So, it’s no secret to regulars to these pages that I’ve become somewhat hooked on SL sailing and flying. I still only have the one premium gift sail boat in my inventory – it is more than enough to keep me happy and has room enough for friends – but my collection of SL aircraft is slowly growing, with the latest addition being a Warbug.
For those unfamiliar with them, Warbugs are little egg-shaped aeroplanes with air-to-air combat capabilities which are, in a word, fun!
I first came across them by chance browsing the SL Marketplace, but it was Lindal Kidd who piqued my curiosity when she mentioned she had a Warbug airfield on her land (along with a skydiving jump zone). Created by Arduenn Schwartzman, Warbugs can be flown for fun, pleasure or air-to-air fighting, and are possibly unique in SL as they allow “full size” avatars to take to wing within a single region without risking running out of airspace – which is not to say they are unable to handle region boundaries.
The aircraft come in a variety of forms which cover everything from World War I through to spaceships (including a set of Star Wars items which could draw a frown or two from Disney…). They can be bought on the Marketplace or via the Warbugs HQ, which also offers free-to-fly variants of some of the models available via a rezzing system (the rezzing systems themselves also being available to buy).
It was through the rezzing system that I had my first exposure to flying a Warbug – and quickly got addicted. The aerial combat aspect requires flying around using the standard controls (arrow keys for up/down, left/right) PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN for the throttle) and trying to line-up your guns on the “opposition” (the left mouse button fires your guns). Aircraft which are purchased come with a gun sight HUD, which makes the latter a little easier, but given the manoeuvrability of these little planes, not by much.
The cockpit is a little cramped, but it’s cute watching your avatar fold herself / himself into it. once in, the engine starts, with suitable sounds, and then it’s open the throttle and – away you go!
Air combat can be frenetic – these little planes are highly responsive to the controls, and only have a screen in front of you, tracking the opposition can get hard – even with aids such as the Mini-map and radar tracking (cheats! :)).
Given that the Warbugs on offer represent various “sides” – RAF and USAAF … Luftwaffe … Rebels … Empire… it is possible to use them for “group” combat as well as having a “free for all” (although the latter does seem to predominate around the Warbugs HQ), which can add an additional element to the flying. And you certainly know it when you’re hit! Not only are you told in chat, the Warbug spews forth black smoke as you spin towards the ground, being ejected shortly before impact, leaving you either to pick up your bruised ego and battered ‘plane and try again or – when using a rezzer – trudging back to call-up a replacement…
There are various additions for the enthusiast as well – missiles can be added to some aircraft and a conversion kit means that you can try target bombing rather than blowing one another out of the sky. There are also a range of texture and conversion packs, and even a script pack which can be added to your own custom Warbug builds. Other accessories into an asteroid base for the spaceship units, planets (which can be blown up and leave disturbances in the Force), a complete WW I range of accessories, and so on.
There is a website dedicated to Warbug flyers across the grid, which also tracks “aces” and scores. This also adds to the nature of the competition, as “aces” are not only tracked in terms of their point, but also their “value”. The first time you shoot down an “ace” you are awarded whatever value has been assigned to them, rather than just the 10 points usually awarded for shooting someone down. This tends to make “aces” a hunted breed for those after points…
In the latter regard, I was rather surprised to find myself sitting at #17 in the “aces” list after just a couple of turns in actual combat. Scores are recorded locally by any active rezzer / windsock in operation in a region as well.
Flying with Lindal from her home region proved a lot of fun as well – and how well the Warbugs handle region crossings. Even the skyhomes and sky boxes scattered around made things a lot of fun and provided a means for nipping around obstacles and trying to get a “jump” on one another.
If you’re into flying and haven’t tried out Warbugs, I’d really encourage you to try them out. If you’re into competitive games with a difference (and some of the Warbug people are very competitive!), again, there’s a lot of fun to be had with these little ‘planes. I’ve been bapping about in them for the last few days (and am currently considering adding a Sopwith Camel and / or the Spitfire to my growing collection of aircraft).