Games produced, and sold as products, specifically for the Unix workstation market have been few and far between, but now, out of Palo Alto, comes news of Aviator from Artificial Horizons Inc – and it looks as if it could take games to a new level of sophistication. Aviator is a multi-player aircraft flight simulation program designed to work over a network of Sparc workstations with Sun Microsystems Inc’s GX graphics accelerator. It was originally developed as a demonstration for graphics hardware at Sun, but Sun showed no interest in marketing games software, and offered designers Curt Priem and Bruce Factor the chance to develop it further and market the software. Aviator 1.5 is the first product quality release of Aviator, which already has around 5,000 users within Sun itself. It enables the players to operate a US fighter aircraft (the McDonnell Douglas Inc FA-18A Hornet to be precise), with an out-of-the-cockpit, three-dimensional flight displays, and perspective views outside the aircraft. Using the GX facility enables solid modelled images with surface shading for realistic terrain details. The product also uses Defense Mapping Agency data from the US Geological Survey as the data source for the image generator and satellite data to colour the terrain. Two or more workstation users can engage in dogfights with multicast Ethernet packets passing data between workstations at 10 times a second. The product is available on CD-ROM, and a demonstration version is available, although a licence is required for a full-featured version. No indication of how much it costs to blast your best friend out of the sky – unless he happens to lock onto your exhaust first.
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