The online WW2 title ‘Warbirds’ was a big part of my flight sim life. I began playing in the mid 90’s playing on DOS and dialling long distance using a PPP/SLIP script to connect to an early internet portal in the UK to log into their servers in the US. Back then the game charged an hourly rate of around $2 if I recall correctly on top of the long distance phone call charges.
I was young, free and single then so the cost wasn’t prohibitive and I formed and joined a few online squadron’s in my time there. Warbirds were I really learnt basic combat ACM as the dogfighting was quick and brutal if you played lone wolf and didn’t know what you were doing. Early bulletin boards which sprung up around the game such as Alt.Games.Warbirds carried stories of daring do with pilots building up fearsome reputations in their favourite aircraft.
As well as an arena format which ran on a kind of basic ‘domination’ style gameplay where airfields were captured by landing on them after taking out the AA there were also many events. These events were typically historical setups using newly created maps for that specific battle, the would be community run or run by the developers (originally ICI and then iEntertainment) and players would have to sign up for slots and be assigned a squadron/wing/aircraft. I remember one of my first scenario’s leading a squadron of Stuka’s and the pressure felt quite intense as I knew how long it took for the CM’s to set up the arena and for the players to get logged in and set up (remember this was early days in internet online gaming).
Unfortunately after Warbirds was sold to iEntertainment the original development team split up and went their separate ways and went on to create their own titles – Aces High and World War II Online which followed the same online WW2 format as Warbirds with some of their own tweaks. The community got diluted between these three rivals and then the appearance of the first IL-2 Sturmovik game saw a lot of players drawn away and Warbirds once dominant position waned away.
The game is still running though under the Total Sims banner so this new announcement on Microprose Twitter account is very interesting. One of the reasons players were drawn to the new IL-2 series was for its advanced graphics and fidelity and looking at the screenshots below this could take Warbirds onto a whole new level. Will it be a subscription based online game or will this be a more single player approach using this famous brand?