by Will Reynolds
We were included in the Group Release by Dovetail Games for their upcoming software, Flight School.
Before we get anywhere, I decided to ask the Dovetail Team a few questions so we could clarify what IS FLIGHT SCHOOL and what is NOT FLIGHT SCHOOL.
1 - What made you think of Flight School as a product? Was it market driven or an old project? Why?
Dovetail Games Flight School was a market driven concept. We have spent the last two years listening to existing and would-be simmers alike. We have been intent on discovering what keeps you all simming, and what stops those who would like to get into flight simulation from doing so. We have learned that flight simulation appeals to an incredible amount of people, but a lot of them find it too hard to get started with. It is our aim to reclaim and attract those would-be simmers, but in order to do so, we need to present flight simulation in a way that doesn't initially overwhelm them.
That is where Flight School comes in. We wanted to create an experience that makes flight simming accessible to anyone who wants to try it. Doing this as a standalone release allows us to focus on tailoring the experience more at these players.
Dovetail Games Flight Simulator, which is due to be released at the end of this year, is aimed more at existing simmers.
2 - How does Flight School tie-in with the new upcoming Flight Simulator? Is it the same base code? Same GUI?
Dovetail Games Flight School and Dovetail Games Flight Simulator do share the same underlying technology. DTG Flight Simulator is still in development and is planned to be a much more feature rich and encompassing experience compared to the focused pilot training of Flight School.
3 - What can we expect from these products being 64 bit? What performance improvements can we expect?
The biggest benefit is that it’ll be much harder to run out of memory! 64-bit allows for bigger, more detailed scenery, aircraft, and airports to be used in-sim without the OOM errors that are prevalent in 32-bit simulators.
4 - Would we be able to use any of our current FSX-Steam aircraft or scenery in Flight School?
No, Flight School is a standalone experience and is not compatible with add-ons or content released for other simulators.
5 - What kind of DLC can we expect for Flight School?
There will be no DLC for Flight School as it is designed to be a standalone experience. We are, however, releasing a free update, which includes a DA42 and multi-engine lessons post-release.
6 - Any new features for Flight School such as multiplayer, shared cockpit or instructor control?
No, there are no multiplayer/shared cockpit/instructor control features in Flight School. Flight School is all about your journey from a humble beginning as a rookie through to an accomplished pilot. This is a very personal experience and we didn’t feel that multiplayer fitted into that concept.
7 - What can we expect in the future for Flight School?
As previously mentioned, Flight School is a standalone experience, so from here, we will be focusing solely on the development of Dovetail Games Flight Simulator. We will, of course, be providing ongoing customer support Flight School and will continue to offer it in our Steam store for the foreseeable future alongside FSX: Steam Edition.
So there you have it folks, black and white. No point discussing about how to tweak it or if it will be FSX...it is not, it is simply Flight School.
Now that we have that cleared up, let’s look at it closer:
Those familiar with FSX-Steam will know this part...you need a Steam account, and you purchase it via Steam. The download was around the 10G mark and starts up automatically.
There were a few familiar screens when installing, such as Creating Scenery File Indexes, etc...all familiar to those who have installed FSX at one point or another.
Let’s Run it
The first thing that you see is the change in GUI...gone are the 1995-style vertical menu options, replaced by full screen rolling screen menus.
First, you need to set your Home airport...and yes, I saw a full database of airports, however, I also did see that the database was exactly the same as FSX-SE....in other words, this is 2006-vintage, and it is missing airports built since then, like Bangkok’s new VTBS airport, etc.
Also noticed that old names are still current such as South Africa’s FAJS which changed name a long time ago.....so the navigation database has not updated....is that a dealbreaker?? Not really....you see, this is Flight School, you will not be flying Airliners here, you will learn to fly in small aircraft and then have some fun in the virtual world once you are confident with it.
Now we see the main screen, and the options at the bottom left of the screen, the legend of the icons is found on the opposite side of the screen:
Let’s look at SETTINGS first....this menu entry has a combination of several Menu entries in FSX or P3D. Again, no old style vertical menus, all changed.
Once we have set our preferences, let’s look at the first Flight item available....Flight Training.
You have two flight schools to choose from, and the training is done sequentially, ie you must successfully complete one training class to unlock the next. For what I have seen, the “classes” are well made, with a basic explanation of instrumentation and controls all done by voice and text....you also see the instruments being discussed highlighted in your panel to make it easier to identify.
The lesson then goes live and you are expected to complete certain basic steps
If you fail, you simply try, try again.
Next we look at “Missions”....it follows roughly the same format....there is an expected outcome, but you are free to choose any of the Missions at any one time...a successful conclusion will earn you points in your log. The missions have voiced-over companions reinforced by text which adds to the atmosphere.
Finally, let’s look at the Free Flights....here you can choose any airport in the world, pretty much like you would in FSX or FSX/SE, you have a small choice of aircraft, all courtesy of Alabeo with a handful of repaints:
Now we can create a Flight Plan...this is also with a new interface...you can click anywhere in the map to select your departure aerodrome, your waypoints and destination...all with mouse clicks and your plan is created. In this case, I decided to look around the Innsbruck area (LOWI).
Now that we are ready, we start moving....as soon as I became airborne, I changed the time to Night to check out the textures...personal opinion, but they are better and more varied that what was available in FSX...you can clearly see windows lit in apartment blocks, etc.
As a further test, I took a flight out of YBBN and the lights of the city included street/traffic lights, very neat.
I also did a test with rainy weather....performance was not degraded enough to make an impact, visuals were good but although the clouds were “good enough” they certainly were not payware-quality....but for what they will be used in Flight School, they are more than good enough.
So what can we say about this? Well, first...it is still in BETA...I did notice a few mini stutters when aircraft was turning and some scenery flashing but I am not concerned, as the product is not yet finished.
This product is clearly aimed at a specific market, the developer says so, their Marketing department says so, and I believe it will find a successful niche in it.
Those who have flown the Missions available in FS9 or FSX will be somewhat familiar with the intent, but Flight School makes good use of voice/text guidance to give a good atmosphere and encouragement to novice fliers. At present there is not much point going over performance or texture quality as we don't have access to the final product, when it is released, we will do a full review, but for now, this is simply a First Look at what this upcoming title is about.
Would I buy it? Yes, I have a pair of nephews very keen on aviation, and this would be a great starter for them.