Fly Papers: An Ode To Sim Manuals

By Tim Stone on January 17th, 2011 at 12:30 pm.


Thanks to an image leaked last week we now know three new things about upcoming Spitfire-serenade Storm of War: Battle of Britain. 1) It’s no longer called Storm of War: Battle of Britain. 2) Ubisoft are publishing. 3) The luscious-looking Collector’s Edition with its cloth maps and plump manuals may be about to give today’s teenagers a taste of what it was like to be a simmer in the Nineties.

When I was a lad, nobody ever locked their front doors, Wagon Wheels were the size of actual wagon wheels, and flight sim boxes came with lifting instructions.

Half the joy of purchasing a new aviation recreation was removing the lid and seeing what printed treasures nestled within. Often there were maps and keycharts. Almost always there was a manual of Gulag Archipelago proportions held together with a helix of sturdy wire. I miss those splendid shelf-stressing tomes not just for their convenience and comprehensiveness, but for their imaginative asides, their eagerness to draw me into the world of the sim.

Though the likes of LucasFilm, Microprose, Jane’s, DI and DID all produced top-notch reading matter, for my money the stars of sim literature were UK outfit Rowan Software. Their manuals weren’t always the fattest or the glossiest, but they were the ones I found myself clutching most often in bed and during tea-breaks and train trips.

Overlord (1994) came with a chunky, almost square slab of spiral-bound text that illustrates the  studio’s approach to documentation perfectly. For the first 82 pages the game isn’t mentioned once. Manual compiler Paul Rigby is too busy sharing a choice selection of D-Day docs and photos. We can pore over everything from the text of the original War Cabinet invasion plan to the not-quite-Henry-V words of Patton’s June 5 speech to the 3rd Army. There’s detailed bios of nine air commanders, a fascinating six-page essay on the disastrous Exercise Tiger, numerous pithy quotes from combat pilots, even the lyrics of some paratrooper songs. It’s impossible to navigate this flea-market of Forties facts and flavour and not end up with D-Day under your skin.

With later Rowan releases, immersive background material sometimes took the form of separate booklets. Flying Corps (1996) shipped with a facsimile of a WWI RFC training manual, MiG Alley (1999) a copy of a mesmerising RAF intelligence report on the Korean War. Despite being authored in 1952 ‘The F-86 vs. The MiG 15′ is the best game strategy guide I’ve ever read.

In clipped tone and closely-typed paragraphs RAF Squadron Leader W. Harbison describes what he has learnt while flying with the USAF 4th Fighter Wing near Seoul. The mix of technical and tactical analysis though written originally for the British Defence establishment, is so relevant to the sim it’s almost disorientating. You can’t read it without reliving sorties and making mental notes.

Through its unexpected details and unemotional discussion of danger the report also thrusts you into the world of the Korean War pilot far more effectively than any cut-scene or intro movie could ever hope to. I’m sure there are are those who’d argue that games shouldn’t rely on external media for scene-setting or immersion enhancing. Me, I’m not so sure. MiG Alley is a significantly richer  sim thanks to ‘The F-86 vs. The MiG 15′ and I’ve no idea how a similar mood and feeling could have been conjured without the help of this unedited, untransmuted hunk of history.


 
The Spitfire Manual apparently included in the IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover CE would seem to be a perfect Rowan-style immersion booster, combining as it does several RAF training publications with extracts from Johnnie Johnson’s pilot log books and combat reports. In tandem with that pleasingly plump manual, it really does look like a return to the Golden Age of sim literature. Not that the Golden Age ever went away completely.

While the last decade has been pretty disheartening for those of us that hate printing PDFs or Alt-tabbing out of the cockpit to seek help, a few devs and publishers have attempted to keep the doc dream alive. Most of Eagle Dynamics’ recent output – high-fidelity air fare like DCS: Black Shark and Flaming Cliffs 2 - is complimented by hefty spiral-bound manuals. Available separately, these will set you back around £17 each. Sounds steep? You’re obviously not one of PMDG’s customers.

PMDG’s 747-400 add-on for FSX retails for $54. The manual set for the same plane is an eye-watering $220. To be fair you do get a frightening amount of printed paper and procedural information for that sum, and as with those Rowan extras, you’re also getting something harder to quantify and digitize: a handleable prop. A sim strengthener. A line smudger.

It’s not difficult to imagine a future where cleverly integrated help systems take on most of the instructional/reference role of the old-fashioned sim manual. Devs could and should work harder to banish cockpit confusion. What’s trickier to visualise is a time when bumph, books and booklets have no role whatsoever in flight simulation.

In my book, a WWI sim with paper maps will always be preferable to one without. A BoB sim that lets you thumb through training docs in their original creasable, tea-stainable, pencil-annotatable form, far superior to one that insists you commune with the Forties via Foxit or an eReader. Am I just a hopeless dinosaur? Are you also irrationally fond of a particular piece of sim paperwork? Scribble your thoughts in the margins, please.

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74 Comments »

  1. Teddy Leach says:

    I jealously hoard all of my maps and doorstopper manuals. They are my pretties.

  2. Quintin Smith says:

    I was never into sims as a kid, but I suspect that if any of the MechWarrior games had come with a manual written to this level of detail I would not have survived my own excitement.

    • Jacques says:

      MechCommander had quite a good manual, though without quite that much depth.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      I remember almost dying with glee at MechCommander’s intro cinematic, too. I ♥ that game.

    • subedii says:

      I’m surprised you weren’t dying of laughter.

      Ah cheesy FMV. Your passing was barely mourned.

    • kutkh says:

      I always had a bit of a thing for the girl from the MechCommander intro. Viper, I think?

      So yeah! Manuals.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      MW3 had a great manual, loads of info on the mechs, background detail etc.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      And it came in a box. A box!

    • HexagonalBolts says:

      Hahahah I just watched it, absolutely hilarious.

    • Jacques says:

      MC had one of the best cheesy intros ever.

      Ending cinematic was a bit poop though.

    • Jacques says:

      Let’s get this done folks.

    • Cooper says:

      I have nothing worthwhile to add.

      Just. Just.

      The peach. It’s so… Peachy… I was jealous and wanted in on this fuzzy embrace.

      mmmm…

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      I once got have a go on the full Mechwarrior joystick/pedals/switches thingy when the Science Museum were doing an exhibition on games.
      It remains one of my fondest memories of gaming :)

    • Tim Stone says:

      This chap takes his Mechwarrior extremely seriously:

      http://simhq.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/3181445/1.html

    • vodka and cookies says:

      Oddly it was the non-sim Battletech games (RPG/RTS) Crescent Hawks Inception/Revenge that came with highly detailed manuals (even has the lost mechs which were removed after being sued by another company), still have them actually.

      Shame Battletech well mech games in general died off as a popular genre.

  3. infovore says:

    I was furious when Flight Simulator went to CD-only, and dumped the paper manuals. When I was flying FS95, I still had my FS4 manual and the six maps it came with, still with pencil lines from triangulated nav paths my Dad and I plotted.

    (I was a huge sim-geek as a kid. Now I mainly play console games. No, i don’t understand either).

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I was furious when ALL GAMES dumped manuals. Have you seen the flimsy excuses they ship with these days? (of course you havebut I’m ranting here!). reduced to one page instructions “Insert disc into drive. Follow on screen instructions”. The warning on the back is actually longer by quite a significant margin. BAH!

      Anyway, Elite 2 Frontier had the best manual for my money. That thing was full of awesomeness including short stories!

    • Ginger Yellow says:

      Anyway, Elite 2 Frontier had the best manual for my money. That thing was full of awesomeness including short stories!

      Hell, the original Elite came with a novella.

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      FriendlyFire says:

      When I opened my copy of Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, the first thing I noticed was that the “manual” was in fact a sheet guiding you to the ingame Help menu…

      I died a little inside.

    • Premium User Badge

      MacBeth says:

      Acutally I found and re-read the Elite novella just a week or two ago when visiting my parents… it’s actually not altogether bad, quite evocative of what Elite was pretending to be (yet clearly wasn’t really)… which reminds me, someone at RPS should look at Oolite and do a wordthinks all over it.

    • Phydaux says:

      The stuff in the Elite Boxes was great.

      My Elite box was for the 48k Spectrum, it had a Space traders flight training manual, The Dark Wheel novella, a keyboard overlay for the 48k, a “cheat sheet” for key commands on the 128k spectrum, and a lenslok anti-piracy device and instruction sheet.

      Fronter Elite 2 had a manual written in the character of the game, a gazetteer of many of the systems to give some back story, a star map, and a collection of short stories based on the game universe. The manual even had section on the mechanics of space flight, with equations and everything.

      I do miss the big-box games of the past. Now to get all this junk you have to buy the super-limited edition that costs close to £100.

  4. subedii says:

    I remember my copy of F117-A fondly. It came with a manual that was a freaking Tome. Detailed stats on all the fighters and weapons in the game. In-depth guides on dogfighting manoeuvres and how to perform ground strikes or strafing runs. Different types of radar and how they functioned, and explanations on how best to lower your radar signature as a result, complete with diagrams. Maps for all four campaigns. It was awesome.

    Heck, even the sci-fi sims used to come with this stuff. TIE Fighter didn’t just come with its own technical manual and hotkey reference, it came with a freaking Star Wars Novella packed in with it, detailing the rise of Imperial pilot Maarek Stele.

  5. Om says:

    I loved my SWOTL manual. Not so much for the flight instructions as the entire history of the Western air theatre that came with it

  6. dwpenney says:

    My favorite has been Falcon 4 so far. That manual package was awe inspiring! I had never before felt so intimidated by a game in my life. Then, along came DCS: Black Shark. Now I am looking forward to both DCS: A-10 () and Cliffs of Dover! I only wish DCS:A-10 had a similar collectors edition (although I can’t complain because I pre-ordered and have been happily flying the beta for some time).

  7. Premium User Badge

    Crimsoneer says:

    At the same time, don’t you just wish most sims put some actual work into comprehensive tutorials? Like 3 hour long, actual “I’m going to go and teach you how to fly” tutorials? I bought Wings of Prey over x-mas, and I do struggle on Simulator, just because I’m largely clueless.

    Also, more Tim Stone! YEAH!

    • Wilson says:

      Yeah, I know what you mean. I’ve had some fun with IL2: Sturmovik over the years, but I’ve never really got into it, because I never really learnt how to fly. The videos that came with the game were not enough. In fact, videos with no fast forward, rewind or pause are a terrible tutorial mechanic. I too wish for a 3 hour tutorial actually teaching me how to fly. Hell, just a system where the game positions me for a landing, lets me try it, and can almost instantly restore me to a where I was at first so I can try again would be nice, rather than having to agonizingly wait for a scenario to load every time I need to start over.

    • Tim Stone says:

      I’m hoping for great things from Cliffs of Dover tutorial-wise. They’ve gone to the trouble of building a beautiful two-seat trainer (Tiger Moth). Fingers-crossed they’ve remembered to put a credible/helpful instructor in the front seat. Someone like Chief Instructor Hayne from Geoffrey Wellum’s ‘First Light’ would be perfect:

      Hayne looks over his shoulder at me. I can see his eyes through his goggles. “Well, I didn’t like your take-off, I didn’t like your circuit, and that landing was plain bloody awful”

  8. Pew says:

    I forgot to pack the Falcon 4.0 manual in the box when I sold it a decade ago. I apologize to you, guy, for never being able to understand how the tutorial worked.

  9. kyrieee says:

    I still have the Falcon 4.0 manual
    With mods it’s still the best modern era flight sim. No other sim has even attempted a dynamic campaign as ambitious

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Call me an uneducated, subnormal drooler but the dynamic campaign of Falcon 4.0 is what killed it for me. It was just far too complex and got in the way of the flying and bonding with your pilots. I would have let the AI take care of the campaign but that made me feel useless and frustrated because I thought the AI was putting me at a disadvantage.

      I far preferred the campaign/RPG aspects of Falcon 3.0. I could handle it and the flying/avionics.

    • Hogni Gylfason says:

      Still have the manuals for F14 FD, F117, F19, F/A-18, Longbow 1&2, F-15 Strike Fighter 1, 2, 3, EF2000+Super. These, and their addendums (think, addendums to manuals…) fill up one rack on my book case. Shame the Eagle Dynamics game are such shite in comparison to most of the aforementioned, not to mention the king of them all, Falcon 4.0, for which I even still have the original CD (now laminated).

      Edit: Btw, what the hell is up with the commenting system? I could (and can) write better blindfolded with my unmentionable…

    • kyrieee says:

      Yes, it’s intimidating, but there’s so much there. When you encounter an intercept flight on a mission those planes were launched because they enemy’s radar net spotted you and they launched from an airstrip that could have been taken out. If you fly a SEAD mission and screw it up that means the guys you’re covering are quite likely to get shot down and fail their objective which will have further ripple effects on how the whole war develops. There’s the ground war too, if the interdiction missions fail the enemy ground forces can run you over and take your airfields, there’s even supply routes simulated.

      It’s creates an experience that is so much richer than scripted missions. You can’t go back.

  10. President Weasel says:

    “Am I just a hopeless dinosaur?”

    I hope not. Manuals and maps and technical documents and similar artefacts add an undeniable extra something to a game like this. That sabre vs mig booklet sounds amazing.

  11. Chunga says:

    Yeah, I miss the manuals of yore. The heft of a box and the extra feelies… Aah… Too bad nobody does this today. I guess few people understands the finer nuances of immersion.

    If it has to be digital distros, then why not with a Lulu option for a printed manual? But maybe that’s too expensive?

    Hmm… a small niche business with optional, fan-made feelies, instructions and maps?

  12. ockhamsbeard says:

    In my roof resides a not inconsiderable sized box containing every flight sim manual I’ve ever owned (along with a few bulky Civ manuals too). Off the top of my head there’s Falcon 4, EAW, Longbow Gold, Jane’s IAF, Mig Alley, Strike Fighters and probably a slew of others. I plan to have them buried with me when I finally buy the farm.

    • kirkbjerk says:

      I remember reading the longbow 2 manual before going to bed for several weeks. Even the Novalogic series had decent manuals for otherwise “arcadey” simulations.

      Great article, really brings back the nostalgia.

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    drewski says:

    The version of Falcon 4.0 I bought wasn’t so much a game and manual in a box as much it was a flight instruction binder with a game CD inside the front cover, it was ridiculous.

    Lent it to a friend, never got it back. Devastated. Still got the map of Korea though!

  14. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    My experience of flight sims was being amazed at how detailed, how real and how GROWN UP these games must be from reading their manuals, then finally getting the game loaded up and it being some small green triangles with a slightly farty, buzzing noise in the background. The games really destroyed my immersion.

  15. Ginger Yellow says:

    Shuttle was my favourite. It came with a foldout detailing every single switch and button in the space shuttle’s cockpit.

    • Tim Stone says:

      My repect for Shuttle will never fade. IIRC you could do the full 8hr(?) crawler trip from the assembly building to the launchpad in real-time. Madness.

    • Bassism says:

      Lol, Shuttle.
      I came across it at some point in a less-than-retail format. I had no manual of any sort.

      Needless to say, I never managed to get anywhere. Impressive picture of a cockpit though :P

  16. aldo_14 says:

    I remember Strike Commander and Privateer having great manuals. And a Tornado game that had a ridiculously complicated manual replete with very-very-very precise instructions for dive-bombing.

  17. Javier-de-Ass says:

    ah yes. the recent dcs/flaming cliffs manuals out of eagle dynamics are great. will definitely pick up the a10 manual as well.

  18. RadioactiveMan says:

    Growing up, my parents had the 1984 Infocom Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy game. It was one of the first games I ever saw or played. I also read, and loved, Douglas Adams’ books as a kid.

    I vivdly recall the feelies that came with the Hitchhiker’s Guide game. Even as a kid I understood how fantastic these were. There was a Vogon destruction order for Earth, an order for destruction of Dent’s house, and a Don’t Panic Button. My favorite was a tiny empty plastic bag labeled “Microscopic Space Fleet”. I don’t think I ever opened the bag- didn’ want to lose my fleet into the the nearest dog’s mouth.

    Also, Wikipedia has just informed me that one of the Hitchhiker’s feelies was No Tea. Truly, a game from a more noble time.

    • Ravenger says:

      You forgot the Joo Janta 200 Super-chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses. Of course they were black all the time which obviously meant I was in constant mortal danger.

    • RadioactiveMan says:

      Fortunately, those Joo Janta 200 Super-chromatic Peril Sensitive Sunglasses will protect you from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. A beast which is, of course, so mind-bogglingly stupid that it if you cannot see it, then it cannot see you.

      The all-black sunglasses may also perfect for a Disaster Area concert?

  19. 3lbFlax says:

    Do you know what I’m going to do next weekend? I’m going to create a huge paper manual for Minecraft, with page after page of recipes, facts about minerals, histories of assorted tools, a novella told from the skeleton’s point of view and a huge fold-out colour poster of all the animals. And then I’m going to put it all in a shoebox and it’ll just be for me, and when I die and they pry it from my cold, dead hands, the pages will be full of complete gibberish and weird little symbols, and the poster will actually be for Private Benjamin, which will by then have been remade with a 38-year-old Paris Hilton in the title role. And how old is she now, 29? So I’ve got nine years left, tops. Christ, that’s a long time.

  20. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Oh yes I have fond memories, especially when I was younger.
    In primary school I’d have the MechWarrior 2 manual and Red Baron II for reading time.

    Peculiar child.

    Though it isn’t a massive dense bible of a thing, the Crimson Skies manual is still my favourite.

  21. maktacular says:

    I used to delight in buying a new game and feverishly tearing the box open to read the manual in the long drive home from the town. Civilisation and Combat Flight SImulator stand out particularly in my memory, possibly because i was only about a quarter of the way through them when I got home.

  22. Derek Smart says:

    wait!! Not even mentioning the Jane’s series of games which came with massively detailed manuals!?

  23. BobsLawnService says:

    I know it isn’t a flight sim but I still read my M1 Tank Platoon manuals. They were absolutely amazing with an incredible analysis of the different warfare doctrines of NATO and the USSR.

  24. Love Albatross says:

    I still have big box copies of TFX and EF2000, both of which come with a hefty manual. Also got TIE Fighter with the novella someone mentioned above.

  25. TimA says:

    Wonderful stuff, thanks for this, Tim.

    I had Overlord on the Amiga, and undoubtedly spent more time reading the manual than I did playing the game. I still have that manual, thankfully.

    Another of my favourites was the A-320 Airbus series. Those came with huge books full of real Jeppesen ILS approach and procedure charts. They cost a small fortune these days.

    I love this stuff. So I’ll probably be buying that Il-2 Cliffs of Dover (can’t get used to that title) special edition if it’s real.

  26. Hat Galleon says:

    I remember when I found a Civ III strategy guide in a bookstore and paged through it while my dad went to go get some programming books. By the time he got back, I was begging him to buy the game for me. We got it for my birthday some time later, and I read through that entire monster of a manual before I even touched the game itself. That manual had enchanted me. It wasn’t fancy, it didn’t have any feelies, it didn’t immerse you in the atmosphere or the style of the game, but it gave you comprehensive information on the game and how it worked, and even gave you a few tips. Sometimes, that’s all a manual really needs.

  27. neolith says:

    I miss SWotL an all the manuals that came with it… :(

  28. wootles says:

    Ah, the good ol’ days. The very first game that I ever played for the computer was Aces over Europe. I still have fond memories of slicing through allied bomber formations with my 20mm. What I also remember is that spiraled book that came with the game. That thing was a giant, which had hundreds of pages of text. I still have that booklet hidden away from the ravages of time. I believe I will make it a family heirloom.

    I’m also ashamed that I do not see any name dropping of one the greats. Come on where’s your love for Dynamix. They brought about some lovely simulations before their day was done.

  29. Derek Smart says:

    Back in the day, you’d spend 80% of the time reading the manual, 10% starting over after being killed and 10% actually playing the game.

    As time moved on, some bastards (aka game developars) actually removed the PAUSE feature from games. Thats when they figured that if you couldn’t pause the game, you wouldn’t be reading a manual anyway; so why bother with trivial stuff like, you know, printing a manual.

  30. jRides says:

    The spectrum 48k version of “Legend” (I think) came with the David Gemmell Book of the same name. Actually I’m guessing the name of the game itself, but it was a game about the siege in that book. I had never heard of Gemmell until then.

    As for flight sims – I still have the box for Falcon 2.0 somewhere with all its lovely extras, I really should get round to playing it some time, but it looks like I might need a huge chunk of time to dedicate to it and the Christmas steam sale didn’t exactly help. The manual is humongous, and scarily detailed. Scares me anyway. :)

  31. rocketman71 says:

    Don’t forget the Wing Commander manuals and specs. Those were just great. blueprints included.

  32. scharmers says:

    My favorite manuals were from LucasArt’s trio of sims (Battlehawks 1942, TFH, SWOTL) and the Dynamix Aces sims. Just enough grognardy history along with clear and concise instructions. Similar to the sims of the era, oddly enough — just enough “realism” without descending into key-switchery rivetheadedness.

  33. Bassism says:

    Man, I really do miss the days of proper manuals.
    There are probably games whose manuals I spent more time reading as a kid than playing the game itself. A well-written manual got you into the game and its universe (at least in the case of games that weren’t sims…) long before you even played the game.
    Playing a game with an all-important section of the manual stuck open under the keyboard, and the keyboard quick reference sheet taped to the monitor….. that was gaming. Nowadays you’re stuck with alt-tabbing to a pdf, ctrl-f to find whatever, then watching with dismay as the game crashes as you alt-tab back….

    To be honest, I’m a big fan of DD and not having to deal with discs, but a large part of that is due to the fact that I can’t remember the last time I bought a disc that came with anything other than a bunch of 1s and 0s imprinted. It would be worth buying a box again to be able to sit and read through a book all evening before starting the game up then getting yelled at by your parents– er, falling asleep at the keyboard because it’s 3 in the morning.

  34. trooperdx3117 says:

    I know its not a sim but does anyone remember the old Homeworld manuals. They were big 300 page tomes and the first 150 pages was just setting up the story and explaining the history of the guys you played as, and their society, planet everything, it was great. And then when it did the whole tech tree thing it even explaining the science behind those technologys and how they came about and what results initial testing had on pilots and ships etc. Really set the mood for the epic space opera it was

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    Scandalon says:

    Though I don’t think it was long, the StarControl 2 manual had a nice bit of backstory/history.

    Sentinel Worlds (1: Future Magic) had a separate dialog book, so some encounters would say something like “The Raider Commander looks at you for a moment, then says (See paragraph 45)”. I assume this was partly for memory/storage constraints and partly as copy protection.

    • Derek Smart says:

      Yes, and the Starfleet games by Interstel also had separate guide books in additional to the manual. And they were huge.

      EA also did a bang up job with the Jane’s manual. Man I would read those things from cover to cover.

  36. Kevin says:

    Even the manuals for the decidedly more “arcadey” sims, like Team Apache, Fighter’s Anthology, and the Novalogic games, were relatively hefty compared to their PC game brethren. And back then, my poisons were Longbow 2 and Flashpoint.

    Out of curiosity, how old are some of you simmers out there? I’m in my junior year here at UCSB, and among all my nerdy hobbies of PC gaming and Warhammer, sim-gaming is the one thing that truly validates me as the alpha-geek here.

  37. mythokia says:

    Ah… the manuals of old. I used to be a rather avid fan of the Jetfighter series, still have those manuals with me :).

    Retail packaging these days leave much to be desired. There’s usually nothing but a paper CD holder and a manual that appears to have 20 pages, but only 2 of those are in a language you understand, and it covers installation instructions.

  38. Derek Smart says:

    Manuals went the way of the Dodo when the retailers decided that they had to maximize on shelf space by shrinking and standardizing the boxes. In their defense, man, there were some crazy boxes back then. For example the Jetfighter boxes as well as some of Novalogic’s game boxes. Crazy stuff.

    Shortly after, once PC gaming started its “decline”, manuals were the first thing to fall victim to budget cuts as publishers fought to preserve their bottomeline and margins.

  39. Derek Smart says:

    “You are posting comments too quickly. Slow down.” wtf? I guess I should post, go make a sammich and come back before I post again?

  40. Jason Moyer says:

    Mig Alley was the greatest flight sim ever made. It blows my mind that MA2 or something similar has never been made. Great campaign, great documentation, and it was based on the ultimate era of dogfighting, highly-maneuvarable jets without guided weaponry.

    On topic, my favorite manuals in the 90′s were the ones that came with Papyrus sims. Indycar Racing 2 and Grand Prix Legends came with supplemental guides written by Steve Smith which were incredible, but even the early NASCAR titles came with comprehensive track and setup information. Falcon 4.0 of course was great as well, I believe the original copy I purchased came in a giant spiral-bound book (it’s hard to imagine stumbling on that in Walmart or wherever today).