History of Air Combat Simulator Games

Feb 16, 2018 | 1 Votes by jose 10 rate Your vote
When it comes to video games, one of the most played genre would be the flight combat simulator. This traces way back to the advent of video games prior to the rise of the micro-computers. WWGDB - History of Air Combat Simulator Games

As early as the 1970's, when the concept of the gaming arcade started to catch on, flight and air combat became one of its main attractions. The idea of shooting down an enemy aircraft (or spaceship for that matter) was a very exciting one for kids who were growing up during that era.

Those of the older generation who have experienced being young before computers became a household name will likely have memories of playing on those sleek arcade machines that ate up coins and provided several minutes of excitement. One of the earliest of these was a game called Jet Rocket which was manufactured by SEGA. The game was electro-mechanical (just like pinball) but used rear-image projection to display the action on the screen. Gameplay simple, you had to shoot down the targets with missiles.

SEGA Jet Rocket



By the mid 70’s the games got better and Taito came out with Interceptor where you had to shoot down WWII enemy aircraft using a target reticule on the screen. Atari followed up with Red Baron which used what was known as quadra-scan graphics to simulate the first-person air combat.

These games were simple and quick to play (you had to insert more coins if you wanted more) and in all sense of the word where Slot Machines. However, serious strides where being made to use the technology for practical flight applications that in the late 70's, graduate student Bruce Artwick made his thesis project by creating a 3-dimensional flight simulator using FORTRAN (formula-translator) language programming on the then newly released Apple2 micro-computer. The program, though a very far cry from the flight sims available today was the first flight simulator that could be run and used in the home.

SubLogic Flight Simulator



Artwick continued his work into the 80's where he established the game company SubLogic with Stu Moment. The company created not only flight but other simulation games as well. Since then, Flight Simulator has gone through many iterations as it was licensed and finally acquired by Microsoft.

With the continual evolution of micro-computers and home game consoles, the flight simulator had branched out to include the air combat genre. Air Combat became so popular which eventually outrun the civilian type practical based flight simulators in terms of popularity and sales. One such company that grew from this genre was MicroProse, the company established by Sid Meier and Wild Bill Stealey who are legends in the game industry. Microprose released Air Combat Simulators one after the other practically establishing the genre and was later joined by other game companies.

At that time, they had 8-bit micro-computer technology to work with but they did such a great job in promoting this kind of gaming and making it extremely fun. Aside from Sublogic (which released Jet) and MicroProse (with F-15 Strike Eagle), a company called Digital Integration came out a year earlier with Fighter Pilot (1984) which was a full jet combat simulator for the Commodore 64.

F22 Raptor Sim



From 1985 onwards, companies like Spectrum Holobyte, MirrorSoft and Dynamix came out with their own simulators for the different micro-computer platforms of the day. By 1988 when MicroProse released F-19 Stealth Fighter, the simulators were really getting better. Nighthawk F117A was released in 1991 and with the dominance of the IBM PC/Windows platform, the development companies (Microsoft, Dynamix and the rest) were able to focus on the graphics technology that was really getting very good.

As the 90s dragged on with the access to the internet that came with it, Air Combat games became much more multiplayer oriented than before. It was great to play Air Combat using LAN but it really didn't become that popular until people from all over the world got the chance to shoot each other down online. World of Warplanes is a prime example of this. The advanced GPU's and the resolutions they provided gave the simulations an edge when it came to details. Along with sophisticated peripheral joysticks and controllers prevalent through the new millennium, serious Flight and Air Combat simulators which emphasized attention to realistic detail became more practical as learning tools for would be aviators.

War Thunder: Immersive gameplay



Today, with the emergence of Virtual Reality headsets and controllers, Air Combat on the PC will never be the same. Multi-Player Air Combat games online are now including this technological innovation into their latest releases. Games like DCS World, Aces High, and War Thunder now let you experience a dogfight in Virtual Reality where you simply have to turn your head to spot the bandit behind you. This just shows how far Air Combat simulators have come, and for many of those who use to play shooting down the enemy plane at the arcade, we never thought it would come this far.

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