(CNN) – Avgeek desktop gamers and captains of Wannabe airlines can finally get the height adjustment they crave.
After a long hibernation, the restarted Microsoft Flight Simulator, officially available on August 18, could be the perfect antidote to pandemic-induced cabin fever – or the symptoms of cockpit take-off for those who have crashed from their real global flight plans due to Covid-19.
Or if you hang the cycle on the snow-capped Pyrenees is your thing, the new stream helps users master the controls of a Pitca aerobic plane as it cuts through snow and wind real-time mirror effects derived from real-time climate data sources.
Also, if you failed to take your skiing vacation this spring break, you can go off the piste and take digital comfort by landing your Cessna Citation executive plane at Courchevel Altiport.
Photorealistic graphics are a given in the world of online gaming, but what sets this sim apart from its competitors is the ability to fly anywhere in the world, reconstructed from high-quality satellite images of Microsoft Bing.
The Bing data was collected through Microsoft̵
The colossal amount of data needed to simulate this realistic world in real time is managed using the Microsoft Azure cloud platform. Azure does heavy lifting, so your home computer doesn’t have to be a super-duper to deliver a compelling experience.
Take off from London City Airport on a frosty morning and as you walk through Shard, you can even peek through the gleaming glass superstructure into the building’s highly detailed interior – just one of many architectural icons modeled in satisfying manipulations. ultra-high resolution to bring a sense of realism that goes beyond the norm for digital games.
This is quite a feat for a SIM that many fans have suggested that only a few years ago it will never be resurrected or supported by Microsoft – given that the last revision was with the release of Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX), its 10- o place version, in 2006
Meanwhile, other flight simulator rivals had built their own follow-up examples, notably Laminar Research’s X-Plane 11, which provides more than 3,000 airports, an intuitive interface, high-resolution graphics, and even tugs and roaming fuel trucks at airports. .
Another popular SIM is AeroFly FS 2, which offers features such as route planning, instrument landing system (ILS), directional radio range (VOR), non-directional radio beacon (NDB) plus virtual reality support for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive without any additional software.
And for simers taking their first steps in preparing for a career in aviation, Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D is also very popular, targeting future private, commercial and military pilots and allowing users to create training scenarios using realistic environments. .
A sense of community
Since announcing its intention to restart Flight Simulator in E3 in June 2019, Microsoft has been promoting the product and responding to flight attendants with a host of new features.
“We listened to the community and two things were strong and clear that came out of E3,” Jörg Neumann, head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, told CNN Travel. “One was VR; the other was Seasons.”
Virtual reality, which is gaining traction in the gaming world as players move to more immersive game formats, “will be supported this fall,” Neumann said. This is only the beginning.
In seasonal weather variations, Neumann is enthusiastic that “Now you can turn snow on and off to make sure that, for example, when you fly over Norway in the winter, it really looks appropriate.”
Insomnia is also not forgotten. For those who like sim flight at night, they can handle what is called NVFR (Night Visual Flight Rules). To do this, Neumann’s team recreated the glow over the cities.
“We took the Kelvin temperature from different types of light (the Kelvin scale is used to measure color temperature). And then parking lots have completely different lights than, say, sports stadiums or neighborhoods.”
Attention to detail at airports has also been upgraded, as the sim was visualized on E3. At that time, the airports did not have undulating runways and simers, which tested the version before Alpha, wanted to feel the feeling of a real runway during takeoffs and landings.
“We’ve heard a lot from the community that most tracks aren’t actually flat. That’s why we’ve added undulating runways and a bunch of what we call ‘airport life’ – more and more vehicles are being added to airport nightlife, “says Neumann.
Meteorological realism is also hampered by a number of slits: For example, rain on an airplane windshield is now affected by the propeller because it happens in a real airplane when the propeller rotates – it drives raindrops over the windshield.
And if nature is not quite in place, these elementary parameters can be canceled. If the player wants to try landing in a crosswind, for example, he can turn the strength or direction of the wind, make the sky more obscure, or increase rainfall to make things even more challenging.
In the driver’s seat
A key aspect of the flight experience is working with cockpit controls. Microsoft has improved the physics of the camera to make the movements of the pilot’s head more accurate.
“It’s super important for VR, too,” explains Neumann. “In VR, you’re very immersed in the experience. Your head twists a little when the air shakes the plane, but also when you make sharp turns or turns, so everything is better now.”
To move with the help of simers, who are also real-world pilots, Microsoft has improved the lighting and instrumentation in the cockpit by adding advanced systems such as weather radar and transponders (technology that allows aircraft to be tracked by air traffic controllers. ).
Ready to start
This new incarnation of Microsoft Flight Simulator launches against the backdrop of a crescent wait for installation, catalyzed by leaked images and videos on social media of the sim in action. But the buzzing is justified by its most ardent supporters:
“Microsoft combines the desires and hopes of the entire flight simulation community and makes it happen, and realizes it – that’s how powerful the product is,” Costa’s HeliSimmer.com told CNN Travel.
Costa is one of the elite groups of hardcore enthusiasts FlightSim, who were invited by Microsoft last summer to test the simulation at Microsoft in Renton, Washington, the facilities during its development phase before Alpha and to provide ongoing feedback.
The inclusion of the relentless enthusiasm of prominent figures in the FlightSim community is integral to redefining the sim.
“It’s always important when you involve the community in developing a product that targets that community,” says Costa.
And, by embarking on the feedback, wish lists and expectations of the cream from its vast user base of special simulators, Microsoft has gained momentum before launch.
“After the first event [at E3], we opened Alpha [testing version] and embraced a favorite audience, ”says Neumann of Microsoft.
“We have people in the simer community who are real-world pilots, and they give us a lot of feedback – even to the point where they say, ‘Hey, I flew this sim and it doesn’t feel right. “I’m going to fly the real version of this plane this weekend and let you know how it really works.” ”
“And then, for sure, on Monday we receive an email with a precise description of where our sim differs slightly from the real world, and then we make appropriate adjustments – this back and forth is constant.”
Friends in high places
This close connection between Microsoft and the simmer community has led to the purchase of Flight Simulator to new heights, with a level of engagement that turns users into active followers and advocates – not that the sim no longer had anything to do.
“Getting the community to work with you, if done right – and Microsoft has done very well – is always a plus,” says Sergio Costa with unbridled zeal.
“I think this is a very smart strategy for Microsoft and I think it will bring a lot of new blood to the market.”
This market is a reference to the ever-growing community of creators who make additional simulated aircraft and airports. Microsoft may have covered most of the databases with the new Flight Simulator, but is careful to allow its followers to produce “add-ons” to increase the sim, which is available in three editions.
“We’re trying to find the right balance. Third countries have built 1,000 airports or so over the years, and we want them to be able to do that again on the new platform,” Neumann said.
Of the 37,000 airports in the new system, 30 are specially “handcrafted” for Microsoft’s standard edition ($ 59.99) on the sim, which includes 20 highly detailed aircraft.
This standard edition will also be available on the first day (August 18, 2020) with the Xbox Game Pass for PC (beta).
The Deluxe Edition ($ 89.99) includes everything from the Standard Edition plus five additional high-precision aircraft with unique flight models and five additional hand-made international airports.
The Premium Deluxe Edition ($ 119.99) includes everything from the Standard Edition plus 10 extremely accurate aircraft with unique flight models, plus 10 additional hand-made international airports.
There is no release date for Xbox One yet.
Tied up at home
“But now we face very different realities,” says Neumann. “It simply came to our notice then [furloughed] pilots who keep fresh by playing the sim because they can’t fly in the real world. “
Then the head of FlightSim told about suffering from a domestic disease a few weeks ago – his parents live in Germany, but he can not visit them due to travel restrictions on Covid-19.
“I was so home that I actually flew a plane and landed at the lake where my parents live. And it’s real time, so it’s actually exactly the same time of day and exactly the same time they experience. And I chose up on the phone to call them and say, “Hey, I just want you to know, I know I can’t be with you, but I’m as close as possible.”
Neumann’s longing for home seems emblematic of a universal quest to travel again in our pandemic times.
“I understand from the simer community that there is a real assessment that we can still somehow reach the entire planet, even if only in a virtual format.”
Paul Sealers is an aviation journalist specializing in passenger experience and future air travel technology. Follow him on @paulsillers