I have always had a fantasy about flying. My guess is, most guys, if given the option, would learn to fly. It is a glamorized profession in both war and peace.
My first computer flying experience came early on, in my TRS-80 days. The program was the original SubLOGIC Flight Simulator by Bruce Artwick.
Back then graphics were nearly nonexistent. You flew across a countryside of lines. But, it was an earth shattering experience to have this kind of power on your kitchen table in the late 70’s. Because of the lack of computing horsepower and limited refresh rate (and my own lack of abilities), I found the program nearly impossible to land.
Since then flight simulators for the PC have come a long way. I’ve owned a few, though I haven’t flown that much recently. On this computer sits a copy of Flight Simulator ’98. As of tonight, it’s been joined by Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2002.
I would not have bought this sim had it not been for one thing… it’s absolutely free! In one of those weird quirks of fate, I bought this at bestbuy.com for $20, with free shipping. In return, from Microsoft, I’ll get a $20 rebate.
OK – I’m paying the sales tax, so it’s not 100% free.
Since Flight Simulator 2004 is already out, I’m guessing this is a closeout to get rid of any remaining stock.
The program installed easily off its three CD’s. The process took quite a while as the scenery files were decompressed as they hit my hard drive. I chose the ‘typical’ install and ended up sacrificing nearly 2 GB of space. That’s becoming a less significant number when video files can be double or triple that. Still, it’s still the largest program on my machine.
Though it’s not mentioned anywhere on the box, you’re also given the option to install Fighter Ace II, a multiplayer shoot-em-up game. Unfortunately, when you follow the program’s links to Microsoft’s “zone” gaming area, you are dropped off at a page that no longer exists. You can fly by yourself in training mode, but Microsoft’s multiplayer involvement has stopped, and it doesn’t look like anyone else has (or possibly can) pick it up.
Flying FS 2002 is pretty easy. I have an old joystick that’s been relegated to a cabinet. Taking it out and calibrating it allowed the simulator to immediately sense its presence on start up. The plane flew smoothly, with good graphics on my 1280×1024 monitor. I would guess I could speed things up by lowering the pixel count, but so far, that’s not necessary.
I have briefly tried the program’s built in air traffic control. No prize there. All it seems to do is acknowledge me and say I’m cleared to land. There are no precision approaches or guidance. Maybe I haven’t gotten far enough into it.
Meanwhile, I will install software which will allow me to interact with ‘real’ air traffic controllers. There’s a pretty large contingent of both fliers and controllers who use freeware programs which tie into Flight Simulator 2002 to communicate and recreate the friendly skies.