Mindscape/SSI have made some VERY good simulations, though their reputation probably isn't as large as they deserve. Still, for those who got their feet wet in Silent Hunter, they are known to be SERIOUS simulation designers. 1998 and 1999 may finally place them up in the league with the big boys: Janes and Microprose.
Arleigh Burke Class.
First, Silent Hunter II will be released, taking us back to the deep in a simulation of the war in the Altantic, this time from the German side. Unlike its namesake, this one will have a multiplayer component allowing for wolf pack tactics. But the better news is that an interoperable sim will arrive later on, currently titled "Destroyer Command."
The modern component of SSI's Digital Combat Series may ultimately shine more brightly still, competing head to head with Janes Fleet Command for best of the genre benders. Harpoon IV is destined to allow strategic control of assets at the grand level while allowing players to get into the action in the first person in vehicles like the Soviet Flanker, at least the carrier version!
But of course, it won't stop there. Since Harpoon is classically a naval battle game, we will likely see command of certain Allied and Russia naval assets, and perhaps even submarines. An Allied naval fighter is another likely bet, probably the F-18 and if we're really lucky, maybe the Tomcat or Sea Harrier also.
As with Fleet Command, we can look for click and drag control over assets, and since this is a mid to late 1999 scenario, we would probably also have multiple monitor support. Personally, I can envision my office running this game across three monitors: a real time Theatre Command view where I order a strike of a ground based position, a real time view of the cat launches happening on my carrier, and another view showing me the battle scene (the gods eye cheat view).
It doesn't take much imagination to suppose that LAN meets would take on a whole new dimension in this kind of game! Getting six or eight guys together might mean you only need two or three system units, but six or eight monitors. And I can also imagine some unique multiplayer scenarios.
The following is mostly conjecture, but suppose that Fleet Command or Harpoon 4 or 4.5 allowed eight players, with two players (one on each side) acting as Theatre Commander, actually ordering the intercepts and CAPs and Strike missions, and controlling the movement and engagement of naval assets also.
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Then picture the Theatre Commander of Soviet forces with his system box and two monitors. He monitors the strategic Theatre command view from his 21" monitor, with the ability to bring up a zoom window on a particular area. He checks the battle scene as his strike force arrives and he zooms in to get a closer view.
Meanwhile his second monitor has a real time view of the Flight Leader , but the Flight Leader in the Su27 is NOT an AI machine, but one of his LAN buddies flying in the same room in real time (Is that Su27 PINK??)
Meanwhile, somewhere in Denver Colorado "Sleepdoc" and "Snacko" and a few of their buddies are playing for the Allies. Eric "Snacko" Marlow is Theatre Commander, directing traffic while Glen "Sleepdoc" is flying LEAD in an F18 force that is scrambling to deal with the hostile incursion. Of course, we can't leave out Crash and Rhino of the 209th. These guys are both flying F16s as CAP and are already racing to engage the incoming force = )
"Snacko" and "Sleepdoc," however, are not satisfied with a 21" hi res display, they have the Theatre map on a 60" projection system, making their War Room look like something out of the movies! "Snacko" kicks back in an easy chair with his IR mouse, vectoring aircraft and sending orders to the naval commanders.
Just when he thinks things are under control, someone else is in the Soviet LAN group is getting a good fix on an American carrier, and that isn't a Flanker he's flying! In fact, the only thing vaguely resembling wings on that vehicle are the diving planes! As soon as he lets go with his three fish, another LAN player at Allied HQ commanding a destroyer is getting ready to loose some serious hardware on top of that ambitious tin can!
In the real time air engagement, the 209th in F16s is doing fairly well against the Pink Flamingos in their Su27s, and all the while the respective Theatre Commanders are monitoring the entire operation in real time while other players are engaging on the ocean. If the Soviet Commander loses his carrier, where are Papadoc and crew doing to land their returning strike force?
Well, you get the picture. If these interoperable titles can handle eight players, perhaps they will allow two Theatre Commanders and three other real time first person players on each side. Then we can begin to have the kind of involvement we've been waiting for, beyond merely flying the airplane or commanding the ship, actually directing the war too!
1999 will likely show us the future in a way we have not yet seen, combining this kind of genre bender real time strategy/simulation with solid multiplayer support and allowing real wars to be waged in real time at a level of complexity and involvement barely dreamt of to date. Maybe we will even see the arrival of some awesome new peripherals in the form of virtual reality headsets to allow we pilots a degree of SA that we have longed for.
In the meantime, we have simulations arriving on the scene that allow player control of assets beyond anything yet seen. With Falcon 4.0, Total Air War, and Flanker 2.0 we will be practicing for the strategy/sim titles of 1999 and beyond! Let the games begin!