The Firing Line: American aircraft and a real-life shooter

Jef Reahard
J. Reahard|12.23.11

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The Firing Line: American aircraft and a real-life shooter
The Firing Line - banner with shooter avatars
What's happening, shooter fans? Hopefully everyone's getting ready for a long holiday weekend filled with family, food, and gaming (of course). Several interesting online shooter nuggets came across my desk this week, including a deeper look at World of Warplanes, a Firefall beta clarification, and some sexy new DUST 514 details.

Also, would you believe a real-life -- and real, live -- online FPS featuring actual locations?

DUST 514- dropsuits
DUST 514
CCP's DUST 514 was in the news a couple of days ago, and the company seems to have settled into a predictable comfortable rhythm of weekly game updates. This time around, we feasted our eyes on some of the upcoming sci-fi shooter's dropsuits.

Reaction here at the Massively offices was mixed. A couple of us thought the aesthetics were pretty spiffy (Global Agenda without the garish colors, basically) and entirely appropriate to the game's far-future high-tech setting. There were some dissenters in our chatroom, though, one of whom opined that it's getting harder and harder to tell which suit of body armor comes from which sci-fi shooter.

In terms of gameplay, CCP clued us in to the fact that the dropsuits share similar fitting functionality (slots, CPU, and powergrid) with the ships in the company's sister MMO EVE Online. While the jury's still out on whether or not DUST will feature diverse loadouts with actual viability, CCP is certainly saying all the right things in this regard.

[Update]: Hooray for post-deadline news... DUST beta signups are open!

Tribes: Ascend
Those of you who've read the column a time or two know that I'm a fan of Tribes: Ascend. In fact, rarely does a news roundup edition of The Firing Line go by without a mention of the Hi-Rez shooter, both because I like it and because Hi-Rez has been quick to update it since the start of closed beta last month.

This past week was no different, and the dev team hit us with a bunch of tweaks to spectator mode as well as a general balance pass. The biggest piece of news from the 0.1.619.0 patch, though, came in the form of adjustments to hitscan. Hardcore Tribes fans have been quite vocal in their disdain for the mechanic, and Hi-Rez obliged them by changing all of the game's fully automatic hitscan weapons into projectile based weapons. Affected weapons include the Ranger's assault rifle, the Technician's TCN4, and the Infiltrator's SMG.

What exactly does this mean? Well, generally hitscan is a technique used to determine when/if you hit an opposing player. It's based not on bullet trajectory but rather on whether or not you were targeted on the opponent when you fired (i.e., it isn't based on aiming or player skill). The Tribes franchise has nearly always required projectile-based aiming and thus a high amount of skill due to the game's movement speeds and large playfields. While the hitscan changes may make Tribes: Ascend less accessible for casual shooter players, they also make it more like the Tribes of old.

If you haven't been following the Firefall forums closely over the last few months, you've probably missed Red 5's unique approach to "launch" and beta testing. The devs sent a PR email to various media outlets this week in the interests of clarifying the situation, and in a nutshell, it'll launch when it's ready.

The devs believe that the game "does not fit into the traditional game launch template." Consequently, "Firefall's invite-only beta will continue well into 2012. Similar to Minecraft or Gmail, the beta tag will likely be dropped sometime after beta invitations have been widely distributed. We don't have an exact date as to when this transition will happen," reveals the email.

As to the game's current status, the email states that "Firefall is still in the first stage of its invite-only closed beta, focused on stressing the server infrastructure. This means that while Red 5 will continue to scale up the number of participants with additional invites, the player pool is going to remain extremely limited for a while longer. This exclusivity will continue throughout the current PvP testing schedule and into the open world PvE phase –- when the servers go up 24/7."

World of Warplanes's PR department was busy this week. Not only did the company drop the first mention of the long-awaited French armor for World of Tanks in quite some time, but it also released the first advancement tree for its upcoming World of Warplanes shooter. The update focused on American fighters (be still my heart) and gave us a glimpse of the progression path which begins with Boeing's sturdy old P-12/F4B biplane and apparently culminates with the famed F-86 Sabrejet from the Korean conflict era.

Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm a huge fan of flight sims (or flight shooters, in this case), so I'm anxiously looking forward to getting my hands on this game, but I do have a couple of bones to pick with

First, when it comes to the carrier-based fighters side of the advancement tree, where is Grumman's sturdy F6F Hellcat? The earlier F4F Wildcat is in there, as is Vought's F4U Corsair, but there's no mention of the beast that downed more than 5,200 Japanese aircraft and played a huge role in helping the Americans turn the tide of the war in the Pacific.

Also, I'm assuming that the American tech tree is either incomplete or one of several, since there's no mention of the P-39 Airacobra, which has been prominently featured in many World of Warplanes screenshots to date. To be honest, I'm actually OK with its absence. The Airacobra does have a distinctive shape and clean lines, but it was also one of the worst-performing American fighters of the war (though it was put to good use by the Soviet Air Force during the low-altitude campaigns along the Eastern Front, so maybe it's in the Soviet tree). Brief aviation history lessons aside, it was good to see some real info slipping out of the WoWP camp.

Real info was also the order of the day when it came to Massively's exclusive interview with WoWP producer Anton Sitnikov. I asked him about's perceived pay-to-win business model, and we also got pretty deep into some of the aerial shooter's mechanics (as well as some interesting nuggets that are still on the drawing board).

Google Shoot View
Finally, here's a bit of an oddity to close out the week. Business Insider got the scoop on a short-lived publicity stunt that involved guns, Google, and a cool -- if ill-considered -- use of the company's ubiquitous mapping technology.

A Dutch advertising outfit called Pool Worldwide made use of Google Street View to construct its own real-world FPS called Google Shoot View. The firm basically mapped an M4A1 assault rifle onto the interface and coded up a makeshift gameworld that allowed players to run around taking potshots at buildings from around the globe. Google was not amused, and it yanked Pool's Street View API permissions for undisclosed terms of service violations.

The game, though short-lived, did attract something of a following. At peak times the service was attracting 3,000 users per minute, and it ended up crashing the company's web server. While it can be argued that the implementation was insensitive given global concerns over terrorism and gun-related violence, it does open up some exciting possibilities for both shooter and virtual world development going forward.

And that's all I've got for you this week. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, etc.

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.
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