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Empty Seats

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Lynn and Bill had it right. Eighteen years on and Magic One still lives in my hangar next to an orange Luscombe and a chubby Tri-Pacer. They’re all a little dated, maybe a little ragged, but beguiling as ever and overflowing with a seductive passion that keeps me spellbound. There was a time when Flight Simulator grew stale and I almost walked away forever. Those lovingly crafted beauties pulled me back with charm and a smile. That was flying.

Someone here said that Lynn and Bill didn’t model airplanes, they modelled adventure. Sage words from a true poet.

My occasional rides (you know…the ones you actually have to rummage for under “Select Aircraft”) lack that extra something special that the Lyon’s infused, that morsel of charisma that made flying fun. They’re all wonderfully appealing creations, but about them little Mary Hume would say “almost perfect…but not quite.” Carenado’s forked-tailed Bonanza comes to mind. She’s a great flyer with Jane Russell sex appeal, yet suffers a fatal flaw.

Empty seats.

I never fly alone. Sometimes it’s Jack in the other seat. Other times sweet Ruby is there (she particularly enjoys Ant’s Trojan, although I think she just feels sorry for the ugly thing). The Beaudets favor the B-25, although they usually wrangle over the bombardier’s seat. Sometimes my virtual companion is nobody in particular, a nameless friend of a friend enjoying their first flight, just someone to share the virtual sky with.

There isn’t a single empty seat among my favored rides, like Phillipe and Team’s sleek Mirage IIIB or Manfred and Company’s exquisite C-47. Milton’s wonderfully pugnacious Harpoon and the Mid-Atlantic gang’s timeless Mitchell are perpetual favorites. Then there is Dave’s hauntingly seductive Hunter trainers (I’ll never understand why Hawker chose the masculine instead of “Huntress” for their fair maiden. A missed opportunity, I say).

A2A is on the right track, I think. The ability to put anyone in any seat of that Comanche is the greatest selling point for me. You can even (gasp!) put a lady in the left seat. I’ll add that beauty to my hangar someday, regrettably only after I win the Powerball. But I’m most intrigued by A2A’s pack that adds an “interactive” passenger to the front seat of the Cub. I don’t remember her name, but she sounds like my kind of girl, and I think the Lyons’s would approve of her antics.

I wish every developer would follow that lead and create airplanes bearing more than the usual emotionless dude-statues (I’m looking at you Carenado). Variety is the spice of life, and we all like choices. Don’t believe me? How much flak did poor Daniel receive for putting “that damn cheerleader with the silly smile” in the Baytower RV-7? The online lashings I read were pathetic, and it’s no wonder he disappeared. (For the record I think she’s great. How can you not smile like that in a RV? My only objection is that she’s terribly lonely in an airplane that screams out for a flying companion.)

I’d love to see a utility that allows you to add visible passengers to any airplane, like TacPack but for people. It would include adults and children, men and women, with customizable bitmaps for faces and clothing. But why stop there? My boy Bouncer would love to ride shotgun (curiously, he wagged his tail when I wrote that). Are you listening, Developers? You’re welcome, and I won’t even negotiate a portion of the money you’re about to make.

For most people, flight simulation is a solitary hobby. Sure, there’s an awesome online community where really great people gather to share stories, advice, and fabulous freeware (now I’m looking at you, SOH), and there’s even occasional public gatherings for those who can afford to travel and arrange time away from work. But unless you participate in online flying, the actual practice of our hobby is done all alone, mostly in the dim evening hours between work and bedtime. That’s where our imaginations play.

We each have a personal connection with our virtual worlds. Like our model airplanes of yore or the four by eight railroad empires we forged, our Flight Simulator worlds reflect our hopes and dreams, and maybe our longing for another time and place. They provide an escape from the travails of life, or a second chance at opportunities missed. And sometimes it’s nice to have someone with whom to share all those things, an Eve to our Adam. Children aren’t the only ones who make-believe, you know.

So, Developers, I have one wish:

No more empty seats, please.

With Love,

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  1. modelr's Avatar
    I have to agree 100%. The same goes for seeing the pilot's hands and feet working the controls and switches in the VC. We talk about how "realistic" the next release is going to be, only to sit in the pilot's seat, or, in the growing number of later releases, in the co-pilot's, or engineer's, or radio operator's seat, and look over, and NO ONE is flying the plane!! But some GHOST is operating all the switches and controls! Realistic??? Not in my book. The biggest complaint I hear/read is "it affects frame rates. Really? Never seemed to in Bill and Lynn's beautiful aircraft. with today's machines running in the 50-100FPS range, we worry about losing 10 or 15 FPS, when the human eye can only see mid 20's anyway? The other complaint is "they are in the way of "seeing" something." Well, DUH. Tell me, Mr. real world pilot, what do you have to do when you are in your real life aircraft? You MOVE your head, hand, or leg out of the way, don't you? How about Track IR? Can't wait till we can see and operate/interact with our hands in VR!

    Yes, having the visible people switchable in our virtual world is great, ala A2A. Wish it was easier to change the faces, and clothes. The avatar mode is fun, and seeing the active people in ORBX sceneries is so much more realistic. Wish they could visibly ride along in the aircraft, also. I'm not noticing any hit on frames at those, mainly because I have learned to LEAVE THAT READOUT OFF when just flying for relaxation. In fact, I only turn it on now when I actually SEE stuttering, which is extremely rare.

    Immersion factor, that's what I look for.