A New Aussie Star Flight Simulation
By Greg Whiley (CaptAus)
Melbourne, 19 March 2016
A new Aussie Star Flight Simulation (ASFS) website development is under way. A new domain name and email address has been registered. The URL be made public when website development is complete. Aussie Star Flight Simulation has also been registered as a business.
So why a new Aussie Star Flight Simulation, and why now?
The new site is a replacement for the original Aussie Star Hops website first introduced in 2010. With the loss of the Gamespy facility from Microsoft Flight Simulator X in 2012 and the subsequent cessation of hosting multiplayer hops sessions, Aussie Star Hops morphed into Aussie Star Flight Simulation but retained the Aussie Star website URL. The flight simulation industry at the professional and hobbyist levels continues to be a burgeoning industry. With ever increasing technological advancements in hardware and software, the level of realism and immersion in simulated flight has never been more appealing. To keep pace with these changes, ASFS requires a makeover.
Developments in the flight simulation world have been commensurate with technological advancements. In November 2010, Lockheed Martin launched its Prepar3D (P3D) software, based on Microsoftâ€™s ESP technology, the engine to Microsoft Flight Simulator X. Lockheed Martinâ€™s intention was to pitch Prepar3D to the high end of the market for professional training purposes. Nonetheless it has been embraced by the flight sim community and many allied software developers are now making their products compatible with the P3D platform.
The other significant entrant into the market is Dovetail Games and its online Steam portal. Dovetail acquired the rights to develop and publish new titles using Microsoftâ€™s genre-defining simulation technology in 2014. With its wealth of experience in train simulation, Dovetail was well placed to enter the aviation sphere with the FSX: Steam Edition, launched in 2014. Despite initial scepticism, it would seem that the Steam Edition has, to some degree, reinvigorated participation in this hobby. A particular welcome return for many is the muliplayer facility enabling simmers to once again actively participate in online flying collaboration.
That Dovetail Gamesâ€™ involvement in flight simulation is here to stay and become a major player is clear in its recent announcements. This month it is set to launch the first of two brand new flight simulators: Dovetail Games Flight School and Dovetail Games Flight Simulator. Flight School is designed to teach would-be pilots the basics of flying a light aircraft as well as the essential elements of flight simulation. Flight School will be followed up with Dovetail Games Flight Simulator in the latter part of this year.
Dovetail Games will plug a hole that has existed in the flight simulation genre mass market since the launch of Microsoft Flight Simulator X back in 2006 and Microsoftâ€™s closing down of its ACES Game Studio in 2009. ACES Game studio was the department responsible for creating and maintaining the flight simulator series. In a recent media release, Paul Jackson, CEO at Dovetail Games, has rightly stated, â€œthis means weâ€™ve missed at least one or maybe even two generations of players who would have adored flight simming, but for whom it wasnâ€™t appropriate.â€ Dovetailâ€™s aim then is to â€œget back to that place, to restore the former glory of flight simulation as an enjoyable and engaging pastime.â€
It will be interesting to see what Dovetail Games come up with in these two new products. I confess I was sceptical when the Steam Edition was first experienced. Having amassed a shelf full of DVDs and installed many kilobytes of downloads from a range of aircraft and scenery developers to achieve that â€œas real as it getsâ€ immersion with FSX, it was like stepping back in time to the default world of a bygone era. But I suspect Dovetail have realised that and are moving in the right direction. â€œCustomers today expect a much slicker experience,â€ Paul Jackson said. â€œThey want simulations that are realistic but also accessible. They want to be led to a place where the focus can be on reaching great levels of accomplishment, rather than struggling to get to grips with the operational aspects.â€
It is encouraging to see aircraft and scenery developers coming onboard with Dovetail. Their work and investment in making products compatible with the Steam edition is welcomed and appreciated. Significant in this area is the recent announcement that Dovetail Games will be partnering with Orbx Simulation Systems to bring key aspects of its scenery technology to Dovetail Games Flight School and Flight Simulator. Understandably initiatives like this are due to the commercial interests of the bigger players, it is nonetheless, testimony to the health and ongoing popularity of engagement in flight simulation activities.
The same could be said regarding the online forums, support groups and retail outlets. Some have come and gone, including virtual airlines. Yet main players in this area have continued, in all appearances, to thrive and even expand. Having spent two days trolling through the web, researching sites of current interest to flight simmers, it is clear the â€˜industryâ€™ is alive and well.
ASFS aims to be a support base for flight simulation enthusiasts at all levels. My pastime passion is flight simulation; not just flying but an immersion in and involvement with the FS community. But I am no expert. Therefore, my aim is to bring together as many members of the Australian flight sim community as possible with the expertise to lend support, assistance and education to those who seek it. The dream is to have a central site of news, information, support and learning relating to this most amazing, exciting and addictive of pastimes.
Despite having the desire for this venture, and the will to achieve it, I am limited to the skills, knowledge and time I have at my disposal to realise the dream. My skills lie in education and strategic organisation. I was a private pilot, but that was over 30 years ago. I have been a simmer since the release of FS98. I have learnt a great deal about flight simming, but I am no expert and have much more to learn.
For a number of years attempts have been made to maintain participation with the community, initially by hosting multiplayer sessions and then the writing of support materials and tutorials published on the website and its allied Google Plus Community and Facebook page. This was limited to the knowledge and expertise possessed at the time, and time availability while working fulltime. Having recently retired however, the luxury of time is now at my disposal along with a renewed energy to take Aussie Star to a new level. Yet working solo for the last six years has taught me that acting in isolation limits opportunities and possibilities. It can also be a dejecting and thankless task.
Therefore an invitation is extended to those who are passionate about simulated aviation, to be co-creators in the formation and development a NEW Aussie Star Flight Simulation vision and mission. Ironically, the ultimate goal is to make Aussie Star redundant. By the formation of an association of Australian flight simulation association â€“ Flight Simulation Association of Australia (FSAA) perhaps â€“ the union of the commercial and hobbyist arms of the flight sim genre would be complete. Wouldnâ€™t it be great if the inaugural conference of FSAA could be held In Melbourne, say in five years time. Is this a dream or a possibility?
I have been crawling for six years. I am now walking. Who will run with me on this for the next five years?