Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hobbies, We Have Them

The other day I mentioned flight simulators. FRaVMotC* Juvat asked me in the comments what my simulator of choice was.

Here's the answer: The IL-2 Sturmovik Series. Hands down.

For realism in the terrain, weather effects and flight model, I've not seen a better flight sim.

Oh wait, yes I have.

But that one is a bit out of the ordinary jagdflieger** wanna-be's price range.

Yeah, the Super Hornet sim the Navy operates out at Naval Air Station Lemoore is pretty sweet. (Honestly though, the graphics outside the cockpit are better in IL-2. Seriously! They're just not wrap-around 360 degrees in IL-2. But they could be. More on that down below. Probably. Unless I forget. Or digress...)

But I don't have everyday access to that lovely beast out at NAS Lemoore. So I must be content with what I can buy at the store. (Whether it be online or the type you actually drive to, park your car at, walk into and look around. Truth be told, I'm old school. I like to be able to look at what I'm about to purchase. Ya know, pick it up, look at the cover art. Feel the heft. Though with software, buying online works too. It's just not as much fun.)

So when did I come down with this particular disease acquire this hobby? Round about 1988 IIRC. For that is when I purchased a copy of Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer.

Now when I bought this it may have had a slightly different name. According to Wikipedia
Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer is a 1987 computer aircraft simulation game produced by Electronic Arts that was originally released as Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Simulator. Due to a legal squabble with Microsoft over the usage of "Flight Simulator" in the name, the title was pulled from shelves and later re-released as Chuck Yeager's Advanced Flight Trainer. Many copies of the original title were sold before being pulled from the shelves. Chuck Yeager served as technical consultant for the game, where his likeness and voice were prominently used.

Now the graphics on this were pretty primitive. But doggone-it, it felt like flying. Well, as near as you can get sitting on the ground, at a desk, in front of an old IBM PC-clone and gripping a rather cheap joystick.

But oh my jumping Jehoshaphat! Climbing into the SR-71 and going from sitting on the ground to "I think I've flown off the edge of the world" in mere seconds was a rush. (Seriously, the "game" world wasn't that big.)

Another thing worthy of note regarding this sim. I bought it before I owned a computer. The Missus Herself pronounced me to be "foolhardy and a bit of an idiot" until The Naviguesser came to my rescue.

"Mom. We both know that Dad is eventually going to buy a computer. Probably within months. He uses computers at work. So he should have one at home too!" He probably didn't sound quite that sophisticated in his argument, he was, after all, only nine at the time. But he was (and still is) a very bright guy!

"Now look here, son of mine," said The Missus Herself, "Yes. Dad uses a computer at work. That's why the Air Force gave him one. He doesn't need one at home."

"But Mom, how can I learn to use a computer if we don't have one at home?"

Like I said, a very bright kid. (Is it coincidence that he now works for EA? Hhmm...)

So I purchased the sim and within a few weeks I bought a computer.

Now back then they didn't become obsolete so quickly (like the day after you buy them) and I heard of a guy selling his because he wanted to buy a newer, fancier machine. That's how I got my first PC. Second hand. (Had very little rust and the engine ran pretty smooth.)

Now years go by, newer flight simulators came out. Some as good as Chuck Yeager's most (surprisingly) not. But there were a couple which were okay.

Then came the day in 2001 when IL-2 Sturmovik came out. I was now retired from the Air Force and making pretty good money. The Naviguesser heard of this particular flight sim and recommended it to me. As he was a newly minted Professional Surface Warfare Officer, (and as I said earlier, a pretty bright guy) I acted on his recommendation and bought it.

I've purchased every installment since and have not been disappointed with the original series. (I will address that comment in a moment.)

In the lead-in photo is a later expansion pack to IL-2 which include all three of the first expansion packs released. It included the original release and these three expansion packs: Forgotten Battles (IIRC it included a number of aircraft and scenarios to make IL-2 cover the entire Eastern Front, the original only covered a smaller portion of the campaign), Ace (brought some American and British fighters to the table, also some new maps covering Western Europe and such) and then Pacific Fighters (adding the US Navy and Marine Corps, the US Army Air Force units which fought in the Pacific and, of course, the Japanese).

All stayed true to the original but added more features. Like carrier operations and little things like being able to slide your canopy open. Didn't really add anything to the game play but added enormously to the sheer delight. (Or maybe that's just me. But sliding that canopy open and hearing the heightened sound of my engine gave me a thrill.)

Yak-9 Flying over Moscow, an actual in-game screen shot!

Nakajima B5N "Kate" rolling in on a torpedo run.

The final edition in what I term the original IL-2 series was titled 1946. This included a number of new, late war, aircraft and some birds which had never made it off the drawing board. Giving you this -

MiG-9 Fargo - First flight: 24 April 1946

The box art for 1946:

Now of course, I purchased the original and the first three expansion packs at retail price. When I found 1946, it was in the bargain bin. I could have saved myself about 125 bucks if I had waited. But then again, all the fun I had over the years was well worth it!

The kids at one point in time decided I needed some new flight controls. So one birthday (Christmas?) saw me get these -

Saitek X52 Flight Control System
(Throttle Quadrant and Joystick)

Now a friend of mine has himself a pretty nice flight sim set-up. I've seen pictures. He built it himself. I have to say, I want one! (Oh yeah, and rudder pedals. I need rudder pedals!)

The chair and the stands for the hardware go for about $800.
Or you can build your own.
(I'm sure The Missus Herself won't mind. Much...)
Of course, mine would look way more cramped. That is, look more like a military cockpit. (I'd probably have more monitors as well. How can I look over my shoulder if there's not going to be anything there but drywall?)

I mentioned above that I liked the original series best. There is one newer release that I have, it's a standalone, this one is IL-2: Cliffs of Dover. Covers the Battle of Britain, which I like. Splashing Dorniers and Heinkels is lots of fun. (Being chased by a schwarm*** of Me-109s, not so much.) The terrain is much improved over the original. But to me, the interface leaves summat to be desired. I liked the original interface better.

One reason is that it was really easy to personalize one's aircraft. Which I did. You could also personalize your pilot. Which I also did.

I once called The Nuke and The WSO up to the computer room to show them what I had done to my pilot. There, on the screen, was a camera view looking into the front windscreen of "my" FW-190. And there, was me. Well, the dude looked like me.

I had taken my work ID badge photo and replaced one of the stock pilot's faces with my own. I thought it looked awesome!

All The Nuke had to say was, "Dad. You're a freak..."

(And here I thought it was really cool. Truth be told, The WSO liked it too!)

While I haven't given up on Cliffs of Dover (I do fly it from time to time) I need to reinstall 1946. There are carrier landings to master and targets I haven't hit yet.

Besides, I need to personalize my Corsair...

My P-51...

My P-38...

So much to do, so little time.

Yes. Hobbies, we have them.

Oh yes we do!

FRaVMotC = Frequent Reader and Valued Member of the Commentariat. I've been using it a lot lately. Well, twice in two days. I think that's a lot. So I decide to acronymize it. Don't worry though. It's not a weapons grade acronym.

** jagdflieger = fighter pilot (German)

*** Schwarm = flight of four fighters (German)


  1. Ok, I ordered 1946 today. I'm sure I'm a day and a half away from some flight controls. If I can find my g-suit (and fit into it) and figure out a way to pump it up when pulling on the stick, I might just be a happy camper.

    1. Now that I would like to see. Seriously though, let me know what you think.

  2. CH products makes a nice, inexpensive set of pedals. I use X-Plane, myself, but I'm not as into it...

    1. I will definitely look into those. Thanks Pogue.

  3. You might want to check out Yankee Air Pirate. http://www.yankeeairpirate.net/

  4. Their facebook page has a lot more pictures and general write-ups. https://www.facebook.com/pages/YankeeAirPirate/284823034925452

  5. All The Nuke had to say was, "Dad. You're a freak..."

    Ummm... well... ummm... Never mind.


  6. Dang! Thanks Sarge, I've made it into the august ranks with VX. Now if I could just learn to drink Barbancourt!

    1. Hey, anyone associated with the mighty Phantom will always get a seat at the head table.

      Barbancourt! No one expects you to go that far Juvat. (Hhmm, Blogger didn't like "Barbancourt", it suggested "barbarous" instead. Now I have to try it!)

  7. Used to play IL2 online a few years ago, what a blast! I was even on a team for a while when they had competitions. I got a new joystick for Christmas and dug out Pacific fighters. A little more practice and I'll be ready to go back online.

    1. Awesome. I may need to practice myself. I never had the connection to do the online thing until fairly recently.

      Maybe I'll "see" you out there!

    2. Flying against a real person is COMPLETELY different than going up against the computer. It's personal, when you get shot down there was a real person somewhere in the world saying Gotcha sucka!

    3. I daresay a human would also be a much more proficient, therefore worthwhile, adversary.

  8. Bummer, it arrived last night, went directly from the truck to my newish 64Bit Win7 machine and stuck it in the drive. Nada. Looked on the back and noticed that it was compatible all the way up to Win2000. I think I heard a guffaw from my computer when I tried reinstalling it with the compatibility mode set to 2000. I definitely heard an "I told you so" when that failed also. So, back to the drawing board, looking for a newer version. Thankfully, only a $10 investment. You would think Amazon would include that information on a software product.

    1. Well that sucks. Makes me nervous though. While Cliffs of Dover works fine on WIndows Vista, I haven't tried 1946 on it. Damn, damn and double damn. Now I know what I need to do this weekend.

      Sorry Juvat. I know it's "only" 10 bucks, but still...

    2. AHH, no worries, not your fault. There were clues, Discontinued in 2007 being the primary one I should have picked up on. Just wish Amazon had been a little more technical in their product requirements.

    3. 2007? Has it been that long?

      Geez. Seems like yesterday...

  9. When I read this, I had never played any of the IL2 series. I hopped onto Steam, bought IL2 1946 and it installed and plays just fine on my Windows 7 x64 system. That may be an option for you.

    1. Works on Windows 7? Sweet! Let me know what you think of IL-2.


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