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. 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…