I'm Feeling a bit Chatty
Not as chatty as Hal mind you. If you haven't been reading Hal's blog, you've really got to see what he has been up to at AirVenture in Oshkosh. Well worth the read and he has a lot to say about it.
As for me, I'm going to skip the hints and innuendo and just come out and say it. With FSX Acceleration, you can take on one of the greatest challenges aviation has to offer. I can't possibly count the number of users that have asked for a working aircraft carrier (myself included). I can say with great glea that we have listened and we have developed a very cool experience.
I must also say we almost didn't have an operational carrier at all. Although everyone wanted to include the carrier, especially having the F-18 in the expansion pack, we really didn't have the resources to finish all of our other work and get the carrier too. At one point we were having to choose between the advanced helicopter features in the EH-101 or develop the carrier. Given the choice, we had to pick the Helicopter to fulfill that experience and grow our helicopter user base. Talking with one of our developers I mentioned how disappointed I was that we weren't going to get the carrier and he mentioned how he had a strong interest in it as well. After talking for awhile he agreed to look into helping us out by developing the carrier features himself. After some investigation, even though he is not on the Acceleration team, he decided to go forward with development and we can all celebrate that decision.
So here's the deal, when you think of carrier operations, you might think of working elevators, a maintenance deck, or even the bridge of the carrier. Although all of that can probably be done in FSX, wipe it from your mind. Remember that we are lucky to have the carrier at all. So what does having an "operational" carrier entail? We now have a working catapult that exerts enough force to propel the aircraft to a threshold speed by the end of the catapult run (for every aircraft this speed might be different). In the F-18 you must lower the launch bar to be able to attach to the catapult. Once attached to the catapult the blast shield rises and then you can launch when you are ready. It's very cool when you spool up to full military (or full afterburner if you're in the mood) and let her rip. The aircraft kind of squats a little as it accelerates down the catapult with a trail of steam drifting out of the deck.
Of course now that you're airborne, how do you get back on the ship? Well, arresting cables would be helpful. So you drop the tailhook, get into a stabilized approach, listen to the landing officer who helps guide you in (in a mission anyway), watch the meatball, and catch the 3 wire. When you come to a stop the wire pulls you back a little, raise the hook and have another go at it. Honestly night landings are awesome with the runway lights and meatball about the only thing you can see in the inky blackness out on the ocean in the middle of nowhere. Of course all of this is going on while the carrier is steaming along full tilt.
All of the carrier experiences out of the box will be in missions, but I've been told the system has been designed so that freeflight modes could be possible. I haven't tried it as we don't have any carrier AI routes defined (and that is beyond the scope of the product), but it should "just work."
So not only is this a great experience in FSX Acceleration, but it's also extensible in that you can configure aircraft to work with the carrier, and for ship builders, it should be relatively easy to get your own custom carrier hooked up as well. I can't wait to see the cool add-ons for new carriers coming from our third party developers and talented community members.
I hope you are starting to get as excited about FSX Acceleration as I am! I haven't heard many comments about our video trailer as I rreally thought there would be more excitement over it, but I'll give it some time to sink in... Hopefully we can get some additional videos together to show off the helicopter and carrier ops for you as well.