Arlan R. Levitan
Group Commander Arlan Smythe-Fawlty grimly surveyed the horizon for any sign of the enemy as he nervously checked his Spitfire's fuel gauge. He glanced to his right and located the familiar silhouette of his wingman's P51-Mustang. As if on cue, the Mustang's pilot, "Maverick" Duffy, flipped his radio on.
"I've got Major Von Kreuger and Baron Schultz on radar Arlan. They're flying Messerschmitts today. Let's come to heading 230, climb to 8000 feet and come in from behind."
"Roger, Maverick. Beginning roll on the count of three. Don't fire until we're within 1000 yards."
This is Air Warrior, a fascinating realtime air combat game that is gaining a dedicated following on the GEnie information service. The game uses sophisticated software on your micro and the GEnie mainframe, working in tandem to produce a quick, responsive multiplayer online flight simulator.
The world of Air Warrior is populated by three countries, apolitically named A, B, and C. Their macrocosm is an eight by eight map grid that represents about 1600 square miles of terrain.
About a dozen different aircraft of World War I and II vintage may be flown. Each plane has different performance characteristics, but a little "seat of the pants" flying can go a long way toward evening the odds. I once managed to knock a Zero out of the sky with an old Fokker Triplane by putting myself into a spin that convinced my opponent that I was a goner, and then pulling up at the last moment with guns blazing. Some of the planes have data files that give you a realistic view of your own plane as you scan the skies. You can even ride with other players on planes that can carry a crew, such as the B-17 bomber.
First Fly—Then Shoot
To be successful in Air Warrior, you must master the rudiments of flying, just like the popular single-player flight simulators that are available for many personal computers. The in-flight display of Air Warrior will make experienced microcomputer flyers feel right at home. It is very similar to other flight programs, complete with an instrument panel and animated scenery that depicts mountains, roads, and buildings.
The flight controls operate in both novice and expert modes. In novice mode, the aircraft are very forgiving of maneuvers that would normally place the craft into stalls or tailspins. Alternatively, expert mode offers maximum maneuverability and performance and won't stop a foolish pilot from putting a craft through a high-stress maneuver that will rip its wings off.
As in real flight, other aircraft appear to be small specks until you get within 500 yards or so, at which time their silhouettes are easily discernible. You must be on the lookout for other planes by checking your radar. Players can send suitable taunts to each other during play as they take potshots at each other.
Air Warrior software, developed by Kesmai Corporation, may be downloaded from GENIE. It is currently available for the Macintosh and Amiga, but versions for the IBM PC and Atari ST should be ready in late fall. Players are notified upon entering the game when new releases of the Air Warrior software and/or terrain maps will be available for downloading.
Prospective aces should be forewarned that playing Air Warrior can be like eating potato chips: Near the end of your mission, you'll want to play "just one more" minute, then another minute, and another. Toward the intended end of my last mission, I decided to play for just a couple more minutes; the next time I glanced at the clock, three hours had passed.
Even so, Air Warrior is a delight to play and a marvel of programming prowess. If you decide to take up the challenge, download the software and spend a lot of time reading the manual and flying in the program's offline practice mode. This lets you master basic flight maneuvers and commands before taking to the air while the meter is running. You can enhance your in-flight survivability significantly by studying some of the Air Warrior download files that discuss dogfight tactics.
Half The Battle
Knocking your opponents out of the sky is only half the battle—you must also safely return and land at a friendly air strip to get full credit for your victories in the air. Air Warrior keeps a running total of your performance and won/lost records. Updated pilot standings are posted every week or so.
If you don't have a GEnie ID, you can apply for one online via computer by selecting half-duplex (local echo mode) in your terminal program and dialing 1–800–638–8369 at 300 or 1200 bps. When connected, type HHH and press the return key. At the U#=prompt, enter XJM11868,AIR and press return. You can also get info on GEnie via voice at 1–800–638–9636.
Remember, in Air Warrior there are no delayed flights or lost baggage. See you in the not-so-friendly skies.