In 1992, publisher MicroProse released B-17: Flying Fortress developed by Vektor Grafix. The game was successful and provided virtual pilots the opportunity to see what it was like to fly, bomb and fight in the USAAC premier bomber of the WW2 ETO, the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. But time passed and computers moved from DOS to Windows and CPU’s and graphics cards in PCs grew in capability rapidly. For most of us B-17: Flying Fortress was relegated to the nostalgia pile. While most of us who loved this game hoped it would be reborn again someday, deep down inside most knew this was problematic since it was such a niche type flight simulator. We were to be proven wrong.
The Original B-17 Game by MicroProse
Enter Wayward Design
In the late 1990s, rumors were cropping up here and there that a new B-17 sim was in the works by publisher MicroProse. For those who loved the first B-17 version it was hoped this rumor would become a reality.
In 2000, the rumor did become reality as previews started showing up on the Internet and in game magazines that indeed a new B-17 sim was heading our way. The developer charged with the task was Wayward Design Ltd. The screen shots from the new title, B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th were indeed very impressive. Not only were a lot of the original features of B-17 Flying Fortress included in the new game, there were some great new features. Flyable German and American fighters like the Fw-190,Bf-109, Me-262, P-47D, P-38J and P-51D. Besides the standard bomber commander game, another new feature, the Squadron Commander game allowed you to plan all aspect‘s of a bombing mission.
Box Art Photo of B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th
Not only could you could fly in the new sim, but there was the ability to take command of any station of the six B-17’s in the formation. Both games allowed you to manage your crew to take advantage of their strengths and improve their weaknesses. But easily the most ambitious feature was to be the inclusion of multiplayer. The multiplayer feature generated unbelievable interest in the game. Players could crew B-17Gs on bombing missions over the German Reich. With more players joining in as American escorts or German defenders. The whole premise was very much anticipated by the flight simming community. For big fans of multiplayer flight simulators looking for a strategic bomber simulator, it seemed too good to be true.
The Ax Falls on Multiplayer
In August 2000, about five months before the release date for B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th came the official news from Wayward Design Ltd and Hasbro (who had bought out MicroProse) that the multiplayer function of B-17 had been dropped due to technical difficulties and time constraints. Rumors had been prevalent on some sim forums a couple months before the official news. With the announcement concerning the multiplayer being dropped and the anticipated backlash it would surely create, it looked like B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th could be a DOA flight simulator. Surprisingly, when the game was released in December 2000 it still had a very solid fan base despite the multiplayer debacle.
As with any new PC game release, B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th had it’s share of game bugs that were addressed with the first patch released in February 2001, and further addressed in a second patch released in April 2001. This patch also allowed a more complex engine management system to be used in the game. But there were still problems, mainly with incomplete graphics, and slow rendering rates. As was the sign of the times for most flight simulators released back then, no more help was expected — or so we thought.
Breaking Out of Formation
A Parting Olive Branch
On their exit, Wayward Design Ltd made available to the B-17 community one important game tool and a detailed explanation of a changeable game text file, named “RIVERANDROADSDB.LMF” that controlled many parameters of the game.
The OMF Editor was a tool that allowed the incomplete graphics on B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th to be addressed. It also allowed a new world of user made skins, nose art, aircraft names, crew names/photographs, crew flight gear and much more that could be changed and implemented in the visual part of the game. Many of these mods are still available for download or if you are adventurous, there are tutorials available that describe in detail how to make your own.
The RIVERSANDROADSDB.LMF file contains all the changeable parameters. An accompanying detailed readme file explained what parameters were controlled in the game. Not enough or too many enemy fighters attacking your formation? Not enough or too many B-17s in your formation? Feel like your crew is being injured to easy or not enough? Hate that white outline around the characters? All these and about 1001 other things can be changed to your liking through this control text file. It also was a help to players who were suffering from poor game performance by allowing further tweaking to lighten the load on less capable PCs.