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Reno Air Racing: The Simulation

Reno Air Racing Flight Simulation In Holding Pattern
An Interview With Software Developer Pat Hunt

You’re in a P-51 Mustang flying fifty feet above the rocky desert floor.

Below, rocks and sagebrush flash by in a blur. Just in front of your windscreen, twelve cylinders turn a massive propeller beating the hot desert air into submission. Coming into view now, the next pylon appears.

This is it – the last turn – and yet it is gone in a flash, almost before you see it.

Ahead of you, a tall, blue and white checkered tower with the word RENO emblazoned upon its length...

Home Pylon... the checkered flag...

You’ve done it... you have won the Unlimited Gold at the National Championship Air Races in Reno, Nevada!

Sound like a dream?

For most of us, this is as close as we might ever get to the unbelievable experience of flying at the Reno Air Races.

Close your eyes, hear the engine, feel the power that you control in your hands. can I be here in this place and time with THIS much power in my grasp...

Just a dream?

Maybe not!

For the last several years, a team of six computer gaming programmers have been working on bringing this "dream flight" to life for anyone who has a home computer. The thrill of high speed flight, combined with low, fast, screaming engines and propellers.

Competing with your fellow racers all around you.... right on your desktop.

Sometimes it seems those things we want most are the most elusive. This particular flight simulation being created by Victory Interactive would seem to be one of those things.

We’ve been following the on again off again progress of this game for several years, as it evolved through the early stages of development, becoming a nearly complete, ready for market, full featured, Air Racing simulation.

Originally under the wing of gaming software producer, Papyrus, the Reno Air Racing game was dropped and production halted. The early reports of Reno Air Racing had us on the edges of our seats in eager anticipation... and then no more word of it. Like a distant mirage in the desert, just when you are almost able to touch it, feel it, see it to be real... it fades away. Just out of reach.

Then, earlier this year, the magic words: "It’s on again!" There would be a Reno Air Racing simulation on our desktops... along with even better news... it might make it to market before Reno!!!

If you’ve ever followed the computer game development process, you will be familiar with release dates that seem to move away like that desert mirage, a seemingly never ending wait for the magic words: "It’s Gone Gold!!!" Meaning, the final release version has been written and in the hands of the software developer is a magic disk.

Actually gold in color, this disk represents literally thousands of hours work on a seemingly endless list of complex processes, graphic models and feature lists. Once completed, this mass of data and images come together in a product that will create the illusion of flight and carry thousands of people off to millions of hours of delightful escape from reality, into the world of virtual flight itself.

As we mentioned in Part One of this article, this "road to gold" can sometimes become rocky, and this has been the case with "Reno Air Racing."

The question is this: "Where is 'Reno Air Racing' now!?"

For some answers and a ray of hope, we talked with the president of Victory Interactive, Pat Hunt...

Our first question was the most obvious one: What’s next?

A somewhat frustrated Hunt replied, "Who Knows?"

Though the somewhat bleak outlook indicated by Pat’s first response might discourage fans awaiting this simulation, Hunt continued on a more positive note: "We’re talking to a lot of other publishers and it’s so far done, we’re almost there."

Pat told us the simulation is very close to completion, nearly ready for a publisher to take it to market. We asked if we might see this happen soon?

"I would certainly think so," replied Hunt, continuing..."it’s just a question of finding a publisher. We’ve already found one publisher that wants it. It’s really a question of what kind of terms or deals we can get for Victory Interactive."

Was there any forewarning from Mattel that this surprise announcement was coming?

According to Hunt, "It kind of came out of the blue. They were real happy with it. I think it was just an economic issue with them. We’re what they call in the 'Beta Phase' – we’re very close to [being] weeks away from finishing it... It is a matter of weeks away from being finished," added Hunt, who cited widespread interest in the Reno Air Racing simulation:

"I think that there is a tremendous market out there," said Hunt. "Considering the thousands of fans who attend Reno, Oshkosh and other air shows, there is really no other product out there like this. In the gaming industry, flight sims have, essentially, died. In air combat, I mean. To me this is still very exciting because it’s like NASCAR in airplanes."

Hunt added: "It’s racing in three dimensions."

Most of you reading this have probably seen the website for this product, along with screen shots, descriptions etc. We have talked with Pat and the former producer of Reno Air Racing in the past about what would be in the finished product.
listen to interview)

Also, with several more months into it since our last conversation – and knowing that there has been an agreement struck with several race teams to have their airplanes modeled in the simulation – we asked Pat what it was like, flying the pylons in the airplanes of Reno Air Racing...


Screen shots and Reno Air Racing graphic, 2000 Mattel, Inc

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