A new Insider Video has been released for Flight Simulator and the video covers an area that I was perhaps most anxious about – aerodynamics and flight modeling was the subject of this 12 minute video and its got a ton of details. Here’s a quick summary.
Improving over FSX in every way
Asobo Studio started with FSX as their base to help provide a strong foundation behind the new Flight Simulator. As we’ve learned in past updates, they reused things that were good and threw away a lot of the rest and one of the things that they appear to have completely overhauled surrounds how they handle the actual act of flying.
In early November we saw this video talking about their stall testing and a lot of actual pilots remarked on how good they thought this was for simulating what a general aviation aircraft would do in that kind of stall situation.
That was good but I think a lot of people needed to know more. The latest video isn’t yet available on their YouTube channel in a public way so I won’t share the link out of respect for that policy but I can write about a few take away notes.
First, the core of the simulation has seen major updates, aircraft systems have been re-written, there’s an all new aerodynamics simulation, and there’s a world wide air-mass simulation. They have also taken great pains to make sure that the 3D world and the simulation match up.
The update talked about the revised friction model which for practical purposes helps make things like sloped runways a reality (something that FSX couldn’t do). So, some of the famous sloped runways of the world are now entirely within reach and the video shows off their Robin DR400 landing, turning around and taking off again all on the slope of the runway.
Another update to the way that the new Flight Simulator handles things is down to its detail of the aerodynamics model. There are up to 1,000 simulated surfaces per aircraft all which can operate with data that includes air pressure, speed, moment, temperature, and humidity. It’s possible for one wing to stall and the other not to or for you to fly through the edge of a cloud and have one wing interacting and one not. Icing is also built in and has both graphical representations as well as system and aerodynamic impacts.
A point that they were keen to raise was that there is now a decoupled physics simulation that can work away at full speed even if the graphics rendering stutters or drops below a certain frame rate.
The weather is a factor too
I mentioned it above but the weather really is a major factor here too. The weather has interactions with the landscape so places like mountains and cities with tall buildings have their own unique wind interaction. Thunderstorms and storm cells can have up and down drafts and wind sheer which can make flying near or in these storms with a small GA aircraft rather dangerous.
In-fact, the sim has support for simulation of various types of storms including supercell thunderstorms. I’m very excited by the possibilities of this!
And of course, all of these interactions also interact with the 1,000 simulated surfaces on the aircraft so the aircraft is very much part of the rest of that simulated world. That seems like an obvious statement but it’s the fusion of these elements that help sell the simulation as being as potentially real as possible.
Giving other sims a run for their money
There’s been a lot of reluctance, including on my part, to believe that Microsoft Flight Simulator would be able to have the potential to upset the simulation world and become a serious competitor for the established giants. The first trailer was a surprise to us all and it made clear that the new sim would be stunning visually, but great graphics alone don’t make a great simulation and so I think many of us are looking for something more.
FSX may have been impressive on launch but I always maintained that my experience with it (albeit limited to a demo) was that the aircraft felt like they were on rails offering no real joy to the flying experience at all. Asobo studio is keen to point out that everything they have been doing with how aircraft fly in this new sim is aimed at making the experience be that much more real.
Other sims such as X-Plane have always marketed to the community about how good their flight modeling has been. Perhaps even in exclusion to other features. Asobo and Microsoft are clearly aimed at providing the visuals and the flying experience.
Now we wait to see what they have planned for aircraft systems and cockpit modeling. If they are aiming as high here as they are on the features already detailed, they may be a serious competitor not just in their reach or their beautiful visuals but also in the depth of the simulation.
I suspect there are a few less people doubting today just how serious a simulation this is meant to be. Of course we’re still a long way from launch and the real proof is always when we have the software on our systems and we can test for ourselves.