Once upon a time, there was an abundance of various freeware add-ons available to the flight simming community. During the late 1990’s and very early 2000’s the amount of freeware (as compared to payware) was huge. Actually the amount of payware content was actually pretty scarce. Of course I’m talking about the time period when Flight Simulator 98, Flight Simulator 2000, Flight Simulator 2002 and Flight Simulator 2004 (FS9) were in their hay day.
With the rise of FSX in 2006, third party developers (of whom, many are still in business today) came onto the scene and began producing the most excellent payware products from airport sceneries, ground based textures, weather add-ons and of course some really awesome aircraft. Unfortunately this is the same time period that we began to experience a decline in freeware alternatives. Or should I say “Quality” freeware alternatives.
The freeware decline continued through the life span of the Prepar3D reign. However, for the most part the X-Plane community during this time frame did have a very active modding community which produced some really good freeware add-ons, but for me I just never could enjoy X-Plane the way I had enjoyed FSX or P3D. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, I had a fairly sizeable investment in FSX/P3D that I just couldn’t ignore and was most likely the reason I never considered X-Plane a substitute. But I digress…
Fortunately, for those of us who are fans of the Microsoft Flight Simulator family (including P3D) the introduction of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) platform has brought about a renewed interest in quality freeware add-ons. Almost from day one of the release of MSFS back in August of 2020, fellow flight sim enthusiasts have been releasing quality freeware add-ons for the new platform. Of course one of the absolute best freeware additions has been the Airbus A320 mod from the FlybyWire team. This team took the default Airbus A320 which was included in MSFS and over time have created a freeware version that rivals that of just about any payware, study-level aircraft on the market today. The Microsoft Flight Sim family of platforms (including P3D) has never seen this level of quality in a freeware product and the FBW team won’t just stop at the A320. They are hard at work in creating an Airbus A380 model from the ground up which hopefully will be released sometime in the Q2 or early Q3 2023 timeframe. I honestly can’t count the number of previously announced A380 projects which have been announced over the years for P3D that have never made it beyond the planning stages and the FBW team will have one in our sims very soon.
Of course there are hundreds if not thousands of other freeware add-ons available for MSFS including various utilities, aircraft liveries and airport mods. There are a few airport mods I’m using in my sim today that rival the quality of work we typically see from payware developers. I frequently check the Flightsim.to website which has become the “go-to” place for creators to host their freeware add-ons.
Why is Freeware so important to the community?
First and foremost, not everyone can afford to spend their hard earned money on all the various payware that has and will be released for MSFS. Due to the willingness of these freeware developers to devote their time to creating quality add-on alternatives for the community at zero cost, this allows everyone the opportunity to enjoy the hobby without a huge investment. In addition, I also believe the vast catalog of freeware options is helping to keep the prices of payware at a more affordable price level. I believe we’ve already experienced the impact of this with the Fenix A320. The Fenix A320 is available for an incredibly low price of just £49.99.
The Quality of Freeware Alternatives
As I’ve already mentioned, we’re already witnessing examples of freeware being on-par with payware options. In addition to the FBW A320 I’ve already mentioned, another example is the recent release of the Doha Hamad International Airport (OTHH) which released in early December at the price tag of €19.99 by MXI Design. An absolutely stunning freeware version has been available on Flightsim.to since May 2021 which not only includes the OTHH airport but also various enhancements covering much of the city of Doha is included.
However, it must also be said that not all freeware is created equal. But of course the same must also be said about payware options (but I’ll save those comments for another article). One of the major challenges with some of the freeware airports that I’ve run into has been centered around issues when MSFS has been updated through the various Sim Update versions and the time it takes for the freeware developers to make the various adjustments needed. Of course, this is not an issue isolated to the flight sim community. We see the same issues with other games which allow mods to be used like ATS, ETS2 and Farming Simulator.
In closing, as someone who has been been enjoying the flight simulation hobby for over four decades and has witnessed freeware come, go and come back again…I’m extremely excited for the future of MSFS with successful freeware efforts at the very heart of the platform. I hope you are as well.
The highly anticipated, brand new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS2020) was released on 17 August 2020 with much fanfare. The release wasn’t without a few small hurdles and within days of the release, Microsoft had already announced a patch would soon be made available. I discussed this first planned patch earlier this week.
Before I get into my experience with MSFS2020 after the patch, allow me to say this. To the best of my memory, and at no other point in the history of flight simulation related to Microsoft or even Prepar3D have we experienced a shorter timeframe between initial release and the first patch. While some will say that MSFS2020 was rushed and should have been delayed a few weeks which may or may not have avoided the need for an update patch, we’ll never really know. But I believe when Microsoft released FSX back in 2006 it too was not without issues and required two service packs to fully resolve all issues. It took Microsoft about 6 months to release SP1 and another 5-6 months to push out SP2. It really wasn’t until SP2 was made available that FSX was truly stable.
With Prepar3D v5 (the latest P3D release), it was released on 14 April and the first hotfix (HF1) was released on 30 April. But many still experienced issues(myself included) which made the sim unusable until HF2 was released on 23 June. It should also be mentioned that unlike Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, Prepar3D v5 was not a complete rewrite of P3Dv4.5. MSFS2020 is a completely brand new simulator from the ground up.
My Experience Post Update Patch
The past few weeks I’ve been heavily prepping for a series of job interviews which have taken priority to my gaming time. As of this writing, I’m still awaiting the official news as to whether I’m still in the running for the position and exactly what the next steps are. But….what time I have spent with flight simulation has mostly been in P3Dv5. P3Dv5 provides me more immersion based on the type of flying I mostly enjoy (jetliner), but this doesn’t mean I’m ignoring MSFS2020.
As I’ve discussed in previous articles, I believe MSFS2020 will become the next generation flight simulator and in time, it will completely blow away what we have today with P3Dv5 and XP11. However, with exception to VFR/GA flight, there are several obstacles preventing me from flying any of the jetliners in MSFS2020 and especially flying on the VATSIM network.
Lack of Immersion
This is key to me. While the visuals are absolutely stunning and better than I can possible achieve in P3Dv5, the lack of payware/study-level aircraft is only one of the deal breakers for me at this time. I know I probably sound like a payware snob and I certainly don’t mean to. In all honesty, I believe the work that is being done on the default A320 via the MS2020 A32NX Project will eventually have me flying the Airbus A320 in MSFS2020 on the VATSIM network. But even then, until there is a model matching program that allows me to see other aircraft in the liveries those pilots are flying, the immersion is very much blown for me. While I realize this is just a slight niggle, it’s big enough for me to stick with P3D.
In all honesty, the recent Microsoft patch resolved two major issues I had been experiencing. First, the load time seems to have been reduced. However, even in P3Dv5 the load time generally takes 2-3 minutes from the time I launch the .exe until I can actually begin prepping my aircraft for flight. But in reference to MSFS2020, the load up time seems to be much improved.
The really big issue for me was related to the performance hit when connecting MSFS2020 to the VATSIM network and of course I wasn’t the only one. VATSIM stated all would be ready to go on day 1 and to their defense, the issues which caused the performance hit wasn’t their fault. There was a major bug with the Microsoft Simconnect which was the culprit. Simconnect is what allows 3rd party applications (like VATSIM’s vPilot) to connect to the simulator. This middleware connection is responsible for sending/receiving data elements to these third party add-on apps.
On Wednesday evening (with the MSFS2020 patch installed) I fired up MSFS2020 and loaded up the Cessna 172 and then connected to VATSIM via vPilot and had my first successful VFR/GA flight around the Denver area. It was a lot of fun and I’m sure there will be many more flights just like that in the near future.
Not Fully Baked
Rest assured, this first patch for MSFS2020 is only the beginning. Very soon we’ll learn what’s on Microsoft’s radar for the next patch. I would suspect we’ll see multiple patches over the next several months as Microsoft/Asobo gently fine tunes the sim.
Interested in Flight Sim?
If you are interested in getting started in the flight simulation hobby, there’s no better time and in my opinion, Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is your best option. While flight sim can be looked at as just another game, for those of us truly passionate about it…flight sim is much, much more. For those who are new to flight sim, MSFS2020 will be your best investment option and will allow you to grow in your experiences. While I’ve discussed limitations which I view as showstoppers for my own enjoyment, these shouldn’t prevent anyone coming into flight sim from experiencing an “As Real As It Gets” experience.
In time all the bugs will be gone. In time there will be more add-on aircraft (both payware and freeware) available to the new sim. There’s hours and hours of fun which can be experienced in the new sim with the available aircraft on and off the multiplayer services like VATSIM, IVAO and PilotEdge. Get started today and earn your wings. I’m looking forward to seeing you in the friendly skies very soon.
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!
I’ve created a new Facebook Community for like minded flight simulation enthusiasts with a focus of helping others get the most from the hobby. The plan is to support all major flight simulation platforms including FSX, FSX Steam Edition, Prepar3D and X-Plane.
Backstory for anyone interested. I’ve been involved in the flight simulation hobby since the early 1980’s. In those early days, support was often only found in a few BBS (bulletin board systems) and on early computer networks like Compuserv, PlayNET and later AOL. It truly was member helping members back then.
Today’s Internet has most certainly helped to both grow our hobby and aid in spreading knowledge. However, its also given rise to the amount of “keyboard warriors” who simply prefer to disrupt, agitate and ridicule those who are seeking assistance.
I grew up being told there was no such thing as a stupid question and sometimes even a savvy Internet/Google search pro like myself may still have a question or two after spending time trying to find the answer myself. The focus of Flight Sim Helpers is to help those who need it without the attitude found in other support groups.
If you’re new to the hobby or a seasoned pro, please consider joining Flight Sim Helpers. I’m looking to add new moderators who can help keep everything with the group running smoothly and smartly. If you’re interested in helping, please message me.
Thank you for your time and I hope to see you in the new Facebook Flight Sim Helpers group.
Before I get going with this article, let me just clarify who the target audience is for this default/freeware aircraft in P3D v4 article. I’m NOT writing this article for the seasoned, hard-core flight sim enthusiast who most likely will read the title of this piece and even without reading the article immediately pass judgement on the author and/or on others who may actually benefit from the information it contains. I’m writing this piece for those who don’t buy into the hype that only sophisticated, complex, study-level, payware aircraft is the end all, be all in our hobby. Not every individual who is new to our wonderful hobby can immediately afford to drop money for whatever sim platform they have chosen, then turn around and drop even more money on payware aircraft.
Once upon a time…
Once upon a time all we had available to us were default aircraft. I spent dozens, hundreds of hours back in the early 1980’s flying around Meig’s Field on my Commodore 64 in a Cessna. It’s all we had and we made do. I vaguely remember at some point subLOGIC released additional scenery disks which included more airports and larger regions to explore. As I moved from the C-64 to a PC in the early 90’s things began to change. But change really didn’t start happening until the dawn of the internet age and around the time of Flight Simulator 95 (1996), Flight Simulator 98 (1997) and then Flight Simulator 2000 (late 1999).
Actually, I believe it was the release of Flight Simulator 2000 which we owe the biggest amount of gratitude for as it was this particular release which brought about the largest amount of improvements and helped to launch the online network SATCO, which eventually became VATSIM in 2001. It was also FS2000 which brought us the Concorde and the Boeing 777 as default aircraft.
Freeware is Cool
Freeware began making the flight sim scene through early websites created by Avsim and Flightsim.com. Even online networks like CompuServe offered the ability to upload/download and share various freeware add-ons. My earliest memories of good, quality freeware aircraft was from a group called Project OpenSky or POSKY for short. I believe of all things (not including Microsoft Flight Simulator) that could be singled out as the #1 draw of bringing more enthusiasts into the flight sim community, it would be POSKY. POSKY had the very best freeware models available anywhere. You wanted to fly a Boeing 727, 737, 747, 757 etc. POSKY had it and the community supported them. Some of my fondest and earliest memories of flying on the VATSIM network in the early days were flying POSKY aircraft.
Birth of Payware
I honestly can’t remember when I first began to see payware aircraft hitting the market. I can tell you the first payware aircraft I ever purchased was the Level-D 767 and I absolutely loved it. I would take a wild guess and say it was around 2002/03 timeframe. Next was the iFly 737 NGX as it was released before PMDG released their NGX and honestly the rest were purchased as they became available.
Payware kill the freeware star?
Just a little play on words there and another musical reference. The more you read my articles the more you’ll see small references to my favorite decade of music. But in all seriousness, there was a period of time where both the freeware and payware markets were healthy, vibrant and lived together in harmony. But at some stage the unfortunate thing began to happen. As payware aircraft began to gain in popularity, the decline of good, quality freeware (and those who were developing it) also began the slow decline. Today, it’s difficult to find descent looking and performing freeware aircraft for Prepar3D (especially v4). But I’ll share a website with you shortly that may be changing all this.
The Advancement of Default Aircraft
If you look back at the different versions of Microsoft Flight Simulator, each new release offered something new. The earlier versions all focused around single engine aircraft. Today I view this as all part of my overall sim-based learning as one must crawl before we can walk. I think it was sometime in the very early 90’s before the 747 appeared as a default aircraft in MSFS. One thing I remember about the MSFS default aircraft is they always performed really well. Some of the POSKY aircraft I mentioned earlier was more or less based on the default aircraft and performed equally as well.
But if you’re a fan of the tubeliner, and you’ve just purchased Prepar3D…you’ll be disappointed as you won’t find a Boeing 737, 747, 757 etc. in the fleet of default aircraft. But of course, there’s an important reason for this…as P3D isn’t licensed for entertainment purposes even though I firmly believe the majority of licensed users fall directly into that category. But let’s not go down that rat hole.
Freeware Still Lives Here
As I mentioned at the top of this article, not everyone can afford to shell out the cost of the new sim (P3D v4), then rush out to purchase their favorite Boeing or Airbus airliner. While I’m of the opinion that most payware (even study level category) is far superior in performance and provide a higher level of immersion and overall enjoyment than freeware, I must admit that I’m impressed with the selection of freeware aircraft available from Rikoooo.com. I’m not really sure how long this site has been operational, but I see more and more folks posting screenshots on Facebook from some of the freeware aircraft options available. There’s even a pretty descent Airbus A380 which I’ve installed and spent a little time playing around with.
No Time for Study
As I was writing this article, I saw a Facebook comment posted in one of the flight sim groups I follow. The individual posting mentioned the fact that he really didn’t have time to study, the study level aircraft. He didn’t want to spend the necessary time to flip switches, program a complex FMS. He wanted to basically fly and that’s how he defined his level of enjoyment. I take my hat off to this individual for recognizing what he wants from his time in the sim. But if did get me thinking and I’ll share my thoughts next week. I also plan to document/create a short series of tutorials breaking down how I learn and fly the more complex, study level, payware aircraft. After all, if I can do this….anyone can do this.
I’ve already started drafting the frame work for next weeks article. I think the title will be something like “The Joy of Study Level Aircraft” (or something like that). It’s shaping up to kick start a short series of tutorial articles on the processes I go through when flying these types of aircraft. Yes, you’ll need to devote a bit more time….as one does need to do a little switch flipping and FMS programming, but I believe the satisfaction is much greater in the long run and I’ll explain why I believe this as well. But between now and then, let me leave you with something most of my YouTube viewers will have heard me say more than once in my videos.
There’s no right or wrong way to enjoy a simulation based game. Only each individual (YOU) can determine what they want from the time they spend playing. If a default or freeware aircraft model does that…then you’ve checked all the boxes and don’t let anyone tell you different.
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.
Much of these early “How To” blog articles are dedicated to understanding some of the basic knowledge required, as we progress I’ll include some additional and more advanced “How To” information. At this time I’m assuming you are still very much new to the hobby of flight simulation. If you have been following my “How To” articles, you may recall I’ve suggested on more than one occasion to start with the default Cessna (or some other single engine, light aircraft) and work your way up. In my opinion, this is important and shouldn’t be overlooked. As in the real world, an individual just doesn’t walk off the street and learns to fly a Boeing 747. They start off in a much, much smaller aircraft.
The principle of flight is the same regardless of aircraft type. Regardless if you are flying a Cessna 172 or a Boeing 747, you must taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, descend and land the aircraft. Again, the process is much the same….but one major difference is in the speed at which you accomplish these tasks. It’s easier to learn the basics in a slower and more forgiving aircraft like the default Cessna 172. But certainly as you master these tasks in the Cessna it really is just a matter of applying the same principles as you progress to larger and more complex aircraft.
I know there are some (perhaps many) who have no desire to fly the heavy jets. Likewise, many of you once you get the hang of flying may never fly anything smaller than a Boeing 737. This is of course the beauty of our hobby. There truly is something for everyone.
At some point if you want to try to fly the heavy jet aircraft, I would suggest you start with the default Boeing 737. The Boeing 737 has been a featured default aircraft of Microsoft Flight Simulator since FS95 and is an easy aircraft to learn.
Tip – When starting to learn how to fly the heavies, stick with the default aircraft. While these default aircraft models may lack the sophistication of their real world counterpart, the up side in learning is that they lack the sophistication of their real world counterpart. Said another way, the default aircraft modeled in Flight Simulator are more forgiving and much easier to fly than the study-level, payware models such as PMDG.
Much as I did in the article titled “Your First Flight”, I suggest you load up the default Boeing 737 and head out to KEDW (Edwards Air Force Base). Our goal is to spend time getting to know the flight characteristics and differences of the Boeing 737 (compared to the Cessna). I highly suggest following the same steps of concentrating on taxi, takeoff, climb and cruise at first. As you’ll quickly get the hang of that (since you’ve been practicing and mastering the Cessna), then add the descent and landing phase. Just follow the pattern shown in the image below until you get it right.
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.
The highly anticipated Dovetail Games Flight School arrived on Tuesday via Steam just in time for summer. If you are new to the world of flight simulation, during the summer of 2014 Dovetail Games obtained the rights from Microsoft to distribute Microsoft Flight Simulator X and more importantly develop the next flight simulator in the series. Dovetail Games released Microsoft Flight Simulator X: Steam Edition in December of that same year.
During the lead-up to the release of FSX Steam Edition, we had been hearing about the plans Dovetail Games had for the future of flight simulation. In a press release Dovetail Games stated they were investigating new concepts in the area of flight simulation and expected to bring a new release to market sometime in 2015. Well…the ball dropped in Times Square and no “new concept” in the area of flight simulation from Dovetail was produced. But we all know that software developers often make plans and then delays occur.
Anyway, the Dovetail Games Flight School is actually a good sign (and a good thing for our hobby). First, it proves that Dovetail Games is capable of developing something of their own related to flight simulation and Second, I’m hopeful the success of this product will further convince them of the popularity of our hobby.
I’m traveling on business at the moment and won’t be home until this weekend. But I have purchased Dovetail Games Flight School and will spend time with it in the coming days/weeks and will further review it. From what I’ve seen on various Twitch live streams is the product is good for the price. Dovetail Games Flight School is available from Steam for $14.99 USD.
During a few of these live streams I saw comments from viewers complaining about the level of detail in the ground textures etc. Folks, this is a $15 piece of software. The purpose is to teach you the fundamentals of flight. You can’t expect Dovetail Games Flight School to include Orbx level of detail. Also, some were complaining that the airports featured in Dovetail Games Flight School were out of date. Well…most likely the airport textures are a copy/paste from FSX. Again, this IS NOT A BIG DEAL! Again, from what I’ve witnessed in several Twitch streams, Dovetail Games Flight School is value for money.
In closing, what are my expectations of Dovetail Games Flight School? After all, I’ve been flying computer based flight simulators since the early 1980’s. Well…I want to learn more. I want to further polish my skills to further enhance my realism through simulation efforts. I’ll be sure to provide an update, “First Look” type blog posting in due time.
Well…I must turn in now. I have an early start tomorrow. Remember, if you enjoy flight simulation and are interested in joining a mature and relaxed virtual airline, please visit virtual Air Logistics. virtual Air Logistics is a virtual airline I started back in 2013. virtual Air Logistics, a different kind of virtual airline for a different kind of virtual pilot.
This is part two of a two-part blog article. Please see and read part one for the clear picture on what I’m talking about.
First, this blog post is titled “How I fixed my OOM issues without sacrificing the eye candy”. Please note the large “I” as in ME. The disclaimer here is this is how I did it. It worked for me, but there is no guarantee it will work for you. In other words, your mileage may vary.
Again, please take the time to read part one to get the full picture.
As I stated towards the end of part one where I described the OOM errors I had only started to receive after many years of using FSX. I DO NOT BLAME PMDG! IT”S NOT PMDG’s FAULT. If you feel I’m wrong about this statement. Then please stop reading.
To recap from part one…
My FSX machine had been running on the same build for about 3 years. I purchased and installed the PMDG T7 about a month ago and experienced my first OOM. As I was having some other challenges on this PC, I decided to do a full and complete rebuild of the machine following Nick’s method and was still experiencing OOM’s when flying the PMDG T7 into payware airports. I followed the recommendations mentioned in Kosta’s Flight Simulation Blog but wasn’t satisfied with losing out on some of the eye candy.
I don’t give up easily. I continued reading and searching various forums. The only hopeful piece of information was reading about the possibility of a P3D 64 bit version of their flight simulator. While this is the way forward…it wouldn’t be happening any time soon. Finally I stumbled on this forum thread.
If you read that forum post, you’ll notice that many of the discussions are centered around all that I had previously done and described in Part One. However, if you look at the 9th reply posted by stretch1365 on 07 November 2013 he mentions something called “Steve’s Scenery Fixer”. This is actually a piece of software called SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer and is available from The FlightSim Store. The price is $33 USD.
Based on what I had read in that forum post, this SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer might just help me. It was worth $33 to find out. So I made the purchase, installed the software, read the instructions. I launched the software and performed the changes and enabled DX10 in FSX.
The moment of truth. I knew I could easily determine if I had wasted $33 by flying from KDEN to KLAX in the PMDG T7. So I set my sliders and everything else for what had triggered the OOM’s on approach into KLAX and departed KDEN running ActiveSky weather. I monitored the VAS using the Process Explorer and upon departure from KDEN, FSX was running approx. 2.4GB.
As I began the descent and approach into KLAX I kept my eye on Process Explorer and noticed it stayed under 3GB. I made the exact same approach into KLAX and made my turn onto final for runway 07R. Checking Process Explorer and about 10nm out from KLAX I was still under 3 GB. VAL crept up to slight over 3 GB as I landed. Success????
I conducted another test of loading up a flight from KLAX back to KDEN. Yes, I realize the T7 probably hates these short flights, but just hang in there. As I departed KLAX, heavy cloud cover blanketed the airfield. At take-off I was running a VAS of 2.6GB. No OOM’s and had a safe and happy landing back at KDEN. Success???
OK…it takes more to convince me. I next tested a flight from KDEN to KJFK (FSDT payware). Results were just what I had experienced with the KDEN to KLAX flight. In other words, my VAS does not creep up higher than about 3.2GB. Success???? Maybe….
I will continue to test and do plan to conduct several long-haul payware to payware flights. I will probably start with a KJFK to EGLL and then EGLL back to KDFW. I’ll be sure to post the outcome of these flights. But for now, yes I believe I have reached some level of success with the $33 investment. I’ve also tested many of my other aircraft (payware and freeware) and have not found any issues after the running the SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer software.
Will the SteveFX – DX10 Scenery Fixer software work for you? All things being equal, I would say yes…but there are no guarantees.