I waited to see if they would attack. Eventually they attacked. They dropped straight down through our flight and shot us up quickly before taking position behind us.



Concerning air to air combat, some had stated no combat, the Spad VII was able to persue the DFW at this altitude, unknown sorry. The rearmost DFW took hits, started smoking and dropped out of the flight, fate unknown. My plane was also brought down a bit later.



At the end of another flight I made this observation.

Descending to land.



Flight lined up approaching field for landing.

My plane is in the middle.



First plane touches down and comes to a quick stop with us right on his tail.



The third plane follows suit and crashed into our crate. End of story.



In summary: there may be air combat if the planes and conditions match up correctly. The A/I pilotsare very unreliable upon landing as most of us already know. OFF BH&H for all it's virtues is at the heart an historical Pilot simulation. The Observer aspects are of course secondary and indeed fun and very playable. At this time the A/I pilot is perhaps too unskilled for a proper Observer campaign. For now I will enjoy observing from time to time. Maybe as a low priority, way into the future the feasability of an observer campaign might be worked out. Pure conjecture of course but we have our wishlists. Thanks for reading.


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At this time the A/I pilot is perhaps too unskilled for a proper Observer campaign. For now I will enjoy observing from time to time. Maybe as a low priority, way into the future the feasability of an observer campaign might be worked out. Pure conjecture of course but we have our wishlists. Thanks for reading.


I find it a pleasant alternative to "flying while blind", as ZZ Top would say. You just have to take off, drop the bombs if you have any, and end the flight over your home drome or land it yourself.

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I find it a pleasant alternative to "flying while blind", as ZZ Top would say. You just have to take off, drop the bombs if you have any, and end the flight over your home drome or land it yourself.


Bullet, what you say is true. It's a fun diversion that I won't give up anytime soon.

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