The original Fighter Duel is a high-performance dogfight simulator where you can fly one of sixteen classic World War II warbirds against up to eight enemy. It is connectable, which is its design goal, to allow you to fly against friends via network or kali. The head to head multiplayer was unusually stable in the NetDuel version, with very little warping and very few connection problems. Not only that, but frame rate was amazing given the hardware most of us ran in those days.
Not long ago we ran an update to our original interview with more info on the flight modelling, physics and ballistics. The point of that update was to demonstrate that these guys are passionate about what they do, and if you are a prop fan this sim should have you on the edge of your chair.
Now finally I've had a bit of stick time and an hour or so to personally observe what Matt and Ted and crew have been up to in development of this sim. Was I impressed? Do ducks fly? =8-D Dang! This thing is looking great! Better still, you will see it in Q4 of this year. Without further ado, lets talk about what I witnessed in Las Vegas last week.
Click for a larger shot...
The setting was a well guarded vault in the Monte Carlo. The air was thick with smoke, and the red lights on the ceiling cast an eerie glow on the humming machines below. At the far end of the room was Matt: Codename: Philadelphia. His partner, 38 magnum strapped to his side, locked me with his gaze as I approached.
Ok, there was no smoke and no red lights, but I'm trying to create some atmosphere here, gimme a chance will ya?
Anyway, FD 2 was running on a generic P1 233 MMX under the ancient Voodoo 1 technology at 800x600. Flight modelling and physics and ballistics was pretty much complete. The only controller was a Microsoft Sidewinder Pro, no separate pedals and the throttle wheel had to do for throttle control. Next time, will ya get some real gear down there guys? It wasn't til I'd done my flying that I even remembered that I had rudder control on that damn stick!
Ok. Enough complaining. The first thing Matt showed me was the articulation on the gear and flaps. Jaw dropping stuff. The room grew strangely quiet as we watched the gear unpack itself from a Spitfire, a P38, a Corsair and a Buffalo. Geez, are these guys nuts or what?
Ok, so obsessive and compulsive tendencies are good in programmers. I knew that! When the gear was supposed to drop straight out, it did so. If the real aircraft had the gear folding out and then the wheel pivoting forward, thats the way it was. On the Brewster it kind of unpacks from the fuselage and then gets itself oriented for landing.
Hmm. There is some serious modelling in the works here. Next we looked at flaps. Three flaps on each side of the Corsair all take their proper place. Each is modelled separately. Each contributes appropriately to lift and drag. Each can be damaged. (Are you sure these guys don't work for Janes?)
We went into the cockpit on the P38. Ya gotta love this aircraft: all 2770 polys of it. It looks pretty sweet. Once in the cockpit we hung the aircraft in mid air so we wouldn't be distracted by having to survive the enemies zooming around us. That gave us a chance to increase throttle and watch the alpha effects of the props on either side of the cockpit. The hum of the engines sounded great, from the throaty rumble of low revs to the roar of full throttle. But what was astounding was to see the stroboscopic effect in place. As the prop decelerated it would appear to change direction, just like in real life! Great bloody grief! You can see the alpha (transparency) effect from the prop in the screen shot top right in this article.
Sounds all around are great, from the sound of another aircraft on your wing to the sound of guns blazing, and even different sounds for different guns! Not only that, but whether you are firing the guns yourself or being fired on, the flare effect is astonishing! I didn't get a glimpse of this in a low light situation, but you will be able to tell a knife fight from a fair distance just by the glow of the guns. When someone takes a serious hit and a fire breaks out, you'll know it!
Click to continue
. . .
The cockpits are looking incredible, just as the screen shots have been showing. Better, the instruments work no matter what view you choose, fixed, virtual cockpit, panning, etc. And as in FD original you can choose to display full instruments, partial (top half only) or go to the vc view. I was pretty surprised when they zoomed out in the vc view. This feature,which I wish was available in F22 ADF, is like a camera mounted where the pilot sits. You can therefore adjust the angle of the view to your preference.
Speaking of preference, these guys are big on user configuration. They plan to allow us to map keys, map chorded strokes (an ALT key combo) to our liking, and probably also configure views and view angles to our liking.
There will be default settings in place for the average user, but if you want to make changes you can do so.
There are a few hardware features in discussion that will be ground breaking if they are implemented, but we'll wait for final word on a decision before spilling the beans. Meantime I can tell you that, like Falcon 4, FD 2 will take advantage of dual processors if you have em. They are currently multi-threading the code.
As Fighter Duel original, multiplayer has been designed from the ground up. Multiplayer action is the heart and soul of this game so it will likely be every bit as stable and powerful as in the famous Netduel version.
AI? You want AI? AI was pretty impressive in the original and the goals are just as high for this new sim. Effects are impressive as hell, which they should be given the hardware that is available these days! Explosions, smoke, damage modelling looks to be top notch. The physics and ballistics model may be the best ever seen on a PC flight simulation. Check out our previous interviews for more detail.
The sim is currently being ported to the latest iteration of a graphics engine designed in Helsinki, not far from where Innerloop worked their magic for JSF. The "SurRender" engine has been designed in cooperation with SPGS, so that the specific needs of this sim would be adequately met. The core engine runs in 24 bit color, but boards like 3dfx will only output 16 bit color. Software mode will also be 16 bit if your hardware is capable. If you don't have 3d hardware you will get 16 bit color with frame rates that will likely surprise you. V2 support? Of course!!
Install will give you a recommended level of graphics detail but you will be able to play with the settings according to your preference for detail/frame rate balande. Recommended platform is a P166 with 32 meg of Ram. Those of us with 3dfx boards will be running this thing with max settings and NOT looking back.. er, well maybe checking six a lot!
What aircraft will we fly? There will be more than 25 WWII aircraft to fly including multi-engine, jets and experimental types. Aircraft 3D models are completely new, high-resolution models with hi-res artwork. In addition to all the aircraft in the original FD, the following are some of the new aircraft that will appear in FD2:
- Me 163 Komet
- Me 262 (jet)
- J7W1 Shinden
- P38 L Lightning
- Tempest V
- P-47 D Thunderbolt
- Brewster Buffalo
- Hawker Hurricane
You want MORE screens? Here are some new ones for your enjoyment!