The fortunate flightsimmer

Mudspikers, flightsimmers, friends…

A busy Christmas schedule have kept me from playing with my SimBox, and before the holidays there was some technical downtime. Basically, I haven’t been playing with my toys as much as I would’ve liked.
Today I got to experience the latest DCS updates, including the improved Normandy map.
Normandy now looks and performs better than before… Gotta love that!
In fact, this is typical DCS behaviour, isn’t it?
Sure, sometimes we see early access that may be too early and shouldn’t have access and sometimes two bugs are introduced when they squash one. But long term, one must admit that DCS is a better product today, than it was a year ago, or two years ago. Things are moving in the right direction.

Flying in the Spitfire, over Normandy, marveling at the sights, the FPS and the new Merlin sounds, in my VR goggles, I couldn’t help myself from reminiscing about flightsims past…
Because I have flown the virtual Spitfire before.
I think my first virtual Spit was “Spitfire 40” on the C=64.

Things have happened, since then.
If you would’ve told me, back then, I one day would be flying a flightsim with a photoreal Spitfire with realistic systems and physics, using a stereoscopic display sitting inches in front of my eyes, I simply wouldn’t have believed you. And I had a pretty vivid imagination, as a kid.

I’ve been a flightsimmer since the 80’s, and it’s always been a lot of fun. Flightsims have always pushed the computer performance envelope and they have always been “As Real As It Gets”, to borrow an old Microsoft slogan. It’s just that the “As It Gets” boundary have been pushed closer and closer to reality as computer hardware has allowed and software developers have learned to utilize it.

When I was a kid, every boy wanted to become a pilot. Well, perhaps not all of them, but a lot more than today. Flying have become increasingly commonplace and the magic of it all is almost gone. Even I had to endure some ridicule during my youth, because of my passion for aviation. These days I doubt kids dream of becoming pilots anymore. They certainly don’t dream they fly Spitfires over Normandy.

So, my friends, I’m afraid we’re a dying breed.

This is why I am so thankful for the preciously few flightsim developers out there, who keep on feeding me these awesome toys to play with. They sure wouldn’t have any trouble finding more profitable software to code… But I like to think that these devs share my passion. They make these flightsims because they want to and because they can. Sure, they make money, doing it, but look at it this way; I fly aircraft for a living, which is a fulfillment of my dearest childhood dreams, but I don’t do it for free. Because you can’t put a dream on the family dinner table. The same can be said for the producers of our beautiful flightsim controllers. I’m sure they too can find more profitable ventures, if they want to.

So, as 2019 and the decade comes to a close, I want to say that I am grateful for being a flightsimmer during the best age of flightsims. I am also grateful for the community we have here. Because what fun is a hobby without friends to share it with?

One day the high fidelity historical flightsims will join the history they simulate, and our breed will wither away…

But, in the immortal words of Cpt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell:

See y’all in 2020!

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Post. Of. The. Year.

Brilliant sentiments there buddy.

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Been there all along the way too. What is being done today is just amazing compared to where things were when I started.

Wheels

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I was actually just thinking about this the other day, remembering my flight simulation history over the years. The first one I can remember was SubLogic’s Thunder Chopper on a Commodore 128D. As most of you are no doubt aware, SubLogic made the original Flight Simulator which was later bought out by Microsoft to make MSFS. It’s actually playable at the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/msdos_Thunderchopper_1989

4465-4-thunder-chopper

My father was a US Army helicopter pilot, so naturally as a child that was what I wanted to grow up to be. Unfortunately, I started going deaf when I was 6 years old and so it remained a forever unattainable goal. I never got an opportunity to be involved with the aerospace industry either and my life circumstances prevented it from becoming a career path. Simulators were a way to fill the void and fortunately the 90s had a lot of variety. We’ve discussed this here before, but back in those days the bar for a simulation was quite low. 25 years ago, if you’d told us what we’d be able to do today and the things we complain about, we’d probably tell ourselves we we’re looking at a gift horse in the mouth! I certainly never would have seen myself creating a highly-regarded low-fidelity helicopter mod, much less all the other things I’ve done over the past 20 years. And to think I first started doing that 17 years ago!

While I am grateful for the handful of hardcore combat flight sim developers, I do feel the need to add the caveat that we shouldn’t get to the point where we’re afraid to criticize. I’m well aware of how difficult it is to create a flight simulation, to say nothing of a combat simulation, but being the “only game in town” should not be used as a shield against criticism. Developers are only human after all, and people make mistakes. We owe it to our community to calmly and clearly explain our misgivings about a product, not sweep them under the rug because we’re afraid that may put the lights out. We’re passionate about this hobby and those who develop for it have to be especially so; you can’t just phone it in and call it good. Bars have been set in terms of quality and fidelity, and while not everyone can reach the same levels, at the very least we expect an effort to be made to reach for it.

We talk about flight simulation being a dying breed and I can tell you all kinds of reasons why that is. 30 years ago, two buttons and a stick was good enough. 20 years ago, 4 buttons, a twist stick with hat, a simple slider throttle got you by. Nowadays you need a full on HOTAS setup plus head tracking or VR to enjoy a lot of our niche, on top of a computer system powerful enough to handle the demands. TrackIR is still $150 US and not everyone is technically adept enough at building their own head tracking solutions. The bar to entry is quite high, furthered by the need to have people who are passionate about the subject. How do you do that in a real world where aviation trends are toward automation, with pilots likely to be replaced in the near future by computer systems? How do you get younger generations interested in a subject that they themselves have no connection to? For example, governments worldwide are passing more and more regulation over remote control model aviation, making it more and more difficult to find an entry into the field. I wouldn’t have half of my electronics skills if it weren’t for model aviation, which translate into so many areas outside of that hobby.

I recall reading 10 years ago about a surprising trend for younger generations: fewer and fewer people wanted to be astronauts, scientists, pilots, engineers, programmers, etc. and were instead aspiring to be aides for celebrities. Yes, you read that right: aides for celebrities. They didn’t aspire to be celebrities themselves, merely assistants to them. What happened to that desire to do more? That spirit of challenge, trying new things, solving problems? I hope that with ventures like SpaceX we’ll see a rekindling of that desire for exploration, of pushing beyond the horizon. Games like Kerbal Space Program have certainly fueled some imaginations and will hopefully continue to do so.

I can only hope the next decade will bring us more titles like VTOL VR, which are accessible yet still realistic enough to get others hooked on. We don’t need to make it all dumbed-down arcade stuff, we just need passion and effort. And I think there’s more than enough people out there willing to take the torch if we let them.

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My thoughts too. Ever since I was a kid and saw my first F-16 at an airshow, I’ve been in love with that plane. It has the lines of a racer. Read everything I can get my hands on. Played every PC game that has it included. Didn’t think there was any better than Nova Logic’s F-16 until Falcon 4 came out. Then the BMS did amazing work.

Now this!

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image http://www.gb64.com/Screenshots/J/Jet_Combat_Simulator_(Disk_Version).png

This was my first

Fighter Pilot C64. Check out those graphics and colours. :sunglasses:

I still pinch myself now. Only 35 years have passed since then. :open_mouth:

That was released in 1984, 35 years before that, WW2 had only been over for 4 years. :crazy_face:

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I owe my career to those early flight simulators. I’m so thankful that they led me to where I’m at. And like @Troll, I’m glad there are developers out there that carry the flame. I still can’t believe some of my VR flying experiences…I could have never imagined it more than three decades ago…

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I remember sitting on my living room floor in the late 80s watching top gun for the 50th time. I wanted nothing more on this earth than to be strapped into an f14 tomcat and fired off a carrier. The problem was i was English, too young and to be fair I wouldn’t of concentrated enough in school anyway. I’ll never live that dream now. Its impossible. The tomcats are all scrapped and I seriously doubt my ability to sweet talk the Iranians into letting me strap into the Ali cat…

But after years and years of reading and keen interest into that particular favourite plane. After all the fleet defender games and arcade versions of ‘after burner’. All the books and the grainy YouTube videos of air shows past. After all this time Heatblur finally let me live that dream. I have a Tomcat that if I take screenshots at just the right angle I can convince people is a picture of a real plane…its that good.

I have found out that I couldn’t just jump in that 30 million dollar machine in real life and own the skies. It’s hard to fly. It bites. It shakes, it wants to kill its pilot if you make a mistake or treat it with disdain or disrespect. It vibrates and screams hell fury when you wind the throttle up and its bloody terrifying to tell the truth. The Thing is Heatblur and Dcs is that good that I have now got to the closest I’m ever likely to be to the plane. I’ve tamed it. Its mine forever now. Its not some silly CGA graphics or an 8 bit beeping coming from a PC speaker its an ACTUAL F***ING F14 TOMCAT!!! AND IM SAT IN VR IN THE COCKPIT FLICKING SWITCHES AND LOOKING OVER MY SHOULDER AT GOOSE!!!

Dont you feel like you made it?? I show pictures to people on my phone and they actually ask me if that’s a real plane!!! How fricking cool is that!! Top gun!!

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That was also one of my first experiences of glorious flight simming, back in those days a little bit more imagination was needed, and now when I look back and compare to what we have now… I am still blown away. I remember seeing footage of real combat flight siims on TV back in the 80s and even 90s and wonder what they would think of the stuff we have now

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Good ol’ Bruce Artwick… We owe him! :wink:

I do agree! And I know flightsim developers encourage constructive criticism. In fact, they depend on it.
But, as you know, not everybody are versed in the art of criticizing in a constructive manner :wink:
Take the DCS F-16 EA debacle, as an example. Yes, it was released too soon. Does that matter today? Is it a problem, today, that the F-16 module wasn’t as complete as other modules, on EA release?
We need to take a few steps back, sometimes, to get a good view of the bigger picture and consider our “problems” in the longer term.
The fact that we users want things done differently, isn’t necessarily something we need. But, I’m preaching to the converted…

Very true. It’s a paradox that it’s also why flightsims of today are so entertaining. But no, they’re not as accessible as they used to be. And sometimes when developers try to make their sims more accessible, many of the self proclaimed ‘Hardcore’ users starts frowning and complaining.
Compare that to RC aircraft. That’s a hobby that required a big effort to enter into. The entry cost was huge and you had to build the aircraft and learn to fly it.
These days you can buy very cool ready to fly aircraft with auto leveling features and you can even practice flying it on a PC based flightsim. It’s also a lot cheaper than it used to be.

Yes, there is hope in the indie developer market. VTOL VR is a great example. Much like X-Plane was a one man show, once…

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You hit that one out of the park, @Troll. You don’t need me to tell you that kids still get it. They come into our 1980’s flight deck and marvel. They see a myriad of push buttons, rotaries and circuit breakers and wonder how 2 or 3 people can manage all that. They see the yoke and ask, “Do people still drive through the sky? I thought a computer was the pilot now.” They sit in the seat and throw the yoke around and grudgingly shuffle back to their seats grinning ear to ear. On busy weekends when the diner is enjoying a big lunch croud, the Pitts gets plenty of kids to come over for a peek when I park at the pumps. So long as people like us, pilots real and virtual, can share the magic, people will continue to see flying as the ultimate dream.

You are acknowledging a point. But I have to disagree. My first flight sims were SubLogic’s Flight Simulator II and EA’s F-15 Eagle. My computer was an Atari 1200. I don’t remember what my dear dad paid for that thing but I am sure that it’s the equivalent of $1500 to $2000 in today’s dollars. I bought my first PC when I started flying charter in light twins and had a little spare money. That PC was $2000 in 1989 and was paid in installments. I didn’t have enough money left over the buy a math coprocessor so Falcon 3 ran like crap. (Wing Commander, though. Wow!). Today, you can get a rocking PC, a crappy monitor (monitors are sooo “Gen X”), a Rift S, and a perfectly nice Logitech HOTAS for way less than what I paid back then. Plus, most people (if CNBC is to be believed) have more disposable income now than we did back then. So not only is the dream reachable; it’s affordable.

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Yeeeeah… But I think it’s on another level. Sure, there are kids who are passionate about flying, but I used to hang out at the local field just looking at airplanes. At 15 I spent a weekend as a walking signpost at a motor fair, for an MD-500 pilot who did roundtrips. He paid me with a 15 min flight, and I thought I got the better end of the bargain…! Yeah, stupid kid! I don’t think kids would do that, today. Maybe they’re smarter than I was? :wink:
But sure, kids probably still love things that move and make noises. But then they grow up. But I absolutely agree that we need to make the magic happen. But then they close the door to the monkey cage (flight deck) and visitors are no longer welcome, unless it’s a special occasion or on ground.
I’m looking forward to Top Gun 2, this summer. Remember what the first one did for recruiting? I doubt we’ll see the same effect from this one. Would love to be proven wrong though.

Yeah, that’s true, but the level of complexity is way higher today.
And if you want to go completely nuts, like we do, there’s another $1000 in VR and HOTAS. Oh! I forgot $300 pedals :slight_smile:
But yeah, it cost money back then as well and computers wasn’t in every home.

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Had a really cool flight this morning. I’m still doing some research on the JF-17 for writing purposes, so just hopped on a public MP server (104th?) that is running some type of Blue vs. Red scenario. Spent twenty minutes on the ramp getting my JF-17 all ready to go. Generally speaking, the scenario was to fly west out of Qeshm toward some Blue forces that were running amok over there. Great.

So I’m sitting there at Qeshm on the ramp, dorking around with my systems (why can’t I get THAT light to go out…) and two pairs of F-16s go taxiing by…hit the runway, and go roaring off into the fight. It was awesome. They were human flown, and they were all probably on SRS (I haven’t delved into that yet)…and the feeling of being part of something was really cool.

So I finally get whatever light out that I’m trying to get out…and head out solo up some of the canyons north of the coast, planning to come screaming in with some anti-radiation missiles in the Blue sector. Only problem is, halfway to the target in my fuel gulping JF-17, I realize I’m carrying SD-10 missiles, not LD-10 missiles. Ugh…oops…

I dropped into Lar, hoping to be able to change loadouts. No joy, the base was friendly, but it only had A2A missiles and fuel tanks and some pods, no LD-10 missiles. Dang…

So I grab some fuel, and head out to the southwest. Unfortunately, I don’t know how the IFF works in the JF-17. I selected Mode-6, which I thought someone said might be good enough-ish. I point my nose over the ridgeline, and turn on my radar which to this point has been in silent mode. I see four contacts. Three of the four show up as red on my radar. No idea…is red friendly or enemy…because I’m flying for the red side. I lock one of them up, and he turns toward me. I have F-14 and F-16 symbols on the RWR…still no idea since they are flying for both sides on this map. I hear a missile warning tone warning of an incoming missile, I fire mine (out of range) and I beat it back to the north side of the ridgeline gulping gas.

My missile must have missed and his missile must have missed. I head back to my base to get the weapon I wanted. About halfway back…I’m just cruising at MIL power and sliding up the right side of my canopy I see an F-14…he pulls in front of me, waggles his wings, and then he jets off to the right. WTF…I didn’t even know he was behind me! I’m so bad at this.

Land at my base, request rearming with the proper missile. Get the ground crew to load a new data card, get my SMS stuff right, and blast off back to the same area I was…

About two-thirds to the way to the target, I get a missile warning…and in my haste to try to exit the area…run into the ground.

One missile fired. No kills. But a whole crapload of fun.

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Yesterday I flew Flying Circus with a handful of my old squad-mates, one of whom I haven’t heard from since I stopped playing Rise of Flight four years ago. My wife said that for an hour I sounded like a screaming, giggling 12 year old. That is certainly how it felt. We live in the golden age!

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You didn’t mention if this was in VR or not :slight_smile:

No, this one was actually without VR or TIR because I was referencing Chuck’s Guide to the JF-17 on my iPad. Mostly trying to figure out the modes of the LD-10 and IFF. Later in the evening I probably had some people wondering if I was ever going to taxi off the ramp on the Hoggit server…haha… Just sitting there pressing buttons. I had gotten back from a sortie, and had over-G’d my inboard pylons and I couldn’t figure out how to get ground service to clear the error and damage. I tried a new payload and DTC cartridge but could not get the stations working again.

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I love reading stuff like this…I remember reading how you loved flying RoF online because of the people in your squad

edit- Woohoo, still got the funny hat

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Well if our flight time is lined up, I’ll happily join you on the 104th. I’m partial to the Hornet (CF-18 pilot from the Quinte Intl. Airshow 2003’s fault) but they usually have F-15’s on the Red side last I saw.

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Judges you in Viggen

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