• A Look Back at F19 Stealth Fighter by Microprose

    As I continued on my way, mountains came into view, or more appropriately, textured 3D triangles. To clear them I would have to gain height, but this would leave me vulnerable to the SAM missile sites dotted around the area. The only alternative would be to disengage the autopilot and manually fly around them. This I carefully did and after a few tentative minutes of stick flying, I was back on target.

    A few moments later, my primary target, the tank farm at Liberec, came into view on the MFD. At just under 50 km away, it was close, but not that close, so I took a few moments to familiarize myself with the keyboard commands needed to complete the task in front of me.

    Microprose - F19 Stealth Fighter

    With my MK82 Slicks selected (how I wish I had the long distance Mavericks), and with my finger poised to open the bay doors, I watched the distance meter slowly count down. As I reached the final few kilometres to the target, I opened the doors, the tracking beam beeping wildly in response to my increased radar footprint.

    Heartbeat racing, I hit the key to release my payload...

    Microprose - F19 Stealth Fighter

    A reassuring boom, and a destroyed tank farm on the MFD, provided me with proof that my primary objective had been completed.

    Feeling pretty good and confident about my flying abilities (Tom Cruise, eat your heart out), it was now time to concentrate on my secondary objective: photographing the sam radar site at Wittstock.

    Microprose - F19 Stealth Fighter

    Praying that no dramas were going to unfold as I neared my target, I waited until the radar site was completely filling the MFD forward view. When it did, I quickly opened the bay doors and took a series of photographs; the last one being key. Checking that the objective had indeed been completed, I closed the bay doors and headed in the direction of home.

    Microprose - F19 Stealth Fighter

    With a maximum of 16 colours being displayed at any one time (from a pallet of 512 or 4096, depending on the ST model), it meant that the developers at Microprose had to be savvy about how they were used. A good example of this usage is in how they managed to represent different depths of water. In the image below, it's clear to see which areas are the shallows and which are the deeper areas of the water.

    Microprose - F19 Stealth Fighter

    All these little details, while seemingly trivial by today's standards, really helped create a believable, albeit primitive, world to fly in. The resources available to developers at the time were miniscule, compared to the modern equivalents we have in front of us today, which makes games like F19 Stealth Fighter all the more remarkable!

    If you had to ask me what I thought was the hardest thing to learn with regards to F19, I would have to say, without a shadow of doubt, landings! This wasn't due to any lack of control, it was more to do with the low frame-rate of the game, coupled with the low resolution graphics. It meant (for me, anyway), that landings were always something to be feared. This is probably why I flew with 'no crashes' on most of the time!

    Anyway...I digress.


    12 Comments
    1. CRJ_simpilot's Avatar
      CRJ_simpilot -
      Back in 1990 I was 10 and I wasn't playing Atari rather than Nintendo. I was a cub scout then and I sold what I think was more candy bars in Southern California at the time. So having won all of the awards they could offer, the next prize for me was a gift certificate to Kmart. I knew EXACTLY what I wanted to buy with that gift certificate. A Nintendo. I played Mario 1 all day and night long. Loved that thing. Mario 3 would have to be my favorite.

      Never got into flight simming until about circa 2007 when I installed FS2004. Now I use FSX. Since then I have amassed at least 1 hour of flight time a day which amounts to at least over 4,000 hours. The only flying I did in Nintendo was a game called Top Gun I think it was. Then latter on when I got a Super Nintendo in circa '93 I played Star Fox like no one's business. At school we played on the green screen Oregon Trail, Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego and another game where you ran a cookie factory. I think the computers were Apple IIe's.

      Good times and Moore's Law is a definite truth. I mean my God. The smartphone we carry around has more power then those green screen computers and Atari's.
    1. avallillo's Avatar
      avallillo -
      Great reminiscence!

      My own introduction to simulation, aside from using the real ones starting with USAF UPT in 1971, goes back to the Atari Star Raiders game; which, although not a flight simulation per se, was a 3D romp through a simulated space (outer space, to be specific). There was also a hugely primitive Red Baron game, sold on a cassette tape by a developer who was apparently still in high school (!).

      But as for realistic simulation of actual atmospheric flight, the original Bruce Artwick Sublogic Flight Simulator was my first, for the Atari 800. Primitive as even this offering was by today's standards, it was amazing in its day, and was a source of many hours of fun, even for an airline pilot (in that era I was a relatively new FE/FO at American).

      I chased just about all of the subsequent developments in PC based flight simulation - Check Yeager's Advanced Flight Simulator (which provided the first opportunity for formation flying); Sublogic's ATP, which was essentially Flight Simulator with only big iron on offer; Disney's Stunt Island, which while not purely a flight simulator, had the first really realistic 3D city scenery to fly over, to say nothing of an introduction to movie making for what may well be the current crop of directors and producers in Tinseltown; Falcon, in several of its variants; The aforementioned F-19; A Blue Angels simulation, the title of which I no longer recall; Flight Lite; and of course MSFS starting with FS3.

      The long and winding road!
    1. anaismith's Avatar
      anaismith -
      Microprose was great. Still using Falcon 4 under the guise of BMS to this day.
    1. btwallis's Avatar
      btwallis -
      Oh my what a great bit of nostalgia. I had this game as well the F-!5 Strike Fighter and others. Absolutely loved them. I had a box of all these old game and then 15 years ago has a basement water incident, lots of old stuff got removed by the restoration company to clean it up and somehow the box of games "got lost", you and I know was stolen. And I /they did not have an inventory of what was in it. So I had to guess and put value to them (how does one do that) got a small cheque bit they were gone forever. At the time I was particularly annoyed.

      Anyway live moves on and now its P3DV4 and XP11.3.
    1. jkmax's Avatar
      jkmax -
      My "hook" was Flight Assignment A.T.P. (Airline Transport Pilot -1990). Nearly 30 years ago. Yikes!
    1. bdliddicoa's Avatar
      bdliddicoa -
      This game was fantastic: the missions were very well-crafted and made you feel really accomplished to finish some of them. Still remember flying far out into eastern Poland to build up enough points to get the Medal of Honor. Also, this was an era before Google Maps satellite view: for Cold War buffs, the Kola Peninsula was an area of great mystery and it made it so much fun to explore.... Thanks for taking us down memory lane again!
    1. nelsond's Avatar
      nelsond -
      It was 1986 or around that time...two words...Commodore 64. That was one of the first games made for Commodore. I remember it well. I spent many hours on late night missions sneaking around enemy radar sites and bombing target objectives. It was nothing less than awesome. I got my money's worth out of that floppy disk. It would be great to have a makeover for Windows10. Don
    1. jkmax's Avatar
      jkmax -
      This inspired me to load up (thank you DOSBox) Flight Assignment ATP and do the KORD to KCLE run. What a time warp. Those days of e-flying is where I learned about Jet Routes and VOR navigation (big steps for a wanna be pilot). It also had a career path angle to it. A "reason to log the hours" other than shooting stuff down. Great article!
    1. rooitou's Avatar
      rooitou -
      I never had F-19 Stealth Fighter, because I went the ZX Spectrum route rather than Atari, but I had the remake for PC called F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter 2.0. I was already a working adult by that time and bought the game for myself, but still remember the late nights flying stealth missions and doing my best not to get detected by radar. Every mission was an accomplishment. Oh how I miss those days!

      I bought F-117A Nighthawk again about two years ago on GOG and it actually works on my modern PC, but sadly it is just not the same anymore, not with all the whiz-bang we have nowadays.
    1. Markg55's Avatar
      Markg55 -
      FS-1 ( by Sub-Logic I think ) on my Commodore 64 is what got me into Flight simming. During any given flight it would pause and....Loading....Loading.....Loading.
    1. vegad's Avatar
      vegad -
      Good article, thank you. In 1990 I was already in the USAF. I do recall enjoying many hours of F-19 SF. Like others, I started this flight simulation addiction with subLOGIC's Flight Simulator on the C64. It's been a while. As I type this I'm flying a B757 on my way to KLAS, using P3D. What a difference from those days.
    1. harrry's Avatar
      harrry -
      I too saw the sun come up many times while playing this.
      If anyone is interested it is available on steam for the PC.
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