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On-Line Flight Sims Part 1

Guest TOSGcentral

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Guest TOSGcentral



This thread is primarily intended for information and interest, but perhaps it will also spark some discussion.


What I will do is go through the mechanics of on-line flight simulator gaming, what it is, how you may become involved, some of the pleasures and also the frustrations that are inherent.




These programmes broadly fall into two categories – “Civilian†and Combat Games. The most notable of the former is the Microsoft Flight Simulator series that have become sophisticated enough to provide valid flight training from basic to IFR levels, replicate airline routes and flight procedures etc. They are primarily single player operation and I personally know of no on-line group facility for them.


The combat sims come in a variety of levels from very basic “shoot em ups†to highly detailed and sophisticated programmes that increasingly have moved towards player involvement with historical air battle scenarios (eg fly in the Battle of Britain etc).


As they are combat programmes then there has to be a suitably challenging opponent and this is provided by an Artificial Intelligence (AI) that controls other aircraft either flying with you or against you. Thus you can play alone and in the later programmes you could spend several hundred hours and have never explored them fully.


Commonly there are a series of difficulty settings from “no crashes†to total realism (or at least as much as the flight model is capable of). This choice is almost essential as perforce with single player situations the majority of the buying public have to teach themselves to fly.


This should not be underestimated! Even as an experienced pilot/instructor with over 150 types in my log books, I have found the really high class sims take a great deal of practice just to operate the aircraft. This is aggravated more by increasing insistence that you do have to take off and land!


Increasingly, although these programmes may be used as games, they are becoming very realistic flight simulations that have great appeal to real life pilots – either because you did not make it into the Air Force but want to know what a modern jet is like – or – history/nostalgia is important to you and you want some “hands on†with aircraft types now long gone.


The days of the stigma of adults playing with kids games has well and truly gone and I doubt that more than a fraction of the buyers ever experience what their simulations can give – but just blunder about for a while in no crash mode.




As the combat sims serve the greater part of the buying market there is more money to go into realism – and fierce market competition amongst producers. As a result (and despite what may be written on the product box) these creations are constantly pushing the current technology limits and in fact may already being marketed in anticipation of forecast equipment improvements to enable them to work up to their full potential.


So, you need a damn good computer set up, very fast, heaps of RAM, especially a very fast video card, the biggest screen you can afford, a sound system – and then the important bits – the controls!


The one things these programmes cannot give you is “feel†of G loads and turbulence. They do well in simulating some aspects via grey outs, screen shake and a lot is done via sound effects – but you need the best quality controls that you can afford.


These controls are primarily the joy stick and rudder pedals. Both of these are relatively expensive. The joystick particularly has to be fitted out with throttle, trims and the more advanced ones have view controls. These all go to releasing your hands as there are a great deal of keyboard operations required on sophisticated simulations.


Equally, the rudder pedals (while not vital and not just providing more of a “being there†impression) are of considerable assistance and make the experience a lot more practical.


For on-line play it is almost essential that you have an earphones/microphone headset as well.


On top of all that the producers issue programme up-dates. These are usually free and are obtainable from the manufacturers’s web site. These usually are programme refinements, bug fixes and programme additions such as maps, new ground objects and even entire flyable aircraft.


These additions are not vital to have for home use but are of considerable significance if you want to operate on-line in a multiplayer scenario – which is where I am going next!


(Part 2 follows)



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