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The Simulation Game

Features
17 May 2010

After the unexpected closure of Microsoft’s Aces Game Studio, home of the Flight Simulator franchise, Kathie Flood and Rick Selby assembled a talented and diverse team of designers to start Cascade Game Foundry. We sit down with the studio’s founders to talk about its grand plans for the future of simulation.

This is reassuring to hear, because beyond the financial motives for Cascade to broaden its potential audience, the idea of simulation in game design – as represented by products like Flight Simulator – feels somewhat archaic. There was a time when the hardware was too rudimentary to achieve any level of realism without devoting a game’s entire design to it, but that has long since passed. We aren’t saying that all modern games are ‘realistic’ – far from it – but many of the features and effects that made simulators unique are now simple to achieve.

“As computing power has increased, game designers are able to work more simulation elements into their games, and simulations have worked their way into more and more non-game applications, too,” Flood says. “The possibilities for expansion are seemingly endless and the lines are blurry. We’re specifically interested in the virtual travel aspects of simulation – being able to navigate and explore the world from home and share those experiences with friends and fellow adventurers. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what’s possible with social media and other online technologies available now, so it will be exciting to see where this leads.”

The Simulation Game

Flood cites Google Maps and its Street View function as an example of simulation permeating our lives in a way that was unthinkable when Flight Simulator launched 28 years ago. “We all know people who poke around Google’s world for hours and wonder where the time went. At what point do you say this is entertainment? Understanding these new technologies and what they can and can’t bring to the simulation market is an important area to explore.”

Travel, exploration and adventure are at the very heart of what Cascade is trying to achieve. Traditionally, simulators were focussed on vehicles, and accurately representing the various controls and procedures necessary to operate them. In future, these games will place just as much emphasis on the world around the vehicle, thereby offering an alternative, more inclusive form of simulation that requires less of the player’s patience and attention.

“Realism, great attention to detail, the ability to tune and tweak game elements, and a powerful toolset are critical to our success,” Flood says. “But it’s also imperative that we present the same foundation in a more friendly way to appeal to the huge, casual audience looking for more lightweight, virtual travel adventures. The worlds we can build in games now are so beautiful, so detailed, and – if we want, so accurate – that exploration is compelling in and of itself. If you build from the ground up to accommodate that broader audience, there is enormous potential for big bang for your buck.”

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  • http://twitter.com/NarekAvetisyan Narek Avetisyan

    The experts ar Back!!! We love you guy's! Cant wait till E3 Yeeehhhhaaaa!!!!!

  • CocoFSX

    Hm, sounds like there won't be any new FlightSimulator for GA as we know it, most likely only some arcade half-baked product for the stupid Xbox console generation. No thanks, I'll rather spend my money with real hard core flight sims out there like DCS, Il-2/Storm of War, Rise of Flight, Condor Soaring, etc.. I've been your customer since late 1980s, shame on you…

  • Fan of FS

    Good luck you all. I can't wait to see what you all develop. I am sure it will be great!

  • John

    My thoughts exactly. Flight Simulation generated millions of dollars, then millions more with add ons and such from other companies. Flightgear (with major upgrades) or X-Plane will take the stance in FS's place shortly. If they let it linger too long, the FS community will not bring these guys much profit. They need to focus one day a week on building a new FS platform. The rest of the week they can play with the run and gun, or squeal and peel, platforms that sell faster initially, but die out a month later when the next new release from another company pushes out.
    Flight Simulation brought money many months down the road. They said it themselves. FS generated a steady flow of cash, which is what a start up company should need if they are to make it through the first gate on the long track. 20 million on a game title in 2 weeks is great,reaching 45million withing 6 months, but 70 million over the course of a year is even better. Hundreds of thousands of MSFS95, 98, 2000, 2002, 2004, 2007(FSX) were sold. The total income from just 2002 was superb. Being well over 150,000 copies its first week in stores. At $60 a copy of professional, atleast 25000 sold the first week, is 1.5 million. After a month, over 150,000 copies of the professional edition were sold. Total, 3million + copies sold worldwide. This was just the first six months. Now, people are STILL purchasing it online, generating an income of about 1,000 a week for FSX. The overall experience kept people coming back and purchasing the newer version, even some 3 years later. They say its not strong enough, I say bullsh!t. Try again with a dumber audience.

    ACES is truly dead. They rest is peace.
    This cascade game foundry will never do what ACES did.

  • Rocky Northwest

    It was a dark day for me when they shut down ACES. I was really looking forward to the new TS and was putting off buying a new computer until it was released. If Cascade makes anything close to what I saw, I'll be first in line to buy that as well as any FS they develop.

  • Arul dass P.M

    Expecting the best and new from you soon as possible, the more you delay the more you loose supporters, because as you know the X-plane is speeding up. But the flight simulator is far better, so please try your best sooner, the better. Thanks.

  • Ds

    New train simulator please…!!!

  • Skyraider

    Dumbing down good simulation and other types of games to get a wider audience has never worked. Hardcore simmers go: “What's this dumb stuff?” and casual console gamers go: “Why do I need to put effort into this dumb stuff?”. I got one word: X-Plane :-)

  • Zane

    I would like to see more nature/life simulators that are less goal directed and more awe inspiring thought provoking. I'm talking about real simulators ala Boxless Imaging's Earth: World of Fish.

  • Northern Warrior

    A new train sim would be nice but with Railworks, Trainz and residual MSTS still going strong it will need to be something special in order to succeed. Personally I would like to see an integrated transport simulation set in the real world where you can fly planes, operate ships and drive trains/road vehicles to your destination. Then you can alight at Yosemite and do a virtual “climb” of El Capitan – another sim it was rumoured Cascade were working on.

  • rawr

    wow idiots…

  • i see dead people

    can’t wait to see if you guys finish MSTS2 :)

  • Ronpiper

    I don’t necessarily agree with some of the other posts. One of my favorite kick back games was A-10 Cuba. It was a good combination of flight sims and arcade games.  I would like to see a new version of A-10, Where one does not have to spend a year learning to fly it and use its weapons.       I would really like to see a new flight sim based on UAV’s.  Shooting and bombing enemy tanks an so forth with missles and bombs.       Emeraldstein

  • Adnane

    I don’t agree with some older posts here! It’s Human Resources that make a start-up or a huge corprate like Microsoft successful not the other way around! These guys know what simulation is about and they decided to go further and rise to the challenge in order to adress the gap left by Microsoft who, IMHO, didn’t care about their long time FS fans and, instead, took a whole different direction with their new ”FLIGHT” which is more of an arcade game than a true simulation.

    I personally believe that poeple at CGF will give their best and take advantage of their experience to give us some appealing simulations. Best of luck guys!!!

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