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I have been flying MSFS for quite a few years now, and when I first started taking to the virtual skies, I was not hooked up to the internet.  However, even after going on-line, there was something keeping me from jumping on with other “real people”, and flying about.  VATSIM was totally out of the question!  The only ATC interaction I had up to that point was pushing the 1, 2, 3, etc. keys to communicate with ground, tower and such.  In retrospect, I think one of the reasons that I personally didn’t want to go on-line and fly, was that I may have been a bit apprehensive about what others would think of my flying.  Now, mind you, I could fly all the default aircraft that came packed up in whatever version of MSFS I had at the time, but still, that bit of apprehension kept poking me in the side!  It’s not that I was shy.  Nope, that’s something I’m NOT!

Today I look back and all I can think of is all the time that I missed out on, but am doing my best to catch up with!  In the year that I have had my own server running, I have met loads of folks of all ages, from all over the world!  My “regular” flying partners are located in the USA and Great Britain, with folks from Germany occasionally dropping by. These are just the ones that I personally know of!  I truly look forward to making these contacts, which usually end up as on-line friendships!  There’s a big pond of potential pals out there, and all you have to do is say “Hi, how about a flight”!

Some of my most entertaining times while enjoying my hobby of Flight Simming have been spent in the “virtual skies” with friends that I have made while flying on my Multiplayer Server, which is powered by FSHost.  This is not a review of FSHost, just a quick word about it since it is the Server that I run on my site.  This is a program that is totally FREE to use by anyone out there who wants to have a real life wingman on your starboard side!  Russell Gilbert, who hails from Sydney, Australia, developed and hosts the main server of this program.  Actually, it’s not really Freeware, but something called “Postcardware”.  Russell asks that the only “payment” be a postcard from where you’re from, to stick to his refrigerator!  Sounds like quite the deal to me!  This is an excellent example of the kindness and generosity that is routinely displayed in the hobby of flight simming!  As of this writing, a beta version upgrade is available for use, with all comments to the developer appreciated.  You’ll find FSHost on a number of sites, including mine, Farmboyzim’s Flight Sim’s (Oh-Oh! Is that a plug!)? 

By utilizing FSHost or any other Multiplayer Server, such as MSN Zone, the possibilities are endless!  I’m sure most of you have heard of the virtual aerobatic teams out there, the virtual Thunderbird’s Squadron and the Virtual Italian Freece Tricolor Team come to my mind.  Talk about utilizing the servers to the max!  These guys are great in how they are able to perform maneuvers like the one’s that are performed in real life!  I do believe that their connections are LAN based, so that the “refresh rate” is just about as close to real time as you can get.  While flying on FSHost, you are able to maintain formations quite well, and accomplish some amazing feats, but there are the occasional “skips” that sort of jumps the other guy’s aircraft to a slightly different position as if transported.  This can present a challenge to maintaining close wing-tip to wing-tip formations.  It all boils down to connection speeds of the Host, the guy with the server connection on the PC and the connection speeds of the other flyers.  Not everyone is using the same set-ups so there are loads of factors involved.  Suffice it to say that it still works extremely well and you should definitely explore the world of Multiplayer Servers!

As I was growing up, my father used to fire up his Amateur Radio and either tap out Morse code or talk with folks from all over the world using voice comms.  I often wondered what he could possibly find to talk about for hours on end, with folks that he didn’t even know.  I would ask him about it and he would tell me that they talked of just about everything and anything you could find to talk about, but the main topic of conversation, of course, was transmitters, receivers, antennas, etc.  They talked about their hobby.  The hobby was the common thread that bound thousands and thousands of amateur radio operators together.  If you noticed, in the list of what they would talk about, I didn’t include politics or religion.  Nope, what these guys and gals did was talk about things they enjoyed doing, their hobby at the top of the topic list!  Their hobby kept them above the petty and not so petty squabbles that riddle everyone’s lives everyday.  Sounds like an “escape hatch”, doesn’t it?

I know that even without hopping onto a multiplayer server, just jumping into a favorite aircraft and heading to the hills, is quite relaxing for me, meandering about, looking at this and that.  Hmmm, sounds like an “escape aircraft”, waiting for you, parked there in your hard drive (now that sounds weird!), and just waiting to be fired up!  Yeah, hobbies can be relaxing!  The parallels between my father’s hobby of Ham Radio, the nickname for their hobby, and Flight Simming, the nickname of our hobby, I found to be quite numerous!  I guess the old saying of “The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree” is appropriate in this case!  We both evidently wanted to just RELAX, meeting people from all over the world!  Throw in the electronics of both the hobbies, vacuum tubes verses hard drives, and I think we have two peas in a pod!

This article is about getting off your rear and getting it in gear!  Since my site uses the FSHost Server, I know what this server can provide.  One of the easiest things to do is fly the provided Hop List that’s set up for you.  FSHost comes with a default Hawaiian Hop List that takes you to some beautiful areas around the Hawaiian Islands.  Some are challenging, some easy and open.  After connecting to the server, by jumping through a couple hoops in MSFS 2004 (2002 also if the server is so configured) the hoops being clicking on the Multiplayer Option and typing in the IP address that is provided from the site or person that is the host, click where it tells you to, and shazam, your in MPS land!  I’d go into the details of what and where to click, but it’s so simple I’m sure you can figure it out!  There’s always the help forums or help from FSHost itself such as the FAQ, etc.

I had mentioned earlier about the friendships that are made while flying the Virtual Skies.  The basic ingredient for any friendship is a common interest.  From there, it just continues to grow.  I do believe that this old world of ours could use a whole lot more of those “international friendships” that I mention.  But the fact remains that the hobby of Flight Simming has brought people together worldwide, whereas no contacts would have been made otherwise, well at least not as many, since, after all, there are such things nowadays as telephones and email!  But I think you get my drift here.  Contacts and friendships centering around a common interest…Flight Simming!  Unlike dating services and chat rooms that you may find on the internet, I haven’t seen too much dissent and anger in the chats on the MPS’s that are out there.  I have seen some good old frustration when things don’t work quite right!  Flying the virtual skies means developing a knack for being patient.  Sometimes systems crash, other players are unsure of what’s going on, or a host of other “Electronic Gremlins” that somehow find their way down into the works, but 99.9% of the time, folks display an abundance of patience and support, willingly.  I’ll go grab a coffee if someone is trying to load and it’s taking them some time!  Slow down and smell the roses/coffee!

The world of Flight Simming has opened up doors around the world.  Sure, I may be amazed at the sight of fire, but I still think its incredible how we can get together and fly the virtual skies, no matter where your wingman lives!  FSHost was mentioned as the server that I personally use for my own virtual flying, but wait, it even gets better!  Download TeamSpeak (just do a search for it and you’ll find it) and you’ll not only be flying with your pals, you’ll be talking in real time, without any time lag! Anyone can run the TeamSpeak Server on their own personal computer.  You don’t need to have a website, but a Broadband connection is definitely a plus.  It took me a few attempts to figure it out, but it was not that difficult.  There is a great manual for its use also.  I’m really surprised that more folks don’t utilize this great utility.  TeamSpeak is also a freebie, as long as you aren’t making any money from its use or using it in any commercial fashion.  They have a registered version for those needs.  Thanks TS!

So take it from me, the fretting has already been done for you over whether or not to join in the fun!  This is definitely one of those situations where you can stick your toe in and see if you like it or not, simply by surfing around and finding a server, and if you’re shy, just look for one that has no one active…but what’s the point in being on a Multiplayer Server if there’s no one else around?  Just about any time, be it day or night, around the world, someone is sitting there, in front of their screen, flying around, waiting for a wingman to hook up with, and fly the virtual skies!
Worldwide Friendships Through Multiplayer Servers
By Farmboyzim