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With a dynamic campaign, a fully integrated ground war, and sporting the latest technology in radar (APG 68) and avionics, F4 will simulate the newer Block 52 model F16.

In a nutshell, Falcon 4.0 is a Windows 95, multiplayer air-combat simulator set in the Korean peninsula, with a real-time war in progress in which you take the role of a single pilot in an F-16C Block 52. The recent release of the demo has us all hungry for more. Here is a lookdown cockpit shot..

F4 Cockpit
Click for larger.

By the way, if you are running the F4 demo under Canopus Pure 3d, add the line "Pure3D=gr3dfx.mpr" without the quotes to the MPR97.ini file in the demo directory to get the Pure3d working properly....

A few weeks back we fielded an interview to Leon Rosenshein, Lead Producer for Falcon 4. This is one of the most extensive interviews we have ever done, so we owe a special thanks to Leon, Robin and the Microprose team for the time they invested answering our questions! Below is that interview, interspersed with shots you can click on to bring up larger images...

Csim: Thanks for your time Leon! What is your relationship to Microprose and the production of Falcon 4?

Leon: I am the Producer and Lead Engineer for the Falcon 4.0 project.

Csim: When was Falcon 3 released and what in your view has made it a classic?

Leon: Falcon 3.0, released in 1991, set a new standard in the flight sim industry. In my opinion what made F3 a classic was that it was the first sim to provide a significant amount of realism, along with a dynamic campaign, and multiplayer capabilities.

Csim: It seems weve been hearing of F4 forever! How long has it actually been in process? Why has it taken so long?

Leon: The team has been working on F4 for just under three years now. The biggest reason it has taken this long is that we've set the bar so high. We decided a long time ago that just doing an SVGA upgrade to F3 would not be enough. Every aspect of the game has been updated to reflect today's technology, both in the A/C as well as the computer running the game.

Colors become darker and subdued when flying under a cloud, and correspondingly brighter when flying out of its shadow into the clear. F-16's have the appropriate "stealth" gold tint coating to their cockpit canopies, and the other craft have a similar attention given to their models.

Csim: What are the design goals for F4?

Leon: In short, to make the most engaging, realistic simulation of the F-16 available today. Our goal is to be the best in every area of the game, including gameplay, graphics, flight modeling, avionics, campaign model and networking.

Csim: Can you put F4 in perspective for us, comparing it to other Viper sims like F16, Back to Baghdad, etc?

Leon: As I said above our goal is to excel in every area. While some games might have done one thing well (B2B's avionics for example), no one has done everything well.

Csim: Have there been actual military people involved in the production?

Leon: Yes, as with Falcon 3, Pete Bonanni, an F-16 pilot w/ the Viginia Air National Guard has been involved with us since the begining. Also, we have been communicating with several other military sources for our threat laydown and electronic order of battle.

Csim: In what areas will F4 break new ground?

Leon: F4 breaks new ground in 4 major areas.

The first and most obvious is the graphics. We have applied photo-textures to the entire theater of operations. While some games have used satellitte data for their textures, we have chosen to use aerial photography in order to get the requiered 4 meter resolution.

The second is the aircraft/avionics. We have modeled the F16C Block 50/52, with an accurate representation of the AN/APG 68 radar and the Fire Control Computer that goes with it. The radar has over 10 different modes, each modeled in detail with its own stengths and limitations.

The third is the dynamic campaign. When flying in campaign mode the war goes on continusly. There are no 8 hour planning blocks, and things could change while you are flying, and you could find youself re-tasked in the middle of a mission. Also, time spent in the outside the cockpit counts. You could be looking at the INTEL briefing for a mission, and suddenly be scrambled to protect the base against incoming aircraft.

The fourth major upgrade is the networking. F4 has been designed from the ground up as a networked, multiplayer sim. When you are flying there is no difference between local and remote entities. By building around a DIS like model we have been able to construct a networking model that is limited by network bandwith rather than number of players.

F4 A10

Click to continue . . .


Csim: Tell us more about the F16 we will be flying. What is significant about the Block 52 variant?

Leon: As I said earlier, the game revolves around the F-16C block 50/52. The only difference between the two blocks is the engine, the Block 50 has the GE engine, and the 52 has the Pratt Whitney engine. The C model is the significant part. The C has the newer AN/APG-68 radar, Aim120 capability, and the Harm Targeting System which allows the F-16 to perform the Wild Weasel roll. In addition to that, it has dual MFDs, and a redesigned cockpit from the A model used in Falcon 3.

Csim: Design notes on F4 give us reason to expect top notch modellig in avionics and flight modelling. How far has this been pressed? Is it possible to induce a spin?

Leon: We've pressed the flight model as far as possible. Pete Bonanni and his squadron mates have been flying the game and passing the details back to us. It is possible to both spin and deep stall the flight model, but it is hard to do, just like in the real thing.

Csim: How much has real world physics been integrated into the modelling? Will we be able to land on the runway if one of our main gear is damaged and hold the aircraft until we lose sufficient lift on the wing to keep the ac level?

Leon: We've put as much physics in as the CPU would hold. You will be able to land on one wheel, and hold the other side up, or land gear up completely, but in that case you have to set it down much more gently, and the A/C will be in the maintainance shop for a few days.


Csim: I understand radar modelling has received great attention. How many modes will we have?

Leon: There are over 10 different radar modes. The most important IMHO are ACM (Air Combat Mode), RWS (Range While Search), GM (Ground map) and GMT (Ground Moving Target). Each of these modes, as well as their sub-modes and the other major modes has it's own stengths and weaknesses, so knowing which one to use can give you a big advantage.

Csim: How will you make this sophisticated simulation accessible to the novice? Are there training missions? If so, how are they laid out?

Robin: (Robin Heydon, Senior Software Engineer) There are a number of training missions that will introduce the aircraft, its flight characteristics and tactical awareness with the avionics. You will start with the introducion to the flight characteristics like turn rates at varying speeds, followed by landing and navigation. Then we show you all the weapons systems and radars, and finish with BFM (Basic Fighter Maneuvers). Oh and don't forget the Air-to-Air Refueling.

Also, as a way to ease people into the game we have also made sure to include three different levels of avionics, starting with the arcadish "see everyone within 80 NM in front and behind me", then a midlevel "see everything in front of me", and then the real radar. Targeting is similarly scaled, with easy modes auto-locking, and the harder modes requiring the player to do the work.

Csim: How much of the manual will be devoted to ACM?

Leon: We are writing a whole chapter on combat tactics. Pete Bonnani (Author of Art of the Kill) will be writing this.

Csim: Lets talk about the AI. Will AI pilots use the same flight model as the virtual player? Will they have realistic loadouts and weight restrictions? Will they have the same G force limits?

Leon: One thing we have done to enforce fairness is to use the exact same flight model for all aircraft (changing data as needed if course). Our AI thinks and acts like a pilot, using the stick, throttle, and rudder to fly the plane, and pushing the approriate switches to control the avionics.

Csim: Will AI pilots skill increase over time?

Leon: Yes.

Csim: Some simulations are now taking into account the decreasing capacity of the pilot to withstand high g forces. How have these forces and their effect on the pilot been modelled in F4?

Leon: Yes, G load over time is part of the equation used to calculate how "blacked out" a pilot is.

F4 Refuel

F4 Refuel
Refueling shots contributed by Pete Hawk.

Csim: Mid air refueling has come a long way this past year and looks to be taking another step in F22: ADF. Will F4 take this on?

Robin: We have air refueling, and its hard. In the Campaign, there will also be a tanker or two around for you to refuel at, if you have need. However, the campaign will not design a mission in which refueling is required. If you move your waypoints it may become so, but that's up to the player.

Csim: What kind of enemies will we see? Is the Microprose team aiming to include the latest Soviet aircraft like the Su 37? If not might we see some of these later?

Leon: The initial release will include aircraft and ground vehicles likely to be seen in a current day Korean conflict only. We are planning a Mig-29 add on, and the vehicle set has not been finalized yet.

Csim: Will we see ground troops in F4?

Robin: Ground Troops are modelled within F4.

Go to Falcon 4 Interview Part II

Falcon 4.0 DEMO: Microprose


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Last Updated December 19th, 1997

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