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Jane's F/A-18

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Jane's F/A-18 is one of the final study flight simulators by Electronic Arts under Jane's Combat Simulations brand, the sequel to the highly successful Jane's F-15. Jane's F/A-18 was released in 1999; it simulates the F/A-18E Super Hornet and carrier-based aviation in a fictional campaign around the Kola Peninsula during a Russian civil war. It comes with a mission builder as well as a campaign builder. Fans have created content such as new cockpits, enhanced graphics, new aircraft, vehicles and also the Persian Gulf area ported from Jane's F-15 as the games shared the same graphics engine. Since its release, users have created many new missions and campaigns that take place in both the Kola Peninsula and the Persian Gulf.

Development notes

Quotes from C.J. Martin, producer and designer of Jane's F/A-18, on the simulation, and on the decline of the flight-simulation genre in general:

"The Jane's Combat Simulation label was something Paul Grace (CYAC/USNF/etc) cooked up between EA and Jane's Information group. Around that time Andy Hollis started up the Origin Skunkworks at OSI Austin. Paul's team in Redwood Shores worked on the so-called survey sims - lot's [sic] of flyable aircraft, medium level of fidelity when it came to aircraft systems. Andy's team created study sims - single subject, highly detailed flight models/systems.

Andy recruited a bunch of MPS folks to join him, but they didn't want to move to Austin, so the Baltimore studio was born. In Baltimore, we created the study sims F-15 and F/A-18. As an aside, F4 [Falcon 4] came out right around when F-15 came out - if F4 killed all sims, how do you explain F/A-18?

The dev pace was grueling, the Skunkworks team cranked out a whole lot of SKU's in a very short time frame. In Baltimore, we started F-15 2.0 right after F-15 shipped. Marketing had already determined expansion packs were not worth the dev time, and several months into F-15 2.0 it was decided we needed to change subjects. It was felt that not enough time would have passed between the ship of 1.0 and 2.0 - and the Longbow numbers backed that claim up.

So F/A-18 was born, a slightly troubled birth as Marketing pushed hard to based the campaign in the US (Jane's F/A-18, Defender of Freedom). Looking back at 9/11 maybe they weren't as crazy as we thought at the time (1998). Jane's Information group strongly veto'd that concept and we went with what we shipped with.

When F/A-18 went gold, our team was exhuasted [sic] / burnt out. I was very active in the old usenet group and various other combat flight sim forums, and years of dealing with the nay-sayers had worn me down. Worse, most of our team lurked in these same groups, saw the flamewars, and wondered why they botherered [sic]. It was time for us to move on to something else.

The market was changed as well, and again it had nothing to do with F4. RTS/FPS games took off as graphics improved. Those genres had much shorter learning curves. We did ourselves no favors with our study sims - Paul Grace tried to warn us in Baltimore we were going to far, raising the bar too high...creating games he personally was not that interested in playing. Even so, he kept the brand going. Flight sims didn't rack up the big sexy opening month numbers, but catalog sales over an entire year were actually pretty strong. When he left EA, we lost our champion at Redwood Shores.

So we were burned out, there was no one pushing the brand (and in fact the license was allowed to lapse, F/A-18 was the last EA Jane's title), and the console market was exploding.

At least that is how we saw things from Baltimore. If any of Paul's or Andy's Austin group are here, they can add their perspective.

Haha, not so short after all. Bottom line, F4 didn't kill the market, not directly. Raising the bar turned out not to be a good idea - it shrank the market and increased dev costs while other genres were exploding. We all were guilty of raising the bar too high - EA / MPS / SSI. No one product did it. And we did that right as the market was taking off in new directions.

That is why there are no AAA sims in development. Sure, there is money to be made...but for the same effort, you can make a lot more money doing something else."

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