From modder to game developer, Brian Hernandez’s marvelous tribute to the flight simulations of the ‘90s

A story about fighter aircrafts, space ships, game design, modding and programming, with a pinch of nostalgia.

Flight Simulator 2020 and its mesmerizing scenery (left) — Brian’s Tiny Combat Arena and its low poly style (right)
The AV-8B Harrier II bombing sequence (Tiny Combat Arena)

The early days

An advertisement for PC back then
A typical ’90s packaging for computer at the time (kudos to Gamrok for preserving this precious video game history)
Ace Combat 3 (1999) and Ace Combat 7 (2019) by Namco, the ultimate franchise for combat arcade simulation

The Golden Age of modding

Star Wars: Jedi Knight is still getting updated with mods from fans. Jkgfxmod offers an impressive graphical upgrade for the 1997 game
Desert Combat mod for Battlefield 1942. For Brian, “it was probably the mod partly responsible for the shift in the FPS genre from WWII to Modern Combat”
FreeWorlds mod features a Star Wars total conversion for Freelancer
The Half-Life mod Counter-Strike (1999) vs the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (2012)

I… think I know how to do that

House of the Dying Sun, by Mike Tipul
Unity Combat Space Sim, his first promising step as game developer, inspired by House of the Dying Sun

Unfinished business

Tiny Combat (Mar 2018), Tiny Combat Redux (May 2018), Tiny Combat Arcade (Nov 2018), Tiny Combat Arena (July 2019-) side by side

At last, Tiny Combat Arena

Tiny Combat Arena as of today, featuring the AV-8B Harrier II
Adding an interface and menus required an almost ground-up rewrite for Brian (Tiny Combat Arena)

The perfect visual recipe

Su Flanker 2.0 from Eagle Dynamics (1995), one of the visual inspiration
A SEPECAT Jaguar evading SAM missiles thanks to its flares (Tiny Combat Arena)
A10 Cuba! by Parsoft Interactive (1996) that changed Tiny Combat Arena’s artistic direction overnight

The quest for the right flight model

SAM-site destroyed by an AV-8B Harrier II flying on VTOL mode (Tiny Combat Arena)
Some of Brian’s strong influences: Falcon 3.0 (1991), Jetfighter II (1990), Chuck Yeager’s Air Combat (1991), EF-2000 (1995), F/A-18 Hornet 3.0 (1997), Jane’s Fighters Anthology (1997), iF-16 (1996)

The future of Tiny Combat Arena

A SEPECAT Jaguar — with the very uncommon hardpoints over the wings — taking off (Brian’s Tiny Combat Arena)
The F-20 blasting (Tiny Combat Arena)

The evolution of mods

Brian’s Unity interface, as he’s programming Tiny Combat Arena
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 by Electronic Arts, selling content with its evil microtransactions
Minecraft Java Edition modding is not just editing config files, but proper programming

Where to follow Brian Hernandez aka Why485


Co-founder at Gamekult, SensCritique, Molotov TV and Galion.exe. Previously at AlloCiné and daphni. Tech and product lover, VC and indie game enthusiast.

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