CMC201 - Tricks of the Trade
Instructor: Boa

Hail Air Warrior!

This class is really a collection of tips and tricks to get the most out of the Air Warrior software and overall experience. Use only as directed and completely at own risk <g>.
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AOL Versionitis
16bit AOL vs. 32 AOL. What does it mean??? Win95 users who fly through AOL.
Win95 as Network Server
An easy way to get your Win95 machine to perform better. If you have the RAM. Win95 users with 32MB of RAM or more.
A great utility for switching resolution modes on the fly Win95 users who fly at a different resolution then their desktop
Frame Rate and Visibility
Getting the best frame rate out of your hardward/software. Also improve your visibility. Anyone
The "Field Closed" problem
The field isn't really closed but you try and take off and you get "Field is closed". This tells you why. Anyone flying in a crowded arena
The Gun Camera is Your Friend
Tips on using the camera to help you in becoming the best that you can be. Anyone
Dealing with Radio Chatter
Crowded arenas tend to have a lot of radio chatter. If you're trying to keep up, these tips might help Anyone flying in a crowded arena
Dealing with AOL Timeouts
Tips on dealing with AOL Timeouts Pilots flying via AOL
Dealing with Full Arenas
The blessing of a popular online game sometimes can turn into a frustrating experience. Anyone flying in a crowded arena
Dealing with Bad Connectivity
The #1 cause of most frustration in Air Warrior is bad connectivity. Find out what it means and some tips on dealing with it. Those experiencing "dumps" and "warps".

America Online Versionitis

The America Online front end comes in 2 flavours. One for 16-bit windows (Win3.1) and one for 32-bit windows (Win95). Now it just so happens that you can use the 16-bit version of AOL on Win95 (because Win95 "emulates" Win3.1).

The question is which to chose.

Here is what I found in my own experience:

To the Air Warrior, the things effected by these version are: reliability and quality of the connection and frame rate of the AW front end. The 32-bit version of AOL gives the AW front end a slightly better frame rate. However, depending on how you connect to AOL, the different versions give you different connectivity reliability and quality. Again, this is my own experience, not necessarily fact. Use at own risk!

Win95 users can get the 32-bit version of AOL by going to keyword UPGRADE. (get ready for an 11+MB download)

If you already have the 32-bit version but want the 16-bit version instead, go to keyword AOL3L. (This is a 3MB download)

Note that you can have both versions installed on your computer. However, this is a waste of HD space. The 16-bit and 32-bit version are almost identical except the latter include MS Internet Exploder (ugh) in the download and has a 32-bit winsock.

Win95 as Network Server

This was a tip I found on the AWII newsgroups but it definitely applies to all my Win32 applications. I believe StuB brought this one up.

If you have a Pentium 133 or slower and 32 or more MB of RAM, this small fix can enhance your frame rate by a noticeable amount. I went from 15-20 to 25-30 fps on my P100 with 49MB of RAM.

Go to Start -> Settings -> Control Panel

Double Click on System and select the Performance tab.

Click on File System and select Network Server instead of Desktop Machine.

Click OK and reboot machine.

I believe that the speed increase you get is negligeable on really fast Pentiums. You also need at least 32MB of RAM for this to work properly (if you have less, you may find the server doing some serious paging (i.e. your drive will chatter like crazy)).

I was very pleased with the results, but your mileage may very.

QuickRes (and QRes)

This little utility is a must-have for Win95 users. It simply allows you to switch resolutions without rebooting your machine.

I use Win95 in 1280x1024 mode with 65K colors. Obviously AWI won't run in this mode. QuickRes allows me to switch my machine to 640x400 (256 color) mode before running Air Warrior. I like to fly in 640x400 because of the better visibility and frame rate at this resolution (see Frame Rate and Visibility).

In addition to QuickRes, there is also a utility called QRes which allows you to specify which applications use what resolution. So you don't even have to use QuickRes, just run Air Warrior and your machine will automatically switch to the required resolution.

NOTES: Related links:

Frame Rate and Visibility

Situational Awareness is an absolutely crucial skill for a successful AW pilot. But you can't expect to be able to keep track of the action at 5 frames per second or when you can't see your enemy.

Latest software and hardware

Make sure you have the latest DirectX drivers and a good graphics card (in many cases this is the real bottleneck, not your CPU!).  Also, see the following sections for other ways to speed up your base frame rate: AOL Versionitis, Win95 as Network Server.


The best way I know of to increase your frame rate is to fly at 640x400 resolution. And I don't just mean in the game. Change your whole Windows desktop to 640x400 with 256 colors. Use QuickRes to do this on the fly.

Cockpit Graphics

You will also get a better frame rate by turning off all the cockpit graphics. Go to the hangar, click on Aircraft Setup, click on Setup Cockpit View Preferences. (An alternate way to do this is to right click anywhere in the game and select Cockpit... from the pop-up menu).

In the Cockpit box in the upper right select No artwork - Gray Shapes.

Combat View

While in combat, select the Combat View (use the 5 key on the main keyboard) to cut down on the amount of graphics. This will radically help your frame rate as well (relative to full detail mode accessible by hitting the 1 key). Warning: Keep in mind that in this mode mountains and other ground objects will not be drawn until you are very close to them so be careful or you may crash before realizing you're about to plow into something.


The application of the above also helps your visibility. At 640x400 with no artwork and in combat view, you will see those far away dots much better. I know of at least one pilot who likes to use the shadows of the mountains to fly into an area undetected. In combat view, you would see no shadows and therefore he would be dead meat.

Also, the plane cockpit artwork hides quite a bit of your view (some planes, such as the FW have simply horrible visibility because of all the obstructions). With no artwork selected, you have a pretty clear view all around.

Is it cheating?

Is it considered cheating to fly without cockpit graphics? If you think so, keep in mind that it's only your opinion... Don't hate someone for using the available edge.

I know sometimes I feel funny about not flying with the artwork turned on because I know that poor sucker in the Zeke can't see me 20% of the time (if he has full artwork (the default) selected). But, it's an option available to anyone, and in my mind that makes it fair game. If you are dueling someone and you consider it cheating to turn the cockpit graphics off, notify your opponent and ask them (nicely!) to turn on their graphics. Or better yet, just bite the bullet and turn yours off.


Got this tip from +Chit who got it from Moggy at Kesmai.  Turning off your sound (especially engine noise) will really help your Frames Per Second.  Since AW4W and AW2 both use DirectX this is not surprising at all.  +Chit reported a 90% increase in frame rate!!!  My own experience yielded only 10% increase in frame rate and losing the sound really felt strange.

I've also been told that minimizing AOL in the background helps the frame rate a little.  In fact, The Maestro tells me that Blue Baron (AW designer) suggests exiting all background software to maximize the RAM and CPU time available to AW.

The "Field Closed" Problem

I'm not talking about a field actually being closed (i.e. all buildings wiped out, yaddayadda). The problem in question is when a field is open, some folks are taking off and then you click on "Fly" and get back a "Sorry, Field Closed". If you haven't seen this, consider yourself lucky.

I turns out that there is a "soft" limit to the number of planes in a sector. Once the server has more planes in this sector then it's "soft" limit, it no longer allows players to take off from a base in that sector.

I say "soft" because the server doesn't prevent you from flying into the sector, you just can't take off from there (presumably this is to try and keep the load down per sector).

Quick solution? Take off somewhere else.

There is also a command that "reserves" a position for you in a sector. This was dug up by the ever resourceful Wheel Chock:

The Gun Camera is Your Friend

Most of you have used this tool to show off your fine kills etc, but most pilots tend to underutilize it. I use the camera to:

I'm sure I could think of more if I thought hard enough, the point is made. I pretty much film EVERY flight. Then when I land (okay, or when I'm shot down <g>) I decide whether the film might be useful and either save it or delete it.

When watching the film later, one of the most useful features of the film room is that you can take over the controls of your aircraft. Hit F8 to take over. Note that all the other planes will continue following their filmed paths and that once the film runs out, you'll return to the main airfield.

Once you take over the controls, hit F9 to create a Camera Plane, i.e. a plane that follows the path you took when making the film. Now you can fly behind yourself, for example, watching your reactions from a new viewpoint. This is a very useful learning tool.

Remember F5 and F6 to slow down or speed up the playback. Share your films with your squad mates. Even the ones where you get shot down (actually, that should be especially those where you get shot down!). Someone might point out an obvious flaw to your flying or at least give you some helpful hints on how to improve.

In the least it might get you a chuckle or two.

Exile has a great tip for using camera films to practice.  When you want to practice something at alt, do this.  Take off, get to your target alt.  Roll camera.  Just fly level for around 5 minutes or so.  Turn camera off.  Land.  Now, when you view the film, hit F8 to take over controls and voi-la, you are at your target alt and didn't have to waste time climbing.  When the film runs out, just start watching the film again.  Exile used this technique to practice for high-altitude flying for one of the scenarios.  Make sure you make the film long enough for you to be able to practice your goals.

Dealing with Radio Chatter

Try to keep from yapping too much when there are 100+ people in the arena. Some folks might actually be trying to communicate and coordinate actions. Most online services have full featured chat rooms, if you're more interested in spreading the latest gossip, please don't do it in AW.

Now, I don't mean 100% of the time. The reason we fly Air Warrior instead of technically better Flight Sims that are out there is because we're flying with human beings. Part of the game is the chatter. All I'm saying is use some common sense. Did you just begin a conversation with someone while you're in the radio room?  Tell them to meet you in one of the OCs or in a chat room.

If you're in a squad, running an organized action, you need the comm channel clear (or close to it). One easy way to cut down on the chatter is to have everyone tune to a different channel. Train yourself to pay attention to messages on your tuned channel over those on channel 2.

This is not foolproof, there is still plenty of chatter on 2. With only a few lines of text below your flight window, that means the important stuff scrolls off real fast. And if you hit F2 for the radio buffer, you're blind. When it gets really bad I go to the Radio Room, tune to channel 2 and listen for a while. I jot down the CPIDs of the most talkative folks. Then I squelch them (see CMC108 for info). You can only squelch 5 people at once, but believe me, it makes a huge difference if you pick the right ones.

You can also squelch folks while in the air.  Use /*s [CPID] to squelch a pilot while you're in the air.  There is no way (that I know of) of unsquelching them until you're back on the ground so be careful when using this command.

Please don't do this out of spite or to frustrate someone (i.e. don't squelch someone and then say "haha, I've just squelched you"). It's childish.

Oh, and don't squelch your squadmates, especially the CO <ggg>

Dealing with AOL Timeouts

The 45 minute timeout is something we all have to deal with for a while. The best way to avoid this causing a problem is to log in through a different ISP and use AOL over the TCP/IP connection. In this mode, AOL will not pop up the warning.

If you're dialing in direct (very often dialing in direct is the only way to get a decent connect), you will get the timeout after 45 minutes if you don't touch the AOL application. If this happens, you will see the pop-up in front of the AW screen. Follow these steps exactly:

  1. Hit ALT-TAB until you switch to AOL.
  2. Click on OK or press ENTER.
  3. Hit ALT-TAB until you are back in AW.
  4. Hit F2 twice to clear your instrument panel
If you don't follow these steps you could end up with a situation in which AW no longer accepts any keyboard input. This is bad. You'll have to crash your plane (can't <ESC>e) and then log out of AW completely and restart again.

You can also avoid the 45 minute timeout by switching to AOL after each mission and IM someone (don't get annoying now!) or doing something else that causes the timeout to start from zero again.

Finally, there are some AOL "enhancement" applications that will automatically get rid of the timeout message for you. The one I include here isn't necessarily the best, but it is free. Many of the others cost $$$ and are, imho, the products of greedy "engineers" who want to exploit the shortcomings of AOL. I wouldn't normally say this, as I think fringe utilities and enhancements to commercial software are way cool, but I'm sick of all the spam mail I've gotten from folks having "cures" to all sorts of AOL ailments. But I digress...

Dealing with Full Arenas

If you absolutely have to be in a specific arena, there really is no way to sneak your way in. You have to keep clicking on the arena over and over.

Before you do, however, make sure that you have a good connection - if you get dumped, you don't want to have to go through the entrance process again.

The only reason why anyone should have to be in a specific arena is to meet for a duel (you should have chosen an empty arena to meet in, however!) or when you are flying with your squad.

You want a suggestion of what to do when your favourite arena is full? Go to an FR (Full Realism) arena instead! You will pick up new skills and you will gain respect of your fellow pilots. Check out Mig Eater's Transition to FR Class (CMC402).

Dealing with Bad Connectivity

Bad connectivity can be summarized into dumps (disconnects) and warps (when the planes around you behave funny, like leaping from 600 yards in front to 300 in back, man I hate that <g>)

A book could be written on this subject, but I'm just going to give you some quick tips and wisdom:

Now lets talk about warping. If you haven't seen a warp yet, then you haven't really played much. It's a part of the game. It's very important to note whether it is you who are warping, or if it's someone else. One of the most annoying things I hear on the radio is "Boa! you are warping, waaaa" when I know that I'm not because I can see all other planes (except the guy on the radio) moving smoothly through the air. (For the record, my connectivity is pretty darn good because I go in through a T3 line 90% of the time.)

Check the aircraft around you. Is everyone warping? That's a sure sign that it's you who are warping. Make adjustments in your tactics or relog. If you see one particular plane warp on a background of other planes that are moving normally, let them know, but be nice about it. If you only see one plane and it's warping, it's too early to make an assumption either way. So keep your mouth from flapping too early.  And if they are warping, so what?  Feel sorry for them because every one of their targets is warping from their point of view.  Instead of using their warping as an excuse for their beating you (that really makes me laugh) just don't bother fighting them!

You learn to live with some warpage (even at the best connectivity, there is warpage going on, that's just part of life in the online gaming world). You make adjustements for how you lead the enemy. You learn to recognize the moment just before someone is going to warp (their plane behaves odd, i.e. will fly straight even in a middle of a dogfight, well, okay, sometimes your oponent drops their joystick or their cat jumps onto the keyboard, but most of the time they're about to warp). A sure sign of a warp is when the enemy plane is rolled to one side but is not turning or falling.  There is no real way to teach this. You will learn it only with experience in the arena. So if you're new to the game, just be aware of this limitation to online gaming. And live with it.

(Here's an funny anecdote, I didn't even realize how many warping adjustements I've been making in my flying until I started flying the offline missions in AW2. I keep slapping my forehead "duh, I don't need to lead his roll that way, because where he is shown on the screen is really where he is!" etc. Anyone who spends lots of time online has probably experienced this in the offline missions.)

If your radar and all planes around you "blink out" and you don't see any new messages on the radio, chances are you are about to get dumped, or at least have a real bad warp. I usually type <esc>r which is the command to show the number of pilots flying for each country. If it comes back, my connection is okay, if it doesn't something is definitely amiss.

There are two commands that can help you figure out the quality of your connection, these are <esc>d which shows delay and trip times (the lower the better) and <esc>v which I believe shows an average delay computed over some period. The real unfortunate thing is that these hugely useful commands are usually disabled in most arenas. Don't ask me why, perhaps someone at Kesmai can tell us.

If you have any questions regarding this course or if you would like to have a tip of your's added, you can e-mail Boa or post on our public newsgroup.

~Boa 3/17/97

Last updated: 8/12/97

©1997 Julius Cisek aka "Boa"