Rise of Flight at E3 2009: Hands-on impressions

Posted by David on June 06, 2009 11:30 PM

E3 LogoThursday, June 4, 2009 I had the pleasure of visiting the Electronic Entertainment Expo, known better as E3.  It's held in my native city, the lovely smog-filled Los Angeles

This was the third and final day of the event, and as such was much less-populated than the previous two days.  It was certainly a lot less crowded than the last time I was there, which was in 2005 if I remember correctly.

I was there for a few hours and had a chance to do a once-over of most of the big titles being presented.  As the gaming website Kotaku stated, E3 is pretty much a preview of the games we'll be playing for the next year, so if you're at all interested in games, it's a good idea to check it out.

The Event

Unfortunately, E3 is a trade-only event, so most people aren't able to visit in-person.  But I'm sure you've seen a fair share of news coverage from it already, including videos, pictures, and reviews.  There's no shortage of media if you're looking for the more popular games from the big publishers and developers.  But if you're looking for the less well-known games from the small time developers, you might be disappointed in the lack of coverage.  Unfortunately it's fair to say that nowadays the whole flight sim genre falls into this "niche" category.

In my case, there was only one game I absolutely had to see: Rise of Flight.  When I first got into E3, I was hit by a wall of  sound and lights, and all I wanted to do was almost meander around.  Unbeknownst to me, I was like a homing pigeon and was lured directly to the CompuExpert booth.  Somehow I could feel I was close.  Yes, this homing device is standard equipment for a fanboi like me.  ;)

Jason V. Williams, President of 777 Studios, in the cockpit

The Rise of Flight booth

The Rise of Flight booth at E3 2009The Rise of Flight booth at E3 2009
There were several games at the CompuExpert booth, and it didn't take very long to find the Rise of Flight display, which consisted of a couple of display screens showing the trailer on loop, as well as a nice enviable PC setup: three side-by-side  screens powered by Matrox's TripleHead2Go, with a nice glowing red keyboard (doh!  I didn't check the details on that one), and a joystick, throttle, and pedal setup which you may have seen advertised as the Logitech Flight System G940.  These were all setup in a booth that was made to look like the cockpit of a Fokker, complete with the plane's tail, iron cross and all.

There was only one thing missing: the pilot!  As it turns out, Jason V. Williams, President of 777 Games, was out to lunch!   As you may know, 777 Games recently announced that it will be the exclusive North American publisher.

Jason V. Williams, President of 777 Studios

The Pilot Arrives!

SimHQ's ChunxNot the pilot: SimHQ's Chunx (Motorsports editor)
I meandered around and explored a bit more, then headed back to see Jason back from lunch and hard at work at the controls, showing off the setup to a visitor interested in seeing the Logitech hardware.

Coincidentally, SimHQ's Chunx was also there to take some photos of Jason for one of their E3 features.

Unfortunately none of the Russian developers at neoqb could make it to E3 because of passport problems.  It seems that because of circumstances with the Swine Flu scare, there were increased restrictions and the developers weren't able to get the paperwork filled out in time for a visit.

Jason was able to show off some of the game, but unfortunately there were some problems with the setup, especially with the sensitivity setting on the TrackIR 5 as well as the rudder controls being reversed.  I can imagine it's quite difficult to get everything setup just perfectly.  I have a hard enough time at home with just my joystick and recently-purchased TrackIR!

In the Cockpit

Jason V. Williams, President of 777 StudiosJason V. Williams, President of 777 Studios
I had a chance to sit in the "cockpit" and had a hand at the game.  Thanks to neoqb, I've had the privilege of flying in both the alpha and the beta versions of the game, so I've had my share of flight time.  With that being said, I'm still quite a noob as far as the game goes.  The Fokker D.VII is quite sensitive and really does require constant attention.  I'm unsure that the real plane was as difficult to fly as this.  Anyhow, it made for quite a time trying to aim at the approaching enemy.

The enemy pilot in this particular mission was designed to fly straight at you, engage you in combat, then fly off only to come around for another head-on pass.  Even so, I'm not sure I got any rounds in.  After a couple of these passes, I noticed a nearby town.  I flew close enough to see the buildings.  Then I "verified" that the buildings have collision detection.  It was all part of the plan, honest!

Part of my difficulty was due to the setup I think.  I haven't yet invested enough into my flight sim setup at home to be comfortable with a setup with three monitors, rudder pedals, and throttle control, no matter how basic some sim pilots thing those things are to a such a setup.

The TripleHead2Go-powered three monitors is really nice, but it's a bit overwhelming at first.  I think I adjusted to that fairly quickly.  As for the TrackIR 5, it had a really awesome setup screen that made me regret having purchased TrackIR 4 so recently.  However, I think the sensitivity on that was set a bit too high for my liking.

Also, I suppose there's some tradeoff to using three monitors.  The resolution is so high that if you get too close to the screen some things appear more pixelated than with a one-monitor setup.  This is to be expected, though.  Of course this will improve as graphics cards support even high resolutions.

Regarding the Logitech Flight System: it was pretty nice, even though the separate throttle and pedals were pretty foreign to me, since I don't have those at home (you might be surprised to hear that).  I really have no basis for comparison, so I can't comment much on it.

Contents of the Box

I talked to Jason about some of the things that will ship with the game disc.  He said he didn't want to simply stick a disc in a box, but instead wanted to do it right.  The box will come with a full color manual which shows some basics about how to play the game.  However, don't expect anything very big, such as the HUGE Red Baron II/3D manuals, which were basically books.

14 x 19 inch printed game map included in the North American release of Rise of Flight

The map that comes in the box is 14 in x 19 in. and is double-sided, with the map on one side and the Dicta Boelcke written on the other side, with some nice artwork behind it (I didn't get to see that part, I'm just going by Jason's description).

I did notice the Nieuport 17 listed on the available planes, but Jason told me that it won't ship with the game, so I suspect he was running either the beta or a special version of the game.  The Nieuport 17 was included with the collector's edition in Russia, so I can imagine that when neoqb gets its act together (which will hopefully be soon) we can expect to see this available for purchase for a reasonable price in the online store, alongside other aircraft.  Also, hopefully we'll see a dedicated English site come online in the coming weeks.

Video still: Maxtrox's TripleHead2Go with Rise of Flight

General Impressions

Jason V. Williams, President of 777 Studios, showing off Rise of FlightJason V. Williams, President of 777 Studios, showing off Rise of Flight
The game provides a very solid foundation for what is surely the best standalone WWI flight sim published since Red Baron 3D.  The game content is admittedly small at the moment, with only a few flyable planes, but the developers have been working constantly to roll out updates and improvements on the game.  In fact, a patch was just released today in Russia.

By the time the game is released here, it should hopefully be a bit more polished.  The game is purposely designed in the style of cutting edge games, which provide constant updates, additions and expansions, and bug fixes, so with time we should see a lot more to our heart's content.

The foundation has been laid, the release is rapidly approaching, and the most realistic WWI flight sim, in many ways the most realistic flight sim yet released, is soon bound for the hands of eager virtual pilots everywhere.

Rise of Flight is due to be released in North America on June 17, 2009 and is available for preorder from GoGamer.com (USA) and FSPilotShop.com (USA, Canada).  If you live in Russia or a CIS country, the game is currently available in shops and online at nd.ru.

For those of you in Europe and the rest of the world, sit tight, as the details are still being worked out with the publishers and have not been made public.

Check out more Rise of Flight E3 coverage at IGN

Video of Rise of Flight in action at E3 2009

E3 2009 Pictures

And now for some of my pictures of the other events at E3 2009!