256 colours arrive | Design considerations

" Since 1988, MicroProse has done four new games using state-of-the-art 3-D technology.

Andy Hollis came out with F-15 Strike Eagle II, for the fall of 1989, which used the same core system as F-19 but pushed the boundaries farther and faster. In 1990, he used a related 3-D system to produce Lightspeed. In both these products the 3-D was improved and modified to render more colorful, faster code.

Meanwhile, Scott Spanburg had developed a different but related system, first for M1 Tank Platoon, then in the following year for Knights of the Sky. So we've garined lots of experience with 3-D systems, and it is fair to say that the 3-D system you see in F-II7A is the product of all the 3-D work that MicroProse has done since 1988.

Lead programmer Joe Hellesen was given the unenviarble task of taking a great game, F-19, and improving it. We were able to enlist Max Remington (3-D artist for virtually all of MicroProse's games) to do the new objects we needed.

Bruce Shelley was charged with overseeing the development of the new worlds that would have to be constructed, and Bruce Milligan (a recently hired game designer) was charrged with constructing them.

Veteran computer artists Kim Biscoe and Barbara Bents were brought on-board to provide art for opening and closing screens, and Ed Fletcher, a new hot-shot addition to MPS Labs, was brought on to do the front and end game programming.

From the outset, Joe and I agreed not to tamper with the basic game play - F-19 was a real winner which had enjoyed phenomenal success, the basic gameplay is solid... "if it ain't broke don't fix it.

Screenshot from F-117A Stealth Fighter (1993).

"We decided that, given time constraints, the best course was to concentrate on graphics to see if we could make it more realistic, fun and set a new standard for future flight sims in terms of graphic presentation of the world in which you fly.

Already, we had a system thct allowed a great deal of detail but we wanted to enhance it, make it more believable, more colorful. The original gcme had been done with l6-color 3-D worlds (at that time l6-color EGA wcrs pushing the limits of the technology), so the first step was to adapt the game to 256-color graphics.

This meant a lot of work for Max and Joe. All the objects hcd to be recolored. And in some cases rebuilt to accommodate 256-color graphics.

Screenshot from F-117A Stealth Fighter (1993).

To make sure players have plenty of areas in which to fly, we included all four worlds from the old F-I9, and added five more - two from F-15 II cnd three new ones.

The night world took on new significance becquse the real F-II7A never flies combat sorties during the day.

Joe and Kim came up with a striking night horizon. Then we added lights to the ground objects which switch on an off according to where you are (enemy or friendly territory), the level of tension, and what time of day it is.

Next, we added a sky that lightens and darkens dynamically according to the time of day.

Screenshot from F-117A Stealth Fighter (1993).

Finally, we added the FLIR camera view, partly beccuse it was "cool" and partly out of necessity: in the deepest, darkest night it is imperative to use the FLIR so you can tell what you're looking at. These combine to give a very strong feeling of realism.

To go with these additions, we also needed a real-looking F-ll7 aircraft.

Max spent several long weekends building the most complex object ever to appear in a home computer game, and Joe and Andy came up with way to make cll those surfaces and lines sort correctly.

Screenshot from F-117A Stealth Fighter (1993).

During the development period, US forces were involved in a war in Iraq and Kuwait which showed just how effective precision bombing can be. Joe immediately began to work on a new view through the tracking camera - one that would show the "real" world outside your aircraft, like the video tape shown at briefings during the war.

He linked this view to the nose view oI the Maverick missile, because this weapon actuclly has a camera in its nose. (Other weapons that have nose cameras, like the GBU-I5s that F-III's knocked out the pumping manifolds at Sea Island, are not represented in the game because they are probably too heavy for the F-117A).

The front and end of the game were completely redesigned to make it easier to navigate through options and to give a chance for some beautiful 256-color graphics to adorn your CRT. We added a feature that allows you (if you're the type) to quickly generate a bunch of missions until you get one you really want.

Screenshot from F-117A Stealth Fighter (1993).

Also, for those of you want to know what it might be like to fly the real F-I17, we included the "Lockheed F-117A" option that essentially cuts out some of the capabilities to make it more like the real plane.

There are a lot of other enhancements: a more intelligent and realistic cockpit, improved enemy AI, new targets, new missions, and on and on.

For those of you that have enjoyed the original F-I9, we hope you'll like this one even more. For those who are playing our Stealth Fighter game for the first time, hold on to your seats and get ready for an experience of a lifetime.

From the Manual: page 180

Screens from Major Thriftwood's flight (YouTube).