Falcon 4.0 Preview by Al Giovetti Price: TBA Genre: combat flight simulator Release: June 1997 Developer: MicroProse Programmer: Music: Art: Producer: Scott Randolf Publisher: Spectrum Holobyte Phone: 1-800-695-GAME, 619-693-1200 Website: www.microprose.com Requirements: Windows 95, Pentium 90 MHz with 3D Accelorator or 166 MHz without, 2X CD ROM, Company line: Spectrum HoloByte, Inc. (Nasdaq: SBYT), a leader in realistic air combat simulations, introduces the next generation of its award-winning Falcon flight simulation game, Falcon 4.0. Spectrum HoloByte's Falcon software is widely recognized as a leader in the flight simulation category, and this fourth generation release will not disappoint flight simulation fans! The game will be developed under the MicroProse® brand and distributed worldwide. The Falcon 4.0 game is a Windows® 95, multiplayer air combat simulation game set in the Korean peninsula, with a real-time war in progress, in which the player takes the role of a pilot in an F-16 jet fighter. Providing the most authentic F-16C flight modeling to date, this game will include highly detailed models of avionics systems, weapons systems, threat environments and artificial intelligence. The terrain, planes, air bases, weapons and other objects in the simulation will be rendered with detailed 3-D texture-mapped graphics using digitized aerial photography, creating a highly realistic visual experience for the player. Falcon 4.0 will contain a complex Campaign Manager, which creates a living, evolving land/air/sea battle within which F-16 pilots can fly their missions. Pilots can choose their missions based on the context of the ongoing battle which allows pilots to personally make a difference in the campaign. History: Spectrum Holobyte has sold over one million copies of Falcon flight simulation software. The first Falcon game was introduced in 1987 for IBM and Macintosh formats, with a quick port to the Atari ST and Amiga. I remember first playing the game on the Atari ST and later the IBM. The game introduced several innovations, such as the padlock view that allowed full simultaneous 360 degree view that allowed the sim jock to follow the enemy pilot anywhere. Falcon 3.0, which many feel is the best flight simulator ever produced with tons of missions in many campaigns, was introduced in 1991. Falcon 3.0 is one of the best selling games and most highly rated games of all time. Plot: You are a single F-16 pilot fighting a war in Korea for the United States. Game play: "We believe the Falcon 4.0 game will set a new, higher standard in the flight simulator category," said Chris Deyo, Vice President, Marketing of Spectrum HoloByte, Inc. "The amazing terrain and the continuous battle promise to immerse the player into the most realistic combat simulation ever." Scott Randolph said, "Targets don't "pop" up either. If you can get a strong enough radar return, you can see targets out to the 80-mile limit of the F-16's radar scope. Since we've got a real campaign, we know what every vehicle in the game is doing all the time. If you decide to take an alternate route to your target or ignore your target entirely, that's fine. There will still be an interesting world with a war on out there." Detailed models of F-16 avionics, weapons and threats will provide a most realistic combat flight simulation. You fly: You fly against: Scenarios: Falcon 4.0 is planned with only one theater of operations, Korea. Scott Randolf commented on the on theater by saying, "Those of you who've flown NovaLogic's F-22 Lightning II game may worry that Falcon 4.0, with only one theater, won't have enough variety in our scenery. Not to fear. Unlike F-22, Falcon 4.0 will have a full-sized realistic map so that you can fly from one end of Korea to the other and see all the variety of terrain you would expect as you pass over rivers, lakes, cities, forests, farmland and mountains. The scenery is good enough that it's fun to simply fly around and look." Mission types: Artificial intellligence: "The ongoing simulation of a complex air/land/sea battle, called the Campaign ManagerTM, will create all of the tension, chaos and adventure that exists in modern air combat, immersing you within the game." Views: Graphics: Falcon 4 will have 3-D photorealistic, texture-mapped graphics. Senior Graphics Engineer, Scott Randolph shared the following thoughts, "When I started on this project, Flight Unlimited was just hitting the shelves. We were all impressed by its ground-breaking realism, but knew we had to do better. We needed to build a world 2,500 times larger with much greater visual variety and still retain the same level of realism and fit on one CD-ROM. A year and a half later, we've accomplished that and much more." "All of Falcon 4.0 will run in "high color" mode (that is, 65,000 simultaneous colors). In addition, both the setup screens and the flight simulation have been optimized for high-resolution display modes (800x600 and 640x480 respectively). This will allow us to provide unprecedented image quality and, just as importantly, variety. In the past, games have been limited to 256 colors for entire scenes. The result is often "cartoonish" looking environments. With thousands of colors to work with, our artists have been free to accomplish wonders. " "We started out with satellite photographs and elevation data covering all of Korea. This gave us good-looking terrain, but we wanted more. The satellite images just weren't crisp enough. We went out and found hundreds of aerial photographs from all over the country. These we cut up, processed and rearranged to supplement the satellite data throughout the map. The result is a startlingly realistic pilot's-eye view of the world with excellent detail no matter where you fly on the map." We've put a great deal of effort into ensuring that you do get to see the terrain; and lots of it. Few things are more frustrating to me than flight simulations that seem to think the entire world is shrouded in dense fog all the time. We've certainly got haze and fog in Falcon 4.0, but on good days, you should be able to see major terrain features 50km or more into the distance. Of course, nobody can see a airplane or a tank that far away, but you can certainly see the ground! We simply won't tolerate mountains "popping" up in front of you at the last minute. We've developed a "level of detail" system which reduces terrain detail in the distance smoothly so that important terrain features are preserved, while subtle details fade out to maintain performance." As was mentioned previously, Falcon 4.0 has been designed from the beginning to be a multiplayer game with a real-time campaign running all the time. One consequence of this is that war goes on 24 hours a day (in game time, of course). We've put a lot of effort into making sure that the night-fighting experience is just as intense as the daylight missions. A lot of little things go into making this happen. When the sun goes down, it stains the western sky crimson. The city lights begin to come on, and as night sets in, the stars emerge. If you're lucky, it isn't a moonless night, and you'll get some additional lighting in the target area when the moon rises. You'll have to keep an eye out for AAA and SAMs, but at night that job is a little easier thanks to the muzzle flash and rocket exhaust. I've talked a lot about the terrain now, but what about the 3-D objects in the world? We've gone all out in this department as well. We've got several hundred air, sea and land objects from the U.S., South Korean, North Korean, Russian and Chinese inventories in the game. Each object has had its own textures individually drawn to capture specific details. The objects are dynamically lit by the sun and are Gouraud-shaded for a smooth appearance. Animation: Scott shared other thoughts on animation, "Both the terrain and objects for Falcon 4.0 are all new. We've designed cutting-edge performance into the engine from the start. Both software-only and hardware-accelerated graphics are supported by the game. The one surprise might be that, although we're running under Windows 95, we aren't using Direct3D. We simply couldn't get the performance and quality we need out of the current version. Instead we've built on previous work by Intel and come up with our own graphics engine which produces excellent image quality and performance. We're planning to ship with support for 3-D cards including those with chips built by 3Dfx, Rendition, Cirrus Logic, ATI and S3. As more hardware is coming out all the time and discussions are ongoing, this list is likely to evolve and grow. " "We've built in hundreds of special behaviors like retractable landing gear, traversing and elevating turrets, rotating antennae and moving control surfaces to give each object a life of its own. We want to give you that deep-down feeling in your guts when you look out the window and see all the AAA guns tracking you." Voice actors: Music score: Sound effects: Utilities: Documentation: Multi-player options: The game will be programmed as a multiplayer air combat simulation set in the Korean peninsula, but further details are unknown. Hints: Cheats: Journalists: References: Tim Soete, http://www.gamespot.com/previews/falcon4/index.htmlE3 debut press release: http://www.microprose.com/press_releases/E3_Falcon_4.0.htmlhttp://www.microprose.com/gamesdesign/falcon4/f4index.html