Getting off the ground in B17
January 1, 2023 at 3:20 pm #6998
Hi folks, really looking forward to playing B17 with you all! As with many sims, it can seem quite complex at first so I thought I’d provide some help.
My thinking is that people might get more enjoyment from the game having got some basic knowledge here. The real challenge should be successfully flying missions, not struggling to learn controls.
Sorry it’s a long post, but at least it’s shorter than the manual!
I’d still recommend downloading the manual (always a good read from Microprose!). Or at least try the Technical Supplement, which has all the keys and some advice on specific situations. I also found a keyboard overlay online! Think it’s an Amiga version, but the keys are the same.
But I’ll treat this kinda like a walkthrough, going through mission events roughly as they’d happen.
You’ll want a joystick or controller.
Also; read the mission briefing and WATCH THE RECON VIDEOS!
The first (and most important) step is:
Naming your aircraft and choosing some suitably racey nose-art!
Everything after that is just filler 😛
Main usuful keys:
[F1-F10] Crew positions, from front to back of plane.
[M] to switch between manual and computer control. If something isn’t working, you’re probably still under computer control.
[C] Compartment/Action view; swaps between the cutaway compartment view and that crew’s window or workstation.
[I] Pilot Instrument/Bombsight view.
[W] Window view.
[A] Aircraft Damage, useful top down view showing damaged areas – easy to miss this info in battle.
[Shft-F10] External view; numpad to look around/zoom in or out. From some stations you can also use [E] for this.
[Alt-T] Skip time.
[Alt-A] Accel time, when skip not allowed (combat/landing).
[Alt-C] Config menu, during mission.
I don’t actually fly that much in B17 (technically, you don’t have to do *anything*!
You start in Manual mode, so first hit:
[M] for computer control
[Alt-T] skip time a few times until we’re on our way to target.
[F2] go to Navigator’s map, to see your progress.
The navigator won’t always get your position correct. You can place your estimated position on the map yourself by clicking the cursor where you think you are (careful not to click on a random area by accident!). A good place to do this is when you’re over a coastline. It’s easier to see large landmarks to fix your position.
Use [Shft-F10] + numpad to look outside, and then [F2] for map and click to update your position, if needed. Each time you do this correctly, the nav’s skill increases 😀
The time skipping ability will end when enemy flak/fighters are spotted (near enemy airfields – small stick plane icons on map). Then the shooting can begin..
Gunners will call fighters out at points on a clock, so “6 o’clock high” is above and behind the aircraft.
You can view enemy aircraft (and yours) with [x] and [z]. Numpad to rotate.
I usually use:
[F5] Top Turret, as it can fully rotate and sees most things.
[F10] Tail Turret is also good, many attacks come from behind.
I also use unlimited ammo, bc frankly running out of bullets is no fun!
Fighters will appear as pixels. Track one with the joystick. Once in your crosshairs, you can also use
[Shift] or [Ctrl] to provide auto tracking and keep them there.
When that pixel turns into more pixels, fire! I’ve never scored a hit before this point; when the enemy dot grows bigger.
The art of leading a moving target, from a moving vehicle, using guns at all angles is a subject best left for the manual. Basically, your bullets may not go where you think they’ll go! 😉
Also, don’t accidentally shoot at the other B17s in your formation. That thing you think will happen, will happen.
Injured crew can be helped using [C] Compartment view. Select crew member to do the task [F1-F10] – I usually choose whoever is nearest, for speed. Or you could use one from elsewhere if you know they’re good at first aid, moving them between compartments using the arrow icons. But don’t leave your plane pilotless, or take the bombardier away during a bomb run!
Then click the first aid icon, then click the injured crew member.
Fuselage fires/jammed/damaged guns can be addressed in a similar way, clicking the station’s icon. Don’t forget to move the crew back to their stations once the problem is fixed.
“We’ve lost oxygen!”:
If this happens, you’ll need to descend below 10,000ft, or your crew will start passing out :O
First you’ll need the Radio Operator [F6]. Select his ‘Radio’ button to call “We’ve got a problem, we need to go it alone.” Otherwise your pilot will try to return up to the formation as soon as you leave manual control.
Use the pilot [F3]. Instrument view [I] will show you his flying instruments. Hit [M] to take manual control and gently descend. Once below 10,000ft hit [M] again for auto control. You’ll now have to fly alone, without the extra protection of your formation.
*Important note: once you’ve officially left formation (via radio msg), you’ll have to navigate yourself. The computer will no longer follow the planned flight path, but will just carry on in a straight line until you take over and adjust heading.
From the map [F2], hovering over a point will show the heading in degrees to turn towards, to get there. Then use the pilot’s instruments again to turn gently to this heading, before returning to computer control [M] to keep it.
In some cases, there is an alternative.
Depending on which section loses oxygen, you could move those crew into another section, moving them back briefly if you need them. Just don’t leave them without oxygen too long or its night-night time. There’s always a spare cheek gun in the nose you can put someone on.
This all means you can stay in formation.
But if the cockpit loses oxygen, you can’t move the pilots, so you’ll definitely have to lose height (see above).
These must be extinguished from the pilot/copilot position [F3/F4].
From [W] Window view, you can look out the window left/right with [ or ]. Or [Shft-F10] for external view of the fire.
Take manual control [M].
[Alt-1/2/3/4] will fire the extinguisher for the relevant engine. You only get one per engine. If it fails or that engine catches fire again, you have to attempt to put it out by diving:
The Radio Op [F6] must tell the formation you’re “going it alone” (see “Lost oxygen” above).
Then take manual control of the pilot [F3] and descend using [I] instrument view, accelerating to >350mph to extinguish, but <400mph or you’ll rip the wings off!
Keep an eye on the airspeed/rate of climb/altitude indicators.
See above note about leaving formation and having to self-navigate.
If this doesn’t work, welp you tried. The engine will explode after a few minutes and your plane will crash. If you’re high enough you may all have time to bail out, which in this case happens automatically.
If you ever need to bail out deliberately, the Bail Out button is in Compartment view. A ‘Mayday’message from the Radio Op will help your chances of being rescued.
If that engine fire goes out, great!
However if you lose 2 or more engines, you won’t have the power to keep up with the formation. You’ll need to leave formation (see above), and manually reduce power [-] to avoid the computer control overstressing the remaining engines trying to keep up.
The Copilot’s instruments have the engine dials, but they can also be seen using [ and ] from the Pilot’s instruments.
Some engine fires can be avoided. If one starts losing oil, it’s oil pressure will drop and oil temperature will rise. Eventually it will stop and catch fire. Monitor these dials and stop the engine [Ctrl-1/2/3/4] to avoid having to extinguish. Especially if you’ve already used that extinguisher 😉
Back to the mission!
A word on Flak:
If you see/hear anti-aircraft fire ahead, you could drive straight through, or take avoiding action. To do this, get Radio Operator [F6] to call “Climb 1000 feet”. This way, all aircraft will climb together, out of danger.
If/when you finally get to the bomb run (red route on map), move the bombardier [F1] from guns to his bombsight from [C] Compartment view. If bombing yourself, select “Bomb on my command” using the Radio Operator [F6]. Other planes will then follow your lead while bombing. You can still manually bomb without radioing this message, but the tech supplement recommends it. Might give bombardier more skill.
Back with the bombardier [F1],
[M] to take over control,
[O] to turn it on, and
[D] to open the bomb doors.
Accel time [Alt-T] to get closer. *Skipping* time may make you overshoot the target.
If your navigation is on track, you should start to see your target (you watched the recon video, right?). You may need to adjust your heading slightly using the bombsight to fly directly over the target. Use your controller to slew left/right.
[W] Window view/numpad is useful here for a wider view. Or an external view [Shft-F10].
*Important*: The bombsite controls do not specifically change your direction. They change **rate of change of direction**. So the further you adjust, the faster the sight will move.
Let the sight come over the target. Once on it, keep the crosshairs over it using the controls. You’ll need to increase the ‘down’ control more as you get closer. It will need to be *on* the target for at least 20s to have a good chance of hitting. I’ve found aiming for an obvious building and sticking with it helps. Keep eye glued to the target and try to make as few big movements as possible.
When the Bomb Release Cue lights up, press fire to drop ’em!
Maybe hit [Shft-F7] Bomb Bay View quick to see them drop! Then hit [Shft-F8] to see your target (numpad to move/zoom view). Wait and hopefully you’ll see all the bombs hit.
If you overfly the target without getting a release cue, you can go around again, or opt to attack the seconary target. If the formation is bombing on your command, you’ll need to use the Radio Op [F6] to tell the formation the plan.
Then all you have to do is get home.
There will be more flak/fighters to deal with, but once you get near your home base (RAF Alconbury), if your navigation is correct, you should be able to select “Request permission to land” from the Radio Op. Now, the pilots will circle the base, descending and landing the plane.
If you have landing gear damage, you’ll need to manually lower it (icon in Compartment view).
Also, I like to move all crew except the pilots into the safest part of the aircraft (Radio Room) to avoid any injuries if the landing goes wrong.
Not sure if this is necessary, it just feels like a sensible move. Think maybe I saw it in the ‘Memphis Belle’ movie 😉
You can try to land yourself. I never have, at least not successfully. The pilot’s view isn’t great, and you have to constantly flip between window and instruments on separate screens. Plus, the B17 is a big, lumbering beast that can be slow to react and challenging to fly.
Either way, all being well you’ll make a safe landing. Congratulations!
Another bomb painted on the side of your plane, and hopefully a few kills too!
I hope this document has been helpful getting people started with this great simulation.
Can’t wait to share it with you all!
If you’d like any more help, find me on IRC, this forum or on Mastodon.
I’d love to chat about this amazing game!
TigerQuollParticipantPodcasterJanuary 13, 2023 at 3:15 am #7061
I really love the idea of this game. It reminds me a tiny bit of FTL: faster than light, but in some ways way cooler.
Unfortunately I can’t see myself getting into it. The barrier for entry just looks too high for my scattered little brain. If there was a tutorial that eased you into the mechanics one-by-one through play I would definitely give it a good crack, but I can just see myself sitting frustrated in front of the computer too long trying to work out what I’m actually supposed to do, how to do it, why and when. I watched a youtube video of the first mission, and came away totally confused.
Now if somebody just made basically this game with a tutorial, but in a sci-fi space setting – well, that would be a game for me!January 16, 2023 at 9:30 pm #7073
Amazing writeup @spoonboy! Covered pretty much everything, I can’t think of anything to add.
When I was playing on P4 machines, it did seem to me that there might be some issues with the damage you get being tied to the CPU speed – that just be my complaining though!
I did spend most of my time in the top turret against fighters, it’s worth noting that the ones that do the most damage (and are the easiest to shoot down) will come from the tail.January 16, 2023 at 10:17 pm #7076
Hi evilcommiedictator – and thanks!
I remember that you were into Microprose games from the Knights of the Sky episode 🙂
Do you think you remember B17 well enough to be in the podcast? It would be great to have your expertise as a fellow Microprose fan!January 21, 2023 at 3:17 am #7079
I think so Spoonboy, drop me an email with the plans, I’ve been very lazy for a while, sadlyJanuary 24, 2023 at 12:09 pm #7084
For someone like TigerQuoll, who is having issues, here is my notes for my 17 year old friend 🙂
TWO keys of main importance:
the ‘M’ key toggles human control on or off, as denoted by the computer picture or the hand. Since there are 10 people on the plane, you can only control 1 at a time.
the ‘c’ key will take you to the compartment screen. Here, you can move crewmen around the plane to different positions or fix things, fight fires, make repairs etc (heal crewmen!) Use the mouse to select a particular crewmen by their picture, and buttons on the screen will do particular things.
THE FUNCTION KEYS will take you from the bombardier at the front of the plane ‘F1’ to the tail gunner ‘F10’. Note that the keys select crewmen, not positions. (IE you’ve mover the radioman to the tail gun, so you would press ‘F6’ to select the man manning the tail gun, not ‘F10’
Check the status of your plane with the ‘a’ key. damaged areas shown in red, etc.
TIME SKIP USING THE ‘ALT T’ keys ***you need this***
Bombardier – gunning and bombing.
to bomb, first sight you target using the gun position, then move you bombadier to the bombsight (using c). to operate the sight press ‘o’, ‘d’ to open/close bomb doors. keep the sight over the target using arrow keys, then when bomb light is lit, press ‘enter’.
close doors, back to gun
Navigator – navigating
This is a pain in the arse. every once in a while, try to find landmarks and correct you navigator using the mouse, otherwise you will end up in Spain.
Pilot – ???
‘i’ for instrument view, ‘w’ for window view, ‘[‘ and ‘]’ to look at different sides of cockpit.
‘g’ for landing gear, ‘b’ for brakes
numbers 1-4 increase power to engines 1-4 respectively. 5-8 decrease power. ‘-‘ and ‘+’ increase and decrease all at the same time
to feather (stop/start) and engine, ‘CTRL + engine number’
fire extinguiser ‘ALT + engine number’ ***NOTE only 1 extinguisher per engine*** (read the README!)
COPILOT – ???
see pilot. also, he should be your first choice for medic – one guy can fly the plane if needed.
guess. one of your better gunning positions (the top turret)
guess again. your other main healer (who needs a radio anyway?)
your third best gunner. most likely to die if you crash land – so move him out of the turret already!
left/right waist gunners
mainly for decoration
best gunning position. always have someone here, watch it yourself too.
When the Luftwaffe are about
use the ‘z’ and ‘x’ keys to move the camera about, the insert/pagedown keys (and all inbetween) to rotate. only 4 fighters come at a time.
the ‘SHIFT + FUNCTION KEYS’ give a variety of views, including bomb bay view, and ground target view (good for navigation)
TigerQuollParticipantPodcasterJanuary 24, 2023 at 10:29 pm #7089
I have a little bit of free time before the end of the month. Maybe I will try firing it up and seeing if I can make heads or tails of it at all.January 24, 2023 at 11:15 pm #7095
Haha I’d agree with evilcommiedictator that the waist gunners aren’t good for much! Don’t think I ever got a kill with one.
I find the navigator good as a healer, but radio operator would be first choice. It’s not unheard of to need two healers at once, though! To me, a crewman’s medical skill doesn’t seem to have much noticeable effect on heal times.
I am quite nervous of leaving just one pilot flying. If he gets hit, you’d have to get someone else in the other seat pretty fast. Recently had both pilots injured at once, so the plane started going down. With no time to heal them and the fact you can’t move injured crewmen out of their seats, that was game over…
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