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Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson
20 Years of Military Flight Simulations on the PC by Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson.

Flight sim guru Len "Viking 1" Hjalmarson chronicles the first 30 years of computer flight sims, the software, hardware, people and the culture.

The Mature Years: 1997-2000

Voice Control!

Around this same time a voice over net utility called Roger Wilco was released. This utility ran in the background and allowed players to communicate to one another via voice using the same data channel as the simulation connection. In the early days this required two sound cards, but eventually the software and hardware matured to allow methods of separating sound channels and resources apart from what the game itself was using. Roughly a year later another product like RW appeared, called Battlefield Communicator.

Sometime in the early summer Titanic was released, a huge production destined for many Oscars. Evita was also a big hit in this year.

In 1997 Rowan’s Flying Corps took to the air, and set a new standard for WWI simulations. This one sported three scripted campaigns, and a fourth that was dynamic. Graphics were soon updated with 3dfx support, and flight models were of a high standard. With Flying Corps Rowan pioneered an auto switching padlock system that took the player from internal perspective to an outside player-to-target view when the bandit passed outside the front view area.

Flying Corps also saw larger furballs than we had ever seen before, and was one of the earliest simulations to support force feedback. For the first time in a PC simulation, players could not only see and hear their guns firing, but feel the recoil. When the aircraft began to stall, the buffet effects were transferred via the stick to our wrists. It was an amazing advance.

FC Gold-box
Flying Corps Gold box

Fokker Triplane in Flying Corps
Fokker Triplane in Flying Corps

The first company to release a force feedback joystick was CH Products. Their Force FX was expensive, large, and used the serial port to communicate with the PC. While the stick worked great once configured, it was often difficult to get the PC to recognize the gear. COMM ports and their Interrupts, the old bane of the PC, caused many problems with serial port hardware. It would be almost two years before the first USB based force feedback hardware arrived on the scene.

Read on

This article is ©2001 Leonard Hjalmarson and Thrustmaster ® and hosted with permission in the Flight Sim Museum. Unauthorised reproduction is forbidden.