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Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator plane

Snow is falling in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020!

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is now a winter wonderland!

There’s snow in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020!
Microsoft has surprised us again with their brand new iteration for the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise.

Snow is now present in Microsoft Flight Simulator!

Their attitude towards this simulator has been very peculiar about this release since its announcement.

There was a 13-year gap between the last version (Microsoft Flight Simulator X) and the latest version announced at E3 2019. It features the most in-depth and accurate representation of the Earth in any digital media (except maybe Bing or Google Maps). However, their announcement seemed to lack enthusiasm. Or maybe they were just being humble – which would be surprising for a Microsoft release.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
A Winter Wonderland!

At the preview event, they mentioned that they had access to the very detailed Bing maps satellite data. They developed a way to integrate that with a game engine, thus providing Microsoft’s Flight Simulator with very accurate satellite imagery for their sim. They said that lightly as if it wasn’t that much of a big deal. In reality, it provides VFR pilots like me an amazing reason to fly and explore the world.
As I said in my previous post, I only fly VFR because I enjoy the views and the sense of exploring the world.

A few weeks after their preview event in one of their videos, they released a list of “highly requested features” by the users they had the chance of interacting with. In it, you would find stuff like seasons, ATC, Virtual Reality, etc.

To be honest I was actually displeasantly surprised at the lack of commitment shown when some of these features were first announced. Many of them were present 13 years ago. Most were now being considered as “possible features” to be developed still. The sad truth is that with most games, after their announcement, any additional significant changes either take years to develop or don’t get developed at all due to the complexity of adding new functionality to existing code.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
Will we have vortex snow in the cockpit?

Apparently this is not the case with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, as they just unveiled a *VERY* short video where snow can be seen covering the sim’s very detailed landscape. This was one of the features that were still being considered but not guaranteed.

Seasons in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020?

While this doesn’t entirely remove “seasons” from the wishlist, it does tackle one of the most difficult things to achieve in a flight sim. Snow changes textures globally and locally. But it also adds a variable depth layer to trees and buildings that require some clever tricks to simulate geometry efficiently.

We’ll soon see whether they’re able to make it snow in just specific areas instead of the whole world, according to real-time weather patterns.

The difference between snow and seasons is that an autumn theme requires global texture changes. This is especially true in the forest or green areas of the world to make them look gold or brownish. This is especially difficult with satellite imagery. The precision of maps that sort what is a building or a road or a tree are critical to a believable color correction. You really don’t want a green building changing to brown during the autumn! Another aspect to consider is falling leaves on the sidewalks or trees without any leaf coverage. This would likely have to be affected by geometry changes which are typically very cumbersome to process.

Microsoft Flight Simulator
Will the whole world be covered in snow?

We’ll have to wait and see how they figure out a way to do it. The fact that they’re pre-rendering everything on their servers means that their 2 petabytes of data might have to be slightly multiplied for each season. Not really a problem for the regular user. That is, unless they wish to download everything to their hard drive instead of streaming the geometry from their servers.

What’s your list of wanted features?

I have my very own list of “highly requested features”. Top of the list is Virtual Reality support. I only fly FSX or P3D using VR googles. It is the most immersive VR experience I ever had. I was really sad to learn that it wasn’t announced as featuring in the new Flight Simulator 2020. Instead, it’s listed as one of those features that might or might not be developed.

Second on my list of requested features is geological and extreme weather effects, like volcanoes, tornadoes, forest fires, geysers, etc. I mentioned this on my Reddit post a while back.

Third would be crew and passenger flight models and sounds. I just feel like flying an empty plane feels… empty! Something that Star Citizen aims to tackle with their passenger transport roles.

Fourth would be Multiplayer shared cockpit. Because it would allow me to introduce my non-flight-fan friends to flight sims!

How about snow piling up on the wings?

Anyways, I’m sure we’ll have another video explaining their snow coverage technology very soon – and I’ll be here to review it for you guys!

What other features would you like to see in Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020?

Oh and go check out my other post on Microsoft Flight Simulator and how Flight Sims landed on me!

Clear Skies!
-ViLa4480

Red Dead Redemption 2 – Fix CPU Lag, Disconnects

Welcome to the Wild […LAG SPIKE…] West!

As you might remember from my previous post I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption 2 recently. Unfortunately, sometimes, as with Grand Theft Auto 5 and The Division 2, I would experience CPU and graphics card usage peaks that caused the game to pause for a few seconds or even disconnect from the online game when the peak was too long. Sometimes I would get stuck in a loading screen for ages until finally, the game’s online status timed out.

The game “loses” connection to the server, not because of an Internet connection problem, but instead due to an extended delay in a response to the server. This is caused by the local CPU/GPU.

Because of this issue, many players get this message when playing Red Dead Redemption 2 online:

ALERT: You have been disconnected from Red Dead Online due to a fault on Rockstar game services (Error: 0x20010006)

ALERT: You have been disconnected from Red Dead Online due to a fault on Rockstar game services (Error: 0x20010006)
This is the error many players are getting because of poor CPU/GPU performance

This was particularly common when Red Dead Redemption 2 got released, but I thought I had fixed it until yesterday (14th November 2019) when the new patch was delivered. Apparently, this affects some CPUs and NVidia graphics cards.

I’ll go over the official and the non-official fixes. I’m currently using both.

How to fix stuttering, disconnects, and performance with Launch Arguments

Before following through this post for more in-depth fixes, check out a tool I developed to help you set up Red Dead Redemption 2 launch arguments. One of the sections on that tool is specific to performance. It also helps with graphics, bugs, stuttering, etc.

Go check it out at this page: PopcornGamer’s Unofficial Red Dead Redemption 2 Launch Argument Composer.

If it helps you, let me know!

Hold your horses! Update your drivers!

Before changing anything, make sure you update your graphics card drivers! I’m pretty sure this is a CPU+graphics card issue and it definitely might help to make sure you’ve got the latest graphics driver – especially for NVidia graphics cards.

The Official Patch

This new official patch actually introduces a CPU load balancing feature – but it has to be enabled manually in the Rockstar Games Launcher. To do this, you should go to your Rockstar Games Launcher and click Settings on the top right corner. Then at the lower-left corner select Red Dead Redemption 2, which will display your options for the game. Scrolling down to the bottom you’ll find a Launch Arguments section, where you should input the newly added argument (on the 14th November 2019 patch):

-cpuLoadRebalancing

Red Dead Redemption 2
Don’t forget the “-“!

Another Official Update – 14 Nov 2019

On the same day, Rockstar dropped an article on how to fix an issue related to certain NVidia graphics cards. Check it out:

Players with NVIDIA graphics cards and 4-core or 6-core CPUs should install the GeForce Hotfix Driver Version 441.34 from NVIDIA and remove any launch arguments to resolve this issue.ROCKSTAR

This alternative hotfix is available right here by installing the latest GeForce Hotfix Driver Version 441.34.
Apparently, if CPU isn’t your problem, then the graphics card might be the culprit!
Let me know if this solution fixes it for you!

The non-official way to improve system stability

Let’s start by reducing your current CPU load.

By doing so, we’ll be giving more room for the game to function properly without resorting to RAM buildup or disk caching which both may cause bottlenecks and thus stutters, disconnects, and crashes.

CPU, RAM, DISK, how does that even work… and why is that a problem?!

As you know, a processor makes mathematical calculations, but it takes some time to deliver them.
Let’s say you are the CPU and I’m giving you a paper which says 3+5=?. Easy. Right?

Red Dead Redemption 2

Now I’m giving you a sheet of fifty pieces of paper, each one with a different calculation to perform.
Aaaand now I’m giving you one hundred more calculations.


You can’t really hold them all in your hands and you need more time to deliver those results before I give you more calculations to perform!

…This sounds a lot like my old boss.

So you put those sheets of paper on your desk while you make your calculations. That’s your RAM. Once your desk is filled up and there’s nowhere else to put more paper on it you start using your desk’s drawers, which takes a bit longer because now you need to open them up before placing the paper in there. That’s your DISK.

Slowing down to a halt

Okay, so my CPU isn’t the best.
I’ve been using it for a few years now and it is starting to feel the weight of age with heavier processes and games.
GTA V was also very CPU intensive. I also love flight simulators which also consume a TON of CPU capacity. I’m really looking forward to the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. You have got to check it out. It is absgorgeously beautiful.

This has led me to try and find ways to circumvent this issue and get the best performance out of my rig. So let’s get right to it.

Steps to reduce CPU usage

Let’s start by freeing up your CPU from unnecessary calculations and clearing up your RAM usage by turning off stuff that isn’t required to run the game.

Start by closing EVERY browser window, WhatsApp, Spotify, opened Windows folders, etc. also check your tray icons next to your system clock for useless software that might be running in the background. Disable any on-going anti-virus full system scans (no need to turn real-time protection off).

Google Chrome is a heavy CPU load hog – make sure you save this page to your bookmarks and close it now! I mean, later, when you’ve read through this post!

Check your system load by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+ESC to bring up your Windows Task Manager and click on the CPU tab to check which processes are consuming the most out of your processor and make try to turn them off if you can.

Red Dead Redemption 2
The tabs are in Portuguese, but notice how RDR2 chews up so much CPU!
I’ve opened up a folder on Windows Explorer and it consumes 7% CPU just for laying there!

Note: to the right you’ll also see a tab for GPU usage. If you notice that your GPU usage is above 70% then you definitely should consider upgrading your graphics card. Check your graphics card at GPUCheck and see how it performs compared to more recent card models. If instead you wish to see how your CPU compares, check out PassMark.

An alternative to improve CPU usage and reduce stalling

Red Dead Redemption 2 Lasso

I’ve been using Process Lasso recently.

It helps to maintain system stability by adjusting CPU process priorities. This means that it will do its best to make sure that your system keeps running smoothly by prioritizing processes that are critical to System stability. RDR2 likes to peak CPU usage from time to time – to a point where it will make the whole system unresponsive, which leads to a crash to desktop or a BSOD (it did happen to me before using Process Lasso!).

You may also use it to safely free up RAM automagically.

I have to say that I noticed a significant improvement in system stability since I started using Process Lasso.

They have very nice documentation that explains how to use it in detail. Make sure to check them out beforehand!

In conclusion…

Sure, maybe your old machine needs an upgrade – but the truth is that even with new PC builds, you’re prone to encounter issues like these again, as the CPU usage spikes are abnormal and caused by bad programming and rushed software development.

I play RDR2 in an Ultra Wide resolution. See how.

Before spending any more money, follow my tips and see if they solve your problem!

Let me know if they help you play this awesome game!

Stay WANTED for life!
-ViLa4480

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

What to expect of Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020)

A long, long time ago (back in 1982), Microsoft came up with the first iteration for Microsoft Flight Simulator. It looked amazing for that era and featured unrivaled 3D graphics!
It was the start of a whole lineage of popular flight sims.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 1982

As I mentioned in my previous post, I did not get to experience the joy in flight sims until very recently.
However, even if things look different nowadays, I’m 100% sure that the feeling of accomplishment for taking off the runway was the same as today’s.

Sure, the game grew over time. Immensely.
Better graphics, more planes, more buildings, better flight mechanics, multiplayer.

But at its core, the fun of the hobbyist flight sim experience is definitely the sense of achievement you get for taking off, landing and the idea of freedom, movement, and control (or lack thereof).

I won’t lie. To me, that’s not enough to truly enjoy flight simming. I love the notion of purpose in a sim.

I decided to turn the sim into a game – by adding an objective!

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

Make it a game!

During my streams on Twitch and Youtube, I did a trip around the world using Microsoft Flight Simulator X and FSEconomy.

FSE allows you to rent planes and do cargo runs. What usually happened was that I would rent a plane and do short cargo runs from one place to another. I started back in Iceland with a small Cessna 172 hauling mail.

I ended up transporting tourists in Brazil, by going through the eastern coasts of Canada, the US, Cuba, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panamá, Colombia, Venezuela and, finally, Brazil. My plan was to make the cross to Africa, but I couldn’t yet afford a plane large enough to cross the Atlantic. What an adventure!

FSEconomy changed the way I saw flight simulation forever.

Beauty matters.

Over time, graphics have improved drastically. They went from being an IFR flight mechanics simulation to becoming a true world representation simulator which featured accurate flight mechanics.

The new Microsoft Flight Simulator trailer seems to showcase just that.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

I’m sure that there’s a lot more to the whole.
But the graphics engine and the weather effects are the real stars in this E3 trailer.

I usually don’t fly large planes.
I get excited by the beautiful landscape and the prospect of doing short hops towards a far-away destination.
The detailed scenery is vital for VFR (low-altitude visual) flights.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

Microsoft seems to have nailed this in the previous trailer, by showcasing VERY detailed scenery.
The pyramids in Egipt, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco or the Seattle Space Needle are rendered in very high detail.

More than that, it features outstanding (and massive) cloud formations and weather effects. It also shows detailed traffic that is sure to melt CPUs and GPUs everywhere.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

To me, however, it is the dynamic details that tease me the most. The pink flamingos flying over the coral area or the giraffes on the plateau demonstrate unprecedented attention to detail towards fauna and flora in different regions of the world.

I’m also expecting Virtual Reality and Multiplayer to be included by default. One can also hope for some degree of mod compatibility with previous releases.

The eternal wait

Microsoft took too long between Flight Simulator versions. The last one, Flight Simulator X was released back in 2006. It was effectively being laid as an improvement to its predecessor, Flight Simulator 2004.

This 13-year hiatus has led to Microsoft losing its unbeaten lead in the world of flight sims.
Nowadays, X-Plane, P3D (a third-party updated FSX version) and AeroflyFS2 are major contenders for the title (Dovetail’s Flight Sim World now excluded!). In the past few years, combat flight sims have also resurged with games like DCS, War Thunder or World of Warplanes.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

Nevertheless, the impact of FSX in the flight sim universe was huge – and any new version that Microsoft puts forward will be regarded with hope and expectation.

It will be a few more years until the mod community catches up to the new flight sim. But the prospect of having a brand new engine capable of doing new things is very enticing for every flight sim enthusiast.

Now that we finally have some serious competition from other contenders, it should also spark innovation in the coming years.

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

Looking forward to the future!

What are your thoughts on this?
-How will Microsoft Flight Simulator succeed in the current Flight Simming scene?
-Do you think that the focus on low-altitude visuals will affect the jetliner flight experience?

I will be sharing more details on this title as they become available.
Subscribe to my blog or follow me on Twitch or Twitter to be notified when a new post is published!

Answer in the comments below!

Oh! And make sure you check out my previous post on Microsoft Flight Simulator and how flight sims landed on me!

Clear skies everyone!
-ViLa4480

Microsoft Flight Simulator Screenshot

Microsoft Flight Simulator and how Flight Sims landed on me

It flew under the radar – Microsoft Flight Simulator was “quietly” announced at E3 this year to be released in 2020.
It reminded me of how I forced myself to learn to enjoy flight sims.
Here’s a story for you:

In the beginning…

I didn’t enjoy flight sims until very recently.
In fact, I couldn’t figure out why people would spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on hardware to be able to fly virtually.

This topic first came to me quite a few years ago. An old gentleman at the local electronics store prompted my colleague about his newly-bought computer hardware. He was unsure whether his graphics card was good enough when compared to whatever was out there on the market.

Now, I don’t really keep up to date with hardware parts and their specs – but my friend does – and he was baffled.

Apparently, he had bought THE most expensive graphics card at the time. That graphics card wasn’t even being sold in my country yet.
He was asking my friend on how to “assemble” it. He clearly had no idea what he was doing.
-But something drove that old man to spend that much money on a piece of hardware. We talked for a little longer and eventually found out he was a flight sim enthusiast.
It all sounded very alien – and outrageous to us – poor Medal of Honor (1999) players. To spend that much and waste it on a flight sim? Pffft!

It hurts to look at… Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004

He certainly did not look like a gamer… But flight sims aren’t games… are they? How can you enjoy spending time on them?
I’ll admit it, I had a certain prejudice and naivety towards flight sims. Back then flight sims looked ugly, boring, complex and geeky.
I was young and unprepared.

But that encounter really stuck with me for quite a few more years and it gently brewed questions in my mind.

It triggered my need to understand flight sims and their appeal.

It took me on the most unexpected voyage in my whole gaming life. One that would consume a few thousand hours and a few hundred bucks.

Surprisingly, the real turning point was Star Citizen.
And Freelancer (2003).
And Freespace (1999).

X-Plane Orbx
When you can’t afford a passenger seat – X-Plane 11 + Orbx

I’ve talked about Freespace in this blog before. A space fighter game which truly opened my eyes to the beauty of sci-fi themes. Then Freelancer, another space sim, came along and it blew my mind with its unprecedented freedom of exploration and trading.
One day I was casually going through Kickstarter titles and I noticed Star Citizen a space sim from the creator of Freelancer.
That description was all it took to get me hooked.

Star Citizen was the game that Chris Roberts dreamed of making all along. With the massive support from the fans, he now had the chance to make the “Best Damn Space Sim Ever“. His vision was so expansive and focused so much on immersion that it triggered in me a need to become one with the game.
So… I bought a joystick!
…A HOTAS actually (it has the thrust control)!

One day I was casually setting up my joystick to try out the WW2 flight sim War Thunder, (in “Realistic” mode). I was having some trouble figuring out how to take off from the runway… and then it clicked.

The large hunk of scrap slowly started to move. It made a lot of noise, the plane jiggled, the aluminum frame clanked… and then… I was flying.

War Thunder – Those trees are moving way too fast!

Fighting was awful with a joystick in War Thunder

…But the views were absurdly beautiful. The sunlight bouncing off the wings and the cockpit. The dials, knobs, and buttons begging to be read and squeezed.
That’s when flight Simming started to make sense to me.

Sure, I had flown planes in the past: Grand Theft Auto, Battlefield, Arma. None had the unavoidable and demanding level of detail you’d find in War Thunder.

I accepted the challenge.
If I was able to appreciate the non-combat aspects of War Thunder or World of Warplanes, maybe I was now able to put prejudice aside and try a real flight sim.

DCS
DCS

It was the 25th of January of 2015 and I had just bought the oldie Microsoft’s Flight Simulator: X (FSX, 2006).

That horrible AND EXTREMELY LOUD music played.
The dark omen for all the pain and pleasure I would endure in the upcoming months.

It took me hours of reading tutorials on how to start a plane. You need to check the levels, man the radios, get the injectors flowing, magnetos, batteries, fuel, parking brakes… -> or instead just press Ctrl+E and it does all of that for you – and off you go!

WEEEEEEE!
In a couple of minutes,
I was flying over my small town.
-It looked terrible.

But there was potential there!

So I decided to install a couple of free HD textures mods to update the old graphics engine.

I live in a very dense, steep-mountainous wine region.
The birds-eye view of the Douro valley near Porto, in Portugal, was absurd.

A photo of the Douro Valley – I’ll take a screenie later on!

It felt great to be able to go anywhere in the world and see the landmarks, the rivers, the cities, and the mountain tops. Feeling the old C172 (small plane) engine growling to my command was awesome.
Preparing to land is surprisingly tense – your attention levels skyrocket!

My perception of what flight simming was had changed dramatically.

Some people care about all the engineering parts of a plane or the technical aspects of flight – I don’t.
What I love is that each trip feels like a long cargo run in Freelancer, where, if you’re not careful, you might lose your cargo, your plane, your life! I also only do low-altitude flights as I love watching the views in my tiny paper planes.

Over time I realized that flight simming represents freedom. Freedom to go anywhere and to decide what to do next.

X-Plane Photorealistic
X-Plane + Orbx

Flight simming is made of layers.

If you truly enjoy flight simulators, then you’ll be spending quite a lot of money on hardware and software. Here’s some of the stuff I bought (I get no commission!):

  • If you follow this blog or my Twitch stream, I’m sure you’ve noticed how I love management games.
    I found out that by using AirHauler you can turn flight sims into an amazing online management game. You’re able to build airports, buy planes, do cargo runs, manage other pilots, build a fleet!
  • By using Flyinside to add Virtual Reality to the simulation, you’ll be blown away by the realism you get – and the real fear of heights when you open the plane’s door mid-flight (I almost fell off my chair…).
  • If immersion is your thing, the Buttkicker bass shaker makes your chair rumble to the plane’s engine and the wind and rain effects on your plane! Hands-down the most surprising piece of hardware I ever bought!
  • Also check out the really cool custom button boxes out there!

Add to that the mandatory joystick and the processor and graphics card upgrades – and now your wallet cries.

BBJSimRacing Buttonbox

It took me years to understand the hobby.

Flight Sims truly push the limits of your hardware in exchange for immersion and fun.

I can FINALLY relate to that old man, who spent that much money on a graphics card that he wasn’t even sure how to install.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

We’ll celebrate 14 years between Microsoft’s Flight Simulator: X (2006) and Microsoft Flight Simulator (2020).
I will be reviewing this on my following post – next week!
Subscribe to the blog and stay tuned!

Clear skies!
-ViLa4480

Thank you DCS, X-Plane, War Thunder, Prepar3D, FSX, Microsoft Flight Simulator – and the amazing Pickinthatbanjo!