Flight and driving simulators are by far the most popular kinds, but there are other sorts of vehicle simulators as well, usually for niche markets. The last few years have seen the arrival of large numbers of new vehicles from the hang glider in Far Cry to the magic broomsticks in the Harry Potter games. This section addresses a few of the more common types.
Most boat simulations are of powerboats or jet skis, offering the same kinds of speed thrills that driving simulators do (see Figure 17.3). The handling
characteristics of powerboats differ from those of cars. Because boats move in a fluid medium, they don't have traction the way a car does, so they can't turn as sharply as a car can. Powerboat simulations usually offer racing over a twisting course marked off by buoys. Jet ski or fantasy water vehicle simulations often have outrageous jumps and other challenges as well.
There have been a few simulators of warships over the years, often fairly small craft with high speed and maneuverability, such as the PT boat of World War II fame. Larger vessels such as battleships and aircraft carriers move more slowly and deliberately and, therefore, tend to be simulated not as individual vehicles but as part of naval warfare simulations involving whole fleets, such as Harpoon or Dangerous Waters.
Submarine simulations such as Silent Hunter III are fairly popular because of the specialized nature of their situation and because they can move in three dimensions. They normally concentrate on rather old-fashioned submarine activities, such as looking through the periscope and firing torpedoes at surface ships. We associate these sorts of things with submarines from watching old war movies, and of course, they're the most visually dramatic. Relatively few games simulate the modern role of submarines, hunting and hiding from one another in total darkness, because it's too cerebral an activity.
Sailing simulations are comparatively rare, but they do exist; see Virtual Skipper 4 on the left of Figure 17.4. Although sailing a boat is a complex and interesting challenge, such games appeal only to a specialized market. Most people prefer simulations in which you can point the vehicle in the direction you want to go and push the gas pedal to get you there.
Few ship simulations model the ocean in all its complexity, with shoals and currents, tides and storms. Rather, they tend to treat the water the way driving simulations treat the ground: simply as an area over which ships move. Pirate games such as Sea Dogs II (Figure 17.4, right side) and Sid Meier's Pirates! are usually arcade or role-playing games rather than sailing simulations.