It was looking more and more unlikely but today we’ve received our first official update from Heatblur, a third party developer for DCS, that their highly anticipated F-14 module will not be releasing before the end of the year. But there is positive news too.
Things always take longer than expected
Heatblur famously announced that the F-14 would be released before the end of 2017. “No exceptions” was the words used and that locked everyone in to some pretty high expectations. However, without some solid updates to the module in the past several weeks my suspicions were that we would not see the F-14 module go to early access this year.
Cobra847, representing Heatblur, mentioned their overall bottom line in a massive update on the Eagle Dynamics forum:
The bottom line is: the F-14 is intended to be the bedrock for the next decade of Heatblur Simulations. We can afford a delay, but we can’t disrespect the F-14 with an underwhelming release. In addition to this, the F-14 is integral to the technologies and methodologies required to complete our ambitious product roadmap, which is chock full of interesting and complex multi seat jet aircraft. I guess this is all also a long winded way of saying: if we were concerned only with revenue to development time performance ratios, we would have released the F-14 already. It wouldn’t have been poor, but it wouldn’t have been amazing either. And that is an abject failure in our eyes.
Obviously, getting the F-14 right is important to them as it is to the people interested in buying this module.
Jumping the hurdles
The Tomcat is a complex aircraft with a lot of sensors and systems. It’s also a two person jet and that means the team had to make things work even when you fly on your own – JESTER AI, seemingly named for the WSO (the back seat crew on a F-14) from the famous Top Gun movie, will handle that task when the software is complete. That obviously adds to the time required to build the module.
The team has also elected to rebuild a lot of their visual assets. From the sounds of it, its a complete overhaul of the aircraft’s visual appearance to get a more accurate look. Some of the new screenshots show their revised work and it is impressive to say the least.
More to the point, Cobra had this to say:
Our team is operating at peak efficiency, and we’re nearing the end stages in both interior and exterior artwork. Expect the eyecandy to start rolling in as all of our new assets are completed and tied together with the rest of the aircraft.
That’s exciting. To finally see the finished cockpit and the new external textures will be long awaited for me. I’m not even sure if I’ll be buying the module but I am excited to see the F-14 return to flight sims in a big way – it’s been a long time since F-14 Fleet Defender by Microprose was released.
Carrier battlegroup development
There’s also another nugget of information. This one is about the carrier battlegroup as Heatblur intends to build and simulate the CV59-62 Forrestal Class Battle Group. The Forrestal class carriers were the home for many F-14 squadrons over the years and having these are a really nice added bonus feature.
Thousands of hours have apparently been put into making this a reality and they hope to wrap up development on it soon. The character model for one of the crew on the deck looks outstanding to say the least.
Wait a little longer for the Tomcat
The overall sense I get from the post today is that Heatblur are confident in their work and that the module is actually a lot closer to Early Access ready than some of us might be pessimistically thinking given the delay.
They mention that the flight model is essentially done and that they are working hard on their visual assets and systems. A partially complete early access F-14 can’t be too far away given their optimism.
Nonetheless, it may be spring before we see an early access opportunity for the F-14. They don’t want to say too specifically right now and that’s probably for the best. It’s what they should have done from the start to manage expectations.
The Viggen gets mentioned too
Cobra was also quick to mention that work on the AJS-37 Viggen is still underway and hasn’t been forgotten about. There are some big updates here too:
- AI J-35 Draken
- a full scale campaign (using the Caucasus map)
- a smaller scale 6 mission mini-campaign (also on the Caucasus map)
- an overhaul of the cockpit using the same art design as the F-14