Ever since the release of Assault Horizon, there is an ongoing debate among pilots of ACE Air Force: What an ACE Combat game should look like? Individuals with different opinions clash against each other, even sometimes resort in extreme prejudice. So what an ACE Combat game should look like? Everyone has a lot to express, I'm no exception. So here I am to describe an "ideal" ACE Combat game from my perspective.
World Settings & Stories
Since Namco's another fantastic video game franchise "Time Crisis" has two different sub-universes: Mainstream "Time Crisis" and spin-off "Crisis Zone", ACE Combat can also be divided into two sub-universes. "Canon" games take place in Strangereal Continuity, while other games take place in Earth Continuity. Two categories of games have similarities, however also have many differences to distinguish each other.
Strangereal Continuity will be more focus on chronicles of Planet Strangereal, new games should fill up gaps between major wars, or disclose events happen in those minor nations and nations that not identified on world map. There are dozens of sovereign states don't have a name, or only have a name, with capitals, vital information veiled in mystery. It will be marvelous to develop some stories for them.
On the other hand, storyline will not play a major component in games of Earth Continuity, just like Assault Horizon, a complete assembly of adrenaline-pumping actions is good enough. We love blowing up bad-guys, that's the basic value of ACE Combat.
Graphics & Interfaces
Video games are a form of visual arts after all, so graphics are essential. Thanks to latest achievements of gaming hardware, graphics of video games are quickly evolving to unprecedented levels, even can confuse fiction and reality. ACE Combat 6 had shown a great advancement on graphics compare with older installations, Assault Horizon took the step even further, and Infinity, it is a grand war movie! So new ACE Combat's graphic must be better than Infinity, namely reaches the quality of a large-budget war movie, also it must add in how enemies disintegrate in midair as seen in Assault Horizon.
ACE Combat always comes with plain-style interfaces (and menus). It's fine for limited hardware capabilities of older games, but since the era of seventh generation of consoles, such limitation had been effectively breached, so ACE Combat should redesign its interfaces to cope with its awesome graphics, for example to be more Sci-Fi and futuristic, believe or not this franchise actually has a lot of Sci-Fi elements since very beginning. Take some references from Tom Clancy's HAWX will be a good starter.
Speak of interfaces, there's an obvious problem, that is, the lines and texts are too transparent! Therefore somehow difficult to be clearly seen during heat of battle. To say the least, even interfaces will not underdone fundamental changes, lines and texts are to be more solid for players to see.
ACE Combat always comes with magnificent soundtracks, I think I don't need to expect anything better.
Linear arrangement like ACE Combat 04 and ACE Combat 6 are good, non-linear arrangement like ACE Combat X are good too. After experiencing the route-selection system in ACE Combat X and the Dynamic Mission System in ACE Combat 6, I found ACE Combat has potential to evolve into strategy game, so there can be a new "air force-centric strategy mode" for multiplayer, for example the nature and deployment of allies and enemies in next mission can change according to how players complete previous mission, and some missions will be available while others are not due to player's choices...etc.
Thanks to limited hardware capabilities, scale of wars in games before ACE Combat 6 are very small. Even in ACE Combat 5, when two superpowers clashed together, the war still demonstrated like a low-intensity regional skirmish. Luckily such issue got solved since ACE Combat 6, from that game on, wars in ACE Combat are portrayed as grand as an opera. Just keep this up.
Aside of Campaign Mode, which player is the protagonist, there should be a secondary mode, which player can observe the war from different views, such as protagonist's wingman, supporting characters even antagonists. Helicopter missions, gunship missions and bomber missions can be filled into this mode instead of occupying contents in Campaign Mode.
Player will also go through many "Challenge Missions" which have diverse scenarios, those missions are somehow hard to win through.
No matter how missions are composted, don't forget signature canyon flight, tunnel flight and taking down airborne battleships as well as other superweapons, plus numerous ace squadrons who are to prove how awesome the protagonist is.
Armory Compositions (a.k.a. Harem)
Traditional aircraft list like those most ACE Combat games, aircraft upgrade tree like ACE Combat 5, aircraft research tree in Infinity, are all good to me. 30 to 40 Aircraft in total is the optimal number, exceeding 50 will be a little too many, since a lot of pilots would like concentrate on a few of them. Planes which are too fossilized such as F-4 Series and MiG-21 Series can retire honorably in order to give way to new comers. Superfighters from previous games must be presented too, especially XFA-27, XFA-36A Game, X-02 Wyvern, ADF-01 FALKEN, ADFX-01/02 Morgan, Fenrir, CFA-44 Nosferatu, GAF-1 Varcolac, F-3 Shinden II.
Each aircraft has three "weapon slots" aside gun, can freely equip three kinds of weapons. If two slots are filled with same weapon, thus means double payload, subsequently if all three slots have same weapon, triple payload.
girls planes are measured by following factors:
- Cruising Speed: Speed during normal situations.
- Maximum Speed: How fast it can fly when applying full afterburner.
- Stall Speed: How slow it can fly before stall.
- Acceleration: How fast it accelerates.
- Deceleration: How fast it decelerates.
- Maneuverability: How fast it preforms maneuvers.
- Stability: If too low, aircraft will overturn and difficult to control.
- Durability： How much damage it can take.
- Electronic Low Observability: How difficult it can be detected by radar and infrared, divide to two sub-factors as anti-air and anti-ground.
- Avionics: How fast it locks on targets and how stable of locking on during preforming maneuvers.
- Ordnance Capacity: How many armaments it can carry.
Each aircraft has an initial reading for every factor, and it will fluctuate by tuning.
2.Customization & Tuning
An aircraft comes with a set of paint schemes and emblems, some special painting schemes and emblems such as those unique ones for former protagonists, are to be unlocked by meeting certain conditions. Players can also fabricate their own paint schemes and emblems.
Unlike handheld games, this time all tuning parts have their own models, and aircraft's external forms will change according to tuning configurations. Parts are classified in following categories:
- Weapons (can equip two simultaneously)
- Miscellaneous (avionics and other fancy gadgets, can equip two simultaneously)
- Multipurpose Missiles: Can engage both air and surface targets but low on tracking abilities.
- Short Range
- Medium Range
- Long Range
- ADMM (excel on range, tracking ability and execution)
- Air-to-Air Missiles: High tracking abilities like QAAM but only take down aircraft.
- Air-to-Surface Missiles: Only for ground targets.
- Unguided Projectile Launchers:
- Gun/Cannon (integrated into every plane with infinite ammunition, classified in light, medium and heavy, heavier gun/cannon inflicts more damage per slug but fires slower,)
- Gunpod (delivering killing blow to a target with gun/cannon or gunpod will receive twice score)
- Pulse Laser (fires like gunpod instead of shooting laser beam, inflict serious damage per shot)
- Turbo Laser (fires continuous laser beam, can be turned on/off at will)
- Plasma Blaster (rapid fires destructive plasma blobs, also can fire single, charged plasma ball which is way more powerful)
- Base Killer:
- LSWM (ACE Combat X's version)
- EWU (Electronic Warfare Unit, can decrease hostile tracking ability and simultaneously boost allied tracking ability for a limited duration)
Weapons will receive range, execution, blast radius bonus if aircraft moves faster.
1.Lock on Methods
There are three lock on modes in game, can be switched at will:
- Single Lock on: Active weapons lock on one target altogether.
- Semi-Multi Lock on: Active weapons lock on first group of targets which enter range, like what we see in Assault Horizon.
- Multiple Lock on: Identical to multi-lock-on in most ACE Combat games.
Targets for air-to-air weapons have square rings on them, targets for air-to-surface missiles weapons have hexagon rings on them, if targets have inverse triangle rings, they can be taken out by both air-to-air and air-to-ground weaponry, for example packing planes. Some large profile targets like bombers and battleships, will have a big ring presents main structure, plus smaller rings present vital points such as engines and on-board armaments, destroy those can reduce their firepower and soften overall durability.
3.Wingman and Allied Support & ESM
Carried over from ACE Combat 6, this time player even can call in artillery and ballistic missile if available in mission scenario. Also ESM will not only be provided by AWACS and radar sites, military satellites are also usable and cover entire mission area.
Like ACE Combat 6, Assault Horizon and Infinity, ordnance payload for each plane is very high, even hundreds in quantities. But consider scale of war and nature of mission, players still need to restock ammunition and/or change weaponry as well as patch on damages. Just simply fly through return line and/or land on a friendly airport (or an aircraft carrier) within mission area can do the trick.
5.Close Range Assault & Counter-Maneuver
These concepts are great, however they should be exclusive to Earth Continuity. Moreover, it should be an option to deactivate the camera angle from automatically shifting to weapon bay or gun muzzle.
6.Attack Maneuvers and Evasive Maneuvers
Inherited from The Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces, as great as Close Range Assault & Counter-Maneuver, however should be exclusive to Strangereal Continuity. And plus an option to deactivate the automatically generated CG when achieving a direct hit.
It's strange that flares can deflect radar-homing missiles, so when releasing countermeasures, flares and chaffs should be dispersed altogether, that will be more plausible.
There will be a feature to rotate camera at will while using missile cam.
9.Random Real-Time CG
First introduced in Assault Horizon as an alternative of missile cam, its good, but should have an option to be deactivated for it may disrupt player's concentration.
Some references from Proposal of ACE Combat Generations.
Each gameplay will be automatically recorded, and will have no limitation of recording durations. If mission is restarted from checkpoint, both progress before and after restart will be recorded in separate files.
When watching a replay, camera can be rotated as well, and can freely choose among 9 different angles as seen in ACE Combat X, also interfaces of aircraft can be turned on/off.
2.Medals & Achievements/Trophies
All medals will have exquisite designs, as well as icons present achievements and trophies.
All soundtracks in the game, plus some modified version/remix as bonus.
All cutscenes and promotion videos, highly recommended to be live-action instead of completely rely on CG.
All models, sketches, concept arts, illustrations, design plans, etc.
Background information including superweapons, aircraft, ordnance, nations, technologies, historical events, characters, etc.
Videos and letters of staff interview.
Player's sortie numbers, aircraft and weapon usage, killing numbers, etc.