The significance of Simis to Guildford’s games industry history is often understated but is in fact extremely important. Founded in 1988 by four colleagues from the simulator research team at British Aerospace, SIMIS advanced the art of flight simulator games significantly through a deep understanding of aerospace engineering, physics and computer science.
Interdictor marked the studios first release in 1989 and is credited as the first flight simulator to be released for the Acorn Archimedes. Interdictor put you at the controls of a fighter plane heading towards enemy lines, your mission was to push the enemy away from their location by taking over its airfields one by one and eventually destroying their headquarters. Beyond rewarding the player for their mastery of the flight controls, strategic elements were included involving details like demolishing bridges to prevent supply trucks from crossing and keeping an eye out for ships moving up-river with supplies to repair them. The depth of the game was unparalleled at the time and was critically acclaimed for being ‘as near to the real thing as you could get’. British publication The Micro User stated ‘The realism is stunning’.
A sequel to Interdictor was released in 1991 and is remembered as one of the first flight simulators to ever feature 3D terrain, utilising the powerful new ARM processors of the day. Interdictor 2 was built with a complete set of proprietary object and world building tools, which later went on to find a life of their own as Flight Sim Toolkit, a pioneering piece of software that gave flight sim fans the tools to create a game of their own. Simis would demonstrate the full power of Flight Sim Toolkit by using it to make the space combat game Absolute Zero in 1995.
Simis were flying high and their continued success kept the attention of Domark who published most of their games. In 1995, founders Jonathan Newth and Ian Baverstock lead the sale of their games division to Domark, retaining a division of Simis focused on medical imaging. Following the sale, Simis merged with Eidos Technologies, Domark and Big Red Software to form the Eidos Interactive Group.
Jonathan and Ian would continue to run Simis as an in-house development studio of Eidos until 1998 when together, they would lead a management buyout of the studio from Eidos Interactive for just £1 and rename the studio Kuju Entertainment.
Kuju Entertainment went on to release a number of pioneering games including the original Microsoft Train Simulator in 2001, a game whose focus on actively supporting user created content can be traced back to Simis’ Flight Sim Toolkit. Kuju eventually became Europe’s largest external game development studio. Several game development studios in Guildford today can trace their origin back to Kuju Entertainment and so also trace their origin back to Simis.