|E3 1998: Modern Flight Sim Survey
by Leonard "Viking1" Hjalmarson
One of the great surprises of E3 has gone unmentioned at COMBATSIM.. until now. Novalogic is set to break into a broader market this summer with the release of F16 Viper and MiG 29 Fulcrum, both of which will connect to F22 Raptor for multiplayer engagements on RAW. Novalogics acronym for this environment is IBS, Integrated Battle Space.
Okay, sounds tame so far. Whats the big deal? The big deal is a new graphics engine that runs under Direct3d at resolutions up to 1024x768, more attention to detail in avionics and systems modeling, and FREE multiplayer action!
Hmm. I notice you're paying attention now = )
Seriously, there is a different feel to these new sims. As you can tell from the F16 cockpit above, they LOOK entirely different as well. My time with the simulation was short, but I managed to fly for a few minutes and fired a couple of missiles. Performance looked and felt quite good. The flight model is a full six DOF.
F22 Raptor will be upgraded for this coming event, and can you imagine the fun of 12 players in the same arena flying these three aircraft? I wouldnt' be half surprised if Novalogic added the Su27 to this mix, or a Russian stealth fighter to even the odds.
One of the things that has kept me OFF RAW up to now has been the size of the engagements and artificiality of the environment. Yeh, I know its supposed to be FUN, but FUN for me is partly defined by realism. After all, where are you going to have thirty or forty F22s duking it out for victory? Sorry, just not real world.
However, with this DACT environment and the possibility of more limited tactical team engagements, hmmmm... I'm getting interested! The games will be released with campaigns and single missions, so that this is NOT a king of the skies engagement. Add to this a more realistic treatment of the systems and avionics, and I'm about ready to dive in. What is Novalogics goals in this area?
I asked the demonstrator at E3, and he told me that they have been working closely with Lockheed Martin to get the F16 modeling right. As if that weren't good enough, they are also working closely with a former Russian cosmonaut and test pilot to get the MiG 29 right! This former pilot had substantial stick time with the MiG 29, the Su 27 and the MiG 31. Now you know why I was speculating about the next in the series =)
Its great to see Novalogic move toward the more serious simulation genre, and I wish them success. Can't wait to get some more stick time with this one!
Its tempting to say that I've saved the best for last... But really its a very subjective assessment. I'm a nut about dynamics, and Flanker 2.0, along with Falcon 4.0 and Total Air War, will expand our definitions of those categories this year. For me that is GOOD NEWS!! Let me begin with some E3 impressions.
Picture a softly lit room. There are computer stations ringing the periphery. Toward one end, secreted away in a corner, a large Pink clothed pilot is staring transfixed at a 21" high res display. He is evidently in control of an very beautiful, though highly pink, Su 27. Hey! Is that PapaDoc??
Well okay, so he wasn't in pink. But it was PapaDoc, and the game was Flanker 2.0. After finishing showing someone the external views, he shut down the mission portion and ran up an AVI taken in sim. It may not have impressed you, but it impressed me! When you want a summary of the vehicles you will fight or fly in this game, you get a moving camera view of said vehicles lined up along a runway.
WOW. Object detail is stunning, just as in the screens we have seen. The carrier was the most detailed I have seen in any sim anywhere. But it should be given the hardware we have these days. A simulation engine should be designed for extended life so that the hardware six months from now can be fully utilized.
The camera panned along the trucks, BMPs, ZSUs, aircraft, tanks and you name it. The row stretched on and on and on. If all goes well, you may be able to download this vision of grandeur in another week or two.
After this we went back to flight, and that beautiful aircraft was silhouetted against some of the best looking terrain ever seen. The terrain rivals that in F22: ADF in Glide at 800x600, but in fact is more detailed when low. The early alpha was laboring under some hardware difficulties and so we didn't see very much flight.
After this tour I was ushered into the dim bowels of the meeting rooms. Uniformed guards checked my picture and searched me for hidden cameras. After receiving clearance I was whisked away to a private meeting room to converse with some of the principals of Flanker 2.0, including Neil Soane, Nick Grey and Igor Tishin of Eagle Dynamics in Russia.
I actually taped this interview, but will save some of the details for our premiere print edition. Here, in brief, is what impressed me about this meeting.
You may have wondered how and why Su 27 1.5 was able to break the ground it did, with some of the most realistic flight and weapons modeling yet seen. One reason is the Russian connection. Another is that Nick Grey, one of the producers of this simulation, has himself flown the Su 27 and performed the cobra manouver. Nick is actually Director of The Fighter Collection, an organization dedicated to the restoration and preservation of war birds.
Nick told me about a recent air show in the UK where there were THIRTEEN fully restored Spitfires in the air simultaneously! This is a first since the end of WWII. The coming Legends Air Show on July 4th and 5th will be at Duxford and will feature many of these same aircraft. The Fighter Collection takes care of many of these treasure, and the people involved are obsessed with detail, history, and flight. They LOVE warbirds!
That has to be GOOD NEWS when talking about simulation design. In fact, Nick told me that the goals set for flight modeling, weapons modeling and AI in Flanker 2.0 will indeed surpass version 1.5 considerable. But thats not all!
There are a number of dimensions of expansion for 2.0, and all of them have a high DROOL factor. First, the mission editor. Good grief! This thing looks incredible! You can run it at 1024x768, and some of the details have still not been revealed. But when you bring up the large image above, with the pop up window lower right that shows your route relative to an actual relief image, you begin to get the idea.
Second, the AWACS component. Apparently the AWACS module in 2.0 will take on a dimension of tactical control, mirroring the ability of the real world platform. Now we will have not only the gods eye view of the world but actually vector intercepts and take command of the air battle. We will also see more wingman control in 2.0.
Third, we are going to see inter-operability soon after the release of Flanker 2.0. Initially this will mean a MiG 29 addition to the world, but it doesn't stop there and SSI have major plans in this area, some of which will be known soon.
For the IAF report go to World Air Power: IAF
© 1997 - 2000 COMBATSIM.COM, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Last Updated June 5th, 1998