When Red Baron 3D first made its appearance a few years back, it drew a huge response from the gaming community; here was a flight sim that attempted to accurately re-create the WWI aerial war on the Western Front, combined with good game play and a host of features to present the game in an authentic historical context. As such, it was an immediate hit. Like any other flight sim, Red Baron (RB) wasn't perfect – the development team at Dynamix did a great job, but the usual story of commercial constraints and pressure to deliver the product meant that RB hit the shelves with some historical inaccuracies and room for improvement. As with all good historical flight sims (such as Microprose's European Air War), do it yourself programmers and artists responded with the their own patches and add-ons to make an already good game even better. A look through the myriad Internet sites devoted to RB, many of them offering their own patches and improvements for download, bears testimony to the huge amount of painstaking work that has gone into enhancing RB by it's legion of fans.
What is a Patch?
Patches and add-ons open up a whole new world of possibilities for the RB gamer, but for the newcomer, the array of stuff available and the dos and don'ts of installing to your game can appear a daunting prospect. The first question the uninitiated might ask is: what is a patch? In simple terms a patch is a program or file for a particular game designed to fix any technical problems in the software (usually referred to as 'bugs') or enhance the game in some way, and offered for download by its author on the Internet. These patches can be downloaded for free and in most cases, contain 'readme' files with instructions by the author for installation and use with the original game. These days, patches are downloaded in WINZIP format, or, in the case of Sierra's 'Official' patches, executable (EXE) format. WINZIP is a handy little utility that compresses large collections of files and 'zips' them into a manageable package that would otherwise take an age to download. You'll find that all 'independent' RB patch authors use this program to zip their patches and offer them for download, and you'll need WINZIP (or a file compression / decrompression program able to handle 'zip" files) to able to unzip the patch into RB once you've downloaded it. WINZIP is shareware and a free evaluation copy can be downloaded from their website at http://www.winzip.com/. [Editor's note: Powerarchiver handles zip files and a host of other compression types, plus it is freeware. It can be found at http://www.powerarchiver.com].
Types of Patches
Patches fall into distinct categories depending on their type, their function and the aspect of the original game they are designed to add to, improve on, or replace. I will be mentioning the author's web sites whenever possible, but I'd like to also emphasize practically all of the patches and enhancements that I mention are available at Wings of Honor.
These are patches created by the software developer in order to fix any bugs or errors discovered in the software after it has been released. In the case of RB, Sierra released a series of patches to fix server bugs for the online Multi Player facility in RB. For the single player, an important release was the Super Patch 1.0.77. This enabled owners of the old RB2 game to have RB3D without having to go and buy the new game. This is an important patch to have if you own RB2. You'll need to upgrade to RB3D if you plan on using Von Tom's Campaign Manager described below. Sierra released this patch in EXE format, which means that all you have to do is download to any location on your C Drive, double-click on it with your mouse, and the program will do the rest. Sierra's official Red Baron website is now defunct, but all it's official patches are still available for download from Wings of Honor, which was endorsed by Sierra as the new "Official Red Baron" site in 2000.
Utility Patches – Campaign Manager
Utility patches are like tools: they can be used to manipulate or control certain aspects of the game. Without tying myself up in knots to explain this more clearly, I'll just go on to cite what most in the RB gaming community regard as the definitive utility patch: Von Tom's RB CAMPAIGN MANAGER. Tom Harradine wrote the CM program back in 1998, and did a remarkable job. The Campaign Manager, when installed to the RB directory allows you to modify campaigns in RB, such as apply for pilot leave, change simulation parameters like ground fire and enemy rear gunner accuracy, skip days in the campaign calendar to move the campaign on to the next significant event in the pilot's career and view a complete record of a pilot's campaign career (record of kills, types shot down and medal awards and promotions) all with the left-click of a mouse button. There's also a 'Journal' function where each pilot can write and record an account of his victories in a combat report for each completed mission. Perhaps CM's most important function (and the 'Utility' part of the program) is the ability to add and remove other patches, simply by clicking with the mouse. Patches are normally added to a program by opening the program directory via a DOS box (usually 'My Computer') [or Windows Explorer] and then searching within the RB directory for the relevant folder into which the patch is unzipped. With CM, all you have to do is unzip the patch into CM's PATCH folder; the patch will then appear in a list on the CM patches screen. The patch can then be easily added or removed into RB simply by clicking on the relevant button on the patches screen. CM has a 'Backup RB files' function, which you must use to copy and save all the original RB game files before installing any new patches. When you remove a patch from RB using CM, the CM will then automatically restore any backed up RB files that were overwritten by that patch. This function of CM has made it the program of choice for anyone patching RB: most authors recommend using Von Tom's CM to install their patches into CM, and if you are thinking about a foray into the art of patching RB, CM is probably the first program you'll want to download and install. More about installing and using the CM later…
Historical or 'Unofficial' Patches
One of the first obvious areas for improvement in RB was historical accuracy: squadrons were incorrectly located, wrongly designated for a particular time period or omitted altogether, certain air services (like the RNAS and the Belgian Air Service) weren't included, and the aircraft themselves sported off-color schemes and/or incorrect squadron and personal insignia. The lesser aircraft types used by both sides were also left out.
The response to this was the arrival of the 'Unofficial Patch' or UOP. These patches were designed to fix many of these problems by replacing the file list data, squadron data files, and aircraft bitmap files in the original game with new files which accurately reflect historically accurate changes, squadrons and aircraft color schemes. The main historical patches for RB are the "Unofficial Patch' (UOP) series, authored by Ken 'Sygrod' Sharman, the Beery Super Patch (which also includes a set of new aircraft types), the 'Flanders Field' patch from Cam Riley's website and Todd Comeau's 'Wingstrut' patch. Most of these UOPs come with add-ons to use the Date function in CM, and add-ons to enhance and fix any bugs or inaccuracies that were found in the original UOP. Other kinds of UOP are those that provide historical scenarios for fronts/theatres of operations not covered in the original RB at all (for example, Mark Munro's Russian Civil War Patch). Anyone wanting historical accuracy in RB will want one of these patches.
Basically, this kind of patch can be sub-divided into
four categories: Terrain files, graphic effects (meaning
things like fire, smoke, tracer fire and so on), aircraft
color schemes for use in the RB 'Paint Shop', and 3D
aircraft models which replace the stock models from RB
with aircraft that have a greater degree of detail and
accuracy. Examples of terrain patches include
luscious textured seasonal terrain files which improve the look of the landscape for those with 3D Glide graphic acceleration (available from the 'Promised Land' website, and Rabu's
excellent 4-Seasons terrain files (from his 'On The Edge' website). If you like to look at the countryside you're flying over (when you're not busy dodging bullets), then these patches are worth checking out.
Graphic effects patches enhance and improve on the
original game's pyrotechnics: Garp's 'Flameout' patch
(makes your victim burn more brightly, and available from
his 'Garp's Hangar' website) and Capt Darwin's 'Smoke'
patch are good examples of how you can improve on RB's
original game graphics. If you're looking for a new
scheme for your own aircraft, the web offers a myriad of
downloadable aircraft color schemes to apply to your
bird, using RB's paint shop utility. The sites offering
both historical and completely customized aircraft
schemes are too
numerous too mention here but Scott Belanger's 'The Aces Paint Shop' and Cam Riley's 'Art Attack' sites are good places to start looking.
Finally, if you're looking for a greater degree of realism and detail to your aircraft you can download and install 3D aircraft to replace the game's stock models. These new models include things like rigging wires, wing bracing and more detailed engines. There are two artists who specialize in producing detailed 3D Aircraft: Charles De Thielt, (whose outstanding models can be found on the 'Society of World War One Simulations Artists' website) and Baron Von Helton who has developed 3D models for some of the non flyable types as well as the flyable ones on his 'Baron Von Helton's Castle' website.
Sound and Music
Fed up with the cheesy music that plays on the menu and briefing screens? Changing the music score to suit your tastes in RB is straightforward enough. All the music and sounds in RB are in WAV file format and are contained in the SHELLSND folder in the main RB directory. The music that plays when you're not actually flying comes in six files, named Menu 1, 2, 3 and Brief 1, 2 and Debrief.WAV respectively. These can be overwritten with music of your choice. Once again, a look through the various RB websites brings up a good selection of music WAV files to use in the game; a good place to start is the 'Wings of Honor' website. The music files offered for download here include music compiled by Jupes, such as British music of the period ('It's a Long Way to Tipperary') and a selection of music from various movies like "The Blue Max".
'Garp's Hangar' has a selection of French period music, while the RB page of 'Cage's World Aerodrome' has a nice set of traditional Prussian military tunes that go well with a German campaign career.
If you're using CM, just download and unzip the music you want into the German, British, French or American folders in the CM main directory. From the CMs main screen use can use the 'Set Shell Music' function to switch between the different folders to play the music of your choice. Remember: if you download and unzip a file with a different WAV file name to those given in bold type above, you must rename the file with these titles to enable the file to play when you run RB. While the sounds in RB are very good, several sites offer alternative sound files to replace them: 'The Promised Land' has a whole set of sound WAV files and also Beery's Red Baron Page has a sound effects patch. Once again, if you're using CM these can be added and removed using CM's patches screen.
These are patches that, as the title suggests, change or alter various simulation aspects of the game. I've already mentioned the simulation parameters screen in The CM. Other more specialized patches deal with flight models (the flying characteristics of particular aircraft) and how these flight models react when the aircraft sustains damage in combat. They will make your aircraft handle more realistically (and probably more difficult to fly). Examples of these patches are Uhlan's damage model patch available at The Society of WW1 Simulation Artisans and Chuck Holden's EM flight model patches from his Warlance site.
Individual Aircraft Paint Schemes
These are individual paint schemes for single player's aircraft that can be applied to your own aircraft using RB's Paint Shop utility in the campaigns screen. There are literally hundreds of schemes, both historically accurate and sometimes bizarre 'custom' schemes, which can be downloaded from a variety of RB community websites. 'The Aces Paint Shop' and 'The Dawn Patrol Paint Shop' have dozens of well-rendered historical schemes. If you're looking to adorn your Fokker DVII in Roy Lichtenstein 'pop art', the custom plane paint page on Cam Riley's 'Red Baron 3D Art Attack' site is the place for you.
Getting Started – Installing and Using Von Tom's Campaign Manager
As mentioned earlier, The Campaign Manager program is the first patch that you'll want to download and add to RB. Tom gives detailed instructions on how to install and use the program on his website. Tom wrote the CM in Visual Basic (VB), a Microsoft programming code, and to run it, you'll need to check if your computer has the VBRUN300. DLL file which reads VB code (if you have it, it'll be in your Windows/System folder on your primary hard drive). If you don't have it, you can download it from Tom's site and unzip it to your System folder.
Downloading and installing the CM manager is simple: just unzip to your main RB directory.
Important: Von Tom states on his website that CM should run OK with both RB2 and RB3D – this is not the case. You need to be running RB3D or RB2 patched to 3D in order to use the campaign functions in CM.
If you use CM with RB2, you'll be able to change certain simulation parameters and add patches, but the CM will not record or access any campaigns played in RB2. If you have RB2, you should download Sierra's official RB2 to 3D Super Patch and install it to RB2 to upgrade your game to RB3D before you install CM.
Once you've installed CM, take some time to explore it. Tom has provided help buttons on every screen to give information on the various functions of CM, and how to use them. Now start RB, start a campaign, and fly a mission. Close RB and go back to the CM. Go to the 'Campaigns' screen and your pilot's name, together with his squadron and the current date of the campaign will be listed. You can click to open your pilot's campaign where you can access info about his kills, write combat reports, apply for leave and so on. As mentioned above, adding and removing patches with the CM is easy and the CM patches utility will be often used, as you experiment with which patches you want to add to your game.
A Step by Step Approach: What Went into My Game
The best way to describe how to go about patching your game is to tell you what went into mine. Here's the story so far…
1. I started off with the old Red Baron 2 game. The first step was to download and add the CM program to the RB Main directory. This was when I encountered the problem of CM not working fully with the old RB2 game. A quick visit and appeal for help at Beery's RB Forum revealed that I needed to be running RB3D to fully use the CM. The CM was removed from the RB2 directory.
2. I downloaded Sierra's RB2 to 3D super patch from the 'Wings of Honor' Resources page. This patch is an EXE. File. Simply download, click on it, and the file will automatically install itself and upgrade the RB2 game.
3. I then unzipped the CM download into the new RB3D
directory and tested it by running RB and selected a new
campaign pilot and flying a mission. I then went back to
the CM to check that the CM had read my pilot's file and
to look at the details of the pilot's campaign.
Everything worked fine. At this stage it is important to
click on the 'Backup RB Files' button on the Patches
screen. This carries out the important function of
copying all the original data on RB regarding squadrons,
aircraft, sounds and so on – in other words, any RB
files which will be overwritten when a new patch is
installed in the game.
If at any stage, you decide to remove a patch, any original RB files that the patch over wrote will then be automatically restored to the game by the CM. It was now time to start the process of adding patches using the CM Patches screen.
4. With the original 1.0 version of CM, Von Tom provides a package of demo patches to demonstrate the CM patching facility. One of these is a CM add-on called UOP update, which is designed for use with Sygrod's UOP Historical patches. This was added to the Patches in Use screen.
5. Sygrod's UOP (version 3.0) was downloaded from his site and added to the Patches folder of CM. This was then installed to the CM patches in use screen.
6. The game was run and a new pilot selected in the Campaigns screen to check on the difference made to the game by the UOP. As I've already said, UOPs correct any historical inaccuracies. Probably the first thing you'll notice is that squadrons listed in the available squadrons which a new pilot can join will be different: for example a new German pilot enlisting in early 1916 can now choose to join one of the Fokker Staffel units. These units (the forerunners of the Jastas which appeared later) were omitted from the original RB, and have been added by the UOP to correct this historical error. You'll find similar revisions to squadrons in the other services provided by the UOP. When flying a mission with a new UOP you'll probably notice that the aircraft in your squadron sport a revised color scheme and markings where the same aircraft schemes are inaccurate in the original game. Again this is another example of how the UOP corrects historical inaccuracies in the original RB game. Note: using a UOP means you have set the historical parameters under which any campaign pilot you create with the UOP will operate. Pilots created in a campaign under one type of UOP patch will not be able to operate under a different UOP patch. If at a later date you decide to switch to a different UOP (say, from Sygrod's UOP to Beery's Super Patch) you'll need to either finish the old campaigns or delete the pilots and then create new campaign pilots when you add the new UOP patch.
7. Satisfied with the UOP, it's time to look at some
patches to improve the graphics and sound of the game. A
look at the 'Resources page' in 'Wings of Honor' yielded
some patches I wanted to download. As I'm one of those
unfortunate souls without a Voodoo AGP card, I'm unable
to take advantage of any patches specifically intended
for 3D Glide (Sites such as 'The Promised Land' offer
great terrain patches, but only for 3D Glide).
Nevertheless, there are still a good variety of patches
you can use if you don't have 3D Glide Graphic
acceleration. I downloaded and installed Rabu's 2D Snow
Garp's Flameout patch and some sound files from 'The Promised Land'. Again these were all installed using CM's Patches screen. Each time I installed a new patch, I ran the game and flew a mission to check that the game ran OK and to see what differences (if any) the patch made to the look of the game. Any patches that caused any problems or I felt didn't really improve anything were removed with the CM.
8. I added some new music to the game. These were downloaded from 'Wings of Honor' and 'Garp's Hangar' and added with the CM using the method described above in 'Music and Sound'.
9. I now have a series of patches in place, which I'm happy with, and my (improved) game runs fine. At any stage, using the CM Patches screen, I can add and remove patches, and try out any new patches I come across.