Now that we’ve put a few days between the full announcement for Flying Circus Vol 2 I wanted to offer up a few more thoughts on the franchise and address some of the different opinions in the community. Let’s talk the future of Flying Circus!
Renewing the excitement levels
Flying Circus Vol 1 was a risk that the team at 1CGS took together with Ugra Media to try and bring Rise of Flight back to life in the newer Digital Warfare engine that powers the latest versions of the IL-2 series. It seems that the risk paid off well enough to justify signing an agreement between 1CGS, Ugra Media and 1C to bring Vol 2 and Vol 3 to life which is really very good news.
Jason Williams, Lead Producer for the series, alluded to the fact that it took a little longer to get sales to the point where they wanted them to be, but that they did get there. I’m going to read into that a little bit and suggest that initial pre-order sales were slow for Flying Circus and that post-launch sales were a bit slow too but that the title has managed to pick up enough new people buying in over the last year to make Vol 2 and 3 a worthwhile possibility.
Vol 1 was a risk too because it had so little to go on. The ten aircraft were great, the multiplayer fun, but the map was small and single player offerings at launch were extremely limited although some community tools such as Pat Wilson’s Campaign Generator were ways around that limited content. I covered all of this in my full review of Flying Circus Vol 1.
Since then, the series has gained two official single player Scripted Campaigns which has helped narrow the gap a bit. More needs to be done there but the good news is that more is being done.
This announcement has renewed my enthusiasm for Flying Circus in general and I don’t think I’m alone as the multiplayer servers have been busy again and more people are talking about it. More people have inquired about “if its good” and the notion that this all has a future has helped relight the flame.
Challenges and strengths
Most of you who have read my editorials and editorializing in news posts know that I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of person. I’ve made that my editorial mission on Stormbirds to bring out the positive in flight simulation and encourage the hobby wherever I can. At the same time, I aim to be factual in my optimism but I feel vindication from time to time as problems in simulations are often sorted out and issues are resolved.
Flying Circus has a bunch of different issues to tackle and I start with single player. While a great many of us enjoy multiplayer, many more like to just have fun in single player and more single player content in both Scripted Campaigns and a Career mode are a must. I was worried that the series would not progress beyond a Vol 1 and eliminate some of the possibilities there. My worries were unfounded. Having a future means these can be addressed and indeed they seem to be on Jason Williams radar in a big way. Starting with Career mode, he said,
Yes, we plan on implementing the Pilot Career mode in FC2/3 as part of the final package, but this is a long-term feature that can only be completed once we finish the Normandy career. What initial mission types will be included will be known at a later date.Jason Williams on the IL-2 forums
In the next paragraph, Jason also addressed Scripted Campaign missions which can be just as entertaining and fun and offer that hand crafted experience that can really make the difference for people in single player.
I do plan to include some quality Scripted Campaigns as part of FC2 and future volumes. And I plane other custom single player missions as well. This includes additional mission content for FC1.Jason Williams on the IL-2 forums
Not only will Vol 2 benefit from this development but clearly Vol 1 owners will too. We don’t yet know if Career mode will be for both Vol 1 and 2 owners but if we lean on precedent for a moment, the folks at 1CGS were very good at bringing Stalingrad and Moscow into the Career fold and I think we’ll see that here too.
The series’ strength for both its WWII content and now its WWI content is in the interconnections between it all. Being able to fly a scenario with any aircraft over any map that you own generally leads to wanting more scenarios and more maps and with three volumes coming, the ability to enjoy all three products together offers that much more value and I think that’s exactly what will happen here too.
That’s no more apparent than with the news of what is planned for the maps for the series. Phase II development will include a new Arras sector map that is much larger than that in Vol 1 right this moment and it will come with four seasons too. It links in with the planned maps for Vol 2 in the Verdun sector and then the Reims Sector for Phase III (almost assuredly in Volume 3).
Dealing with the damage model
I’ve had this conversation on a couple of formats recently about Flying Circus’ damage model. While 1CGS has historically been strong at this, recent changes to the damage model that made some overall improvements to the series seem to have a negative effect on Flying Circus.
While adding things like control cables to Flying Circus was a nice addition, wing strength seemed to be more of an issue and one that caused quite a few problems. The worst was where just a few machine gun hits would cause aircraft such as the Halberstadt CL.II to shed its wings in dramatic fashion. Although that issue has been improved on, its not been fully resolved at least as far as the community is concerned.
The thing that I remain optimistic about (my glass remains half full) is that 1CGS has never left these things hanging forever. We’ve had issues with the sim over the years that they have consistently and constantly addressed. It’s a difficult moving target for 1CGS to try and hit and one that most people will never be fully satisfied with but one that they usually do to most people’s appreciation if not full satisfaction. After all, nobody will ever be happy all the time.
Jason did again address this in his post, saying,
I see this as a long-term project to somehow change only WWI damage modeling. Even so, there are mixed opinions on this issue. Just because there are some vocal critics out there, does not make the loudest voice correct. As usual, we would need to study the issue further before any more changes are made.Jason Williams on the IL-2 forums
To me, I read this as it being an issue that 1CGS has is not going to ignore, is not going to dismiss, and will continue to look at and re-evaluate as necessary. A few have suggested otherwise but that is not my takeaway.
There is always more that can be done but as it is, the current issues can be mitigated and my recent flights in Flying Circus haven’t been overly affected by them. Maybe I’m just lucky or I have more tolerance for this sort of thing. Your mileage may vary.
Much to be excited about
To summarize my thoughts, Flying Circus Vol 1 was a bold step for 1CGS to take. It was a risk, but it was one that had the potential for long term pay off and I think we’re on the cusp of that pay off. Not only are they making Vol 2 but also Vol 3 and they have what appears to be a cohesive plan for offer new WWI content for fans of the series over the next several years. With the likelihood of new Collector Planes being introduced to the series that aren’t solely rejuvenated from Rise of Flight and I think there’s some tantalizing possibilities for long time fans of both Rise of Flight and Flying Circus.
When I put together the new much more varied aircraft set, the expanded maps and seasons, new single player content, and the linkage of Flying Circus together with the rest of 1CGS efforts to improve the overall look and capabilities of the Digital Warfare engine, and there’s just so much for me to be excited about here. It’ll never be perfect but this is already a very good experience that is growing into something more and, for me at least, years of WWI flight sim entertainment in one of my favourite simulators.