As recent releases have attested to, the modern PC is still king when it comes to simulations. Titles such as Microsoft's Flight Simulator X (flying) and SimBin's GTR 2 (auto racing) accurately capture the richness of real-world experiences on a computer monitor. From military strategy to sports, there's a PC simulation available for most passions. One notable 21b9 void, however, is maritime simulation. Boating and sailing enthusiasts have been forced to choose from a small number of less-than-stellar titles. Looking to fill that void is Dutch developer VSTEP, with their Ship Simulator 2008 (published by Lighthouse Interactive), the follow-up to their introductory maritime depiction Ship Simulator 2006.
VSTEP's bread and butter is developing commercial training simulations. A corporation or government entity can contract with VSTEP to develop a 3D training simulation which walks an employee through a potentially hazardous procedure (the Royal Dutch Navy, for instance, uses VSTEP software to train seamen in at-sea firefighting scenarios). With experience combining technical know-how with real-time rendered graphics, VSTEP would seem the perfect developer to tackle an authentic maritime simulation. Despite some obvious flaws and omissions, Ship Simulator 2006 received a fair welcome from maritime enthusiasts. With Ship Simulator 2008, VSTEP has an opportunity to improve their product and corner this wide-open market.
Anchors Away! It's Off to Sea
Ship Simulator 2008 has free-roaming and mission-based elements. 30 missions ship with the title, and are stacked (for the most part) in order of increasing difficultly (although you are free to select any mission from the list). While the first mission acts as a rudimentary tutorial, there's no bona-fide tutorial mode.
Adding to the frustration is the basic 18-page manual which briefly explained the game modes and options and provided a terse walkthrough of the opening mission. A simulation of any kind should ship with a more robust manual. Barring that, there should be an electronic manual (in PDF or HTML format) which delves into the nuances of the software.
Missions consist of pre-defined scenarios; weather choice and ship selection are made for you, and a set of objectives are presented. Successful mission completion entails completing objectives in the correct order, and some missions have time components as well (disaster survivors don't last long in the frigid Atlantic, after all). Objectives may be neatly displayed in the corner of the screen, and the dynamic chart - an MFD-type system, often found in commercial vessels - plots waypoints (and the usual depth and hazard information). Objectives are marked as they're completed, though it's sometimes necessary to switch to a full-screen chart view to find the next waypoint.
Games: Ship Simulator 2008
21eb News: Ship Simulator 2008 Sets Sail North America Jan 21, 2008
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