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Rise of Flight revisited

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Back to the front with 1C/777's World War 1 air combat sim!




'Is Rise of Flight dead?' is a question that's been asked online, of late. There have been no new planes or updates for some time, while the developers have been concentrating on other products. By my definition - for whatever that's worth  - a game's dead, not when the developers lose interest, but when people cease to play and enjoy it. I had ceased, mostly, despite buying a good many individual planes, like the Pfalz D.XII...




...the Fokker Dr.I...




...and the Nieuport 28...




Heck, I even got the Gotha and some two-seaters, including the rather unlovely RE8...




Not that you need to pay anything, of course, since RoF is free, with the Albatros D.V and SPAD XIII flyable and the others appearing as AI-flown unless & until purchased. And the D.V is one of my favourite WW1 birds, sleek, often colourful, and in RoF guise, free to boot - what's not to like about that?






However, RoF never really took off for me (dire pun intended). I have zero interest in multi-player, for one thing. And RoF single player could be a bit...well, anaemic, once you got used to the generally very attractive graphics. The campaigns seemed to me to be a tad unengaging, and the AI a bit of a mixed bag, from sniper-like gunner/observers to fighter jockeys with a rather repetitive box of tricks (if attacked, turn a bit, then go low and turn a lot more, on the deck).


Even after Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator came along to offer an alternative single player campaign system, I still never caught the RoF bug. Mainly, the combat zone seemed dead. There could be enemy flights going about their business - you could cycle through them using the very capable view system - but unless you had the 'AWACS map' active, they might as well have been flying under a cloak of invisibility. In First Eagles and to a large extent Wings over Flanders Fields, many enemy flights would have been rendered visible through being engaged by friendly flak, at least over the lines or your own territory. Not very often, in RoF. Many's the time, bored with the empty skies, I would cycle views to an enemy flight, then once I had established its location with reference to the scenery, be dumfounded as to why it was invisible from the player's aircraft.


But the other day, CombatAce forum member Jeanba posted a favourable comment about the improvements the mods had made to RoF, so I thought, well, I'll give it another go, what have I got to lose. And you know what - RoF's still got some 'little foibles', but I'm glad I did. This double mission report will, I hope, explain why!




...to be continued!

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I love this sim! Everytime there was an special offer I purchased a pack of planes. Now I have them all!  :biggrin:

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All right let´s see.

I tried the free version some months ago, and to me is somewhat like a beautyful paiting: you are allways delighted to look at it and that´s all. After some missions you´ll get bored. Looking forward for Ai improvments.

After all this years BoB Wings of Victory´s  AI shines more than ever. :biggrin:

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The prologue (skip, if you don't like digressions)...


To renew my acquaintance with Rise of Flight, I decided to fly a Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator (PWCG) career flying an Albatros D.III with Jasta Boelcke in April 1917. This was partly because I had recently completed a similar campaign in Wings over Flanders Fields, which, fresh in my mind, would form a useful yardstick.

When I say ‘completed’, I don’t mean ‘brought to a satisfactory conclusion’. Unless you consider this satisfactory:




We’ll come back to RoF in a moment but to digress a little, that whole final mission was unsatisfactory, not just the finale. I had led my flight south towards the airfield over which we to try to catch hostile aircraft. About half-way there, a check to my rear revealed they were no longer in formation behind me, but were sliding off to my left.




I thought at first they were attacking something I couldn't see amidst the clouds, but no. Instead, they spiralled down, to the cloudbase and then on down, below, until they were putzing about just above ground level, seemingly flying in circles.




I believe this sort of AI behaviour in WoFF commonly has two causes. First, they have departed to attack an enemy they have spotted, without letting you, their leader, know. I’ve seen this happen in RoF as well, and would find it less unrealistic if both sims operated like the AI in First Eagles/FE2, which will stick with their leader unless actually attacked, or about to be. They still won't announce their sighting - no WW1 sim seems to have cracked this, short of using on-screen visual aids - but at least in FE/FE2, they don't break formation lightly.

The other WoFF explanation for mass disobedience is, I believe, that your buddies have come to the conclusion you are is no longer able to lead, and that they should continue the mission with a new fellow at the helm.

Today, neither of these explanations seemed to fit: the first, because there was no enemy around, the second, because I had done nothing to indicate that I was abdicating my leadership and they showed no inclination of continuing the mission.

I watched this rather unsatisfactory circus for a while, hoping that either its cause would become apparent, or my flight would give up and rejoin. Sadly, neither of these things happened. And in WoFF, the ‘Rejoin!’ command only works as a recall after a ground attack, for whatever reason.

So I lost patience, gave up and decided I would do a short ‘lone wolf’ patrol over the friendly airfield we were to protect. I’d do just enough to show willing, show my face as it were. My pilot’s career was developing quite nicely and I was in no mood to spoil my chance of a Blue Max by wading in to an unequal fight of any description. So that’s what I did. I flew down there and then made a few circuits where the fellows down below should be able to see me, like I was looking for trouble, rather than looking to stay out of it. But as soon as I felt that honour had been satisfied, I turned back for home.

When I arrived there, I still hadn’t lost enough height for a ‘straight in’ approach and overflew our base, the better also to get a good look at three Albatri that had already landed – members of my errant flight, I suspected. You can see them, near the top left of the picture below, taken as I was turning in for my overflight.




While making said overflight prior to turning back onto a final approach, I was suddenly shot at from behind by the leader of a small pack of SPADs. 

Really, this was too much! My frustration boiled over and I turned and went for the leading Frenchman, using my superior manoeuvrability to get onto his tail. Even as I tanned his hide with my twin Spandaus, I was thinking, ‘Now, safety first! Get down or away as soon as you can, let the airfield defences put some holes in them!’ But that’s not what I did. We’ve all been there – ‘Just one last burst, before I break!’, you know the story...and the usual ending. I nearly got the Frenchman. He was an ace, but that didn’t save him. One of his mates did, coupled with my target fixation.

I was hit from behind and broke hard left. Or tried to. Nothing worked. I don’t know where I was hit, but some magic bullet or bullets had simultaneously clobbered all control. My plane just fell sideways out of the sky like a shot bird, with me apparently unwounded but just a helpless passenger. Hence the picture of my crashed Albatros, at the head of this post. And before you ask, does it look like my pilot walked away from that?

All right, I was asking for trouble, leaving my break till the rounds were flying past or (as it turned out) into me. But this was a bad ending to a bad mission. My flight should have stuck with me, or have been able to be recalled, when they didn’t. Then those SPADs rather doubtfully chanced descending into the circuit of an enemy aerodrome just to pick off a solitary Albatros (or shoot a few holes in hangars). And to cap it all, a few hits from a short burst instantly rendered my aircraft uncontrollable. Visions of having Countess Kaeti watch admiringly from the limo as the Blue Max was hung from my neck, in front of the staffel, had been swept away, just like that.

So I thought I’d give the same career a try, in Rise of Flight – same timeframe, same unit, same machine. Well, not quite the same plane. WoFF models different variations of the Albatros D.III – the plane that made April 1917 ‘Bloody’, for the Royal Flying Corps. RoF has one version – what in my day we would have called a ‘late production’ model. This we now know was the version built by OAW, the Ostdeutsches Albatros Werke, distinguished mainly by the rounded, rather than straight, rudder trailing edge; also by the centre section radiator having been offset from dead centre to the right on the D.III, by the time OAW production began – said to be to avoid the pilot getting scalded in the event of battle damage, but also usefully improving the view dead ahead, by moving the associated pipework to the side. 




As RoF also has the Albatros D.V, in service from mid-1917, an earlier variant of the D.III would probably have been a better choice. But it would be churlish to complain about getting to fly a fine bird like this, a little while before the actual sub-type probably arrived at the front. Especially as the OAW version was reportedly more strongly built, lacking the parent company's product's rather unhelpful tendency to serious lower wing failure under stress.


Anyway, here endeth the prologue; if you skipped this bit, we'll be back to Rise of Flight in the next installment!


...to be continued!

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Campaign set-up...and first mission


RoF has a ‘career’ mode with some nice features. Some are fine with this, and I can’t remember now why I didn’t particularly warm to it. Like (I suspect) most RoF single players, I have tended to prefer the alternative ‘Campaign Generator’ system developed by Pat Wilson and recently adapted for Il-2 Battle of Stalingrad, whose stock SP campaign system was...well, let's just say here, unusual and controversial. 'PWCG' has evolved over the years; my version is #16, not quite the latest - 'Be not first with the new, nor last with the old' - but it’s what I had installed, when I started this campaign the other day. I have long since used the 'Planes owned' option to tell PWCG which aircraft I can fly, and tweaked some other settings. I believe the latest version of PWCG is automatically integrated with RoF's menu, so easing the process I'm going now to describe.


 javaw 2016-08-30 20-30-59-76.jpg


In short, you run PWCG first, and create a pilot in a given unit at a given date. You can then do various thinks like checking out what other units are flying in your area. You can also adjust many mission-related settings, perhaps the most important being those related to enemy air activity, which I have set at ‘Medium’. My current campaign is the one listed above for Richard Stachel (yes, I'm an unashamed fan of the movie The Blue Max, so I'm flying as Bruno's brother, Richard).

The next important task is to generate a campaign mission. This I did, and below is the map-based briefing for the mission I got. Note the rather good supporting information, in the panels to the right. Unfortunately, my zoomed-in screenshot has cut off part of the right-hand panel and the bottom of my patrol route, but that's basically just south, down the lines - the cross-hatched zone around 'No Man's Land' running roughly north-south, with each side's front lines marked in olive (Germany) and blue (Britain, in this sector). You can ‘scrub’ the mission if you fancy trying for something different. Mission types are what you’d expect, but for two-seaters include simulated artillery observation and aerial reconnaissance, which were the most important and common missions for World War One's 'working planes', but seem rarely featured well, if at all, in WW1 sims.


javaw 2016-08-29 21-44-46-32.jpg

This shows what's basically a segment of RoF's printable map (a nice printed copy comes with the Iron Cross Edition, which I picked up in Spain as a 'backup'). One thing I don't like here is the way the labels on the patrol route obscure map detail. As this info is already in the top RH panel, it would be better not printed on your route; maybe just the waypoints numbered, if anything.

Because I dislike formation flying and prefer the extra tactical challenge of patrol leading, the next thing I generally do is review the roster for the mission and remove or add pilots, so that I am the senior rank and thus leading the flight. In playing First Eagles 2, I tend to fly a four-aircraft flight picking the same pilots each time, but this time, for some reason I can't remember, I settled for just one companion, Leutnant Adolph von Tutscheck, who like others on the roster, really flew with Jasta Boelcke at this time. Neat!

Having generated the mission, I accepted it, minimised PWCG and launched RoF. Some versions of PWCG could be integrated into the user interface of some versions of RoF, so you could run everything from the latter, but functionally it’s the same drill, and it's neither complicated nor tedious. When RoF loads, the mission you just generated and accepted is listed under single missions. You fly it, and afterward return to PWCG, where, as we will see later, you can record any claims for victories, view a map-based mission replay, and write a combat report.

I have various mods enabled, including Criquet’s AI mods for scouts (fighters) and two-seaters, and several skin packs. RoF doesn’t use a decal system like First Eagles (or classic Il-2) but you can choose a ‘skin’ for your own plane and if an ace is flying whose machine has a skin of its own, see that one on his aircraft.

Here were are soon after take-off, from the airfield at Pronville (rather than Proville in WoFF; both airfields existed) near Cambrai. As per the briefing, the weather is good. Historically, the real weather was poor at the start of the Battle of Arras in early April 1917, as replicated nicely by WoFF. I get enough crap weather at home in real life, so I’m not complaining about RoF’s blue skies! As a leader, my Albatros has a blue streamer, attached (as is usual in RoF) to my upper main plane, inboard of the port aileron. I have neglected to choose a custom skin, but I will remedy this on the next mission. One consequence is that the cockpit view will display the heavily-pixellated outer surfaces from which some colours on some planes suffer.




Take-offs in RoF I find to be much more likely to result in a ‘prang’ than in either WoFF or FE/FE2. Your nose may swing strongly and your wings can wobble up and down as you bump over the grass. I find it quite easy to ground loop or dig in a wingtip, if my control inputs are other than gentle. I tend to maintain gentle back pressure on the stick to keep my tailskid on the ground, the drag helping keep me straight until I have built up what I judge is enough speed to let the tail come up with the minimum of control input – it seems easy to over-correct and bring on a crash. For this reason, I tend to settle for taking the edge off any swing, rather than risk a crash by trying to keep dead straight. This can result in me getting off at a noticeable angle to my original heading from rest, but hey, grass airfields make that do-able and when I’m airborne, I feel I’ve accomplished something requiring a certain amount of skill, rather than undertaken a chore requiring none.

Once aloft, I call up the mini-map and adjust my heading onto the first leg of my route. I’m afraid I usually have little time for navigating by real map and compass, though I may start. The printed/printable RoF map corresponds nicely with what you can see in-game, making more realistic navigation a more attractive option.

Another thing I find about RoF is that I spend more time flying from the cockpit, than in the external view. In other sims, I generally switch to the cockpit view for combat. It’s a combination of factors, but the sights, sounds and visibility – I use mouselook – make RoF’s cockpits a more welcoming place for me. With their considerable tail heaviness and tendency to wander, I also find it easier to maintain attitude and heading from within, rather than outside, my virtual aeroplane. Perhaps it's my flying, but it can take a little while for my flight-mates to settle into formation; they generally keep up tolerably well, once they have.




A word on aircraft visibility: one disadvantage of flying in RoF’s virtual cockpits is that it is has quite a zoomed-out, wide field-of-view, which makes distant aircraft look very far away, and hard to spot. You can zoom in and out as you scan, but that is rather tedious. By contrast, the external view has a more ‘telephoto’, lower field-of-view look, leaving the same planes, at the same range, looking much larger and a lot more visible. I dare say there may be some settings I could tweak here. But for now, I tend to flick on the padlock every so often. I don't think this magically picks up planes I should not be able to spot in real life, so I rationalise this as noticing aircraft that myself, or a flight-mate, could readily have seen while scanning. I don’t turn on padlock too often, as a balance. I have also noticed that my present mini-map settings will display a little black aircraft symbol if there is an enemy fairly close by. It's a bit like a map-based version of the Tactical Display available in WoFF. Again, I use the RoF mini-map sparingly. I would use both mini-map and padlock less often still, if distant aircraft were more visible from RoF’s cockpit view – or were more often rendered visible, by AA fire directed at them. But I’m finding that I’m ok with the present set-up; mainly because I’m now having encounters more regularly than I recalled with my early forays into RoF – the empty skies seem empty, no more. Precisely why, I don’t know. Planes may still be spawning inside a ‘bubble’ occupied by the player, but if so, it’s not obvious, and I don’t care if the skies outside that bubble are indeed empty – no need to waste processing power generating enemies I’ll never meet, enemies that’ll have no effect on the static WW1 battlefield below.


This time, I don't need the padlock to spot three specks in the sky, over the lines to our right front, at nearly our level. They're not being fired on, so I am clueless as to their identity. As I watch, the group splits up: one of the machines flies off to the left, the other two to the right. In such situations, I always follow 'Mick' Mannock's rule, that an unidentified aircraft must always be treated as hostile, until proved otherwise. I swing north, away from our patrol route, to intercept the two aircraft. In the picture below, you can see them just above my offset centre section radiator, while the third aircraft is above the Maltese cross on my port upper wing.




The two aircraft turn east, towards the German lines. They're still not being fired on and from their distant but distinctive profile as I climb past their level, I get the impression they are DFW two-seaters. My identification is correct, and the two slip past below and to our right, homeward bound. One of them is glinting in the sunlight off my starboard wingtip; the other is above my nose.




I turn back south and am soon flying along our patrol route, above our lines.




In the picture below, you can see the rather ugly pixellated effect you get on exterior textures with some colours on some skins. Strange, that a relatively modern sim should exhibit this; on my next mission I'll have a skin which doesn't do this.




Uh-oh! A glance up and right reveals von Tutscheck is no longer there. Looking back over my tail, I can clearly see why. He's in an air fight, rather far back already, with three enemy scouts which must have crept up on us!




Needless to say, I spin around and have at them. 'Them' turns out to be three DH 2s, pusher fighters that the Germans knew as Vickers types, after the original Vickers FB2 'Gun-bus'. They are highly manouevrable but don't like the fire of two synchronised MGs. I surprise myself by chasing one off damaged and smoking, then knocking down first one, then the other!






During all this, I have lost sight of von Tutscheck, and conclude sadly that I have been too late to save him. I'm all the more pleased, therefore, when I begin my usual post-combat full-power spiral climb and, looking back to clear my tail, see he's still very much alive. He's trailing some white smoke, but still apparently determined to rejoin formation.




Time to go home! I level off and, throttled back, lead my comrade back towards our base.






The Rise of Flight mission end screen confirms my three kills...




..but this is a PWCG campaign mission I'm flying, and something a whole lot more interesting and immersive awaits me, than this rather dry summary.


First, I'm invited to submit a quick claim form, which I duly complete, using the drop-down lists supplied to select the number and type of aircraft I am claiming to have brought down.


javaw 2016-08-29 22-33-59-29.jpg


Next, I can elect to view an animated, map-based mission replay. The picture below shows this after it has finished playing, marking out my track and listing the mission's main events. That von Tutscheck is shown as 'Destroyed' indicates he, or rather his machine, has cracked up on landing, though I didn't see this happen - more of this in the next mission, where he'lll be flying with me again.


javaw 2016-08-29 22-34-45-30.jpg


Finally, I get to see a mission summary, to which I can append a typed combat report of my own (under 'Narrative'; everything else is pre-populated). As you can see, I wasn't sure I had knocked down the first 'Vickers', because after chasing him from the fight I immediately went back to help my comrade. Truly, I find bringing my men back alive is as satisfying as shooting down the enemy.


javaw 2016-08-29 22-43-16-05.jpg


Unlike WoFF, I don't think your RoF combat report helps you get kills confirmed, as this appears to be automatic. However, for me, the PWCG 'before' and 'after' mission elements really lift the Rise of Flight single player campaign experience, from rather ordinary, to something altogether more immersive and wonderful.


I was also quite pleased, even on 'medium' air activity settings, to find that I was able to see and/or encounter other flights going credibly about their business, in a way I saw more rarely in my previous 'empty skies' outings with Rise of Flight, even with previous versions of PWCG. So far, so good. But I'm going to need at least another decent mission, to prove this isn't a fluke!


...to be continued!

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Looking for trouble...




For my second mission, we draw something slightly different. The last sortie was a patrol up to, then down, the trenchlines, just on our side. This time, it’s an intercept mission, deeper into our own territory. This isn’t World War 2 so I have no idea if whatever our ground observers have spotted will be there when we arrive, so perhaps it’s more of a defensive patrol over a possibly threatened locality.


Before leaving PWCG, I decide to take my more habitual flight of four. Leutnant von Tutscheck has survived his prang at the end of the last mission so I elect to bring him along again, adding two more pilots that I out-rank to ensure that I am flight leader. I like it that PWCG lets me opt to fly with the same people, like First Eagles, rather than forcing me to take random flight-mates who differ each time.


javaw 2016-08-30 19-26-07-62.jpg


Looking at the map - the screenshot below shows our assigned route as it appears after switching to RoF -  I can see that the locality we are to patrol for any sign of the enemy is just north of a large, irregularly-shaped wood, near a prominent river. I commit this layout to memory as it will help me orient myself, with minimal reference to the in-flight mini-map. It's only a short distance south-east from our airfield, so as usual, I'll be readily able to fly the whole mission in real time, without boredom setting in.





This time, I do not forget to choose a custom skin for my plane before kicking off the mission, picking a Jasta Boelcke default. As it happens, this gives me tri-colour (green/brown/dark green) upper surfaces which do not exhibit the pixellated effect of the green & mauve finish the others carry. Here we are, lined up on the grass at Pronville.



The aircrew animations in RoF are very good, and include flight leaders waving to indicate to the flight that they should start engines. Keyboard commands let you initiate several hand-signals, which are initiated automatically if you issue a comamnd like a formation change or a recall, sometimes accompanied by the launching of a coloured flare signal. The only things I like less are that polits don't scan as efficiently as they do in First Eagles, and while it';s good that observers/gunners sometimes sit down, they tend to do so too often, including during combat conditions. Also good are aircraft animations like the valves on the ylinder heads of my Albatos's Mercedes engine and the cocking handles that move when I cock or re-cock my twin machine guns. As I have not elected to use 'complex engine management', I can see the radiator handle just right and above my head move every so often, opening or closing the transverse slats below my centre section radiator, to keep my temperatures in order. Great stuff!


As usual ,I have swung to one side on takeoff and shied away from over-correcting, so I've come off the ground at a significant angle to the others. But that's better than cracking up on takeoff.




I continue around to the left and gain height as I pass the airfield. The tower-like structure you can see behind the 'sheds' is a water tower, I believe. These are quite common in RoF and are a realistic feature of this area.




I level off and throttle back, to let the others catch up. You can select a fformation before launching the mission and order changes in flight, but I've just accepted the default, which you can see is echelon right.




Formations in RoF can become ragged sometimes, and for a time one of my men falls below, before catching up again. Perhaps this would happen less, if I didn't wander about the sky a bit!




Looking to my left rear, I can already see the large wood near a river, that marks the southern limit of our patrol area. I really do like RoF's landscapes, complete with moving cloud shadows. The one thing I like less is that beyond the near distance, stretches of woodland can look somehow flat and...well, 'blobby', for want of a better description.




Once more, the weather is fine and again, we are soon on our way, climbing up as we swing around and down to the south-east. Nearing our patrol area, we begin to orbit, at about what I think should be an appropriate height – not too low to be able to climb up after a higher adversary, nor too high to spot one trying to sneak in below us. If I’m lucky, friendly flak bursts will help me locate any enemies, but this isn’t FE/FE2 and luck may or may not be with me today.




One disadvantage of flying in RoF’s virtual cockpits is that it is has quite a zoomed-out, wide field-of-view, which makes distant aircraft look very far away, and hard to spot. By contrast, the external view has a more ‘telephoto’, lower field of view look, leaving the same planes looking much larger and a lot more visible. I dare say there may be some settings I could tweak here, and there is an icon mode which displays quite neat aircaft markers in the 3-d world. But my preference is to flick on the padlock, every so often. This I haven’t seen pick up planes beyond what I think would be reasonable visibility, so I rationalise this as spotting planes during routine scanning that myself or a flight-mate could readily have seen. And I don’t do it too often.


I have also noticed that my present mini-map settings will display a little black aircraft symbol if there is an enemy fairly close by, a bit like a map-based version of the Tactical Display available in WoFF. Again, I use the Ro/F mini-map sparingly. I would use both mini-map and padlock less often still, if distant aircraft were more visible from RoF’s cockpit view – or were more often rendered so, by AA fire directed at them.


But I’m finding that I’m ok with the present set-up; mainly because I’m now having encounters more regularly than I recalled with my early forays into RoF. The empty skies seem empty, no more. Precisely why, I don’t know. Perhaps it's an effect of newer versions of PWCG. Planes may still be spawning inside a ‘bubble’ occupied by the player, but if so, it’s not obvious. And I don’t care if the skies outside that bubble are indeed empty – no need to waste processing power generating enemies I’ll never meet, enemies that’ll have no effect on the static WW1 battlefield below.


For a while as we orbit, it seems that the skies may indeed be empty. I begin to wonder if not being careful to hit waypoints on my way here, means a trigger hasn’t generated an enemy flight I’m supposed to watch out for. The views are most delightful, but I'm not here on a sight-seeing trip. Where are the Englishmen?




...to be continued!

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Trouble shows up...




Round and round we go, waiting for whatever we came here to intercept, to show up. It doesn't. So I allow my attention to wander to the scenery. There's three more Albatros scouts behind me, so I reckon I can afford to fit in a little sight-seeing, though in between, I'm careful to scan the skies.


I bank slightly right and look down, towards an airfield I can see near a village close to the river...or is it a canalised river - it has several long, straight sections. My printed map tells me I'm looking at Hermes, which is about 7 kilometres south-south-west of our base at Pronville.




In Rof, aircraft seem generally very tail heavy. Reportedly, this was a common characteristic of WW1 planes and many didn't have any form of trim, apart from what could be achieved by adjusting the rigging. I vaguely recall, some while back, doing the RoF equivalent - fiddling with joystick profiles - in an effort to reduce tail heaviness in the planes I commonly flew. This might have included my D.III, but she's still noticeably tail heavy, which results, in my case, in a tendency to porpoise. One moment, my flight-mates are slightly below me...




...the next, they are once more stacked up behind and slightly above, though perhaps having fallen back a little, as here...




One we go, reagrdless. It's one of my infrequent taps of the padlock key which reveals the enemy. I'd prefer it if they had been brought to my attention through aircraft being even slightly more visible at a given range in the cockpit view, like they are in the external view (or with on-screen aids turned on). Or if their presence had been revealed by flak bursts - after all, they are well over on our side of the lines. Reagrdless, there they are...two distant specks in the sky, which you might just about be able to make out in the centre of the sceeen below, about three-quarters of the way up the leading edge of the rear arm of my 'N'-shaped left-hand centre section strut.




I turn into them. It seems they spotted us first, because they are heading straight towards us. It all looks rather unfriendly.




As we run in head on, I realise they are a pair of Nieuport scouts; their frontal aspect is quite distinctive. Here they come!




And there they go! I just have time for the shortest of bursts at the right-hand machine before they have flashed past, straight into our formation, which breaks up at once.




The Nieuports - Englishmen, from their RFC roundels, with the blue ring outermost - can pull tighter turns than I can manage, and they seem to have a decent zoom climb, too. I avoid dumping my speed by trying to turn inside them and allow myself to go wide, while holding my height. With four against two, I can bide my time. And I know I need to be wary of colliding with a friend who is chasing the same target – after all, that is how the illustrious ace after whom our staffel was named came to grief last year.

Soon enough, my time comes. My chosen Nieuport shakes off his pursuer, and I drop onto his tail in the approved fashion, like a falcon onto his prey.





I get some hits, but have to break as he turns underneath me. I pull up and look around. Finding myself clear I roll in again after the Nieuport, who is now flying level, trailing a fine wisp of pale grey smoke. I overhaul him rapidly, check behind, then let him have it.



 A quick glance to the rear reveals the other Nieuport is coming up behind me, but there are three Albatrosses with him, so I decide that I can concentrate on the enemy in front. But my attention is held to the rear, as I suddenly see one of the planes pull up then fall away, possibly out of control. The distance ,and the sun glinting on his upper surfaces, mean I cannot be sure who he is, friend or foe.




Facing front again, I clear a stoppage in one of my guns and watch my tracers fly at the other Nieuport. He takes no evasive action this time, and suddenly, a banner of dark smoke unrolls in his wake, his left wing drops and I see the orange glow of fire underneath his motor.




I bank around and see him go into a steep spiral earthwards. No need to watch him crash; he’s clearly doomed.




Now, to find out what's been going on behind me!


...to be continued!

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I begin a full power spiral climb to clear my tail and looking around, see only a couple of Albatri, swinging in behind in an effort to regain formation. Evidently, the fight is over.  I ease back on the throttle to let them catch up, and am pleased to see a third Albatros pulling up from below and behind, apparently none the worse for the excitement, earlier. Soon, our formation is back together. One, possibly two kills, for no losses – that’ll do nicely.




As we regain height, I find we have drifted south of our patrol area, so I turn around to head back up there, climbing gently. As we go, I spot a distant speck against the sky to the south, moving across our front from left to right, heading west, towards the lines. There is no flak, but as a precaution, I settle onto an intercepting course. I do this by setting the ‘Tizzy Angle’, named for a Polish RAF fighter pilot from WW2 who described it. You aim ahead of the target and steer a course that keeps it onthe same relative bearing. If the target is edging ahead, you’re going to fall in behind him so you correct by aiming further ahead; if it’s edging behind, you’re coming in ahead of him and correct by aiming less far ahead. When the angle is right, you should see the target stationary, just growing in size. You can change to the curve of pursuit thing when you get close enough.




As the range winds down, I see to my surprise that he’s a dark-coloured Nieuport. Is this a new foe I hadn’t seen before, or has the second Nieuport recovered? I go for him myself, and the turning begins again.






My flight-mates go for him too and soon seem to have the battle well in hand, although there is so much whirling about that I fear there could be a collision. I pull up to watch the fight, not wanting any part of that.




As I watch, something falls away from one of the aircraft. I think it's an aileron from the Nieuport, and hope there hasn't been a mid-air.




But no, the Nieuport has had it. He falls away, going down in flames, like his comrade.




The skies around us are now clear of the enemy. I'm not sure who incercepted whom, but an interception it was. Time to go home, I decide; I'm something of a believer in that motto about getting out, while you're ahead.




My three comrades - all in machines identical to mine, save for their mauve and green upper wings - all seem to be undamaged.




Speaking of damage, one unsatisfactory feature of the RoF damage model is - or maybe was - that rigging damage to an Albatros was manifested by all the interplane rigging wires, on both sides, simply disappearing. Which was pretty naff. I have not seen this since resuming playing, so I'm hoping that one of the last updates fixed this.


As I am about to discover, one thing that hasn't been fixed is the AI's landing abilities, or the lack thereof. Not a complete lack; I have seen a damaged RE8 make a decent forced landing, after his engine spluttered and failed.




He sort of spoiled it, though, by re-starting his engine, and trying to take off again. Which was fair enough, except that he ran smack into some inconveniently-sited trees, and cracked up.




Anyhow, I fly all the way back to Pronville in real time, admitting the landscape, including the moving cloud shadows. As I mentioned earlier, the dark blobs of the forests are the only thing I don’t like; those, and the rather zipper-like trench lines. I haven’t been close enough to a cloud to notice if they still seem to jerk occasionally, but the incidence of ‘flikering trees’ seems to have stopped or reduced.


I turn in and land. I can't recall what the done thing is, as regards your flight-mates upon return to base. But dark memories of reports of silly behaviour are rather brutally confirmed when one of my flight nearly lands on top of me, ploning down over to my left, while a second Albatros smacks down and flips onto his back, nearly in front of me.




The third Albatros seems to have managed a go-around, although I cannot avoid clipping the inverted idiot with my port wings as I roll past him.




The one who nearly landed on top of me rolls on and flips over, after clipping a hut next to a hangar. At least the mechanics won't have to go far, to pick up the pieces.



I quit the mission quickly, hoping to do so before the fourth Albatros can come a cropper, too!

Back in Pat Wilson's Campaign Generator, I file my victory claim...


javaw 2016-08-30 20-15-09-57.jpg


...then play the animated map debriefing, which confirms that we got three Nieuports...


javaw 2016-08-30 20-15-39-95.jpg


Finally, it's time for me to write my mission report...


javaw 2016-08-30 20-28-56-15.jpg


And here's the Jasta Boelcke roster at the end of the mission, showing my four kills from two missions. I've still got a way to go, compared to the staffel's real-life rising stars, as you can see.


javaw 2016-08-30 20-29-13-33.jpg


Here's my pilot log book or 'dossier'...


javaw 2016-08-30 20-30-23-13.jpg


...and here are my awards and decorations. To my pilot's badge, I have already added an Iron Cross.


javaw 2016-09-02 22-58-38-56.jpg


Not bad going, eh? Maybe I'll get to see Countess Kaeti von Klugermann watch me have that Blue Max hung about my shoulders, after all!


Well, I must say the experience so far in this campaign has been much better than I recall from past such outings in RoF. I suspect it's a combination of PWCG and the AI mods; for one thing, experience in other missions seems to indicate that two-seater gunners are no longer firing laser-guided bullets, unaffected by the manoeuvrings of their aircraft. And general pilot AI seems...well, not as capable or credible as either First Eagles or Wings over Flanders Fields, but much more acceptable...apart from those landing crack-ups. With the benefits of PWCG's features - not least the pilot and mission records - the whole single player campaign experience is proving very satisfactory, and I'm looking forward to trying to get that Pour le Mérite. Brother Bruno has got some friendly competition!



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PS I should have mentioned that at time of writing, there is a sale ongoing on the RoF Store (also on Steam), until 9th September 2016, with all aircraft and many other items significantly reduced.


And you can get information, links and support for Pat wilson's Campaign Generator here...




...and a range of other mods here...




...and skin packs here:





Good hunting!















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