They brought the whole world into the game. The creators of Microsoft Flight Simulator talk about scanning Szczecin and publishing games on DVD

The Flight Simulator series is definitely not for everyone. However, I am amazed to discover that within its niche it promises to be an almost suspiciously perfect creation. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to its creators. And ask some tough questions.

I have a plan and have been with it for a long time. I want to take a vacation for a few days - but not for the purpose of going to warm countries, settling private matters or doing something useful. I would like to finally find a lot of time for my beloved Elite Dangerous: a game that you sit down for a few hours or not at all, because it doesn't make sense. But guilt and decency somehow block me. Wasting your vacation on a game?

Unfortunately for my prosperity, soon I will have not one, but two arguments for such a vacation. We are approaching the release of a completely new Flight Simulator, a game somewhat similar to the aforementioned Elite. It is also about realism and the greatest possible immersion. Likewise, we will also have to look for a job here ourselves.

Microsoft Flight Simulator is just the whole world, simulation of physical phenomena and airplanes. The rest is up to you.

We will not shoot anyone in Flight Simulator. We will not craft new elements or perform missions - even as boring as transporting passengers. Here is a collection of planes from the game. Here is the whole world (seriously, whole) as for a single hill, cottage or small river. This is one of the most advanced graphics engines ever. This is one of the most advanced physics engines in the history of consumer entertainment applications. Nothing more. Play.


For some people, for sure, so at the beginning of the text I wrote that Flight Simulator is not for everyone. Will a fan of God of War, Gears or Counter-Strike find fun and relief in passing dignified cumulus lights illuminated by the rays of the setting sun? A lot of these types of players have nothing to look for in Flight Simulator.

And yet Microsoft packs enormous resources into this game (and the game is a fairly conventional concept). After parting ways with the Flight Simulator franchise for many long years - the company thought at the time that game consoles and mobile devices were the only future of games - this one returns in great style.

Work began on the foundations of Flight Simulator X. But that was just the beginning.

From the code of the previous version (for some reason the next installment - Microsoft Flight - is completely omitted by the company), only a part of the logic responsible for simulating physical phenomena remains. It was significantly developed and the game's graphics module was completely rewritten. The effects can be seen.

I can't say much about the game model itself, as I spent a minimal amount of time with it. Szymon writes more about him in his brilliant report, and if you have not read it yet, I strongly encourage you to catch up . The graphics speak for themselves on the video materials.

This is beautiful.

Digital Foundry - colleagues and the most valued specialists in game technology in the media - have no doubt in their insightful material that Flight Simulator is the real next gen . And some graphic elements - such as the simulation of the sky - have never, in their opinion, been so realistically reproduced by any consumer product. And despite this, the game engine is supposed to scale well and work efficiently even on the already archaic and slow Xbox One S. The game even supports VR (including Oculus, Steam and Windows Mixed Reality).

As an aviation enthusiast and a longtime fan of this series, I am very interested in the new Flight Simulator. As a game technology enthusiast also - because this production promises to be not only a great simulator, but also an amazing show of modern graphic technology. Unfortunately, for now I cannot play the beta version due to a too weak PC - that's why I am very jealous of Szymon and once again I encourage you to read his material .

The creators of Microsoft Flight Simulator about scanning Szczecin, publishing games on DVD and optimizing the simulator for a console gamepad.

Fortunately, courtesy of Microsoft Polska, I had the opportunity to supplement Szymon's material with something extra. I was able to meet through Microsoft Teams with the game developers (Jorg Neumann, David Dedein and Sebastian Wloch - that is, the management).

It was one of the most enjoyable interviews, because on both sides of the virtual table sat people who had a great passion for Flight Simulator. Only one side wants to promote the game, and the other - that is me - has a lot of doubts. We talked for half an hour, often interrupting each other, so for your reading convenience I compressed the conversation into the following dialogue. I encourage you to read because the gentlemen had a lot to say.

Maciek Gajewski: Exact simulation. A game for enthusiasts, in which the very start from the airport is an art that requires long learning. It would seem that this is a niche production for a few enthusiasts. And yet Flight Simulator is the star of the shows, it is treated by Microsoft as an AAA game. What is this madness?

Flight Simulator has been with Microsoft for 20 years. What's more, the company has always been extremely proud of him. It's a piece of our history. After all, it is an older product than Windows or Office. All former and current CEOs of the company are proud of him. And it was always a good game.

In fact, there is a niche. But it also depends on how you look at it, because there are tons of dedicated players within that niche. Flight Simulator X was a successful product also in commercial terms. Therefore, the niche is about drawing the attention of a very specific group of players, not their numbers. Moreover, this niche is not afraid to express its expectations out loud, it has always been like that. This is Microsoft's flagship product and will be treated as such.

You talk a lot about accurately mapping the terrain. And in fact, while playing beta, I even found my former tiny cottage. But you also say you use data from Bing. I have checked this region and many others in Poland and the Bing service is not yet photographed in detail. And yet your game reproduced this region very well. How is it?

I have a nice anecdote about it. I have a Polish friend, she lives in Szczecin. We used it to verify the city generated from Bing. My dad is from Gdańsk. I used it for that too. He was very excited about it, he was looking at the game and hey , look at this building, there is! And this one! And this one! It made him happy.

How did you do it? It is relatively easy to build a world with full data. However, you have mapped even the most distant fringes and I think you have succeeded. By what miracle?

In fact, there are several data layers in the game. One comes from Bing and actually varies in quality depending on the location. In addition, we use height maps, so we read from contour lines about the topography. We also have photogrammetry as well as other smaller data sources. We also use artificial intelligence to recognize objects in satellite and aerial images and convert them to textured 3D objects. This is how lakes, rivers, buildings and trees are created. AI also removes unwanted objects from photos before analysis - such as clouds. It is the synthesis of all these technologies - not just Bing, though this one is the primary source of data - that has basically made the entire world faithfully and accurately mirrored.

What is exciting to me is that the game will keep getting better even after it's in the hands of the players. I can't tell you about the details, but we just got new data about a country from which we previously had photos where one pixel represented 20 meters. We got new data with an accuracy of 25 cm. Of course, we're already adding them to the game. And we will be adding more as they become available.

So why the heck is a six-DVD release? After all, this data from discs will become outdated quite quickly.

We were very surprised by the request for the physical release of the game. But when we started working on the new Flight Simulator, we made a decision to listen closely to the community. And a part of it definitely wanted to release the game in physical form. My reaction was "hey, really?" But we started working with an experienced partner who will deal with distribution on DVD.

Can I play offline? I get on a plane to the United States, during the several-hour flight I want to take out my laptop and check whether I will fly this route better than my pilot. I can?

Yes of course. The part responsible for synchronizing the real and virtual world, for example the weather in the world, will not work. For obvious reasons, we will not see other players' planes in the sky. The game's terrain cache data will also differ in accuracy and resolution from those streamed from the cloud. But yes, the game works offline.

microsoft flight cloud simulator

You talk a lot about the vast amount of data on the terrain. And the aircraft data? How do you know how individual planes work? Do you work with Cessna and Airbus and the rest? And do these companies make all the strange demands that companies that license their cars for racing games are known for?

Yes, we cooperate. First of all, we formally license the rights to use aircraft manufacturers and their models in the game. But they also came out with nice initiatives themselves. We had the pleasure to meet aircraft designers and testers from these companies. We also used 3D scanners to scan aircraft cockpits and recorded their real engine sounds. But yes, just like in car games, manufacturers react nervously to damage to virtual vehicles. In Flight Simulator, of course, we simulate them, but we couldn't, for example, show an airplane that crumbles into pieces as a result of a crash.

Xbox Game Studios has one more game that takes the subject they introduce quite seriously. This is Forza Motorsport, designed to let us feel like a real racing driver. Meanwhile, the crowd of Sunday players for many years has made the lives of simulation fans unpleasant, spoiling their fun with trolling, pushing out of the way and so on. Eventually it was brought under control. Did you take advantage of this lesson?

From the very beginning, we clearly communicated that we are creating a simulator for simulation lovers. Not for all players in the world. This means that it is authentic, realistic ...

... and goes to Xbox Game Pass, where everyone will be able to join the game without any obligations.

And great. But will the notorious simulator crashes really give you any fun in the long run? The pilot will be more fun anyway. We also don't have a collision system between planes. Nobody will be able to ram your plane in flight. You can see all the other players planes in the sky. But you can also turn off the visibility of everyone but your friends. You can also always fly solo. But no one in multiplayer can spoil your fun.

And everything will always be so serious? Will we see Halo air combat vehicles?

It is possible. But if we decide to do it, it will definitely not go to multiplayer, so as not to spoil the fun of realism. One of your colleagues asked a similar question earlier, using Crimson Skies as an example. I love Crimson Skies. So maybe. Or maybe we will add it to the multiplater, allowing the visibility of these imaginary machines to be turned off by those who will not like this idea. We'll see.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
Microsoft Flight Simulator

Do you remember Combat Flight Simulator? It was a small spin-off of Flight Simulator that allowed you to shoot your enemies down. Maybe it's a good idea for a modification to the game?

Nice idea, but we would also isolate it from the main game. And please do not ask us to accurately reflect the world of the 1940s [Combat Flight Simulator took us to the Second World War - ed. ed.]

Time for the most important, subjectively for me, question. My computer is too weak for Flight Simulator. I only play on Xbox. However, I have a lot of experience with the series, I'm a fan of it. I know how the virtual plane is operated in your game. Well, I don't see it on the xbox gamepad, it's too simple for that. You haven't talked about the console edition of Flight Simulator for a long time. Have you come to similar conclusions?

Of course not! We already have a game prototype that works with the xbox controller. The beauty of Xbox consoles is also that they allow game developers to use a mouse and keyboard that the player can plug in if they want. There will also be dedicated controllers, including from Thrustmaster, and other things that we can't talk about yet. In any case, it will work on the Xbox, including the controller.

But it's gonna be a different game, right?

No. This is one game that works on PC with Steam, PC with Xbox, Xbox One, and Xbox Series. There are no compromises with simulation realism in any of them.

... Steam? I'm not sure why you choose to publish to your competition, but I wonder if PC gamers from Steam and Xbox will be able to fly together, chat and so on. Will be able to?

That's the plan. Although we will not have a built-in chat in the game itself. Players do not use such things anymore, they use their own communicators detached from the game.

OK, but what exactly will multiplayer give me? How is this experience different from playing alone? I will see other players' planes in the sky. Something else?

He's seen the planes you want to see. You can filter it yourself. But we don't have a multiplayer lobby. The world is the Flight Simulator lobby.

Okay, I do simulators there. However, I am constantly thinking about random players with Xbox Game Pass. Is there any special training mode? Maybe some flying school?

No, we're not planning anything like that yet. Of course, there are tutorials that teach the basics of using the game. And there is a help system during the game, thanks to which we can always quickly check what it is for and how it works theoretically. We believe that the help system has worked well for us. We took it very seriously anyway. We just went to flying school and trained as pilots. We have valid licenses entitling us to fly.

We transferred our observations during learning to the game. For example, it turned out that take-off and flight are very simple activities. Landing turned out to be very difficult. This is obviously one of many examples, but the experience gained while learning to pilot helped us create a system of help and assists. The assists are not a simplification of physics: it is always a complete simulation. But some of the responsibilities can be relieved by, for example, a virtual co-pilot.

I love that you listen to the community. And from what I see on your social media, reddit and many other places, I'm not the only one who loves it. Regardless of whether Flight Simulator will actually be sensational or not, this approach definitely deserves praise. Games built together with the community - I have in mind a bit similar to your game Elite Dangerous - allow you to reward developers through symbolic microtransactions. Will I be able to support you by buying a new painting of my Airbus hull?

And you see, we've also done something special here. Yes, you will. But no, the money will not go to us. As a fan of the series, you probably know that there are hundreds of small companies that have been creating mods for classic Flight Simulators for many years. As soon as we started building the game, we got in touch with them right away. Together, we have built an SDK for the game, thanks to which these companies will be able to easily add their modifications. There will also be a Flight Simulator Store where players can conveniently and safely view and purchase these mods. There is no obligation to use this Store. It is very similar to Minecraft, which in terms of mods works almost identically.

Flight Simulator has one more point on the same plane as Minecraft. And also from Halo: Infinite. It's a platform, not a product waiting for a sequel.

We will not see a new game soon, because the one that will be released is also to be the next one. Flight Simulator will be invariably one, invariably free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers. And over the next decade, it will be updated with new content, new technical elements and new mechanisms. The game is to evolve forever and be alive forever.

And it certainly will be. In fact, the community of aviation simulation fans is relatively small - but very committed. If she likes Microsoft's game - so far there is admiration, but remember that for now this is a closed test for a narrow audience - the players themselves will make sure that a lot happens around Flight Simulator. I can't wait to come back to this community. Although this time - for the first time - not because of a PC, but a game console.

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They brought the whole world into the game. The creators of Microsoft Flight Simulator talk about scanning Szczecin and publishing games on DVD


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