Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is now a winter wonderland!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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