Flying Your Atariby CHARLES JACKSON
Antic Staff Writer
Turn on your Atari and prepare to earn your wings with a Microprose flight simulation program. Pilot a realistic light plane across the USA or climb into a jet fighter and take part in an accurate recreation of one of history's most colorful air battles.
Sid Meier and John W (Bill) Stealey, co-founders of MicroProse Software, drew on their own aviation experiences to create nearly a dozen successful simulation games.
"We spend better than a man-year of work creating each of these simulations," Stealey said. The games are developed in SidTran, a computer graphics language developed by Meier.
Hellcat Ace and Spitfire Ace ($29.95), Mig Alley Ace and F-15 Strike Eagle ($34.95) are joystick controlled flight simulations that each realistically duplicate an actual aircraft's speed, and maneuverability The simulated planes climb, dive, roll and loop just as quickly as the aircraft they're modeled after. Even the instrument panels are similar. For example, many of the F-15's new computerized 'displays and avionics are included in, MicroProse's F-15 Strike Eagle game.
Spitfire Ace puts you in the cockpit of a British fighter during World War Two. Mig Alley Ace takes place during the Korean War, and gives you a choice of battlefields and aircraft. These aircraft include: an F-80 Shooting Star, an armed C-119 cargo transport, an F9F Panther, an F-84 Thunderjet and an F-86 Sabrejet.
Stealey, an Air Force Academy graduate, helped train more than 200 pilots to Fly T-37 jets. He has also piloted massive C-5A Galaxy cargo planes in the United States and Europe. Today, Stealey flies A-37 jets for the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 103rd Tactical Air Support Squadron. He has logged over 3,000 hours in the air.
Meier has been writing Atari simulation games since 1982. His first game, Hostage Rescue, is a simulation of the 1980 Iranian Hostage helicopter rescue attempt. Meier and Stealey met at an Atari user's group meeting.
Most recently, Meier and Stealey developed Solo Flight ($34.95). This real-time flight simulator puts you behind the joystick of a small, single-engine private plane. And it's realistic enough to be used for practice by student pilots.
Levels of difficulty in Solo Flight range from flying over flat terrain in clear, calm weather to navigating through dense clouds over windswept mountains. You can practice taking off or landing in your choice of conditions too.
Once you're comfortable flying in all types of weather, you can advance to the mail delivery option.
The Solo Flight airplane features retractable landing gear, brakes, three-position flaps, an Instrument Landing System (ILS), dual VORs (radio navigation equipment), and realistic altitude and airspeed indicators.
Though the Solo Flight aircraft simulates a sophisticated light plane, it is simple to fly. Even keyboard pilots who ignore the instruction booklet should have little trouble staying aloft.
The bottom half of the game's screen reproduces instrument panel data. However, the top half is not the view from the cockpit window. Instead it's a rear view of the aircraft superimposed on the horizon. Depth is gauged by comparing the size of this aircraft to the sizes of runways and other nearby ground checkpoints. Whenever the aircraft descends below 600 feet, its altitude can also be judged by the shadow it casts on the ground. This shadow appears even when the sky is gray and, overcast.
The Solo Flight plane's instrument panel substitutes digital readouts for most of the dials found on standard instrument panels. Pitch angle, flap setting, heading, rate-of-climb, and bearing from VOR navigation stations are all seen on digital displays. Though the Solo Flight altimeter looks like a standard altimeter, it skips the "8" and "9" positions.
Simulated aeronautical charts of Kansas, Colorado and Washington are included in the Solo Flight package. Each chart contains diagrams of seven airports and two VOR stations. Several approach plates are also included. At the close of your flight, the game is also able to plot your course on a map.
"From delivering the mail to shooting down enemy fighters,, each one of our simulation programs is based on complex real-life experiences;' Stealey said, "and our programs put you in the middle of those experiences. We want you to have fun while you feel what it would be like to be a jet fighter pilot."
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