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.


OzWookiee said...

According to
"Spencer says that 2 petabytes of geographical data is used to seamlessly stitch together Earth."

ScimmiaSpaziale said...


...this does not necessarily mean that the final database is 2 Petabytes. We'll see. For one, I live in an apartment in a building flooded with WiFi connection - so from time to time Wifi has huiccups - and it would be a nightmare for me if this would affect my simming ;-(

Unknown said...

Thanks mate! Greetings Matthias from

Anonymous said...

Regarding the first image and your comment "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", I believe that this is more the result of satellite imagery taken in different seasons, hence leading to one part where the small lake is covered by ice and snow and in the other not so much. This is to be expected and shouldn't immediately be interpreted as it having the same issues as P3D.

Tuskin said...

One Microsoft article stated that the PC version is coming first in 2020 (in fact, only the PC version has testing sign ups right now), with X-Box coming later on.

Sounds like they're focusing on PC first. Flight plans were also mentioned in the trailer's youtube description.

Jymp said...

Massive potential here, PC version first is a good start, but Microsoft is like the gang that can't shoot straight, simmers don't trust them, but this is a easy one : open SDK for all devs big & small, no subscriptions, be nice if they don't screw this up.

Tuskin said...

Why does everyone think it might be a subscription service?

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous - regarding the tile, you are right... but I was not implying that the new simulator would have the same issues as P3D (and by the way, that specific issue is now gone for me). But rather than an satellite image in a different season, it seems to me like a "world map" texture (which is what happens on P3D)... just commenting the look.

@Jymp - agree, should be a no brainer...but again, having worked for large corporates for 20 years, I know they can make stupid decisions

@Tuskin - reasons why people are "guessing" that there may be some sort of subscription are two:
- subscription based business model is very popular at the moment (Netflix for one, and many online videogames) and very profitable
- Microsoft has announced that Flight Simulator will be part of the XBox Game Pass subscription
...and on top of that, scenery streaming *may be* part of the core technlogy (HOPEFULLY NOT...but think of Google Earth 3D).

Anonymous said...

The Xbox 1 version just may be very much like the PC version given the Xbox supports keyboard/mouse now.