Microsoft is bringing its Flight Simulator series back. After years of silence, after the failure of MS Flight, after selling the rights to FSX and ESP… Microsoft has just announced a new flight simulator.
What do we know so far?
Little. The trailer lasts a minute and forty-four seconds. Their website is deeply under construction (to put it mildly, they did not set their title tag properly, so while sharing on Facebook, you will see “Home – this is the title that tells you nothing”).
This text is a draft that I wrote just after the announcement and published without editing and proofreading, for which I am sorry, but it is 4 a.m. here. It will be corrected in the afternoon. Hope you will be fine with my late-night English ;)
However, we know that:
- release date: 2020
- several aircraft available (small general aviation, turboprops, and passenger jets)
- uses (or can use) high-resolution photosceneries
- contains (at the current development level) several highly-detailed locations
- contains the most advanced cloud models I have seen so far in simulators
- graphically presents a level noticeably higher than P3D v4.5 and X-Plane 11
- uses satellite data and Azure computing power
Xbox or PC? Both.
This topic seems to be a major concern among fans. Will they release a PC version or is it Xbox-only?
The announcement mentions both platforms. Xbox One and Windows PC.
3rd party developers
I am delighted with the level of terrain details shown in the trailer. Some people suggested that sceneries from developers working on their P3D and X-Plane products might have been used (some suggested similarities between FSI Seattle and ORBX‘s True Earth Washington). As far as I can check – the comparisons are unsubstantiated. All scenes showing the location available today or shown in previews (I refer to the ORBX’s Seattle ORBX) show significant differences. Does this mean that one should exclude the involvement of 3rd party developers – no (keep in mind that several developers have recently mentioned working on some secret projects). One of them could be FSI (Flight Simulator – FSI is an abbreviation used by Microsoft in the website URL).
More about the similarities and differences in the detailed description below.
The trailer confirms that the sim will include:
- DA 62
- TBM 930
- Airbus A320
- Icon A5
- Carbon Cub
- Cessna 208B Grand Caravan
- and two additional piston planes I cannot name
Icon A5 and Carbon Cub bring back the memories of MS Flight (2012), but at least the Cub was modified in comparison with the previously released aircraft.
It is hard to judge on how detailed the planes are with so little footage. The A320 cockpit features some FMC and its nav display draws departure route. Whether this is the level close to of FSX default planes, X-Plane or 3rd party FMC-equipped aircraft – one cannot say.
Those who are optimistic will notice that the level of detail of G1000 is at least on par with the best payware add-ons available for FSX or XP. Those who are pessimistic will surely notice the unusual avionics of TBM 930 – G3000 screens with typical G1000 indications. A simplification or a work in progress.
I am an optimist. What I see (please ignore my nitpicking) is great. Much better than what P3D offers by default, probably better than what X-Plane offers and definitely better than what Dovetail‘s Flight School and FSW promised and delivered.
If you are into details like water effects on windshield and hot exhaust blur – you will find them in FSI.
Shocking Positively shocking! Sceneries use aerial imagery of 10 cm/px or 20 cm/px resolution which is much better than anything you get in either P3D or X-Plane. This means you can see the striped on the zebra crossing and even complex (and tiny – by simulator scenery standards) signs of parking spaces.
Although this resolution makes a stunning impression, the experience of X-Plane users who create for themselves photosceneries at zoom levels like ZL18 and ZL19 (ZL19 equals to about 30 cm/px) shows that the sceneries created in this quality are gigantic. In flight, this also means a huge load on the PC. The question remains – how the new simulator intends to solve both problems.
And look at these models too. Of the places, I recognized in the trailer, each shows an almost inhuman level of attention to detail. Just look at Houston. Astron Stadium – Minute Maid Field. 1:10. Compare it to the satellite view and 3d view in Google Maps. This scenery is much, much better (!) compared with what Google maps offer. If I wrote about an inhumane approach to details, it is here where I identify the involvement of Azure AI.
The geographical scope of the high-quality area is so large I struggle to believe that employees modeling individual elements achieved this. I also checked other locations from the trailer. Compare for yourself:
- Marseille 0:21 | Google Maps
- Chicago 0:24 | Google Maps
- LAX 0:37 | Google Maps
- San Francisco 0:44 | Google Maps
- Dubai 0:46 | Google Maps
- Marseille – Chateau d’If 0:48 | Google Maps
- Pyramides – Giza 1:04 | Google Maps
- Golden Gate: 1:05
Seattle tells us a lot (starting around 1:17). You can see not only the meticulous models of buildings (and with correct textures), but you can also find interesting vegetation. This is where the automation shows.
I have the impression they generated the vegetation automatically, based on 3d models of the actual city. In Houston, the generator has done great. Here, in several places mistakes show. By “mistakes” I mean the level lower than what the creators imposed on the rest of the presentation. Even with these errors, the scenery featured in the trailer more detailed than any city I saw in Prepar3d, X-Plane (including announcements True Earth Washington) and DCS.
Several times during the trailer you can see the 3D grass growing on the terrain. If the simulator is like DCS in this respect – it will be an excellent result. And that’s what the trailer promises. Bush pilots and helicopter enthusiasts will be happy.
Vegetation in the cities is the densest of all simulators. This will be great fun for helicopter pilots – all these cities seem to be created for them.
After years of complaining about two-plane trees in FSX, P3D, and X-Plane, we finally get a simulator with truly three-dimensional trees. it looks as good as in DCS.
Unknown. The visual quality of the trailer is shocking. Only the areas we saw may require hundreds of gigabytes of free space. And what about the rest of the world?
According to the authors’ assurances, they made the film in real time in 4K. Which suggests that there is a PC capable of running this and recording at the same time.
If you are interested in taking part – sign up to the insider program at fsi.microsoftstudios.com. Signing up for the program does not guarantee participation.