18 August 2020 16:38
This is why Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is so impressive. The game will leverage Microsoft's Bing Maps property to make it into a truly globe-spanning experience and use Azure's computing technology to fill in terrain, buildings, trees, and water. The initial Microsoft Flight Simulator was a passion project for the nascent company, which primarily focused on business and productivity software. Amazingly, Flight Simulator is Microsoft's longest-running franchise, predating the release of Windows by three years. Like most of the garage developers of the day, Artwick focused on Apple's home computers starting with the original FS1 Flight Simulator for the Apple II in 1979.
The title was extremely limited, letting virtual pilots fly a single aircraft over a primitive wireframe terrain encompassing just a few square miles, but contemporary reviewers were extremely impressed. Impressed by his work, he tasked Sublogic to create a version of the simulator that could show off the new graphical capabilities of upcoming 16-bit computers. Hardware manufacturers also started making high-quality flight sticks to capture the simulation audience. In 2006, Microsoft shelved Flight Simulator. The new Flight Simulator is the first entry in the series in over a decade.
That racing game, set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, used satellite data as a "seed" for algorithmically generated landscapes to drive through in a 5,560-square-mile map. You can fly around the world, and the terrain isn't just wallpaper—the team at Asobo simulated the effects of wind turbulence created by buildings and trees as you fly by, as well as how weather interacts with these features. So Asobo painstakingly placed unique buildings and geographical features throughout the simulation, and plans to continue to fill out the world post-release. It takes a suite of Microsoft products to do what Flight Simulator 2020 is doing. An internet connection is required to play Flight Simulator 2020 at its full potential, although you can store terrain offline.
When the original Microsoft Flight simulator was released almost 40 years ago, it was very much for enthusiasts only. This is not the experience you will have with Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Developed by French studio Asobo using accurate geographic data culled from Bing Maps, a global cloud computing network, and real-time weather information, this is as much a visual spectacle as it is a simulator. As fans of driving games such as Euro Truck Simulator have discovered, there is a sort of zen in simulated long-haul travel, a joy in mastering your role as driver or pilot so that it feels like you're doing almost nothing – especially when you can pick out real-life scenic details en route. I've encountered areas of scenery where trees give way to acres of flat, low-resolution textures, which look ugly and out of place; and although around 400 world cities have been accurately replicated using photogrammetry, others have been constructed using Bing Maps and AI, so that they resemble Lego-like model villages. No doubt Asobo will be adding further to its list of fully replicated cities; it is also allowing third-party modelling and simulation specialists to create and distribute their own city models using an in-game marketplace, so users will be able to populate their worlds with favourite locations (at extra cost, of course). But still, Flight Simulator is a true marvel and an astonishing use of Microsoft's technological resources. The ordinary things we thought we knew become new or more beautiful, and the visible relationships between them on the land, particularly at night, hint at the circuitry of more or less everything." This is what Flight Simulator aspires to. Wherever you go, this game captures the wonder of flight, and the spiritual and emotional rush of seeing the world in a different way. • Microsoft Flight Simulator is available now, free with Xbox Game Pass for PC or £60 (standard edition) Before you start streaming Netflix mid-transatlantic flight in Microsoft Flight Simulator, you might want to consider the impact your available bandwidth may be having on your frame rate—in our testing it looks like a lack of downstream bandwidth is having a negative impact on frametimes. Cruising at 30,000 feet with all data options turned on (Microsoft Flight Sim uses a variety of streamed data to inform weather, traffic, and satellite information), we were able to scrape together an average framerate of 40fps and a 1% low of 26fps across an average of three 1440p runs with the high-end preset enabled. Microsoft Flight Simulator data performance With data turned back on, and Devil May Cry 5 downloading behind the scenes, Microsoft Flight Simulator managed an average of 40fps—okay, all good there—and a 1% low of 18fps. So it appears that a slow or bottlenecked internet connection may cause poor, inconsistent performance in Microsoft Flight Simulator. Developer Asobo has been keen to point out during the game's setup that it requires both a steady connection and a fair chunk of data if you are to enable all its online features, but we thought it a worthy PSA if you're trying to eke out every last drop of performance from your GPU and CPU in the expansive (and demanding) simulator. So just make sure to disable what you don't need using the in-game data settings and bandwidth limits if you're worried your connection might not be up to scratch. Microsoft Flight Simulator owners have called for the game's two-hour Steam refund window to be extended or dropped entirely, after spending all of it waiting for the lengthy in-game installation to complete. The problem here is that the bulk of Microsoft Flight Simulator's 150GB download is done through its in-game launcher. After an initial download, this client handles the majority of the game - and takes some time. "I just downloaded Microsoft Flight Simulator on an uncapped 500MB connection and it took three hours," Eurogamer reader Ollie told me. It's more that if people did want to refund the game after actually playing it, they are no longer able to. How much streaming data does Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 use? Gamers are starting to wring their hands as they look at the potential data usages required to run Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 at its full potential. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is a technical marvel, a feat of modern technology. The game utilizes the cloud like never before, downloading visuals directly to the player as they fly around the globe, visiting locations they may never be able to visit in-person. But this leaves a lot of gamers asking an important question: how much streaming data does Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 use? Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 data usages The first thing to get out of the way is the actual install size of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 offers stunning visuals, especially when using the streaming mode to download images as part of photogrammetry feature. While that in and of itself may limit the player numbers, the other thing to consider is how much data Flight Simulator will be using as you fly around. One key feature of the game is that it is constantly downloading data to provide next-gen visuals by using photogrammetry. Right now, it's near impossible to say exactly how much data Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 uses with this feature on. It's important to note that it is possible to turn off data usage so that the game does not constantly download the high-definition environments as you're flying. As Shacknews Tech Editor Chris Jarrard says in his Microsoft Flight Simulator review: Unfortunately, there is currently no clear answer as to how much data Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 uses when it's streaming the photo-realistic images to your machine.