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Falcon V - Murky at Best? Part 2

by Robert Mitchell

Article Type: Feature
Article Date: December 05, 2001

Back To Part 1, The History of Falcon

eRazor and RPG

Around September of 1999 (give or take) a few individuals that were impatient with Microprose’s patching process (we were still waiting for 1.08 at that time) on the “official” Falcon 4.0 forum at Delphi started hacking F4’s data files with hex editors in an attempt to make more realistic weapons, loadouts, etc.

The iBeta logo

Fast forward to December 7, 1999. Hasbro Interactive pulls the plug on the Microprose Alameda, California team shortly after the 1.08us patch is released to the public and support for Falcon 4.0 is gone. Before their last day at Microprose, Falcon team members delivered two updated executables to the Falcon community. 1.08i1 and 1.08i2. They contained a few final bug fixes and addressed some multiplay issues.

In the late winter/early spring of 2000, iBeta, the company that had performed QA testing for Microprose/Hasbro Interactive, began making the “realism patches”. Glenn Kletzky-iBeta CEO, Eric Marlow-iBeta RP executive producer, and Leonardo Rogic-iBeta RP associate producer led the iBeta realism patch group. They made it up to Realism Patch 3 before bowing out of the project and dropping out of the aftermarket “mods scene” in the Falcon community.

The reason that iBeta stopped making their realism patches is because some still unknown person or persons put F4’s source code on the internet for download. Being third party QA testers iBeta did not want to disqualify themselves from working with other software companies by dealing with stolen source code. iBeta had been working on the realism patches with the full knowledge and permission of Hasbro Interactive.

The eFalcon logo

The illicit origins of the source code did not stop all members of the community, however. A team that’s now become famous in the Falcon world formed and has made dramatic changes to F4. The “eTeam” (named for their enigmatic leader ‘eRazor’) using the leaked code, has added a smorgasboard of features not found in the “stock” version of F4 such as 32-bit rendering, a new avionics suite, and a host of other changes too numerous to mention in this article.

With iBeta stepping out of the patch scene, previous members of the iBeta realism patch group stepped up to fill the void and formed a new realism patch group, known simply as RPG. They picked right up where the previous iBeta team had left off, which was easy enough for them as the vast majority of its new members came with them from the former iBeta group. Releasing realism patches 4 and 5 thus far, the RPG has made terrific fixes to the AI, avionics, weaponry, and more in F4.

Since I had the opportunity to speak with both Gilman Louie and Leon Rosenshein (Gilman, of course, is the founding father of the Falcon line and Leon was an engineer on the Falcon 4.0 team), I asked them both what they thought of all the great addons and mods for F4:

Gilman Louie: I love the addons and mods. The quality and breath of the modifications have amazed everybody who worked on Falcon 4.0. I am a user and a fan of many of the add-ons. I think what the fans have done to continue the Falcon series through user groups, patches, and add-ons is beyond anything that the development team and publisher could have hoped for. When Falcon first appeared for the Macintosh and IBM PC, a fan wrote that Falcon was not so much a game, but a way of life. The Falcon 4.0 extensions have proved this out. Falcon fans have added so much to the product that they have exceeded the support of what a single company could ever provide for a PC based simulation. Everybody that I have spoken to that has been apart of any of the Falcon efforts have greatly appreciated everything that the fans have done to keep the dream alive.

Leon Rosenshein: The more the merrier. When we built it we wanted people to be able to extend the game. The fact that they went farther than we had thought just means we did a good job of giving the community what they wanted.

So, we have basically two different groups working on the same flight sim. Did this create problems for fans that wanted to patch their F4? Yes. Was there a ‘rivalry’ (friendly or otherwise) between the groups? Yes. What did this mean to you and I, the users of their products? It meant that the two weren’t 100 percent compatible with one another. It didn’t mean that parts of each couldn’t work with each other, but it meant that you pretty much couldn’t have both in their entirety. You had to basically pick one or another.

Yes, there were ways of making them work together, but not all the bits and pieces of one of the realism patches would work with an eRazor executable. What this did, really, was to split the Falcon community. There were two camps, “iFalcon” and “eFalcon”, and being simmers we argued amongst ourselves about which was the better of the two. (I’m speaking in general terms, I realize that in real life there are NO “black and white issues.) But to get back to my point, we had two different means of patching F4, again they were the “i” and “e” variations. What to do to homogenize these two different versions into one easy-to-swallow tablet? Enter SuperPAK.


Late last August, the Falcon4 Unified Team (F4UT) announced the launching of the SuperPAK all-in-one patch project. Their stated goal is to release SuperPAK in two steps. Step 1 being a patch to incorporate, once and for all, the “i” and “e” Falcon variants; more specifically, it is to unify Realism Patch 5.0 and eFalcon 1.10. Step 2 will be to include some all-new features and fixes. Here’s a list:
  • New High resolution UI
  • Several new theaters
  • In game theater switcher
  • The improved MP Code that never made it into 1.10
  • Very much improved flight models
  • New Dx8.1 Graphics engine
  • Revamped, realistic (and hopefully more intelligent) ATC
  • Improved avionics for current weapon systems (i.e HARM)
  • New avionics for new weapon systems (i.e JDAM)
  • Even more improved AI
  • Realistic AWACS screens in the UI

Coming SuperPAK enhancement

They did state, however, that these features are time-dependent. They may not get all, or even any of them. They may get more of them, but as of now it’s an “X” factor.

The F4UT was formed when Glenn Kletzky negotiated an agreement with G2 Interactive for permission to work on F4. The agreement can be read here

One of the things that the F4UT wanted to accomplish right away when they were founded was to eliminate the division in the community ranks between the RPG (iFalcon) and the eTeam (eFalcon). The way they attempted to do this was having people joining the team read and sign a document called the “Greater Good”. The “Greater Good” can be read here.

It was after reading the first paragraph of the Greater Good agreement that the seed of this article was planted. It says the following:
All patches and works currently in the public domain which somehow work to enhance Falcon 4 may have copyright issues (real or imaginary) believed by their authors. The F4UT respects the authors and the work they have done. However, all work done in this realm is in actuality the altering of previous work, or at best, a developed modification designed to work within the framework of someone else's work. This circular reality makes the individual copyright issues surrounding the vast number of publicly available modifications to Infogrames F4 IP murky at best.

Murky at Best? How can copyright be murky? Even though the source code was stolen, does that make the work of others based on this code non-copyrightable?

The last paragraph in the agreement really had us scratching our heads:
The F4 Unified Team recognizes that this policy will be challenged with a thousand opinions. The time required to debate our policy would take time away from the greater good (which is the act of creating this SuperPAK in the first place). So as a matter of Policy, no member of the F4UT will attempt to defend or comment on this policy. The policy will speak for itself and any member of the F4UT, by signing this document to become a member, has agreed to this policy.

Now we really were concerned, "…no member of the F4UT will attempt to defend or comment on this policy."? At best, this appeared to be pseudo-legal gibberish, at worst, something bordering on unconstitutional.

Were these agreements actually legal and were they really binding? Were they for the "Greater" good or the good of a select few? Rather than speculate all day about this, the first thing we did is have an attorney specializing in intellectual property rights review them. He said:

There is nothing legal about either of these documents. At best they represent either a memorandum of understanding or a letter of intent. If G2i produced these documents and then wants to sue someone who has agreed to them, they better have something else up their sleeve because these documents on their own won't do the job.

Rather than being legal, I see these documents as being the basis of an understanding that shows some sort of direction that may encourage the programmers to work in conjunction with G2i, all for the greater good.

In the long run, there is nothing in these documents that will allow the programmers (or their quasi-united groups) to continue to work on this project (if they wanted to) if G2i decided to vote them out or change the focus/direction of the software.

I haven't quite figured out the 10 member board. Presumably this board is to give programmers the opportunity to be heard / considered and having 5 voting and 5 non-voting members is somewhat strange and without any obvious purpose.

We approached Infogrames' PR and legal departments for comment on the Greater Good and SuperPAK agreeements. To our surprise, neither department was aware of these agreements! We sent them copies of the agreements and they were reviewed by Infogrames' legal department. When asked what they thought of the agreements, they formally declined to comment as to whether they endorsed them or not.

So, despite all the legalese, it doesn't appear that the agreements are binding after all. Smoke and mirrors?

What Does it all Mean?

If Falcon V becomes a reality, what will it all mean? Let's break it down to the essentials:
  1. G2 Interactive: If Falcon V comes to be, G2i will have created a commercial for-profit product by using non-paid F4UT / SuperPAK-created code. From a business standpoint it's brilliant. As a business, one can hardly blame G2i for wanting to reap a profit, right? Or can they?

    Since 1998, 582,000 copies of Falcon 4.0 have been sold. The vast majority of these were sold at the discount price of $19.99 so not much in the way of profits was made by MicroProse / Hasbro / Infogrames. If G2i can produce a non-buggy first release of Falcon V, they can keep the price well above $19.99 indefinitely. At $39.99 Falcon V will easily eclipse Falcon 4.0's profits with fewer sales. The profit windfall is further enhanced by the fact that G2i's programming costs will be virtually nil.

  2. Code Hackers: The members of the F4UT and others who have produced add-ons and mods (code that the F4UT's Greater Good agreement authors claim are residing in the "public domain") won’t get paid for their hard work. Then again, most of those who have worked on F4 code hack improvements for years now didn't do it for the money. Nobody else, however, stood to make a profit from their work either, with the exception, possibly, of Hasbro Interactive / Infogrames.

    Will the talented code hackers have second thoughts before giving away their mods, add-ons and improvements if they know they can be scooped up by a commercial interest and put into a game without their consent?

  3. PC Gamers: It means that we, the "Regular Joe" members of the community, will have a better Falcon game to play.

  4. Game Industry: If G2i succeeds, their success will change forever the way PC games are developed. How so? Well, how many other games are on the shelves right now that were created by the user commuity? Counter-Strike? Well, that’s an add-on, not a stand-alone game. Falcon V is to be a stand-alone, end product. That’s the difference.
Bottom line, will things be changed for better or worse? That is an excellent question. Will whoever has the crystal ball please report in. Only time will really tell. In the meantime, people will continue to have strong opinions one way or another.

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