‘Cat’ saw the year this way… “Simming-wise, I think FreeFalcon 3 was a big thing. Also, Pacific Fighters’s release. Lock On 1.1 should get a mention, though it won’t be actually out till the first part of 2005”. ‘Cat’s’ Preview for Flaming Cliffs is here and here.
She continued, “I got a GeForce 5950 Ultra in 2004. I also got a new monitor, a Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 930SB 19″ flat screen CRT, and I can’t believe the difference from my old monitor. I can see things in Lock On I’d never seen before. It’s killer bright… and so clear! I went from .28 dpi to .25 and wow”.
During 2004 ‘Cat’ and guest writer Eric ‘Flanker56’ Johnson gave us some great LOMAC stories through the eyes of Sacha and Alexi. You can read their reports here on the LOMAC Week page.
Also in Armor sims, the development work on Steel Beasts II continues and it’s looking better and better. The recent announcement of the Hind addition has brought more excitement to the king of armor sims. Expect a John ‘Spoons’ Sponauer Preview early in 2005.
Jens ‘McGonigle’ Lindblad and Doug ‘guod’ Atkinson agreed that one of the year’s worst moments was when we all found out Knights Over Europe’s development was shelved. We can only hope that it arises again sometime in the future. What a shame.
In Motorsport sims, it was an especially diametric year.
According to ‘McGonigle’, “the best included the birth of First Racing and the best sim of the year — Richard Burns Rally”. RBR is a rallying sim done right. Unfortunately, unless it’s special ordered from Europe, RBR remains unavailable through North America retail channels. It’s North American sales will surely be one of the highlights of 2005 when it becomes available. Read ‘McGonigle’s’ Review here on RBR.
Another “yet to arrive” in North America sim is GTR. Read the SimHQ Preview here. GTR’s press demo set the racing world on it’s head and has everyone anxiously awaiting the worldwide release. For now, Germany has the pleasure of motoring in GTR while everyone else waits. It should make it’s worldwide release in early 2005.
Other notables include the GPL 65 mod package, the iGor Internet matchmaking utility and the GEM front end. All good candidates for Motorsports add-ons / mod of the year.
On the bad side of 2004, racers were distraught at the loss of Papyrus and Project Wildfire. Fortunately, the talent that these teams encompassed have joined together and will be part of the future and not just the past of racing simulations.
‘Chunx’ took some time earlier this year to give us an updated look at the mods and add-ons for Papyrus’ NASCAR Racing 2003 Season in his article NASCAR Racing 2003 Season: Still Going Strong in 2004. Read ithere. Throughout the year, he enjoyed racing off-line when at sea (read his article Simming At Sea here) and online at Sierra.com with his racing buddies. As 2004 ended, he was spending NR2003’s online “off-season” happily downloading road courses and whittling away at his lap times while driving the PWF Trans Am mod. And as the new year begins, he got hold of a copy of ISI’s F1 Challenge and the RH2004 mod (thanks to a very helpful online driving buddy), and has now fallen in love with the mod’s great physics and the immersive challenge of driving a modern F1 car.
We will be seeing the much-anticipated NASCAR SimRacing from EA Sports in early 2005. It promises several innovations in sim racing.
Alex ‘Zander’ Keep, reflecting on his huge preview of the entire 2004 F1 Season, “Worst moment of the year — realizing how much work was involved in keeping the race previews coming on time!” The Previews showcased the terrific F1 Challenge mod, RH2004 Season by Ralph Hummerich and EMACF1. You can find all the F1 articles here. Not surprisingly, ‘Zander’voted RH2004 Season the best racing mod of the year. ‘Zander’ added, “Positively, I would have to say that the best thing has been the continued support of all the simmers and developers — we have seen some cracking mods and games this last year… and more are on the horizon. Negatively, I think it is pretty obvious what I am going to say — the increasing restrictions placed on developers and modders due to restrictive copyright laws. I can see both of these facets continuing in 2005 with a face-off likely in early 2006.”
Near the end of 2004 we saw controversy about this topic in the flight sim world. This is new to flight simmers, but certainly not new to sim racers who have dealt with tracks, sponsors names and car marquees being excluded over the past several years. In fact, this past year one of the premiere racing sims was pulled due to the licensing agreement expiring. The licensing agreement that EA had elapsed and so did F1 Challenge ’99-’02. It came and went too quickly. If you haven’t already grabbed it, do so now. It has become very difficult to find and what is currently available is all there will be available of F1C.
In 2004, SimHQ added it’s first full-time Naval Combat Editor, ‘Teddy Bär’, to keep up with all the activity on the new seagoing sims. No doubt about it, Naval Combat sims have jumped to the forefront. Several new projects will be arriving soon including S.C.S. Dangerous Waters, Silent Hunter III, PT Boats: Knights of the Sea, The Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905, Pirates of the Burning Seas and others. The Harpoon community is going strong in spite of the loss of Harpoon4, a bitter disappointment to the community.
‘Spoons’ sees the bright side of sims through the modding community, “Considering that I recall hearing a chorus of a few years back that “SIMS ARE DEAD!,” I guess my vote is more of a macro, big-picture view that not only are sims not dead, but we’re seeing some of our best products emerge from dedicated developers and the fan base.”
Vince ‘Beer Camel’ Putze agrees with ‘Spoons’. “I really see ‘our world’ in a macro sense… ESPECIALLY about Flight Simulations… ‘Flight Sims are DEAD!… Long Live Flight Sims!'” The biggest story of 2004 is that the genre continues to steadily improve. Maybe not in the big steps we would all love to see. We may not have the same vast selection our FPS ‘brothers’ have, but what has been accomplished is remarkable. A game like Pacific Fighter’s would have been a pipe dream a few years ago.”
“New titles are on the near horizon. BoB by Oleg Maddox, BoB and B-17 II being re-released / developed by Shockwave. Currently released titles like FS2004, IL-2FB, Pacific Fighters and others continue to be supported and improved by professional developers and / or the respective user communities.”
“A special ‘Atta-Boy’ goes to the outstanding freeware add-ons / patches by folks like FreeFalcon and the BDG. It is hard to ignore that kind of dedication. The hardware improvements currently fielding will bring a significant improvement in the reality, quality and performance of current and future sims. A great example of this is the new NaturalPoint TrackIR 6DOF unit and CH Products new multi-lever USB Throttle Quadrant.”
The bad according to ‘Beer Camel’…
First, the cost to develop a serious flight simulation, civilian or combat flight sim, is staggering. Our community, relatively speaking, is small and cannot support very many serious game developers. I don’t think we will see numerous competing products. Economic realities prohibit it. I do think that there will be enough demand for a small number of capable companies to prosper by meeting the relatively steady demand of our dedicated flight sim community… but that is it.
Second, the largely unsubstantiated rumor I’ve heard about the ugly possibility of trademarking issues that could be devastating to PC flight simulations. To date I have not seen any official confirmation this is an issue, but if it becomes one, well it was fun while it lasted.