Wilco’s Tower Simulator

Wilco Publishing and feelThere announced “…… the release of our first stand-alone title: Tower Simulator. Experience the thrill of Air Traffic Control ! Tower Simulator features a ground and tower simulation with breathtaking out-the-window and radar views…..”.

Powered by a new 3D technology along with a complex and highly realistic Artificial Intelligence, TOWER SIMULATOR is the only simulation of its kind.

Highlights :

  • Ground and Tower simulation
  • Multiple views, including out-the-window tower view, Air and Ground Radars
  • Photorealistic renditions of several worldwide airports
  • Realistic aircraft take-off, landing and moving along airport grounds
  • For beginners and experts, from free simulation to Career mode
  • Actively overlooked and supervised by licensed professionals
  • Based on actual FAA and European regulations

Information and pictures available at

0 Responses

  1. I am a self-confessed geek. While other people buy the number one best seller game and kill dragons or infiltrate enemy HQs, I enjoy simulators and can play them for hours and hours. One of my favourites in the late 90s was Tower by BAO/Apollo. It was smooth, flowed and although it wasn’t necessarily visually pretty, kept me busy for ages flowing jets in and out of various airports.

    So when I saw a banner ad for Tower Simulator I had a look and was impressed by the screen shots I saw and imagined it to be similar to Tower, but better, surely benefiting from 10yrs of technological advancement. The price tag also implied the developers rated it similar to something like Flight Sim X — EUR56 (£46) is significantly more pricey than all but the elite of software titles. Unfortunately, I was misled and feel obliged to warn others, especially as publishing house Wilco will not refund downloads.

    Firstly, it would be fair to say that it is visually quite impressive to begin with. It can’t have been easy to render places like Chicago O Hare, let alone program in 100 or so aircraft at different parking stands. But the visuals aren’t the issue — nearly everything else is.

    At the start of a new session the players view out of the tower is obstructed by different pop-ups; approach radar, ground radar, flight strip and command boxes, although I’m wrong to call them pop-ups because they don’t. Instead the user needs to clumsily drag them out of the way. Prior to reading the instructions (don’t we all), I presumed something like f-keys would be used to get the different sub-screens to disappear and reappear, but it turns out you’ve just got to put up with them. Not only that, but if you close any of these pop-ups — which it mysteriously allows you to do —you can NEVER re-open them again during the current controlling session. So in practical terms you are required to constantly drag and resize boxes in and out of view, because even with a 17” monitor, the remaining view out of the tower would be too small with all boxes fully on view. What is annoying is a relatively simple pop-up function would have totally negated this issue.

    Once you start the game — and be careful what time you pick; John Wayne at 12pm actually has no traffic, so you just have to sit and wait for something to happen — the initial impression is quite good. Each airport looks visually like it should, although night scenes are less impressive, lacking basic stuff like blue/green taxiway lighting, while the jets have rougher, white-edged models. As the jets start-up they have basic anti-cols (but no flashing lights) and pushback is probably the most realistic part of the entire simulation. It just gets duller when they call for taxi.

    One of the biggest unpolished errors is the awful AI voice. Ten years ago BAO’s Tower was already way better; in Tower Simulator the voice is slow and poorly synthesised, but the most annoying bit is the gap it insists on before adding the runway number to the end of the read back — very amateur. This is especially annoying when you have a lot of traffic taxying and the computer is taking its time to unnecessarily read back ‘runway 14 left’. I’m not a programmer, but speech synthesis has come on a long, long way since BAO’s version, so why has a £46 game not invested in it?

    The command box — the text version of the terrible AI voice — doesn’t compensate either. I’ve tried to resize the box to catch-up on who called for taxi and it doesn’t (as far as I can make it) resize. The shortcut commands provided are unintuitive too, using CTRL and ALT — although luckily the set-up does allow the user to re-programme keys more sensibly. However, one bug I found was that in some situations the shortcuts stop working, requiring users to manually type ‘HOLD YOUR POSITION’ etc or quit the game and restart. Another example of a lack of polish is when you type, or click, an aircraft callsign, then use a short-cut for the instruction; if you leave a space after the callsign the instruction will be rejected, but if you want to add a runway on the end of the command and DON’T leave a space, you will also breach syntax. It’s just messy. Talking of commands, there are 39, of which you will actually need about 7 — even the developer couldn’t tell me how I benefited from asking an inbound aircraft its speed. It almost feels as if a list useful commands has never been reviewed for usefulness prior to the rush to get the game to the shops.

    I have a background in ATC and the profession has lots of rules to follow, such as separation, avoiding having 2 aircraft on the runway etc and some mention is made of this in the instructions. However, the gameplay doesn’t seem to bother itself with these issues. Once you have more than about 10 aircraft taxying, the awkward interface (remember the dragging of windows?) makes it difficult to keep track of who is where, so to avoid missing ‘ready for departure’ calls that you’ll struggle to find again in the cumbersome command box, it’s often easier to just allow them to take-off when they first ask. This has led on a couple of tedious occasions to an inbound aircraft landing at the same time on the same runway, with the awful consequence of…well, nothing. I’m not sure if there is a points page somewhere else — to be honest, so far I’ve not managed to stay interested for more than 15mins at a time — but as far as I can see there are no consequences if you screw up.

    If you don’t weld one jet into another on the runway it’s then necessary to hand it off to departure. Ordinarily this would require you to not forget about it and make sure it didn’t leave your radar screen without handover (although again, I’m not aware of any consequence from the couple of times I’ve done it). However, rather than have to drag the radar screen back into view for the callsign, one thing you can do is clear it for take-off, then immediately hand it to departures while still taxying onto the runway — hardly realistic, but a workaround that avoids the need to use the radar screen — one less fiddle.

    Going back to the visuals, after the realistic pushback, jets then fall into line with the rest of the program and taxi jumpily and way too fast. ALL departing aircraft do a rolling take-off straight from the holding point, which is unrealistic, undermining yet another of the real heart-stopping moments of ATC when a jet on the runway might just not get away before another touches down — not a problem with Tower Simulator. As for the take-off of the sim jets, all I can presume by the balloon-like vertical departure profiles is the developers have never actually seen a real jet take-off. Again, FlightSim does so much better a job with its AI.

    I mentioned inbounds and it seems little thought has gone into them either. They call-up on frequency and are either self-positioning, or on finals, so you either keep an eye on them using the radar pop up, or simply give them landing clearance straight away — there are commands for ‘go around’ but as departing traffic is never on the runway long enough to block it, and there are apparently no consequences if separation is reduced from real world minimas, you might as well take your chances rather than risk having to try and figure out what to do with an overshooting jet.

    The crying shame about Tower Simulator is the basic ingredients are there to make it a reasonable piece of software. They’ve managed to design and program 5 airports with sim jets and vehicles and it really doesn’t look bad. But then they gave up. The other interfaces are truly awful, especially as most users won’t be able to afford to buy 3 TFT screens to link-up. I’m not sure even then if 3 screens would help with anything but the interface — the gameplay is still glaringly missing.

    Within 2hrs of download I’d contacted the software house to ask for my money back, except this is contrary to their download policy. This is disappointing as Tower Simulator as it stands, especially for £45, undermines their reputation. Presumably their other products work a lot better. Sometimes a business has to accept they got it wrong, fix the problem and try again, otherwise they run the risk that people won’t trust their one-way sales policy in future. Until Wilco resolve the problem, I won’t buy anything from them again.

    Ultimately, Tower Simulator is an expensive program that could do a lot better. Right now it is little more than a pretty, but dull piece of work that requires no skill whatsoever, other than an ability to work around the poor interfaces. There is little more to it than sequencing taxying aircraft to a runway of your choice and, even then, no consequence if you get it wrong. I challenge anyone to waste more than 15mins of their life without losing the will to live. The bones are there, but it needs a lot, lot more work on the interface, a total overhaul of the gameplay and more polish on the aircraft performance, if it is to justify the price. I suggest users avoid buying it until it is sorted out, and I would be very wary in future until Wilco post a demo version, enabling you to try before you buy.

  2. Had I read this post before buying TowerSimulator and I would not be regretting having done it. If Wilco is a decent software company they should withdraw the product from the market, tranquilizing buyers with announcing a fix.
    Did they know about Tower by BAO/Apollo? I do not think so.
    Although too late for me, thank you Jon Braid for your comment.

  3. Dear John,

    I made a comment on the Tower sim forum with a link to this article.

    And then I kicked off the forum, sad isn’t ?

  4. Dear John,

    I got a reaction

    Since you don’t tell me your real name I just assume you are Rob,

    This forum is a technical one and your personal opinion not necessary reflects the opinions of other. Since you admited in your article after 2 hours you wished to get your money back I don’t believe your review is accurate enough to provide clear review to our customer.
    Many of your points are clearly user errors and lack of understanding of features. Since I’m not in the freedom to comment your article I’m asking you to refrain advertise your website on our forums. You are banned for 12 hours per our forum rules (when you come back check them out again, to avoid further or final ban) and it’s a co-incidence tomorrow is June.

    On a personal level; what is your real ATC experience? May I call you a collegue?



    My dear Victor,

    No my name is not Rob. and for certainly I’am not the author of that article.

    I WAS a costumer of TowerSimulator with all respect of the product and only with a few comment
    ( about the same as the linked article) BUT I thought I was interesting for the developers too make the product better
    because I think it has potential , therefore I think it should be a very good thing to listen to those comments on a positive way
    instead of a more defensive way.

    So Victor ,

    To be very honest I gave reaction on the AVSIM forum about this kicking of the forum.
    And for certain I will make a copy of this topic, because I think it’s not nice that you treated people like this

    All the best with the product


  5. The more time I spend with Tower, the more I can’t stand it! Tried it with Voice Buddy and ended up walking away from my computer in utter disgust.

  6. I sincerely regret to add, yet another, negative comment to this thread for a product that would definitely require more work to be refined and realistic in several respects.

    And to answer Joao’s question above, there is not the shadow of a doubt that Wilco used the existing previous BAO/Apollo Tower simulator, as it cant be a coincidence that all elements of the new game are similar to the previous one. I used that software for years with pleasure.

  7. I’ve had it about 2 weeks now and it just annoys me everytime I fire it up. Watch the departing (and some of the arrivals) aircraft long enough and they start to hover, fly sideways and make other strange movements. On the ground you get violent yawing actions, atc voices hopelessly slooooow making life difficult when things get busy. Whole sim seems to run ‘jerky’ – even Wilco’s youtube video shows this (and by the way they have disabled any commenting, surprise surprise). BAO tower, while not looking quite as pretty was smooth and pretty polished and you had VFR traffic flying circuits etc. which added to the challenge – no chance of this with Tower Sim. Please if you haven’t bought it don’t bother, the flaws in this program will annoy you and you will regret parting with your money for what is an unpolished, unfinished product.

  8. Apart from all the true things already mentioned above by all of you (and I can only agree) I would like to add my two main problems: in the manual the airport chart for CDG doesn’t show you the taxiway-names. And the bigger problem is, I’m not able to get a correct command line with taxi-instructions. Example: typing “DLH423 taxi to runway 08L via taxiway W1 and taxiway N and taxiway A2” results in a syntax-error. The help line in the command box is a joke! Does any of you accomplish to type correct taxi-instructions?
    And, how can give a landed plane taxiing-instructions when you don’t know to which terminal it is supposed to taxi? There is no information at all about that not unimportant fact.
    Did any of you already mention that planes can taxi through other planes or terminal buildings? From time to time they take a short cut and come to a halt in their parking position… Weired!
    Jon, when you double click on the windows they get a blue frame which allows you to change their size and position. Another double click fixes them again. Freaky but it works.

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