I finally come to grips with a classic, and realise what all the fuss is about!
For some reason, train simulators do not make good subjects for combat reports. Though getting into them at last has been a lot of fun, which together with stuff outside of sim-land have kept me from doing more than very casual air combat simming...until now. Hence the long gap in mission reports here at CombatAce.
For World War 1, I'm back with First Eagles 2, not least for its combination of good looks, very wide scope when modded, many very good features, and being fast to get back into, thanks to some of those aformentioned good features.
For World War 2, it was time for something I hadn't seriously tried before...which applies to more than it should of the titles I've accumulated over the years, the good, the not-so-good and the relatively awful - anyone else remember Nations - Fighter Command? Nice planeset, pity about the flight models...and a few other details.
The recent launch of OBD's follow-on to Wings over Flanders Fields, namely the first installment of Wings over the Reich, got me interested anew in one of my pet subjects of many years, the Battle of Britain. But not sadly in WotR, due to issues like very small German raids, limited comms including little or nothing from ground controllers (big raids and ground control should really be de rigeur for any self-respecting simulation of the Battle) and various lesser niggles, like some unmilitary scripting of what R/T traffic there is.
I still have European Air War on my system but while it covers the Battle, it's only fired up for very occasional nostalgia trips, these days. I actually moderately enjoyed the Warbirds-based History Channel Battle of Britain - ok it's not one of the greats, but as well as flying a reasonably historical mission-set campaign in many BoB types, you can shoot at the ones with crosses from a destroyer's Oerlikon Gun....
And of course, I have played some missions from the Battle in modded Il-2 '46, this one being from the Spitfire Scramble campaign...
But I have so far not invested in IL-2 Cliffs of Dover, with its strange planeset, strange-looking landscapes and most of all, limited single player content - coupled with high system requirements for what there is
So I decided it was time to make a serious effort to get into Rowan's Battle of Britain (I still have the original boxed version, printed manuals and all). Or rather its more recent incarnation, A2A formerly Shockwave's Battle of Britain II - Wings of Victory, or BoB2 to its friends - who naturally include the Battle (of Britain) Development Group, who have done a great job ironing out wrinkles and adding features in a series of patches.
Despite making my own map-based Battle of Britain wargame in the 1970s, I never more than dabbled in BoB or BoB2. Not so much because of niggles like planes in close formation sort of jiggling at times, more because I wanted a conventional pilot career, not a combat sim within a wargame. Having since tried that approach with tanks in Steel Armour Blaze of War and found it not unrewarding, I decided it was time to give BoB2-WoV a serious go.
And so I discovered two things. First that all the good things they say about BoB2 are true, notably that it captures the Battle like no other sim before or since. In other sims, a German raid might be a staffel, so you're fighting the Minor Skirmish of Brtiain. In BoB2, a raid is typically and realistically at least a gruppe in strength - 20-30 bombers, like these boys from I Gruppe, Kampfgeschwader 54, on their way to knock the spots off Portland Naval Dockyard, with II Gruppe for company and a large close escort of Bf110s. The latter about to be hit from behind by the Brylcreem Boys of the RAF.
My second, less welcome discovery was that I'd chosen a bad time to make the first discovery - having just got a replacement PC with Windows 10, which is fine with about every other sim I've tried it with, but with which BoB2 suffers CTDs when ending a mission, and sometimes earlier.
However, I have been able to play many training, historical and campaign missions up to the end, and so pleased am I with the experience that I plan a dual boot drive with Win 7. So that I can get proper debriefings and not have to re-start crashed campaign games every time I take to the air in one. And spend more time enjoying the authentic 1940s southern England landscapes and scenery, recreated with extreme attention to detail. For example the first time I saw Brighton Pier on a test flight in a Hurricane, I thought the 3d model had a problem, the pier head being unconnected with the coast. Then I remembered...they disconnected pier head from land during the invasion scare of 1940, so as not to provide the expected visitors with convenient ad hoc jetties.
The graphics aren't stellar - there are no dynamic shadows for example - but they are still pretty good. What still sets BoB2's visuals apart is more of that attention to detail. For example, aircraft not only carry accurate camouflage patterns, and the proper squadron codes (JX seen above is No.1 Squadron), but Spits and Hurris have realistic variations, including different fin flashes and undersurface treatments. And the weathered Dark Earth and Dark Green 'shadow shading' RAF day fighter camouflage is to my eye more authentic than the efforts of the flashier competitors. I'm not sure how, but the rather blurry aircraft textures I recall from the first time I installed BoB2-WoV are now sharp and satisfying, complete with readable stencils. Notably, the air-to-air AI is the best (most human-like) I have ever encountered, the flight models feel good (including controls becoming heavier at high speeds). The radio traffic is simply best of breed, complete with the use of authentic radio codes and, it seems, also realistic radio voice procedure, for both sides. Planes rattle like they should when near the stall (I have in front of me a Spit Mk1 Pilot's Notes facsimilie and it describes just that '...there is a violent shudder and clattering noise throughout the aeroplane'), there are clickable cockpits if you like to fiddle with knobs, and as well as flying the four major fighters, you can also go dive-bombing in a Stuka or man and switch between nose, dorsal and ventral gun positions on the three types of German twin-engine bombers.
Which is what I'm doing in the mission featured in this report - one of the included historical missions, the major Luftwaffe raid on the Filton aircraft factory near Bristol, on 25th September 1940. This caught out Fighter Command's 10 Group, who had deployed their interceptors to defend the Westland works at Yeovil, instead. As the mission intro describes, this let the attackers in unmolested and probably doomed many of the 200-plus victims who died when the raid hit its real target (my parents-to-be were in a city badly bombed by Goering's boys, and I well remember the 'bomb sites' in the streets where I was brought up, where gaps in rows of houses still marked the effects of the raids; so I don't say any of that lightly, lest anyone think otherwise).
I could have opted to fly on any plane making, escorting or belatedly trying to catch the raid. But I opted to fly as an air gunner on the lead He111 of the second attacking gruppe, I/KG55. We had about fifteen aircraft - by mid September, some bomber gruppen were well below strength: the morning raid on London on Battle of Britain Day, 15th September, consisted of just 25 Dorniers which it took two gruppen to put up, an incredibly small number even allowing they were essentially lockvogel, bait to lure up 'the last fifty Spitfires'.
Anyhow, here we are approaching Bristol, having just flown through a noisy but for now, ineffective flak barrage. As I was soon to find out, enjoying the ride, taking pics like a good war correspondent and actually defending my aircraft, did not mix terribly well.
...to be continued!
I suppose A2A Simulations' forums are the place to ask this, but the question appears to be hanging in the air, there and elsewhere on the net, so I'll pose it here...
Has anyone got BoB2 working fully in Windows 10?
I've been spurred to try for myself for two reasons:
1. My Vista 64 box's mobo gave up the ghost so I now have a newer replacement which has Win 10 Pro. With which I've got the vast majority of my sims working fine, mostly from the old HDD which is now installed in the new box to complement the fast-but-just-120GB-capacity SSD that came with it; and
2. The arrival of Wings over the Reich prompted me to renew my acquaintance with sims of the classic Battle, in which I have always been very interested.
As I posted 'in another place', I was keen to see WoTR's arrival, but deterred from jumping in when it arrived by a number of issues, including: very small German formations ('Minor Skirmish of Britain', anyone?); bombers way too widely spaced; UFO Bf110s; few flyables; very limited variety in aircraft skins (only slightly better now); and quite seriously for the defender, very little radio traffic and little or no representation of Ground Controllers. It seems the most recent patch has endeavoured to fix some of these issues, but others remain (a post-patch video showing what was described as 'a big bank [sic] of bombers' looked to me to comprise about six Dorniers).
I also tried a CFS3 ETO freeware mod which covers the Battle, based on the ETO expansion...but it just reminds me why I always reckoned CFS3 was ok at what it was designed to do (tactical air ops)...but not much else.
So back I came to A2A's makeover of Rowan's classic.
Despite making my own map-based BoB wargame back in the '70s, I never really appreciated BoB/BoB2's 'flight sim within a wargame' approach. But while WoTR provides the conventional squadron-based SP campaign I prefer (available to an extent in BoB2, if you follow the available guidance on workarounds), BoB2 scores in about every other respect - except that the graphics are not quite so modern as (or more dated than) WoTR's. Even just playing BoB2's included set of historical missions, though all seem to be air starts, provides a good recreation of the Battle via many of its highlights, complete with the ability to fly in several of the participating squadrons or Gruppen (including as air gunners in the German bombers), Ground Controllers are on the air, the R/T chatter is great, the AI likewise, and the formations often positively scary. As is taking the role of one of the air gunners in a Do 17 of 9/KG76 in the famous low-level raid on RAF Kenley, one of the historical missions.
Anyhow, back on topic. After a re-install, I have BoB2 mostly working in Win 10, complete with the latest 2.13 update from the BoB Development Group and Multiskins - which gives every plane in every unit accurate squadron/gruppe and individual aircraft markings.
The problem I was left with was that the game CTD'ed when I quit a mission. Alt+X being the default keys; remapping them didn't help. Likewise, no joy quitting from the 2d map, paused or not, instead of the 3d world. The consensus online seems to be that differences in the way DirectX handled some things in Win 10 was the likely culprit. Win 8 is likewise problematic, and while 7 is apparently fine with BoB2, I'm not going there, having got most all else going on an OS which will be in support a fair bit longer.
Today, I seem to have reduced the Alt+X CTDs from 'very common' to 'rare', by applying the settings posted by Buzz3 on Steam, here... https://steamcommunity.com/app/63950/discussions/0/1471968797464997938/
...except that I have just begun to increase the recommended low-to-medium in-game graphics settings, to see how far up I can push them, while isolating the item or items I can't. 'Quite a way' seems to be the answer. But I fear that over the days ahead I will have the same experience reported by others on A2A who thought and posted that they had found an answer, only to discover they were just having a good patch and that the law of Alt+X averages caught up with them - and the regular CTDs were back. Some seem to have spent ages trying to find the BoB2 Win 10 Holy Grail, in vain, and I've tried anything I can think of that they haven't reported trying.
I can live with the dated but serviceable graphics for the sake of BoB2's very considerable superiority over all other comers as a simulation of the Battle. At a push, I will be happy being able to play the many historical missions, interleaved with the numerous training sorties, and accept a rude, debrief-free ending and an inability to play campaigns, if I must. But if anyone has discovered settings which reliably eliminate the Alt+X CTD in Windows 10, I (and likely others!) would be very glad to hear of it!
By Steve T
View File Udet Rescue Bouy and S7-S13 Class E-boat for SF2 WW2 Battle of Britain Installs
"Udet-Seenotbojen" or Udet Rescue Bouy and S7-S13 Class E-boat for SF2 WW2 Battle of Britain Installs
To install, copy the included Objects, Effects, Missions and Sound folders into your MOD folder and make the INI file edits described below. If you already have an E-boat in your ground objects, back it up. If you don't want a high poly E-boat model, maybe just install the Udet-bouy. Tested in a WW2 Install based on SFNA patched to June 2012 Level. You can also slip the E-boat into your Euro WWII as it is a ground object, same goes for the Udet-bouy but you will not be able to use the custom Target placement as this has been written for the Battle of Britain Terrain.
All users should be prepared for longer load times as the E-boat model weighs-in at around 5.6 MB despite my poly-crunching and pruning -- the original was MUCH bigger this! If you want a smaller model, try copying and renaming LOD2 to LOD1 -- you will be missing crew, dingies and torpedos but have a smaller, but still big, file.
Talking of the original, the base model that I've imported into SF2 is a fantastic 3DS Max model by Alvaro Alves of De Espona 3D Models and is released as a creation here under a Royalty Free License. The version here is very heavily edited and with mostly new textures.
The Udet-bouy is my own creation.
This started out as a small project to learn 3DS Max by making a low poly Udet-bouy but it kind of got out of control! So, a LOT of work for such a little object and it's big brother but worth it I think. If you're a 109 pilot with a damaged engine limping back to France, try a belly landing next to an Udet-bojen and then swim for it!
Hope you like it,
Submitter Steve T Submitted 02/28/2014 Category Patrol Craft