The sights and sounds of Interactive Digital Software Association's (IDSA) E3 1996 were overwhelming. Billed as the world's largest tradeshow, set in the LA Convention Center, the Electronic Entertainment Exposition offered an excellent opportunity for this Fighter Pilot-turned-Reporter to view the players, products and raw power of this 10 billion dollar industry. E3 also offered a glimpse of the future of interactive entertainment\edutainment with product launches, seminars, media events and the opportunity to meet and talk with the people who are making things happen at every level in every area of the industry, from Finance to R&D. It was also an excellent chance to become acquainted with new PC based flight simulator software and hardware offerings, the objective of the visit.
The first stop was at Origin for a preview of Jane's Combat Simulations AH-64D Longbow which opens in June of 1996. The combination of Jane's Information Group database and the developmental capabilities of producer Andy Hollis' design team have given this game a high degree of authenticity. The combination of superb visual displays, true flight control\avionics\weapons characteristics and controls, wide variety of missions (Panama, Gulf War, future Baltic) and an interactive online tutorial make this a "must buy" for those who want real world gaming. Those whose skills don't extend beyond fixed wing will appreciate the interactive instructor pilot and beginners' missions.
The next visit was to CH Products for a test flight of their force-feedback joystick prototype. They have teamed with Immersion Corporation to create a stick which provides output from the game action to the gamer. The output functions currently include jolt, jolt-button reflex, vibration, buffeting, axis force, and vector force. The stick is still under development and is currently the priority project with a target release date of December. (As a result, the Fighterstick has been de-emphasized and now has the same target.) A test flight revealed the stick's potential for adding a new dimension to flight simulations but the project is in it's early stages and it's too soon to draw conclusions. Thrustmaster was next on the list as they were showcasing their new release, the F-22 PRO joystick (target ship date is June, SRP $219.95). Basically a follow on to the F-16 FLCS stick, this product features digital and analog programmability and materials upgrades to improve durability. The stick closely approximates the feel of the actual F-16 stick and is the best flying stick tested to date. Review to follow!
The remainder of the short visit was spent sampling various flight simulator software offerings and arranging future reviews. There are many new entrants and a wide variety of Flight Sim software products. This niche is highly competitive but still has room for additional products and refinement of existing ones. For the rest of the story, we'll have product reports on our websight as they become available for review. Check Six!
Here is a list of the PC-based E3 Flight Simulator releases as provided by "The Official Show Daily", E3's excellent onsite newspaper.
Interactive Magic's Air Warrior II, an online air combat flight sim by Kesmai Corp. with 75 practice missions included. The 2.0 version allows players to fly 30 different airplanes in WWI, WWII, and Korea.(Third quarter '96, MSRP $54.95)
Interactive Magic's F-16 Fighting Falcon, a Windows 95 air combat flight simularor featuring the F-16C and USAF tactics and weapons. Flexible enough for novices and veterans alike, the game has a multiplayer feature enabling two teams of up to eight players each to compete via null modem or network. (Second quarter ’96, MSRP $69.95)
Interactive Magic's Hind, a follow on to the Apache helicopter simulation which has a "free-for-all" arcade mode as well as sophisticated missions for advanced gamers. It also features the same multiplayer capabilities as F-16 Fighting Falcon. (Second quarter'96,MSRP $59.95)
Spectrum HoloByte's Falcon 4.0 is the Windows 95 version of this well know game featuring detailed models of F16 avionics, weapons, threats, and AI for increased realism, a complex battle running in the background from which players can choose missions, and 3D texture-mapped graphics. It supports network play as well. (First quarter '97,MSRP TBD)
Spectrum HoloByte's Top Gun: Fire At Will! places the gamer in Maverick's cockpit in the Navy's Top Gun school and then in various hotspots around the world. Actor James Tolkan is there to spur on you on and full-motion video rounds out the action. (February '96, MSRP TBD)
Maxis' SimCopter is a 3D helicopter simulator which provides various increasingly complicated missions within the cities the gamer has created in SimCity 2000. (Forth quarter '96, MSRP TBD)