Back in November of last year, many of us began to learn about a simulation product called the NOR Platform. The simulator came with an impressive trailer sporting top notch visuals and packing in the kind of details that you might expect from a next generation flight sim product. It’s back on the scene recently with a new trailer and a new public showing at a recent conference. Lockheed Martin is also talking about Unreal Engine as well. None of this is meant for us, the consumer level flight sim enthusiast, however, there may still be some future potential here so let’s talk about it.
Under development by Metrea Simulations, this developer is a a subsidiary of Metrea, a defense contractor based in Washington DC. They call themselves an ‘information age’ defense contractor and its the kind of company that we’ll probably see more of as training and design move increasingly over to digital platforms.
That’s going to mean that commercial flight sim experiences are going to increasingly be in the same space as these defense contractor projects. I’m not actually sure how that will play out as it could go a bunch of different ways but I think we can surmise that sims like DCS World have pushed the limits on high fidelity flight sim experiences for combat flight sim fans and defense contractors are looking to offer the same sort of experience to their military clients.
Here’s the new trailer that’s come out.
Epic’s Unreal Engine website has a promotional feature piece done talking up the benefits of the Unreal Engine and how it is being used by Lockheed Martin for long term R&D and training.
I’m a little hazy on if the images being shown off are also from the NOR Platform or if Lockheed has come up with something that looks remarkably similar but in both cases we appear to be seeing Unreal powered flight simulators.
Here’s a little bit about what Lockheed and Epic have to say about the usage of Unreal Engine for defense contractor purposes.
To stay ahead of the curve and offer best-in-breed products, Lockheed Martin has naturally gravitated towards promising new uses for technology. To this end, the company is currently engaged in long-term R&D efforts to create next-gen simulation solutions based on Unreal Engine.
What might happen
Not everyone knows this but Eagle Dynamics not only offers DCS World but they also have a parallel product that is intended for military and defense companies. The Battle Simulator (TBS) used to have a promotional website although it had become quite aged and I don’t think Eagle Dynamics needs to promote it as much as they did.
We’ve heard stories and seen news articles showing off real world military pilots training on either DCS itself or its offshoot, TBS, to achieve various training objectives. We know that the USAF Air National Guard uses it and in other interviews we’ve learned that several other countries also use it for elements of their training too.
Could we see NOR have some sort of offshoot into a consumer level combat flight simulator? It might happen? Could Lockheed turn around and offer a next generational Prepar3D using Unreal Engine? That could happen too.
So, while the current discussion around NOR as some sort of DCS competitor remains unlikely or at the very least so premature as to not be worth considering for the moment. But, I think this does prove the Unreal Engine in its newest iteration as a potential complex simulation platform in ways that we haven’t seen it yet do.
Until now, Unreal has been limited in its world space requiring the world to be loaded in discreet segments. Unreal Engine 5 apparently can enable much larger worlds to be created and more seamlessly loaded in and out. I’m not a programmer or a game engine expert so I’m just going by the broad strokes notes here. But everything I read says to me that this engine can now finally take on the role of flight simulation engine and what we’re seeing with NOR proves it.
Could a DCS or MSFS or some other type of simulator come down the pipeline as a result? I think its possible.
I want to highlight a couple of content creators around the flight sim community who are talking about this as well.
First, Sergio has a good piece on HeliSimmer.com about what all of this Unreal engine talk means for P3D and if it means that P3D is going to make a break for Unreal. Sergio gets reaction from Lockheed themselves and makes some good speculation on what might ultimately happen. So, be sure to give him a read!
I also want to tag a video by Tricker who happened to be at the ITSEC convention where NOR was rolled out for the public to try out. He describes some of his experiences and the likelihood that we’re going to be playing NOR on our own home PCs… spoiler: It’s not too likely at this point. But do check out the video!