Reader Question–MSFS Auto-Update

I have another reader question to explore today with everyone.  It’s a rather interesting one and honestly it’s one of my very own pet peeves about Microsoft Flight Simulator.  Here’s a snippit of the email I received a few days ago. 

Hello, I recently stumbled onto your blog site and found your content to be extremely helpful as I slowly wade into the world of flight simulation.  I read your recent “Reader Question – Where are the Widebodies” posting and it inspired me to email you with my very own question to see if you can shed any light.  Like many I’m sure, I don’t have a lot of time to devote to flight sim.  I have a young family and once I’m home from work, have dinner and help get the kids all in bed, I generally enjoy taking a short flight a few times a week.  I have even less time on the weekends as the kids all seem to have different activities and sometimes at opposite ends of town. Anyway, I was hoping to spend a quiet Friday evening flying my favorite PMDG 737, but instead the entire time was spent downloading updates.  By the time MSFS finished updating, it was time for bed as I had an early start the next day.  So my main question is why are these updates forced on us and is there any way to disable them?  My sim has been working just fine and I would have rather waited until a more convenient time to apply the updates, if that is even possible.  Thank you for your time.  George

Oh boy!  I for one certainly understand George’s frustration.  While I’m retired and don’t have kids that need to be shuttled around from one extra curricular activity to another….when I decide to sit down and fly….I want to fly!  Over the past four decades that I’ve enjoyed the hobby of flight simulation starting on the Commodore 64 all the way through each generation of Microsoft Flight Simulator and throughout each of the versions of Prepar3D….MSFS is the very first which has had this auto-update mechanism built in that upon launch and regardless whether you want  to update or not, you are forced to download/install the updates. 

During the Prepar3D (P3D) years, I would make it a matter of practice to always wait several days, perhaps even several weeks before downloading and installing an update.  Generally speaking, it could take several days, perhaps even a week or two before 3rd party developers could provide patches to their products to make them compatible with the most recent P3D update.  In addition, by deferring an update also allowed time to research the various forums to determine if the update caused any game breaking issues which could require a hot-fix to resolve. 

Having said all that, Microsoft Flight Simulator is a completely different sim from all those in the past.  Part of what makes MSFS the gold standard (in my opinion) is the fact it’s cloud based.  All the beauty and majesty we experience while flying around the virtual world is streamed down to our PC’s on an “On-Demand” basis.  The cloud based design allows for a much smaller footprint on our SSD’s or HDD’s and only needs to download the data specific to the location we’re flying.  As a result it’s necessary for all client machines connecting to the MSFS systems to all be running the same version of the base software.  Thus why we have the mandatory updates. 

I have read some comments on various forums and other social media platforms that suggest one can avoid the mandatory update process by disconnecting your network connection, start up MSFS and then reconnect once in the main menu.  While I’ve not tested this process, I believe avoiding updates is not the best practice in the long run and may lead to issues especially if you connect to the MSFS multi-player environment. 

Of course this cloud-based setup can lead to issues which we experienced a few months ago where many users experienced unexplained performance and CTD (crash to desktop) issues over several long days. I wrote about my own experiences in a blog posting titled “And Just Like That” where I discussed the issues I had experienced and my belief at what caused these issues. 

If I’m honest, I do have some long-range concerns regarding what may or may not happen as MSFS ages beyond the next several years.  There is a rather surprising number of simmers who still fly FS9 and FSX on a daily basis even though these platforms are almost two decades old.  While both Microsoft and Asobo appear to be fully committed to the success of MSFS 2020.  But depending on their long-range plans, it might not be possible to use MSFS in the year 2040 if something else has taken its place or God forbid the program is completed shelved.  Let’s face it, it costs a lot of money to operate the data centers and cloud solutions which allow us to fly around the virtual skies.  The powers that be at Microsoft will need to see a solid return on this investment over the years to come.  But hey, this is probably a discussion to have at a later day in time. 

Bottom line (and in closing), as I’ve stated many times before, I believe Microsoft Flight Simulator is the gold standard of all flight simulator platforms available today and I also believe, will be so for some time to come.  Despite the pain points we occasionally have to suffer through, when it works (and for me it works flawlessly 99.999% of the time) it brings me more enjoyment than I’ve ever experienced in my long history with flight sim. 

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog posts.  Until next time….

Happy Flying!

Jerry

Texas is finally here…

800px-Flag_of_Texas_svg  The highly anticipated, much desired (especially by me) Texas DLC for American Truck Simulator is finally available.  As many of my long-time readers will know, for many years the only simulation base gaming I did was flight sim.  Sometime around 2015 I branched over to Farming Simulator and my first experience with a trucking simulator was ETS2 sometime in late 2015.  So when I heard the news that SCS Software would be releasing American Truck Simulator I was extremely excited. 

ATS debuted in February 2016 and it was an immediate purchase for me.  I enjoyed the experiences of driving a semi-truck up and down California, Nevada and eventually Arizona when that free DLC released in June 2016.  The ATS map began to grow as new states were released as DLC with New Mexico (Nov 2017), Oregon (Oct 2018, Washington (June 2019), Utah (Nov 2019), Idaho (July 2020), Colorado (Nov 2020), Wyoming (Sept 2021), Montana (Aug 2022) and of course finally Texas released on 15 November 2022.

Texas_Road_map_big

Photo credit: SCS Software

As you can see from the DLC release dates I mentioned in the second paragraph, the Texas DLC has been a long time coming.  While I had experienced driving in Texas with ATS with the Coast-to-Coast map mod, I had really been looking forward to the Texas DLC as Texas is my birth state and where I lived for about half my life.  I still have family and many friends living in Texas and I knew SCS Software would do a great job with the map DLC.  They certainly didn’t disappoint.

It had been a few months since I had spent time playing ATS, but my truck was in Denver and I decided I would accept a job from Denver to Austin.  My wife and I had previously driven this route about a month ago to go and see my dad, so I was looking forward to experiencing it in ATS.  Of course the first several hundred miles were in Colorado and New Mexico which I had explored many times before.  But once I reached the Texas state line just before Dalhart it all became a very pleasing experience. 

Once reaching Texas, my route took me through Dumas to Amarillo, then southeast to Ft Worth on US 287 where I picked up I-35W then on to Austin passing first through Waco.  The only slight disappointment was just how quickly the Austin skyline comes into view.  Now I lived many years in the Central Texas area and I have family still living just north of Austin.  As I rolled south out of Waco you quickly come to the interchange of I-14/190.  This interchange is actually in a town called Belton.  Belton is situated just south of Temple.  Neither Temple or Belton are recognized by ATS, but as soon as you pass the junction of I-35 and I-14, the skyline of Austin immediately comes into view and in the real world, this distance is about 50 miles.  But of course, I do understand the way ATS is scaled down and with that said it’s all OK.

All-in-all, I’m very pleased with the Texas DLC and since release I’ve been spending much of my time exploring the Lone Star State in all her glory.  Texas is large enough that you can do some great runs up, down or across the state. 

So what’s next for American Truck Simulator?  As we know, SCS will be moving north from Texas with Oklahoma being the next planned DLC release.  I’m sure we’ll then see Kansas, followed by Nebraska as we make our way further north into the Dakotas.  These next few states will all tie in nicely with the existing states to the west and provide some excellent driving opportunities.  As compared with the development time a large state like Texas required, we should see OK and KS coming much quicker.  But let’s face it, at the pace SCS is releasing state DLC’s, we’re still a VERY long time away from seeing the entire lower 48 in the map.  But of course if you want more, then for now check out the Coast-to-Coast mod.

Well it’s time to pick up another load and make my way down towards Houston.  I certainly hope you’re enjoying the Texas DLC for American Truck Simulator as much as I am. 

Until next time…

Happy Trucking!!!

Jerry

Reader Question–Where are the widebodies?

Hello to all my loyal readers.  I recently received an email from one of my long-time blog subscribers that I wanted to answer and share with the rest of you.  I figure many of you might be wondering the same thing as well…so let’s get started.

Hello Jerry,

I hope you and your family are doing well.  You might remember me from many years ago.  I’ve been a subscriber of your blog site from the very beginning and you helped me with some issues I had been experiencing with FSX and the PMDG 737 about 10 years ago.  Like you, I recently made the transition to Microsoft Flight Simulator and have been having so much fun in the PMDG 737-800 and the Fenix A320.  I’m amazed at just how far flight sim has come over the past decade.  I’m curious if you have any insight into when we might see our first study level widebody long-haul aircraft?  By the way, thank you so much for the article you published back in September about using caution when purchasing add-on aircraft for MSFS.  I had been tempted to purchase the Captain Sim 777, but I vaguely remember you writing an article about that plane many years ago in FSX.  Anyway, I hope all is well and I look forward to hearing from you soon.   Randy

Before I get into answering Randy’s question about “Where are the widebodies” allow me to just briefly explain exactly what a wide-body aircraft is in relation to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  By definition, a wide-body aircraft is any aircraft which is wide enough to accommodate two passenger aisles with seven or more seats abreast.  Popular wide-body aircraft are the Boeing 747, 767, 777, 787 or the Airbus A310, A330, A350, A380.  The typical wide-body aircraft I just referenced are also sometimes referred to as long-haul aircraft due to their range.  In comparison, a narrow-body aircraft (like the Boeing 737, 757 or Airbus A320 series) has a single passenger aisle.   Of course, in modern day aviation we’re seeing many narrow-body aircraft replacing their wide-body counterparts on transatlantic routes.  But I digress….

Now in some respects, I personally have only started missing the wide-body aircraft I knew and loved in P3D and were lacking in MSFS when SU10 released in late September.  The reason I say this is before SU10, MSFS would typically crash on most users after 3-4 hours of flight due to a memory leak that has existed in the sim for some time.  But with this issue now resolved, I’m truly looking forward to the availability of my favorite wide-body, long-haul aircraft so I can stretch my wings and do some transatlantic flights in MSFS.  I’m currently tracking the progress on several planned wide-body aircraft which I want to share what information I’ve learned with all of you.  Let’s get started!

iniBuilds Airbus A310-300

Depending on when I actually finish this article and publish it, the first wide-body aircraft I want to discuss is the Airbus A310-300 which will be part of the Microsoft Flight Simulator 40th Anniversary Update (Sim Update 11) which is scheduled to be released on 11 November.  SU11 will include the much anticipated Airbus A310-300 which was developed in partnership with Microsoft/Asobo by iniBuilds. The iniBuilds A310-300 will be the first complex, immersive wide-body aircraft for the MSFS platform and will (at least temporarily) fill the void in the wide-body category. 

Other Future Wide-body Releases

Unfortunately, all we really know about possible future wide-body aircraft releases for MSFS are simply the what and by who.  In other words, we have a general idea on what the aircraft type will be and who is developing it.  But as for as expected release timeframe….well that’s anybody’s guess at this point in time. So let’s break this down by developer and I’ll share with you what I know about each. 

PMDG

Out of all the wide-body, long-haul aircraft that we know about currently being developed for Microsoft Flight Simulator, the PMDG 777 and 747 are perhaps the most anticipated (especially the 777).    PMDG long ago announced the release order for their MSFS products which included the 737-700, 737-600, 737-800 and finally the 737-900.  As we all know, only the –700, –600 and –800 have been released at the time of this writing.  The –900 is long overdue but we certainly know that PMDG is burning the midnight oil to get it out to us as soon as possible.  We’ve also been told that once the complete 737 series has been made available (including the EFB) the next aircraft we will see from PMDG will be the Boeing 777, followed by the Boeing 747 and then finally the Boeing 737 MAX. 

While I’m sure the PMDG team can multi-task and have some individuals working on the 777 alongside the 737-900, but if I were a betting man, I would wager we won’t see the PMDG Boeing 777 until late Q3 or Q4 of 2023 at the earliest.  Of course, we could all be surprised and see it appear earlier….but PMDG is a developer that prides itself on only releasing their products only when they are 100% ready and as bug free as humanly possible.  So with all that said, I seriously don’t believe we’ll see the PMDG Queen of the Skies (747) until sometime in 2024.

TFDi

If you are relatively new to flight simulation you may not have heard of TFDi.   They are a small developer who are behind such add-ons as PACX and if you fly for a virtual airline you may also use their Smartcars flight tracker to log your VA PIREPs.   A few years ago, TFDi released their Boeing 717 for FSX and P3D and we’ve known for some time they have been working on an MD-11.  Their MD-11 for MSFS has been getting a bit of attention in the past few weeks and the expected release timeframe could be as early as the end of September 2023. 

Aerosoft

The team at Aerosoft have been working on their Airbus A330-300 for quite some time and judging from the information I’ve seen on their forums and other social media outlets, we could actually see the Aerosoft A330-300 in Q2 or Q3 of 2023. 

FlyByWire

When it comes to the Airbus A380 we’ve heard of several teams attempting to develop the aircraft for P3D.  Each of these efforts have sadly evaporated into thin air.  However, the team that is behind the highly successful FBW A320 in MSFS are developing an open source Airbus A380 for MSFS.  While there is no release date currently available for this highly anticipated aircraft, the team are steadily making progress.  You can learn more about the FBW A380 from the FlyByWire Facebook page.  Based on what I’ve seen I believe it might be safe to say we could see this beast of an aircraft come to MSFS sometime in 2023. 

QualityWings

Unfortunately, all we know about the QualityWings 787 Dreamliner is the team has plans to eventually bring it to MSFS.  While I understand why developers don’t want to provide key details behind expected release dates, QualityWings has (in my opinion) dropped the ball and gone completely silent the past several months.  But this is really nothing new from QualityWings.  They’ve gone dark before for months and then out of the blue will surprise us with some news and images.  Could we see the QW Dreamliner sometime in 2023?  I hope so, but I’m also not going to get my hopes up based on the fact that we haven’t had an update on any progress in a very, very long time. 

Bluebird Simulations

While this last aircraft isn’t a wide-body, this aircraft is absolutely one of my favorites behind the Boeing 737 and 777.  The team at Bluebird Simulations is developing a Boeing 757 (in conjunction with Justflight).  There will be two variations of the 757.  One will be a simplified version and the second will be a more complex version.  The plan is to release a passenger variant in both the 757-200 and 757-300 versions.  A cargo variant is planned but will be released as an expansion add-on.  I believe the expected release timeframe is Q2 or Q3 in 2023. 

In Summary

As we are quickly approaching the end of what I have said has been an incredible year for Microsoft Flight Simulator, I truly believe 2023 will far surpass what we’ve experienced this year as far as add-on aircraft is concerned.  The sim itself is stable and it’s exciting to see the level of commitment from not only Microsoft/Asobo….but also from all the 3rd party developers who are working extremely hard to bring us all the extra bells and whistles we desire in a flight simulator.  For someone like myself who has been involved in the hobby of flight simulation for almost four decades, this is truly a great time to be alive and be involved in this wonderful hobby. 

Thank you all for taking the time to read.  If I hear updated news on any of the aircraft I mentioned above, I’ll certainly share that information right here on my blog site. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

MSFS Beta and Should You Participate

There are many reasons why the user community of Microsoft Flight Simulator or just about any major gaming title (simulation or otherwise) should participate in the various beta or early adopter updates released from time to time.  While in a perfect world, the developer behind any gaming title should have the resources to perform system testing to rule out major issues, the hard truth is most do not and there’s almost no way for any developer to test all the possible scenarios including hardware configurations and 3rd party add-ons/mods which all can and mostly likely will have an impact in the finished product.  In actuality, the developer (in this case Microsoft/Asobo) will perform their very best due diligence to ensure the update performs on a few different hardware configurations and generally leaves it up to 3rd party developers and mod creators to “shoe horn” their add-ons around what they’ve been provided.  So our participation in these beta programs (especially when feedback is sent back to the developer) is instrumental in the overall wellbeing of the gaming title.

Generally speaking, most 3rd party developers will participate in the beta programs for obvious reasons. But they do not receive the beta version in advance of the general public.  In other words, 3rd party developers like PMDG and Fenix only have access to the beta when it’s been made available to all of us.  The 3rd party devs will utilize the time between when the beta is released and it becomes GA (General Availability) to work out any issues with their add-on.  Of course in many situations this all becomes a fast moving target as there may be many iterations of the beta.  The time a 3rd party developer spends adjusting their add-on to function correctly with the beta could become a complete waste of time as changes are made and pushed out during the beta cycle.  In other words, in some cases the only way of truly knowing if a 3rd party add-on is going to work is to wait until the beta has become GA and been released to the entire community. 

Over the years, I’ve participated in many beta programs for all sorts of gaming titles.  Some have been positive, wonderful experiences of being able to gain access to new functionality or performance enhancements before everyone else.  But in a few cases these beta experiences have become an absolute nightmare.  In many cases the only way to escape the beta is to complete reinstall the current live version. As you can probably imagine this can be an extremely time consuming process.

A few weeks ago, Microsoft/Asobo began their open beta for the upcoming SU11 update and the word on the street is the experience hasn’t been an easy one.  Especially with some 3rd party aircraft and live weather.  Some 3rd party developers will do their best to provide solutions or workarounds for their products for the beta cycle, but most simply can’t and won’t guarantee functionality on a beta installation.  On the bright side, with regards to the SU11 beta, some users have reported experiencing a significant performance improvement from SU10. 

If you’re wondering if participating in the MSFS beta program is right for you, I would say it depends.  If you mainly fly default aircraft or if you still fly P3D/XPlane then participating in the SU11 beta  (or any future beta release) is probably OK for you.  However, if MSFS is your sole flight sim platform and you’re an every day flyer of add-on aircraft like the Fenix A320 or the PMDG 737, then I would highly suggest you hold off.  Bottom line, if you want full system compatibility between MSFS and 3rd party aircraft, then stay on the current live MSFS build.  Otherwise you may be in for a surprise when you attempt to fly your favorite 3rd party aircraft in the beta build. 

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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