A downloadable game for Windows

This is a special physics demo for Tiny Combat Arena. For more details, check the game's main page.

I'm putting this demo to gauge the reaction to the new flight model. I'm curious to hear your feedback. If you'd like to provide feedback or discuss your thoughts, the best avenue is through the game's Discord channel.

Flight Model Overhaul

The purpose of this demo is to gather feedback on the new flight model. Previously, the flight model in the demo was the same one from the original prototype. The final flight model is not supposed to be a hardcore flight simulator, but many of the concepts of a real flight sim such as energy and corner air speed should still be relevant.

New features of the flight model:

  • Aircraft can now stall in a more realistic way.
  • Wind is now simulated and can be adjusted on the fly with debug hotkeys.
  • Wind will push you off course, affect your airspeed, and make landing more difficult.
  • Thoughtlessly holding full aft stick will cause the aircraft to bleed speed and eventually lose its agility.
  • Control surfaces are now modeled with physics. They stiffen at high speeds, and induce torques on the plane to turn it.
  • The aircraft must now be trimmed to maintain level flight. An automatic trimmer is enabled by default to help compensate for this.
  • Manual trim can be selected if so desired.
  • Flaps are physically modeled (automatically deployed with landing gear) and increase both lift and drag.
  • The landing gear cause significant drag on the plane.
  • More details are now tracked such as indicated airspeed, true airspeed, ground speed, and mach.
  • Drag now increases in a more realistic way based on the mach.
  • Transonic wave-drag is now modeled, making crossing the sound barrier take more effort than normally accelerating.
  • Atmospheric density varies with altitude, making wings produce less lift the higher you go up, and affecting your indicated airspeed.
  • The speed of sound varies with altitude, making it easier to go supersonic at high altitudes.
  • Ground effect is modeled, increasing lift and reducing drag when very close to ground.
  • Ground effect makes takeoffs more realistic, and adds some naunce to landing.
  • Overwing vapor effects tied to the critical angle of attack of a wing.
  • Fuel and attached stores affect the performance of a plane.
  • VTOL aircraft are now supported.
  • Major AI improvements to support the new flight model and more complex plans.
  • AI now fly using different maneuvers, and preferences for those maneuvers.
  • AI concepts for missions, patrolling, and formation flying
  • Mouse control updated based on an angle of attack model so that mouse flight won't stall itself.

It's a lot. Some of the code is still in a prototype state and will have to be made more robust for the next normal cycle release.

Some known issues to be aware of:

Wind is currently set through debug keys. In the future, it would randomly change between sorties and be displayed on the map.

New AI is still WIP and cannot fire missiles or use flares yet.

Resolution dialogue no longer appears on startup. Unity was updated this demo, and they have completely deprecated this dialogue. This means there is no way to change resolution right now aside from command line arguments.

Missiles do not track as well. As part of the seeker optimizations, missiles are much more sensitive to being directly behind a plane than before. Seekers and heat signatures need pass on them to compensate for the optimizations.

Demo Specifics

To get the most out of this demo, and testing of the flight model, I recommend you change the control type (Escape menu) to Gamepad or Joystick. Having direct control of the aircraft will let you feel what's happening in a way that the mouse controls do not.

Only the Jaguar is available for this demo. It is designed to be a forgiving and easy to fly plane. Its engines too underpowered for it to make an excellent dogfighter, but this also makes it a great demonstrator and teacher for how important it is to manage your speed and energy in a fight. Corner airspeed for the Jaguar is roughly 330 knots, so for best results, try to fight around 330-400 knots. It'll be easier to keep your speed and turn rates up. If you fall below 300 knots, and it becomes far more slugging and turn rates drop dramatically.

Mouse controls are unchanged for the new flight model. As a result, they will feel more sluggish than before. This is partially due to the new flight model having a more realsitic sense of inertia and momentum, but it also reflects the mouse control's inefficient flying style. Since there is no way to control how hard you turn aside from moving the mouse slowly, it is easy to run the plane out of energy. If you plan on flying with the mouse, you need to be extra aware of your speed and make smooth movements.

Using the semicolon ( ; ) and single quote ( ' ) keys, the wind speed can be adjusted from 0 to 40 knots.

It'll be interesting to see how the MiG-21 and F-20 translate to the new flight model. Both will fly very differently from the Jaguar. However, I want to nail down the Jaguar and set all the conventions before I update the MiG and F-20.

The Aircraft

Jaguar

Designed to be a forgiving and easy to fly plane. Its engines too underpowered for it to make an excellent dogfighter, but this also makes it a great demonstrator and teacher for how important it is to manage your speed and energy in a fight. Corner airspeed for the Jaguar is roughly 330 knots, so for best results, try to fight around 330-400 knots. It'll be easier to keep your speed and turn rates up. If you fall below 300 knots, and it becomes far more slugging and turn rates drop dramatically.

MiG-21

A supersonic fighter through and through, the MiG-21 has a powerful engine and an aerodynamic shape. It can easily reach supersonic speeds and maintain them, but its delta wing will cause dramatic loss in speed at high angles of attack. Corner airspeed for the MiG-21 is around 400 knots, but the plane is at its most comfortable when flying >500 knots. Be very wary of falling below 300-350 knots. At those speeds, it is much less stable and will stall very quickly with hard stick pulls. The MiG-21 hates flying slow, so be sure to keep its speed up.

VJ 101

Another supersonic interceptor, but with a big twist. The VJ 101 can tilt its engine pods to take off and land vertically. Like other interceptors, its aerodynamics are optimized for high speed, so it will be clumsy when slow. However because the engines can be tilted at any speed,the VJ 101 can handle low speeds better than you would expect. Just be aware that the engine pods will slow you down when they're not facing forwards. With 6 small turbojets optimized for high thrust at mil power, the VJ 101 is especially thirsty when it comes to fuel usage.

Dynamic Camera

To use the dynamic camera, you must be in Gamepad/Joystick controls. Press O to toggle the camera on/off.

One of the experimental features I developed for this demo was what I'm dubbing the dynamic camera. It was specifically designed to help visualize the forces acting on the plane and what it was doing. For example, when using this camera and flying perpendicular to wind, the camera will be a bit lopsided because it's showing you what direction the plane is actually flying in. It also visualizes aircraft movement on the ground and touchdown better.

I've actually come to really like flying and fighting with it. The way the camera works, it happens that your own plane doesn't obscure the enemy plane the way the normal third person camera does. It makes it much easier to guess where to shoot and adjust your shot.

Gameplay Ramifications

While playing with the new flight model I've noticed that this had a lot of little knock on effects that I wasn't anticipating.

Now that planes maneuver at more realistic speeds and turn rates, I'm noticing that combat takes place on a larger scale than it used to. Getting kilometers away from your target during a dogfight is something that just happens. The scale of a dogfight just got a lot bigger. Similarly, I'm noticing I'm getting long distance kills much more than I recall. 

Most dramatically though, I've noticed that the gun is much easier to use. With these changes, it's hard for planes (or at least the Jaguar) to change direction. However it's not that simple. It'll take longer to get a shot at the enemy, but once you have one, the kill shot itself is easier. This puts the focus in a dogfight more onto the flying than the gunnery.

I'm very curious to see the player reaction to this. These changes slide the game into "more boring" territory, because you can't throw the plane around the way you could before. Dogfights last much longer, and planes feel slower and more sluggish than they used to. I have to wonder if it will alienate the tiny audience this game has garnered, as it's now more difficult.

I'm curious to hear your feedback. You can leave a comment on this page, but it'd be best to leave a message on the game's Discord server.

Controls

For the full control list, reference the game's README.txt or the main page for Tiny Combat Arena.

ActionKeyboardGamepad (Xbox)
Toggle Dynamic CameraO
Raise Wind speed;
Lower Wind speed'
Toggle Auto-TrimKBack
Trim nose upHome
Trim nose downEnd
Cycle VTOL ModesHD-Pad Left

Changelog

See Changelog.txt for full changelog

0.5.3.0 - Flight Model Demo Patch 3

  • Major AI updates to support future and current systems
  • AI have concepts of missions, waypoints, and patrol paths
  • If given a patrol path, AI will follow the patrol path, engage enemies they see on the way, then return to patrolling
  • Basics of formation AI (still WIP, not visible in demo)
  • AI fly using various maneuvers (e.g. pursuit, flat turn, dive, etc) and stances (aggressive, neutral, defensive)
  • Different AI can have different preferences for maneuvers and aggression
  • AI MiG-21s added back in
  • Fog works as a cylinder rather than bubble and pushed out for more clarity
  • Mouse control greatly improved to support new flight model 
  • Turning with the mouse should no longer stall the plane (keyboard controls can still be used to force aggressive turns)

0.5.2.1 - Flight Model Demo Patch 2 Hotfix 1

  • Removed non-functional Jaguar external fuel tanks to prevent crash

0.5.2 - Flight Model Demo Patch 2

  • Desert map
  • Attached weapons and pylons affect aircraft performance (weight and drag)
  • Aircraft use fuel to fly
  • Fuel adds weight, but lightens overall weight as it drains
  • Fuel drain rates depend on engine throttle settings and altitude
  • Engines shut down when out of fuel
  • HUD displays fuel weight and fuel flow
  • Afterburner activated by pressing throttle up when throttle is at 100%
  • Double tapping throttle up instantly sets all engines to full afterburner
  • Double tapping throttle down instantly idles all engines
  • VJ 101 added
  • VJ 101 VTOL functionality: use H to cycle beteen VTOL Disabled, Half, and Full
  • Lift engines automatically start up/shut down based on VTOL setting
  • Engines emit smoke when on high power settings
  • Wheels can only generate so much grip and will slip if grip max is exceeded

0.5.1 - Flight Model Demo Patch 1

  • MiG-21 flyable
  • New paint scheme for MiG-21
  • Jaguar slightly less stable
  • Overwing vapor appears just slightly before critical angle of attack
  • Slow speed handling less stable than high speed
  • Overwing vapor has sound effect
  • Engine audio levels reduced

0.5.0 - Flight Model Demo

  • Completely revised flight model
  • HUD now shows more information (e.g. G and turn rate)
  • Auto (enabled by default) and manual trim controls
  • Optional dynamic camera
  • Wind that affects the player aircraft
  • Gear cannot be lowered >300 knots
  • Gear induce severe drag
  • Flight test map
  • Tweaks to offroad handling and landing gear
  • Nosewheel steering at speed smoothed out
  • Default controls for yoke
Updated 3 days ago
StatusReleased
PlatformsWindows
Rating
(2)
AuthorWhy485
GenreSimulation
TagsFlight, Low-poly, Physics

Download

Download
Tiny Combat Arena 0.5.3.0 Flight Model.zip 27 MB

Comments

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Got the chance to try this flight model, and I find it absolutely superb. Piloting the MiG-21 is my favourite part, as high-alpha makes crazy loopings impossible without significant thrust, and makes landings feel realistic with wind. It's like flying a real airplane with a 1990s filter!

Though I'm not a hardcore flight sim player, I've played the old WWII Jane's, MS FS 2000, and Wings over Israel, some Novalogic sims, and H.A.W.X. (all with the keyboard in the past -- wow). Overall, your flight model compares favourably to all the above. I'd even say I like it best compared to my favourite, Wings over Israel, because in that one, the high alpha stalled dramatically. Congratulations on such a good job.

I know this is a dev nightmare, but maybe you can consider including a code switch between easy/unrealistic flight mode (no wind, less stall, etc.) and the complete model, if it turns out to be a problem for people to play?

Part of the fun of playing the sim with a more accurate model is the extra challenge. Right now it plays well with a joystick, and gives a feeling of satisfaction that you've turned and landed successfully. The enemy jets are quite close, so if you just gun the afterburner you're fighting in about a minute, but of course, it's no arcade.

I think you prefer the challenges of the realistic flight model. In the end, your interests are what keep this project alive, so it should please you so you remain motivated.

On a side note, the lack of a HUD makes it difficult to read the values. I almost want to code one for you.

(+1)

This is great feedback, thank you!

It might just be me, but I must admit that I very much preferred the older flight model. It may be more arcadey, and it may be the AC fan in me speaking, but it just felt right! I would suggest that you use that one instead, because I find it more enjoyable.

My nitpicks aside, I absolutely love your work so far! The game is tons of fun even in this state, and it is clear that you've been putting a lot of love into it. Keep up the good work, buddy!

This is very important feedback, thank you! I knew going in that not everybody would like it and honestly I've been shocked more people haven't voiced their discontent. What you're talking about is definitely a fear of mine, that as cool as the flight model stuff is on a technical level, it doesn't actually make the game any better.

It can happen sometimes, don't let it get to you. I'm glad to be at least somewhat helpful.

I do not know much about the art of coding, I will admit. I also cannot imagine how much effort it must take to make something like this. However, you've shown that you've got loads of dedication and talent, which are fundamental when making a good game, and what I've seen so far certainly seems to be on the right track.

Also, the plane selection shows that you've got absolutely patrician taste in aircraft :^)

Thank you, that's very encouraging!

The V107 is an insane dogfighter XD

(1 edit)

It maybe shouldn't be, but I didn't put much time into the flight model beyond the VTOL part of it. Physics-wise it has the same wings as the MiG-21, but the tail is further back so there's more leverage and it gets a little extra lift for free from the engine pods.

You nailed that a-10 cuba look!

And agree that mouse control is no-no now!

Yeah the mouse control is in a dire state right now. I'll need to figure something out for it, because it's also the reason the AI are so bad at flying right now.

Amazing