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What Happened To The Flight Sim?

Posted on 14th Oct 2009 at 09:59 by Antony Leather with 24 comments

Antony Leather
Cast your mind back to the 1990s. Chances are if you were in to PC games at the time you remember playing a flight sim, or at least some kind of game that involved a set of wings and a propellor or afterburner and some machine guns or missiles.

Fleet Defender, Aces over Europe, Red Baron, Battle of Britain, Hind, 1942: Pacific Air War, Air Warrior 3, Apache Longbow, Operation Overlord. I could go on for quite a while before I have to mention Microsoft Flight Simulator which was just a drop in the pond. But this isn't a list of flight sims released in the last 20 years, it's that of those to hit the shelves in a fraction of that time in the 1990's when the PC gaming isle in your average Game store was a little longer. It was also crammed full of flight sim titles.

So what happened? In case you haven't noticed, flight sims have been listed in the endangered species list of PC game genres for several years now. With the demise of ACES Studio, the guys behind Microsoft Flight Simulator, the longest running game franchise on the PC, there are but a handful of companies actually left in the genre now - and even fewer produce combat flight sims!

What Happened To The Flight Sim? What the hell happened to the Flight Sim?

The saving grace for flight sim fans like me has been the WWII IL2 Sturmovik series and indeed titles like the more modern Lockon: Modern Air Combat. They were few and far between but extremely well polished and supported, meaning that half a decade on they are still very playable.

The rise of the console has definitely had an impact not just on flight sims, but on the PC gaming industry as a whole. However, one thing many people forget is that it's currently impossible to have a decent flight sim on a console. While other genres have spread their wings and span the PC and several consoles, flight sim fans still only have one medium on which to play. The fan base is still there, waiting, hungrily for the likes of 1C Publishing and Microsoft to throw them another scrap of meat.

What Happened To The Flight Sim? What the hell happened to the Flight Sim?

Flight sims are tricky to get right too and take a long time to produce. They're usually amongst the most demanding games out there too and even the fastest modern PC will be battered into single digit frame rates if you ramp up all the settings in FSX despite it being three years old. Even so, modern flight sims have undergone giant leaps in terms of graphics and realism in the last few years and it's a great shame Microsoft axed the studio behind Flight Simulator when it did.

What Happened To The Flight Sim? What the hell happened to the Flight Sim?
IL2 has been the pinnacle of combat flight sims for a while now and it's graphics are leaps ahead of games we saw in the 1990's

Tom Clancy's HAWX, (forgive me for mentioning this in a blog about flight sims!) isn't a flight sim by any means but something interesting happened to me a few months after its release. Friends started emailing me asking if I "knew any good flight sims?". I happily pointed them in the direction of IL2 and LOMAC, but wished there was something newer and not too complex I could have suggested.

In short HAWX had revived some interest in this genre and I remain totally convinced that despite the lack of titles, the flight sim fan base for the PC is alive and kicking. There's certainly no shortage of new peripherals either with Thrustmaster and Logitech having released new joysticks and other flight sim related gear in just the last few months. The modding community is also alive and well, as are third party addons.

The next game in the IL2 series, Storm of War: Battle of Britain has been in development now for what seems like an age and is (probably) due for release in the next 6 months - but it only covers WWII. There's been a distinct lack of modern combat flight sims for a while and this is where some considerable interest is. With Flight Simulator gone and little happening on the combat side of things, there's a huge gap in the market that's waiting to be filled.

24 Comments

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kenco_uk 14th October 2009, 11:11 Quote
I still have Falcon 4.0 somewhere. Any idea if this works fine in Win7 x64?
l3v1ck 14th October 2009, 11:24 Quote
Ah, the Commodore Amiga and F18 Interceptor. That's a blast from the past.
binary101 14th October 2009, 11:52 Quote
Read about Storm of War Battle of Britain in 2006 said it was going to be released at the end of 2006, been waiting for 3 years now and still there is little to no new info about the game don't think another 6 months will do it.
Xir 14th October 2009, 12:13 Quote
...equally, what happened to space-sims?
chocolateraisins 14th October 2009, 13:30 Quote
I want to fly my Sopwith Camel again.
Paradigm Shifter 14th October 2009, 13:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xir
...equally, what happened to space-sims?

This.

As fun as X3 can get at times, it's not a patch on Freespace 2 for combat.
Combatus 14th October 2009, 13:54 Quote
This might be of interest to you all! Thanks to Joe for letting me know this morning!
Paradigm Shifter 14th October 2009, 14:17 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Combatus
This might be of interest to you all! Thanks to Joe for letting me know this morning!

*does happy dance*

:D
SimoomiZ 14th October 2009, 16:19 Quote
After it was reported that some of the 9/11 people repeatedly practiced flying into the twin towers and other targets on PC flight simulators, I guess the desire to make what would be higher and higher detailed more realistic versions sort of dried up.

Though now with things like ATi's eyefinity wrap- around and DX11 graphics, no doubt a very realistic home flight sim could be created, probably comparable to the real training simulators.
Xir 14th October 2009, 16:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SimoomiZ
After it was reported that some of the 9/11 people repeatedly practiced flying into the twin towers and other targets on PC flight simulators, I guess the desire to make what would be higher and higher detailed more realistic versions sort of dried up.

I repeatedly practice taking over the world, that doesn't mean C&C gets closed down :D

Ah...freespace 2.
I also liked starlancer and freelancer, but hey..nothing much happening is there? (or was the "this" by Paradigm Shifter supposed to be a link?
f14billy 14th October 2009, 16:42 Quote
There is one in development...

www.fighterops.com
paisa666 14th October 2009, 18:24 Quote
damn it!!

now when I get home I gonna start playing F16 Multirole Fighter again... thnx bit-tech :P

I also remember myself playing the really old F15 Strike Eagle in my father`s 486 pc :D

http://www.ellosnuncaloharian.com/imagenes/pantallas/big/F-15_1.png

Nostalgic :P
Dragunover 14th October 2009, 23:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xir
...equally, what happened to space-sims?

Freespace 1/2, Descent 1/2/3 were incredible space/flight sims, even if they weren't realistic at all.
Jetfire 14th October 2009, 23:27 Quote
Fighter Bomber on the Amiga and ST.

Took aaaaaaaaaaages to turn the plane. lol
C-Sniper 15th October 2009, 02:34 Quote
Why do you need a sim when you can do it for real :D
Although real is about $140/hr more expensive :(
Xir 15th October 2009, 09:31 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by C-Sniper
Why do you need a sim when you can do it for real :D
Although real is about $140/hr more expensive :(

You get to shoot people from the air for 140$/hr? I'm coming!

"...Death from Above..."
gavomatic57 15th October 2009, 10:22 Quote
I still play FSX and the Acceleration expansion pack regularly. It's awesome, especially now it can be run at or close to maximum detail.
Combatus 15th October 2009, 10:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xir
Quote:
Originally Posted by C-Sniper
Why do you need a sim when you can do it for real :D
Although real is about $140/hr more expensive :(

You get to shoot people from the air for 140$/hr? I'm coming!

"...Death from Above..."

+1 Just give me a Cesna, some pipe bombs and some duct tape.
nicae 16th October 2009, 23:22 Quote
Modern flight sims aren't that fun with their missiles and green HUDs. What's with all the chaff farting anyway?

A real man takes his opponent with MG fire.
Or lasers. Gotta love Tie Fighter! :D
BLC 19th October 2009, 09:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jetfire
Fighter Bomber on the Amiga and ST.

Took aaaaaaaaaaages to turn the plane. lol

+1 MILLION!

I spent hours and hours on that game and wore out many joysticks...
Zero_UK 20th October 2009, 09:08 Quote
I was hoping Arma 2 would have more realistic jets, helicopters etc personally :(
DOA Draven 22nd October 2009, 18:18 Quote
Still play Lock On, perhaps my most played game, maybe I'm just sad or a dying breed.

If another decent Sim hits the market, I'd be up for it, or even Descent 4 :-)
z0ssurf3r 26th October 2009, 13:24 Quote
Has anyone looked at x-plane from www.x-plane.com

It is a simulator and can be even FAA approved.
NightrainSrt4 29th October 2009, 18:19 Quote
I still remember playing my cousin's Red Baron Game as a kid. I haven't played a flight sim in ages. I think I would actually enjoy a new fresh combat flight sim that isn't arcadey. Hmmm. . . off to look for something that will fit the bill.
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