Via: GDC 2008 - Serious Games Summit Sessions
Serious Games Summit Session - Microsoft ESP: Taking FLIGHT SIMULATOR from Game to Serious Game
Speaker(s): Shawn Firminger (ACES Studio - Microsoft Game Studios)
Microsoft's presence at this year's Serious Games Summit was felt in the form of its recently unveiled Microsoft ESP: a platform for the creation of visual simulations.
Released to the marketplace on January 2nd of this year, ESP grew out of an existing game franchise: Flight Simulator. Shawn Firminger, studio manager of ACES Studio, responsible for all of Microsoft's simulation products, revealed to the early-morning audience some of ESP's journey.
Twenty-Five Year Beta
No product at Microsoft had been in continuous development longer than Flight Simulator, dating back to the 1982 licensing of the original Flight Simulator from Bruce Artwick's subLOGIC Corporation.
During this time, Flight Simulator grew its own cottage industry of magazines, forums, and enthusiasts. Simultaneously, demand grew exponentially for the creation of a platform specifically for enthusiast endeavors, ranging from software flight models and user interfaces to larger physical designs. Members of the Flight Simulator team saw early on very specific demand for more game material in commercial enterprise training and looked to leverage their existing technology to deliver a training platform.
Flight Simulator X Acceleration
Despite this, the team pressed forward with the release of Flight Simulator X and accompanying it with technology that would portend their future endeavors: specifically the implementation of a mission system, refactoring of the world data, and publishing of the SDK and API.
Flight Simulator X
Firminger noted that creating and marketing a platform for Serious Games is significantly different from making a Serious Game. In particular, winning the support of your sales department is important because of the different target audiences and scales involved.
Strong partnerships are a very important thing to establish, as word of mouth and endorsements are some of the best ways that software platforms get sold. It is also vitally important to keep the entry point of the software well defined and constantly in mind, as opposed to the often flexible designs and and changing high-level ideas of traditional games development.
Firminger also warned of the difficulty in moving from a game development style that stresses performance over accuracy to everything requiring well-engineered solutions.
According to Firminger, Serious Game platforms are a different beast compared to Serious Games, and the process and culture associated with development will inevitably shift for game developers transitioning into creating platforms.
MS ESP Futures
Flight Simulator X offers the best Microsoft has to offer.
Microsoft, however, have realised now that Flight Simulator is no longer just a game. It is an opportunity, and one that has lead directly to an entirely new product for them - Microsoft ESP.
Perhaps the attractiveness of the ESP product is Microsoft's attitude towards the entire project – they have demonstrated a long-term commitment to continuous development of the platform, with an ambitious roadmap into the future, leading to additional MS simulation titles and almost certainly significant improvements in future editions of the Flight Simulator series.