20mm: FO will be a modular release, with the initial one featuring the T-6A Texan II and the T-38C Talon aircraft in both single and multiplayer. First, if you would, comment on the modular approach. What are the benefits and the challenges of doing this from a developer’s point of view?
Rick: The main objective of the modular design of Fighter Ops is creating a platform on which new content can be frequently added by XSI and the community. Our ultimate goal is to present the user with a comfortable and consistent experience throughout all releases. The training curriculum featuring the T-6A Texan II and the T-38C Talon will be the first to launch off this platform. In the end the platform design, although very challenging, will certainly give us a great deal of freedom in terms of what can be fabricated and how the sim can be extended for longevity.
20mm: Follow up question on the above, obviously with trainer aircraft, the emphasis will be on learning various facets of aircraft and flight operations. I’ve seen some discussions on the FO web site concerning the syllabus that would be involved, particularly if the player chooses career mode. For example, moving from UPT (Undergraduate Pilot Training) to IFF (Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals), to aircraft specific training. What will players see in the first modular?
Rick: This first module is based at Laughlin Air Force Base in Texas. It is basically designed to function in two modes, free-flight and Pilot Career mode; and both front seat and backseat operations will be included. The first mode will allow players to fly either flyable aircraft with variable complexity and difficulty options, from fairly easy to highly realistic. The second and main focus for the Fighter Ops simulation is the Pilot Career mode that is specifically tailored for hardcore simmers and enthusiasts. Career mode will begin with the Fighter Ops Flight School — replicating the USAF training program. The emphasis of the first release will be a fully realistic undergraduate pilot training (UPT) course representation. The first aircraft represented is the T-6A Texan II, with its very powerful PT6A-68 turbo-prop engine is a high-performance single-engine, two-seat primary trainer (and not a PC-9) designed to earn your wings and teach students the basic flying skills that are common with the U.S. Air Force.
The second aircraft featured is the T-38C Talon, which is a twin-engine, high-altitude, supersonic jet trainer converted from the older T-38A, with improved avionics and support systems. There are more than 60,000 pilots who have earned their wings in the T-38. The new cockpit design of the Talon makes it closer to F-15E Strike Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon. The IFF course is a specialized course that takes pilots who have recently earned their wings in undergraduate pilot training and prepares them for the kind of flight operations and basic fighter maneuvers (BFM) unique to fighter aircraft. We have recreated this syllabus by means of support from actual USAF pilots. The focus is to give the user the realistic situation environment that an actual USAF pilot would experience throughout the IFF stage of their career. This will be achieved through the pilot career mode where the emphases will be presented through various flying fundamentals, classroom instructions, operations procedures, cockpit and formation training, air-to-air emphasis with offensive/defensive maneuvers and so on and so forth. Another very important aspect is to allow online squads to run their own virtual specialized training program using Fighter Ops and having qualified instructors in the backseat.
20mm: Will it be both UPT and IFF for the two aircraft?
Rick: Yes, as stated previously, both the USAF UPT (undergraduate pilot training) and IFF (Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals) syllabus for the T-6A Texan II and the T-38C will be included.
20mm: What will players be able to accomplish in single versus multiplayer modes?
Rick: As stated before, Fighter Ops will have two main types of gameplay: free-flight and career. Each of these two modes can be played in single or multi-player forms. In free-flight, the user simply selects an aircraft, chooses (creates or edits) a mission related to that aircraft, sets the difficulty options and then starts the mission. Career gameplay simply means that the player flies a set of missions (and campaigns) based on the way the modules he/she is interacting with are designed. For example, the training module involves a set of missions based on the UPT and IFF courses; and a module based on an actual war will have a different set of missions or campaigns, according to the way the conflict unfolds. Career gameplay is strict and does not allow the user to change gameplay options as much as free-play does.
Also, all achievements in career gameplay can be saved on official servers. This feature makes various types of player rankings possible and also enables the player to download his/her career state onto a new Fighter Ops installation or on another system running Fighter Ops. In general everything that can be done in career gameplay can also be done in free-flight with less restrictions and more variety. These two modes of gameplay will address most of the needs of our community from brief takeoffs and landings on a given airbase to sight-seeing flights to serious combat missions taking many hours to fly.
Multiplayer will be possible in career gameplay based on the design of the module in question. In free-flight, however, multiplayer scenarios can be created for any flyable aircraft, either by creating new multiplayer missions or by flying existing missions with or without modifications.
20mm: One more follow up to the previous question. Combat flight simmers love to blow stuff up. Is this going to be possible in the first modular release, or will it have to wait until the combat operational aircraft are introduced?
Rick: The inauguration of the combat portions of Fighter Ops will originate after the training module, with many planned USAF combat aircraft, such as the F-16 variants, the F-15 variants, the A-10 and so on. Each will be introduced and released as an individual comprehensive add-on for Fighter Ops. This will eventually play into our long term platform strategy of having an extremely high-fidelity battlefield simulation, which will ultimately cover the many aspects and branches of the military and beyond.
20mm: Another thing most simmers want and love is manuals. I gather there will be a game manual and a Dash-1 manual for each aircraft, correct? If you would, talk about what the players can expect with the manuals, how easy or difficult it will be to learn about the aircraft itself, and especially how to fly it. If one chooses, can you just hop in and fly?
Rick: The documentation is being designed considering a wide variety of users. Currently the plan is for a quick start (hop in and fly) guide, a game manual that basically covers installation, getting started, UI, career mode progression, etc. Each individual aircraft will also come with a PDF electronic Dash-1 type of manual. This detailed document is the pilot’s “owner’s manual” and includes everything from aircraft description and procedures, emergency procedures, auxiliary equipment, operating limitations, flight characteristics, systems operations, weather operations, performance, etc. This area has not been finalized, however a separate printed portion of the gamemanual and Dash-1 are being considered at an additional cost, and not part of the main Fighter Ops package.
20mm: Let’s discuss a typical topic of simulations, and that is scalability. Certainly, there is the most vocal crowd, the “hardcore” simmers who want everything modeled to the nth degree. But there are also a host of other enthusiasts who simply want the experience. They don’t care if the startup sequence is not quite right, or even that they do it all, and they may not want to go through an approximation of what a real USAF pilot would have to train to accomplish. They want to hop in a jet and fly around.
The question is what scalability will FO offer and how do you see this in terms of marketability and appeal?
Rick: For the most part I refer you to the answer to the question discussing single-player and multi-player modes. I would like to re-iterate that our design of career and free-flight gameplay types will cover most (if not all) of the needs of any flight sim user.