Which Flight Simulator Software is right for you?

Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software.  When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer.  I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer.  In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft.  I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.

As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B.  Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator.

I’m going to break down the options you have in the various flight simulators available today and provide a brief description and even some opinion regarding each of the available options.

Microsoft Flight Simulator

I’m starting off with Microsoft Flight Simulator since I very much consider this the grandfather of all today’s flight sim applications.  While Microsoft discontinued their popular Flight Simulator franchise many years ago, many enthusiasts continue to use their two previous editions of Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) and Flight Simulator X (FSX).  Actually, the first several titles I’m going to list below were all born from much of the original FSX code.  As I stated, many still use both FS9 and the original FSX boxed edition today.  However, due to their age…I feel for those looking to get started in this exciting hobby entertain other available options.

Dovetail Games – Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition

In July 2014, Dovetail Games announced a licensing agreement with Microsoft to distribute the popular Microsoft FSX via Steam.  Dovetail Games made a few minor tweaks to the application to help improve performance and fix many issues which Microsoft had failed to patch before they mothballed the flight simulator projects.  The Dovetail Games Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition (FSX SE) is still available to purchase via Steam for $24.99.  Since the release of FSX SE, many third party payware add-ons or DLC have been made available.

While FSX SE remains a 32 bit application, with the impressive list of available add-ons (which most have been optimized to function well with FSX SE) this simulator remains an excellent starting platform for the brand new flight sim enthusiast.

Dovetail Games – Flight Sim World

Around the same time Dovetail Games announced their licensing agreement to distribute the above mentioned FSX SE, they also announced they had plans to develop their own flight simulator platform.  Just last month, Dovetail Games announced and released Flight Sim World as an early release (beta) product.  Flight Sim World currently sells for $24.99 on Steam.

At this point in time, not a whole lot is known about the future of Flight Sim World (FSW).  There’s a wide variety of opinions regarding this simulator and how much support it will receive from 3rd party developers.  I recently wrote an opinion piece regarding my experience with FSW which you can read here.

In a nutshell, Flight Sim World is not a complete re-write.  There’s still a lot of the old FSX baseline code which exists within the sim.  However, Dovetail has developed it into a 64 bit application and of course this is great news from a systems performance perspective.

Unfortunately, the “what we don’t know” about Flight Sim World is about the only thing giving me some pause.  The way I see it, (and this is just my opinion) but as FSW is born from FSX…if Dovetail doesn’t get the 3rd party developers involved and allow them to develop the content we all expect to see in a sim, then this may never get off the ground.

The Importance of 64 Bit

Before I proceed with my article, I just want to touch on one very important piece and that is the importance of a 64 bit application in today’s modern technology world compared to the older 32 bit architecture.

I’ve written many pieces regarding the obstacles we’ve all faced in trying to wring out as much performance as we can from the older 32 bit applications like FSX (and early versions of P3D).  As we drifted further and further away from the date the original FSX code was developed, we’ve pushed harder and harder on that ever important envelope referred to as VAS or Virtual Address Space.  Essentially available RAM.

Unfortunately, simply adding more RAM to a PC isn’t the solution.  A 32 bit application (like FSX) will only utilize up to 4 GB of available RAM regardless of the amount available in the PC.  Running down to the local hardware store and buying an extra 8 GB of RAM will do nothing to help prevent those pesky OOM’s or Out Of Memory Errors.    Of course, these OOM’s are (for the most part) self-inflicted by piling on visually stunning add-on payware in the form of ground textures, enhanced airport scenery and highly detailed study level type aircraft.  In other words, for the most part….the base FSX application works well until you begin adding the eye candy.

Let’s continue with the list….

Lockheed Martin – Prepar3D

In 2009, Lockheed Martin announced they had negotiated with Microsoft to purchase the intellectual property (including source code) from the Microsoft ESP side of their flight simulation division.  ESP was the commercial side of Microsoft’s business in developing flight simulation applications.  Prepar3d version 1.1 was released in 2011, P3D v2 in 2013, P3D v3 in 2015 and finally Prepar3d version 4 (64 bit) in May 2017.

For me, P3D v4 has become my personal standard and it is what I use for my day to day flight simulation enjoyment.  While P3D v4 (just like versions 1-3) still very much contain original baseline ESP code, and much of the base scenery hasn’t been updated since the days of FSX….the 64 bit architecture is a noticeable “night versus day” difference maker for this very popular flight sim application.

Unfortunately, the only real drawback to P3D comes down to their EULA or End-User License Agreement.  To put it mildly, it’s confusing.  Essentially, P3D is licensed under the following structure:

Academic – ($59.95) Designed to offer the academic community a platform to develop hands-on STEM lessons.  While the academic version of the software is the same as the professional version, there is a watermark visible  signifying the acceptable use of the license.  The academic license is provided at a discount for students.  Currently, there are no requirements to prove eligibility for the academic license.

Professional – ($199.00) The P3D Professional license does allow for training, instruction, simulation and learning.

Professional Plus – ($2300.00)  The P3D Professional Plus license is designed for real world business customers who are going to use the software for extensive training purposes.

Developer – ($9.95/Month) Registered software developers can subscribe and receive two full copies.

I’ve written about the confusion of how the P3D EULA simply doesn’t offer a license for basic entertainment purposes only.  It is for this purpose, I personally purchase the “Professional” level which does specifically identify simulation as part of the acceptable use of the software.  I feel this is also the right thing to do considering that I do often stream and record my flights on YouTube, Twitch etc.  Plus….I’m not a student.

All versions of P3D are still available for purchase on the Prepar3D website and all are offered at the same price.  So if you are truly interested in the P3D platform, I would saddle up with the brand new P3D version 4.

Before I venture away from the topic of P3D allow me to address one thing.  Many are upset, disappointed etc. with the fact that Prepar3D version 4 is simply a 64 bit update of the original ESP code.  Meaning, much of how P3D looks by default hasn’t changed since FSX hit the store shelves almost a dozen years ago.  While I truly understand what many are saying….I must also remind everyone that P3D has never been directly marketed to the general consumer for mere entertainment purposes.  The real target audience of P3D is the commercial, professional and academic side of things and I suggest that perhaps…just perhaps the criteria is just different.

Needless to say, I for one am extremely pleased with P3D v4.  If Lockheed Martin had followed the suggestions from those demanding a new game engine, the wait would be much, much longer.  P3D v4 is performing extremely well on my gaming system and is allowing me to finally enjoy ultimate realism without the need to worry about the crash due to running out of memory.

X-Plane

Just a reminder, my list is not ranking the titles in any particular order.  X-Plane has been around for a number of years and it should be noted that X-Plane was the absolute very first to release their flight sim platform built on the 64 bit architecture.  Their recent release of X-Plane 11 has been making news and is certainly a worthy consideration.  One of the great things about X-Plane is the community behind it.  It truly reminds me of the old Microsoft Flight Sim days where the community truly worked together to develop quality freeware add-ons.  Unfortunately, for the FSX, FSX SE and P3D titles….most add-ons will be payware (with a few exceptions).

For me personally, while I do own X-Plane 11, I’ve really found it to be a struggle to forget the old Microsoft ways of controlling the sim application.  Fortunately for my old mind, much of how FSX was controlled (again from the application level) is absolutely the same in the most recent version of P3D v4.  Plus my extensive collection of add-ons continue to work well.

Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning

There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear.  While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear.  In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGear that will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line.  It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program.

Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc.  I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here.  But please….don’t take my word for it.  Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.

What should you choose?

Unfortunately, we all have different interests and we all have different budgets.  If you’ve previously been involved with the flight simulation hobby and are looking to get back in…then I would recommend either Prepar3D v4 or X-Plane.  What we know about these two platforms should prove these will both be around and will see continued improvements and enhancements for many years to come.

However, if you are brand new to flight simulation and are looking for simply an entry level starting point to help you understand some of the basics of flight and serve as a litmus test if you want to pursue the hobby further, then I suggested giving the new Dovetail Games Flight Sim World a solid look.  While this sim is in early access (beta), the current price of $24.95 won’t be money wasted even if you decide in six months you want to move to P3D or XP.  I’m very impressed with the tutorials in FSW and believe they can be most helpful in helping you achieve a better level of understanding in the principles of flight.  I believe this to be extremely helpful.

As time permits, I do plan to feature more flight simulation content on the GrizzlyBearSims YouTube Channel.  Most likely, I will provide some videos from Flight Sim World and of course also Prepar3D v4.  While I do own XP 11, I’m really just not comfortable enough with that platform to do it justice.

I hope this information has helped you.  As I recently discussed, I truly believe 2017 will be a great year for flight simulation.  I wish you the very best in your new aviation adventure.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

X-Plane 11 Low FPS Fix

I want to share with you a solution I found to help with low FPS rates in the X-Plane 11 beta software.  First, remember that X-Plane 11 is still very much in beta.  It will likely be considered beta for some time.  When a software product is considered to be in beta, it means there will be bugs.  There will be issues and most importantly…what you see is NOT what the final product will resemble.  I’ve spent approx. 2-3 hours in X-Plane 11 beta and initially I was a bit disappointed when I fired up Fraps to check my frame rates or FPS.  Now keep in mind that I’ve learned a long time ago that FPS is not the end all, be all.  In my P3D setup when flying PMDG 737 NGX my max FPS is about 30 FPS on average.  As you can see from my hardware setup, that I have a fairly beefy machine.  Well…at least it was considered beefy a few years ago.  But as you might can imagine, when I initially launched XP11 and noticed I was getting less than 30 FPS in the default Cessna, I was sort of disappointed.  But then I remembered what beta meant and I also remembered my thoughts on FPS.

However, all was not OK.  I was experiencing some serious lag when flying around KSEA and in the various preview videos I had watched on YouTube I didn’t see this same behavior and also worth nothing I didn’t hear these YouTubers mention this behavior.  So I started to do a little research to see if others had experienced this and what (if anything) they have done to work around it.  Again, while X-Plane 11 is very much beta…the stuttering I experienced really was a game changer.  I couldn’t play like that.  Period!

Thankfully, there is a very active community within the X-Plane world and everyone is very helpful.  A quick search and read through gave me something to try, and once I applied this little fix my FPS increased just slightly…but more importantly the stuttering was gone.  As I’ve said before, I really don’t care what FPS number is displayed…as long as I have a smooth visual experience….I’m happy.

Here’s the info regarding the fix.  From what I can tell this only applies to Nvidia GPU’s.  But basically the fix is to turn off “Threaded Optimization” in the Nvidia control panel.  When I first launched my Nvidia Control Panel my setting was set to “Auto”.  I switched it to “Off” as recommended in this Avsim thread.   See image below….

xp_threaded_optimization

Again, just to reiterate.  X-Plane 11 is in beta.  There are bugs, there will be many more bugs found and perhaps most important to remember is X-Plane 11 hasn’t been fully optimized.  Additionally, this low FPS Fix is not going to give you double your FPS.  I was getting (on average) of 25-30 FPS (but with bad stuttering) before I applied the fix and afterwards my FPS has increased to 30-35 FPS with NO STUTTERING!  I’m a happy camper.

I hope this helps you.  Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Flight Sim News

A few months ago I wrote a blog piece discussing my plan to take a very close look at X-Plane 10.  I took that look, didn’t really like what I saw and I promptly requested a full refund via Steam.  There are a few reasons why I believe my initial X-Plane (XP) experiment failed.  The first, and perhaps foremost reason was my very, very long history with the Microsoft Flight Simulator franchise (including Prepar3D).  While I certainly understood that these two platforms are as different as daytime versus nighttime, I had hoped things would be a little more intuitive.  For example, I spent an extremely long time just setting my my CH Products Yoke and Pedals.  While controller setup in FSX/P3D has never been anything to write home about, I found the setup in XP to be even worse.  The user interface (UI) in XP10 had the look of something developed way back in the mid 90’s.

Perhaps the real reason my X-Plane experiment failed was because I compared just about everything to my long history with MSFS/P3D.   But who can blame me?  My history with computer based flight sims goes all the way back to the early/to-mid 1980’s when I played a version of flight simulator on the Commodore 64.  My experience with PC based flight sims started in the early 1990’s and I owned and very much enjoyed every version of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator all the way to FSX.  I will even admit how disappointed I was (crushed even) when Microsoft went the direction of MS Flight and then eventually killed off the franchise.  While Lockheed Martin has carried the torch now for many years, I’ve always had some level of issue with the whole licensing framework.  Some seven years into the P3D experience, and they still aren’t licensing for personal (home entertainment) use.  Of course, I also understand the reasons.

Back in 2009, Microsoft sold what was their MS ESP platform to Lockheed Martin.  ESP was essentially the commercial side of Microsoft’s core flight simulation business.  From the early days of the Prepar3d v1.x release including present day, the licensing has never included “personal consumer entertainment”.  Of course, we can stretch the heck out of our collective imagination and make the wording they use in the EULA (Training, Instruction, Simulation, Learning) work for our individual situations.  As I’ve lamented time and time and time again on this blog site, legally speaking…the majority of P3D users really shouldn’t be using the software.

In 2014, Microsoft granted the rights to Dovetail Games to develop the next flight simulation and per this arrangement also allowed Dovetail to release FSX on Steam.  I’ve heard from many individuals that the re-release of FSX on Steam has been met with a positive experience.  Perhaps Dovetail better optimized FSX or they are including a little bit of magic pixie dust….whatever the cause, FSX via Steam does perform slightly better than the old boxed version of FSX.  This is a good thing.  But, I must remind everyone of the following statement Dovetail made back in 2014.  This came from a press release around the same time describing FSX Steam edition and outlining the future of flight simulation and reads as follows:  Dovetail “is currently investigating new concepts in this area and is expecting to bring a release to market in 2015”.

No, you didn’t miss it.  2015 came and went….and there was no new flight sim from Dovetail released.  Of course the target date moved (as these things do), and Dovetail once again was quoted as saying “Dovetail Games Flight Simulator, built on the foundations of Microsoft’s Flight Technology will be released on PC for 2016”.  Now we find ourselves two years down the road after the re-release of FSX via Steam and we still don’t have the new and upcoming flight simulator from Dovetail Games.  Oh wait….yea….I almost forgot.  Yes…Dovetail did release Flight School in May of this year.  While I did see some cool things in Flight School, “like sands through the hour glass”, time is quickly slipping by in 2016.  But just last week Dovetail did release a press release basically saying there would be no new flight simulator coming in 2016.  Please take a few minutes to review that press release….but here’s my cliff notes version.

First, it wasn’t 2016 when they “announced” the development of their new flight simulator.  That was actually in 2014.

Second, they state “based on your feedback, we have been focusing on three key areas: visuals, performance and experience”.  Sounds to me like any of their structured plans  which they may have come up with in 2014 and 2015 were ripped to shreds when they FINALLY decided to listen to the flight sim community.  While I’m not a betting man, I would be willing to bet Dovetail’s original plan was to pickup where Microsoft left off with that crappy Microsoft Flight game.  Microsoft Flight was an arcade game and not a simulation.  Finally, I also wouldn’t be surprised if Dovetail’s partnership with folks like Aerosoft, Orbx and PMDG also didn’t help shift their focus back towards true simulation.

To be honest, I haven’t really spent any significant time with flight sim in many months.  Actually, perhaps the last time I did any sim flying was the few hours I spent messing around in Dovetail Flight School.  While I do long for getting back into the virtual skies, I’m also sick and tired of being frustrated.

If you look through my blog archives you will notice that in recent months I’ve written more articles regarding simulation game titles such as Euro Truck Simulator 2, American Truck Simulator and Farming Simulator 15 and 17.  While these game titles are not perfect, for the most part they are stress free.  You install them and you play them and they work.  I get a smooth game playing experience from each of them without much need to constantly tweak the game or tweak the system.  Of course, I also am perfectly aware of the vast differences between those games and flight simulation.  Sadly, perhaps most of my problems with flight simulation has been with the vast amounts of add-ons I use.  While most are quick to blame a dodgy mod for causing issues with ATS, ETS2 or FS15/17….it’s really not the same with Flight Sim.  Perhaps a very high 90-95% of add-ons for flight sim (P3D) are payware.  I’ll admit, with regards to flight sim…I’m addicted to eye candy.  I very much want my eyes to see the same thing at KDEN (Denver International) in P3D that I would see if I visited the airport in person.  This perhaps is another reason why I wasn’t impressed with X-Plane 10.

The Future of Flight Simulation

I’ve never considered myself a predictor of anything.  After all, I’ve been predicting the Dallas Cowboys would win the super bowl for the past 20 years.  Shhhhh, I’m not saying another word about that.  Smile   But I’ve often put my thoughts regarding the future of flight simulation into words here on my blog site.  I’ve been blogging about flight simulation here since 2010 and in this span of time I’ve seen a lot, heard a lot and experienced a lot.  I’ve said that I felt P3D was not the future, and I’ve said that it was.  But even though I really wasn’t impressed with X-Plane 10 (and I’m not sure this fact will ever change), I must admit that I am impressed with that I’ve witnessed with X-Plane 11.  Yep, X-Plane 11 beta was released recently and it looks pretty darn good.  I was so impressed with a few videos I watched on YouTube that I downloaded the X-Plane 11 trial just to test it out for myself.

Once downloaded/installed, I fired it up and within about 10 minutes I had my CH Products Yoke and Pedals fully configured.  The only challenge I found was XP11 also detected my Logitech G27 and Logitech Extreme 3D Pro Joystick.  Not a problem, but in order to get my Yoke and Pedals working accurately, I had to go in and clear out the settings XP11 thought my G27 and joystick would perform.  Once I did this, then all my CH Products gear worked fine.  The overall UI in XP11 is 100% night and day difference between what I witnessed in XP10.

Bottom line is I’m really impressed with what I’m seeing from the guys at X-Plane.  I’m so impressed that I plan to purchased X-Plane 11 (even in its beta state) just so I can spend more than the 15 minutes the trial allows flying.  Plus I really want to be able to follow the progress of XP11 through its beta stages and I’m fully aware what beta means.  But I really believe the guys at Laminar Research have finally moved the chains further than anything I’ve seen to date.  But of course, this is just my opinion.

I do plan to provide occasional updates as time allows.  I’ve already stumbled onto one little fix which has improved both FPS and visual performance and I’ll share that with you tomorrow.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Looking at X-Plane

image

Yes…you are reading this correctly and NO it’s not a delayed blog posting which should have been uploaded on April 1st  (April Fools Day).  I’m actually starting to consider purchasing X-Plane version 10.

For the sake of bringing everyone up to speed, I’ve been flying computer simulations since the early to mid 1980’s.  Yes…I said 1980’s.  It all started with the Commodore 64.  As I moved into the world of PC’s in the early 1990’s, I began playing the Microsoft Flight Simulator version and owned each version up to FSX.

A few years ago when Lockheed Martin came onto the scene with P3D v1.0 I passed on it.  I didn’t actually take the plunge into P3D until version 2.3.  I moved up to version 2.4 and finally version 2.5 as they were each released.  During this timeframe, I was mostly using P3D, but still had FSX installed and would occasionally fire it up.

When P3D launched version 3, that was around the time that I also decided to move from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and in doing so I decided to do a complete rebuild of my gaming system.  When Windows 10 came online, I installed P3D version 3.0 and never touched the FSX disks.  They still sit in my bookcase to this day.

More than just an investment

My history with FSX and P3D is more than just a financial investment.  While it is true I probably have several thousand dollars invested in hardware and software (add-on aircraft, airport scenery, weather etc. etc.) it is also about what I’m truly used to.  Since P3D for the most part is just a enhanced version of FSX, the functional aspects of the application (and my experience) goes back a long time (almost 10 years).  Making the move from FSX/P3D to X-Plane is (in my opinion) would be a financial sacrifice, it also will very much be a mental sacrifice.  But why would I even want to consider this move?

Looking for stability

While it is true LM has made significant advances in controlling the memory beast that comes with a complex 32 bit application like P3D.  Especially when factoring in some of the beautiful add-on scenery and complex aircraft systems, but P3D just remains so darn fickle.  After you spend hours and hours and even more hours installing P3D, all the add-on airports, add-on airports etc.  there just are no guarantees that some future Microsoft Windows update won’t cause everything to explode.  Ok…perhaps not literally.  But you understand what I’m saying.

Many (even including myself) were disappointed to learn that P3D v. 3 was not 64 bit and even more upsetting to learn that Lockheed Martin may not even have any plans at all to develop a 64 bit version of P3D.  But is 64 bit the end-all, be all?  No, but it does go a long way.  But as I stated last year, IF Lockheed Martin developed a 64 bit version of P3D…this will cause a ripple effect throughout the flight sim community and would most certainly require all 3rd party add-ons to also be re-developed into 64 bit versions.  As there is no magic 32 to 64 bit conversion process…the simple fact that I purchased (as an example) an Orbx scenery 5 years ago for FSX and have since enjoyed a P3D v2.x AND a P3D 3.x version (with no additional cost) would most certainly be a thing of the past.  Said in another way, the day a 64 bit version of P3D releases…that is when we all start over.

800 Pound Gorilla

Yes…there is an 800 pound gorilla in the room which we all just tend to ignore.  If we don’t look at it, then it really isn’t there.  Right?  What am I talking about?  Well…I’m talking about those four letters that make up that very nasty word.  NO….not that word.  I’m talking about EULA.  The vast majority of P3D users are breaking the EULA each and every day.  Most of the “famous” YouTubers and Twitch streamers are doing it in plain sight.  Yes….even yours truly is breaking the law according to those four letters EULA.  By the way, EULA stands for End User License Agreement.  It basically is a legally binding document which tells us just how we can use the P3D software.

It should come as no surprise that I would bring this up.  I’ve been talking about the P3D EULA since the days of v1.x.  It was the EULA which kept me from purchasing P3D until version 2.3 and then I knew I was in the wrong, but there was nothing stopping me.  With version 2.x I only owned the academic license.  With version 3, I did plop down the $199 and went with the professional license.  But as I’ve said over and over and over.  I don’t fit into any of the license categories and as previously stated, most don’t either.  The EULA clearly states that Prepar3D is not to be used, offered, sold or distributed through markets or channels for use as a personal/consumer entertainment product.

We’ve been fortunate.  At this very moment you can visit the Prepar3d.com website and you can purchase P3D v3 (or even v2.x) without the need to prove you are a student, professional or developer.  Try to do this with any other form of software which offers discounts for students?  Yea…I think you are starting to get my point.

Actually…while I’m not lawyer (and I didn’t sleep in a Holiday Inn Express last night either), Lockheed Martin is actually in violation of their agreement with Microsoft by even allowing a non-student, non-professional and non-developer to purchase the software.   I suppose there may be some small gray area where Lockheed Martin isn’t actually marketing P3D for personal use.  Also, the reason why I purchased the professional version of P3D v3 was based on the following “Acceptable uses for Prepar3D include Simulation, Learning and Training.  While I’m not using P3D to train, I do firmly believe that flight simulation is “not just a video game”, so I’m simulating the activities of a professional pilot and I’m learning the proper and correct procedures required to simulate the aircraft I enjoy flying.  But this is a HUGE play on words.  Does the glove fit????

Bottom line….while I have a huge investment in FSX/P3D which I’m utilizing in P3D v.3.x.  There are no guarantees I’ll continue to enjoy this.  What scares me the most?  While Microsoft could have forced Lockheed to tighten down their selling practices, it is Dovetail which makes me more nervous.  After all, Dovetail purchased the rights to redistribute FSX via Steam AND what ever Dovetails “New” entry into the Flight Sim world will be, could suffer a financial impact due to P3D.

Change is Good????

Finally, I suppose I’m intrigued by the element of change.  Some suggest that X-Plane has a much more realistic flight dynamics as compared to FSX or P3D.  For me, this is not really as important.  While I appreciate the “As Real As It Gets” experience with FSX/P3D, the fact it may lack slightly to X-Plane isn’t enough reason to make the change.  But having access to different aircraft types which may not be available for P3D v3.x could interest me enough to make the move.  While I absolutely love my PMDG 737NGX, I also very much miss flying my MD80, Boeing 727 just to name a few.  From what I’ve found in my initial research, X-Plane has a very serious following of aircraft developers who are doing their part to keep these old birds flying in the virtual skies.

Next Steps

At this point in time I’m giving X-Plane some really serious thought.  I more than likely will purchase via Steam so I have the option to apply for a refund if I find it doesn’t live up to my expectations.  I’ll be certain to keep you all posted on my decision and my progress should I decide to pull the trigger.  If anything, it will be good for me to try X-Plane for the sake of my simulation blogging efforts.  After all, X-Plane (for Windows) has been around for as long as FSX and it is very much still in active development.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Which Flight Simulator Software is right for me?

Back in the early days, we didn’t have much choice when it came to selecting flight simulator software.  When I was a teen back in the early 80’s, I had a Commodore 64 computer.  I had a version of flight simulator which ran on the Commodore 64 computer.  In those days you only had a small selection of airports to fly to and from and typically only one type of aircraft.  I spent many, many hours flying the Cessna around Meig’s Field in Chicago.

As time passed, the sophistication of the various flight simulator software titles evolved from just one aircraft and a few airports to any aircraft one could imagine and an entire globe full of airports with tons of eye candy to look at while flying from point A to point B.  Today, flight simulator enthusiasts have many different software platforms to choose from when it comes to setting up their flight simulator. 

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Perhaps some will argue this point, but I believe Microsoft Flight Simulator leads the popularity contest when it comes to flight simulator software.   From Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 released in 1982 all the way to Microsoft Flight Simulator X released in 2006, Microsoft has certainly done its part to create the industry behind the flight sim hobby.

Tip – Microsoft released a new ‘simulator’ titled Microsoft Flight in February 2012.  While Microsoft referred to MS Flight as a simulator, the flight sim community does not.  Unlike all other versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, Flight is geared to be more of a ‘game’ versus simulator. On July 26, 2012, Microsoft cancelled any further development plans for Flight.

If you are looking into purchasing a version of Microsoft Flight Simulator, you’ll find Flight Simulator 2004 (AKA FS9) and Flight Simulator X as the most common versions used among Microsoft enthusiasts.  You’ll also find software add-on options (including scenery, aircraft and other accessories) widely available for both FS9 and FSX versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator.  I wouldn’t advise purchasing any version prior to FS9.

FSX will function (as well as just about every add-on) without issue on the Microsoft Windows 7 OS (32 bit and 64 bit).  I’ve also read in various forums where users have installed FSX on the new Microsoft Windows 8 OS.  However, I can’t confirm Windows 8 will handle all the other add-on options available. 

X-Plane

X-Plane, developed by Laminar Research is another popular flight sim platform which has been around for a number of years.  Designed for Mac, but also available for 32/64-Bit Windows and Linux OS systems, it has become a solid alternative to the Microsoft brand.  Most 3rd party developers designing the various add-on options include X-Plane versions.  Unlike Microsoft, the developers of X-Plane continue to develop the software and as of the present time the most current version is 10.10.

Prepar3D

Prepar3D or P3D is the new kid on the block with regards to payware flight simulation software.  Announced in 2009, Lockheed Martin negotiated the purchase of the intellectual property including source code of Microsoft Flight Simulator X along with the hiring of many of the MS developers which were part of ACES Studios to develop what would become Prepar3D.  From what I understand, most add-ons as well as the default FSX aircraft work in Prepar3D without any adjustment since Prepar3D is kept backward compatible to FSX.  However, there are some small technical changes that must be made if you want to fly online via either the IVAO or VATSIM networks.

There is some debate whether or not Prepar3D is designed to be used in the flight sim hobby community.  I don’t believe Lockheed Martin plans to develop a public version, but the Prepar3D website does state that the academic license version is available for students from kindergarten through undergraduate and is suitable for home use.  You can learn more about the licensing of P3D here.

Freeware/Open-Source Alternatives and a warning

There is an open-source alternative to flight simulation software available from FlightGear.  While I’ve never spent any time testing or flying using the FlightGear flight simulation software, I know others do use it and there are methods of importing planes from Microsoft Flight Simulator into FlightGear.  In addition, there is also an on-line client for the VATSIM network called SquawkGearthat will allow you to use FlightGear to fly on-line.  It is extremely encouraging to see developers like FlightGear contribute to the flight sim community with their open-source program. 

Unfortunately, there are some individuals who have taken the open-source code from FlightGear, made a few minor modifications and are attempting to market the product under various names such as Flight Pro Sim, Pro Flight Simulator etc.  I first learned about this back in 2010 and blogged about it here and here.  But please….don’t take my word for it.  Read the official statement released by FlightGear and judge for yourself.

Final Thoughts

I base much of my decision around what flight simulator platform I continue to use around the fact that I have a large investment of money and time in the Microsoft platform.  I built a custom PCback in 2010 which would handle the demands of Microsoft FSX.  I have hundreds of dollars tied up in add-on software and hardware to enhance my flight sim experience.  If I woke up tomorrow and could no longer run Microsoft FSX, I would probably further investigate Prepar3D as a solution.  However, if you are just starting out….the sky truly is the limit in the direction you proceed. 

While there are many reasons to select Microsoft Flight Simulator as your software of choice, the fact that Microsoft discontinued development and in my opinion will never develop flight simulation software again is perhaps a reason to steer away from this as an option.  But for now, FSX continues to be my platform of choice and it works well for me.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT