Microsoft Flight–My Opinions

As a flight simulator blogger, I use this blog to provide reports to you the reader about my flight simulation adventures, news about the hobby of flight simulation, product reviews and from time to time share my personal opinions about the hobby.  If I’ve mentioned the new flight sim software from Microsoft simply called Flight, it was only briefly.  I do not recall providing any in-depth opinions.  This is mostly due to the fact that the flight simulator community really doesn’t fully understand what MS Flight will be or won’t be. 

Having been active in the hobby for over 25 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes with regards to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  I remember the hype leading up to FS9 and certainly FSX.  I also remember purchasing FSX and really not using it for many months afterwards.  I also believe that a lot can be said of the fact that FS9 still has a very strong following amongst fellow flight sim enthusiasts.  I do see some software developers beginning to phase FS9 out and solely going in the direction of FSX.  This is of course bitter sweet for those who are still running FS9.  The bitter part comes from the fact that they will no longer be able to purchase some add-ons for FS9, but if they have purchased or built a new computer in the past couple of years then it more than likely will run FSX without issue.  But of course there is the cost of re-purchasing add-ons for FSX if they want to exclusively use it.  I fully am aware of the cost it takes to re-purchase add-on software.  Before I took my almost five year sabbatical from the hobby, I was using FS9 for most of my flying.  My PC at that time would run FSX, but there wasn’t a lot available yet in the add-on department.  When I return last Fall, I decided I would build my flight sim PC to run FSX and fully adopted that as my flight sim platform. 

But what about Flight?  I started hearing the rumors of the rumors of the rumors about Microsoft Flight very soon after returning to the hobby.  I read forum threads speculating what Flight was and what Flight wasn’t.  I believe I read more “what it wasn’t gonna be” thoughts than the opposite.  To this day, I’m still not certain we really know much more about it.  Sure Microsoft has a website up dedicated to Flight, but it really doesn’t say much. 

The rumors I mentioned before state (and I quote from several forums) “Microsoft Flight will not be what we have grown to know and love with the long running line of Microsoft Flight Simulator products”.  Another reads, “MS Flight will be more like an arcade game versus a simulator”  On the more positive side, I read this statement “MS Flight will be what FSX should have been with regards to performance”.  I think what this person was trying to say is MS Flight is being developed for today’s technology and not like FSX where most users didn’t own a machine at the time FSX debuted that would run it to its full potential.

But these quotes are just (in my opinion) just rumors, guesses and assumptions (do you know what happens when you assume)?  On the MS Flight website there is an FAQ page and in my opinion it tells me nothing.  Addtionally, PC Pilot and Computer Pilot Magazines have provided some Q&A type details in their magazines over the past 6-8 months.  My opinion about these Q&A sessions is the writer from the magazines isn’t asking the right questions.  Of course you can’t sell future extremely pricey magazines if you divulge everything in one edition. 

However, I must give credit to PC Pilot Magazine as in the May – June edition, they do ask Microsoft if Flight will have an opportunity for third-party developers to produce products.  MS answers by saying they fully know they can’t do the work alone and they are creating the tools for others to develop add-on software. 

At this time I believe “the jury is still out” on just what MS Flight will mean to the flight simulator community.  While I’m just as much in the dark as the rest of you, I can tell you that regardless what MS Flight is or isn’t, worse case scenario it doesn’t mean our hobby is dead or dying. 

As for what I plan to do when MS Flight is made available, well….I’ll probably purchase it just as I did FSX but it’ll more than likely sit on the shelf until (and this is if it works with VATSIM etc.) until enough quality add-on products have been developed. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

Flight Simulator meets Second Life – A Review of Andras Field by Aerosoft

The virtual world aspect is nothing new to us sim pilots.  We nailed the virtual concept down many years ago and each year we’ve worked hard to make it better.  While the early days were limited to a single player game, over time this has blossomed into what we enjoy today with multi-player groups like FlightSim Nation, Flight Simulator Network and even larger true-to-life experiences with VATSIM and IVAO.  With Microsoft Flight Simulator X and add-on scenery such as Orbx Pacific Northwest and Stark’s Twin Oaks Airpark, one can be fully immersed in what Microsoft has been calling “As Real As It Gets” for many years.  It’s hard to imagine it getting any better than this.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the online virtual community called Second Life.  Second Life has been around since 2003 and as of 2010 has an estimated 18 million registered accounts.  Yours truly has one of those 18 million accounts, but I’ve not visited the community in over 2 years.  At a very high level glance, you register for a Second Life account and install their free client software.  Second Life is absolutely free to join and use, but free accounts have many limitations.  When you join you create an avatar and move around within the Second Life virtual world.  Second Life has become popular in the corporate world as well as the arts, science and religious spaces as well.   One can even buy property in Second Life.

I would estimate my account dates back to around 2006 or so, so I by no means can be considered as an early adopter of Second Life.  I played around with it on a free account and then upgraded to a paid account and then completely lost interest even before my one-year subscription expired.  While it was cool moving around the different virtual areas and meeting people, (I even explored the Titanic) I felt it was missing something to keep me fully engaged.  Plus I got the impression I was mainly interacting with kids and very young adults.  It got old really fast.

The one element to Second Life that I always thought about was how it might be neat to be able to combine some aspects of Second Life into the Flight Simulator hobby or vice versa.  For example, as I stated earlier in Second Life one can buy land.  The land purchase can be either already developed or can be undeveloped space.  While I never purchased land in Second Life, the idea of being able to do something like this in relation to the Flight Simulator hobby interested me.  Of course, I’m not a software designer and never really took the idea outside of my head and shared it with others.  Thankfully someone else had the same idea and did act on it.

I recently learned of a project called Andras Field which has been in development for several months and available for download/purchase since 30 June 2010.  Andras Field is a fictive airport located in Southern Bavaria, close to the Swiss and Austrian border.  The add-on software is available through Aerosoft and as of this blog posting, the current version is 1.10 (full build) with update 1.12 applied on top.  Updates are made available as property is sold.  More about this later.

Again, as of this blog posting Andras Field is sold through Aerosoft for $27.36 USD.  This price is very competitive for all that you get with this add-on product.  Andras Field is more than just an airport, it is an entire airpark including a 7,006 foot asphalt runway, 2,000 foot grass glider base and a 6,000 foot water runway.  Need space to land your favorite heli?  No worries…you’ll find plenty of space at Andras Field to do just that.  Still want more?

Andras Field includes all the amenities one would expect in a self-contained airport city.  You’ll find servicing facilities, restaurants, hotels and residential properties designed by pilots for pilots.  When ready to fly, your airplane can be rolled out of your private attached garage and in minutes you’ll be on the active runway.

But how does all this tie in with Second Life?  Well…like Second Life, you can buy commercial or residential property for real money at Andras Park.  You can have the developers place a standard house/hangar or you can model your own to have placed on your plot for all to see including your name on the street sign.  Updates are made available every ten days or so.

I haven’t decided if I’ll buy some virtual property.  But I have had fun with this software add-on. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

JT

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