A look back at former developers

Dynamix Part II: AOD, A-10 II & Red Baron 3D

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(1995-1997)

It would be a few years before Dynamix would release another flight sim, but in-between two other interesting games would be released. The first was Aces of the Deep (later called Command: Aces of the Deep), a WWII submarine sim. The game allowed players to roam the Atlantic shadowing convoys as the captain of an infamous U-Boat. The game featured 3D graphics, wolfpacks, a career mode, and missions covering the Battle of the Atlantic. Aces of the Deep modeled a large amount of 3D rendered warships and merchant types, and quality AI. The later Command release version of the game updated textures, added late war type XXI boats and voice acting. The game was also noted for including an extensive manual, map and video interviews of veteran U-Boat captains. AOD is considered a pioneering subsim (making a Computer Gaming World's Top 100 list at one time, that is still popular today.


--Aces of the Deep periscope


--Aces of the Deep career "nightclub"

Another game during this time period (1996) was a spiritual successor to A-10, known as Silent Thunder: A-10 Tank Killer II. Due to delays and other development issues, the focus of the game was changed from it's original purpose (a detailed A-10 sequel). Therefore, the game was less extensive than it's predecessor, and could be considered an “arcade sim.” The game had players piloting the A-10 in various fictional scenarios against warlords/rogue generals and their forces in various real world locales (Columbia, Persian Gulf & South Korea). Despite it's more action based gameplay and Hollywood movie style campaign, A-10 II was still a success for the company.


--A-10 II gameplay


--Red Baron II art

The next major sim release for Dynamix would be Red Baron's successor, Red Baron II. The followup to Red Baron without Damon Slye at the helm, the game released for Windows in 1997. The game featured a terrific dynamic campaign, coupled with a mission generator and “Fly Now” capability. The game had much better graphics than it's predecessor, and more advanced physics and effects modeled. RBII also allowed for engine damage, pilot injury and other aircraft system malfunctions. Multiplayer support was also added to the series. The game had 40,000 square miles of terrain with a constant stream of randomized AI engagements while flying the campaign.


--Red Baron 3D graphics - S.E.5

Unfortunately, the initial launch didn't go completely smoothly, and performance issues plagued the game. Red Baron II had a troubled and protracted development cycle over the years, and it showed in the initial release. For example, in one interview about the game's development, it was noted that one Dynamix engineer worked on the sim 72 hours straight over Thanksgiving a month before release. Right before release, the dev team lived out of the Dynamix offices just to ship the game on time for Christmas. The company recognized the issues with the original release, and over the course of several months the next year worked to fix the problems. During this time, 3D support was added to the game, and in 1998 it was repackaged as Red Baron 3D. Original owners of the game were given the improvements free of charge. After Red Baron IIs issues had been ironed out, it was billed by many as the definitive WWI sim. Today, the dynamic campaign is still praised for it's quality. The game was immensely popular and added content/mods are still available for the game today.

The upcoming third (and final) part of this look back at Dynamix and their simulations will cover the final years of the company and it's games. I corresponded with other ex-Dynamix team members, including author John Bruning, lead historical researcher for Dynamix and one time project lead on Red Baron II. Also, for information in these articles I interviewed Daryl Nichols. Mr. Nichols started with Dynamix as a QA tester for Red Baron 3D, worked on game research with John Bruning, and was an associate producer for many titles at the company. He will appear again in Part 3.

Unfortunately, a planned full interview regarding Red Baron 3D didn't come to fruition. Instead, I will post a small excerpt of my correspondence with Daryl Nichols here regarding Red Baron II/3D and on the work Dynamix put into researching the subject matter of their flight sims:
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Daryl Nichols: I worked on RBIIID as a QA tester and I helped John with some research for it before I went to work at Dynamix.

RB 3D was an updated graphics version of II and there were modifications to the campaign but since I never played II I really could not tell you the differences.

John contacted me about helping him with some research for RB III. We were going to the National Archives to find photos of pilots, aircraft etc. that we could use in the game. Only problem was there was a government shut down when we were there and so we couldn't do any research.

By chance I contacted the Air Force's Airman's museum and they had a collection of photos from WWI and since they were not a government museum we were granted access. We gathered a huge amount of photos, laying them out on a table and photographing them.

Testing on RB III was my first job in the game industry. There were times when playing a flight sim with lots of dives and turns etc for 8-12 hours a day you had to actually walk away for awhile or you got sick to your stomach. Sometimes the testing was tedious and boring. I once had to spend 3 days diving into every single building on the campaign maps to identify the ones that you could fly thru. Fly to a point, crash into building, reset game...fly to another point, crash into building...repeat again for about 1000 times.

That is some great stuff there. That's pretty interesting (and kind of terrible sounding) to spend that much time crashing into things for testing.
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Regarding the research, did Dynamix (that you know of) primarily do archive research, like photos, documents, etc. or was any more "hands on" stuff done? Such as interviewing veterans about their experiences, or physically going to see actual aircraft and collecting measurements or performance data? Do you know how much work was put into accurately modeling the historical maps and locations + aircraft/vehicles in the simulations?

Daryl Nichols: Our research was exclusively archive. I really don't think that there were any living pilots from WWI when we did the research. I don't think that there was any hands on aircraft research either. I seem to remember that at least one guy on the team was a licensed pilot and could tell us about the flight model and how realistic it was.

There was a huge amount of work went into making the flight model for each aircraft as realistic as possible. I do remember having to do some tests that involved me flight aircraft in the game and verifying that the in game speed or climb rate for example matched the expected performance. One of the devs wrote a tool for us testers to use for this purpose.

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Updated Jan-22-2017 at 17:30 by FightingSteel1

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Dynamix