Fenix A320 for MSFS

It’s been a while since I took the time to write a flight sim blog post. I’ve been busy with lots of DIY projects and just enjoying the spare time I have flying.  As I discussed soon after the release of MSFS, I decided to continue to fly Prepar3D v5 for all my airliner flights and have enjoyed Microsoft Flight Simulator mostly for General Aviation flying.  While I recognized from the very beginning that MSFS was going to be the new flight simulator standard, I saw no immediate need to begin flying airliners in the platform until just recently for several reasons.

First, while I did briefly play around with the FBW A320 in MSFS and will admit that what that team accomplished with the FBW A320 project is truly amazing, I didn’t see it replacing the FSLabs A319, A320, A321 I had in P3Dv5.  Second, from a short-haul perspective….I had everything I truly needed between the FSLabs and the PMDG 737.  I truly was waiting for something to grab my attention to the point where it would suck me right into MSFS.  Third, I must admit that I’m super spoiled with using Chaseplane to handle all my camera views in P3D.  The MSFS camera view system is seriously lacking when compared to Chaseplane and as I’ve been a Chaseplane user from the very beginning, old habits are truly difficult to break.

While I’ve been anxiously awaiting PMDG’s release into MSFS, I was slight disappointed in their release strategy.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand the reason behind releasing the Boeing 737-700 first, followed by the 737-600 then finally the 737-800 followed by the 737-900.  After all, had PMDG released the B738 first, they might have struggled with getting the sales on the –700/-600.  But, for me personally I’m just not interested in owning a –700 or –600 variant.  My primary interests are in the 737-800 and the 737-900.  As I fly mostly American Airlines with some Alaska Airlines flights mixed in.  But I digress as this blog post is supposed to be about the Fenix A320.

I began hearing about the Fenix A320 project a few months ago.  I’ll be honest, I really didn’t pay much attention to it until the last 60-90 days before release.  But the more I read about it the more I anxiously awaited its release and realized this could be the airliner to finally bring me more into MSFS. After all, I absolutely love the visuals (eye candy) in MSFS over P3D and truly want to do more airliner flying in the new sim. 

The Fenix A320 was a day one purchase for me and since the release, install and setup…I’ve flown nothing but the Fenix in MSFS.  I’ve successfully logged 24 flights in the Fenix and absolutely love it.  I’ve managed to setup the MSFS camera system to a point where I can use it and have been having fun.  I’ve flown a variety of short flights (1-2 hours) and several longer flights of 3-4 hours.  Both the Fenix and MSFS have performed flawlessly.  I’ve also started adding a few airports into MSFS from both some freeware selections on Flightsim.to and a few payware options where I’ve had discounts from previous P3D purchases.  While I’m not ready to uninstall P3D as I plan to fly P3D tomorrow in the Boeing 777, I’ll do the majority of my short-haul operations, and certainly all my Airbus flying in MSFS. 

Final thoughts on the Fenix A320.  I don’t like to “Never Say Never”, but if the devs behind the Fenix project remain true to their word and release the additional engine types and sharklets for the A320 and if they also produce (in time) an A319 and A321, I’ll be a Fenix customer from this point forward and won’t even consider any future FSLabs purchases in the A319/A320/A321 categories.  But of course time will tell. 

As always, thank you for reading. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Confused in Cleveland–Weather Addon for MSFS

I recently received an email from one of my long-time blog readers asking my opinion regarding the recent announcement from REX on their upcoming release of Weather Force 2020 for Microsoft Flight Simulator.  With his permission, I’m going to post a portion of his email and then provide my opinions.

Hello Jerry,

I hope you and your family are well.  I’ve really enjoyed reading all your blog posts regarding the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  Like you, I’ve been excited about this new sim ever since I first learned about it.  But I’m slightly confused about a recent posting over on FSElite regarding a new add-on being developed by REX.  REX appears to be developing a weather add-on for MSFS, yet I thought (I think we all thought) MSFS had real world weather baked into the sim and weather add-ons from REX or Hi-Fi  Simulations (ActiveSky) would no longer be needed.  I’m curious what your opinions are on this subject?

Thanks again for all your efforts.

Confused in Cleveland,
Bill

Bill brings up a very valid point and one that I’ve taken some time to ponder.  He’s right!  From the very early news regarding the new Microsoft Flight Simulator we’ve been led to believe that the sim would include real-time weather injection that would be far superior to anything we’ve had as default in the past and there would be no need for a 3rd party add-on to provide this function.  Microsoft actually released a video in October of last year where they specifically discussed the new weather system within Microsoft Flight Simulator.

It is worth noting, at the present time…Microsoft is well aware and working to resolve the real-time weather functions within MSFS.  We expect to see a fix in the upcoming “Patch 2” release from Microsoft in the next few days that hopefully will address the weather (or lack thereof) issues within the new sim.  I personally remain extremely confident that in time (and that’s the operative word or phrase we must all understand) Microsoft will address all these issues/bugs and MSFS 2020 will be an amazing sim. 

The news article which Bill references from the FSElite site can be read here.  It’s also worth noting some fine print which REX discusses on their website“Even though the REX weather engine is pushing the proper temperatures and winds aloft data through to the simulator, due to core issues of Microsoft Flight Simulator, temperatures and winds aloft are not properly rendered yet. Microsoft & Asobo are aware of this issue. (September 13, 2020)” 

My personal opinion and certainly my initial plan is to take a “wait and see” attitude regarding all things weather in the new sim.  While it’s been an almost necessity to use an add-on weather engine in FSX/P3D, the jury is still out on whether this will remain true in Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  At the present time, I’m not even sure the default aircraft flight models are stable enough for real-world, real-time weather.  This is also currently being worked on and improvements to both aircraft aerodynamics, avionics and systems are part of this update #2 patch.

Interestingly enough, later today Hi-Fi Simulations commented on the future of their Active Sky product as it directly relates to Microsoft Flight Simulator.  This announcement was posted to FSElite and can be read here.  One of the key takeaways from that article reads, “Sadly, Damian did say that right now they are not aware of any way to bring weather interpretation into the simulator or what the possibilities will be.”  I find this statement rather interesting considering the REX product announcement discussed earlier.  I’ve tried both REX and Active Sky over the years and always found that Active Sky does a much better job with accurate weather interruption and injection.

Having said all this, does this still mean there will never be an opportunity for a 3rd party weather add-on in Microsoft Flight Simulator?  Where I personally believe some type of weather add-on might be beneficial is for those who enjoy flying with historical weather.  But I plan to allow Microsoft time to address the current issues with real-time weather functionality and go from there. 

I appreciate Bill taking the time to email me his question and would like to invite anyone else the opportunity to do the same.  You can contact me via email or by Discord private message

Thanks to all for taking the time to read my blog articles.  I hope you find them educational and entertaining.  Stay tuned for more…

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

MSFS2020 PMDG Delays?

Could the PMDG 737NG3 for MSFS2020 be delayed even longer than first anticipated?  While many of us fully understand the time it would take to bring an aircraft of the level of quality and sophistication like the PMDG 737 into MSFS2020, we might need to wait just a bit longer.

A few weeks before the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 was released, Robert Randazzo (CEO of PMDG) announced we could see the new PMDG 737NG3 in the new simulator sometime in late Q1 2001 or early in Q2.  Here’s the link to the full article and below is a snippet from that same article discussing the possible timeline. 

pmdg q1

However, it appears Robert commented just a few days ago with the following:

pmdg 6-12 mos

While certainly his now 6-12 month comment isn’t a sign of panic, after all I’d personally rather have it 100% ready than to have PMDG rush to bring it out only to find it’s useless.  Plus this isn’t how PMDG operates anyway. 

What this comment tells me and I quote from the post, is the platform (as it stands today) simply isn’t ready for products as complex as PMDG’s.  I believe the same can also be said for FSLabs and others.  Again, I’m not worried (and neither should you be) as those of us who are content with P3D and X-Plane certainly have alternatives. 

Of course, time will tell just what other “stuff” is coming to P3D and whether anyone will buy it.  I’m just hoping the release of their Boeing 777 is sooner rather than later for P3Dv5.  While I tend to mostly fly shorter-haul flights in the Boeing 737 and Airbus A319/A320/A321, I do still enjoy stretching my legs on some longer flights and absolutely adore the 777. 

So Robert Randazzo, if you happen to stumble onto this writing (which I doubt you will).  Take your time with FS2020.  It will be worth the wait. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

Microsoft Flight Simulator Patch 1.7.14.0

Microsoft Flight Simulator logo (2020).png

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. 

FlightSimulator_HjCIs9oCOs

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.

FlightSimulator_Srpk0rZN3l

Fine Job

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. 

Thanks again for reading.  Until next time…

Happy Flying!

Jerry

The Return of Community Spirit

Once upon a time, there once existed a spirit within the flight simulation community where talented individuals created many marvelous things to enhance the base simulator application.  Everything from navigational aids, enhanced airport scenery and aircraft.  At one time in our not so distant past, the quality freeware offerings outnumbered payware.  As the base simulator began to evolve (circa FS9 –> FSX timeframe) the quality freeware began to decline and the rise of payware took hold.  While I won’t pretend there’s absolutely no freeware available for P3D, I will tell you that the quality content is very few and far between.

Of course the X-Plane community has, for years and still very much to this day, enjoyed a very strong community spirit around freeware/shareware concepts.  Many of the X-Plane users in the virtual airline I belong to have spent little to almost no money to enhance their simulation experience.  Arguably, one of the very best freeware aircraft models ever known to exist is the Zibo 737.  The Zibo 737 Project, led by a team of developers to expand the capabilities of the default 737 in X-Plane.  Many who fly both the PMDG 737NG and the Zibo 737 will tell you the differences between the two are hardly noticeable.  Others might describe the Zibo 737 as being on-par with Aerosoft quality.  Either way, it’s a fantastic aircraft and absolutely free.  Who can argue with free? 

With the launch a few weeks ago of the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, many were bracing themselves (and their wallets) for an onslaught of payware add-ons.  After all, if you’ve spent the past decade or more flying study level aircraft the excitement of a brand new simulator may wear off fairly quickly once you climb into the flight deck of the default Airbus A320.  Sure….it’s pretty.  But within just a few minutes you realize you’ve taken a huge step backwards in the level of immersion as most features are labeled as Inop.  I’ve even stated several times that for me, MSFS2020 will most certainly become my go-to flight simulator, but only once aircraft models from PMDG, FSLabs, QualityWings etc. become available.  This won’t be happening this year.  Most likely this won’t be happening until sometime late in Q1 2021 or perhaps even early Q2 2021. 

But….

In just the past week or so, there’s been news about a project underway to create a “Zibo” like experience with the default Airbus A320 in MSFS2020 called the MS2020 A32NX Project.  I can tell you from first hand experience that what this team of developers have been able to do in the short time since the release of MSFS2020 has certainly piqued my interest in both MSFS2020 and the default Airbus A320 from an airliner perspective. 

Understand, the project is still very much a work in progress.  But they’ve certainly managed to excite me in such a way that I can certainly see myself flying the A320 in MSFS2020 on the VATSIM network very soon.  Certainly much sooner than I originally believed would be possible. 

Want to learn more?

Of course you do!  I’d suggest watching the video I’ve embedded below which will bring you up to speed on the progress already made as well as what’s in-store for the very near future.  The video description area will provide you with the links to download the mod and how to join the project’s Discord server so you can stay informed on the team’s progress.  I hope this news excites you as much as it does me.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for reading this article.  It’s much appreciated.  For those who are thinking the MSFS2020 A320 project will never be on-par with the likes of the FSLabs A320, you are probably correct.  However, as previously stated….the FSLabs Airbus series is most likely 4-6 months away from being available.  I’d be willing to bet, the team working on the MSFS2020 A320 project will (in time) bring this up to a level of quality and realism as what we currently see with the Aerosoft A320 and perhaps beyond. 

Many are asking if the same might also happen with the default Boeing 747 and Dreamliner.  Unfortunately, due to the DRM status of these two aircraft…this may never be possible.  But I suppose one should never say never. 

Thanks for reading.  I’ll soon provide an update to my experiences with the latest MSFS2020 patch.  Stay tuned….

Until next time….

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

MSFS2020 First Patch Coming Soon

If you’ve been enjoying or trying to enjoy the brand new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020, you’ll be happy to note the first expected patch is due to be released in the next few days.  Microsoft recently announced on their dev blog the full list of fixes users can expect in this very first patch

Yes, it’s a short list!

Many in the flight sim community are expressing disappointment with this first patch believing it should include more fixes and enhancements.  I personally believe this update is 100% spot on and is precisely the fixes the sim needs now, versus waiting another week, two or more to include more. 

First, there are many who are still struggling simply to download and install the sim.  If you refer to the patch notes, you’ll see there are several items being addressed which should help the folks who haven’t been able to install. 

Second, the SimConnect FPS drop has all but grounded anyone who desires to use MSFS2020 with the online networks like VATSIM, IVAO and PilotEdge. 

Third, the sim crashes when USB devices are connected or disconnected is another show stopper in my opinion and has been causing issues for many users.

More to Come?

Absolutely!  There are many opportunities which need to be addressed and I’m confident these will be addressed in time.  I’d personally rather see Microsoft/Asobo address the truly show stopper issues first (as they’ve done with this first patch) then hold this patch up several more weeks. 

How to Apply the Update?

That’s Easy-Peasy, Lemon Squeezy.  If you happen to be running MSFS2020 at the time the update is released, just simply shut down the sim and restart.  The sim will automagically download and install the updates. 

We should know more about what’s on the horizon in future patch releases on 3 September.

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

MSFS 2020 48 Hours In

As I type this on my laptop, I’m carefully watching my default Cessna 172 fly low and slow along the Fjords from Stewart, Canada on a flight to Ketchikan, Alaska in the brand new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  I honestly can’t believe my eyes. 

FlightSimulator_Srpk0rZN3l

As Real As It Gets?

What I’m seeing and experiencing today has only really been achievable in real life flight.  Don’t get me wrong, pursuing ones private pilot license will certainly trump any experience on a gaming PC in my basement man cave.  But if you don’t have the time or the money to pursue such endeavors, then one can have an almost “As Real As It Gets” experience with the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. 

For many of us who have been in this hobby for many years, MSFS2020 is exactly what we’ve been waiting and hoping for.  After many felt Microsoft let us down many years ago, I personally believe they have hit a home run with this new simulator.

FlightSimulator_yYf3V81NVP

Is it Perfect?

Of course not!  But we’re 48 hours into what I believe is the future of the flight simulation hobby and a platform that should carry us well in the years to come.  While there’s certainly areas to improve upon (and I’m confident these will be addressed in time) the new sim is stable, performs well and chocked full of hours and hours of flying fun. 

FlightSimulator_LTMtDJjZ2R

Well I better focus my attention on landing in Ketchikan.  I’m loving this….

Until next time…

Happy Flying!

Jerry

Setting My Own Expectations

Like many of you, this past week I’ve been watching a few YouTube videos and Twitch Live Streams for the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.  I’m truly in awe at the nice visuals (aka eye candy) I’m seeing.  As I’ve said before, stunning visuals are a key element in the immersion factor of any simulation.  After all, this is why so many of us have invested a small fortune in add-on scenery for FSX/P3D/X-Plane.  I fully expect my jaw to drop once MSFS 2020 has been downloaded, installed and started up for the first time on my system. 

Having said this, I’m also preparing myself for the fact that most likely on day one our experience with MSFS2020 will be much different than say on day 100.  In other words, in my long history with any version of Flight Simulator (even in the days of the boxed editions) there is a period of time where patches/updates will be required.  This has also been true for other types of simulation games I play such as Farming Simulator or American Truck Simulator.  Yes, this is also the trend in the large scale business software industry as well.  There’s only so much testing developers can and will do before it’s time to turn it loose to the masses and then begin the arduous task of bug fixing.  While many have been helping to test MSFS 2020, it is us the consumer that will ultimately end up shaping what will become the final or near final product.

Other than all the stunning visuals and what we believe will be a much improved flight model, MSFS2020 will not/does not include magic code to allow it to perform with all sliders shoved right with FPS numbers climbing to the moon.  Even on some of the preview streams (knowing they are using a preview build), FPS numbers on fairly beefy hardware are not any greater than what they experience in P3D or X-Plane.  But again, I’m reminded of what we’ve known for years about flight sim programs.  Unless you sacrifice visuals, you’ll struggle to maintain a constant FPS of 60+.  But then again, I’ve also been saying for years that an FPS of 60+ isn’t needed in flight sim. 

Tuesday, 18 August is the BIG day.  We’ll all wake up and go check to see if the download is available and then hope the Microsoft hamsters can keep up with demand.  Then once the download is complete I plan to fire up MSFS2020 for the first time and see what’s what.  I’ll approach it much like I did with Prepar3d v5 and that is to leave most things default and see what I see.  As time progresses, I’ll inch the graphics further to the right and adjust for smoothness.  Once this is done, I won’t care what my FPS is.

Finally, soon after release we’ll all know for ourselves if MSFS 2020 has lived up to the hype.  If I were a betting man, I’d say it will and perhaps even more.  But prepare for just a little (or a lot) of turbulence so keep those seat belts on and have fun. Just remember how far we’ve come…..

c64-fs2-statue

Screenshot from Flight Simulator Commodore 64 circa 1984.  Do you remember this?  I do!

Until next time…

Happy Flying!

Jerry 

Farewell Prepar3d v4

In preparation for Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 (MSFS2020), it is time to bid farewell to P3Dv4.5 and all the associated add-ons.  While my P3Dv5 instance is still awaiting the availability of the PMDG Boeing 777, I have enough add-ons in v5 to keep me fully entertained until such time as the Triple Seven can be installed.

P3Dv4.5 Was Amazing

I joined the P3D bandwagon when P3Dv2 arrived on the scene and in my opinion, while v5 is finally proving to be stable….P3Dv4.5 was just simply rock solid.  Almost from day one, the much anticipated 64 bit release showed us exactly what a flight simulator should be and remained almost trouble free for just over three years.  However, between the P3Dv4.5 install and all the associated add-ons adding up to over 275GB of SSD space, I need to remove it to make room for the new Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 which is planned to release in just a few days from now (18 August). 

A Bit of a Three Ring Circus

My current gaming machine was designed and built with the future in mind.  At just over two years old now, at the time of the build I installed a 1 TB M.2 SSD as the main drive.  I moved over a few older 500GB SSD drives along with a 500 GB SATA drive for video work.  To maximize the performance of P3Dv4, it was installed on the 1 TB M.2 SSD along side the Windows OS.  I have one 500 GB SSD dedicated to Steam content such as Farming Simulator, Truck Simulators etc. and use the remaining SSD’s for backup and non-gaming content. 

When I installed P3Dv5, I installed it onto one of the SSD drives and it’s performing just fine.  But I believe I’ll want MSFS2020 to go onto the 1 TB M.2 SSD for maximum performance.  So to make this happen, unfortunately I must sunset P3Dv4.5. 

It really isn’t that big of a deal as I’ve been using P3Dv5 exclusively now for over a month.  Now that I have P3Dv5 dialed in, the performance is better than what I had been experiencing with 4.5 so now is just a good time to say goodbye.

MSFS2020 Requirements

According to the published minimum requirements of MSFS2020 as it relates to available disk space, I will need a minimum of 150GB.  Clearing out P3Dv4.5 and all its associated add-ons along with doing some additional cleanup, I will easily have over 500GB of free space on my main 1 TB M.2 drive.  Certainly more than enough.  At least for now. 

Looking Forward, Never Backward

While a lot of flight simmers may plan to ditch Prepar3D and X-Plane on day one of the MSFS2020 release, as I’ve stated before…Prepar3D v5 will remain my main simulator for simulating jetliner flights.  However, between home DIY projects and other responsibilities I do anticipate flying in MSFS2020 with any of the default GA aircraft as I explore the world flying low and slow.  My first flights most likely will be as follows.  Depart KAPA and fly over my house and the greater Denver area.  Flight number two will probably have me depart EBAW (Antwerp, Belgium) and fly over the area where my in-laws lived along with the Antwerp area.  Then who knows?  Most likely I’ll hop around between Alaska, perhaps fly around Innsbruk Austria…really the complete world is my option. 

Until next time…

Happy Uninstalling and Flying!

Jerry

The Future of the Flight Sim Add-on Market

With the upcoming release of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020, many might be wondering what the future holds for the 3rd party add-on market.  In today’s FSX/Prepar3d and even X-Plane environments we must purchase, download and install dozens and dozens and sometimes even dozens more of extra add-ons to create an “As Real As It Gets” experience in our favorite simulator.  While some of the add-on content is freeware for X-Plane users, the vast majority of quality add-ons for FSX/P3D is payware.  All these extra components (while truly awesome) often present challenges in terms of compatibility and reliability of the base sim.   With MSFS2020, will we still need all this extra stuff?  The short answer is yes and no. 

No Longer Needed

While total immersion has always been my goal with flight sim, the eye-candy ranks right up there on my list of importance.  After all, much of what we perceive to be a full immersive experience comes to us through what we see.  Regardless of whether you fly low and slow or high and fast, the ground textures including roads, highways, rivers, lakes and railroads all add to the experience.  In the world of FSX/P3D all this level of detail has generally been provided through various add-ons from Orbx including the Global Base Pack, Global Vector, Global Trees, Global TerraFlora, Global Buildings and different OpenLC products for each region of the world.  Thankfully, right out of the box Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has us covered with their highly accurate and stunning auto-gen provided by real world satellite imagery.  However, don’t count Orbx out as there will be plenty of opportunity for them to continue to develop their awesome scenery add-ons specifically the smaller airports and perhaps some of the larger ones like KSAN (as an example). 

Another example of add-ons which I believe will be obsolete in MSFS2020 is all the weather, cloud and sky texture add-ons which generally come to us via Hi-Fi (ActiveSky) and REX.  Out of the box, the MSFS2020 weather engine along with the way sky and cloud textures are displayed appear to be as real as it gets. Of course the development teams at Microsoft has completely rewritten the book on how aircraft will experience changing weather conditions to a level not even available to us now with these 3rd party add-ons. 

Finally I believe all these add-on shader type products such as EnvShade, PTA and Tomatoshade will also be unnecessary in MSFS2020.  I truly believe that out of the box the visuals of everything including ground textures, aircraft textures, sky textures..etc. are all absolutely beautiful out of the box.  This is not to say that any of these shader programs won’t make it to MSFS2020…I just don’t think they will be necessary.  At least not necessary for my setup.

Needs Going Forward

Of course at the very top of the list will be all the wonderful add-on aircraft (study level and some not so much) from devs such as PMDG, FSLabs, A2A, QualityWings, Aerosoft and Carenado just to name a few.  The limited information I’ve seen on the default Airbus A320 tells me that while this will be a fun aircraft to fly in the short-term, it’s not going to tick all the boxes for the seasoned flight simmer.  At the time of this writing, only PMDG (to my knowledge) has provided any sort of timeline and that is looking like late Q1 2021.  So we could be talking 6+ months before we see any study level aircraft in MSFS2020.

While many of the top add-on airport developers have posted pictures and details about their plans to release their airport add-ons for MSFS2020, these too will likely not be ready for release until several months after the release of the new sim.  Of course, of the enhanced airports Microsoft is including in the release, it’s unclear to me how these would differ in quality from what the 3rd party developers will provide. 

Expected Add-on Costs

I don’t want to speculate on exactly what the pricing will be for any 3rd party add-ons other than to say that I highly doubt we can expect to see any discounts from previous FSX/P3D purchases and certainly no free upgrades.  While the FSX to P3D jump has been a similar platform and some add-ons purchased for FSX have received 100% free updates all the way to P3Dv5, MSFS2020 is a completely different platform and I believe all add-ons will also be practically brand new versions.  In other words, I don’t believe these will be simple port overs from previous versions. 

Additional Thoughts on Pricing

When P3D was first released, PMDG was the first to increase their pricing.  At the time the reasons provided by PMDG was due to licensing and the simple fact that Prepar3D was not licensed for entertainment purposes like FSX had been.  Here’s an old forum post discussing this (Jan. 2015).  Other add-on developers like FSLabs also introduced their products at a premium price due to the P3D EULA.  As Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 once again is marketed as a “for entertainment purposes” product, can we expect add-on pricing to drop?  Well….your guess is as good as mine at this point in time.  But I would guess if there is any price change towards a new EULA the change will be minimal. 

My Plan

As I’ve stated before, while I will most likely purchase Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 near day one and I will spend some time flying and looking around, I don’t plan to make the move to the new platform until my favorite study level aircraft are available.  As I’m still currently unemployed (laid off in July after 22 years), I will also have to be frugal in my spending practices as I go along.  Most likely I will focus my attention first on aircraft and just make do with the airports that come with MSFS2020.  Then as time goes along and hopefully my job status will resolve itself in time, I can then purchase more things.  But these COVID-19 times are difficult for many and the priorities of my family must come first before anything else. 

Until next time…

Happy Flying!!!

Jerry

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