Falcon (game series)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
developer Spectrum Holobyte
Sphere, Inc.
Rowan Software
Lead Pursuit
Publisher Mirrorsoft
Hasbro Interactive
First title Falcon - The F-16 Fighter Simulation (1987)
Last title Falcon 4.0 Allied Force (2005)
Platform (s) Amiga , Atari ST , CDTV , DOS , Mac OS , Windows
Genre (s) Flight simulation
Falcon 4.0 logo from the Microprose website
History of the Falcon series from 1984 to 2013: timelines of the official and later the development lines promoted by the community (in English).

Falcon is the title of a series of flight simulation games , which is primarily concerned with the simulation of the fighter aircraft General Dynamics F-16 "Falcon" ( English for Falke deal).

Falcon - The F-16 Fighter Simulation

The first game under this name appeared in 1987 for MS-DOS and in 1988 for the Amiga , the Atari ST and Mac OS . The program was developed by Spectrum Holobyte and distributed by Mirrorsoft . The leading designers were Gilman "Chopstick" Louie and Mark Johnson. Falcon was programmed by Chris Orton, Colin Bell and Russell Payne. The graphic artists were Martin Kenwright and David Whiteside. Russell Payne and Andy Fisher were responsible for the sound.

Falcon offered both aerial combat and ground attack simulation. The player controlled the only "friendly" machine and had to expect either a SAM ( anti-aircraft missile ) attack or up to three Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21s at any time . A special feature of the first Falcon game, in addition to the detailed human-machine interface of the simulated fighter, was the ability to evaluate aerial battles in a 3D display projected on three levels in order to analyze the flight maneuvers of the player and his opponent. In addition, the result of a mission influenced the starting position for the next mission. SAM bases remained z. B. destroyed over three missions. So it was easier to start with the next mission e.g. B. to hit a bridge if the surrounding air defense was previously deactivated in the mission. This concept was further improved in the later released Missons discs.

There was also a multiplayer mode where two players could play all missions with two Falcons together. The prerequisite for this was the coupling of two computers via the serial interface.

A fight against each other was also possible.

For the time, Falcon had very good graphics and was praised in the trade press for its outstanding realism. The player could choose between five levels of difficulty for a total of twelve missions by choosing his own military rank. The order from easy to difficult was: 1st Lieutenant, Captain, Major, Lieutenant Colonel, Colonel.

The Amiga pack contained two 3.5 " floppy disks , a keyboard template, an application area map and a manual.

Amiga version of Falcon F-16

In 1989 the first Mission-Disk (Mission-Disk Vol. 1) appeared for the Amiga and the Atari ST. Rod Hyde was added as a designer. The graphic artist Mark Shaw replaced Martin Kenwright.

The level of difficulty had increased. The Amiga pack included a 3.5 "floppy disk, a manual and a poster.

Just like the main program, the Mission-Disk was rated as very good by the press.

In 1990 the second and last mission disk for the Amiga and the Atari ST was released. Despite the increased level of difficulty, Mission-Disk 2 was also rated very good by the trade magazines .

The Amiga package contained a 3.5 "floppy disk and a manual.

Falcon 2.0

Falcon 2.0 (or Falcon AT ) was a slightly improved version of the original game, which mainly used the capabilities of the faster IBM AT computers.

Falcon 3.0

Falcon 3.0 was a killer application when it was released: Falcon 3.0 was one of the first computer games to induce a large number of players to replace their hardware with more powerful devices in order to be able to meet the demands of the software. Also Falcon 3.0 introduced the F-16 with very high for that time detail is and was the first and probably the only game of that time, that a math co-processor has supported.

A major advance was that significantly more ground units and aircraft were shown. The player could now command a formation of up to four aircraft and the airspace was filled with different types of friendly and hostile aircraft over and over again in the vicinity of the player according to the principle of chance encounters. Due to the unlimited number of opponents, the game was similar to a shoot 'em up , although it was designed as a flight simulation with high standards. Falcon 3.0 introduced the dynamic campaign in which the success of each individual mission influenced the initial situation for the next mission.

In addition to the F-16, the simulators F-18 (which simulated the F / A-18 Hornet ) and MiG-29 ( NATO code name Fulcrum ), sold as independent products, made it possible to control two other jet fighters, and in the case of the MiG -29 even to fight for the Warsaw Pact. Since the game was designed with similar precision as the simulators of American aircraft and the "Soviet" pilots were awarded various medals up to the "Hero of the Soviet Union" if they were successful, the MiG-29 was a break with the previous product line American patriotism presented on the day. In addition, the FS-X prototype of the Japanese F-16 variant Mitsubishi F-2 could be flown in the Operation Fighting Tiger expansion package .

The area around Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas , including part of the Grand Canyon, was planned as the training scenario . The main program combat scenarios included Iraq , Israel and Panama . The expansion package Operation Fighting Tiger added the Kuril Islands , Korea and Kashmir .

From a technical point of view, Falcon 3.0 was particularly groundbreaking thanks to the display mode known as Padlock View . The Padlock View was used to simulate the tracking of other aircraft in three-dimensional space and so to break the restrictions that the relatively small screen imposes on the player. This was realized by a split screen , which displayed the sky in the largest section with a view centered on the captured aircraft, so that the player could keep his target in view regardless of the relative movement of both aircraft. In order to be able to control his aircraft at the same time, an artificial horizon was displayed in a small window , and in order to recognize the relative position of the target there was a small panoramic screen on which the target was shown as a cross and the screen section of the main window as a rectangle has been.

This representation was the first attempt to represent a virtual cockpit . The approach brought certain problems and was significantly modified in the successor Falcon 4.0, but set the standard for all flight simulations that were released in the years after the appearance of Falcon 3.0.

An extended version of Falcon 3.0 was released on CD-ROM under the name Falcon Gold .

Falcon 4.0

Falcon 4.0 was published in 1998 by the publisher MicroProse, which was bought by Hasbro Interactive. The setting for the simulated war is a fictional conflict on the Korean peninsula , based on various initial scenarios . The dynamic campaign has been expanded compared to Falcon 3.0 , in that with Falcon 4.0 the game continuously creates mission commands for all units in the game - for the player as well as for the AI . The player does not act in isolation in his aircraft, but around him AI planes try to fulfill their missions, and ground units carry out tactical maneuvers, fight, defend or withdraw.

In the 01/1999 issue of GameStar magazine, Falcon 4.0 received a 92% rating and an award (the GameStar ) “for special realism”.

The game sold only moderately in the important mass market. The causes must be:

  • Extremely demanding hardware requirements at the time of publication.
  • Disastrously poor software quality that required numerous patches in the first year after it was released . (The retail version 1.00 could often not even be started after the installation without a patch because the program crashed.)
  • pronounced realism in the simulation of the operation of the weapon systems
  • and the generally deteriorating market situation for flight simulations.

The scope of delivery of the game included:

  • a CD-ROM
  • Cadet School (42 pages, useful for a quick start, including installation instructions and option settings)
  • Pilot manual
  • Communication manual (for setting up multi-player games)
  • Quick reference card (with the key assignments for the control)
  • Map of the Korean Peninsula
  • Registration card
  • Promotional materials for other MicroProse products

Overall, it was equipment that is no longer common nowadays, even with full-price products (not to be confused with the Falcon 4.0: Allied Force, which was released in 2005 as a mid-price ).

The system requirements are negligible by today's standards. The computer that MicroProse describes as the "ideal system" (the best of three configurations: minimum requirements, recommended system, ideal system) should contain the following hardware and software:

For the multiplayer mode you also needed:

  • a serial null modem cable (for a 2-player option)
  • LAN with TCP / IP
  • a modem with 28.8 kbps or faster for games on the Internet or via modem connection

Only with version 1.07 in Germany and 1.08 for the US version was the game more or less stable, as customers expected from an entertainment product. At this point, Hasbro Interactive decided to close the MicroProse studio in Alameda to optimize costs and to discontinue the continuation and support of the game. Before that, the last of the above official patch released for the US version of the game.

Further development by third parties

After MicroProse liquidation, iBeta, which was commissioned by MicroProse to beta-test the patches, released two updates known as iBeta-Patches .

Led by a few iBeta employees, a group of tech-savvy Falcon fans began trying to understand and improve the simulation's data files. With the help of hex editors and disassemblers , changes were also made to the game's EXE file. This resulted in a number of unofficial Realism patches for Falcon 4.0 .

Another group (eTeam) had received the original source code of the Falcon version 1.07 from an unknown source (" leak ") and was now able to modify the code directly. In unofficial patches , among other things, the graphics engine was adapted to the possibilities of DirectX 8, inconsistencies in the dynamic campaign were eliminated and the error-prone multiplayer code could be replaced by a slightly better functioning version.

The resulting improvements were in a legal gray area, since there were always intellectual property rights to the Falcon source code - it was just unclear for a long time who owned them. After it became known that the rights to Falcon 4.0 had been sold to the small developer G2interactive, an agreement was reached according to which the community handling the 1.07 code was allowed to patch the EXE file up to a certain deadline and then the source code -Modifications had to be omitted.

In return, G2interactive was granted commercial exploitation rights to the components of the Falcon 4 SuperPAK patches created by the Unified Team. This was true up to the 3rd version of the SuperPack . After that, EXE modifications were actually forbidden. G2interactive was allowed to use the executable for the further development of Falcon 4.0 called Falcon 4.0 Operation Infinite Resolve , which they are currently developing . Since G2interactive could not meet the deadline for completion requested by Atari, Operation Infinite Resolve had to be discontinued and was never published. The SuperPAK, which is currently in version 4.2, contains the patched eTeam executable, especially new 3D models and realistic data. Thanks to the new terrain to be installed separately, the Falcon can now also be used in other areas, e.g. B. fly to the Balkans or the Middle East .

The source code was published regularly on github under a BSD license in 2013 .

Falcon 4.0 Allied Force

On June 28, 2005, the US version of the Falcon 4.0 Allied Force was released. After the private initiatives around Falcon 4.0, this is the first commercial development based on Falcon 4.0 1.08US. Lead Pursuit is the developing company, consisting of parts of the former SuperPAK developers of the F4UT team. Graphsim Entertainment is the publisher . In Germany, Falcon 4.0 Allied Force was released on August 1, 2005 by Application Systems Heidelberg. The software remained unchanged, an introductory manual reduced to 50 pages and translated as an addition . Otherwise, a 716-page manual was supplied as a PDF file , which the user can print out if necessary.

The AI (Artificial Intelligence) , graphics , textures , operation and more from Allied Force have been significantly revised compared to the basic version Falcon 4.0 .

In many optical and functional areas, the new commercial version lags behind private development initiatives. Allied Force scores in the stability of the game, in the stable and newly programmed multiplayer code and the improved gameplay compared to the private development initiatives. The total of 18 campaigns take place in Korea and the Balkans . There is the possibility of flying three different versions of the F-16. In detail, these are the variants Block 40, Block 50/52 and the MLU variant.

Lead Pursuit has taken parts of the community patch Superpack 4 as the basis for Allied Force. In November 2005, the first officially verified extension by the developers, called HiTilesAF , was released. Mainly the landscape textures from the main game were replaced with new ones during the update. The more than 1,600 new textures are based on real aerial photographs of the earth and are of excellent quality. It is also possible to switch back and forth between the four seasons.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. SPYHAWK: THE FALCON EPOPEE (PDF) sites.google.com/site/falcon4history. 2013. Retrieved September 14, 2013.
  2. Giorgio Bertolone: Interview with Kevin Klemmick - Lead Software Engineer for Falcon 4.0 ( English ) Cleared-To-Engage. March 12, 2011. Archived from the original on March 18, 2011. Retrieved on August 31, 2014: “ [C2E] In 2000 the source code of Falcon 4.0 leaked out and after that groups of volunteers were able to make fixes and enhancements that assured the longevity of this sim. Do you see the source code leak as a good or bad event? [Klemmick] "Absolutely a good event. In fact I wish I'd known who did it so I could thank them. I honestly think this should be standard procedure for companies that decide not to continue to support a code base." "
  3. FreeFalcon . github.com. January 24, 2013. Accessed September 11, 2013: " Legal - FreeFalcon doesn't have the cleanest history regarding its terms of use, but that all ends here. The code is now licensed under the rather liberal BSD 2-clause license; for the first time in its history, Free Falcon is truly free. See the LICENSE.md file for the full text of the license. "
  4. Falcon 4.0: Allied Force Test from GameStar