Until just a few months ago, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Rowan Software had completely disappeared. After developing a number of reasonably well-received flight sims a few years ago. including Reach For The Skies and the extremely popular Flight Of The Intruder, the company seemed to evaporate.
Due partly to the Maxwell Group going belly up and taking Mirrorsoft with it (the software house responsible for the majority of Rowan's games) however, the enforced quiet patch that the team was subjected to was far from wasted. Having developed an astounding 3D graphics engine which was employed to great effect in Overlord (recently released through Virgin), the team is now busy putting the finishing touches to Dawn Patrol for Empire.
The guts of the game
The basic idea behind Dawn Patrol is actually as much like an rpc as it is a flight simulation. Put together as a kind of interactive book, you are presented with too different scenarios based on events that really happened during World War i. You can go back and fly both historical and fictional sorties which cover the escapades of Baron von Richtenhofen, Voss. Ball, Immelmann and Richenbacher and any appropriate manoeuvres that this bunch managed to dream up.
In all there are 15 different aircraft for you to try your hand at and. although we're informed by the chaps at Rowan that the flight models aren't quite spot on (though they do seem very realistic... wings falling off when you go isomph and so forth), the actual 3D models of the vehicles themselves are extremely accurate. All the famous bits of kit - from the Fokker Triplane to the spad 7. Eindecker and Biggies' favourite, the Sopwith Camel - are present and look absolutely fabulous.
When do we get to see it?
When we trundled all the way up to Runcorn (somewhere just north of nowhere it seems) the game was looking very polished indeedy: we were told that there were only a few more tweaks to be done to the code before it would be ready. All the graphics are virtually finished and the programmers are currently slotting in the music (which is a particularly dramatic and moody rendition of Tchaikovsky's Capriccio Italian, if anyone out there's interested) and the last few bits and bobs. All being well we won't have to wait too long to play Dawn Patrol; it should hit the shops in November, with an enhanced cd-rom version (containing all sorts of multi-media video footage and music etc.) appearing soon afterwards.
The Dawn Patrol project has been the result of a lot of work put in by quite a large programming team. We spoke to Rod Hyde, MD of Rowan Software about the project and about the team's games in general...
We like to produce pre-jet sims for a couple of reasons. First of all, the aircraft are slower. This means that aircraft stay in combat with each other for much longer. We get many aircraft in view at the same time and the combat is far more exciting.
Secondly, there are no missiles. This again makes flight more interesting. Air-to-air combat in modern jet sims seems to consist of simply pressing a button when a lock light appears on the HUD and that's it. This kind of kill is fun to begin with, but it soon loses its appeal. On the other hand, tearing after someone in a biplane where you're in close and using nothing but a machine gun is much more enjoyable.
As far as research went we have tried to use a lot of information to provide something that is as historically accurate as possible. We read an awful lot of books, viewed many films and gathered photographs from the Smithsonian library in Washington. There are over 30 stills used in the game from this source and these were culled from nearly half a million photos which were supplied on six 12 inch laser discs!
As far as future projects go we have two more that are nearing completion. We have another pre-jet sim which we are developing for Mindscape and a futuristic sim based on the F-22 and the A-X which is called Rapid Response for MicroProse. At the moment the titles themselves aren't confirmed and there's a distinct possibility that MicroProse may want to change the name of Rapid to Navy Strike before they release it.
We have been trying out a number of different software houses to distribute our products... after our experiences with Mirrorsoft we really don't want to have all our eggs in one basket. Placing Overlord with Virgin was good... the clout of a massive corporation is nice to have, but for Dawn Patrol we wanted to see what a much smaller software house could offer us and the deal with Empire has been working out very nicely.
Download Dawn Patrol
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP