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Microsoft Flight Simulator returned to the skies (theverge.com)
224 points by rbanffy 6 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 140 comments

It's been pretty jaw-dropping to see the visuals on Youtube over the past months. I hope it's every bit as good as it looks...that screenshot showing the city lights at evening is just a beaut.

I'm not sure if I'll splurge sooner or later, but I like to set up homebrew missions in the flight sims I have on hand here. It's been fun to throw the dice and add some variables into what can become an air-taxi game (dice determine time of day, passengers, weather, location, payment, maintenance costs, etc.), a rescue game, a stunt-flying game, and so on...

My son and I once tried simulating an Indiana Jones-style adventure by stealing a Ju-87 from Berlin, but the flight model for that thing was a bit too detailed and we couldn't recover from my son's urgent zoom-climb. :-) Anyway, I had fun imitating John Rhys-Davies with the soundtrack playing in the background, all the way down.

It's a great hobby, major props to Microsoft on their attention to this new effort.

Another interesting aspect of FS is a chance to practice real ATC comms. At least with the older version, there was a way to connect to a network of actual people "manning" ATC points. IIRC, it was called squawk box addon. I never tried it, but always thought I should learn the protocol and lingo.

This would add more realism. I imagine it may be also a way to appreciate the complexity of ATC operator's job.

There is a whole world to discover here, both literally and figuratively.

There are numerous virtual airlines. For example,


which is integrated with VATSIM and IVAO. FlyUK is UK based, of course, but has extensive EU operations and also international operations through other virtual airline partners.

https://www.vatsim.net/ itself is an organization of aircraft and Airline Traffic Controller (ATC) sim enthusiasts. At this moment, I see about 900 pilots and 90 ATC on line.

These organizations offer pilot and ATC training. There are many events scheduled, e.g.




It will be awhile before all these services are fully integrated with the new MSFS and a new community of third party aircraft and utilities are available.


Wow. You can connect with XPlane too.

Here's more info


Surprisingly, a recent news on VATSIM partnering with FS.


pc game pass is 1$/month first month hardly a splurge - not joined in yet but fs2020 could make me

I've been a PC game pass subscriber since they started it up and haven't been disappointed. I honestly think it's one of the best values in gaming right now. Not every game on game pass is something you're going to love, but they have big depth and variety and a commitment to NEW releases, no waiting years for big titles like PS+ (to be clear, I own a PS4 and a PC, no actual Xbox).

so quick question does it immediately jump to 5$ or is it 1$ while in beta? the promotion material isn't entirely clear to me

anyway yeah seems great value even if it's for two AAA from the whole catalogue you come ahead quite fast.

GP is not in beta, the $1 is a promo. https://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-game-pass#join is clear I think. $5/mo is also temporary.

game pass isn't beta, but pc game pass clearly is labelled as such https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/xbox-game-pass-for-pc-beta...

Ah. The app is, but the service itself isn't.

Here I am, and all I ever wanted was a decent car driving simulator. Not racing. Not off-roading. (And no, not GTA either...) Just following various traffic rules, dependent on which country you're driving in, and following along digitised roads of places I once knew. Partly because I don't have the driver's license yet, partly because I still can't afford a decent car anyway, and partly because I kinda like the thought of being able to try out so many more different brands without needing to have car collecting as a hobby. I mean, sure, I really liked Gran Turismo, but then that's racing again. Is there just no market for this thing?

Creating a realistic driving simulator would actually be much more difficult than creating a flight sim. Creating a virtual globe with ground details and buildings that look even moderately acceptable when viewed from ground level is very hard. This is as compared to flight simulators where terrain detail is mostly focused on accurate height maps and orthographic surface textures (which are readily available from USGS and other sources). Most of the urban environments in flight sims are poor quality procedurally generated structures - poor from a general game quality standpoint, they're fine for their usage in flight sims. For the most part, flight sims only bother to manually model and place the objects in major cities and landmarks, as well as around airports.

Promo material says that MSFS 2020 is using Bing maps to accurately generate models for 400 cities, but is using procedural generation for the rest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnithCa-H5w&t=1m55s

I don't buy that. I think procedural programming could do the trick, with details only for key buildings, for instance (which is how Google Maps started their modelling anyway). Yes, that would necessarily mean that you won't recognize your own house, but it would mean that you could drive along in a virtual world that is very similar (simulated even) to the real thing. As before mentioned, Outerra^[1] already did this for the entire Earth. It's a great project. Check it out if you haven't already! :)

[1]: https://outerra.com/index.html

All of the screenshots for outerra on the web site only show terrain with no urban environments.

This video shows urban environments, but the buildings seem to be low poly structures. Okay enough for a flight sim, but I doubt it would be pleasing driving simulator where you regularly see these buildings up close. https://youtu.be/YV9eAN7RVOU

The fundamental problem is that the buildings aren't procedurally generated - they're discrete models. They're procedurally placed on the map, but it still cycling through a fixed list of buildings. It looks similar to the real world from the sky, but if you were to go down and drive around you'd see the same apartments and stores again and again.

I think those are valid conserns. And I also think it can be handled, for instance by fractal algorithms. Most houses are just subsets of a general style, so I'd be quite interested in seeing some work done on procedurally modelled houses. I think doing it in a believable way completely feasible with todays technology. Hell, I could even take a crack at it myself, with POV-Ray^[1] lol. But given that it's an old ray tracer I don't think it would translate very well to modern game engines. It is entirely script driven, though, which makes things a lot easier when it comes to generating procedural contents.

[1]: http://www.povray.org/

TBH, I wonder why there wasn't a product like that sold to the K-12 market at least.

When I took driver's ed in 1998 or so, the class had 20 kiosks with steering wheels, LED-bar speedometers, and panels of lights for out-of-range behaviour. We were supposed to follow along with the same canned video being played for everyone. Nobody took it seriously-- people tried to just christmas-tree the warning lights.

I'd expect putting each student on an individual screen would be much more educational-- you can see dangerous situations as they develop and compensate earlier in their lifecycle, rather than just discovering you were fully out of lane when a light goes on. That seems like the skills they'd want to teach, and I'm sure they could have done something with Wolf3D level graphics running on a 386-class PC and got it to an affordable price point by then.

City Car Driving has a commercial license (https://www.citycardriving.com/products/commercial).

It was either Mafia or Mafia 2 that was famous for having oddly realistic traffic laws to follow -- cops would pull you over for running a red light, or speeding. American city.

The original first Mafia, as far as I know, is the first and also the only GTA-style game with strict road rules and realistic manual gearbox behavior (you could switch to neutral and roll downhill).

There is probably a shared reason why Mafia and proper flight sims (I fly Cessna in X-Plane) are appealing to me; to an outsider either one is like watching paint dry though.

I remember Driver on the original PlayStation. Cops would pull you over if you went too fast, but the gas button was digital, so there was no way to constantly drive at the speed limit. Very annoying.

In original Mafia cars behave quite appropriately given time period, so they accelerate slowly. You can also switch to a high gear to drop acceleration further.

They are preparing original Mafia remake to release this fall, which I’m extremely stoked but also slightly cautious about. The update seems to be mostly concerning graphics and I really hope they leave car handling alone.

In think it was Mafia 2. Great game.

There are the fantastic Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator.

It is not precisely a car simulator, but everything else is spot on.

I kinda liked it, but you're right, it's not a car sim, and its world is kind of limited. It should be possible to make real driving routes with todays tech, for instance. Outerra proves it.[1]

[1]: https://outerra.com/

That page says they use fractal algorithms, which would imply to me much smaller memory and storage requirements than a faithful recreation of real maps.

Honestly, to me a completely faithful representation isn't necessary. I want to learn to drive a car, or enjoy a very realistic car driving experience in simulated traffic. While having a one-to-one representation of the world would be great, it's not strictly necessary for that goal. To that end, car physics, different driving condidtions caused by weather and surface, and realistic modelling of traffic charachteristics (including law enforcement and the odd drunk driver) is far more important to me.

(But ummm.... Right now I just want to say sorry for hijacking this flight sim thread with car sim posts... :p I never thought it would get this much traction. No pun intended.)

City Car Driving [1] is a simulator that I have seen used in a driving school.

[1] https://store.steampowered.com/app/493490/City_Car_Driving/

> Is there just no market for this thing?

Well, I know of at least two people who want it. I’d probably even be willing to pay a monthly subscription.

Make that three. I still don't have my driving license either, and I wanted such a game ever since I started learning for the exam.

Well, Microsoft needs to bring back [0]Midtown Madness!

[0]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midtown_Madness

I have sunk countless hours into this game during my high school and college days =)

beam.ng on steam is exactly this-ish

Seemed really off VD-wise last time I looked.

What's VD?

I'd guess vehicle dynamics


beamng recent released traffic ai tries to follow traffic rules and as far as driving simulation go is not bad, but it's best experienced with an analogue input device as a wheel or a joystick

not real world locations however and maps are on the smallish size

Huh, I didn't know I wanted this until you mentioned it. Now I want it too.

> Microsoft also announced today that VR support is coming to the PC version

VR for flight simulation makes a big difference, it's like night and day. Stalling makes you grip your seat.

There was a thing called Birdly at the SF exploratorium that was just insanely great. It was a metal frame that you strapped into with a fan in front of you and VR goggles. As you flew though the city by moving your arms, the frame tilted so you could feel the attitude and the fan sped up when your bird speed increased. I would have paid $10/minute to get more time on it.

No way! I remember trying this out at SXSW in 2015, I never knew the name though. It was awesome.

Definitely approaching real holodeck hours, with many implications for society at large. VR already has a reputation of being "uncool" and just being a way to vicariously experience things others actually do IRL (think of the "are ya winning son" meme). Wonder if that trend will continue as the tech gets more realistic.

If you fast forward the progress 30 years you can imagine the near-perfect simulation of any experience which just has wild implications for society. If everyone's house can feel like Versailles and their food taste like lobster and their sex partner look like People's Sexiest Man/Woman alive a lot of what drives human motivation disappears.

Maybe watch the Red Dwarf episode "Better Than Life" which is more how I could see it playing out.

VR gets my face out of my instruments and up looking at where I'm actually flying. It's an incredible change.

VR will make flight and driving simulators much more immersive and fun. I've been hoping for this for years (as I was a fan of Microsoft Flight Simulator).

Driving in VR is a great way to make yourself sick unless you also have a motion simulator.

I kind of agree. I have the same issue, although I'm not prone to motion sickness in life. My senses get ready for g-forces which are not there so my whole nerve system goes brrrrrrr. Then I need to put in mental effort to stop expecting motion and just concentrate on the visuals which ruins the experience. An hour in Digital Combat Simulator with VR is my maximum, and I usually need a recovery period for my internal gyroscopes to get in line.

I get sick in FPS type games in VR but have no problem with driving/flight sims. Weird how the brain works.

This is highly dependent on the user, though it is a common problem. I've personally never had any motion sickness in VR, whether playing flight sims (including helicopters) or driving sims.

I can race for hours with just a logitech wheel.

Any motion sickness problems? I'm thinking about getting this for when the weather sucks I can't get in a real plane, but motion sickness isn't my friend.

I play IL2 which is a WW2 combat sim in VR and have no motion sickness issues at all despite it involving quite a lot of spinning around that would make a lot of people sick IRL. Flight is one of the sweet spots for VR sickness as you have a cockpit which anchors you somewhat and for the majority of the time the rest of the scenery is actually quite far away.

No, because the plane's cockpit is in your field of view.

I'm interested to find out how Microsoft handles hardware controls like flight yokes so you can "see" them in VR.

Probably the same way as racing games- you can customize the view to make them line up with real life.

What VR hardware and flightsim software are you running? (I've got X-Plane 11 but no VR.)

I wouldn't bother with X-Plane in VR; whilst it does "support" it, the frame-rates and below an acceptable level no matter what hardware you run it on.

11.50 is close to a release candidate and should help quite a lot, at least for smaller planes.

Nothing too fancy or accurate. I use a Samsung Odyssey+ and play mostly Ultra Wings and War Thunder. It has been enough to put some life back in videogaming for me.

When I was about 3, my dad left his computer at home. He used to set me up with MS Flight Simulator when it was on a single floppy. Anyway, I was so motivated to play I remember getting on and punching in:

A: ...

And then...


The rest is history.

One of my first encounters with computers was Microsoft Flight Simulator 3.0.

The graphics are... somewhat dated.


Luxury! I spent hours on the TRS-80 flight simulator by Sublogic. 128x48 in glorious monochrome!

It is the direct ancestor of MS FS.




PS. MS FS history web page from that Youtube channel.


Computers have come so far.

Microsoft probably could not have chosen a better developer to continue work on Flight Simulator. Incredible work by Asobo. I was very impressed with the quality of the alpha back in february. It felt more like a beta. Unfortunately it does seem like they are in a hury to release the game, as there are still issues in the public beta that I doubt can be fixed in the coming 3 weeks.

Honestly I'm having more crashes and software issues in the builds of the last month or so than I had in the early alpha (though that had more terrain and scenery issues)

Yep that was my experience as well. I have yet to experience a crash with the public beta though. Now 3 weeks before launch something as basic as autopilot is also not working well.

Also it's kind of amazing that Asobo's last game Plague Tales: innocence, was a totally different type of game.

I thought that most such simulation games are be made by teams/studios that have specialized into making that type of stuff.

Asobo does have prior experience with large open world games, they made Fuel[1]. It held the record for the largest game map ever (it still does?)

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_(video_game)

This is just an example of how gulible Guinness are. The first video games map was a many orders of magnitude larger https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spacewar!

I appreciated how philosophical he was getting about everything. Honestly stoked my interest in a game I can't imagine playing much of.

I absolutely love Asobo studio. I do not really play games but many years ago I bought their Fuel game for a single purpose of driving around that vast terrain and exploring. Also in a hope of guessing the ways they created this large world as I had similar project in mind at that time.

Tech lead at Asobo Studio here, thank you :)

En tant que développeur et Bordelais, je suis très fier de vous les gars. Bravo, et merci pour votre enthousiasme et la qualité de votre travail.

Je serai super intéressé d'avoir un peu de détails sur votre engouement pour l'aviation au fil de ce projet. Je crois avoir lu qu'une grosse partie de l'équipe a passé son PPL ? Comment cette idée est née et quel était le sentiment général de l'équipe quand vous avez entrepris ce challenge ?

My pleasure. You rock !!!

bravo les gars !

When I bought the original Compaq Portable in 1984 the first commerical program I purchased was the Microsoft Flight Simulator, and it was stunning to have that running at home. It is amazing that this is still around and what progress in simulation and graphics have been made in all this time.

I had it on my Apple II. It was made by Sublogic. Microsoft sold the PC version and Sublogic sold all others.

Later Microsoft acquired the company. I also had the first EGA version.

Bruce Artwick was the brains behind Sublogic back in the day. He authored an excellent book on interactive computer graphics as well around the same time. I wonder what he's doing now?

Dad bought an Apple II when I was a kid, and the A2-FS1 flight simulator simply blew my mind. And then I discovered A2-3D1, subLOGIC's 3D graphics library, on which their flight simulator was based, which started a lifelong interest in the math behind computer graphics.


Unfortunately he's been shut out of the current version. And is selling/has sold his southern Illinois mansion. Although that might not be really due to financial stress but that a nearly seventy year old man may not need such a large house.


Actually, it says in the article:

> Artwick owned it until 2015, when it was sold at auction for $4,000,005. It was never clear who bought the property, as it was sold to a trust. “That was by design, and I’m not allowed to say. They want their privacy,” Tabeling said.

Wow - I guess Bruce did OK! Good for him.

That explains something I've wondered about. I have memories of playing something that looked like Microsoft Flight Simulator once with some friends of the family on some kind of Atari computer. I think we were trying to fly under the Golden Gate bridge, as one does. It didn't make sense that we were running a Microsoft program on an Atari computer.

Tandy Color Computer 3... 1986, I think.

I just gotta say, man I missed the moment when stories went from “I sat on my granddad’s lap listening to the radio” to “I sat on my granddad’s lap playing Microsoft Flight Simulator”.

Where did the past twenty years go...

Wow, this looks so awesome. I suddenly have the urge to build a PC after so many years.

For folks who are aware about this, do you need to get specialized controls to enjoy the experience?

You'll probably have a decent experience if you happen to have an Xbox or PS4 controller lying around. The next step up would be a joystick (maybe $50-$300 depending on how fancy you get). If you're super hardcore you can also get a yoke and pedals, but I think that's overkill unless you want a super realistic experience

You can get a Thrustmaster TS16000M for less than $50, which is a great joystick to start flying. There are much more complex and true-to-life systems, which can cost several hundred dollars. It all depends on how much realistic you want your experience to be.

Pretty much, yeah.

You don't need to that crazy though. A basic $80 joystick with a throttle and twist for rudder will get you about 90% of the way there.

Even throttle control may not be required, since there isn't any combat/dogfighting in this game where you need quick changes in throttle.

Try attempting a proper landing approach without a throttle.

Auto throttle all the way!

Better idea: CAT IIIA Autoland, don't even need an analog input.

For real though, the landing is where you need the most precise control over both your control surfaces and throttle for a good landing.

But then why even play a flight sim?

And yes, playing FSX with Xbox controller, landing is where I wish I have throttle or sometimes even rudder controller (since by default the directional control controls nose gear, ailerons, and rudders at the same time)


Power-off 180s precision for every landing, then?

Yeah, that is price of a single game. Sounds reasonable.

If you want to get a bit fancier the next step up would be something like a Logitech X56, which will give you twin throttles, several other slider/knob axes (prop/mixture controls, etc), and a lot more buttons of the stick. That's around $250.

From there you can get to pretty crazy high end stuff, some of which use real airplane hardware.

Thanks, will look into this. I imagine these controls should come handy in some other games as well.

The first thing I will need to do is build a PC after a long time.

I’m Using my MacBook Pro, an eGPU and bootcamp.

Wife nay-nayed a new machine, so this happened.

My personal macbook isn't that powerful.I am not sure about bootcamp on the work machine.

If I may ask, which eGPU are you using and are you satisfied with it?

You need a stick and a throttle. I've been using Saitek X52pro which has both (HOTAS) to play Elite Dangerous with Rift since it came out and they are good but there are many other options available out in the market. For MSFS you may also want to have rudder pedals.

I would not suggest keyboard/mouse controls but if you don't want to go get a joystick a gamepad should be fine

Just get a cheap joystick.

Does the game still start at Meiggs Field in Chicago?

Sadly that one is gone but they did add Toronto's Billy Bishop as a detailed airport which I'd like to think is there as a worthy stand-in.

Is there a Buffalo Burger on Catalina Island?

Sounds like it is time for a Microsoft-Maxis partnership to give you a Sim to walk around town after you've landed your airplane.

No don't. It'd be then end of civilization as people would never leave their house (not that we can anyways:)).

How long until it's available as an easter egg? Would sure be cool!

Since the real airfield no longer exists, I can see why they don't include it. It really does need to be an Easter egg with 1980's Chicago skyline though.

I want to say that in Flight Simulator X, if you set the in-sim date sufficiently far back it would reappear.

Wishlist: where I can play as passenger, preferentially multiplayer (other players as passenger or crew).

Shows how much I miss flying.

I'm so excited for this

The tech behind it is super exciting too! I think this is what MS was promising with Xbox One having cloud support. This to me is a great demo for the tech.

I hope it gets combat support eventually. The developers of DCS simply can't seem to keep up with their own creation

I love DCS, but their business model is killing them.

Without a subscription-style revenue stream, they are forced to create and sell new products constantly. This leads them to be in a constant state of "early access" -- often with some substantial issues. I would prefer it if they let me pay ~$10/month and I just get access to every module.

IL2 is where it's at.

Not really comparable, unfortunately. Can't fly a fighter jet in IL2.

The ME262 is there so you technically can although your point is taken that it’s an era of flight you don’t find as compelling.

This with VR will be glorious. This game alone could be the reason I get a VR headset and build a PC.

JFTR, There is ACM 6.0[0] — an open-source flightsim for fans of old-school MSFS.

[0] http://www.icosaedro.it/acm/download.html

Hoping this is available on some kind of cloud gaming platform as I’d love to have a play, but I doubt my MacBook will be able to handle it and I’m not generally interested in games so don’t want to invest in a machine just for this.

I have been running nothing but Linux since 1994. My last Windows was 3.1.

I just installed Windows 10 for the sole purpose of running this flight simulator.

As a pilot and also someone playing the beta, all I can say under NDA is... wow.

This is probably the only game I would be willing to pay a subscription for...

Is that flightsim easter egg on Google Earth still available?

Does it let you fly helicopters, or not yet?

They plan to add helicopters and gliders after launch.

Basically the intent behind this release is to support it for at least 10 years.

Yea, gotta rake in that sweet DLC money. In fact, the base game is just a vessel to extract as much money from people as possible. Flight Sim X has 272 pieces of DLC costing many thousands of dollars. It's obscene, and they should be ashamed. I can't believe people are actually hyped about this money sink.

I don't think it's something to be ashamed about. It's an economical model that works for them. Sims in general are not your traditional game, people buy one plane at a time and they spend hundred and hundred hours in a given plane.

But if you want to get shocked at DLC money, you should look into Train Simulator: https://i.redd.it/3kygja9jie031.png

I was going to make a comparison to that game, but I can't find any way to tally up the total cost of all its DLC on Steam, but posts from 2018 quote it at around 5000 USD.

So it's not Train Sim levels bad, but it's not far off either.

Other flight sims are available: XPlane VR


There is a presumption that MSFS is the be-all of flight sims. It really isn't. It is the little things that drive a flight simulator, like the selection of aircraft and locations. Will MS open this to user-generated content? How easy will it be to import aircraft or scenery? What about 3rd party realism mods (engine failures etc)? Could it qualify for FAA simulator time? Those are the sorts of thing I look for in a flight sim. Over the years a few MSFS incarnations have allowed such things, just not in the last decade or so.

Bing Maps may turn out to be the edge for MSFS over other sims. The 2020 version streams in map data that other sims aren't likely to be able to access or replicate. Maybe they can make a deal with a third party vendor for similar data but that won't come cheap. For Microsoft it's just another use for data they already have.

> Over the years a few MSFS incarnations have allowed such things, just not in the last decade or so.

Well, that's kind of obvious since the last release of MSFS was FSX in 2006.

Sorry, decades.. the last few releases. I still have most of the boxes. I tried getting 2000 working again a few months ago.

Most of the serious users moved to Prepare3d. It's the FSX code base sold off to Lockheed Martin... upgraded for 64bit and some limited multithreading, which actually solves a lot of the underlying issues with heavily modded FSX.

X-Plane doesn't really work in VR; you can't get more than 45fps.

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