As I often say, unless you’ve had your head under a rock the past 48-72 hours, you’ve certainly heard about the BIG flight sim news. No, the biggest flight sim related news to break over this past weekend didn’t come from the halls of FSExpo19. As the curtains were all about to close on what appears to have been another extremely successful FlightSimExpo, Microsoft (yes…Microsoft) was making an announcement waaaaay over on the other side of the country, at the hugely popular E3 gaming conference in Los Angeles that they were returning to the flight simulation market in 2020 with Microsoft Flight Simulator.
My Initial Reaction
The first I heard of this was on Sunday afternoon. I was kicked back in my lazy boy recliner and saw a Facebook post stating something about a new version of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. My first thought was someone’s made a YouTube video and in true “click bait” fashion titled it that way and all it will end up being is P3D with a ton of addons. But….but…much to my surprise that was not the case.
In addition to the E3 announcement, Microsoft has a fancy website and an “Insider Program” already setup to support the announcement. On this website it states, “Microsoft Flight Simulator is the next generation of one of the most beloved simulation franchises. From light planes to wide-body jets, fly highly detailed and stunning aircraft in an incredibly realistic world. Create your flight plan and fly anywhere on the planet. Enjoy flying day or night, and face realistic, challenging weather conditions”.
Take a Deep Breath and slowly Exhale……
Here’s what we know so far. Not much! It appears Microsoft Flight Simulator will release sometime in 2020. It appears it will be available for both XBOX and Windows 10. It appears (based on the info available) the video was “captured in real-time 4K”. In the grand scheme of things this really isn’t enough information to even warrant talking about it, yet here we are….talking about it! You literally will not find a single flight sim community NOT talking about it. It’s everywhere…yet what we know is…not much!
In addition to not really knowing much (at this stage) about this new Microsoft Flight Simulator everyone has opinions. Yes, this includes yours truly. Of course I do! Simply, you can’t have been involved the hobby as long as I have and not have an opinion or three. I’m human…I do and I’m going to share a few of my thoughts with you. Whether you care to read them, agree with them is up to you. Here goes….
There seems to be a lot of criticism from some regarding the opinions and comments made by others with regards to this announcement. A lot of what I’m reading which would fall into this category is being made by those who have only been involved in this hobby 5 minutes. They weren’t around a decade or more ago to read/hear about all the things Microsoft Flight Simulator was to become. They weren’t around when the hype surrounding Microsoft Flight could be cut with a knife and the giant sucking sound which occurred when all the excitement evaporated when reality set in.
Most who will read the words I’ve written can be grouped into the hardcore flight simulation community segment. We’ve all grown up through the various iterations of the wonderful Microsoft Flight Simulator product and were all equally let down when it became no more. Yet, we tightened our laces and settled into one of two courts with that being Prepar3D and the second being X-Plane. Some are successfully straddling the fence of both and there’s a small segment which have stayed behind with FSX or FSX Steam Edition and yes, as funny as this may sound….a portion are still stuck on the FS2004/FS9 island. But regardless, we all shed our tears for what was Microsoft Flight Simulator and we’ve moved on. So yes, we have a right to our opinions and we have a right to be somewhat skeptical of this new project.
You’ve often heard myself and others talk about what a niche community we have. It’s true! The flight simulation community isn’t as big as some might want to make it out to be. While competition is a good thing, over saturation isn’t so much. Can our community support three major flight simulation platforms? I’m not so sure, but could Microsoft have a trick up their sleeve?
I Love History
As previously stated, our community is small compared to other popular “gaming”communities. While many of us don’t consider our flight simulation to be a game, by the way it’s not…it’s a simulator. We still get compared to other communities. Anyway….
Despite the fact there are a few other simulator options out there, the two major players at this point in time are Prepar3D and X-Plane. Before we dive too deep in discussing these, let’s take a minute or two for a history lesson.
Microsoft released FSX in 2006 and FSX Acceleration (SP2) a year later 2007.
Microsoft sold the intellectual property (IP) including source code for the commercial use side of FSX SP2 to Lockheed Martin in 2009.
Lockheed Martin released Prepar3d v1 in November 2010.
Microsoft released Microsoft Flight in February 2012 (the same year the Mayans got the end of the world wrong).
In 2014, Dovetail Games announced a license agreement with Microsoft to distribute Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition. FSX : SE was released in December 2014.
In 2014, Dovetail Games also announced their plans to develop a “next generation” flight simulation product further developed on Microsoft’s technology and bring this to market in 2015. However, Flight Sim World wouldn’t come to fruition until 2017. In April 2018, Dovetail announced Flight Sim World development would be closed.
In a nutshell, while Flight Sim World was supposed to be the next generation flight simulator product developed on Microsoft technology, the end result wasn’t what the hard core flight simulation community wanted or needed.
Will Microsoft Flight Simulator Take Flight Again?
With the history lesson out of the way, I’ve gotta say that from what I see in the 1 minute and 44 second trailer…I’m amazed, I’m impressed and I’m highly, highly optimistic. Let me repeat that…I’m highly optimistic! But as I stated earlier, what we actually know beyond what our eyes are taking in just isn’t that much. For example….
What about our current add-ons which have been developed for FSX/P3D? Will they work? Who knows. However, if I were to take a really big guess (and that’s all it really is at this point) I would say NO! No, our current add-ons won’t work. Especially not right out of the gate. The next question folks will ponder is, will it cost to get current add-ons for the new sim? We just don’t know.
But let me say this about “our current add-ons”. I constantly see complaints (especially in the FSX/P3D communities) about the fact that P3D is just a rebranding of sorts of FSX. While it is, it also isn’t. Meaning, Lockheed Martin have done some really awesome things to make P3D v4.5 what it is today and P3D v4.5 is truly lightyears from FSX. But…..but…I firmly believe in order for us to truly turn that corner and reach a point that we can say “THIS…THIS RIGHT HERE…Is the next generation flight simulator”, well….we’re gonna have to say goodbye to all those ancient and archaic add-ons we’re so desperately trying to hold onto. Enough is enough.
Having said that, (again because we just don’t know much at this point) will 3rd party scenery actually still be needed? Of the scenes depicted in the short trailer, are we looking at default? If so, dang…that’s impressive for default scenery. But my guess is, out of the box Microsoft Flight Simulator will have some heavily detailed areas and others not so much. But again…we just don’ t know.
The information available today does confirm we can fly anywhere on the planet. So most likely this will be just as inclusive as FSX was. But does this mean every airport, every city, every town will be modeled? Again….we just don’t know. Of course, there is speculation some data might actually be streamed into the sim as one flies along. But at this point we really just don’t know.
But visually impressive/immersive scenery is only part of the equation. The hardcore flight simulation community will also expect the same impressive/immersive experience in the aircraft as well. At this point in time, there’s no evidence proving or disproving this important fact.
Bottom line and this is just my opinion. If (and that’s a really big IF) Microsoft Flight Simulator provides us both the visuals and the level of immersion we have come to expect from Prepar3D and X-Plane, then I believe this could (at some point in the future) live up to being called the next generation flight sim. But can our little community support a big three concept?
The Ace in the Hole
Several years ago I discussed at great depth the confusion surrounding a topic that I’m going to bring up once again. This topic is possibly…the ace in the hole that Microsoft needs to have any success. Obviously, success might simply be “If you build it, we will come”…back. But as I pointed out earlier, it’s gotta be done right. An arcade game isn’t what we’re looking for. But back on topic…
Could Microsoft actually force a change in how Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D is sold? What am I talking about? Of course, I’m talking about that 800 lb. Gorilla sitting over there in the corner called EULA or End User License Agreement.
Reflecting very briefly on that history lesson from a few moments ago, in 2009 when Microsoft sold the commercial side of FSX to Lockheed Martin the intention was P3D would not be marketed as “Personal Consumer Entertainment” software. However, nothing has prevented individuals like myself to purchase, download, install and use P3D v1, P3D v2, P3D v3 and now P3D v4. While we can make every attempt to pick a few words out of the existing P3D EULA which gives us a right to use the software (training, simulating and learning), the very bottom line is many of us are using P3D for “personal consumer entertainment” purposes only, which is exactly how we all once used Microsoft FSX. My fear is the right set of attorneys in the right courtroom could argue that Lockheed Martin is operating outside of the agreement established by Microsoft. Hey, if an individual was able to sue a fast food establishment (and win) many years ago because the hot coffee she ordered through the drive thru in which she accidentally spilled on herself, then certainly anything might be possible here.
We simply don’t know much! It looks dang good and if done right, it could be a success and win many of us back to the Microsoft family. This will especially be true depending on Prepar3D v5. Which like MSFS, we also don’t know a lot about. As more information becomes available, I’ll certainly provide my opinion along with everyone else. But just remember…I have my opinions and you will have your opinions. These may be the same, may be similar or might be completely worlds apart. But at the end of the day, they are just that. Opinions!
At the end of the day, are we to blame? Did we, the flight simulation community play a role in the demise of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World? For the record, while I only spent about 12-15 hours in Flight Sim World and most of these hours were spent playing back in the June/July 2017 timeframe…I have made every effort to keep my eyes and ears open to the news regarding updates, future plans etc. From much of the information I read prior to the announcement FSW would be cancelled, I found both the progress and the direction the game was headed to be mostly favorable. While I personally don’t mind owning early access game titles, I never saw FSW (in its current state) as a viable replacement to Prepar3D which is my flight simulator of choice. But this certainly doesn’t mean it couldn’t at some point became a replacement for P3D.
A Brief History of Flight Simulation
For me to truly do this article justice and hopefully communicate my thoughts appropriately, especially considering the title of this blog post. I would like to briefly share the history of this wonderful hobby. I promise it will be brief…
Really it all goes back to the late 1970’s and early 1980’s and a game developer called subLOGIC founded by Bruce Artwick. The first generation subLOGIC Flight Simulator was originally offered for the Apple II (1979) and TRS-80 (1980) computers. The second generation came about in December 1983 (again for the Apple II) and eventually for the Commodore 64 in June of 1984. This was my first experience AND when the passion of flight simulation hit me as a teenager.
In the early 80’s (81-82), Microsoft obtained the license to port the subLOGIC Flight Simulator to IBM compatible PC’s. This would be called Microsoft Flight Simulator 1.0 and was released in November 1982. I’ve often heard this was at the direction of Bill Gates and this is an important fact to remember as I’ll reference this again later in this article.
Between the release of MSFS 1.0 (1982) and the year 1995, Microsoft released versions 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0 and 5.1. Between the years of 1996 and 2012, Microsoft released Flight Simulator 95 (mid 1996), Flight Simulator 98 (mid 1997), Flight Simulator 2000 (late 1999), Flight Simulator 2002 (October 2001), Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight (FS9) (July 2003), Flight Simulator X (FSX) (October 2006) and finally Microsoft Flight (February 2012).
The year 2006 is an important year to focus on during our little history lesson. Not only was Microsoft FSX released in 2006, but it was also the same year Bill Gates announced he would transition from full-time work at Microsoft to part-time.
Each of these official Microsoft releases, spanning over 30 years, continued building on the progress from what subLOGIC released in 1979. We can argue that really FSX was the final true simulator Microsoft released….but that is a discussion for another time. The key point I am wanting to make here is between MSFS 1.0 and MS Flight, 30 years of development, 30 years of improvements and simply…30 years of enjoyment passed by.
Remember… THIRTY YEARS!
Before we depart from our walk down memory lane, let me just throw out a few additional dates. In 2009, we learned that Lockheed Martin purchased the IP and source code for Microsoft ESP (commercial use of FSX) and in 2014 we learned that Dovetail Games had a license agreement to distribute FSX Steam Edition and develop further products based on Microsoft’s technology (spanning 30 years) for the entertainment market.
Now Prepare Yourself
When Lockheed Martin released P3D version 1.0, it pretty much was a rebranded FSX. While we can assume LM may have applied some fixes which hadn’t been addressed in the FSX SP2 update, very little was done to the core application. Actually, almost the same can be said for P3D versions 2.x (2013) and even to some extent version 3.x (2015). The major shift didn’t really occur until 2017 when LM released the 64bit version of Prepar3D version 4.x. But let’s now add another 5 years to our original MSFS timeline and we get a total of 35 Years.
Remember… THIRTY-FIVE YEARS!
While we’re still somewhat in our history lesson, let me just remind everyone that X-Plane wasn’t born yesterday or even the day before. Interestingly enough, when researching information for this article, I have found it somewhat difficult to nail down exactly when the first version of X-Plane was released. Even Wikipedia fails to provide any exact dates. I did find one fan created website which identifies X-Plane version 1 with a release date of 1994. X-Plane v2 released in 1996 with v3, v4 and v5 releasing in 1997, 1998 and 1999. X-Plane v6 through versions 10 released between 2001 and 2011.
Even most die-hard X-Plane fans admit that it wasn’t until the current release of X-Plane 11 (May 2017) when X-Plane really began to shine. So if we calculate the amount of time in years for X-Plane we have 23 years between X-Plane v1 and the current version 11. 23 Years!
Are we responsible?
Yes, I believe so and here’s why. I’ve just spelled out 35 years of blood, sweat and tears which have passed by from MSFS version 1.0 and Prepar3D version 4.x. Everything that is wonderful about P3D v4.x is tied back to MSFS 1.0, actually further…but for the sake of this article we’ll start with 1.0. All the goodness, all the beauty, all the awesomeness is THIRTY FIVE YEARS in the making. As I just pointed out, even X-Plane’s development spans over 20 years.
So Dovetail Games comes along and announces they are developing a next generation flight simulator, it’s released (early access) in May of 2017 and less than 1 year later the project is mothballed. Why did this happen? How could this happen?
Some will tell you it was because Dovetail Games refused to listen to the flight simulation community. Not true! There is evidence (lots of it actually) that this couldn’t be further from the truth. We the community asked Dovetail Games to include missions. Dovetail Games did just that. We the community asked DTG to include jetliners and DTG was working on adding jetliners. We the community asked DTG to include helicopters and DTG was also working on adding helicopters. Many more examples of DTG actually listening to the community.
In addition, some in the community were led to believe that DTG were forcing 3rd party developers to market their add-ons exclusively through Steam. This has also been proven to be false. At the time I wrote this piece, I could purchase add-ons for FSW directly from any of my preferred online retail stores. For the sake of full disclosure, I checked both JustFlight and The FlightSim Store. Both online retail stores have add-ons available to purchase for FSW.
In the end I believe that we the flight sim community killed Flight Sim World and that my friends is a bad, bad thing. The reality of it all is we have two major players now representing the flight sim community. There are a few other titles which have been around for a number of years but I don’t see a lot of 3rd party development support available at the present time. I think AeroflyFS is gaining some momentum. Orbx has a few add-on airports for the platform and I believe a few add-on aircraft have been developed by Just Flight.
I know this blog post will be viewed by some as controversial. Many will agree with me and many will not. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. We all share a passion for flight simulation and we’re all striving to have a platform that will not only be around for many years to come, but also striving for a platform that can help introduce this wonderful hobby to the next generation of virtual pilots. Unfortunately, with Flight Sim World ending the way it has….we’ve potentially shut the door on some of the newcomers and to me this is the saddest part of this story.
Earlier today, Dovetail Games announced “with great sadness” the closure of Flight Sim World (FSW). It’s been slightly less than one year since I first discussed FSW on my blog site and in late May of last year I wrote about my first impressions after having spent a little bit of time exploring the simulator. I recorded a few YouTube videos which you can find on my channel. During the initial few weeks after release of FSW I did manage to spend several hours flying and I must admit I enjoyed my time and felt like FSW had some promise. After all, Dovetail Games was finally fulfilling their commitment to bring their flight sim to market albeit a few years late.
While I must admit I haven’t followed the progress of FSW in the past 6+ months, I’m actually surprised it took Dovetail Games this long to realize this was never going to get off the ground and compete with Prepar3d and XPlane. Especially knowing how Dovetail planned to limit 3rd party developers. As with many of the simulation based games I enjoy playing, 3rd party developers, modders etc. are the lifeblood of these types of games. When you begin to restrict what they can do and how they do it, you’re going to suffer and I guess they finally realized the writing was on the wall.
While I have many additional thoughts/opinions regarding this news, I’m going to keep those to myself for now. It appears Steam will continue to sell Flight Sim World through May 24th. After May 24th the game and all DLC will be removed from Steam, but will still be available in the player/owner’s Steam Library.
Future of Flight Simulation
The future of flight simulation is extremely strong. Lockheed Martin’s Prepar3D (P3D) version 4.x and Laminar Research’s X-Plane will continue to serve as the flagship titles to support this wonderful hobby. Both titles have a strong following and both enjoy excellent support from the best 3rd party add-on developers. After all, we know the saying….two is company and three’s a crowd.
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.
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.
As most should know, Dovetail Games released their “Early Access” version of Flight Sim World (FSW) recently. I wrote about this subject back on 4 May and expressed my hopes, opinions and just general thoughts regarding this new entry. Much of the content I used to form the basis of my opinions came from Dovetail Games Announcement video which you can view from the above mentioned blog post. Outside of that one announcement video I have tried to restrict my viewing of other videos, live streams and blog postings on the subject of DTG’s FSW. It was my desire to remain as neutral as possible so that I could form my own opinions and present them to you here.
Before I begin to open up about my opinions regarding DTG’s FSW, allow me to say the following. The Dovetail Games Flight Sim World is an early access product. As with any early access, beta, pre-release, work-in-progress etc. etc. edition of any software, there most likely are bugs, there could be bugs found and more importantly what you see, may not, most likely will not be what will go into the finished product.
I’ve been flying computer based simulation games since the early 1980’s. My love and fascination with aviation started as a young boy and has progressed into adulthood. While I know longer have the desire to “learn to fly” in real life…flight simulation (much like my interests in other simulation based games) is an important element in my life and serves as a much needed stress reliever when of course the applications are working correctly. LOL
Because of my long history with flight simulation based applications, I’m sure you can understand how difficult it is to simply “turn off” my knowledge, experience etc. with other flight sim titles. As a point of reference, the first flight simulator application I used was on the Commodore 64 in the early 1980’s. This was developed by a company called subLOGIC. subLOGIC sold (or was acquired) by Microsoft in the early 80’s to be further developed into the very popular Microsoft Flight Simulator. Here’s a short video (not mine) showing 60 seconds of recorded footage of what Flight Simulator looked like on the C-64.
Anyway, sometime in the very late 80’s or early 1990 timeframe I graduated from the C-64 to the PC and one of the first software packages I purchased was Microsoft Flight Simulator and I’ve owned, used and very much enjoyed every version up to Microsoft FSX. So having said all this, I have tried to look at Dovetail Games Flight Sim World with an open mind, I’ve tried not to compare it to anything in the past, present or possibly future and most importantly, I’ve approached this review fully understanding what “Early Access” means.
Let’s Get Started
My apologies for taking so long to get to this point in the article, but I felt it was important to lay the cards on the table. One more small piece of information I want to make public is I have not been asked, nor have I been paid to write this review. While I received DTG FSW at no cost, this was only because I had purchased the DTG’s Flight School and in doing so, earned me a no-cost version of FSW. Here’s my open and honest review of the “Early Access” version of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World.
Dovetail Games Flight Sim World
Flight Sim World is the new (currently in early access) flight simulator developed by Dovetail Games and sold exclusively through Steam. At the time of this blog article, FSW is available as an Early Access release for $24.99 as of 18 May 2017. If you purchased Dovetail Games Flight School, then you should have access to download/install FSW at no cost.
As part of the base package, FSW includes the entire world and includes several single and twin engine prop aircraft to get you started in your flight adventures. The application is 64 bit which meets with the high demand from these types of application games. If you are unfamiliar with the struggles we’ve had over the past several years with under-performing flight sim applications, then please read this article.
Install and Setup
DTG’s FSW installed just like any other Steam application. I was able to quickly configure my CH Products Flight Yoke and Rudder Pedals, but support for my extensive collection of Go Flight hardware is unfortunately not supported at this time.
Application Performance and Stability
Overall I’ve spent approx. 6-8 hours flying around and the overall performance from FSW has been more or less what I expected it to be. For the most part performance is better than FSX but I don’t believe the application itself is as fully optimized as it should be. But then again, this is early access. To be honest, while I did occasionally view my FPS counter, I don’t use FPS as the end-all-be-all in determining how an application/game is performing. Application lag, stuttering etc. were mostly at a minimum and I think would/will be improved as the game matures further along the early access process. During the entire time I’ve spent with FSW, I didn’t encounter a crash or application failure.
As was the case with DTG Flight School, the default visuals are much, much improved from FSX. While it’s not as impressive as FSX or P3D with Orbx Global Scenery, for a default (out of box) product….it’s pretty darn nice.
Flight Dynamics and Realism
This is somewhat difficult for me to judge. First, I’m not a real world pilot and second, I haven’t flown default level aircraft in many, many years. I’m a huge fan of the more complex, study level type aircraft from developers such as PMDG, A2A etc. But FSW does very much remind me of default FSX and I found the aircraft easy to fly.
My overall impression
Again, making every effort to not compare FSW with any other product I will say that for it being an early access product…I was quite pleased overall. However, I feel I must state the following which slightly causes me concern regarding the future of FSW.
Much like we say “behind every great man, there’s an even greater woman”….behind every great simulation game there’s a long list of very successful 3rd party partners which help make the game even better through mods and add-ons, I fear if Dovetail Games doesn’t change their plan on how they may force 3rd party developers to exclusively market via Steam, then FSW may never fully get off the ground. Please read this for background information.
In a nutshell, DTG may require all 3rd party developers to market their add-ons exclusively through Steam. Let’s use PMDG as an example. The almost brand new PDMG 747-400 Queen of the Skies II sells directly from the PMDG website for $134.99. The cost to market something on Steam is somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40%. So if PMDG truly believes their 747 is worth $134.99 they either will take a 30-40% hit on their profit (not likely) or pass along the costs to us consumers. Therefore, increasing the cost of their 747-400 Queen of the Skies II to a whopping $175. Of course, nothing is official at this time…and Dovetail could re-consider their marketing requirements. Stay tuned…
My Very Bottom Line
I simply can’t deny that in some ways I simply couldn’t prevent myself from making comparisons to FSX, P3D and even X-Plane. I consider myself to be a hard-core simmer with regards to my enjoyment of the flight simulation hobby. I like the eye-candy that some of the 3rd party add-ons provide. I enjoy the more complex aircraft add-ons from the likes of PMDG, A2A, Aerosoft, Carenado etc. I also enjoy using my additional add-on hardware from Go Flight which helps to add to the immersion level. Finally, I do from time to time enjoy experiencing multiplayer action via the VATSIM network and at this particular time…none of these boxes get checked with Dovetail Games Flight Sim World. But of course, I’m reminded of the fact that this is an early access product. Things can and may change….
Should you consider DTG’s Flight Sim World?
It’s difficult for me to recommend an early release product of any kind. After all, it’s your hard earned money and not mine. But if you are new to flight simulation, have a desire to try it out AND have an extra $24.99 in your pocket, then DTG’s FSW might be a good entry point for you. If you don’t like it, or if it doesn’t perform to your expectation you can always request a refund via Steam.
I’m going to continue to keep my eyes and ears open to any news on this subject. I may occasionally test out new enhancements made throughout the early access process, but if you ask me if Flight Sim World will become my “Go-To Flight Sim” the answer is no and I hope to share all the reasons for this along with exactly what my “Go-To Flight Sim” is in a future blog post.
Look at the calendar. It’s not April 1st and this is no April Fools Prank. Yes…finally we have the much anticipated news regarding Dovetail Games official entry into flight simulation with Dovetail Games Flight Sim World. I’ve frequently blogged about this very subject for what seems like eternity. From the very early days of learning that Microsoft had authorized Dovetail Games to market and release FSX on Steam, we’ve been hearing about Dovetail’s plan to develop the next generation of flight simulation software. Actually, this is a direct quote from a Dovetail Games press release dated 2014 Dovetail “is currently investigating new concepts in this area and is expecting to bring a release to market in 2015”. OK…so they’ve missed their mark by a few years….but ladies and gentlemen….please sit back, relax (and turn off those darn electronic devices) because things are about to get interesting.
If you are new to my blog site, please take a moment and read an article I wrote back in November 2016 titled “Flight Sim News”. If you are not new to my writings, then you can skip that as you’ve already read it. Yesterday, Dovetail Games announced their new flight simulation platform they have titled “Flight Sim World” (I guess to line up with their new Train Sim World franchise) and I couldn’t be more excited. Now time will tell exactly what all this means, but the one really important element is this will be a 64 bit application. To date, the only 64 bit flight simulation based platform is X-Plane. The old Microsoft FSX (boxed edition), FSX Steam Edition and even all version of Prepar3D is only 32 bit. If you want to learn more about the challenges of trying to run an 32 bit application as complex as Flight Sim built, then read an article I wrote in February 2014 titled “Out of Memory (OOM) Errors”.
Importance of Early Access
Dovetail Games Flight Sim World will be released this month (May) via an early access process. This is also really great news and all the proof is coming direct from Dovetail Games Executive Produce Stephen Hood when he says, “We’re bring Flight Sim World to Early Access, we believe it makes no sense to work in isolation…so we wish to work with the community, engage with them, to shape the future of Flight Sim World over the coming weeks and months”. He further states, “We intend to develop a platform that stands the test of time over the next 5-10 years”.
Under the Hood
With the launch of Dovetail Games Flight Sim World, they have moved away from the old DirectX 9 to DirectX 11 and moved it from a 32 bit to 64 bit platform while also working to rebalance the usage between the CPU and GPU. This is also a very important change as today both FSX and P3D is very CPU dependent and doesn’t take advantage of today’s modern and powerful GPU’s. The hardware technology of today far exceeds what FSX and P3D can do with it. These older applications just don’t touch the full capabilities.
Third Party Opportunities
One of the unknowns from years ago was just how Dovetail Games would work with 3rd party developers. Over time, and as they continued to work with their FSX Steam Edition, we saw evidence that Dovetail Games was serious about working with the various 3rd party developers like PMDG, Orbx etc. Simon Sauntson with Dovetail Games leads up their Third Party division and mentioned Dovetail has actually engaged with many 3rd party developers to develop content which is part of the core application of Flight Sim World.
Simulation, Simulation, Simulation
Stephen Hood, acknowledges the importance of an “As Real As It Gets” experience as he states “As a Pilot you care hugely about the environments around you, it has to be accurately portrayed in Flight Sim World in order for you to fear it”
Want more information regarding Dovetail Games new Flight Sim World, visit their website, visit the Steam page, visit their Facebook page and watch the video below.
Jerry’s Final Thoughts
Dovetail Games….Just Take My Money and take it now! Honestly, I’ve had my doubts Dovetail could, would create the truly “Next Generation Flight Sim Platform” and not just pickup where Microsoft left off with Microsoft Flight. Which in most everyone’s opinion WAS NOT A FLIGHT SIM PLATFORM, but more of an arcade game. Of course, time will tell and not much else is really known at this time regarding which 3rd party developers are onboard with Flight Sim World. Honestly, I’ve not really done much with X-Plane. Meaning I’ve not spent much money on add-ons and such. I still find that old habits are so hard to break and trying to un-learn the Microsoft way which is still very much engrained in P3D. I’m hopeful that some of the “Microsoft Way” will be a part of Flight Sim World. Of course, not so much of it that it chokes the new application down. But as I have stated many times, some people may not openly embrace Flight Sim World as it will mean (most likely) replacing add-ons which had been previously developed for FSX/P3D (32 bit) with newer 64 bit versions. But this is how we move forward….
I’ll keep you posted on any new news I learn from this.