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CaptSopwith

CaptSopwith Plays WOFF

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PART I:

 

Today, I am delighted to begin a new series of posts, which I am entitling "CaptSopwith Plays WOFF." I thought I'd start a new thread since most of you have been playing this amazing sim for over a year now. Anything I say will probably be a repeat of the experiences you've already had. But I also wanted to share my first impressions on WOFF as someone who has been playing since OvS sent me a copy of Phase 1 way back when. This post includes some broad impressions, as I'm still getting my new computer set up and running. Again, my sincere thanks to Hellshade. Without his kindness, I would not have a copy of WOFF 2 to even play! Thank you again my friend!

First Impressions

The most noticeable difference between WOFF and its predecessors is the ease of installation. I've kept my game backups on an external hard drive for years and my OFF folder was a bit of a jumble: I had my OFF disk, the various patches that followed, the HiTR expansion and its patches, and screenshots of how I set up my nVidia settings and configured OFF's graphics to run smoothly. I was prepared to learn a new routine - knowing that the rewards would be more than worth the learning curve. But I was astounded at how easy it was. I ran WOFF 1.0's installation file, made a cup of tea, and returned to see that it was already finished. Then I ran 2.0 and before I had finished a few sips of Twinnings English Breakfast, it was also done. Lastly, I added on the latest update from the site and before I knew it, I was ready to play.

The "fit and finish" if you will, of WOFF is astounding! The quality of the menus, the feel of the interface, the sense of immersion that drips from every pixel from the moment you start the game and see the old phonograph spinning, is remarkable. And it's the small details that made me smile time and again. I just toured the Imperial War Museum's new WWI exhibit this summer, and the interface - with it's mix of film, newspapers, photographs, hanger renderings, and gorgeous maps, made me feel like I got to bring part of that experience back home with me. I love all of it and I shook my head time and again at the level of detail, the insane dedication to getting it right - and right to a degree that only the most die hard First World War aviation enthusiast or, a scholar who makes a living studying this time period - would ever notice. The type set on the reports, the font and official stamps on the log books, the pilot photos, it's all fantastic and I cannot congratulate the team enough on a job well done. The level of accuracy is such that, if I could teach my dream course on WWI, I would have a WOFF station set up to rotate my students through so they could get a glimpse of the experiences of these men. An idea, I should add, that first came to me when I played Red Baron as a teenager - only now, I think I could actually convince other people of the idea!

The other massive difference is the score. Matt, you've really outdone yourself this time! I couldn't help but smile when some of the themes from OFF's previous scores came through, but the new material, especially the music for the briefings, really provide you a sense of for-boding and dread. It captures the mood, the spirit of the period, without making it into caricature. It lands the mood brilliantly.

I also love the additional information in the menus! (Note, we haven't even gotten in the air yet!) The pilot logbooks, the detailed information on my fellow pilots, their moods, their abilities, their morale, all give me a sense of flying with living people, who want to survive this terrible conflict they've been dragged into. I also LOVE the intelligence menu. The addition of knowing where the enemy is - to the best of our knowledge at least - and what types of machines they are flying, is fantastic! I also LOVE the renders of the machines. They have a hand drawn artistic quality to them that I spent a lot of time admiring. I also enjoyed the Gothas. After seeing smaller scouts and reccy planes in hangers, seeing the Gotha sitting outside in a dark and stormy landscape was perfect. Well done!

The final part of the interface I'd like to compliment is how easy it all is to set up! I no longer load up the CfsCongig utility and look at my screenshots to see what boxes to tick. I simply started the sim with the settings it came with. The results? The graphics are jaw-dropping and on my computer, even a full furball in quick scenarios, the sim ran at 60fps with only the slightest pause if the action became incredibly intense. Fantastic!

One last thought for the day before I go: the AI is remarkable! I feel like I have to learn how WWI dogfighting worked all over again - and for real this time. I am no longer facing enemies that either fight to the death or plod along straight and level until I can flame them. These pilots feel alive! I tried a quick mission in a Camel (more about the incredible cockpits in another post!). I wound up chasing an enemy, and watched as a he rolled and dived for the deck. I've seen this trick in a hundred other flight sims - the enemy dives, hits ground level, and then tries to turn fight you until you shoot him down. But now this time, he hit ground level and kept running! I suddenly realized that I was fighting a new pilot and he was running scared, trying to get over his lines before I could catch him!

Mind. Blown.

I've never seen such complex AI before. I've also been shot down three times and I've flown five missions... so they are also lethal to a degree that I've never seen.

Ah, so much to say. So much to compliment! There will be many more posts. I also need to start taking screen captures to go along with these updates.

My God, guys! What have you done!? I'm never going to finish this bloody dissertation now!

Cheers!

 

PART II:

 

Thoughts on WOFF After One Week:

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Hi Chaps!

It has been a week since I installed and started playing WOFF and truthfully, I feel like I've barely scratched the surface. So far I've flown some Quick Combat missions as well as some of the Quick Scenarios included with each nationality. I too, had to sort out the micro-stutters that seem to appear in the sim, even on a high end rig (more on how I solved that later). All in all, I have to say, I am floored by the massive improvements seen in WOFF from its predecessor.

I've started a British campaign set in 1915, for a young pilot named Cecil Coles. He is currently in flight training just outside of London, doing circuits in a BE2. It looks like he will be destined for Front Line duty with a squadron flying Bristol Scouts and Morane Parasols.

The new aircraft are a fantastic edition. Before WOFF, my sense was that, for the most complete catalog of First World War, the now ancient Western Front Patch for Red Baron 3D was really your only bet. The last time I saw a Parasol it was rendered inside of Baron.

The new models are, across the board, the finest set of World War I machines I've ever seen. If you haven't heard of The Vintage Aviator before (Link here: http://thevintageaviator.co.nz/) it really feels like OBD is their digital brethren. The depth of detail on the surfaces of the machines, and the little details within - a WWI era pin up card inside the Aviatik or the life insurance warning in my British trainer, speaks volumes about the lives of the men who served in this era.

I thought this was a particularly nice touch:   :D

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And while I'm still in training, I've already engaged in combat dozens of times (and been shot down every. single. time.)

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As seen here:

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That would be me on the receiving end of some twin German Spandaus.

AI:

The AI in this game is more than brutal - brutal implies that the skies are imbalanced and the game is programmed to punish you by any means necessary. Older flight sims used to "cheat" a bit with their AI: the computer controlled machines were not prone to stalls and spins and it always felt like you were playing against a loaded deck.

WOFF transcends this brilliantly and does so in the most difficult way possible: by programming the most intelligent AI system I've ever seen.

As we've all seen over the last ten years, large studios have abandoned single player experiences. Whether it's a Triple-A title like Call of Duty or games closer to our genres, studios favor multiplayer. The problem with that, in my experience, is that the quality of the game you get is entirely dependent on the people you're playing with. I've had matches in Battlefield that knocked my socks off, and others that left me beating my head against my desk.

WOFF's AI is the most convincingly human I've ever seen. As astutely pointed out in the Dev Comments, the AI you fight have something to lose - their lives. Unlike a human opponent who suffers only a 15 second respawn delay, the AI fight like their real life counterparts. Flight time and mission success trump kills. The result is that I am constantly faced with an enemy that I cannot predict. The literally thousands of parameters that inform their thinking demonstrate that beautifully. I wish I could get Pol or Winding Man or James to explain how they did it - the details here are fascinating to me. How on earth do you get a computer to think on such a complex level without dragging the machine to its knees with processing cycles?

Not only are they unpredictable, they are downright lethal! By the time I moved Red Baron to the back burner, I was a crack shot. Even online I could lead an aircraft and literally pick its wings off from hundreds of yards out. I knew how long it would take an enemy to engage my 6 if I was chasing his wingman. I knew I had time to sit, complacently, shooting away at my next guaranteed kill, before I had to worry about my tail.

WOFF has changed my understanding, historically, of how dangerous target fixation was for a new pilot. In the blink of an eye I have had my plane shot out from under me a dozen times in QC. Also, being wounded is horrific. I know that other sims have simulated this and I applaud OBD for including it in WOFF. It was reality, and it was gruesome. Having the option to switch it off is good. But man, the visual impact and subsequent emotional response I feel when I've been hit is genuinely unnerving.

You simply can no longer sit still. You have to keep moving. Hellshade's videos now make a new kind of sense. Fire and maneuver - don't ever fly straight - doing so is a sure fire way of getting killed.

The sense of damage on the machine is also intense. You do not want to get hit. This is not a P-47 you're flying - a WWI machine cannot sustain damage and from a historical sense - after all, this is the subject I study - that rings true from the documents I've seen. I remember there was a debate back in the RB days about how much a WWI plane could take. Some stories of American flown Nieuports coming home with a hundred bullet holes supported the theory that if you didn't hit the pilot or engine, a WWI kite could handle a surprising amount of punishment.

But, in my opinion (take that for what it's wroth) the construction of these machines was so fragile that if diving could destroy the air frame, a few lucky rounds into support struts could easily render an aircraft easy prey.

Unfortunately, I'm usually the prey!

To be honest, I'm dreading my deployment once I finish training in London. I don't suspect Cecil is going to last long...


Campaign:

I've run through a few campaigns so far. I've start one the using the new features flight training and then deployment and I've let WOFF decide my fate. I've also started a campaign the old way - picking a unit and time. And since I was setting up my rig to play WOFF smoothly, I jumped into a 1918 campaign as a German pilot just after the start of Operation Michael.

The details now make the campaign a fully realized experience. I actually know my wingmen now. I know the morale of the unit. I know the latest news from the progress on the ground. I can research my planes and those of my enemies. I love the details included! The sketches of the aircraft and their details remind me of the intelligence updates we used to get in Red Baron. It is clear that WOFF is an inspired sim - drawing on the best of what we remember from before, but still creating a startling new experience at the same time. Still, those little nods to the past - the small touches in the menu interface, and even the melodic themes from Matt's previous scores that subtly reemerge here, make it both nostalgic and new and I never want to stop playing.


Stutters:

Finally, on matters of setting up WOFF for heavy combat in 1918. I too suffered some stutters and found that - all of the computer logic I've used for two decades - did not work in WOFF. I tried dialing settings back in both the workshop and on my nVidia control panel and it only grew worse. I play tested the sim with heavy load Quick Scenarios and then some 1918 missions. Looks like Heavy Air Activity will but a bit of a strain on my system, but I'm getting butchered enough with Medium settings as it is.

So I checked the boards here and found the threads Pol mentioned in the FAQ. Defying all logic, I then cranked up my settings - everything five except landscape is a 4 and scenery is a 3. Vsync on, and then dailed up my settings in my video card control panel. The results speak for themselves:

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The graphical quality of WOFF was apparent from the moment I started it but, now, with the settings cranked up as you see here... My God, look at it! I remember the intro video that played at the start of Red Baron - with a Camel chasing a Red Triplane and descending from the clouds over a lush green landscape. It was, of course, all CGI rendered footage.

This game looks ten times better than that ever did.

I've traded stutters for a slight dip in frame rate. I'm hovering around 50-60 with a dip down to the teens, but only over heavily populated landscapes. So, flight training over London can get choppy from time to time. But otherwise the microstutters have vanished and frankly, I'm too hesitant to play with the settings any further when for the other 95% of the time it runs smooth as silk and looks like this!

I'm speechless fellas. I'm going to try to write more as I get into the meat of the campaigns and keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime I hope you enjoyed reading!

Cheers!

PS: Here are my nVidia settings:

 [img:gal:198355fd8c87dd988]http://simhq.com/forum/files/usergals/2015/09/full-1983-109100-woff_settings.png[/img]
 
 

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Hi Captain - very interesting report that. 

 

Do you still fly WofG - I am trying to get it to work in DosBox but am having lots of trouble with the mouse which goes quickly from bottom right to top left and lurks there...

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I said it in the other forum before:

Great review and screenshots, CaptSopwith!
Yes, it is hard to survive at the beginning.
Best is you act and behave like it could cost your real life -
mind you, you will have to strain your neck more than a little bit.
WOFF can produce fear in the human pilot - a real thriller!


 

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Hello again and welcome back to another installment of "CaptSopwith Plays WOFF!" Or, perhaps I should re-title it, "CaptSopwith Survives WOFF!"

It's been a few weeks since I've had a chance to really put in some flight time. RL will tend to do that. However, I am happy to report that not only is WOFF running smoothly - even more so after the latest patch - but is continuing to leave me white knuckled and ever so thankful to be back on the ground after a mission.

After losing my previous German pilot due to the terrible blunder of using time compression for just a tad too long, I created another German aviator, this time flying in the Autumn of 1916. Willy Fußl is serving with Jasta 3 and flying the Halberstadt DII.

Willy's first few missions were pretty eventful, with his squad mates getting into a few nasty dogfights along the way. Willy, wisely with a grand total of 8 flying hours under his belt before deployment to the Front, stayed high and out of trouble.

This morning's escort mission, however, finally gave Willy a taste of combat.

The patrol took Jasta 3 over enemy lines escorting two Aviatik reccy aircraft as they photographed the enemy sectors of the Front. A-Flight broke off early in the patrol to tend to other matters, leaving Willy and his two wingmen to escort the Aviatik to enemy territory. All appeared well - the reccy aircraft took their snaps of the Front and began to turn for home. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a lone French Nieuport sweep in to attack our Aviatiks so I turned and attacked.

Aiming from the Halberstadt is a difficult process. I tend to lean towards the iron sights and follow the tracers out ahead of me. It's usually just enough to get a few well placed strikes on my target. So as I pulled in behind the Nieuport - he failed to see me - I opened fire and immediately hit something vital. The enemy plane jolted in the air and a billow of black smoke poured from the aircraft. He tried to get one last burst into the Aviatik in front of him as I hit him with a second burst - careful not to hit our friendlies further ahead. This time the French craft lurched and nosed over, spiraling until it hit the ground.

A second Frenchmen appeared out of nowhere and was making a b-line for b-flight. I turned and nosed my Halberstadt down slightly to gain speed on him. My flight leader and his wingmen failed to engage the first Nieuport and were flying blind as the second closed in. I managed to open fire and clip the Nieuport with a few rounds as the rest of b-flight finally woke up and engaged. We opened fire on the Nieuport and a fellow member of Jasta 3 put him down for good.

By now I was low on ammo and the Aviatiks were nowhere to be seen so I split for home. As I neared our side of the lines, two Nieuport 16s dived out of the clouds and took on my wingman and myself. By now I was incredibly worried that the next round I fired would be the last in the gun. I turned and went after one of the Nieuports as my wingman and the second Frenchmen vanished somewhere into the morning haze.

The second Nieuport pulled into a high left climb and, as I got my sights through him, I opened fire. Again I got lucky, striking something vital and sending black smoke pouring from the back of the plane. As he turned to bank right, I followed, and put another long burst into him. This finally finished him off, leaving him to fall into the shell holes of No-Mans Land.

By now it was really time to get on the ground in friendly territory. I managed to make for the nearest field and as I approached, I spotted black flak bursts overhead.

It was one of those moments when you really have to weigh your options. The closest field is right in front of me, but there are obviously enemy aircraft nearby. Do you try to land? Do you bank away and find another field and hope that whatever is circling over head in front of you doesn't follow? I zoomed in the view and as I did, saw a friendly Halberstadt from Jasta 3 shooting down an enemy aircraft - a trail of smoke and fire highlighting the meteor like decent. And, with the impact, the flak burst ceased.

As I circled in I spotted the rest of my flight, all circling for their approach to the field. We made it...

The Small Things

What struck me over and over again during this sortie is just how incredibly lifelike this sim feels now. The way observation balloons seem to actually float at the end of their tethers. The way the light plays off your wing struts and casts shadows as you slowly turn to change formation. The way other aircraft seem to actually fly through air rather than track along a linear flight model. The haze on the horizon, the shadows cast by trees and buildings. The thunder of artillery and the explosions in no mans land. It all adds up, little detail by little detail to completely immerse you in this amazing world that is alive around you at all times.

And the interface picks up where the sim leaves off. After landing, Willy filled out his next claim form and found out that he had been awarded one kill, complete with a victory cup! I spent the next fifteen minutes just looking around - reading intelligence reports, looking over the daily newspaper, flipping through the squadron profiles, reading the immense history on Willy's goblet. It's a completely immersive time machine that instantly transports you back to a completely different world.

One that's always hard to leave when the night is over...

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What struck me over and over again during this sortie is just how incredibly lifelike this sim feels now.

One that's always hard to leave when the night is over...

Yep, that is what most more modern sims still don't have or cannot do: make you feel like really being there;

a mortal soul, vulnerable, tired or full of vigor - and always glad when you reached your home field unharmed.

 

Gee, is that a default Halberstadt? It looks great compared to when I last flew one!

Must start an early campaign, I suppose.

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Yep, that is what most more modern sims still don't have or cannot do: make you feel like really being there;

a mortal soul, vulnerable, tired or full of vigor - and always glad when you reached your home field unharmed.

 

Gee, is that a default Halberstadt? It looks great compared to when I last flew one!

Must start an early campaign, I suppose.

 

 

Hi Olham! Hope you are doing well my friend. My apologies for the... belated reply.

 

Yes, I am still flying my campaign in the Halberstadt, but this time we've been upgraded to the DIII model. It has slightly better horsepower. As a German pilot, I was usually piloting Albatros fighters, but I'm growing quite fond of the Halberstadt, and it's helping me understand the attachment pilots developed to their machines, even if they were not the most "cutting edge" at the time. I believe my pilot has passed about 9 flying hours or so and he's still plugging along. Funny how you sometimes make a "throw away" pilot to get the hang of the sim and he winds up being the one that lasts a while!

 

Cheers mate! 

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...I'm growing quite fond of the Halberstadt, and it's helping me understand the attachment pilots developed to their machines, even if they were not the most "cutting edge" at the time.

Funny how you sometimes make a "throw away" pilot to get the hang of the sim and he winds up being the one that lasts a while!

 

I know both feelings well. The Halberstadt was great, when they had nothing else (before the Albatros D.I and D.II arrived.

I have had many fights against Airco DH.2 flying the Halberstadt - and it could hold it's own.

 

And as for "throw-away pilots" - they turned out to be the best ones quite often for me also!

Blue skies - stay aloft, Soppy!

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Greetings Capt.! Good to see some of the old dogs around. Also nice to see some screen shots. (This one I particularly like.)

.

Capture.JPG

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Ah, the Sopwith Snipe - I often wonder, why I didn't see it more often in screenshots.

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Ah, the Sopwith Snipe - I often wonder, why I didn't see it more often in screenshots.

I asked Widowmaker about that. Which is to say, I asked him if was a satisfying ride after all the politicking he did to get it in the line-up. He said that in Red Baron he was nigh invincible in a Snipe, but in WOFF it was a disappointment. Completely different FM. I've read that there were high hopes for the Snipe (in RL) as a replacement for the Camel. But it fell short.

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I don't think so.   By 1919 ALL the Camels had been scrapped and the Snipe continued in front line service until 1923.   I reckon this was mainly due to the Bentley rotary engine which was better than any of the French engines.

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I don't think so.   By 1919 ALL the Camels had been scrapped and the Snipe continued in front line service until 1923. 

That is as may be, but as of 1919, just about anything could have continued in front-line service. It was peace-time. There were no adversaries to contend with.

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A Canadian called Barker did well in one against a whole squadron of Fokker VIIs.   He was, of course, an extremely good Camel pilot first. 

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