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ONLINE FLIGHT SIMULATOR HISTORY

A BRIEF LOOK ON WHEN, WHAT AND WHO

[ KILLER'S SIM HISTORY IN FEW SENTENCES | HOTSEAT COMMENTS | DoKtor GonZo GOES BACK IN TIME | AIR | AIR WARRIOR | The Book of MacDweeb | Sheepless in Seattle ... So many dweebs, so little time ... How I learned to stop worrying and love the warps ... | EVOLUTION OF HISTORICAL SCENARIOS (from AW to WarBirds to WW2OL) | WARBIRDS | THE SOAP OPERA - DOWNFALL OF WARBIRDS | AFTER WARBIRDS | FIGHTER ACE | ACES HIGH | WORLD WAR II ONLINE | TARGETWARE ]


INTRO

It seems pretty obvious that the MMOL flight sim business is quite a small community and that the products out there (new and old) have been or are being developed by a small group of developers.

Who wrote and or developed the Original, what was it, when was it written, who were its eventual competitors and where did they come from, what is WarBirds history and why did AH come in to being,

This article was put together from discussion Online flight sims, a family tree at Alt.Games.WarBirds. I hope to find more good material to add, especially from/about the newest sim creators point of view to the end, AH, WW2OL, Targetware and FA too.

There's some editing to be done and then I hope I can find some new interesting material. I don't intend to write it into a real article but just put together some kind of picture how the sim history goes.

Any addition information or links to similar discussions/web pages to Grendel who can be reached jukka.kauppinen (include the magic @ symbol here) jmp.fi - thanks!

AW = Air Warrior
WB = WarBirds
WW2OL = World War II Online
AH = Aces High

Kesmai = creator of AW
Interactive Creations, ICI, ICI Games = creator of WB
IMagic = Interactive Magic, company that bought ICI Games


KILLER'S SIM HISTORY IN FEW SENTENCES

AW started as a Mac game in 1987. They added Amiga and Atari versions, and finally a PC version in '88 or 89 I believe.

Kelton Flynn wrote it originally and it ended up on Genie Online services. In the early 90's Genie was -the- place for MMP games. Kelton and John Taylor formed Kesmai and with a small group of underpaid folks and ended up getting a retail release and the game up on AOL about the time the internet started to show up on the publics radar screen.

The DOAC guys and others all had games up there and the people that worked on all the Genie online games from the 3-4 companies there have spread out to many of the companies doing MMP games of all types these days.

In 1994, HiTech, Gunjam and I started Warbirds. We had met at AW conventions, and were all at the 1993 AW convention I ran in Houston and the 1994 convention in D.C. For trivia info the first WB host went on the net new years eve 1994, a 486/DX2 running slackware Linux believe it or not. Soon replaced with an 8 procesor Sun 1000E in 1995.

We went up on the internet with a public beta test in 1995 and shortly after hired folks like Pyro who was a long time AW pilot and flew around in coast gaurd jets for a living, and Mo, who never flew AW but was a community leader for very large swotl group on AOL (kinda reminiscent of current IL2 groups).

Also in 1995 Imagic published Air Warrior III for Kesmai. The Warbirds open beta started around the same time as the AW convention, again in Houston, wher Wild Bill was introduced to Warbirds as the beta was being shown there.

Around Christmas of 1995 WB beta ends and it goes commercial for pay.

ICI does a merger deal with Imagic in 1997, and in about a year things werent working out very well, HT left, Pyro followed and they went off to start AH in 1998 with 3-4 other ICI employees.

1998 Imagic acquires MPGnet, one of the original multiplayer game companies dating to pre internet days, shortly afterwards selling off all stand alone game and publishing assets and going online gaming only. Name is changed to I-Entertainment network.

In 1999 The remaining ICI staff left and 11 of them started work on WWIIOL.

Hotseat, also an old AW hand, and a beta tester for ICI's space based games is recommended by the outgoing staff to contact for replacement talent. Jay, also an old AW hand and Kesmai employee is brought in, along with a few rehired Imagic staff and some new talent.

AH opens up commercially, don't remember the date. Late 99 or early 2000?

Targetware is started up by WB players (dunno if they flew AW or not)

2000 EA buys Kesmai from NewsCorp. 2002?? AW is shut down.

WWIIOL launches in 2001.

WB3 in 2002.

Kesmai guys still work for EA, Sony, and even Microsoft these days in games and console stuff.

Some ICI folks went on to work on things like Sega's Ten-6.

There were a few light connections with Fighter ace and VR1, and some other not important things, but that's a fairly terse history.

Minor clarification to Killer's timeline:

Don't forget the other fruit that has fallen from the tree.

1998: -tone- of the Dweebs of Death founds Resounding Technology which creates Roger Wilco. Resounding employees sick-, au, and bloo from the WB community. Resounding merges with Mplayer creating HearMe. HearMe in its death throes sells Roger Wilco to GameSpy.

-sick- started work on what became known as "Targetware" in 1998 (minor point since it is not released yet). Most of the TW staff are WB veterans (with one former Playnet and two former Resounding employees).

The WB staffer who worked on 10^6 was Mandrake.

Other stuff:

IIRC, Smut was at Janes' Bethesda Flight sim shop.
I think Quiz helped start Check Six Studios.
Bob McCarthy helped found Motorsims, and I think Random worked there too?
Gunjam started JackedIn.com with Aliwood/Starman after leaving IMOL.


HOTSEAT COMMENTS:

It all goes back to 1988.

At one time, believe it or not. HT, Killer, Snail, and I where all squad mates.

Dale was the first to take the full time developement leap, the rest of us where part time / volinteers.

In fact half the online slang you guys use, come from guys in my squad....sort of first there deal. (I should tell you about where the term "spam" came from someday)

It's funny how we all ended up doing Online flight sims full time, and stop talking to each other

Would be nice to turn the clock back someday.


DoKtor GonZo GOES BACK IN TIME

AW started in 1987. I started playing just before Thanksgiving of that year. My squad ... the "4Q" ... formed around the Holidays that year.

It started on the Mac. Black and White ... 512x384 ... 3 frames per hour ... mouse only ... 300 baud ... The Horror, The Horror. I recall the Amiga came next, then the Atari ST, then the DOS dweebs, then finally Windows (and the 10,000 Dweebs of Light). Back then we played from 6:01 on Friday until the wee hours of Sunday night. Ate dinner online. Went to the bathroom during climb out. OK ... we were sick.

In the earliest version, everyone flew Spits ... OK, so not much has changed. But the 4Q took to flying the Me109K because once it got above 10K (which it could do in almost a pure vertical climb) nothing could catch it. So we raided the Fields of Dweebs in the rear area. Some missions lasted well over an hour as we moved from one grazing area to the next. This was at a time when the average mission (in Ye Olde Valley of Death) lasted maybe 7 minutes.

I ran a total of 12 scenarios that ran (more or less) to completion between 1992 and 1995. This included designing flight jacket patches ... only a few of which were ever produced ... thumbnails are on my site. Before that were a series of trial mission format events with 20 or 30 people ... just to see what worked and what didn't. The early scenarios happened as much by force of will as anything else. Web support was minimal, there were few (if any) host commands to make things happen with, we made up SOP as we went, there were few people willing to take on the mantle of command, and I yelled at people. A lot. "Make it loud and dirty, so they'll remember." Indeed. It was the only way to get the event ran and keep the post-mission bitching and rules-twisting to a minimum. The server crashed. A lot. Registration and mission scheduling was done by hand ... by me. I learned how to use Excel in a damn hurry.

There was a 13th event ... Marianas ... which I think someone else ran years later.

BlueBaron and I were discussing the "virtual DoK" ... a completely automated scenario engine threaded into the main game host ... right around when NewsCorp bought Kesmai. And also right around the time WarBirds was getting close to going live. Jokker wanted me to do scenarios for WB, but Jonathan was in line first. Alas, Ruppert Murdoch had other ideas for Kesmai, so the whole concept was shelved. So I brought the scenario format to WB.

One of the things I loved best in the early WarBirds was the autogunners in bombers. An autogunned B17 right at dusk was a sight to behold. Right over the enema field. Of course, this didn't last.

Anyway ... I ran 2.5 scenarios in WB. Solomons took two tries to make happen. HiTech and co. had put in great tools to run events with and finally CM'ing stopped being a damn anal probe. I had about 3 or 4 more events in the design phase, when there was a kind of crisis of faith. My doctrine was to always push the players harder and harder in each event ... I always wanted them to come away mumbling "holy crap" ... or words to that effect ... after reading what I had in store for them. This wasn't "impossible" missions ... but levels of complexity in terms of planning, discipline and execution. To me, scenarios were a classroom ... with Huge Pointy Teeth.

Other players wanted something less esoteric. At the time Real Life and work were making it hard for me to run events to begin with, and I didn't need to be arguing with the ACM's at every turn, so I decided 5 years of spending my weekends watching the message log scroll by was enough.

And that's the way it was. One of these days I'll finish my "History of AW" piece. One of these days.


AIR

1977: Kelton Flinn works on "the text-based amoeboid-like ancestor" to Air Warrior called AIR between 1977 and 1979.

"If Air Warrior was a primate swinging in the trees, "AIR" was the text-based amoeba crawling on the ocean floor. But it was quasi-real time, multi-player, and attempted to render 3-D on the terminal using ASCII graphics. It was an acquired taste." - Kelton Flinn

Airfight aka Dogfight (flight sim) on PLATO.

  • It may have existed earlier, but this is the first reference with a hard date that I can find.
  • "In "Dogfight," two players tried to shoot down each other's "airplane" -- a tiny spot on the screen -- and avoid being shot down. You could control the position of your own airplane using the various keys on the keyboard. (This, of course, was ten years before joysticks and computer mice became common.) Unfortunately, the person with the fastest connection to the main computer in Illinois usually won that game." - Guy Consolmagno, SJ.
  • The literal command line name appears to have been "airfight" (Antic)
  • ""airfight" was actually someones clone of "dogfight"...same concept, different authors. Before that, there was "moonwar", an where players took turns shooting lasers off walls and around moons trying to hit the other guy." - Eric Hagstrom
  • "Airfight and Dogfight were two entirely separate games. Dogfight was earlier -- it just had tiny airplane icons that you moved around on the screen in 2-dimensional space. Airfight came later and gave you a cockpit view, and is what apparently inspired Bruce Artwick's Flight Simulator, which later became Microsoft Flight Sim. I'm guessing Dogfight existed by 1973, Airfight maybe in 1975 or so." - David Woolley
  • "PLATO also had "airfight", a 3-D real-time flight simulator with 3-D views of horizon & airport & enemy (icon only). One of the authors was brand fortner. These authors went on to found the company that became microsoft flight simulator. I think 1973 is the right year for the existence of airfight - it was EARLIER than Empire. I think it's very important to realize that microsoft flight simulator came from plato, from the guys who wrote airfight. I cannot remember the name of the company they founded, but it was really successful for a few years before microsoft bought it in the mid 1980's." - Don Gillies
  • "Dogfight was a really stupid 2-d game with a top-view of 2 planes. It was perhaps the earliest PLATO game with a "BIG BOARD" page. Every user appeared on the page, you could "Challenge" a user, that user would be given the right to "Accept", then you'd go to this page where the 2 planes were displayed, top-view, travel allowed only in the cursor keys directions (cursor around the 's' key, dirs are e w q a z x c d), when you shoot ('s') a line shoots out in front of you. You Could only change direction in inertial ways, i think. Unsophisticated. Not real time. You could move faster by hitting keys faster. A good programmer could write this game in a few days. " - Don Gillies


AIR WARRIOR

Kesmai is founded by Kelton Flinn & John Taylor.
  • "In November 1981, John saw an ad for CompuServe, namely a MegaWars ad ("if you had written this, you'd be making ,000 a month in royalties!" I think the ad said. Bill was actually trolling for new games!) That kinda got our interest, so we sent a copy of The Island of Kesmai manual to Bill Louden and also to The Source. Even though the game already ran on the Prime computers that the Source used, they never responded intelligibly. Louden on the other hand was interested. We tried to bring the original UNIX version of the Island of Kesmai up on CompuServe's DEC 20's, and chewed up 0,000 of CPU time (at the then commercial rate) in 3 days. We got it working, but as Bill said, the lights dimmed in Columbus when it was running. So we headed back to Charlottesville to retrench. The first step was porting the old Z-80 code, that became Dungeons of Kesmai, which was cut back to single-player (probably the only time in history a multi-player game was made into a single player game!)" - Kelton Flinn
Jay Littman:

"Kelton Flinn was Kesmai. AirWarrior was the first of its kind, the first real massively multiplayer fight simulation developed by Kelton.

Kelton/Kesmai pioneered many multiplayer game design concepts we take for granted today (Legends of Kesmai and BattleTech are just a few) and have been building on Kelton?s example since.

AirWarrior was the first large-scale multiplayer Internet game. New features Kelton brought to the massively multiplayer game were player generated content, large multi-user terrains with airfields that could be captured, real use of online campaign terrains, and a small strategy model. They were the first to design drop troops to capture control towers and airfields along with anti-aircraft batteries, ground vehicle, aircraft carriers and online player squadrons built into the game.

Kelton's real genius (and the brightest man I have work with) was that he did not try to dictate game play like single player games, but created the first persistent multiplayer online world into which the players entered. This was a fresh idea at the time. He did not dream this overnight but listened to feedback from his community and over time AirWarrior developed, a game in which the community gave feedback to the designer in turn delivering what the customer wanted over a period of time. Every time he created a new feature (ground vehicle) AirWarrior was a completely new game and this kept his customers returning time and again.

To put it in another way,

"AirWarrior was the Picasso - everything that has followed it is just another art critic's idea of what should be a Massively Multiplayer fight Simulation."

Kelton Flynn wrote Air Warrior. I believe that was in the late 1980s, and the first version was almost like ASCII art from what I hear.

I believe the original Air Warrior was in the 1989 time frame. You could only download it, and it was very simple wireframe graphics on a black background.

The boxed version became available in 1991 I think. The graphics were an astonishing SVGA They were actually pretty good for the time, but the planes were just little gray boxy things, some of which had no similarity to the real planes. You could download artfiles that would add the more lifelike exterior shapes and the 2D cockpit art for the planes not included in the box. DOS-based, playable only through some fairly complex dialup procedures on GEnie and a couple of other online services. per hour USA. Some guys overseas pay as much as /hr!

In the early 1990s (1991 or so?), he wrote a graphical version that could be played online with Amigas and Macs, eventually leading to DOS AW on a Unix host. This was picked up by GEnie, GE's online service, and was an hour. That was the earliest graphical online MMP game that I've ever heard of. Most of the principle folks flew back then. HiTech, Gunjam, Killer, Hotseat, Mo, Pyro, etc.

Over the next 4 years or so, the planes and terrain became more 3D, and the graphics improved somewhat. During that period, AW was arguably the best flight sim available, multiplayer or no, because of the FM, which, though table-based, nontheless permitted fairly believable stalls, spins, landings, and ACM (compared to its competition at the time). AW created the concept of scenarios that led to the S3s we have today, and in its heyday, the community was...well, something I think everyone here would've enjoyed belonging to. Sure, there were flamewars, and some total dweebs, but overall, the sim always transcended the bleating, and almost everyone could laugh at themselves.

However, although the majority of the "old heads" you may hear about now played in the full realism arena, there was an even greater number of players in the "relaxed realism" arena. And the guys running the sim (who were also primarily full realism players) were always careful to keep the sim "accessible" to the full spectrum of simmers. In other words, there was realism available, but not really a realism "emphasis." There was also only so much mileage to be gotten out of the table-based FM and semi-random DM. By 1995, other than graphic updates, AW was as good as it was ever going to be.

Then came a new version for Windows 95, Air Warrior for Windows. This was picked up by AOL and gained popularity, and its owner company, Kesmai, was picked up by News Corp. A Mac port, Mac Air Warrior, was tried in 1995-1997, but didn't work out very well. AW began to stall under corporate load.

DocDoom:

"RedBeard, and his awesome IHHD that spawned the 666th IHHD Ladder. Was invited to join the 666th IDFS after defeating Limbo, BigHank and finally RedBeard himself ... muahahah top slot is mine after lag that would make any internet gamer today think we were playing Klingons vs Romulans Online.

AirWarrior ... I remember using a shell account from college in Melbourne Australia ... modem from home to college, shell out telnet to Ann Arbour Michegan, shell to dial-out modem account leased from UAA, dial GEnie node locally in Michegan, navigate 16 pages of text garble (uu100 text emulation woes) looking for the secret "page 628" and voila!

Full realism arena Nth.American AirWarrior using the Internet, circa really early 90's (1991 ?) ... remember a player asking me where I was flying from and I replied "Melbourne" and he said "Melbourne, Florida ... cool!" to which I offered "Melbourne AUSTRALIA" ... many jumped on the chat bar asking "WTF ? Australia ?!?!" ... "how the hell did you do that ?"

Man those WERE the days. Helped run AW (Sth. Pacific server) for my mate Coolhand for a coupla years later when we got that off the ground, till Murdoch bought Kesmai and they shut us done after that.

Was looking where to go next for my veins in ma teeth fix when Open Beta in CK 0.81 came along ... was in as soon as the doors opened ... finally did a couple of WB conventions and ended up ... here. I bet vultching Killer at C14 in the original small ETO 15 times in a row on take off had something to with my fate right to this day."

The Book of MacDweeb

Part One

Verse 1: And it Was Good

In the beginning there was Macintosh, and it was good.

Verse 2: Form for the Masses

But, Macintosh was dark and formless, so, the Creator Jobs said, "Let there be Quickdraw." And thus createth he and his minion Atkinson Quickdraw. And, lo it was very good.

Verse 3: The Codeman Cometh

Therefore sayeth the creator Jobs, "Let there be programs to useth the miracle Quickdraw and programmers to hack much wondrous code." And thus it came to pass. And, this too was good.

Verse 4: Kelton's Gaze

Therefore came into being the Wizard Kelton. Kelton gazed upon the wonder Quickdraw and sayeth, "Good this art, but fast it aint." So, he set about creating custom rendering routines. Much high speed scanning, transforming, translating with filling and blitting did thereby ensue, and this too was good.

Verse 5: And it Will be Called Air Warrior

And Kelton didst come to see that a Master Edifice was needed to enclose his wondrous, high-speed routines. Thus was born Air Warrior. It too was good.

Verse 6: Singing and Great Joy

The multitudes began to hear tell of this Air Warrior and began a clamor to partake thereof. Therefore didst Wizard Kelton return to his labors. Soon didst he conceive Atari Air Warrior and Amiga Air Warrior and DOS Air Warrior. These too were good, but incomplete. Therefore didst the Wizard Kelton create upon the Plain of Unix the Tower of Aries. And it was very good, for thus couldst the flavors of Air Warrior communicate in a common tongue. For a time all was well.

Verse 7: And it WAS Good

Therefore didst the Wizard Kelton bring forth a virtual entity known affectionately as "DOSAW." Hosted first on GEnie, and subsequently on an ISP put together with wire-wrap, bubble gum, and hope (otherwise knownst to the dweebs as Concentric net), DOSDweebs, AmigaDweebs, and MacDweebs could fly together, fight together, die together, and haveth a wonderful time. And it was good.

Verse 8: Doctrine and Dogma

And thus it came to pass that all manner of Veterans and Demi-Ghods and Dweebs arose into the Air Warrior firmament. These were disputatious and contentious folk. The Doctrine of MoNanas contended with the Dogma of Deathstars. The Veteran fed on the Dweeb and the Demi-Ghod fed on all. This begat the Holy Principle of HATE.

Part Two

Verse 1: Comes Beelzebub

But lo, onto the face of the firmament strideth the demon Billgatesebub. And he didst whisper all manner of lies into the gullible ears of the multitudes. And the Wizard Kelton, being naive in the ways of demons, didst believe the sweet blandishments of the demon Billgatesebub. Lies of Standardization and market-share. Lies of DirectX and greater speed. All manner of lies about the superiority of Windows over MacOS. And it was bad.

Verse 2: The Exodus

And Amigadweebs, and Ataridweebs didst harken to the demon Billgatesebub and abandon their faithful platforms. And DOSdweebs, (having already sold their souls unto the foul demon), didst also flock in numbers unprecedented; flinging themselves, to their shame, wholely and completely into the cesspool Windows. And it was very bad.

Verse 3: The Fall of Man

Thus didst DOSAW beget AW4W. But the demon Billgatesebub was not satisfied and sent forth his ally AOL to further sunder the ranks of the AW faithful. This begat the downfall of the Tower Aries and caused the closing of DOSAW in all its glory and the ignominious devolution of the faithful Ren and Stympy to serving creatures for Carddweebs. This too was bad.

Verse 4: Behold the False Prophets

Thusly didst the DOSDweebs, in increasing numbers abandon the faith for the false promises of AW4W, a creation of the Evil AOL God. And after the DOSDweebs and the new breed of PCDweebs didst all leave DOSAW for AW4W, the remaining AmigaDweebs, and MacDweebs could flyeth together no more. For the MacDweebs there was much consternation about the future, for they kneweth not what layeth in store for them. And all was bleak.

Verse 5: Souls for Sale

But the Kesmai Gods didst have a plan, for they hadst already secretly decided to selleth their souls to the devil himself; the Lord of Darkness, the Satan of Satans: the AOL God (see below). And lo, the net openbeta was born, and the Kesmai Gods threw open the door, and sayeth, "Lo, yon MacDweebs, bringeth your butts over here and play in these skies! 'Tis free!". And it seemed good.

Verse 6: A Gathering of Nitwits

And thus didst the scroungiest pack of creatures that one would ever want to meet trundle forward and into the netbeta. There were all kinds of domesticated and undomesticated animals. There were dwarves and tigers, along with the usual collection of clueless bastages who hath proclaimethed themselves "Maverick" or "Goose" or "Viper" and probably sayethed, "Drop the brakes, he'll flyeth right by." For forty times forty days and forty nights, didst the MacDweebs engageth in knifefighting and furballs galore. And yea, there was much jousting and killing, and macros didst filled the airwaves, and crashing and augering didst streweth the ground, for these MacDweebs were new, and full of enthusiasm and foolish ways, and netplay was free of monthly offerings to the gods.

And it still seemed good.

Part Three

Verse 1: Come the Horsemen

And MacDweebs would slaughter fellow MacDweebs, and verily didst they engageth in long, stalling knifefights in FR ETO arena in the P51, and lo, even in FR PAC. And silly as they wereth, they didst not even know about the arenas were realism was relaxed, and were one couldst stand a Pony on its head, and where one could yanketh 9Gs or more with nary a black spot to be seen. And this was because the ruler of the netbeta, the Voss-Yoda, had broken the relaxed realism arenas with his Mighty Bwana Stick. And he laughed at the MacDweebs as they floundered, and sayeth he to them, "Thanketh me later, you will, when you are not RR Dweeblets, but FR Warriors."

And the MacDweebs took him at his word, for they were clueless basteges anyhow, and knew not of what he even spake. And they hath not the foggiest notion of situational awareness, nor of the benefits and virtures of altitude, for they were true dweebs. Yet they didst believe that they were dweebs no more, but rather veterans, which is the true sign of the clueless dweeb. And furballs begat furballs, and many a TM hat switch was broken in the incredible conflagration that consituteth the arena.

But slowly the MacDweebs didst begin to take notice of the host kill messages scrolling down their text buffer. Notice didst they the ghostly ponies and FW's that swoopeth down from on high and killeth the MacDweebs in a single pass, and which disappeareth into the skies without a trace. "Why doth you demons not turn thy planes on the deck?!" they queried of the ghostly apparitions. "Why doth these ghostly demons not turn right aroundeth after a merge?" asked others. "What is happening to us?" they pondered, and "Surely there must be a bug in the FE!" some cried. Others screamethed: "Hacker! Hacker!" at the laughing ghostly apparitions.

Lo, but these kills werest not a product of hacked FE's or buggy code (although face it we must-the Holy Orkin Man Himself could not rid that FE of bugs). Nor was the carnage a result not of the Supreme Commander Kelton Flynn, nay didst it result from his Voss-Yoda, or even the often-misunderstood and less visible Moggy-Yoda. For the killing and maiming was the work of AW demi-gods from the kingdom of GEnie and DOSAW, who hath infiltrated said netbeta, and were hell-bent on teaching the MacDweebs the errors of their ways. And lo, a great rumbling was heard in the skies, and verily didst the flat blue oceans themselves churneth, and did the gradient skies tear open in a mighty cloud of dark smoke and burning mists of engine oil, and finally didst come the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: Fogy, Fool, Bull, and Columbo. Demi-Gods were they, and many an hour in Air Warrior didst they fly in years past, and countless were the dweebs they had rent asunder. "Thou art merely baby seals," sayeth the Horsemen to the MacDweebs, "to be clubbed mercilessly at our whim and pleasure".

And club they did.

Verse 2: A Time to Learn

And the blood of MacDweebs spillethed mightily unto the arena, and the little bits and pieces of airplane wings and manifolds and leather flying helmets rainethed down on the flat green lands of Air Warrior, and the Horsemen laughed in booming voices that rippled the very waters of the pond.

And lo, one day the arena didst rumble mightily, and all the MacDweebs aimed their steeds at the ground in preparation of augering to escape the Horsemen, when suddenly the great Horsemen Fool speaketh, for he hath seldom spoke before, and was known to chooseeth his words carefully, as if he had to give up livestock with every word.

Sayeth Fool: "Fear not, young MacDweebs, for with your sacrifice cometh wisdom, for with thy clubbing shall you learneth the principles of Divine Energy Management, Sacred Squadron Tactics, the Epiphany of Situational Awareness, and yes, possibly even the Sacrament of the Rope-a-Dope."

And thus the MacDweebs were introduced to the arcane principles of air combat, and verily did they begin to watch their E, and to climb to great heights, and learneth they to swoop down mightily from the sky onto unsuspecting dweeblets such as they once were. And thus, it is written (here), that the MacDweebs began to groweth as virtual pilots. And the Voss-God smilethed down on them from the monitor where he watched them flounder. And it was good.

Verse 3: Cometh the NakedClowndevil

Lo, amidst the carnage and general mayhem that constituteth the netbeta arena cameth a newcomer who repeatedly fraggeth his countrymen, disrupteth arena play, and elicitith much cursing and ill will. "Why doth thou disrupteth arena play?" cried out the MacDweebs. The newcomer laughed, and taunted: "I am the Naked Clown" he proclaimeth, and to the masses didst he become known as the Clowndevil.

And there was much wringing of hands, and tearing of hair, and many a voice was heardeth crying, "Where art thou Air Warrior Gods when we needeth them?" Hearing not from the Air Warrior Gods, and sicketh of the fratricide from the Clowndevil, rogue groups of MacDweebs grabbethed the bull by the horns (nay, not the Horseman Bull discussed earlier, for verily, if some MacDweeb were to grab THAT Bull by his horns the MacDweeb wouldst find himself void of limbs, lying naked in a corner and full of bullet holes), and formed Clownkiller squadrons, whose sole purpose was to tracketh down thy Clowndevil and smite him from the arena. And this they did, for many nights and many days. But lo, the Clowndevil was clever indeed, and mockethed thy MacDweebs, and rubbethed their noses in their shame, by posting to the netbeta newsgroup, and promoting his evil ways in a web page. "Voss-Yoda, surely thou willst cometh to our aid, and smiteth the Clowndevil with thoust Holy Big Bwana Stick!" (no you sick bastages -not THAT stick).

And thus, MacDweebs waited, and checketh the newsgroups often for some harbinger of words from the Voss-Gods, and one day, smoketh didst arise from the newsgroup, and the beloved Voss-Yoda did say: "Henceforth, worryeth not about the clowndevil, thy MacDweebs, for thy Air Warrior God's smile upon you this day, and have nukethed the Clowdevil's account, for once, and for all time". And the MacDweebs smileth, for they knew that the Clowndevil had been smitten. And it WAS good.

Verse 4: The Face of Evil

And all was fine in the netbeta, for there were ample numbers in the arena, and the seals were fresh and plentiful, and the demi-Gods didst verily consumeth the MacDweebs with vigor.

Then, one day, smoke didst riseth from the openbeta newsgroup, and a great rumbling could be heard throughout the land. The Voss-Yoda, working on instructions from the nefarious suited OverLords of Kesmai, in a fit of madness still not completely undertoodeth by the MacDweebs to this day, did invoketh the Master Plan and taketh away thy beloved netbeta venue, and substituteth in its place a new home wheretofore MacDweebs could congregate, and could slaughter their brethren, and could wreaketh mayhem upon the Dweebs.

The Voss-God didst give to the MacDweebs a new God to worship: the AOL God. And it was not good. For now the Voss-Yoda told the MacDweebs they musteth pay homage and sacrifice to thou AOL God, and give up farm animals to partaketh of thy holy air warrior. The MacDweebs didst know that the AOL-God's minion TOS-God was mighty and did striketh down MacDweebs for the slghtest of trangressions. "Voss-Yoda," cried the MacDweebs, "Why doth thou torture us in this way?" And the Voss-Yoda was silent, for the AOL God had invoked an evil spell called a nondisclosure agreement and slappethed it on the Voss-Yodaas part of the Master Plan.

And the Voss-Yoda shrugged his shoulders in sadness, and he readied the MacDweebs for The Day When the Plug Was Pulled on the Netbeta (TDWTPWPOTN).

Verse 5: The Day When the Plug Was Pulled on the Netbeta (TDWTPWPOTN)

And lo, the Last Days of the netbeta were filled with Gloom and Despair. The MacDweebs didst flounder around, and didst cry in wail to one another, and didst generally curse the AOL God for taking away what once had been.

And when the Final Day, The Day When the Plug Was Pulled on the Netbeta, when the Hated Day arrived, the MacDweebs did come out to express their gratitude, and to smiteth one another one last time, and to fly together one last time away from the penetrating gaze of the AOL God. And they were Legion, filling the sky for miles to see, and making the Kerman God tremble at the effort of tracking all those planes.

And the moment neared, and the Voss-God appeared. He gathered his flock unto the center of the pond, and the sworn enemies gathered together with nary a shot fired, and he began to speak to them, dweebs and demi-gods alike, careful to not breaketh the Evil AOL God's nondisclosure spell. "Verily," sayeth the Voss-God, "Ye have been given the task of finding the bugs in this world. Ye have been asked only to swat and smack these bugs, and to helpeth the Gods of Kesmai ready this product for final release, but hark! Ye have gone far beyond that minor goal!" And the MacDweebs, circling the pond in their varied steeds, glancing out their cockpit windows to see the tremendous gathering of Warriors, listened to the Voss-Yoda as he spaketh onward. "Yes," sayeth the Voss-Yoda, "Ye have gone beyond being mere bug-finders. Somehow, ye all have created a CommunityTM in this time together!"

And the cheers went up, and the MacDweebs rejoiced, and they generally chased each other around the sky in glee. But the Voss-Yoda was somber, and he didst looketh at his watch, and he saw that the time dreweth near. And he told the MacDweebs that the End was Nigh, and that the plug would soon be pulled. And verily, atop the chatter and cursing and speaking in toungues came one voice that didst rise above the fray.

And Padre, a Warrior with the Shadow Rider Clan, didst begin to pray for the lost souls of the MacDweebs. And many an eye grew damp as Padre prayed, and many a Warrior stared reflectively through the gunsight and thanked the Kerman God for the time he hath given to the MacDweebs. And after the prayer the MacDweebs headed north, away from the sun, and flew onward as the Plug was Pulled and silence fell across the netbeta forever. And it was not good at all. In fact, it really kind of sucked big-time.

Verse 6: Cometh the Warbirds

Antichrist Whole squadrons did thumb their noses at AOL and Kesmai Gods, and they didst screameth and whineth in protest at the selling of the MacDweeb's souls. They posted messages in the forums, and the newsgroups, and on the walls of local urinals. They screamethed at the AOL God, who merely laughed and chuckled and ignored the MacDweebs' pleas as he counted his stacks and piles and wheelbarrows full of money.

And few were the MacDweebs who flew in the AOL God's domain, especially after the AOL God decided to placeth a tax upon the MacDweebs of per hour. And the MacDweebs didst wail, and looketh did they for alternatives to the AOL God's land, and many of them found a land where Warriors gathered. It was called The Land of the IMOL God, and its minions were known as Warbirders. "Lo!," cried the first MacDweebs to return from the Warbirders Realm. "We have found a land of fruit and honey, with many Warriors, and more planes and separate firing cannons!"

The Four Horsemen bounded forth, and spaketh to the returning MacDweebs. "But what about the nose bounce," they sayeth. "Real steeds don't bounceth like that. And the spins, and the blackouteth code. Ha!" the scoffed. "That is no subsitute for Air Warrior." And many stayed in the AOL God's land to be mauled by the Horsemen, and many left to the Realm of the Warbirders.

And the MacDweebs who left travelled lost in the darkness. The IMOL Gods had decreed that the MacDweebs who wished to fly in the Realm of the Warbirders must wait, for lo, the Divine 2.0 version of Warbirds was going to be late for the MacDweebs. For two weekdays and for two weeknights and four score more weeks the Macdweebs didst wander lost in the desert without WB2.0 while the PCDweebs played and fought in their Demonic Zerstoerer Me-110s and Hurricanes from Hell. And verily was there much hand-wringing and calling of names, and the Macdweebs floundered in the flat, non-moving and non-rolling seas of Air Warrior.

And finally, when the Day of Judgement came, Macdweebs by the drove scourethed forth to the Holy FTP Directory and downloadeth WB2.0, and they were Legion. And it was Good. Well...maybe not good, but it was a start.

Verse 7: And the Dweebs Played On....

And despite the Exodus of many to the Warbirders Realm, many MacDweebs returnethed to their Native Land; to the AOL God's Kingdom, and flew there they did, and smiteth one another they did. And lo, the Horsemen still dove and rent dweebs asunder in staggering numbers, and the demi-Gods did fight, and the dweebs did auger and crash. And many new dweebs discovered the relaxed realism world, and there they made a home. And new dweebs would arrive almost daily, and sometimes the dweebs would venture into the kingdom of the Horsemen, into the full realism arena. And in some of those times, verily it would seem like the days of yore; the Horsemen would swoop, the dweebs would wail in despair, and you almost could heareth the Voss-Yoda cackling at what he hath wrought.

And in those times, at least, it is good. Amen.

Back to AW

Thinking back:

"This is where I came in, as a PID I don't even vaguely remember. I remember it being at least a month before I scored a kill; but I was squeaking by on GEnie's basic subscription, which came with 5 hours of online gaming. Later lots of people moved to Delphi, which had a /hour charge."

Redcoat's memories:

"Long story, but I managed to score free accounts for myself and my two AW buddies on teh Australia AW server. Crazy hours, but I lived there. Learned TONNES. Lasted about a year. One of the clowns hanging around then, was DocDoom. He used to get SO pissed when I shot him down in his FW :-) I can't remember the version, but I signed on to CK, a version or two before 0.81, courtesy of killer."

Vlasov:

"HT's "guncam" for AW-DOS was called VFilm. It was a very sweet little program that allowed you to view your plane and your opponent's in wireframe with some "airshowsmoke" trailing each wing to show ACM better.

My friend Peter and I were both in gradschool in 1993 and completely broke. We used to share a GEnie account (and a copy of VFilm) and fly 1 hour each on Tuesday nights. That was awesome

No one has yet mentioned a big part of the early AW experience for many of us: Jim "redbeard" Knutson's 666th ETAL AW internet ladder. Knutson had written this internet dialer daemon that we downloaded and compiled on the university's unix system. It allowed us to connect over the internet in H2H AW. I think I got as high as 7 (under the call sign "Canuck"). That's when Twist ran over me and then I started dropping down the list."

Quotes from Article in Wired magazine January 1995:

"It could seem unbelievably strange to an outsider," Baron says. "Most of our clients are devotees of a rather esoteric pastime. They're often very, very different kinds of people. But that hunger unites them." Air Warrior is accessible at 2400 or 9600 baud: up to a hundred people and more around the world can fly together in onscreen flight sim - they're now running a scenario that simulates the 1940 Battle of Britain, with a brain-numbing variety of specialized personnel involved because of the authentically reproduced wide scale of the thing, in its various World War II battle sectors.

Air Warrior has been around since '86, when it was created by Kelton Flinn. Flinn has a PhD in Applied Mathematics, but his heart is in flying over Europe in a Spitfire; he realized his air-combat fetish digitally as vice president of R&D for Air Warrior's source company, the Kesmai Corporation, a division, oddly enough, of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation of America. Robert Shaw wrote the introduction to the manual; Shaw, an active Air Warrior player and real-life air-combat vet - and the author of the military press classic Fighter Combat: Tactics and Maneuvering - serves as a Kesmai consultant. The fact is, the better flight-sim games, on and offline, are to some extent grounded in real experiences.

Air Warrior is available on GEnie for a mere US an hour (non-primetime); on Delphi you can play 20 hours for a negligible fee and get a free downloadable version of the software. There's also a retail version, published by Gametek for , which has stand-alone gameplay and modem-to-modem capability. Gametek's CD-ROM version has actual World War II gun camera footage and Spitfire pilot voice-overs. Talk about obsessive authenticity!

Of course, you don't risk death in flight sim. And if you're a pilot - and lots of real pilots get into flight sim - you can use all of those maneuvers you wouldn't dare to use in real flight. You aren't tied to those stale old military forms and training scenarios. You can hot dog like a son of a bitch.

Mostly, flight sim is for men - patient, dogged, persistent men willing to learn, then learn some more; to practice until their wives want to smash their PCs with ball-peen hammers.

Besides all the logging on and background aircraft knowledge and practice with elaborate joysticks (for dogged, persistent men willing to learn, the CH FlightStick is recommended for beginners), the flight-sim flying process requires "threedee reasoning" - something kids aren't very good at, maybe just for developmental reasons. If you're one of the adults who is good at it, then maybe you're wired into some ancestral skill left over from our hunting and nomadic stage - a skill that helped your ancestors draw a bow-and-arrow bead on a flying goose and then find their way back through the maze of bogs to that comfortable mud hut.

The interest in air combat is particularly strong in Britain and the US. In fact, the breadth and intensity of that interest amazed even a World War II general from the Luftwaffe, Adolf Galland. Jonathan Baron tells me, "We have a squadron calling in to us from Tokyo and Germany" - to go online with Air Warrior. Baron says people telnet in through Delphi, people from all over the world. They're planning regular events pitting one country against another.

Are the Germans flying Junkers, the Japanese flying Zeros, the Americans flying Mustangs against one another, online? Should we be invading Haiti online?

I was a tail gunner on a World War II bomber.

Playing Air Warrior. The Battle of the Canal Front, 1942, along the English Channel. I'm in the upper aft turret, tail gunner of a bomber called Witch's Tit; the pilot's handle is Hitech. One of the best three pilots online, someone tells me. Our B-25 Mitchell, guarded by Spitfires, is on a bombing run, wreaking havoc on German-occupied French airfields, defended by Focke Wulf 190s. My wife, Micky, is my co-gunner - she's doing the keyboard stuff, turning the turret, using radio; I've got the joystick with its trigger.

The landscape scrolls slowly by in abstract simplicity, the tilt changing with the axis of the plane. The pace seems real enough; it takes a long time to get to the target area, a long time to engage. Then it's all over quickly. Like real life: tedium and then hellish flurry.

I report our heading, reading out from my dials, over the "radio" - typed out messages along the bottom of the screen. On it you hear intermittent banter, bonhomie, advisements; I hit F1 now and then to check the aerial charts and the radarscope. The trip through this virtual landscape is punctuated by the sounds of explosions; the radio reports someone shot down. No action yet for us, though we can see friendly Spitfires (looking like real Spitfires) through the high-rez reproduction of the interior of the turret, each plane seen representing another Air Warrior player in some other part of the country, the world. (One guy is playing from Britain.)

Hitech advises me to be watchful now, to be sure to use the icon indicators - red icons moving on the top of the screen for friendlies, blue for enemy - to help me (the amateur) ID bad guys. Don't commit friendly fire. Use the numbers flashing by at the right to show the third dimension, depth, distance in yards. Don't fire till within 600 yards. Then we're under attack. Very sudden. Blue blips and then the outlines of Focke Wulfs tilting, angling toward us from above. A flash of red light and a thud as we're hit. We're not shot down yet and - Micky turning the turret - I track the sighting brackets over the jiggling, veering shape of the enemy fighter. Difficult to keep it in the sights. Then I fire. Miss. Track again. Fire. Smoke and flame blooms on it - it's going down - but now a bevy of others attack. We're hit, we're hit again. Red flash. Red screen. Fade to black.

We've been shot down. We're back in the "conference room" for the debriefing. We're a dead but chatty bunch of flyers. And for a dead guy, I'm feeling stoked.

Members of the World War II generation have difficulty suspending their disbelief over games like Air Warrior. "Where's my air fuel mixture?" they ask, looking at the simulated cockpits and controls.

Baron wants to "get to the point where you're charging your magneto and you're checking your air-fuel mixture and you're checking your flaps and everything you'd have to do." That seems to be the unspoken motto of the digital gaming industry: make the unreal real. Or anyway, as real as possible.

What'll help, if you're an incipient flight-sim head, is taking the keyboard out of the picture as much as possible and replacing it with joysticks and cockpits. Keyboards take you out of the simulation, see. And you can get just as many cockpit accessories as you can afford. As we'll see, you can get realer and realer. Air Warrior has an online training academy - a seven-week course to combat "infant mortality" (newbies getting creamed). Graduates get invited into squadrons, which are fundamental to the game.

Air Warrior was the first flight-sim game to have accelerated stalls, buffeting, blackouts, everything by the book. "We were terrified," Baron says, "because we thought no one would want to go to that much trouble." Au contraire: it was a huge success. "People will put up with enormous amounts of agonizing if they believe it's real," Baron says. The gaming publications were critical, at first, sniping, This isn't an adventure, it's a job. But authenticity won the battle. About 7,000 people play Air Warrior in the US alone. And hundreds of thousands of people all over the world play all sorts of different kinds of elaborate flight sim games.

No one seems to know how flight sim got from its original military application to games - or at least not precisely. Baron thinks it's an example of simultaneous development, with gamesters learning from military and vice versa. Mustang on the Mac was one of the first, in the early '80s, and the military has incorporated elements of it in its own training. Spectrum HoloByte had a deal to develop tabletop flight sim for the military and applied some of the technology to games. Falcon, which uses modern aircraft, is one of the top PC flight-sim games. But the Falcon's "flight model" - the overall profile of realism - is not as authentic as some.

How authentic are the players?

"You get a lot of swell-headed jerks who behave the way they think real fighter pilots behave, who taunt you," Baron says. But a lot of friendships are formed in the squadrons too, and there are admirable people to befriend out there in the digital skies. "You really have to have both talent and dedication to reach the highest levels of this game," Baron says.

You want to trace the arc? Just braille the high points:

In the early '80s there was Mustang. Primitive stick-figure stuff, full of bugs. The original Falcon came about as a direct graft from Spectrum HoloByte's military flight-sim work. There was Accolade's Ace of Aces; then around '89, quality jumped with.... (Am I sounding like I know shit about this? I'm no sim-head. But I can feel the pull. I shall resist. But boys, I understand. I too would like to hunt and kill.)

It's accelerated evolution: in a remarkably short time the games developed to higher rez, more color, sharper graphics, faster response, more sound, and greater authenticity. Still, most games, like Falcon and Air Warrior, have limited realism in the landscape and action parts of the visual; the image tends to be a little abstract, under-textured, geometrical. But it's real enough so you can create the rest of the scene in your head if you have a little imagination. The views of the cockpit and the exterior of one's own plane can be quite elaborately detailed, and the plane's response - the most important element for many players - is ever more acute.

Numerous World War I air-combat sims came in 1990: Blue Max from Three-Sixty Pacific, including both the dogfighting mode and a strategy game in which you plot sorties; MicroProse's Knights of the Sky, which broke the modem barrier; and Red Baron from Dynamix, which was more technically accurate (a critical factor).

As the games came, they progressed through 20th-century air-combat history, with Lucasfilm Games bringing out Battlehawks 1942, simulating four air battles from the Pacific and containing more than 40 missions. A year later Lucasfilm brought out Their Finest Hour: The Battle of Britain. It was a huge success. And the company didn't overlook the average air-combat nut's fascination with the Luftwaffe, delivering Secret Weapons of the Luftwaffe, as well.

Sheepless in Seattle ... So many dweebs, so little time ... How I learned to stop worrying and love the warps ...

What follows are my recollections from 15 years of involvement and/or association with Air Warrior. At least as best as my memory can recall such things. My serious activity in the game was from 1987 through 1992, so much of this will be unfamiliar to most AW readers. And odds are I'll get some of the chronology wrong. But screw it. "The game's afoot," as Holmes used to say.

Read the article

EVOLUTION OF HISTORICAL SCENARIOS (from AW to WarBirds to WW2OL)

Baal:

As already mentioned, Doktor Gonzo invented the scenario concept in AW. I think he also produced the first couple WBs scenarios too - 'Kiel' and 'Solomons' (which was cancelled due to tech problems IIRC).

My own first scenario was 'Fortress Germany' in the fall of 1996. Then 'Solomons II' the next spring. The fall of '97 had 'PointBlank', which IMO was the best of all the official scenarios. And 'New Guinea' was in the spring of '98.

This was no where near often enough for those of us who loved scenarios.

Meanwhile, a close relationship had developed between JG14 and 401 RCAF Rams. We had been doing traditional duels for a year or so, and we shared a common love of scenarios. So we began creating our own mini-scenarios instead of dueling. These were produced by Jabo, Morz, Jagr, Dekker, Pjmy and many others in the 2 squads.

Then Jabo decided it was time to take the next step and create the Squad Select Series. It grew directly out of our inter-squad duels and mini-scenarios. That first S3, 'Three Days in August' was in the late fall of '98. He was the sole Janitor for that one. About 10 or so squads participated, and it was a huge success.

For the second S3, Roan and I also joined the Janitorial ranks. Roan took over the administration of the S3, and became the main liaison with the squads. I took over the scoring and implemented the awarding of decorations. Jabo remained as the lead designer. Though, especially in the early series, much of it was a collaborative effort among the three of us.

I soon recruited Vadr and Wackem to develop a parser and database for the scoring and medals. Both of them bowed out after about 8 S3s and we recruited Spitboy to create a new parser and scoring database, which is still in use. Spitboy has finally decided to move on though and has recently retired from the Janitorial team.

In all there were 16 S3s in WB2. And we're now in the 4th S3 in WB3. To date, over 2500 virtual pilots have participated, and a large chunk of the 120 or so guys who flew in the first S3 are still with us.

In the early S3 days we had to rely upon the CMs to set up the arena for us. Most of them flew in our events, so it was always easy to find one to do the set-up.

Over the years the WBs team, especially Jay, Kent and Dan, have done many thngs to make our lives easier. At our request, they granted us CM, and later on higher level gawd powers so we could not only set up our own arenas, but also reboot and lock/unlock them. The WB2 Tobruk and WB3 Tunisia terrains were both built specifically to meet our S3 requirements. And they implemented a private, password protected, arena for S3 use. This last was particularly appreciated. In the early days, anyone could enter the arena and interfere. Whichever Janitor was on duty that night would have to be constantly announcing on the gawd channel that gate-crashers could not fly. I can't tell you how many times I'd be in the middle of a dogfight when I learned of a gatecrasher and had to disengage to contact the 'crasher on private to get him to leave voluntarily, or by ejection if necessary. I won't say S3s wouldn't have survived without Jay, Kent and Dan's assistance, but they certainly contributed a lot behind the scenes to make our lives easier. (S!)

Jagr:

Funny you should mention that, the history of the current S3's is a really amazing thing.. it started as a long long series of 401st/JG14 duels which evolved over time into more and more complex recreations of events.. we had 30 or so people who all shared a common idea of what THEY all thought was fun.. and over time as we got more and more ambitious, we slowly brought in "select" groups who were "select" not just because of their abilities, but because they shared that love for history and the same style of event recreation. We did tons of testing and set our own rules of conduct and gentlemens agreements on tactics to conform with our goals, worked with Doc and Raptor testing bomber settings and attrition levels for the buffs and perfecting HO passes. Our collective goal was to achieve "Simulation" of history, not abuse the limits of the game code to run up scores. The pinnacle event had about 120 people involved including several bomber and fighter squads we had slowly formed a long term relationship with and was probably the single most enjoyable event I did in WB's. They were special because I knew the names of all the guys flying on my side.. AND all the guys we were flying against.. every kill message was special, and you found yourself chatting with shot up bomber pilots getting updates on how they were doing and if they thought they could make it home..

The next day on AGW the threads were amazing.. half the people were describing this "incredible experience" they had the night before..and the other half were complaining that they didn't get "selected" and some even getting angry and DEMANDING to be selected because they were paying customers.. (G)

I should have known the world was going to end when we got -roan- and --mz-- over the the "Dark Side"

I knew once it went "Commercial" and the doors were opened it could acheive great things, but we would never reproduce the special feeling of having 120 people who all knew each other by name and had flown with each other for years all thinking along the same lines in the same spirit as we did that one final time..

Since iEN dropped all support for the real multi day "Event Scenarios" (A major mistake IMHO) S3's became the defacto replacement, and evolved over time to allow more new faces and inevitably evolve away from what we had originally

I really enjoyed the S3's, in fact they were and are the only reason I keep my account..and for a couple of years I'd wager several hundred people or more were in the same boat. But sometimes I'd like to have those early ones back

Things change over time, people come and people go, friends go their separate ways and lose contact. Money gets involved and backs get stabbed and feeling hurt.. people polarize based on what is best for them at the moment.. so much politics..But almost 9 years later everyone is still seeking that Holy Grail of Simulations that we all could describe but no one has gotten right yet.. So many opportunities lost, time wasted, blunders made, some made several times, development setbacks due to changes in personnel, financial support.. what SHOULD we be playing 8 or 9 years after WB addicted us all so blissfully..

In a perfect world all the old friends would get back together at a reunion and mend fences and rebuild bridges and rekindle the mutual LOVE for the game that made their efforts all so special and build the game we and they would all want to be bale to play.. but that only happens in fairy tales...

My money is on the Russians to coming up with something remarkable..because they certainly have the talent, and can afford to pay the man hours needed for all the little details that add up to greatness.. I wish it hadn't turned out that way.. especially now that the agonizngly slow death of WB seems mercifully near..

Killer:

Yeah scenarios are the shiznit, that's what we wanted to get out of wwiiol on a daily basis, and weve not done a very good job at all at that aspect.

The game rocks like no other when you can get hooked up with a good group, but we've blown the part about getting the good group pretty bad, where it's almost impossible to do for a lot of folks.

Of course we did run a 1700 player scenario last month, and were running it again this month with closer to 2000 in it, but the typical WWIIOL player has a lot to learn about scenarios. It'll be probably another 3-4 before it starts even getting up to clusterf*ck stage

Just the thought of trying to manage 1400 aircraft taking off in a scenario makes my head hurt. Even moreso when 90+% hve never been in a scenario before.

Another little history conerning BB. Way back in 1994 we used to talk a lot, a LOT back then. One of the defining conversations revolved around scaling up the games to virtual battlefields.

BB's vision was scripted war. Huge battles fought by AI that players could join, in flight even. The war went on, and you never were sure whether that enemy would be AI or not.

My vision was all real players, a scenario if you will, only on a 24/7/365 basis where the battle scaled to online player numbers but you get the scenario feel throughout and the charge of all real players.

BB's answer was Bigweek. I don't think he got to take it as far as he wanted but it did get made.

Mine was WWIIOL, again not taken nearly as far as I would have liked yet but I'll be working that way as long as I can.

I still bet we could argue about which is best for 3-4 hours straight. Anyway that's a bit of background on AW Bigweek and WWIIOL from before WB's time, probably circa 1993.

If I had stayed at IEN, I would have worked to move SL's and scenarios to a 24/7/365 setup and gone for WWIIOL from that path while keeping current arenas fresh with a new graphics engine, basically just like Jat and HS et al did. Didn't look like I would get the chance in N.C. though


WARBIRDS

Enter HT and Pyro, a couple of very popular AW aces who also had some programming and art skills.

HiTech was a hacker-type, who made a gun camera for AW and a few other utilities. Eventually he, along with Killer, Gunjam and a few others decided to make their own sim. Thus began ICI and Warbirds. This was like 1995-1998.

They set out to build a better mousetrap; a "high-fidelity" sim using "physics-based" FM, gunnery, and DM. They pretty much succeeded. Although IMO for the first 2 years or so of "Confirmed Kill," it was only about as good overall as AW (due to some growing pains with the realism of the physics modeling), it eventually became top dog in pretty much every area.

Open Beta day 1, version 0.81, for WB (then called CK) was Memorial Day weekend, 1995. I wasn't there but I was along soon after, in July.

In these versions Eidos and iCi had a partnership; Eidos provided the graphics engine, iCi the sim. This broke up and iCi licensed a new graphics engine from CSG (of Hornet sims) (hope I got that acronym right heh). This began the 0.9x betas, and this engine was used through 1.11. Eidos kept the Confirmed Kill name, which Mike Gilmartin of Eidos eventually tried to revive into a new sim around 1998-1999; this failed horrendously. WB became WB

ICI Confirmed Kill announcement 1995/10/03

Well Folks Theres an official announcement due that you may be interested in.

Interactive Creations Inc. (ICI) has officially terminated its agreement with Domark Software to use Domarks FST graphics engine for Interacive Creations "Confirmed Kill " (tm) multiplayer flight simulation.

The Confirmed kill project will now use a graphics engine supplied by Graphic Simulations Inc. and ported to DOS by ICI with SGI rendered 3-d shapes.

ICI will also be working with the Graphic Simulations Inc. engine for the Macintosh PowerPC port as well.

I would also like to take this time to announce officially our direct connection to the Concentric Research Network slated for debut the week of Oct 10th, through which, along with direct internet connection to our Dallas Tx. based servers, you are all welcome to continue taking part in the what we believe will become the greatest gaming experience of its kind.

(Personal note: Dave "French" Chaloux started WB's 4th in November, 1995)

Live cutover was near Christmas 1995; I think half of WB quit that day, but many of them returned for their fix after an initial period of sour grapes over no more free flying.

(Personal note 2: French resigned the 4th in March, 1996 to begin the =Trainer= program; I took over the 4th then).

During the initial live period, bombers were introduced and many new planes; and iCi pioneered Windows gaming, developing what was, AFAIK, the first DirectX port that actually ran at a speed near a DOS equivalent. M$ actually showcased WB in particular when pushing DirectX. Would M$ have made an offer to buy iCi? Hmmmmmmm.

Many (if not most) of the "old guard" from the AW full realism arenas migrate to the new sim, which has tons of "energy" that AW seems to have lost. Somewhere along the line, business disagreements appeared, and Domark, which was the initial corporate investor in Confirmed Kill, took their money and their sim name, and left. So CK becomes Warbirds, and Pyro and HT turn to ICI and later iMOL for funding. AW, meanwhile, makes a move to Windows, and then AOL. AW2 and AW3 show up, with better graphics, a nice GUI, and some pretty innovative features like briefing rooms and shareable mission maps, but the beginning of the end is in sight for the grandaddy of them all. Fighter Ace and Warbirds overtake AW.

A few good years pass and WarBirds is the king of the hill.

iCi grew in staff, trying a new project, Planetary Raiders. More rumors and innuendos surround this, and it never went anywhere. Too bad, it would have been the retirement plan for the iCi team.

Cash was low towards the end of 1996, and seeing an opportunity...

Enter Wild Bill. After some early successes with Microprose games and even a few good games at iMOL (Apache, Hind, one or two others) a series of real stinker CD-ROM games turn iMOL into a losing proposition. iMOL becomes iEN, and Bill decides the answer to saving his company is to get its only profitable entity (Warbirds) to bring in more revenue. Of course, this can't be done by letting WB do better what it does best, i.e. providing the most realistic combat flight sim experience and bringing in more players that way. Instead, it has to become "more accessible" to flight simmers of all kinds. Thus was born Easy Mode.

WB2 was created. CSG's next engine, with Direct3d support, was licensed, so no Mac 3d. In fact after the PC version went live it was nearly a year before Mac people were able to play WB2 at all.

Initially HT and Pyro spout the company line about how EZ mode is "necessary" for the future of the game. Unbeknownst to us, EZ mode has been dictated by Bill, and HT and Pyro are none too happy about it. In fact EZ mode is the straw that breaks the camel's back, and within 6 months, HT and Pyro leave to create another sim, this time armed with enough knowledge (and enough capital, apparently) to do it without "outside interference." Luckily for WB fans, there is a strong cadre of Dev Team members still onboard (Mo, Hoof, etc). Pyro and HT are missed, but the sim continues to progress.

Also during this time, iMOL produced some truly awful box 'sims,' Stealey using the same management style we know to stick his nose into the middle of a design and foul it up.

HT/Pyro left December, 1998. AH was announced publicly 7/23/99 (go Google go) as being in alpha testing.

Enter Wild Bill again. iEN is in dire straits. It is no longer able to support multiple operating locations. The Grapevine crew was ordered to pack up and move to North Carolina to consolidate operations. Bill "orders" the WB team to "march or die." The team, who all live in Texas and like it, elect to "die," and give their notice. Oops. This was March-April 1999, same time as the New Guinea scenario. Who is going to run WB (the ONLY source of revenue for iEN)? Mo and his team stay on for a while to keep things functional, but they they leave to start THEIR own sim. Enter HT and Pyro AGAIN. They are "contracted" by iEN to keep WB functional while the new WB team (Hotseat) gets up to speed and the infrastructure is added to the North Carolina operation.

A personal view:

"(Personal note 3: At that time Snak and many other key players quit, some rather abruptly. I got chosen as CM Chair and we did SLs, but no other major events, that year. During the transition, which IMO was easily March-November, things were rather chaotic, and many SLs got bounced due to dead arenas, wrong terrains, and so forth. I *believe* it was at this time Kent/Iceman started with iEN, which greatly helped!)."

This brings us up to about late 1999, and I trust most folks are familiar with what happens from that point on. Bill is basically fired for screwing up the company, Warbirds takes about a year and a half to get back on its feet, Pyro and HT unveil Aces High (causing a similar migration to what happened with AW and WB earlier), Mo and the Rats unveil WW2OL, the new guy at iEN fails about as spectacularly as Bill did, somehow everyone forgets how inept Bill was, and he gets invited back in, and now the current WB Dev Team is basically "driven away" by Bill's policies. Deja vu.

Jay Littman in 2003:

"I was the producer of Air Warrior for the Macintosh while I was employed at Kesami (good old days). My programmer and I deployed Air Warrior for the Macintosh into paid production on AOL after nine months or development. This was a world record for Kesami. In fact we beat the Air Warrior for Windows folks. Also at the same time I was developing Harpoon Online.

I then changed companies and moved on to IMagic. I was assigned the WarBirds 2.xx project. After several updates to WarBirds 2.xx we found that the code base has limits. We then created a completely new code base call WarBirds III. We deployed WarBirds III into paid production, refining the graphic engine and the application at the same time. Most game companies do not take that type of risk and would limit development to the graphic engine or the application separately. WarBirds III was deployed into paid production while supporting our legacy products (WarBirds 2.77 and Dawn of Aces) in 13 months. Most games take about 24 months to be deployed into paid production.

Now we?re creating multiple products (Armored Assault) leveraged on the same technology with the goal of making a product attractive to a person though it's sister product might not be (i.e. someone might like tanks, but not aircraft)."

Eagl:

Don't forget Mili's scoring pages... His score pages are still unmatched in clarity and readability. He had pure stats of all kinds, line, bar, and pie graphs showing nearly every measure of your virtual performance, plus historical data so you could see trends.

Current scoring pages in AH have a lot more data on plane vs. plane stats, but the functionality found on Mili's pages has never been approached.

More way back when items. I don't remember the dates but I'm sure some others will remember.

The F'ing Pigs won the first WB 10v10 fighter dueling tournament. The 901st immortals came in second, losing a second "final" round after the first "final" round was nullified when at the end of the round, a single 901st player refused to engage the 2 remaining F'ing Pigs. The funniest death was caused when a Black Sheep pilot's cat jumped on the keyboard at the merge causing an immediate bailout.

Has Drex ever lost a con dueling tournament? Remember the look on Scop's face when he compressed/augered the P-38 after talking trash about it just a few minutes before?

At the Palm Springs convention, the Dweebs of Death knocked three F'ing Pigs dueling teams out of the tournament and advanced through two rounds without scoring more than one or two kills with their guns. All kills in their first round against F'ing Pigs teams were from collisions or Pigs augering. 10% rule applies

Tone created "wildfire" for use in WB by logging into the server via telnet, and sending/responding to text messages. After ICI objected to the computer-generated personality, Tone modified wildfire into "HQ" which became an amazingly useful online tool everyone could use. Simply typing "HQ tell squad eagl everyone go south" would result in HQ sending the message "everyone go south" to each person in squad eagl. A nearly unlimited number of groups and subgroups could be created and HQ played an important role in several online scenarios. HQ died when the telnet login was discontinued and as far as the game community could tell, ICI seemed to show no interest in the project.

Quiz finished up WB's first jets over a weekend and got busted for it.

Smut:

Time flies.

FWIW, started flying the ICI CK beta on that fateful Memorial Day, and didn't leave for good until 2.7(something). The Pigs were formed around the 4th of July of that first year.

Who remembers Kiel? The very first WB event. I was the bomber group leader for that one, and never again would I ask for a command slot in an online event. Any 305th(H) vets out there? I remember having formation practice using P-39's, full fuel and bombs because the B-17 wasn't ready until days before the event. Still a lot of fun, even though I had a meltdown near the end...

As for me. it was the EA Baltimore (not Bethesda) office I worked at as a Designer (Jane's F-15 & Jane's F/A-18). Those were the days...after hours I'd often fire up WB and usually end up with one or two of my coworkers watching. Great fun. I remember the Pigs that played F-15 got a shock when the bad guys went for the head on guns kill in the merge...lol. Yeah CK/WB left it's mark.

Couple of others I know about -

Quiz did a brief stint at the OSI "Skunkworks" between ICI and starting up Check 6.

Boomer also ended up at OSI after ICI...haven't heard from him in ages. Anyone?

Those were days to remember, for sure.

And some fun discussion at comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.flight-sim:

Read the discussion

The first ever WarBirds scenario:

DocDoom: I shall never forget this ... it is emblazoned in my brain such that I, like those in the much maligned Luftweenies who were with me at that fateful moment will carry the scar forever to our graves.

... "Frame 3 from Kiel" ...

Having lost 1st and 2nd in command, a week and then a day from the starting gate ... we put new flight plans and defense strategies together on the tarmac and during the climbout.

Rosters and flight leads on sheets of scribbled paper all over my lap and taped to my monitor and walls.

The radio chat bar from hell.

I don't know how we managed it, but somehow I found myself with 48 FW-190A8's in one fangs hanging out blood gorging salivating mass ... 2,000 feet above the entire B-17 formation and not an escort fighter in sight. If memory serves some of our Me-109 "distractions" had taken the bulk of the P-51's off on a sight seeing tour.

Whatever the case, it was a glorious moment in the suicidal life that was an Fw-190 pilot in that scenario. You could actually feel the 20mm love coming through the phone lines and our modems glowed with the anticipation of what was to come.

The call went out "Horrido!" and in we went. All 48 of us diving down to embrace the wonder of B-17 smorgasborg.

About 17 seconds after the .50's from the B-17s opened up, and we began counting framerates at the rate of glass plate photography from the turn of the century

....

... the server croaked.

"Frame 3 from Kiel" will never be forgotten by anyone in those Fw-190's, ever. One shining glorious moment of unprecedented happiness that arrived out of nowhere and then dissappeared just as your toungue touched the glorious Belgium chocolate of it all.

Hey DoK ... you mellowed out I heard. That can't possibly be true, can it ? B]

The Coitusgate crisis - WarBirds & iEN UK in crisis

The British iEN/WarBirds story.

Iceman:

(blow away the myth) The UK server sat at MCNC.....right beside the US server. There was a German Server that another group kinda took over, thats another soap opera in itself!

I believe Jules was one of the major reasons I got that job They were looking for someone who could talk to the public without inciting a riot!

Hmmmm....boy do I remember the British Affair Had me hopping back and forth big time trying to be the peace maker. First time I ever got to seriously slap someone's wrist without having ever seen them! At the time I got the serious impression that that was one of the main reasons that office got slated to be closed down. Had that happened in the US, some heads woulda rolled big time. Guess we have different laws about that?

The UK flap involved the unauthorized disclosure of information. It was handled a little under what the US "company regs" might have required, but thanks to cool heads between both squads it did eventually iron itself out

Killer:

Actually the U.K. server did at one time sit in the U.K., I flew over myself and installed it personally. An IBM multiprocessor box. I don't remember the company we contracted for rack space anymore though.

It must have been pulled and moved back when IEN consolidated in N.C. It never attracted a whole lot of players over there anyway as they mostly played on the main U.S. server as they always had.

Iceman:

Yuppers, that's the way I understand it. Was kinda shocked when I had been there for a little while and was asking the netguy about why their ping times weren't any better than ours. He just smiled and said "wanna know a secret?". And thus was the beginning of my slide into the abbyss I'll write a book right after my NDA expires (or iEN goes tits up...whichever comes first). I've had the title picked out ever since '99 when I realized what I had gotten myself into...."In the belly of the Beast". Every so often I'd call the folks, give them some insight into what was going on. They thought I was living a soap opera...I really feel now like it was. Much better than anything that was ever on daytime TV But then I understand your pre-iMagic existence was pretty much the same

Grendel:

Lots of bad stuff between US and UK offices?

I don't remember much about the UK WB.... They had a server there, lousy connections, discoes and server crashes.

Met some of them at one ECTS, seemed decend on the surface at least.

Dunno. Mainly I remember from UK WB that Tangmere and Duxford wing had major problems with each other but was that part of IEN UK problem too? Um, um... I ALMOST remember some major crap happening but..... ANyone?

Beaz:

Ok... ok... "Coitusgate" the story... Glop, Revvin, Iceman and anyone else that remembers can chime in here and correct me or fill in any holes that I leave out.

A brief history of UK squads is probably in order because this all started from a certain amount of bad blood.

The first UK based Warbirds squad was 13 Squadron RAF... started with 4 members when Warbirds was only available through a shell account with Demon Internet, way back during pre 1.11 days. Myself (Beaz), Suvs, Bodm and Joch (best virtual pilot I ever flew with... he used to get 70 odd kill streaks flying F4F's) formed the first squad. Well that grew and grew and pretty soon we hit the 32 man limit for squad size. I had been contacted by a guy who went by the callsign of ?Gillam?. Now it turned out that Gillam was an ex-RAF fighter pilot and I wanted to get him in the squad pronto to train us up in some real world fighter tactics. I wanted to spawn another squad, Suvs didn't and during all the shouting the squad split. I then created 249 Squadron RAF "Gold Coast" with Ramjet and Gillam. I think Krod became the fourth member. Meanwhile ?Sinbad? was removed from 13 Squadron RAF and ended up forming 633 Squadron RAF a few weeks later.

Anyway? 249 and 633 got into bed and formed the ?Duxford Wing? along with 617 Squadron RAF ?Dambusters? which was run by ?Kfsone? (an ex Red Raider who now works as a programmer for Playnet on WWIIOL). So we had 249, 617 & 633 and life was pretty good for a while. We ran massive coordinated inter squad missions against entire ?colours? and we picked up a lot of recruits. Anyway? Sinbad got into bed with Jules who ran the office in Bracknell UK and he pretty much used to ring Jules up on a daily basis and talk about all manner of things like the UK server etc. He used to visit the office quite a bit. Anyway Jules ended up creating two positions for the UK server for running scenarios etc. I think he called them Community Liason Officers (correct me if I?m wrong) but he wrongly gave one of those positions to Sinbad? in other words he circumvented the CM procedure (which was pretty much written in stone) for appointing new CM?s and he did this by simply calling them something different when they in effect did exactly the same job. This pissed off the CM and Trainer brigade in the States no end to such an extent that they boycotted all help for scenarios to the UK server. Members of the Duxford Wing had at that time spent a ton of time and effort to create a flagship ?Dambusters? scenario for the launch of the UK server. Well the damned scenario never happened because it coinsided with the ICI crew walking out and the servers crashing all over the place. Now no CM?s or Trainers were appointed from the UK mainland for quite some time and this personally pissed me off intensely because Jules/Sinbad were the route cause of it. It seemed to me that if you were associated with Jules/Sinbad in any way then you were tarred with the same brush. In the end myself and Ramjet became pretty pissed off with Sinbad?s antics and after a lot of blood letting we broke away and invited 13 Squadron RAF back to form the Tangmere Wing. That was pretty much how ?most? of the RAF squads from the UK mainland evolved in the Warbirds world and there has been bad blood between Duxford and Tangmere ever since.

Can't remember exactly when this was but I would say at least two maybe three years ago... Imagic were heavily involved digging their own graves and Warbirds III development had just started. Tangmere had some great pilots and we relished the clashes we had with the Duxford mob because we would usually wipe the floor with them regularly. The rivalry became so acute at times that we used to purposefully go hunting for them? and we especially used to hunt down ?Sinbad? It was not unusual at this time to have more than one account. I think we were all paying per hour at the time so it didn?t cost anything extra to have a second or even third account. I certainly had one to simply goof around on my own and a lot of other pilots in Tangmere did as well. One such person was Gillam (our expert ex-RAF fighter pilot) who had a secret account in the name of ?Coitus?.

One day Coitus was goofing around in the arena wiping the floor with people (he used to get 10 kill sorties regularly in his Spit) when he was seen by Sinbad kicking ass and was contacted by him via the radio and asked if he wanted to join a squad? i.e a Duxford squad. Anyway, thinking nothing of it, Coitus/Gillam thinks to himself ?what the hell? I?m game for a laugh? and joins.

A few weeks go by and ?Sinbad? is in the arena with his cronies stooging around when they come across this lone Spitfire who proceeds to wipe the floor with his entire squad. Multiple flaming aircraft all fall to the ground due to the guns of Gillam, the last one being poor old Sinbad who then proceeds to flip his lid. Gillam receives a stinking email asking why he had ?infiltrated? Sinbad?s squad in the guise of ?Coitus?? and Gillam thinks to himself ?how in the hell did you know that I was Coitus??.

It later transpires through all the shouting going back and forth that Sinbad has inadvertently provided his arch enemies (those in Tangmere) with enough evidence to hang himself (what a friggin muppet!). It come to light that Sinbad had gained access to the Imagic/IEn customer database via Jules in the Bracknell office and while visiting the office he just so happened to check up on a few people while he was there to see if his squad had been infiltrated. So he had access to peoples names, addresses, account numbers, certainly credit card details, maybe even passwords etc etc and he found out that Gillam and Coitus were one and the same person. In doing so he broke the UK?s Data Protection Act and consequently those in the Tangmere Wing were NOT at all happy that he had had access to such confidential customer information. We threatened to sue Imagic/IEn. We would have almost certainly of won. We certainly wanted Sinbad banned from the game entirely. Iceman kept a cool head and put Sinbad on ?probation? for a number of weeks. We didn?t see him in the arena for about a month. The whole thing blew over eventually but a left a bad taste in the mouths of the members of Tangmere.

Iceman:

Ummm......{clears throat}....yeah, that would be about it. What a mess Heads were gonna roll over that one. Was one of the first opportunities I had to put the "diplomac" skills I learned in the Guard to the test. Was really hard to keep from choking the crap out of quite a few people.

Randon:

UK WB community just like a soap opera.

- vast amounts of time wasted.

- implausible plots involving feuds and more incestuous relationships than Mid Norfolk (Kentucky for the US)

- embarrassment at admitting that you watched it

Check out this orbat....

http://www.ienevents.com/emc/13RAF14apr98.htm

staggering how many still there.


THE SOAP OPERA - DOWNFALL OF WARBIRDS

IGGY:

Where it went wrong (why you CAN blame Wild Bill!)

ARCWNG is certainly correct in that the problem with WB's has been a culmination of years of mismanagement, but having been there at the start (as a customer), I can tell you that it was, quite plainly, Wild Bill who held the rudder went this ship went off course.

It was back in about 1996/97, after the IMOL takeover of ICI, when Bill was ultimately responsible for the decision to get out of boxed games (I think i16 was the last imagic games to come out on the shelves) and to go down the "online only" route. This was common thinking at the time, due to the unexpected success of a newcomer game called "Ultima Online" (as plagued with problems as that game was, it proved beyond any doubt that the MMOXXX was a viable business model). We can't blame the ICI guys -- their intention was to build the platform and they did. Once the core was done, they decided to sell the company to people who were in the business of making money selling software -- in theory, Bill was that guy.

Where Bill really screwed the pooch, though, was with overwhelming arrogance coupled with terrible foresight. You see, at the time, WB's was charging nothing for the software and /hr to play. Games that succeeded with the MMOXXX business model were charging retail prices for the software and a monthly fee to keep playing. This meant that the development team was funded by boxed sales and the "maintenance" team (i.e., the folks who ran the servers) were funded by the monthly fees. If boxed sales dropped, no biggie -- drop some developers or put them to work on an "expansion pack". If customer base dropped, less overhead would be required (drop a T1 line or go with a provided that charged an an as-needed basis).

The arrogance of IMOL at the time was that they kept believing that people would pay /hr to play an aging game, despite the obvious development of competing products that would (at long last) capture the best parts of WB's (great flight modeling and the ability for many players, although perhaps not hundreds, to play online together). It was when WB's 2 was introduced that the big mistake was made -- sell WB's 2 with a set of missions and an offline campaign for retail money, then charge a reasonable (i.e., competitive) monthly fee to play. They didn't do this. Bill's theory was to provide cheaper options, like the Fighter Ops arena. In the greatest debacle in the history of the game, they introduce the limited air combat arena (its name escapes me at the moment) in which there was a rolling planeset of two planes, full realism, and a basic fee of .95 per month. Many of us departed vets jumped on this and signed right up! Unlimited play for a reasonable fee was the ticket.

But Bill's arrogance stepped in once again. He couldn't give away what people wanted at a reasonable price, he had to dumb-it-down and make that arena "easy mode". I and others cancelled their accounts before the first credit card charges hit the statement.

At no time, however, does it appear that anyone at IMOL/IENT/iEN/etc. ever clue into any of the succesful business models of Everquest, Ultima, etc.: sell the game, charge to play. Look at Ultima!!! It's been around for years, still stinks (compared to the competition) and is still turning a profit. It had all the same elements as the original WB's, too -- a very devoted community and reasons to hang around and play, despite obviously aging technology.

So, ARCWNG, I do appreciate your statements that you really can't blame Bill... and perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on the guy. He is a life-long sim fan, like the rest of us, but it was on his watch that a game that was first on the market with the best technology available (with the added bonus of a die-hard fan-base) has floundered and is likely to finally breathe its least breath (or server its last packet). You certainly can't blame the fans, or the great produces, artists and developers that have worked on the game over the years. You have only Bill. Sure, there's a BOD that's pushing him, but the job of the CEO is to impart a vision to a company and to make that vision a reality. If done with competence, the success of the vision turns the profit that appeases the board and shareholders. It's also his job to explain to the board why they need to buy-in to his vision. Most boards do this, until they see the company failing or going so long without turning a profit that they have no choice but to intervene.

And as for the size of the community, you're right -- there are not that many of us true "die hard" sim fans out there. But the success of games like IL2 (it's sold a buttload of copies, my friend) and the number of people who fly online sims on a nightly basis shows that the sim market is alive and well, albeit certainly smaller than the hundred thousand, or so, nightly MMORPG players. This isn't about the size of the market, so much as it's about the ability of a game company to provide a product at a competitive price. Is Aces High in any danger of going under? Not from what I can tell. Is it a "pure realism" sim? Not from what I can tell... but it's a damn sight superior to the relaxed realism of the dweebmode arena (is the console command for easy mode still .dweebmode 1 ??) and the price is just about right (I still think they need to develop a boxed game to get the name of the game spread via the retail store shelves of the world and drop the price to /month to keep people hooked while they wait to pay for a expansion set every six to eight months -- but what do I know?)

ARCWNG:

Hey iggy,

Everything you mentioned in your post was before my time. It was the beginning of MMOG. It was untested waters. When I was at iEN Bill was walking out. iEN was run by the board and the VP. Bill was on the board. For the 3 years I was there it wasn't about Warbirds. It was about Ad revenue. If they focused on Warbirds for those forgotten years... I believe Warbirds today would be better off. It wasn't till after some time they even wanted to do another Warbirds (warbirds III)

They got Warbirds. Went with it. And then at a crucial time it was set aside while others passed by. iEN held on to the hourly charge when others went flat rate. iEN also dumped most of its support for the game at this time. Staff was reduced and Warbirds was an afterthought. Warbirds Hasn't rebounded from that. I believe it was the killer. Now iEN is to poor to do anything about it. There stuck at .95 because they can't go lower or have to shut the doors. Back when Ad revenue was booming I was begging them to go flat rate. But they waited to long. By the time they went flat rate the damage was done.

I can't talk about what Bill did before I was there. When I was there Bill left. I saw iEN kill the game simply because they wouldn't put money into it or get with the times as far as billing goes. When I was let go Bill came back. But from what I can see the damage to the company was already done. Bill is back as one desperate attempt to save the company I am sure.

You can blame Bill all you want. It's not like I am defending the guy. I am saying I (me, ARCWNG) saw the damage done when iEN and the board ran the company and killed it.

IGGY:

I'm not disagreeing with anything you said ARCWNG... I'm sure that's all true enough. But having seen what the wild one has done to so many sims over the years, I just had to stick in my two cents on his contribution to the current state of affairs. I'm sure there are plenty of people at whom we can point the finger, for not ever letting this great game reach its full potential in the market place, but I'm a firm believe in looking at who's in charge and starting there.

Also, to Goober, I might add that Chris Sherland ("Mo") was the producer at that time and was very displeased with the way that whole shabang played out, too. He told me that his orders were to put relatively lousy plane combos in that rolling planeset (i.e., we weren't going to get a tour with the P38 and P51 -- rather, he was told to use combos like the P39 and P40, to coerce people into flying in the PTP arenas if they wanted the "good" planes). When they decided that the arena was going into perma-dweeb mode, it was long after that I saw his name associated with WW2OL. I didn't know that HT and Pyro left in that same incident.

What's really sad is that Bill never realized that the way to make life-long customers wasn't to dumb-down the game to the average player's level -- people are much more adept at games than he ever realized. When people take a hard game like WB's and master it, they tend to stick around for a long, long time. When people take an easy game like Fighter Ace and master it (in a very brief period of time), they move on. Bill never saw that the way to build the player base was to find a way to slowly acclimate players to the high level of skill required to "master" warbirds (if such a thing has ever been done by anyone not flying with the name -mili-, imo)... not dumb the game down into a flying fragfest.

Anyway, as ARCWNG so rightly points out, the trail of incompentence is long and winding. I'd note that it's not specific to Warbirds, either (for example, where are Andy Hollis and Jane's Sims now? If I had the name of the group of dimwits at EA that screwed that pooch, I'd post it). The real problem is that business people don't like "niche" markets. They don't understand them and they never grasp the fact that simply turning a profit is a good thing. Not ever game will be like Everquest... just keeping people employed and turning a better ROI for the shareholders than they can make in the bank is actually a great business model.

GUMS:

As a newbie back in 1996 when the Mac version came outta beta and then quickly went to PPC chips only, I remember the 'old days'.

At the time, WB made Air Warrior look like a very cheap cartoon as far as basic aircraft graphics went, although terrain was only slightly better. Plane set was way better and the flight models seemed about right for the average bear.

I got my first bill and was shocked to find it over 0 for a month. guess the damned game/sim was addictive.

I remember an unbelievably dedicated and motivated player corps. I remember an outstanding ICI staff that seemed to listen, but did not over react to small bitches and whines (more on that later). Then it goes IMOL, then xxx, then xxx, etc.

Then it seems that the management component started trying things to get/keep the player base. So we saw the 'easy mode', the RPS, etc. Improved graphics and terrains were next with WB2.x. Then we saw new models of planes that weren't produced in historically significant numbers. This despite the fact that WB had more models to fly than anyone else - and they were decently modeled.

More features were added, while basic flaws in some of the flight models and cockpit art remained the same. A small, but vocal group began to whine about more 'neat' features and graphics. Management attempted to respond, but major issues remained to be addressed - pricing, a realistic learning curve for newbies that did not require the whole arena to go to the 'dweeb mode', etc.

It was also my impression that other aspects of the company were being emphasized while Warbirds got only token software and gameplay attention. Hell, in the beginning it was making money. Maybe not a lot, but still making money.

Then it seemed that management began to react more and more to the small, vocal group that wanted stuff like 'glint' off the props, custom paint jobs, and even more weird planes that no one really flew way back when. And cool sounds, GASP!!! All of this at the expense of basic gameplay and flight model/cockpit art issues still on the back burner. All this with a reduced staff.

So we get Warbirds 3. Cool pictures for magazine ads, but everyone had to upgrade their computers and even then we couldn't see ground objects nearly as well as in the real world ( a big deal for the JABO and ground-pounding outfits). Hell, roads were/are a joke. Runway contrast with the terrain not even close. And then the addition of 'critters', which I maintain were an attempt to appease folks looking at WW2OL.

Meanwhile, WB staff keeps decreasing.

Old players get disgusted and start leaving, many just leaving, not going to another sim/game.

Guess the game/sim must keep up with the times. However, also seems that many things could have been done to keep old players and attract new ones without changing the basic product. To wit: The S3 events and SL's were big hits, especially for more experienced players. We still had the MA for practice and a quick sortie to home our skills, meet others, train newbies, etc. We had massive scenarios that lasted over a week and had a dozen frames - sponsored by the company, not like today's SL's, TFT's, and S3's. I still have my 'Point Blank' pin that ICI or iMOL sent me back in 1998.

Instead, today we got a host of arenas with various settings and low attendance. We got the 'critters' and robot wingies. We got a plane set that has ignored significant planes of WW2, but yet has 4 or 5 variations of the ME-109, Spitfire, etc.

We also have a confusing set of graphics commands and hardware requirements preventing many from even trying the game/sim.

The pricing plan didn't seem to keep up, but I can tell you that is a lot better deal than 0 plus, for a month.

Sad to see the thing go down the tubes, but I'll fly until it actually does.

CARLOS:

During the time I?ve been at WB (since 2.6, must be 3 1/2 years or so), there have been a couple of management decisions, which put IEN/WB where it is now: at the edge of going belly up.

-When I started playing WB at IEN, there was a RM arena full or almost full every single night, and the FO arena, which started shortly later, had decent numbers in the 80ies, over 100 players at WE?s. At that time we were playing a finished game, at it?s best time. A few month later, WB III went public beta, and divided the community into two segments: a) people who had a machine that could handle WBIII or were willing to spend $$$ to upgrade and b) people who?s machine could not handle WBIII, and who could or would not upgrade.

-WBIII was far from being ready for the public, neither gameplay (no strat) nor the planeset could match it?s predecessor. And there were a lot of bugs, IMO too many to go public. By this time, the only reasonable thing to do, would have been to hire a significant number of artists and programmers and push the development of WBIII forward.

-During that same period the first layoffs struck IEN.

-A few month later, almost exactly two years ago, WWIIOL was released. With all it?s bugs and woe?s, still it drew a lot of attention, and some away from WB. WBIII Was at 9.95 $, same as the new WWIOL, AH was at 15 $, getting more than just a few frustrated players to sign up for one of the other games.

-Late that summer Airwarrior went *poof* a final time, and a good bunch of new players came into WBIII and checked it out, and they checked out AH and WWIIOL as well. A good deal of the homeless pilots wanted to stay, most of them EZ-moders, but then came another amazing decision by Mild Dill:

-WBIII went from beta pricing of 9.95 (at which it had been kind of competitive) to 24.95 $ for the flat. As a consequence, 99 % of the former Airwarriors left and went to AH or WWIIOL. And a since then constant exodus of players started, who were dissatisfied with WBIII?s progress, and/or who were not willing to pay a full price for a game, far from feature complete. And then people started leaving, cause the numbers were constantly decreasing. Low attendance = no fun. Same happened to WB 2.xx, as the numbers had already gone down significantly, with the introduction of WBIII. Everyone felt and knew, that 24.95 was utterly unrealistic, with the competitors out there, charging significantly less, in AH's case for a *complete* game. Everyone but Wild Bill.

-The next really bad one by Mild Dill, was the A$$ thing, and focusing the development team on this game primarily, for a period of almost half a year. Not only that progress, that could have been made in WBIII, was now being made in A$$, this new game also contributed to a further splintering of the already weakened community. And then A$$ was another game based on the ?cap the flag? concept. No new gameplay factors at all, nothing that could really attract a lot of new players, as it was meant to be. As forseen by many of us, it failed. And the exodus continued, and got another push by the A$$ debacle.

-Then came the next wave of layoffs, this time taking away significant parts of the team. This made it pretty obvious for everyone, that IEN was going into stormy waters, even for the kings of optimism among us.

-Wild Bill?s next coup: he raised the price of the FPA, were a decent number of players had been developing, to 15 $. This scared away another large portion of customers, you?ll find at AH and WWIOL these days. Numbers in the 10?s, may 20ies are common these days.

-And now these new layoffs, including the only network guru they had. To my mind, this is one of the last stages, or maybe the last, before IEN goes belly up. The only thing that?s left, is a buyout of WB, IMO. I doubt IEN will be able to pull out of this sh*t they are in, by it?s own means.

ELGATO:

I wanna clear up a misconception that keeps coming up. A large part of the work done on Armored Assault DID carry over to WB III. The ports in the PTO terrain, for instance, wouldn't have been possible without the bridge code I wrote for ASS. And everything done for WB III FPA remained part of WarBirds, other than the offline missions. I'm just letting everyone know that we all had WarBirds in mind when working on the box games, we weren't just ignoring it. If only we'd had more advertising...

KILLER:

Hmm it wasn't before my time.

IMO it boild down to one thing.

When we merged ICI into Imagic, Imagic had proffesional management, IE Bill was not the man running the company. The guy running the company said, and I quote, "I'm here to shoot Bill in the head if he wants to do anything crazy or stupid".

Shortly after the merger that management team left, President and CFO etc., and Bill did not replace them with equally seasoned businessmen for whatever reason.

That's when the slide really started IMO, and reality of business went out the window. After that point, I never saw a budget, a business plan, or anything of a strategic nature to guide the company or products forward from that time until the time I left. Just a lot of chaos and unrealistic seat of the pants stuff.

I was astounded at how quickly the 20+mil IPO capital vanished, and the apparent lack of benefit to the company that resulted. Of course I wasn't privy to all the details, debt coverage etc. though. Just seems it could have been leveraged much better.

TARGET: (Target is the current (2005) producer of WarBirds)
Target: As far as commenting code goes, I think we've done pretty well. We got handed true Speghetti code from the Dallas team with ZERO documentation or comments. Dan Hammer has spent a good chunk of his time since he got brought in just making heads or tails of it.

Vadr: Neault and Littman were fools. I don't envy you the job Matt, but I compliment you for doing it.

Target: Well, neither one of them were programmers and neither am I. They (and I for that matter) didn't understand the complexities of what they were asking our programmers for... we spent a lot of time on projects that just had no hope of completion from the get go. When half the team is spending 80% of it's time explaining why idea X won't work, not alot gets accomplished. That said, Littman and Neault DID manage to keep Warbirds alive under the "interum" management that was desperate to shut it down while Wild Bill was out of the picture. If nothing else, THAT deserves my respect.

My only REAL gripe with Jay was that he lost us Kent East. Which in turn is why we dropped Jay. Sure wish we could have the ICEMAN back.


AFTER WARBIRDS

After Wild Bill bought ICI things went sour. HiTech and Pyro and a few others left, and started Aces High. Killer and a few others left and started World War II Online. That takes you up to a few years ago.

Ripsnort:

"I think the only sim that had the potential to become the "ultimate air combat sim" was Warbirds. The "heart" of the online hard core flight sim community migrated pretty much en masse from AW to WB from about '95 to '98, and anyone who was playing the sim in late '98 would have to agree that the sim was primed for greatness. The dev team was intact, and had some really talented guys. Full physics-based gunnery was being put in place (didn't work right the first time, but so what?), strat was being mapped out, and we had the resources of the guys who have now created 3 relatively successful sims all working together on ONE. The player community had the benefit of ALL the "aces" and trainers and scenario gurus now spread to the four winds. Although we all quibbled over which development should be next on the list, for the most part we all agreed that HT and Pyro had the same "vision" as the rest of us, and their plan seemed to make sense to us: "more fun through more realistic modeling, but err on the side of fun."

But, so much for Camelot. Once the big split occurred (Thanks, Bill ) what had been "Hey, let's see if we can make a little money building the sim we always wanted to play, and if we build it good enough, they will come," became "Hey, let's see if we can make a living building an OK sim that maximizes the number of customers by offering ONLY the sim setup that was 'most popular' overall before," (AH) and "Hey, let's see if we can create the mythical 'virtual battlefield' and we're going to do it even if none of the three components is very well done, as long as we can claim to HAVE the three components and be the first ones to get it to work at all," (WW2OL) and "Hey, let's get as many 'shallow' customers as we can by providing state of the art graphics--after all, our sim is already 'good enough' for most folks" (WB3). Once that happened, the chance of anyone creating the sim we all hoped we'd see someday pretty much vanished. Now not one of those sims can afford to take a risk. They're all stuck with the "formula" that has brought them whatever current level of "success" they're enjoying. They've met the edge of the envelope, and they've throttled back from it.

The only bright spots I see are Targetware, where they've pretty much thrown away the book and most of the preconceived notions, and are hoping that there are enough folks out there who can live without the "mayhem arena" concept to populate a "mission-based" sim, and Aces High's mission arena concept, which could turn out to be the MMP sim that IL-2 should've been.

As for the arena-based combat flight sim, well, I hope you like what you've got now, because other than a new plane here or there or a graphical upgrade now and again, that's probably the best you're ever going to see.

What a shame that Wild Bill's main and lasting contribution to the flight sim world is that he's the one who split up the "Dream Team," AND the "Dream Community," thereby probably killing any chance of us seeing the sim we hoped we'd one day see back in the heady days of 1998..."

Mooby: WOW thats some interesting history. I can distinctly remember the first time I tried Warbirds out, and it was on a 100 Mhz Cyrix PC (BLECK!) I remember flying on the head 2 head ladder I decided noway was I paying per hour to fly online LOL I wish I hadn't been that way. That was back when Doom was floating around on the net and editing .wad files was a cool thing to do heheh I think about those days alot and WOW how far weve come.

I guess all these different sims have their pros and cons they all definatley have some cool features WWIIOL has got to be the most amazing Mass Multi game of all time even though it had one helluva bumpy start its massive, and hard to imagine so many battling it out online at one time on such a HUGE map, or World would be the better word. I remember flying for over an hour and just so happened I saw two Bedfords with troops running down a road well........... I gave them alot of cannon and MG rounds heheheheh I still think about how pissed those guys had to have been, I know damn well they were riding in that truck for no less than 30 minutes LMAO WBIII I love it more than any other SIM out there, and even though it has it's moments I have to say that it has the most open personable DEV team I have ever seen, and the community is the best. No matter what I prefer I am damn glad that we have people like TARGET BROKEN ICEMAN HS KILLER HITECH and all the others that develop mass multiplayer SIMS because ya'll have made online gaming a better place


FIGHTER ACE

Killer:

"Fighter Ace is the only one (of online sims) I see no direct connection with (AW/WB). As far as I know it evolved seperately, though there may be a connection with AW I'm not aware of.

There could also be a connection from FA to IL2 as VR-1 did have a lot of eastern europe development if I remember right.

FA came on the scene about the same time as WB, and was at trade shows back then. It was more primitive than WB at that time, less players and weaker at pretty much everything before MS got involved with it."

HARDSCOUT

There could also be a connection from FA to IL2 as VR-1 did have a lot of eastern europe development if I remember right.

FA came on the scene about the same time as WB, and was at trade shows back then. It was more primitive than WB at that time, less players and weaker at pretty much everything before MS got involved with it."

I came here from Fighter Ace and I flew there for 2 1/2 years. It's sad that the article does not have more on this sim as well. I believe it's worthy of mention even if the AH and WB hated it. Yes it was arcady but there was a minority, me included, who lived in the Realistic arenas. Almost a complete different monster in there and some of the best pilots and friends I ever met.

Also the squad vs squad battles called KOTS was what every squad lived for. Extremely exciting and sweat inducing. FA also had many many scenarios as well and I participated in as much as I could.

I still find people from FA in WWIIONLINE and they remember me from FA as well. Maybe others can post here...

KILLER

Well I first ran into FA at E3 I think, when WB was about a year old.

The company was VR-1, and they made a few other games after that. I believe it was written at first by some Russian or other eastern european guys.

I lost track of it though after MS got involved about 1997 though.

The game improved a LOT from when I first saw it to what it was when it went on the Zone.

We almost ran a convention for FA when we were operating WB though, their community didn't have one so we talked to some community guys about combining cons.

HARDSCOUT

Very cool Killer. Yes VR-1 was responsible early on and it was done by some Russian developers since VR-1 had Russian offices as well as Boulder Colorado. Still don't take my word since I don't have the history in front of me just what I remember.

As far as I know, it then went to MicroSoft for their Zone.com website and took off from there ( when I joined ). Now it's back in VR-1's hands and looks pretty sweet I must say graphically speaking. There was some bitterness in the community as to how Microsoft and the new guy( forgot his name but he was in charge of Combat Flight Sim games)were handling things in FA land. People said he was letting FA die for Combat Flight sim instead and soon later VR-1 took FA back to home.


ACES HIGH

How about somebody writing a nice view of AH history and mailing it to add here?


WORLD WAR II ONLINE

How about somebody writing a nice view of WW2OL history and mailing it to add here?


TARGETWARE

-sick- started work on what became known as "Targetware" in 1998 (minor point since it is not released yet). Most of the TW staff are WB veterans (with one former Playnet and two former Resounding employees).

How about somebody writing a nice view of Targetware history and mailing it to add here?


(C) Virtuaalilentäjät - Virtual Pilots ry 2003

Viimeksi muokattu: 2005-08-16 00:12