INTERVIEW: Get the inside scoop from Wild Bill about this incredible SIM

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After the simulated missions had ended, I came up with several questions for ‘Wild Bill’. I was interested not only in the simulator, but its history. Read on to see what John had to say!


Geoff:   How did you get your start in online simulation?

John:   In 10th grade I won a summer National Science Foundation Scholarship and was sent to the Army Signal and Research Labs in Fort Monmouth, NJ.   There, I worked on helicopter simulations moving jumper cables, as we were not programming with a language but by actually moving the connectors! We would make a setup, change the connectors, and then fly the simulated aircraft -sometimes against each other!  Very cool for a 10th grade nerd! Then I got to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, studying Aeronautical Engineering. We learned the Fortran language and all played a Star Trek game on our mainframes after hours!  I wanted to be Captain Kirk!

 Geoff:   Did you have any real life situations that lead to your decision to create your simulators?
John:   At the Academy we used simulators for flight modeling and for flying training.  The old Link trainers were great for learning instrument procedures. We also played many War Simulators to teach battle leadership and techniques. Then I went off to Pilot Training in the Air Force.  I fly the T-37 and T-38 Instrument Simulators on real missions for score and class standing.  I spent more time in the simulators than most of my classmates as I wanted to pass high in my class to get my aircraft assignment of choice.  (I finished 6 of 52 in my class with one checkride I did not pass due to “student was too aggressive in maneuvering the aircraft!”.   (The IP told my Flight Commander I manhandled the aircraft when he wanted a smooth ride!  I wanted to be a Fighter Pilot!  Smooth is not what Fighter Pilots do!) I went to work for General Instrument as a financial guy after I graduated from the Wharton School of Business.  I was flying for the PA Air National Guard, flying the A-37 Dragonfly aircraft.

I needed a computer to do the original spreadsheet, VisiCalc, and bought the Atari 800.  Sid Meier, my famous partner was the guru of the 800 at General Instrument. He and I were in Las Vegas at a boring business sales meeting.  Sid challenged me to an Atari Simulator called Red Baron.  As a trained Air Force Pilot I thought it would be easy to beat Sid. I scored 75,000. Sid sat down and scored 150,000 points! He said he could write a better game in a week!  He did, and it was our first game – HellCat Ace. He had made $800 on his first 4 games. With me selling, I generated over $200,000 in sales. MicroProse Software was born on that one simulator for Atari 800 computers!

 


 

Geoff:   How many different simulators have you created, and which is/was the most difficult?

John:   We have created over 100 different simulators since the original HellCat Ace game in 1982. 

Here is a list of our games over the years since 1982:

http://www.mobygames.com/browse/games/microprose-software-inc/offset,175/so,1d/list-games/

Some of our most famous simulators, with F-15 and many others selling more than 3 million copies each with F-19 almost 10 million copies.

1)      HellCat Ace

2)      Mig Alley Ace

3)      Wingman

4)      F-15 Strike Eagle

5)      F-15 Strike Eagle II

6)      F-15 Strike Eagle III

7)      F-19 Stealth Fighter

8)      F-117A Stealth Fighter

9)      Silent Service

10)   M1 Tank Platoon

11)   Gunship

12)   B-17 Flying Fortress

13)   Fleet Defender

14)   European Air War

15)   Gunship 2000

16)   And More!

 


 

Geoff:   After ‘riding along’ with you on a simulated bombing attack, I can see that there is a great community involved with this simulator. If a new member were to join, what steps would they take to make sure they can get the most out of their membership?

John:   

1)      Go to Training on Monday or Thursday nights at 2100 EST in the online training arena.  There, the real life trainers can help new players learn all the ways they can succeed and win!

          a.       It’s very important to get the views and controls right at the beginning.

2)      Join a Squadron.  We have great squadrons with great guys who help newbies get to be better pilots.

          a.       Here is the link to the Squadron Recruitment Forum:  http://forum.totalsims.com/viewforum.php?f=12&sid=828aac29e337f18d812bb93bbfa67392

3)      Join the Forum.

          a.       http://forum.totalsims.com/index.php 

4)      Participate in the Squadron Select Series (S3) historical events on many Sunday nights.

          a.       These are one life events where players participate in historic events that last over 5 frames.

          b.       If you die on takeoff (or anywhere) you are out of that event for the evening, but you can go fly in the main arena.

          c.       http://www.squadselectseries.com/


Geoff:   Speaking of membership, are there monthly or annual fees involved with your online simulator? Are there different levels of memberships available?

John:   

1)      When you sign up for the first time you get a FREE month of flying with over 200 aircraft

          a.       After your month is up, you can still fly FREE Forever.

          b.       With the FREE Account you to fly online with 6 early war aircraft to fly including the Spitfire 1, the early me 109, a B25C bomber, and a transport aircraft.

2)      A subscription for a month is $13.95 per month for all the fuel and bombs you want to use.

         a.       Events cost $1.95 per event for standard subscription players.

3)      If you want an Event plan for $19.95 per month, you get special historic paint schemes for your aircraft, Free Events, and a 15% discount on all WarBirds merchandise.

4)      If you want the VIP plan for $24.95 per month you get special historic paint schemes for your aircraft, Free Events, a 25% discount on all WarBirds merchandise, Premium customer service, Free Handle Change, and a free Disk of the current WarBirds once per quarter upon request.


Geoff:   How often does your fighter wing get together to fly missions?

John:   Most Squadrons have one night per week as Squadron Night, especially on those weeks there is an S3 event on the next Sunday. Then the squad flies the S3. If there is no S3 the squads usually pick one other night at their own event night and get most of their players online.


Geoff:   Speaking of missions, are a member’s personal mission accomplishments saved? Does the battle continue around the clock whether the member is not logged in or flying?

John:   

1)      The players participate in a TOD (Tour of Duty) that restarts every two weeks.  The player gets stats for each TOD that are saved for the player to view.

         a.       The Battles of the TOD (to capture the entire map) continue 24/7 whether the player is online or not.

         b.       Regularly the European players come in and try to close the map when American players are asleep.  The Americans try to do the same when they are online!

2)      The Player has a continuously updated score page right on the main map screen in the game.  He can review his latest missions, total scores, and latest kills.

3)      In the S3 events, each player’s scores are compiled and shared with them and their squadrons.

          a.       One side, either Axis or Allies win an S3 event after five Sunday nights of competition.


Geoff:   Lastly, what are your future goals for this or other simulators?

John:   We are constantly updating WarBirds 2016 online.  It will become WarBirds 2017 in the near term as we add some new aircraft, some new flight models, a new race terrain.  WarBirds 2016 Online plays on PCs and Macs.  We are looking at the Xbox one to make an online game for that device. This is the 21st year WarBirds has been operating online. We have retail single player games called WarBirds Dogfights, WarBirds Dawn of Aces (WW I), and M4 Tank Brigade (Tank Simulator). We are releasing, in January, an iOS mobile version of WarBirds called “WarBirds Fighter Pilot Academy, Europe, 1939-1945”;  http://www.WarBirdsFPA.com . We will launch a Pacific War version of Fighter Pilot Academy in the next few months. We intend to do a WW I, a Korean, and a Vietnam version of Fighter Pilot Academy for all mobile devices over the next two years.


Thanks for a great interview, John! You’ve definitely got great plans ahead!

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