Up Close Preview of Microsoft’s New Flight Simulator

logo clear back

 

 

It was a blustery overcast day in Seattle. It was early and some bleary-eyed gamers assembled in a hotel lobby. We looked at faces familiar and not so, all unsure of what the day ahead had in store for us. We chatted over coffee as we received our nametags and passes and signed various waivers. The flight simulation community is a small one, and we all knew each other in some way or other. There was a sense of grim anticipation overhanging the group.

We weren’t expecting much, and the sky seemed to reflect our thoughts. We banded together and boarded the bus that took us to the event location, Renton Municipal. We arrived at Rainier Flight Service and headed inside. It was laid out like many a PR event, though this time with the nostalgic tones of the FSX Menu music playing in the background. A video montage of the history of the Flight Simulation franchise played on a big screen as we filed into the briefing room. The initial welcome seemed to begin to confirm some of our expected disappointment; yet in an instant that changed. Jorg Neumann stood before us and introduced a video trailer unseen before. Then he detailed his vision as Head of the franchise, and what a vision. From there we were introduced and wowed not only by the depth of the work that had gone into the sim thus far, but also the sheer passion driving all of the development leads. Martial Bossard, Sebastian Wloch, David Dedeine and Lionel Fuentes all filled us in on the challenges, the triumphs and their vision for not just making a flight simulator, but the best one they can possibly create.

We watched the world unfold, streamed satellite and aerial imagery seamlessly blended with autogen and geotypical textures. We watched clouds form out of nothing, roll through valleys and break on mountain peaks. Beams of sunlight played out on the tops of clouds, broken by the layers of cloud above as a rainbow formed in the distance. Rain pattered on the cockpit windows as we looked out and saw ice forming on the wing leading edge. Light scattered through raindrops then off the surface of moving water.

And those of us in the audience? We were stunned. We were talking with the developers, not spokes people, not company hacks, actual hands on coding developers. And the things we were seeing? They weren’t just a curated 100 second trailer, this was development footage from multiple locations. It couldn’t really be like this? Well, then we were handed the keys and took it for a spin ourselves. Yes, yes it really can be like this.

Thank you for letting me indulge in a little descriptive writing to set the scene of what we saw that day in Seattle. I am truly grateful to have been offered the opportunity to take a look at the upcoming reboot of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator at this key stage in its development. I want to share a few key points and some technical notes that we made during the event.

Firstly, I want to cover a couple of key points. These are ones I also cover in the videos, but they are important ones, so it never hurts to reiterate them.

  1. Engine

Its new! Mostly. It is a brand-new physics and lighting engine, no more look up tables, instead replaced by small surface physics dynamics. Basically, it breaks an aircraft into lots of small flat surfaces and models how those surfaces interact with the environment around them and each other. No more single point physics modelling with look up tables. Full modelling of the airflow over a body, so when you extend flaps you are extending the airfoil.

  1. Subscription / Single Price / Microtransactions

So on this point the team made it clear they do not want to go down a path of microtransactions. They believe the community doesn’t like it and doesn’t want it and they respect that. It is intended to be a single purchase price, however subscription has not been ruled out. For my two cents, given that features like SIDS and STARS are included natively out of the box then I can see that if you wanted to maintain them an ongoing subscription might be necessary.

  1. It’s a gAMe nOt A simulator

After everything we saw and heard, that thought could not be more further from than truth. The sheer amount of stuff and elements that this title is aiming to simulate is NUTS. Single particles of water vapour can coalesce into tropical storms with thunderous rain and lighting leaving rainbows in their wake. The world engine and environmental engine is something we have all only dreamed about, and its becoming a reality.

  1. I have to be online to play

No you don’t. There will be three modes offered.

  1. Online, where landclass and terrain data is streamed (the tiles are not they are rendered on your machine). The bigger your bandwidth, the more details will come down and the better your experience.
  2. Offline, where you’ve pulled the plug, the whole world is still your oyster but you will be using geotypical textures (like default FSX/P3D/X-Plane or that supplied in Orbx’s FTX Global) but still leveraging highly detailed terrain mesh and vector data.
  3. Hybrid mode, where you can cache in exceedingly high detail a selected part of the world that you intend to fly in. In those areas you will have the same experience as flying online. You can still head elsewhere in the world, but you would revert back to geotypical textures

 

  1. But what about all my old FSX addons??

Well it seems you are in luck! The team have been comparing their new engine with the old legacy FSX engine inside the sim, and guess what? They plan on releasing the new sim with that feature in built! So you will get all the eyecandy of the new sim but potentially allowing you to use all those old FSX aircraft in the new sim. You would also lose all the advances of the new sim and ne features like new aerodynamic modelling, rain and ice affects and the like; BUT you can still get mileage out of your old addons!

Finally a note about legacy code; There is apparently no code from Flight or Flight Sim World present, but you can see their influences in the UI.

So with those points out of the way I did mention that there are some videos I recommend. Here are the links to some great ones! (yes I’m biased!)

Three Grumpy Simmers Wrap:   https://youtu.be/CSDw524Nj9E

My Personal Thoughts:  https://youtu.be/ikT8qKZxGAw

BelGeode’s Thoughts:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nj2gac_1wA0

 

Ok so finally here is the cliff notes that we took during the presentations. It’s all shorthand so I hope you can make sense of it!

 

Aerodynamics

Coded by the CEO

 

 

 

 

 

 

Core physics

 

  • New collision model
  • Sloped runways
  • Friction model
  • Skidding braking
  • Bumos

 

Integration

  • More steps per second
  • Adaptive time step
  • No lore rails
  • Better inertia matrices

 

 

Improved simulation

  • Fuel consumption
  • Turn coordinator
  • Load / P Factor
  • Flaps
  • Gear external tanks
  • Icing
  • Aircraft reviewed by pro pilots?
  • Legacy simulator still available?
  • Improvements to authoring pipeline?

 

Aerodynamics

  • Locally applied 3D forces and moments
  • Pressure speed moments temperature
  • Aircraft divided into multiple surfaces
  • Stalling modelled
  • Individual parts of aircraft can stall

 

Air Mass simulation

  • Global 3d fluid simulation
  • Volumetric clouds match turbulences up and down draft
  • Storms supercells TCU

 

3D environment vs air mass

  • Any 3dbshaoe of any size affects movement of ait
  • Updraft downdraft
  • Building mountain all impact

 

Sky

New code

 

 

 

 

 

New atmospheric simulation

  • Scattering
  • Sun sky moon city all scatter light
  • Humidity and pollution affect all aspects including lighting and air movement
  • Live and interactive shadowing
  • Simulated globally
  • 600km view to the horizon

 

 

Special effects

  • 3D rainbow scattering
  • Rain on windshields
  • PBR

 

Night engine

  • Star positions present and accurate
  • Night VFR possible

 

Volumetric clouds

  • 32 layers with density shale and fuzziness
  • Maps for each layer
  • Updraft formation dissolution
  • Native support of all cloud types

 

 

Real World weather live

60 layers cloud data

Real time injection

Fronts storms real world clouds

Pressure / temp / humidity

Wind speed / direction / gusts

Jet stream

 

World

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Asobo proprietary engine
  • Fuel game?
  • entire planet via Bing maps
  • 3d scans of cities phot real elevation data
  • All airports 40k +
  • VFR truly possible using roads and rivers etc
  • Augmenting Bing maps using Azure AI machine learning
  • Detect all trees 1.5 trillion
  • Improve building generation
  • Add missing buildings
  • Improve aerial imagery from Bing replace cloud covered areas or blurred areas

 

Internet connection impact?

  • Adaptive streaming
  • Adapt to available bandwidth
  • Better the bandwidth better experience
  • Fully off-line available
  • Reasonably accurate
  • Pre-cache high quality online experience offline

Fine details

  • Procedural generation
  • Dirt grass asphalt detected from imagery and added
  • Grass blades!
  • Water including wind creating waves
  • Night lights and buildings

 

 

Highlights

  • Whole world
  • The whole earth matches the real
  • Optimized experience no matter your specs or bandwidth

 

Cockpits

 

 

 

 

 

Detailed analogue cockpits (eg DR400)

  • New electrical system
  • Hi-fi instruments
  • New computation in old systems
  • New lighting systems each bulb sim and dimmable

 

Glass cockpits (eg TBM900)

  • 2D and 3D synthetic vision
  • Terrain and environment awareness
  • Touch screens simulated and use able
  • New flight planning including Sid’s and stars
  • New afcs and MFS/FMSC

 

 

Context cursor / tool tips

 

New checklist

  • Interactive check list with highlighting of instruments
  • Manual to assisted to auto to skip to started

 

Peripherals

  • New calibration tool

Home cockpits

  • More variables exposed and available
  • Multiscreen windows

 

Immersion

  • Rendering
  • PBR 4k

Reference data

  • Photo 3d scanning
  • Cad Files from manufacturers

 

Sounds

  • Wwise script
  • Tied to sim

 

Camera system

  • Dynamic
  • Head movements modelled

 

 

Thanks for dropping by! How are you feeling about the new sim? Don’t forget to watch the videos I mentioned earlier or drop by our Discord! Finally, enjoy some screenshots from the new sim courtesy of the development team!

 

Safe Skies!

Novawing24

Liked it? Take a second to support Novawing24 on Patreon!