Queen of the Pacific

By Russell Harley 18 Dec 2013 0

The Pacific Theater of Operations (PTO) of World War II has been the subject of a lot of games, both board and computer. In board games this goes from USN in the 70?s to Victory Games board game Pacific War to Asia Engulfed by GMT.

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On the computer side, Pacific War in 1992 (which is credited to be the forerunner to AE) was the first to really portray the PTO in its entirety. For the next 10 years this was pretty much it as far as computer games covering the PTO in a realistic manner.

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In May of 2002 this changed somewhat with the release of Uncommon Valor. This just covered the 1942-1943 periods around the Solomon?s and New Guinea in the Pacific.

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However, this was the precursor to the full PTO game War in the Pacific (WitP) which was released in June of 2004.  In 2005 a group of fans of the game banded together, and over the next 3+ years, made massive changes to the base game. Matrix Games then released this revised version as the Admiral?s Edition (AE) in July of 2009. So four and a half years later since AE?s release, which is an entire age in computer games, what is going on with AE?

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After many games have been put aside or the publisher/distributer has discontinued support, AE is STILL being supported and has a very active forum. Matter of fact, AE is still listed in Matrix?s forums as a ?new? release! AE is still listed there long after other games that have been released since have been removed from that area of the forums. I am not going to go into the whys this amazing game has continued long after others have disappeared as there are plenty of other sites/videos that can do that. What I am going to discuss is the ongoing development of the game and its various add-ons that are still being developed today that continue to improve and enhance the game.

First off, the game is still being tweaked and improved directly. The last official patch for the game brought it up to version 1.01.08r9 on 2/8/2012. Two and a half years since launch. That by itself is very unusual in this day and age. But also consider the following.

There are ongoing Beta patches that are being released (about one or two per month currently). These only modify the EXE of the game so they are very easy to install and use. This development is being done by a single person for no pay other than his love for the game. The current Beta version of the EXE is 1123u which was released; wait for it, on 11/16/2013. Yes that is no typo.

The ongoing list of improvements is pretty extensive from the last official patch to the current Beta. Personally I feel that the Beta?s are as good as an official patch since only the EXE is changed. I would not consider playing the game without using the latest Beta due to the improvements they make in the game. Plus the latest Beta contains everything in the previous Betas, so just use the latest Beta EXE and you get all the changes since the last official patch.

But it is not just the code base that is getting all the attention. The AI scripts have been updated as well. In October 2012 no less - http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=3198064. Again, a single person?s efforts to improve the game. AE also has a pretty great set of separate tools, which are also developed and supported by the fans of the game.  The first of these are WitP Tracker located here https://sites.google.com/site/witptracker/ . A screenshot of the home page is below. This was developed to vastly improve the reporting capabilities of the game.

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This tool (as do all the rest mentioned here) runs outside of the game itself. The current version of Tracker is 1.9.2 and was last updated on 6/2012, almost three years after AE?s release.

One other tool is also worth mentioning, Combat Reporter - https://sites.google.com/site/witpaecombatreporter/. This provides tracking of all the combat reports from AE for every turn (the game only keeps the current turn?s reports). The last update to this was on January of 2013. So again shows to ongoing support for AE that is totally outside of Matrix Games? in house support.

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The support from people that put the time and the effort to develop these kinds of tools for a game (and keep updating them) just shows the level of support this game has had since release. However, as a popular saying goes ?But wait. There?s more!?

Fan based campaigns no less, along with new maps, have also been and are being developed. The most ?famous? of these is the DaBabes series. These completely change the game and many people say they will never play the stock game again after playing one of these campaigns. More details on these can be found at the Dababes site https://sites.google.com/site/dababeswitpae/

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If that is not good enough, you can play yet a different campaign against a much stronger Japan called the Reluctant Admiral (RA) https://sites.google.com/site/dababeswitpae/. This makes some ahistorical pre-December ?41 changes to Japan?s capabilities that are within the bounds of historical possibility. This is designed to be played as the Allies against an AI Japan in order to make the game a more even match versus the stock Japanese AI.

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Just like the other updates previously discussed, both DaBabes and the RA were just updated in December 2013. In other words, just this month. Not too bad for a 4.5 year old game. Of course if you start with the original game of WitP that AE still has a lot of the code from, these development and updates have been ongoing for almost 10 years!

Not to mention completely new art work that replaces the stock art for almost all the units in the game https://sites.google.com/site/aewitplandairartwork/home/ae-witp-bitmap-downloads. Once you see the units in the game with actual unit badges and nose art, you will never want to play without them. Some of these files have been updated just this year as well.

Do you need Tracker, DaBabes, or any of these items to play and enjoy the game? Of course not, they can be completely ignored and you will be fine. However, adding these to the game will enhance your experience (by a lot) and some could actually improve your gameplay.

If I had to pick one item out of all of these, it would be the art work as you see the unit icons in the game a LOT. So adding that in will do wonders for the immersion into the game. I would follow that by using the latest Beta and then Tracker and/or Combat Reporter. Many people from the forum would even recommend completely skipping the stock game scenarios and start using the DaBabes ones right away.

Regardless of how you proceed, I should point out that this is NOT a simple game to learn. Unlike many other games, this is not something you can just start up a campaign and expect to do even close to well, even as the Allies. There is also very limited automation, unlike War in The East as an example.

If you want a lot supplies somewhere to build up a base, create a Task Force (TF) of the correct ship types, load the supplies, move to where you want them, and then unload. Do not have enough fuel to get there? Then create a TF to refuel them. Forgot to add support ships to protect the TFs? Then be prepared to write some letters to the families. Unlike the real war, you do not have thousands of people that you can delegate to. But then you do not have to pay attention any directives from Washington or Tokyo either.

Multiply the above by the scale of the PTO and it gives you a glimpse of the details in the game. However, if you play the game for a while, it will ruin you for any other WWII game that attempts to model WWII naval combat, regardless of what theater it is in. The only game that comes close to matching AE in this area is Hearts of Iron III. Mainly because HoI also has a small scale of time which does a good job of capturing how naval combat really worked in the war (AE uses one day turns broken up into smaller time units by the code which the player has no control over while HoI uses Hours).

This is the real draw to AE and why all these people (and Matrix Games) continue to support the game years after its release for no pay. Because it does just that. It is the most accurate representation of the conditions the combatants fought in the PTO to date, Land, Sea, and Air. AE is the yardstick that any WWII air/naval system in a strategic game will be compared to, not just the PTO. So without any contenders on the horizon, the Queen of the Pacific is safe. Long live the Queen.

 

Game information at Matrix Games - http://www.matrixgames.com/products/351/details/

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