Fighting the Flight Sim Urge

Every so often I start feeling the urge to get into combat flight simulators.  Something triggers a wave of desire to go spend time trying to fly a plane in order to shoot down other people flying planes.

I’ve been feeling this lately due to the fact I started watching videos on YouTube by Bismark.  He does a variety of different videos, but many of them focus on the game IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad, one of the more recent entries in the long running IL-2 Sturmovik series of games.

I am pretty sure I have owned a couple of the titles from the series in the past.  I was never any good at them.

Rather, watching these videos fans the long quiet embers of a time when I played games like Air Warrior or Falcon or Hellcats over the Pacific, an era of my gaming that runs from the late 80s into the mid 90s… which is to say, a long time ago.

Spitfire Artwork from Air Warrior on the Mac, circa 1989

I was young, had the time, energy, and patience to get… if not good, at least past bad and into the range of somewhat competent… with these titles.  And then I sort of stopped focusing on that.  Things like TorilMUD and Diablo and various incarnations of Civilization became more my thing, and then EverQuest came along and we get to where I am today.

But I have never quite lost that flight sim urge.  Every so often I buy or try some flight sim title, realize I don’t really have the patience to get into it again, and move on.

Fortunately we live in the free to play age, so I no longer have to buy to douse that urge.  Since the urge is back, I have been back to tinkering around with War Thunder.  And since the urge was stoked by IL-2 Sturmovik, I have been playing the Russian tree and the ground attack portion thereof.

An early model IL-2 in War Thunder

Doing ground attack has less of a learning curve than air to air combat.  However, it also means you’re meat for the enemy if you’re caught alone, and since games like War Thunder tend to be chaos for the most part anyway, sticking with others or finding targets where fighter cover exists can be problematic.  Situations are fleeting and people will run off after any opportunity.

Then the urge to take a fighter up and reply in kind comes through and how bad I am shines through.  My copy of Fighter Combat glowers at me from the bookshelf as I make all the rookie mistakes, even though I know as I do them that they are mistakes.

I tell myself that trying to do this with mouse and keyboard… and not even a mouse, but a trackball… is just wrong and that I really need a new flight stick because I got rid of my old one when it became so old that the company dropped driver support for it.

And then I spend some time looking at flight sticks… I think I would go with the Thrustmaster T.1600M at this point, based on what I have read… and I think some more, put something on my wish list, take it back off, then put it back on again as the urge fights with the more detached knowledge of myself.  I know, if I can step back from whatever passion there is, that I don’t really have the patience to get up to speed, much less good.

Meanwhile, the urge counters with the fact that I already own some games like Elite: Dangerous where the flight stick might be useful.  I could get use out of something I already own.  Looking in my Steam library, at some point I even bought IL-2 Sturmovik: 1946, during a sale no doubt.

Meanwhile the detached side starts going on about the sunk costs fallacy.

The likely end result is that I’ll just play War Thunder with my current setup until I get tired of being shot down constantly and go back to things that are now more my speed.  But there is always a battle within me.

5 thoughts on “Fighting the Flight Sim Urge

  1. anypo8

    Maybe a compromise on flight stick quality? The Saitek ST-290 costs $23 and gets surprisingly good reviews on Amazon. Not the same as the full-on Thrustmaster HOTAS, obviously, but probably good enough to see whether you want to give up on flight combat again or move up to a fancier stick.

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  2. bhagpuss

    What happened to Elite: Dangerous? I vaguely seem to remember you playing that at some point and talking about it being mostly a (space) flight sim of sorts.

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  3. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @anypo8 – The thing with that Saitek is that it is out of production so is only available used. Anyway, I think the best solution is to stop binging on Bismark videos and let the urge pass.

    @Bhagpuss – Elite: Dangerous carries on. From its initial launch it has added new content, new expansions, and runs on new platforms… which is to say consoles. It is a solid game that has built on its base to go from strength to strength. If I could dock I would probably play it, but it is a bit hard core on the ship control front. Need a joystick.

    Elite: Dangerous is, in its way, the antithesis of Star Citizen, in that it actually launched with a limited feature set and then expanded. The SC team seems to feel the need to incorporate every conceivable feature they can come up with before they ship anything. You may think I am joking, but I watched the SC Gamescom demo and among the things they announced was their own version of SOE-mote. That might have been the literal feature shark jumping moment for me for SC. I’ve tried to take it seriously up until the point, but now I am about prepared to put a “Derek Smart was Right!” bumper sticker on my car.

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  4. bhagpuss

    Oh I saw that on a link somewhere and thought “that looks weirdly like SOEmote” but then I dismissed the idea as patently absurd. I didn’t click through because I’m not really following Star Citizen but I must go back and have a look.

    I was excited by SOEmote when it was first revealed – I actually bought a webcam to try it out. Unfortunately, apart from the mild amusement of seeing my characters gurning like extras in the background of a village scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, I never really saw much use for it.

    Now, if some developer could get player characters to show facial expressions triggered by key words in chat text or tone in VOIP, then we really might have something…

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  5. rhunter13

    Wilhelm, while I have drifted from EVE recently (still read this blog daily), I tend to get my online combat fixes via a few sources. One of them currently is Aces High III. While it is an older game played mostly by older crowd, it has a very null sec like competition. All the aircraft/tanks/ships are WWIIish and it is a continuous fight between 3 teams for control of the map. Once the map is won, they replace the map with a new one and the fight resumes. It doesn’t have the depth of EVE, but it is much deeper than most flight fighting simulators I have flown in the past. Anyway, thought you should know about it. (I think it is on steam, not 100% sure there…)
    – Rheusmc13

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