Virtual Sailor was first released in 1999 and since then has seen at least 12 major release versions, with many minor updates released each year. The latest release, version 7, is the result of years of feedback and improvement from the community.
Virtual Sailor will appeal to ex professional seafarers but is less likely to attract the young "shoot-em-up" gamer who demands fast action scenarios. Bringing a 100,000 ton vessel alongside requires time and patience, whether in the real world or with this simulation.
Its great strength is in its convincing sea surfaces in various weather conditions, and in its accurate ship dynamics (at least for many of the larger vessels). Other ship simulators have more detailed graphic representations of port facilities but lack realism in other respects. Unlike other vehicles, ships are not "driven" by a person seated comfortably; it is constantly necessary to walk from one wing of the bridge to the other via the wheelhouse as one inches a large ship into port. This ability to move around the wheelhouse and out onto the bridge wings (and elsewhere on the ship) is fully provided-for in Virtual Sailor using the mouse wheel. This is unlike Ship Simulator 2008 where you can easily navigate the ship.
It is not simply the sea, the land and the ships that are well represented in Virtual Sailor; adding to the realism is the accurate movement of the sun and the moon across the sky, the state of the tide, the currents and the winds. Watching the sun rise (or set) as one stands on the bridge with the ship gently rolling and pitching is quite nostalgic.
There is no attempt to represent beaches in Virtual Sailor and this may detract from its appeal to those who want to use motor launches or sailing dinghies as their chosen craft. However beaches are invisible to the deep-sea sailor as he navigates a mile or more offshore and so this is of little consequence. There are plenty of attractive harbours provided in the Greek Islands as a playground for small-craft in Virtual Sailor. For the largest ships there is the challenge of navigating your ship to ports like New York, Hamburg, Bremerhaven, Gothenburg, Tangiers and many others.
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