January 7, 2010

The 2009 Simulation Year in Review


2009 - The Year in ReviewWell, here we are again. Awakening from tortured slumber, curled under our desks after another irresponsible New Year’s Eve blowout at the SimHQ Towers, the staff downs some Alka Seltzer and as we watch the bubbling tablets, our aching, dehydrated brains turn a bit philosophic as we survey the damage done to our wallets and social skills by another year of simulation gaming addiction. Another year gone by, more games played, more new tech-toys added to the list of must-have inventory items. The gaming room is once more littered with the toys of the trade: new video cards, multi-core CPUs, really big LCD monitors, game boxes, racing wheels, new HOTAS products and even a new PC operating system that doesn't drive you crazy like Vista does. Well, maybe "littered" is a bit of an overstatement when compared to the late 1990s. Still, simulation gaming seems to be in a period of low-level sustainment, keeping our modest genre alive with a, well, modest supply of new titles and kit, of varieties both hard- and software.

With the release of one of the most anticipated first person shooters in history, "Magnum" tried his hand at getting on the TSAs watchlist with the controversial "airport scene" in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. He also wondered aloud (as most of us did) at why a developer would invest time and effort into making a battlefield simulation using the most advanced graphics engine available and a marquee name like Operation Flashpoint, and then forget to add the ability to lean. Of course, "Magnum" is the same guy who impulsively bought Rogue Warrior on Steam. Oh well, at least he could have resold the Xbox 360 version.

"BeachAV8R" returned from his self-imposed hiatus. Married. Should we go any further than that?

But the year also brought with it more new content to our hobby, with a handful of outstanding new simulation titles, improved hardware in the form of Intel Core™ i7 processors and DirectX 11 compatible video cards like the ATI HD 5000 series. We also benefitted from one of the key ingredients to immersion in any simulation — several new, high-quality controllers. We were graced with not only the Logitech Flight System G940™ HOTAS, the Saitek X65F HOTAS, and the Thrustmaster A-10C Warthog HOTAS. In motorsports, the Fanatec Porsche ClubSport Wheel arrived. The Fanatec controller answers the question “What’s so great about Western Civilization?” in terms so puissant, elegant, and European it must be accompanied by room-temperature beer and peeled mice in heavy cream. Logitech gave us a new update to their premier wheel series with the Logitech G27™, and the NaturalPoint TrackIR™ 5 updated the series along with some snazzy new software to drive it. No doubt about it, 2009 was a good year for simulation hardware.

And in the biggest sign of changing times, we saw a year in which several titles with simulation-grade physics appeared on the Xbox 360: Titles like IL-2 Sturmovik: Birds of Prey, RACE Pro, and Forza Motorsport 3 all come to mind. In particular, FM3 breaks some new ground for race sim physics in a console title with a detailed tire physics model tied to a complex physics engine running at 400 Hz — the same update rate as rFactor, a title that in some respects FM3 eclipses in terms of realism. When tied with a quality controller, we’re starting to see console titles capable of scratching the simulation fan’s itch.

Finally, we saw a host of gaming titles that, while not simulations per se, do light the fires of imagination in the simulation hobbyist, and provided us all with hours of cinematic-level entertainment and escapism when we yearned for something simpler than our usual choice in entertainment fare. Of course, after playing games like STALKER: Clear Sky and Left for Dead 2, we are utterly convinced that in the event of a zombie-inducing plague or large-scale nuclear disaster, our first, and probably best response in terms of the greater survival of the human race, would be to curl into a fetal position and mumble something about cheese.

For the moment, however, let’s take a look at the year that was 2009 month-by-month with events that kept the simulation genre moving forward.


Over Flanders Fields Phase 3: Between Heaven and Hell was released and an expansion of the ODB Software Team's previous efforts, allowing sim pilots to experience aerial combat with the same speed and power of a garden tractor. To its credit, it was a gorgeous simulation with a shovel full of aircraft to fly and fight — and it didn’t have Orwellian digital rights management either [queue the rimshot].


Yankee Air Pirate 2 is released, bringing much-needed atmosphere to what is pretty much a sterile simulation in terms of ambience. The new models, missions, and aerial battles over the skies of Vietnam bring those great missions from Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat back to mind, only with widescreen monitor resolutions. But the real strength of YAP2 is the recreated stories from real life events, and YAP2 is a terrific storyteller.

In other Strike Fighters series news, the second generation of Third Wire simulations begun with Strike Fighters 2, bringing slightly tuned-up graphics and high-resolution cockpits along with Vista file-structure compatibility.

Strike Fighters 2

We got our first look at neoqb’s Rise of Flight: The First Great Air War in "guod's" preview. He said, "It will be a while yet before we see the final gold version of Rise of Flight, but based upon this build, it has every potential to be one of the classics. That is no guarantee of the final version, but it does show the development teams quality criteria."

Poor "20mm" flooded his house, and finds a new appreciation for the plumbing profession. Read the wet play-by-play here.


SimHQ reviewed Over Flanders Fields Phase 3: Between Heaven and Hell. Reviewer Jens Lindblad found it "A sim going back in time, to the classic virtues of computer games”. It is amazing the amount of content that OFF packs in. Well done, OBD Software!

Over Flanders Fields Phase 3: Between Heaven and Hell

As springtime started to arrive, the Event Photography Forum came to life. Take a look at just some of the wonderful 2009 aviation shared with SimHQ members by the great photographers who frequent the Forum.

Nellis Air Show by Top Gun Reading Air Show by TheBigDog
Edwards Flight Test Nation by Arthonon RIAT by ronster
A-10 Wallpaper by Counterman Duxford by BlackLion
Dusty Duxford by Flat Eric the 4th Nellis Air Show by Arthonon
Binghamton NY Air Show by Top Gun TICO Warbird Air Show by Coot
Waukegan, IL Air Show by Counterman Wings Over Wairarapa by imaca
Duxford by Gopher Chino Air Show by WalterNowi
Cosford by Sundowner Planes of Fame by Arthonon
Indy Air Show by Weasel_Keeper B-17G "Liberty Belle" by aviationbuff
Riverside Air Show by Arthonon Miramar Air Show by Arthonon
Leapfest by Top Gun Rockford AirFest by Counterman
Coningsby - Typhoons by goon Bournemouth Air Fest by Yojimbo
Rockford AirFest by VBA_Rhino Tuscaloosa Air Show by aviationbuff
Low Level Flying by ronster  

And the topics were not limited to aviation:

Pine Mountain by Paul Rix Her Majesty's Canadian Navy by fatty
Owl Photos by RCAF Arrow Le Mans 24 hours - Town / Quals by goon
Wildlife by U-96 Le Mans 24 hours - Pitwalk by goon
The Detroit Zoo by Brennus Le Mans 24 hours - Race by goon
Autosport Show by Gopher Vintage Grand Prix at Mid-Ohio by Biff99
Britcar 500 at Silverstone by goon  

Many of these same photographers contributed to the SimHQ monthly calendars, and we really do appreciate the many contributions and support throughout the year.


Virtual armor officers were thrilled to see eSim’s Steel Beasts Professional PE Version 2.460 bring a whole host of updates and changes, some of which were not so obvious, but are listed in their pdf here.

Rise of Flight: The First Great Air War was released and we got a firsthand look at Big Brother watching us through our Internet connection. With RoFs digital rights management requiring a constant Internet connection, even to play single-player, it turned some people off to the goodness in the new title. While the sim had a lot going for it in the areas of graphics, flight and damage modeling, and sneaky AI, the DRM alone made a few people take a cautious step sideways. Now there is the announcement that neoqb is dropping the single player DRM requirement. That news coupled with a myriad of patches, updates and general changes to the sim over the year have allowed it to evolve into a better-and-better title.

Rise of Flight: The First Great Air War

Strike Fighters 2: Vietnam is released, bringing updated AI and native carrier ops to the Third Wire world. The inevitable march of time begins to trample on the 558,243 add-ons available for the first generation series.

"You know you're a simulations fan because..."

Tom Cofield commented on his age, and then forgot what he said. You can read his lament here. Don't worry "WKLINK", we won't mention your staff tenure is carbon-dated. oops...


"arneh" released v1.11-1.12 allmods for Enemy Engaged: Comanche/Hokum, causing most of the people who bought Enemy Engaged 2 to spontaneously rip their eyes out of their sockets. The work that "arneh" does for EECH / EEAH is just remarkable. If you're not familiar with "arneh's" craft, take a look here.

As usual, the devoted and more talented members of the community kept our interest and enjoyment in older titles piqued with new mods and add-on content. For example, 2009 was the year SimHQ staff racers "Chipwich" and "Chunx" rediscovered SCi’s 2005 title Richard Burns Rally, this time through the huge makeover mod called RSRBR ’09 from Rallyesim. Our resident Dean of Simulation Motorsports, "McGonigle", still prefers a stock, vanilla install because being a purist on computer gaming site is just FUN. He also does catch-and-release fishing, if that tells you anything.

Bathtub admirals were happy to see Battlestations: Pacific released. Most of us were just happy to see good pinup art making a comeback.


June was big.

Armed Assault 2 appeared on store shelves and on Steam. Once again, its AI mercilessly firing 2,503 rounds into your squishy little body… from 700 yards away… through heavy brush. However, the fictional nation of Chernarus never looked so good from the forests to the cities and even the female NPCs would tell you get bent if you stared at their arse for too long. Now that's realism! It was the battlefield simulator that everyone expected it to be, giving accuracy and realism at every point and turn, and being quite a bit less buggy than ArmA was (thank you very much BIS). Through updates and patches, new maps and add-ons ArmA 2 has turned into one sweet ride. The weekly Military Monday events on the SimHQ game server brought some epic events.

Armed Assault 2

The Crimson Guard returned to the Devil’s Lavatory in Los Angeles [translated: the SimHQ Staff went to E3] for the highly-demanded return of boob booth babes to the E3Expo. While there, in addition to running up a stratospheric tab and terrorizing the local citizens by wearing TrackIR gear to gentlemen’s clubs, they fired-off a few reports from smoggy L.A. on the latest developments in our hobby.

For example, the crew did get to see the unveiling of the new force-feedback, split-throttle Logitech Flight System G940™ HOTAS. At least one staffer offered antibacterial wipes to Mark Starrett, the presiding Logitech representative, to remove the copious amount of drool the team left on the display table.

Logitech Flight System G940™ HOTAS

For the absolute final time [at least until we can think of another excuse] we will link to the official SimHQ 2009 E3Expo Booth Babes Report. We were surprised none of you gentlemen commented in our original E3 report. Maybe you missed the link? Maybe you're getting too old for such frivolity? One more chance.

The SimHQ Team also got to meet its first asshole. This one happened to be not just any run-of-the-mill asshole, but a very special one brought in courtesy of Electronic Arts. After being assigned to answer the team's questions, and despite repeated attempts to get an answer about the simulation aspects of Need For Speed: SHIFT, the team was rewarded with insulting, rude, and obnoxious answers, making at least one of our team members sorry that "Magnum" had left his work Tazer at home in his uniform.

A note to EA management. When your box art says you’re making a "simulation", don’t send a representative to talk to the media that says things like, [quote] “simulations are the stupidest waste of time and no sane person would enjoy that stuff.”

An addendum to that note. Next time, make a simulation. And to that representative who shall remain nameless, may the lice of a thousand camels infest your trousers, you miserable piss ant. Oh, and tell Dan Greenawalt and the rest of Turn 10 Studios that simulations are a "waste of time", but you'd better yell it to them. They might not be able to hear you over the stack of money from Forza Motorsport 3s massive sales.

"Magnum" asked about Tiger Woods Tour 10 virtual and "real" golf. By-the-way, what is it with all the Tiger Woods hype? Are our lives so pedestrian that we have to wonder about Tiger Woods’ driving abilities?

Finally in June, Strike Fighters 2: Europe was released bringing the third release from Third Wire optimized for Vista (and essentially Windows 7).


As mentioned earlier, Chris "BeachAV8R" Frishmuth got married. All you idiots that were lining up to wait for her to ditch him because he wouldn’t quit procrastinating are just going to have to cry yourself to sleep. Actually, we have nothing but best wishes for a lifetime of happiness for Chris and Marisa. You both chose well. Read about the nuptial's here.

On a much more somber note, changed hands [please Pete, say it ain't so!] and we were advised it was to become SimRaceway. Since it’s launch in 2006, rFactorCentral had 150 million pages viewed, 881 car and track mods, 5917 skins, 3,002 videos, and over 50,000 forum posts of information for the virtual rFactor racer. It was the absolute model for how to run a successful enthusiast support site. As of this writing, rFactorCentral still exists. Could that be because of the lackluster response of the community to SimRaceway? Could it be the molasses speed of SimRaceway's coding? Who knows. But lets enjoy our beloved rFactorCentral as long as it exists. Singer Joni Mitchell said it decades ago, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

"BeachAV8R" continued his "Read It - Do It" series with Strike Eagle.

"Freycinet" took us (and an incredible brunette) on a whistlestop tour of Mexico ("PFunk’s" personal preference for seeing the country, based on staying down there for two months). Read Freycinet's travelogue here.

DRM became a big topic mid-year with two well-done commentaries by Frank "Dart" Giger and Helmut "RSColonel_131st" Skrdla. Read Frank's "Piracy, Starforce, and Connections, Oh My!" and Helmut's "My Games Need to Stay My Own".

The naval simulation East India Company saw the light of day, allowing us to repeat colonization and imperialist expansion without all the messy genocide.

Oleg introduced us to Team Daidalos, and the amazing work they accomplished with the IL-2 Series v4.09 update, then they showed what was next. And you thought the IL-2 Series was coming to a conclusion!

Go To Page 2

Click here to go to top of this page.

Privacy Statement | SimHQ Staff

Copyright 1997-2010, SimHQ Inc. All Rights Reserved.