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January 4, 2020 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 [Announcement Trailer] [Gameplay Trailer][Seasons/Dynamic Weather Trailer][Tour of Cockpit Trailer]“Releasing in 2020, the upcoming Microsoft Flight Simulator looks greater than fiction. Apparently, its hyper-realistic graphics are a product of AI technology and satellite data. “From light planes to wide-body jets, fly highly detailed and stunning aircraft in an incredibly realistic world,” the trailer’s description reads. “Create your flight plan and fly anywhere on the planet. Enjoy flying day or night and face realistic, challenging weather conditions.”” [via: Kotaku]

• All I want to do is chill and play 'Flight Simulator' [Engadget]
“Flight Simulator is too deeply researched and technically detailed to be anything less than a full-on simulation experience, in their eyes. And, even in pre-alpha, that seems to ring true. The first location I loaded up was Phoenix, Arizona, my hometown. I wanted to see if the map in Flight Simulator would be accurate enough for me to recognize landmarks, follow highways and even spot specific houses. Besides, Phoenix is gorgeous, especially at sunset -- the airport sits at the heart of a desert valley, saguaros and skyscrapers highlighted from the west in brilliant purples and reds. [...] Each prominent building was accurate and in the correct location, including unique architectural details, company logos and store names. I flew over my former condo complex and saw the exact balcony where I would sit and listen to podcasts while watching the city lights flicker on; I soared over Central Avenue and through the gaps between buildings that I've only ever viewed from below. The roof of Chase Field was open, baseball diamond clearly visible within.”
• Forget the view out the windows—the real beauty of Microsoft Flight Simulator is in the cockpit [PC Gamer]
“Sure, Microsoft Flight Simulator looks gorgeous as you fly over the entire damn world, gazing out the windows at mountains and oceans and vistas and shining cities seen through the clouds. But for my money the real eye-candy is located place inside the plane. The cockpits of Microsoft Flight Simulator are beautiful and amazingly detailed. A new Feature Discovery video you can watch below highlights not just the looks but the functionality of Microsoft Flight Simulator's cockpits, which have been created using a new game engine called Glass Cockpit. Lead software engineer Martial Bossard walks us through the cockpit designs and instruments, which even simulates the oil pressure and electrical systems of the plane so the needles of the instruments change depending on the status of those systems. I'm not any sort of plane expert so I'm also happy to see that pre-flight checklists can be automated—though it honestly looks like a satisfying activity to perform manually, too. Touchscreens in the cockpit are fully simulated, analog controls can be pressed, poked, and moved as well, making me think this could be a lot of fun in VR. Check out the entire cockpit feature below.”
• The biggest surprise of Microsoft Flight Simulator: it makes Bing cool [Polygon]
“When Microsoft Flight Simulator launches some time in 2020, it will give its users access to the entire planet. Just spin the globe on an X-COM-style world map, zoom into the airport that you’d like to start at, and you’re ready to go. Assets will not only include all of our planet’s 197 million square miles of land and water, but more than 2 million cities and over 40,000 individual airports. To achieve this, developers at Asobo Studio are tapping directly into Microsoft’s Bing Maps dataset. Flight Simulator will draw from two of the service’s three available petabytes of geographical information. That includes satellite imagery and 3D photogrammetry data, with some resolutions down to just three centimeters. The results are stunning. New York City looks nearly indistinguishable from the real place. Flying into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, passing the skyline and making the big, left-hand turn on final approach is a trip I’ve made dozens of times over the years. It looks incredible, especially at night with thousands of lights — each with a different and accurate color temperature — winking down below. But those kinds of high-quality assets come at a cost. Despite the complexity of its asset pipeline, I can’t stress enough how remarkable the game looks.”
• Can Microsoft Flight Simulator's 2020 reboot solve the pilot shortage? [CNN Travel]
“Looking to the future when electric planes become available, the next generation of pilots, brought up on a diet of digital games, might be a natural fit. "Skills from playing home flight simulators could be relevant to learn to handle some aspects of present-day airliners. With the right software and hardware setup together with appropriate theoretical understanding it could very well serve as a useful way to acquire some of the skills needed," says Captain Stridh. "The complexity of present and future-generation aircraft will drive a development towards increased and improved simulator training. And, due to the cost and lack of availability of full-scale flight simulators, this might be realized in small-scale flight simulators including home computer software for practicing routines in cases of severe weather encounters, like windshear, when it's important that pilots' responses are immediate and correct." These symbiosis between Flight Simulator and a career path in the real world of aviation isn't lost on Microsoft: "First and foremost we're making a product for simmers," says Neumann. "When you meet pilots a lot of them that say 'you know what? -- my interest in this whole thing started with Microsoft Flightsim many years ago'.”
posted by Fizz (56 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
 
DAMN
posted by odinsdream at 8:45 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I haven't played it since it looked like this.
posted by octothorpe at 8:53 AM on January 4 [19 favorites]


Holy crap
posted by mazola at 9:13 AM on January 4


How long before the gig economy turns this into drone piloting for passenger planes?
posted by scruss at 9:18 AM on January 4 [9 favorites]


But can you still start at Meigs Field?
posted by Johnny Assay at 9:21 AM on January 4 [28 favorites]


How long before the gig economy turns this into drone piloting for passenger planes?

My understanding is people are mostly needed just for take off and landing, so.... 2030?
posted by avalonian at 9:22 AM on January 4


Speaking as somebody who's captivated by 3D imagery like this but has no particular interest in the flight simulator part, I really hope they include a robust system for exploring the environment without having to manage a virtual cockpit. It would be incredible in VR, like Google Earth VR with weather and lighting and animals.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:24 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Takeoff and landing seems easy to automate until your density altitude suddenly changes 100 feet from the end of the runway and you clip a tree. Quadcopters make flying look easier than it really is. I do think drones will become increasingly common for cargo, but for any flight involving human passengers the cost:benefit of having a human pilot on the plane will always swing in the favour of having one present.

Anyway, I'm extremely excited about FS2020. I haven't put a ton of time into FSX, since it's just a smidge dated at this point and I don't want to spend multiple hundreds of dollars on texture packs trying to fix that, but I'll probably be a day one purchaser for this new version. It looks incredible, and unlike MS Flight they appear to be trying to deliver a fully-featured flight sim.
posted by tobascodagama at 9:35 AM on January 4 [3 favorites]


This would’ve blown my dad’s mind. He thought the original hidden one was amazing.
posted by gryphonlover at 10:11 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Does it include the 737 Max-8?
posted by swift at 10:18 AM on January 4 [13 favorites]


I'm terrible at these types of games, my brain just doesn't work that way. Unless it's automated and you can just "Press X to takeoff" kind of thing. These simulations aren't really targeting me though, and I'm okay with that.

I do agree with Rhaomi:
Speaking as somebody who's captivated by 3D imagery like this but has no particular interest in the flight simulator part, I really hope they include a robust system for exploring the environment without having to manage a virtual cockpit. It would be incredible in VR, like Google Earth VR with weather and lighting and animals.
It would be awesome to just have a free exploration mode, like google earth only through this flight sim. I'd prefer not to have to deal with VR, like just let me fly through my monitor.

It'll be interesting to see the final product.
posted by Fizz at 10:18 AM on January 4


I haven't played it since it looked like this. Do you still get to bomb the enemy fuel depot? That would look awesome with the new graphics!
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 10:19 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Do you still get to bomb the enemy fuel depot?

You're thinking of another game, Ace Combat 7: Skies Unknown should fit the bill.
posted by Fizz at 10:31 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


What I want is this kind of detail in a city-specific karting game.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:48 AM on January 4 [20 favorites]


I was lucky enough to work at The Cobb Group back in the 90's and one of the newsletters they published was dedicated to Flight Simulator. The guy who wrote it was really pretty cool, and he was upgrading his stuff so I got his old yoke and pedal peripherals (which were kinda fisher-price bright plastic, to be honest) that hooked up to the pc, so all the input was pretty much how it worked in a plane.

Anyway, one of the other guys that worked there was a pilot, and he got me involved in flying lessons. I can remember my instructor listening to me talk (in the beginning) about how Flight Simulator had helped me understand how to fly. She would do stuff with the plane and then be all like "can flight simulator do this?" And we would laugh.

But honestly, using that yoke and those pedals really did help. And yeah, Meigs Field was my fave landing spot.

This update looks amazing.
posted by valkane at 10:58 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


Holy cow. I haven't played it since it looked like this. I remember a hot air balloon easter egg over Sequim I'd used to go and find from Boeing field. The whole application fit on a 3.5" diskette, so I even installed it on my Windows 95 laptop.
posted by St. Oops at 11:19 AM on January 4 [2 favorites]


She would do stuff with the plane and then be all like "can flight simulator do this?" And we would laugh.

No, but among other things like landing in improbable places and fly inverted under bridges, I can fly a Supercub through the struts of the Space Needle with a knife edge pass in a flight sim and, you know, not die or end up in jail.
posted by loquacious at 11:31 AM on January 4 [4 favorites]


How long before the gig economy turns this into drone piloting for passenger planes?
My understanding is people are mostly needed just for take off and landing, so.... 2030?

There's basically no reason why you couldn't have pilots in simulators at every airport right now that spend all day taking off and landing the commuter planes that arrive and depart. There are plenty of concerns that arise for such a system, but so far as actual reasons, it's totally doable with technology we've had for decades.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 11:46 AM on January 4


There are plenty of concerns that arise for such a system, but so far as actual reasons, it's totally doable with technology we've had for decades.
I mean, this is how drones are piloted with the military, satellites are doing quite a bit of the work as well.
posted by Fizz at 11:49 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I hope they have done 2 things better than previous iterations: Views, Flight Modeling. I think a realer outside sounds fantastic but I have always felt like not enough effort was put to make the simulation feel like it was simulating an airplane. The planes do not behave like real planes except in straight and level and looking out the window should be as effortless as possible.
posted by Pembquist at 12:00 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Well, have the pilots at the airports take them off and land them. Then have other pilots fly them in-between in pod groups like this Air Force/Small Business project.

"ROBOpilot converts general-purpose aircraft to UAS (unmaned drone)"

ROBOpilot, a collection of mechanical arms, cables, pumps and computer equipment, interacts with an aircraft the way a human pilot would – pulling on the yoke, pushing on the rudders, flipping switches and reading dashboard gauges, but with computer vision. It gets data from GPS and situational awareness sensors and analyzes it to make flight decisions. The project is the result of a collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) awardee DZYNE Technologies.
posted by aleph at 12:13 PM on January 4


ROBOpilot

"Fasten your seat belts and return your trays to the upright position. You now have 15 seconds to comply. "
posted by thelonius at 12:21 PM on January 4 [18 favorites]


There's plenty of ways to turn a plane into an unmanned drone and "Add an entirely new control system with its own sets of problems and dependencies that physically interacts with the existing control system" is certainly one of them.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:24 PM on January 4 [10 favorites]


Wouldn't security be an issue for drone-planes? I can't imagine private enterprise doing a good job with security, considering their track record.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:31 PM on January 4


I can't imagine private enterprise doing a good job with security, considering their track record.

Would having a back up pilot on board be a way to mitigate this? Or maybe that's just taking a step back into what we already have. I feel like these airline companies are just waiting for the technology to get a bit better and then they'll move to this step, whether we're ready for it or not. And they'll continue to charge an arm and a leg while treating us like airborne cattle.
posted by Fizz at 12:39 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I still remember the bitter disappointment of purchasing FS4 ("with photorealistic airports and 3D modeled buildings!") and only then discovering it came on 3.5" disks, not the 5.25" kind. So instead of playing the game at all of 10 frames per second, I got to send off a card and wait a couple of months for the floppy floppies to arrive.

I got lucky, though, as two weeks later Best Buy had a screaming deal on a 3.5" drive. Despite having basically zero actual knowledge of how to make it work, I had it up and running within an hour, having already cleared a few MB of space on the 40MB hard drive.

Six weeks later, I'd already managed to wheedle my dad into buying a yoke (that also worked as a crappy wheel for racing games!) and entirely forgotten about the disks I'd ordered.
posted by wierdo at 12:40 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


I'm guessing the FAA Simulator will give you a hefty fine for buzzing the Space Needle like that.
posted by adamrice at 12:47 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


Six weeks later, I'd already managed to wheedle my dad into buying a yoke

Behold the majesty of modern rudder pedal systems.

...the path before you is now clear. Ready your bank account.
posted by aramaic at 12:56 PM on January 4


Is there a word for nostalgia for a place you've only visited virtually? I was at the Adler planetarium a few months ago, at one end of the now closed Meigs Field runway. I'd spent quite a lot of time flying around there in FS4 as a kid, but had never been there for real. It was quite a Gibsonian experience.

looking out the window should be as effortless as possible
No VR support in the first release of this version, so there's only so effortless they can make it..
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 1:07 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


I'm guessing the FAA Simulator will give you a hefty fine for buzzing the Space Needle like that.

You joke but as I understand it people have had the ability to play in the role of air traffic control in some group online sims for a while and they will definitely get into their role of giving you some shit if you break airspace rules.

I'm still waiting for people to start simulating and playing ground support crew, flight stewards, desk agents, security and then, inevitably, passengers on a trans-Pacific redeye, complete with crying babies and someone next to you in the window seat hogging both armrests while chewing tobacco for the entirety of a 12 hour flight.
posted by loquacious at 1:39 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


First hack that sounds like actual fun in ages, wouldn't it be fun to break the games network protocol and insert a happy little green alien in a saucer that zips around breaking all the laws of physics, buzzing the serious flight crews.
posted by sammyo at 1:50 PM on January 4


There was a video posted here awhile back that demonstrates what happens when you troll the ATC.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 1:55 PM on January 4 [6 favorites]


Will there be a mode in which a small, horrible goose can sneak into the cockpit and make off with various dashboard components?
posted by delfin at 2:01 PM on January 4 [16 favorites]


No VR support in the first release of this version, so there's only so effortless they can make it..

I haven't tried VR yet, (I can't rationalize the expense,) but someone did give me a head tracker: Track IR and while that was much better the thing of it is: when you are flying a real airplane you can just look around the door pillar and the struts; I always found looking around an MSFS cockpit to be less real than if you just had an instrument panel hanging in space. There is only one flying simulator/game that I have flown for a while that has a really good easy to use view system.
posted by Pembquist at 2:13 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]




Pembquist: I had TrackNoIR set up with Rise of Flight for a while. That worked pretty great; if you moved your head out from behind the windscreen it added extra wind noise!
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 2:33 PM on January 4


Will there be a mode in which a small, horrible goose can sneak into the cockpit and make off with various dashboard components?

As with every flight anytime anywhere, the main threat from a goose is having one being sucked into an engine.
posted by hippybear at 2:44 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


Will there be a mode in which a small, horrible goose can sneak into the cockpit

... while singing "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling" in a tiny, high-pitched voice?
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 2:53 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


I'm still waiting for people to start simulating and playing ground support crew, flight stewards, desk agents, security and then, inevitably, passengers on a trans-Pacific redeye, complete with crying babies and someone next to you in the window seat hogging both armrests while chewing tobacco for the entirety of a 12 hour flight.

Too late, your endgame is already reality. I present to you 'Airplane Mode':
This is a game where you play as a window seat passenger for the real-time duration of a long-haul commercial flight across the Atlantic.

Airplane Mode's gameplay explores the airline travel experience down to every last detail—from the design of your seat and the seatback in front of you, to the contents of your carry-on bag and smartphone hard drive, to the behaviors of cabin crew and other passengers. The circumstances of your flight will change every time you play. Simply put, Airplane Mode is the most realistic flight simulation ever created. Sit back, relax, and enjoy.
posted by kaibutsu at 3:31 PM on January 4 [8 favorites]


Sometime in the late 70’s I went for job interview at a Silicon Valley company that made commercial/military flight simulators just to see what they did. No mock up plane cockpits to be seen but they had some CRTs setup with minimal controllers to give you a feel for what you saw. Along with these was a literal wall of 19 inch rack cabinets that was like 15 feet or more long. These held the hard drives / file servers that streamed the imagery that was displayed for real time flight simulation. The imagery was much more schematic / cartoony. They supposedly had a lot of the US stored there but I think it was all created from topo maps or something. We have come a mighty long way since then...
posted by njohnson23 at 4:18 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


On a shelf right next to me is an old IBM Think Pad running Windows XP which I use only to run Microsoft's 1998 Combat Flight Simulator. Also have an old Microsoft joystick I've kept for all these years for only that purpose.

Just watched the trailer. OMG. I'm all in for this.
posted by martin q blank at 4:47 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


"...but for any flight involving human passengers the cost:benefit of having a human pilot on the plane will always swing in the favour of having one present."

I think you're overestimating the value the market will place on mere livestock.
posted by Evilspork at 5:54 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


You’ll still be able to have a human pilot, but you’ve got to pay an extra 40 bucks.
posted by Huffy Puffy at 6:00 PM on January 4 [4 favorites]


It's always hard not to talk about Falcon4 in these threads.


Falcon4, dammit.

Here's one more preview, from Frooglesim.

(Not the same person as Frugal from the F4 sim community.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:32 PM on January 4 [3 favorites]


When you say "RoboPilot," I think of the one from the Bugs Bunny cartoon that gets activated, looks at the controls, and then grabs a parachute to bail out.

I bet VATSIM integration will come standard in this. Piloting not enough? Be a virtual air traffic controller! (Previously on MetaFilter...)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:38 PM on January 4 [1 favorite]


seconding Pembquist above..

as a random that flies for a living and works with a small sim company as a side gig I would love_love to see the flight modeling come into the level of fidelity that MS is putting into beautiful world rendering and massively multiplayer. This is a big reason products like X-Plane have come into prominence despite the backing of a "big" software company.

Overall the modeling, or for non-USians, "modelling," is relatively low-fi everywhere. Those of us that are interested in actual similitude are less interested in gorgeous high resolution terrain and more interested in something that can evince Simulator Based Mastery of Learning (SBML, and yes, it's a thing).

otoh there is zero wrong with making something visually beautiful, just doesn't meet any requirements that hedge towards actually approved devices that actually help us evolve better/more proficient pilots. the gamification might make for a more compelling business model for all I know..
posted by lomcovak at 8:18 PM on January 4


It'll be nice for us to have all this data so our kids can fly over a beautiful verdant landscape instead of the smoking hellpit that their real world has become
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 10:47 PM on January 4 [2 favorites]


It'll be nice for us to have all this data so our kids...

They’ll love the idea of zooming over terrain, rather than tunneling under it.
posted by aramaic at 10:54 PM on January 4


In the early 2000s tired of fixing my dad's scenery config for the umpteenth time I wrote and released the Java based Scenery Config Editor that's on sourceforge. When I last looked it had been downloaded >50000 times.

I've never even played flight simulator.

I do get occasional donations but sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had charged for it or at least made it ask for cash. The size of the aftermarket for flight simulator is huge - hence the need for my tool. I wonder if Microsoft are going to obviate this or at least try to control that aftermarket in the way that Steam tried with the resurrected FSX codebase - I forget what it's called. It would be a shame for Microsoft to kill the community but the market is huge - my dad's scenery library must have cost around £2000 and that's forgetting all of the airplanes and other things he bought.
posted by zeripath at 2:06 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


This sounds a bit weird, but I'm actually kind of hoping that MS charges a subscription for FS2020 rather than making it a one-off purchase. I want it to be supported with new scenery, aircraft and sim features for years to come, and that might be easier to achieve with a constant revenue stream.
posted by Eleven at 3:39 AM on January 5 [1 favorite]


Flight instructor here. Lomcovak is right.

FS is certainly engaging, and I’d even say its a great tool for teaching instrument flying, but historically it has been godawful as a primary flight trainer. The most difficult/challenging students I have are the ones who come to me with FS “expertise”.

Most of primary flight training is about looking out the windows at the horizon, and the relationship of the cowling and wings to it and the kinesthetic senses you get when you’re flying.

I usually end up covering the instruments with suction cups and post it notes and force the student to look outside. Everything you need to know is out there to fly a primary trainer.
posted by Thistledown at 11:14 AM on January 5 [4 favorites]


This sounds a bit weird, but I'm actually kind of hoping that MS charges a subscription for FS2020 rather than making it a one-off purchase. I want it to be supported with new scenery, aircraft and sim features for years to come, and that might be easier to achieve with a constant revenue stream.

Seconded. When SaaS is done correctly it's a win/win for both parties.
posted by elwoodwiles at 12:09 PM on January 5


aramaic: Behold the majesty of modern rudder pedal systems. [I looked some up, they cost $649!]

zeripath: My dad's scenery library must have cost around £2000 and that's forgetting all of the airplanes and other things he bought.

I have literally bought complete aircraft for less than people are spending on flight simulator accessories.
posted by automatronic at 7:30 PM on January 5


SaaS is great, right up until it isn't, and when it isn't is exactly when you can least afford it. That's less problematic when the software in question is basically a game, though, so I wouldn't be angry about it or anything. ;)
posted by wierdo at 8:56 PM on January 5


I still get a kick out of doing stupid things like trying to land on bridges or trying to land a 707 on an aircraft carrier.
I would truly pay to fly simulations of things like flying wings or the contraptions from Hanna Barbaras "get that pigeon".
posted by boilermonster at 10:11 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]


X-Plane (the PC version, not one of the ports) might be interesting to you, boilermonster. It is by no means perfect, but unlike the old MSFS and its descendents it can model arbitrary shapes (somewhat, we are talking about a generic simulation originally made for much slower computers) realistically. One of MSFS's biggest problems in terms of actual flight simulation was (and is, for Prepar3d) its use of lookup tables. The software just isn't built to simulate airflow or much of anything in a strict sense of the word*

Some of the stuff I've seen about FS2020 leads me to believe that it will be using a similar active model rather than the old static LUTs, so you may actually get your wish if Microsoft or some enterprising third party releases a tool to build models for it.

* What I mean is that, for example, the properties of the model in the game have zero bearing how the "plane" flies. It's, at it's heart, a camera that is dressed up like a plane and pretends to be a plane based on rules in a list. That's not necessarily a bad thing, all non-trivial software takes shortcuts by necessity, after all. X-Plane makes a different set that makes it more useful for throwing imaginary stuff in the sky and seeing if it flies.
posted by wierdo at 11:08 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


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