Don’t Panic

by François A. ‘Navman’ Dumas

 

I noticed a lot of panicky posts lately on various forums, websites and even in magazines. All about Microsoft’s new venture, MS Flight.

I say: don’t panic.

Nope, it doesn’t look like a real ‘flight simulator as we know it’, and appears to be much more limited than what we have today,
and much more ‘gamey’. Possibly.

So what?

Let’s be honest; you all KNEW there wouldn’t be an FS11 anytime soon, if at all.
Instead of focusing all our ‘simmers’ attention to what looks to be yet another console game, albeit it one about planes instead of shooting things, we might as well look a little further and first of all decide what we REALLY want. Because, as you will also know, there are plenty of people around who LIKE video games, console games and PC games, ‘even ‘ with planes in them ! *grin*.
And no doubt there will even be a group within that audience who are NOT necessarily bent on shooting everything within sight.

All-right, so I don’t really believe that either. Hey, so shoot me ! *grin*.

Listen, I cannot tell you too much about the game because I still have a signed NDA contract with our friends in Redmond. You’ll see what I mean soon enough.
The fact you are reading HERE means that you are;
A) a guy or gal, wanting to make money from MS Flight or
B) a flightsimmer.

Those on A) now may leave the room. The ones under B are my target audience. So let’s see what the options are, and WHY you should NOT panic!

Let’s go thru the various sims …

 

FSX

I KNOW there are proponents and opponents. There always will be.
I KNOW there are flaws in the system, there always will be. And I know it isn’t perfect. It never will be.
But unless you’re a diehard X-Plane fan you’ll have to admit that this still IS the most comprehensive and most realistic affordable SIMULATION available to us, bar none. And because of that simple fact there WILL be further development of add-ons, and tools for quite a few years to come.

 

Prepar3D

Lockheed bought/rented a license from MS when the latter hadn’t (maybe) decided yet to let one of their most popular programs to go bust (and after having royally SNAFU’d their ESP initiative).
They now have the right to market it for ‘serious’ simulation purposes – at a pretty steep price. But hey, we’re all pretty serious simmers around here, aren’t we? So it looks like there will be a market for Lockheed’s Prepar3D which basically is FSX with a growing number of improvements (!)

 

X-Plane

For some reason you either love it or hate it, but let’s face it, Austin’s baby is here to stay and provides an alternative for those who just don’t like MS FSX (or FS2004). X-Plane is now in version 10, and like FS has continued to improve over the years, although it is less popular, less ‘open’ and hence has attracted much less add-ons.

It IS a serious sim and worth our attention.

 

FS2004 (this may surprise you ….)

Yes, you read that correct.There are still PLENTY of people ‘stuck’ with FS2004 for a number of reasons:

- FSX requires more expensive hardware
- they don’t want to lose their add-on investment
- some don’t even like the way FSX looks/behaves
- there is more freeware for FS2004
- and developing for it is still easier if that’s what you got used to

And I won’t even mention those that are still running FS98 on their home cockpits.

 

CFS2

MS Combat Flight Simulator 2. Yes, not 3!
All insiders agree that 3 was a botched up attempt to make an arcade-ish game out of 2. So 2 is the simulator. And yes, it is FS98 technology at best. But it works. You can ‘fight’, and you have the WORLD to do it in, not just a limited theatre.
And oh yes, you can make – and get – free add-ons for it.
In spite of many other, more modern sims, CFS2 is STILL a viable option.

Falcon 4.0 or now

If you’re into complex military simulators there is none better and more evolved that Falcon and its derivatives and onward developments. Yes, there are other, more modern sims (I’ll list them below, but Falcon 4.0 is the CLASSIC and because of ever on-going add-on development and even core re-development it still holds its ground with the modern sims!

If you happen to have an original copy, then please nurture it….. it is simmers’ gold!

And so on……

There are quite a few other sims that most certainly deserve mentioning here and some I might admit are even better than the ones above…. in certain ways. NOT in all aspects.

There’s the Russian designed Maddox Games IL-2, now already getting long in the tooth a bit, with some sequels added to it.
There’s Strike Fighters that still continues to be developed and has a steady following. I think they were followed by Lock-On from DCS, yet another Russian design team.

There’s the also Russian designed Word War 1 sim ‘Rise of Flight’ (the one where you can buy additional aircraft going forward). And more recently we have seen the DCS titles Black Shark, Black Shark 2 and A-10 Warthog. The last 3 are REAL, complex and highly detailed simulators much like Falcon 4.0 and not for the faint hearted.
A lot of learning to do before you can even fly around, let alone fly combat missions… and return from them!

 

x … Take On Helicopter

The new ‘sim’ from the guys in Czech who brought us the military – ground forces – simulator Flashpoint. I had pre-ordered it because I was craving for a proper battle helicopter sim after the last version of Longbow 2 was put to rest on my old Pentium PC…….. I wore the thing out playing it!

Alas, Take On Helicopter is nowhere near that classic. It has graphics that you either love or hate – the latter for me – it has a ‘story line’, it has minimal simulation controls of the helicopters and it covers a very limited area. Sure, there are good things to be said about it too.

It is fun that you have actual people walking around and interacting with you – like in any modern-day computer game. And you can get out of the choppers, walk around buildings, get into other vehicles and drive around in them too. Actually…… it bears more than a little resemblance with.. *gasp*…… MS Flight!

Sorry guys, I want a ‘simulator’.

 

x … FlightGear

Here’s an open software attempt at making a competitor to MSFS. I commend the people building it for their work and trying it. It takes a LOT of perseverance to get where they are today.

Which, I am sorry to say, is still way off from FSX.

But, you can’t beat FREE – although FSX can be found for a few Dollars too these days.

Which reminds me that I must mention ProFlightSimulator….. the biggest SCAM in the industry. Here’s a shameless guy who copied the FREE software of FlightGear onto a disc and sells it to the uninitiated for mucho dollars.
Tar and feathers would have been his thing back in the old Wild West days. Unfortunately our judiciary systems nowadays are more geared at making sure decent people pay their taxes than getting criminal individuals behind bars.

Alright.’Nuff said.

I hope you agree with me that there are in fact an increasing group of designers and companies making REAL flight simulators, some even civilian. And if you do, you may also agree with me that all the huffin’ and puffin’ over MS Flight is just adding to the hot air that sometimes so prominently seems to fill our hobby. Well all right, flight simulation IS about air, after all.

Folks, let’s focus! After all this IS a hobby, something we do for fun and should continue to do. There’s plenty of opportunity to do just that with what we have already… and I am pretty certain that development will continue in the years to come on ‘old’ programs and with new designers hitting the market.

Happy Flyin’,
Francois Dumas
February 8th, 2012