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Reno Air Racing: The Simulation

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

(continued from page one) According to Hunt: "The really fun part, it’s the only flight sim that has ever been made that engine management is a big part of it. You don’t just step on the gas and go. For the Unlimited airplanes, you might increase your spray bar water and bring down your BTU loads, or you might use nitrous only on your last lap so you don’t blow your engine. If you do go full out, like with 130 inches of manifold pressure, you’ll go fast but the game has it factored in. There’s a chance that you might blow it."

Hunt elaborated on the Flight Sim racer acting as his own mechanic: "In addition to the flying, to me it’s a really fun part – you set up your airplane. You pick your engine, the prop diameter, the wingspan. And then during the race, there’s a lot of things that factor in – there’s a lot of variables. Now if you just want to get in and race and have fun you can do that. But there’s the replay factor, for the guys who really want to get into it, it continues to be interesting with all the variables within the game."

Highlighting the game's hands-on (interactive) aspect, Hunt went on to say that "It’s fun! Do you want to go into high blower or low during a race? How much nitrous do you want to use? How much water injection do you want to use, or spray bar water (?) – all of that is in there. You can leave it on automatic, but if you do it manual, there’s a lot of stuff to be thinking about...and as you fly that thing –if you want to come in at about 100 feet around the pylons– you’ve got to be watching it all the time you’ve really got to be focused, it’s challenging."

The last time we talked with Pat about Reno Air Racing, there were a number of airplanes within the simulation that were modeled after actual race planes. With the agreement reached with several new teams just prior to Reno this year, we wondered if –for instance– Critical Mass had been modeled and would be in the game?

Said Hunt: "Oh yeah... it looks just like it – Critical Mass! Rare Bear, Dago Red, Miss America... they’re all in there.."

With this much fun potentially on tap, multi-player and even better internet play would make this simulation a fantastic addition to the desktop.

Imagine actually meeting up online with Lyle Shelton or Tiger Destefani – any of the guys who race at Reno...

Hunt : "Net play, multi player yes – built in! Mattel didn’t have a strategy for an Internet racing site – they only wanted an out of the box net or IPX player capability. But yes, whoever publishes it, could generate a great deal of interest with a net meeting website for racing multiplayer."

"Another thing we have," said Hunt, "we’ve built a full size replica of a P-51 cockpit – the stick, the trim console, all of it – it’s so real [that] if you look at it, it’s like: ‘Is that a real cockpit?’ No.. it’s ours. We’re going to use a projection system for pilot views and it could be mounted on a motion system if you want. Our plan is to get these into locations where there are other attractions, for instance: a restaurant or bar setting. People could actually race each other."

We asked Pat what kind of hardware we would need to be running to get a good frame rate from Reno Air Racing?

"It will require hardware acceleration," said Hunt, who added "I would recommend a 3dfx card. We’re flying up to 8 airplanes and the frame rates are very good. Anything open GL compliant will work well with this. Compared to a lot of current releases, the frame rate is very good."

In closing our conversation with Pat Hunt, we asked him to sum up his feelings – for example, being so close to completion, with something you have worked on for so long, would have to be terribly disappointing...

"It’s a shame really," said Hunt, who pondered: "I thought, how can we help keep air racing alive? This game would generate interest world wide. There are a lot of people interested, it’s just a matter of making it all come together. The situation with The Learning Co., was not that the game was not looking good, or they were not happy with it; it was just an economic decision after the sale of the company."

For those of use waiting for the chance to race the pylons of our imagination, while another waiting period sits as an added obstacle in front of us – will we see this promising release on our desktops soon?

I guess Pat answered that in the answer to the first question we put to him: "Who knows?"

As fans anxiously await further developments, we are left to wonder: what can we do to help the process along?

That is a good question...I know that game producers keep their "ear to the ground" by watching newsgroup messages, as well as reading e-mail messages from the various producers' websites on the Internet...

So for now, let’s all keep our fingers crossed; visit those flight simulation newsgroups; (comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.flight-sim for one) leave messages stating our viewpoints and desires; and write e-mail messages to any simulation producers we can think of...

Reno Air Racing – The Simulation: over for now.. but far from out!

By: Wayne Sagar

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

 

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