Why are jet-era military flight sims so rare these days?

I’ve been looking through a few 80’s/90’s era computer games magazines and it seems that back then every other game released was a jet-age military flight sim, from the mid-90’s on it seemed to dry up and now a modern-era military flight sim is a very rare thing indeed.

A user-updated version of the 1998 release Falcon 4.0 and DCS World are pretty much it, every other flight sim is either a ‘lite’ sim with emphasis on user friendliness rather than realism or WW2 era sim like the IL-2 Sturmovik series.

Why did the suffer such a precipitous decline in popularity, or are there other factors? The rise of the consoles? That it costs so much time and effort to make a realistic sim? Something else? Personally I much prefer realistic flight sims but I have so little free time these days I don’t have the spare hours to put into playing and mastering them.

I mean proper sims, not the ‘Ace Combat’ style games, as fun as they are.

I recall 2 reasons given at the time (perhaps in the 90’s). 1: Too much time and effort to make them 2: As the planes got faster the gameplay got more boring.

I’m no jet pilot but my understanding of combat in a modern jet is that your weapons systems lock into a target so far away you can’t even see it, you fire a guided missile, and it gets taken out. Not the most compelling basis for a game.

So most aerial combat games are either from an older era where you engaged in close-range dog fights, or it’s some science fiction/alternate history setting where weapons still work as they did in the early 20th century.

I can certainly understand the former but not the latter, though modern jet combat probably is an acquired taste. I would describe it as high-speed three-dimensional chess where your opponent is trying to kill you. Missiles aren’t nearly a guaranteed one-shot one-kill weapon though, there’s a lot of practice and art in using them effectively…and avoiding being shot down by them as well.

I remember playing a mission in Falcon 4: Allied Force, on a low-level solo flight trying to sneak into enemy territory when my Radar-Warning-Receiver lit up with a four-ship of enemy Su-27’s turning towards my position, a moment of genuine fear and real emotion I don’t think I’ve experienced in any other game.

Though yes I do think its one of those ‘for those who understand no explanation is necessary, for those who don’t understand no explanation is possible’ things.

I’m considering replacing my ten year old PC with a new bells-and-whistles model pretty much solely to play DCS World…

Those acquired tastes probably limit the market. I’ve got similar feeling related to first person shooters. While I enjoy some of the unrealistic ones with shields or magic health kits there used to be a different class that was more realistic. Typically that involved multiple characters in a squad or fire team sized elements. Early in the two Tom Clancy related series Ghost Recon and Rainbow Six there was a lot of slow and careful gameplay. Getting shot, even once, was a good way to get dead. Even if it wasn’t an immediate kill the wounded character didn’t function the same…because they’d been shot. They also included interfaces to give different elements orders. It wasn’t just a bunch of guys following along with the character the player controlled.

I enjoyed the gameplay. Using cover and concealment to sneak into positions or moving the different elements for mutual support was awesome. As time went on even the games that gave you some of that changed. They got less lethal and the controls for the different elements got more limited. Online player vs player play got emphasized with the campaigns less well developed. The people that wanted more Halo type gameplay dominated the market and got what they most wanted.

Not completely true. PUBG is a recent and very popular title, and it’s basically Realism Lite. Guns resemble their real world counterparts, they have similar sighting mechanisms and bullet drop and some cover penetration. There are about the same number of rounds in the magazines as the real world guns they mimic and your character has to reload.

You can only be shot generally 3-4 times, even with body armor, before going down. Depending on the gun.

Now, yeah, you can heal back up with magical medkits and drinking energy drinks. But this is because the gameplay requires it - that the winner of a gunfight be able to restore their health instead of being crippled for the rest of the online match.

There are also modern titles like Insurgency and Squad that attempt to mimic almost every aspect of realistic combat.

Something else to take into account: a flight sim like X-Plane can simulate at least the flying aspect of modern military jets.

Yes, and I can certainly understand that most people don’t want to put the time and effort into mastering the game before you can even start playing it properly. I think the F-16 modeled in Falcon 4 has something like fifty different radar modes for example.

When I retire, if I live that long and still have my health and wealth, I’m going to build a proper military-flight gaming PC and setup, and not feel guilty about the time I’m pouring into playing them.

I think the last realistic FPS I played was Operation Flashpoint, people melt for the ARMA series but something about the game mechanics in those just don’t do it for me.

True, but the flying characteristics are just one small part of modern military aircraft, in some respects they’re more like weapons and sensor platforms. I have to admit one of the most fun parts of the old Janes simulations and now DCS I find is just setting up aerial battles and watching as the AI fights it out without taking direct part.

But yes, I’m odd.

I’ve been playing War Thunder, which is focused primarily on WWII prop combat, but has expanded to include Korean-War-era jets. No air-to-air missiles (yet).

The general consensus among the game’s population seems to be that the developers have indicated that trans-sonic jets and guided missiles are just too difficult to fit into the game’s existing “meta.” Also all the maps would need to be increased in size as the speeds go up.