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F-19 Stealth Fighter (ZX Spectrum)

F-19 Stealth Fighter ZX Spectrum Loading screen

MISSING COVER

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MobyRank
100 point score based on reviews from various critics.
2.3
MobyScore
5 point score based on user ratings.

Trivia

Development

A section of the F-19 manual explains the process behind its design (and the design of computer games in general:

The Design Team



Simulations such as F-I9 Stealth Fighter require a large, talented creative team to produce. The 16-bit version was engineered by that now-famous team of Sid Meier (master of algorithms and data structures that recreate reality) and Andy Hollis (one of the hottest 3-D and assembly programmers in the nation).

Sid’s the founding father of MicroProse (along with President “Wild Bill” Stealey), and brings a veteran viewpoint of game programming and game design. A large number of features in this product started with Sid saying, “Wouldn’t it be neat if The neat part is that Sid then goes and implements the code that very day!

Andy is one of MicroProse’s veterans, and has done fast, tight 3-D code before —in C64 Gunship, and then again in IBM Gunship. Each time Andy finds new ways to get more, faster, in less space. Andy isn’t our only 3-D expert. For example, he used some Scott Spanburg’s secret and magical object logic, which Scott had just finished conjuring for another (future) MicroProse product. Andy’s a great fan of high speed anywhere: in computers and in cars (he races autocross in his spare time).

Jim Synoski, creator of the original C64 Stealth Fighter, was dragged into this version to help out. He was nice about it, especially about all the things Sid changed! He worked with ace computer artist Max (“Maximum”) Remington to create the entire preflight and postf light system. Even an “old guard” expert like Jim, veteran of many other MicroProse games, can be impressed (distressed?) by the complexity and detail involved in Briefings and Debriefings. The apparently limitless variety of IBM graphics modes (VGA, MCGA, EGA, CGA, Tandy and Hercules) doesn’t help!

The 3D databases for the four “worlds” were created by game designer Bruce Shelley and artist Max Remington. It was here that “Maximum” got his nickname. For a while every object he created went right to the data space maximum, causing something new to “blow” in Andy’s code, like an engine overrevving too far. Fortunately 3D graphic glitches are fairly obvious to a trained eye — all were spotted and eventually fixed. Bruce’s job was more difficult. A veteran of many board wargame designs, he worked within the very complicated and often frustrating limitations of a microcomputer’s data space layout. The remarkable fidelity of the data space world to the “real” world is a testament to his perseverence. Fortunately he was a good sport through it all, perhaps inspired by the 7:00 AM basketball games in the warehouse with ‘Major Bill’ and other B-ball fanatics within MicroProse.

All this data and graphics takes up a lot of room. In fact, F-IS Stealth Fighter on our development systems occupies about five megabytes (fifteen 360K floppy disks!). It’s problems like these that David McKibbin was born to solve. His compression schemes “shrank” the code and data to its current size! Every time the disk drive loads something, it runs through a special “decompressor” that expands the code andior data to “full size” in memory. This means you’re getting a product that would otherwise require a hard disk and command a retail price well over $100. So David’s saving you a lot of cash as well as making F-19 commercially viable.

The paper materials were conceived by designer Arnold Hendrick, author of this manual. Usually MicroProse’s marketing department is concerned about the size, weight and cost of our manuals (not that it does any good, the manuals always go over budget). But for this product the word was, “go all out”. Arnold took them at that, although they gulped hard when the page estimate jumped from 128 to 192! The rumor that marketing’s office furniture was pawned to pay for the extra paper is entirely unfounded. Incidentally, the design, layout and artwork of the manual, maps and overlays were all done on computer with final output on Linotronic typesetters. In his alter ego as manager of the game design group, Arnold kibbitzed unmercifully about various aspects of the design. Surprisingly, Sid, Andy, Jim and Bruce even took him seriously (at times).

Murray Taylor, 3-D artist extraordinaire, designed the basic “look” of this manual, executed the weapons illustrations, and did the six full-page computer pictures that grace these pages. How he finds time for the triathlon remains a mystery even within MicroProse.

Barbara Bents did yeoman (yeowoman?) work with the technical drawings, maps and keyboard overlays. MicroProse uses state-of-the-art drafting and layout software on MacII’s for many internal graphics. Barbara’s designs, however, consistently went beyond the abilities of current postscript interpreters. Unfortunately, we didn’t write the software.., so when we phoned the creators they just said, “Oh, gee, sorry. You’ll just have to do less complicated things!” The keyboard overlays were difficult for a different reason: we redesigned about as fast as she could redraw them on the Mac! For surviving these trials and tribulations, she wins MicroProse’s competitive and coveted “most tolerant artist of the year” award.

Everybody at MicroProse takes Ken Lagace for granted. He’s the quiet. silver-haired gent who gave up teaching and performing professional classical music for a career as a computer sounds composer, with scores of brilliant scores to his credit. You’ll probably take him for granted too, since the sounds for F-l9 Stealth Fighter fit right in!

Finally, the QA (quality assurance) staff at MicroProse approached this product like all others: with the maniacal glee of a mad scientist! Al Roireau, Chris Taormino and Russ Cooney just love to find bugs, then torment the poor, exhausted programmers with multi-page bug reports. In fact, they enjoyed itso much they stayed late nights, then came in on Saturdays and Sundays, for weeks on end, for just that purpose. In fact they’re still cackling over the airfield-in-the-ocean bug, or the 1500 kts level flight bug, or... well, you get the idea. Unlike many software companies, at MicroProse QA really does have the final say for shipment. Until “Big Al” gives thumbs up, the product stays in testing and the programmers continue slaving over the bugs.

F-19

The game was named "F-19" as it was originally thought that this would be the name of the then-unreleased Stealth aircraft. However, it was finally named F-117A, which is the name of the next stealth simulator released by Microprose.

Since the game was designed when the F-117A was still classified, the external views of the aircraft were approximate. The F117A has been made "public" around the same time the game was released, so Microprose modified their game so that you could see the real aircraft instead. By default, you got the original; you just had to rename one or two binary files in the game's home directory to enable the new one.

The 8-bit versions were called Project Stealth Fighter on the box, but F-19 Stealth Fighter in the loading screen. The fictional Stealth Fighter portrayed in the game is based on a 1982 model kit by Testors. The kit caused a certain amount of controversy at the time; although the design was no more accurate than Craig Thomas' Firefox, the stealth programme was supposed to be top secret, and the US senate - not knowing what the real F-117 looked like - assumed that Testors had been given access to sensitive information. As noted below, Microprose's simulation was overtaken by events.

Game worlds

At least in the DOS version it is possible to copy Middle East and Vietnam game worlds from F-15 Strike Eagle II to F-19 Stealth Fighter directory and switch two of the original worlds with these, so that you can fly in these worlds. The names of the game worlds replaced are still the original ones in the theater selection menu, however, so you must remember yourself which worlds you replaced. Make sure to back up the original worlds before doing this trick.

Gulf war

Ironically, the 'Limited War' level of the Persian Gulf campaign in the game involved the US helping Iraq against Iran in the Iran-Iraq war, including protecting 'friendly' vessels sailing out of Basra (particularly oil tankers) from attack by Iranian missile boats and planes. In the wake of the Operation Desert Storm two years later, the Iraqis in the game's sequel F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter 2.0 were no longer the allied nation that they had been in the original game, and the new game included a Desert Storm campaign.

Hint book

Compute! books published a full handbook to help you play this game. It helped you develop a strategy and avoid being detected.

Sid Meier

Sid Meier on F-19 Stealth Fighter:
F-19 was the last flight simulator that I wrote. I felt that it was everything I knew about how to write a flight simulator, and I never felt the need to write another one after that. That didn't mean that Bill [Stealey] didn't keep asking me to write them, though.
--From the gaming history book High Score! by Rusel DeMaria and Johnny L. Wilson (2002)

Awards

  • ACE
    • October 1988 (issue #13) - Included in the Top-100 list of 1987/1988 (editorial staff selection)
  • Amiga Joker
    • Issue 01/1991 – Best Simulation Game in 1990
  • Computer and Video Games
    • Issue 06/1989 - Runner-up Golden Joystick Award 1989 for Best 8-Bit Simulation Game (reader's vote)
  • Computer Gaming World
    • October 1989 (Issue #64) – Simulation Game of the Year
    • October 1990 (Issue #75) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15th anniversary issue) - #52 in the “150 Best Games of All Time" list
  • ST Format
    • January 1991 (Issue #1) – Best Simulation Game in 1990 (Atari ST)
    • August 1991 (Issue #8) – #17 Top Atari ST Classic Games (Editorial staff vote)
    • January 1993 (issue #42) – #50 in '50 finest Atari ST games of all time' list
  • Zzap!
    • January 1990 (Issue 57) – 'The Best Games of the 80's Decade' (Robin Hogg)
Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Ashley Pomeroy, NH, Olivier Masse, PCGamer77, Sabri Zain and Trixter

Contributed by Olivier Masse (421) on Dec 02, 1999. [revised by : FatherJack (43258), Patrick Bregger (112006) and Jo ST (12661)]. -- edit trivia