Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Minor Updates for the Eurofighter Typhoon and the F-35

Here are two small updated to my payware frontline fighters… VERY MINOR tweaks, so, unless you are extremely bothered by one of the issues listed below or have not updated your aircrafts at all, downloading these patches is not really necessary IMHO.

Eurofighter Typhoon

The main reason to update the Eurofighter Typhoon was that, in the lastest FSX build, I used the wrong compiler...this caused some controls in the VC not to work as intended. I took the chance to add some 3D details and fix a couple of minor things.

To install the update, you must have the payware Eurofighter Typhoon version 1.1X or later. The update will work either if you just used the latest full installer (version 1.10 - you can get it from your distributor of choice) or if you had already updated the aircraft to any later version.

This is the list of changes:

Version 1.30 - 07/08/2019
- Fixed a minor issue in ejection seat textures
- Replaced detail textures with 3D objects in VC (screws, rivets)
- Fixed minor 3D object misplacements in VC
- Fixed mouse area bug preventing some knobs from working correctly in FSX
- Fixed bug preventing keyboard release mode selection from working
- Restored mouse clicks and animations for some (non functional) switches

The update must be installed manually (see the README file) and is provided in both 32bit (for FSX:A, FSX:Gold, FSX:SE and any version of P3D prior to v4) and in 64 bit (for P3Dv4.4 and v4.5) formats. Note that P3Dv4.0 to P3Dv4.3 are NOT supported by the 64 bit version (as it uses PBR).
The patch is available from the side bar.

F-35 Lightning IIIf the Eurofighter patch is a very minor one, the one for the F-35 is negligible: basically I spotted some duplicate airframe geometry in the F-35B PBR cockpit model. This causes some minor visual glitches when looking over your shoulders in VC (apart from an unnecessary waste of video resources).

To install the update, you must have the payware F-35 Lightning II version 3.5X or later. The update will work either if you just used the latest full installer (version 3.50 - you can get it from your distributor of choice) or if you had already updated the aircraft to any later version.

This is the (very long) list of changes:

Version 3.62 - 07/08/2019
- Removed duplicate geometry from F-35B cockpit causing unnecessary video memory consumption and visual glitches.

The update must be installed manually (see the README file) and will work ONLY with P3Dv4.4 or above (as it is a PBR model).  The patch is available from the side bar.

Monday, July 15, 2019

TA-4J Skyhawk for Prepar3Dv4.4+

As per my usual procedure, here is the post meant to collect the feedback from the TA-4J Beta Testing. This is (almost) constantly update with the "accepted" bugs and suggestions, color coded to reflect their status. "Accepted" means that I have understood what the testers reported, I could replicate it (or at least be sure this is not a misinterpretation or an error from the tester) and I have "accepted" it as a item to be addressed.

RED means that it the defect has been categorized as a major issue. This is typically a showstopper (operation of the aicraft is impossible or severely inhibited) and must be addressed before the product release.

YELLOW means that it is definitely an issue for the project, that should be addressed before the product release, but not as critical as a "red" issue

GREEN means that either the issue is very minor (and will not be noticed by most users), or the problem is non-existent (feature reported as bug) or that is was an red or Yellow issue that has been solved

BLUE means suggestions or ideas to improve the product

I am not sure if a flight manual will be available before the Beta is released, most probably not, but here are some peculiar things you need to know before operating the aicraft.

Starting the engine

The TA-4 required external air power to start the engine. You can make the "Huffer" appear by selecting it in the configuration menu (SHIFT+4), but it will only appear if the aircraft is not stationary and parking brakes (wheel chocks) are not applied (icon is greyed out otherwise). You can make it appear also by clicking on the external air power connection door.
To start the aircraft you will need also electrical power (see below)

Electrical System

The TA-4 had no internal batteries. This means that the aicraft had its own electrical power only if the engine was running. The TA-4 had also an emergency generator which is not simulated.
To get electrical power while the engine is not running an external electical power cart was needed. You can make it appear and connect it to the aicraft on the ground by selecting it in the aicraft configuration menu (SHIFT+4) if the aircraft is stationary with parking brake applied (wheelchocks appear) or by clicking on the external electrical power door.

Fuel System
The fuel system is simulated in some detail and requires a good understanding of the real world one to be operated.

Weapon System
In order to fire a weapon, you must:
- Select the type of weapon you intend to use
- Power the relevant pylon
- Set the Master Arm Switch to ON
- Press the TRIGGER for forward-firing weapons (guns, rockets and missiles) or the PICKLE button for bombs.

Radio and Navigation System
- Combined Radio/ADF selector: will work as COM1 if set on primary, COM2 if set on both, ADF if set to ADF
- The NAV computer is not operational, but works as a GPS display
- The BDHI pointer 1 will always show the NDB station
- The BDHI pointer 2 will display: the next WP in the flight plan if set to NAV COMPUTER or the TACAN station if set to TACAN
- Note that TACANs are implemented in the legacy FSX version, that is channels are converted in frequencies and used as NAV1 instrument.

Flight Model

As far as we can tell, the flight model is pretty close to the real deal...but I can already see some of the comments about the roll rate. The A-4 family is famous for having an exceptionally high roll rate, and you can read several Pireps or see video interviews of pilot claming that the peak roll rate is 720°/sec. However (apart from the fact that rolls of more than 360° are explicitly forbidden by the flight manual) actual data points you can find on the internet seem to indicate that the real roll rate was lower (highest value measured I could find is 410°/sec). Current flight model is set to for a a peak of about 350°/s, which seems to be a realistic figure.


Flight manual will be available shortly and will be available for download HERE.


The Beta model is NOT intended for repainting. A full paint kit will be available at the release.

Actions that have already been planned but are have not been implemented:

- Make the NAV COMPUTER selector knob functional
- Implement white flood lights
- Implement correct visibilty conditions of the approach light
- Implement pocket checklist (placeholder at shift+5, no function)


If you want to, you can use THIS template as guideline/checklist for the tests


The preferred way to report bugs is to post a comment on this blog (so that everyone can see it). Otherwise, email messages with "TA-4J Bug Report" as subject are fine.
It is better, before posting, if you check if thebug you have spotted is already in the list below or in the comments.
Bugs or change request are evaluated ASAP and, if confirmed and accepted, added to the list below.

This list was updated on 19/08/2019 1:00AM CEST
The latest Beta version is 1, released on 21/07/2019
Internal Beta (not released) version 1.09 last built 19/08/2019

Total lines (excluding suggestions) 55
Current red lines 1
Current yellow lines 6
Current green lines 48
Current blue lines 4
Progress towards release: 87%


TA4P3DEXT01 - Horizontal Stabilizers not sitting at the same angle? STATUS: small asymmetry in elevator postion detected. FIXED
TA4P3DEXT02 - Texture N518TA, Naval Aviation Anniversary decal reversed. FIXED.
TA4P3DEXT03 - Animation of horizontal stabilizer trim is reversed. FIXED

TA4P3DEXT04 - Blue Angels logo is wrong (it is the current BA logo with Hornets). STATUS: CLOSED (reworked logo)
TA4P3DEXT05 - Need to add specific uniforms/suits (at least for BA). STATUS: CLOSED
TA4P3DEXT06 - Request to add separate textures for front and rear pilot. IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DEXT07 - Request to add animated pilots. IMPLEMENTED PILOT ANIMATIONS (arms, legs, heads).
TA4P3DEXT08 - VC-8 Aggressor livery typically had inner flap surfaces painted in red. STATUS: CLOSED (reworked texture).
TA4P3DEXT09 - Request to add chrome finish details to BA livery. STATUS: CLOSED (implemented)
TA4P3DEXT10 - Request to improve PBR materials on non-shiny liveries. STATUS: IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DEXT11 - Request to improve PBR materials for selected details. STATUS: IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DEXT12 - Approach lights should show only when tailhook is down or field bypass is on.
TA4P3DEXT13 - Revised wheelchocks condition. Wheelchocks now appear when park brakes are on. Skyhawks do not have park brakes, so setting them will activate the wheelchocks.


TA4P3DVC01 - Gunsight assembly is slightly too big. STATUS: CLOSED. Added space for LOCK-ON and IN RNG advisory (alternate gunsight as used by later Skyhawks).

TA4P3DVC02 - Typo "attack" mode is misspelled. STATUS: CLOSED - Fixed typo in texture master layer.
TA4P3DVC03 - Gunsight crosshair not masked during High-G maneuvres. STATUS: OPEN - Difficult to fix without creating other issues, leaning towards keeping it as is. Not completely solved but much improved. Also, calibrated gunsight size.
TA4P3DVC04 - Request to minimize the stick visibility area. STATUS CLOSED. Now to make the stick visible again you need to click very close to the jettison handle.
TA4P3DVC05 - Request to reduce size of radios and GPS. STATUS CLOSED
TA4P3DVC06 - Rear cockpit POV lower than the front. STATUS CLOSED - Harmonized POVs but not completely identical (front one has to match the gunsight)
TA4P3DVC07 - Request to make PR bug operational. IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DVC08 - Request to make airspeed bug operational. IMPLEMENTED

TA4P3DVC09 - Request to make RALT bug operational. IMPLEMENTED

TA4P3DVC10 - Request to implement AOA bug. IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DVC11 - Typo fuel dump switch marked as "dump": STATUS: TO BE CHECKED. Note that a pilot-controlled fuel pump exists in the cockpit and serves to transfer fuel to from the wing tank to the fuselage tank
TA4P3DVC12 - Check Pitot Anti-Ice Switch functionality. FIXED
TA4P3DVC13 - Check Engine Anti-Ice Switch functionality. FIXED

TA4P3DVC14 - Machmeter is currently a fixed scale (as opposed to rotating). Check if it possible to make it working against altitude.
TA4P3DVC15 - Request possibility to have more realistic lighting system (external lights). Note: at present the Aircraft implements only the default lighting system.
TA4P3DVC16 - Request possibility to have more realistic cockpit lighting system (user controlled lights than can be dimmed)
TA4P3DVC17 - Check AFCS ENGAGE button (seems reversed) - CHECKED. Switch was reversed, also note that autopilot in P3D will not activate if avionics are off, so it will not activate if radios are off in the TA-4J!
TA4P3DVC18 - Check ALT HOLD function - IMPLEMENTED, also solved a bug preventing heading hold from working
TA4P3DVC19 - Check AFCS panel functionality - FIXED. Autopilot master, yaw damper, alt hold, hdg hold now functional.

TA4P3DVC20 - Request to move GPS to other positions - Resized, moved to position 6
TA4P3DVC21 - Fuel system lights comes on when PRIMARY fuel control is selected (as oppesed to manual) - FIXED
TA4P3DVC22 - Flood light switch
TA4P3DVC23 - Movement of the backup trim switch is reversed. FIXED.
TA4P3DVC24 - Elevator Trim Indicator Needle has a reversed animation. FIXED.
TA4P3DVC25 - Some switches of the right side light/ecs panel do not work. FIXED, although those switch had no fuction.
TA4P3DVC26 - AoA indexer in instructor cockpit not working. FIXED


TA4P3DFM01 - Ground steer radii too big? STATUS: to be verified. Modified to 70 degrees - CLOSED.
TA4P3DFM02 - Request to implement proper NWS
TA4P3DFM03 - Excessive fuel burn rate (potentially a bug in the fuel system)? STATUS: WRITTEN OFF (tester error)
TA4P3DFM04 - Speed brakes do not completely rectract (possibly a bug in the speedbrakes blowback feature?) STATUS: TO BE VERIFIED
TA4P3DFM05 - Tendency to tipover during arrested landings. - FIXED with better tailhook configuration settings.


TA4P3DMISC01 - Bug in the airplane configuration manager (most likely in the SMS system code): if Tacpack is not loaded, missile rails fail to appear when they should (all stations). STATUS CLOSED. Wrote special case code for when Tacpack is not loaded.

TA4P3DMISC02 - Bug in the airplane configuration manager (most likely in the SMS system code): if Tacpack is not loaded, external fuel tanks are always present (regardless of user selection). Status:CLOSED. Wrote special condition code.
TA4P3DMISC03 - Bug in the airplane configuration manager (most likely in the SMS system code): if Tacpack is not loaded, it is possible to have both the MK83 and BDU33 bombs on the centerline store. STATUS CLOSED. Several other bugs squashed.

TA4P3DMISC04 - Suggestion to make the smoke effect optional - Implemented
TA4P3DMISC05 - Suggestion to make the switches and knobs with multiple positions to work in both directions (currently they are "one way" as I thought it was easier for VR)

TA4P3DMISC06 - Suggestion to add cold and dark/ready to taxi option
TA4P3DMISC07 - Tracer bullets in visual effects shoot too high. STATUS:CLOSED. Significantly lowered tracer trajectories.
TA4P3DMISC08 - Sound Cone settings are so that engine noise is very quiet from some angles. STATUS: OPEN

TA4P3DMISC09 - Cannot launch from default and Javier's carriers (works only with SWS)… FIXED: Following entry should work and fix the issue:
launch_bar_pivot = 5.95, 0.0, -1 
launch_bar_lug = 5.95, 0.0, -7.9  

TA4P3DMISC10 - Control+SHIFT+C "Gun ready" shortcut does not seem to work - FIXED. Now orks as intended, also added W shortcut to for weapon selector.
TA4P3DMISC11 - CONTROL+J "Selective Jettison" shortcut does not seem to work - FIXED. Works as intended in conjuction with the EMER SEL allows the release of a given pylon. Also implemented CONTROL+SHIFT+J as "Emergency Jettison" (releases all bombs).
TA4P3DMISC12 - Control+SHIFT+W "Weapons Reload" shortcut does not seem to work. Works as advertised in the program (but you must be in VC).
TA4P3DMISC13 - Suggestion to include the TACAN Frequency conversion table
TA4P3DMISC14 - Suggestion to allow the user to select either the P3D or FSX TACAN system
TA4P3DMISC15 - Manual: LoP Para 3 line 1 "and" misspelled. Fixed in manual.
TA4P3DMISC16 - Manual: LoP Para 4 line 2 "of" missing. Fixed in manual
TA4P3DMISC17 - Manual: Para 1, missing words "of the aircraft in"
TA4P3DMISC18 - Igniters and other spelling errors present (Note, most of the manual comes from NAVAIR 01-40AVD-1 "NATOPS FLIGHT MANUAL NAVY MODEL TA-4F/TA-4J through an OCR software from a not-so-great source file, so multiple misspelling errors are possible).

TA4P3DMISC19 - Potential errors in the NAV1 to TACAN conversion decoding - STATUS: SOLVED: minor bug found in VHF to TACAN conversion code. NOTE: it may also affect other aicrafts of mine where the TACAN is not set directly, but throgh VHF frequency and then converted.
TA4P3DMISC20 - Request to add support for P3D TACAN system
TA4P3DMISC21 - Request to add support for TACPACK navaids - IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DMISC22 - Request to add support for SWS navaids - IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DMISC23 - Uncommanded SW release if guns selected - STATUS: SOLVED. Major mistake in the weapons code was energizing STA 1 circuit instead of circuits 14 and 15 (guns). This also explains why hitting targets was so difficult.
TA4P3DMISC24 - Allow airstart even if power is not connected if enough air is blowing through the compressor - FIXED
TA4P3DMISC25 - Request to implement LOCK-ON advisory light
TA4P3DMISC26 - Request to implement IN RNG advisory light
TA4P3DMISC27 - Request to implement CCIP
TA4P3DMISC28 - Add Pocket Checklist - IMPLEMENTED
TA4P3DMISC29 - Add visible feedback when the Aircraft is ready for catapult connection - IMPLEMENTED new configurator menu 


PRODUCT MANUAL - Missing weapon usage information, needs to be updated for the addition of new features (e.g. navigation system and CEX support) - TBC





Sunday, July 14, 2019

TA-4J Skyhawk for P3Dv4.4+ - Beta Test Application

I know that many of you were waiting for this so here we are with the Beta Test application post of the TA-4J for P3Dv4.4 and above - so, if you are willing to help with the testing, in this post you will find the instructions to apply.

A brief introduction to the project: this is the first project I have designed from the ground up to support specifically P3Dv4.4 / P3Dv4.5 features and above - basically with no regards with the limitations of the FSX compiler. At the moment, I plan to try and downgrade the model in future for FSX compatibility as a separate project… but early attempts failed and it is not granted that it will ever come to FSX.

As with any simulation, it is basically impossible to include each and every feature of the real aicraft, but my hope is that this may be the most complete rendition of the TA-4J to date (fingers crossed).
I am sure I left something important, if you are selected for the test, you are encouraged to suggest additions and improvements.

As usual, I am looking for testers with various level of aviation experience and skill, but I am looking in particular for users who know the TA-4J aircraft and a passion for naval aviation.

Hardware requisites (suggested configuration):
- Quad core CPU with at least 2.8GHz clock
- 6GB minimum RAM, 8GB better
- Nvidia 960 video card or better, 2GB dedicated video memory minimum 
- 1 GB minimum free disk space for package installation

Software prerequisites:
- Lockheed Martin P3Dv4.4 or v4.5
- VRS Tacpack required for weapon functionality

As usual… the Beta tester for my projects is not a paid position, by any stretch of the imagination: you do it just for the fun of doing it.
If you are willing to help, send me an email to - the email shall contain:

- a BRIEF description of your system (no need of minor details, I just need CPU type and clock, RAM, video card and video memory)

- a brief description of your real world flight experience (if any) including (if any) your knowledge of the TA-4J Aircraft (note… the Beta is open to everybody: from teenage desk flyers to WWII aces - I just need to know who I am talking with!). No need of long and detailed stories...just a line or two will do.

- your experience with Prepar3D v4

The topic of the email shall be "Prepar3D v4 TA-4J Beta Testing" (note...I thought this was an easy requirement, but apparently it is not...but it is very important: it helps me a lot sorting the messages and it shows that you can comply with instructions).

Note it may take 2-3 weeks to reply and provide a download link… so be patient.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

SIAI Marchetti S-211 for X-Plane 11.30 Beta Test

As per my usual procedure, here is a post to collect the feedback from the selected Beta testers for the upcoming SIAI-Marchetti S-211 project for X-Plane 11.30.

Testers are encouraged to provide feeback by either posting comments to this post (preferred, so that other testers can see them too) or by sending an email (subject shall be S-211 Beta testing feedback).
While providing feedback you are encouraged to provide a classification of the severity of the bug according to the following color code:

Red - Major problem which severely affects the functionality or the enjoyability of the aircraft. Ideally, all "red" issues must be solved before release.

Yellow - Important issue that affects the functionality or the enjoyability of the aircraft, but only to a certain point...basically you can still fly and have fun with the aircraft, but it would be better if the issue was cleared.
Green - Minor issue or observation which would be nice to see solved or added to the plane, or a red/yellow problem which has been solved.

Blue - Suggestions, which may or may not be implemented.

Testers can use, at their will, this spreadsheet (in Excel format) to collect their findings.

If you need further information please find the real world flight manuals here:

Last compiled by Dino on 15/07/2019 23:00 CET

External model

S211XPEX01 - Remove before flight ribbon pierces through geometry (tail pipe cover only). Fixed in internal build 24/06.
S211XPEX02 - UVW overlap in horizontal stab area causing "marching ants" visual issue. Fixed in internal build 24/06
S211XPEX03 - UVW overlap in trimtab actuator rods area causing "marching ants" visual issue. Fixed in internal build 24/06.

S211XPEX04 - Texture mismatch neaby the engine servicing panels, left side. Fixed in internal build 24/06.
S211XPEX05 - Canopy opening piston animation glitch. Fixed 14/07S211XPEX06 - "Marching ants" UVW issues on the side of the cockpit. Fixed, duplicate polys 14/07
S211XPEX07 - One of the flap actuators is not working - Fixed in internal build 27/06
S211XPEX08 - Texture on glass of white nav light has wrong coordinates - Fixed in intenal build 27/06
S211XPEX09 - Rudder movement seems limited on one side - Fixed 14/07
S211XPEX10 - Castor wheel animation missing, fixed - Fixed 14/07

Cockpit model
S211XPVC01 - ADI bank indication does not move. Fixed in internal build 24/06.
S211XPVC02 - ATC radio not lit
S211XPVC03 - General comment about mouse wheel operations. Currently uses X-axis drag. Request to change to different interface or control system. Will require further investigation. SOLVED. Actually knob indicators do work with mousewheel. Redone all knob manipulators accordingly.
S211XPVC04 - Radio knob controls are not accurate enough for proper operation with current X-axis drag control. Redone knob controls with knob command and knob axis manipulator. Now working.
S211XPVC05 - Kholsmann setting not working. Redone manipulator with "knob axis". Now working.
S211XPVC06 - Unused Kholsmann setting manipulator handler (leftover from removal of backup altimeter)
S211XPVC07 - Oil pressure needle not working - Fixed in internal build 27/06
S211XPVC08 - Hydraulic pressure needle not working - Fixed in internal build 27/06
S211XPVC09 - Cabin Press Altitude needle not working - Fixed in internal build 15/07
S211XPVC10 - NDB knob difficult to use, change to knob manipulators. - Fixed in internal build 15/07
S211XPVC11 - Taxi/Landing light switch works only for Landing light… this is actually as per design, as it was programmed to have only Landing light working… but still it would be nice if we could have both.
S211XPVC11 - Landing light switch not lit
S211XPVC12 - Gear lever advisory light not lit
S211XPVC13 - Missing digital indication on engine RPM

S211XPVC14 - Implemented proper controls of the Transponder
S211XPVC15 - Implemented oxygen system

S211XPVC16 - Glideslope needle not working - Fixed

Flight model

S211XPFM01 - Excessive tendency to variate pitch depending on flap position, requiring too much trim action to the pilot. Fixed 14/07


S211XPOT01 - Sound package perceived as low quality (engine noise). Note that the current package is done with real world aircraft recording...but it has been downsampled to 22KHz for use with legacy X-Plane sound system. X-Plane 11 can also implement sounds through FMOD, although indie licence is limited to 1 project per year…

Thursday, June 20, 2019

SIAI Marchetti S-211 for Aerofly FS2 (Freeware) - UPDATE to version 1.05

A recent update to Aerofly FS2 broke the compatibility of the freeware SIAI-Marchetti S-211 model I released for free some time ago.
Here is an updated version that should fix the issue.
To IPACS credit, they are now sending an email to developers to which the provide an "early warning" of possible incompatibilities, and once you get used to read the .log file of the simulator, it is relatively easy to apply the required changes.

 I wish I had more time to convert other planes to AFS2 - it is still far Beyond P3D or XP11 in some areas, but it is a respectable flight simulator on its own and it is still my go-to simulator whenever my friends want to try Virtual Reality at my place - performance is stellar, and even with the most complex Orbx sceneries it is super-smooth and provides a great sense of immersion.

Anyway, change log is as follows:

Version 1.05
- Changed tmd code for compatibility with latest version of Aerofly FS2

And as usual it can either be downloaded by following the link on the side bar, or by clicking HERE.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Siai Marchetti S-211 for X-Plane 11.30 - Beta Test Application

My first project for X-Plane 11 is in short final for Beta testing - so, if you are willing to help with the testing, in this post you will find the instructions to apply.

First, this is meant to be a "budget" payware project (15-20 Euros maximum) - the scope of this project is to provide a decent light jet trainer simulation… and much like in reality, this simulation project is meant to be fun to fly.
It will not be a study-level simulation, but all essential systems should work as expected and you should be able to conduct both VFR and IFR operations.

As usual, I am looking for testers with various level of aviation experience and skill, but I am looking in particular for users who know the XP11.30 scene well and can help with an assessment of this project in comparison with other similar products.

Hardware requisites:
- Anything that can run XP11 well
- Given that the plane uses a lot of high res texture, I believe that 2Gb video memory are needed… but that is just my estimation

Software prerequisites:
- X-Plane 11.30 or newer (the plane uses the new jet engine modeling, so will not work with older versions of XP11)

As usual… the Beta tester for my projects is not a paid position, by any stretch of the imagination: you do it just for the fun of doing it.
If you are willing to help, send me an email to - the email shall contain:

- a BRIEF description of your system (no need of minor details, I just need CPU type and clock, RAM, video card and video memory)

- a brief description of your real world flight experience (if any) including (if any) your knowledge of the S-211 Aircraft (note… the Beta is open to everybody: from teenage desk flyers to WWII aces - I just need to know who I am talking with!). No need of long and detailed stories...just a line or two will do.

- your experience with X-Plane 11.

The topic of the email shall be "S-211 Beta Testing" (note...I thought this was an easy requirement, but apparently it is not...but it is very important: it helps me a lot sorting the messages and it shows that you can comply with instructions).

Note it may take 2-3 weeks to reply and provide a download link… so be patient.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Flight Simulator is coming back!

You have heard the big news of these days for us simmers…. FLIGHT SIMULATOR IS COMING BACK!!!!!
There is plenty to be excited about, as the trailer was fantastic… but I see a lot of overly optimistic expectations which, I am afraid, will lead to some disappointment.
As any flightsim enthusiast, I went through the trailer several times to squeeze every bit of information from it… but this new Flight Simulator has been a well kept secret and none of the flight simulator developers I know has been involved or consulted for this project.

So, here is what we know for sure:

  • This new simulator is called simply "Flight Simulator"

  • It will be available for both XBox and PC (most probably through Microsoft's digital download platform, possibly enabling you to use it both on the Xbox and PC with a single licence)

  • It will be included in Microsoft "Game Pass" service

  • It will feature a number of different planes from small seaplanes to airliners

  • It will allow you to fly anywhere in the world

What we do not know:

  • If it will run on XBox "Scarlet" (my guess: yes, sooner or later)

  • If it will have an SDK and allow content from third parties (my guess: not on Xbox - the console version will at least have some form of moderation from Microsoft)

  • Be backward compatible with FSX addons (my guess: no, and it is a good thing)

  • How powerful your hardware needs to be to run the sim at a reasonable speed

What I hope:

  • Microsoft hopefully learned the lessons from Flight and Flight Simulator World

  • Microsoft will allow us developers to continue producing and selling add-ons as we did in the past

  • Microsoft will provide some sort of backward compatibility for the code and flight models (note that, unknown to many, this was planned in quite a smart way in FSW by providing a compiler for XML gauges)

  • Microsoft hopefully got some hint from the latest versions of P3D (which introduce a number of great features) and X-Plane 

And now… a quick look at some screenshots with my comments (and my guesses...for what matters): 

Very nice sky rendering (possibly implementing the "True Sky" technology, which was used by both FSW and Ace Combat)! But look closely on the lower right corner, and you see that a scenery discontinuity slipped through the trailer. The tile seems unrelated to the scenery, and looks a lot when I max out P3D and runs out of video memory. Aside, in this shot it is difficult to tell if the image is generated by a very smart landclass system or it is photoreal...but if it is photoreal, the resolution is pretty low. May be there is a "lower res" photoreal Earth model? I don't know.

Definitely a photoreal shot. Buildings are unique and fit perfectly to the scenery… and look a lot as the ones in Google Earth 3D. It is totally unrealistic to think that the simulator will look as good and detailed everywhere in the world… this would require several Terabytes of data. However, is not unthinkable that the sim comes with a number of high detail areas and *MAYBE* streams sceneries from a server, much like Google Earth 3D. This may or may not require a subscription…BUT THIS IS JUST A WILD GUESS. 

Wether it True Sky or not it looks great… the sea in this shot is less impressive, and so is the fog. But still an awesome shot.

Yeah!!!! Hangar enviroment with ground crew! And real time raytracing!
...all cool and dandy, but: we have no clue if all hangars will look like this (most probably not - for all we know this may be just an aicraft selection menu) and while the rendering engine looks cool, similar results can be achieved with a PBR engine. So neither the hangar nor raytracing are confirmed IMHO.

Another impressive shot of the sky. Looks awesome! The scenery however is not hugely better than the best addons we have.

I've seen people commenting that this new Flight Simulator has the best plane models ever… and I agree they are really good. Better than the best add-ons around? I do not believe so - the difference is in the rendering engine, which frankly seems the best around in terms of quality.

Very good light contrast. Both X-Plane and (to a lesser extent) P3D fail, IMHO, in rendering the HDR contrast between the external world and the cockpit. DCS and AFS2 do a better job in that respect… but it seems that this new Flight Simulator will be the best in class in this respect.  

Ground vehicles and crew! It will have awesome airports and detailed ground services!
...well, we'll see. Sure this one looks good, and the assets look great. But we'll see how interactive the airport will be and how good the average airport will look. My guess is that only major airports around the world will look this good.  

This shot is interesting for two reasons: it shows what the engine is capable of doing for sky and cloud rendering (very menacing not fly there!) but most importantly it shows what I believe will be a "regular" airport. Does not look bad at all. 

Giraffes, elephants and flamingos! This reminds me of the "living world" thing when FSX launched… may be there will be animals in the wild as we were promised ten years ago, maybe they will be "mission objects" like they were in FSX. However they look pretty good. Will we get autogen grass?

This seems another photoreal area…medium-high res. Looks good, but not much beyond what we already have. What I do not understand is how such big chunks of photoreal scenery will fit into the installation. Surely the sim will not have the whole world at this resolution upon install...may be you can pick some specific areas and download a higher res version of them, or maybe it will stream the scenery from a server. Or maybe they only showed us the good bits. 

Impressive rain effect on the cockpit and excellent weather rendering.

Night lighting looks excellent - it looks superior to XP11, which is quite a feat as I consider XP11 night lighting to be excellent.

The flamingos! Again, not sure if you will be able to see wildlife around the world.. for all we know, these may be mission object - and by the way, if they will pack some good missions with the sim I'll be very pleased: I loved FSX missions!
Aside, water looks pretty cool in this shot - and flamingos have their own shadow.

Great rendition of the pyramids: good job! Hopefully there will be several places around the world with this level of detail.

The lighting on the plane looks great (but again...nothing that cannot be achieved with a good PBR implementation)… but the ground texture? Does not look great.

San Francisco looks wonderful...and looks like the Icon A5 is back from Flight ;-) !

The presence of the TBM-900 is pretty great...may be a sign of much needed diversity in aircraft models.

Some final random thoughts:

Graphically looks great. The engine is good and the 3D assets look top-quality. There seems to be a tremendous amount of content that only a big corporate with high-end videogame technology as Microsoft could deliver (no offense to Lockheed Martin or Laminar Research).

I've seen people afraid that, since it will be also on XBox, it will be dumbed down (for those "stupid gamers")… like if recreational flight simming is a serious thing ;-) ! But no, I do not think it will be the case. Much like you could play most of the FSX missions with an XBox controller, here you will be able to fly around and play mission with one. So, it will be like FSX.

The big question is… will it support third parties and smaller developers like me? Maybe. Or maybe not. From what I have seen so far, Microsoft has learned a lot from the Flight fiasco...but never underestimate the capability of a large corporate to make stupid decision when they see a potential for a business model they like. And the current ruling business model in entertainment is "subscription" (rather than DLC).
In any case, I am pretty sure that, even if third parties will be allowed to sell their stuff, the content on the Microsoft Platform will be moderated - for a number of legal reasons.
This may kill smaller developers like me... but we'll see.

Flight Simulator may kill P3D "home" market (which is not supposed to exist but it does) and may push P3D in its own niche of education/serious simulation - I would not be surprised if LM starts to enforce some strict controls on the licences in future. We'll see what P3Dv5 will have to offer, but I believe this announcement weakens P3D position a little.

On the other hand, if Microsoft screws up for the simmers, Flight Simulator may actually mean a larger audience for disappointed simmers may jump to that platform.

Time will tell… for the moment, let's enjoy the simulators we have: it will take some time before we get our hands on this new Flight Simulator.