With our first few days into 2020 I wanted to write a little bit about what I’m excited for in 2020 and the kinds of things that I’m looking to see from some of the flight sim developers this year. There’s a lot to get through so let’s get started!
Flight Simulator is back
The 1,000-pound gorilla of 2020 is Microsoft Flight Simulator by Asobo Studios. Their surprise announcement in June of 2019 had everyone talking and has had some of its potential competitors scrambling to find answers to some of the groundbreaking technology that the new sim is bringing to the market.
I’m excited about this sim because of the visual fidelity of the landscapes, the extremely detailed clouds and weather systems being integrated together, and what looks like a really strong potential for the platform as both entertainment and as a learning platform. Integrated and interactive checklists and tutorials have been talked to and I honestly think that this will be the quiet yet killer feature of the sim when it launches.
We’ve got a lot to look forward to with the full aircraft list for launch, new features, and more details on how the sim is being developed to come. The features list includes revolutionary new technologies that are already shaking things up in the sim industry and I’m very curious to see how it plays out.
Core updates and new content for DCS World
Eagle Dynamics has been talking about their future recently and a new trailer from Glowing Amraam is due any time now which promises to excite and tease more of the future when it does. There’s lots that I’m excited about with DCS World this year but I think the things that I’m most excited about are core engine features including:
- New cloud and weather technology (unconfirmed for this year)
- New AI updates that should make the AI fly more realistically (also unconfirmed for 2020)
- The new damage model for DCS WWII that will proliferate through the rest of the aircraft and vehicles
- The completion of the multiple phases of the integrated VOIP system bringing realistic radio comms into the core of DCS World
Beyond that, I’m very interested to see the F-16 and F/A-18C be completed in 2020 (a stated goal) and for the release of new maps such as the DCS: Marianas Islands announced yesterday as well as a new WWII map and Syria from Yugra Media. From third parties I’m excited to see companies like RAZBAM bring their planned audio updates to all of their modules and Leatherneck Studios to show off their latest work on current and future modules like the Corsair and the Crusader. New aircraft modules such as the Mosquito, Mi-24, P-47, F-15E, MiG-23, and more all being potential 2020 or 20201 releases are very exciting to see develop over the course of this year.
A-10C Warthog 2 and Ka-50 Black Shark 3 are going to be valuable updates to the series and will be great experiences for new players coming into DCS World looking for the type of flying that those types offer. What the experience will be as far as the new and old coexisting as well as what kind of upgrade discount will be offered has left me with a few questions but nonetheless I remain optimistic. DCS World has grown it’s stable of aircraft to offer enough for almost any type of flying and that’s exciting in and of itself.
I think the thing that shakes up DCS World the most this year is actually going to be maps. Persian Gulf has succeeded where Nevada failed in bringing in some strong multiplayer presence and I think Marianas Islands free price and thus wide availability will help further the appeal to try new locations.
The start of new things for IL-2
IL-2: Great Battles Series had a great year in 2019 and released a mountain of content for Bodenplatte, Tank Crew, and Flying Circus. 2020 is the start of new things for the series as they go into development of Battle of Normandy, release three new Collector Planes, and continue to make tweaks to the core of their series.
The feature that I’m excited to see and I still don’t know what it will do to gameplay in the series is Air Marshal. We don’t know much about the feature except the basics of what Jason outlined a couple of years back. The ultimate goal is the create an interface that can allow for team coordination and adding of a fog of war to IL-2 multiplayer battles and it could be a real game changer which is probably why the team hasn’t said much about it yet. I expect that will change soon!
Jason Williams has talked about some more significant engine changes and updates in the future of the series. I don’t know if that means that we’ll see them in 2020 but we may see the groundwork and I’d love to see the series progress with things like lighting and shadows, weather modeling, and of course changes to more gameplay affecting features like AI.
I am of course excited about new content. While Bodenplatte’s first few aircraft released to excitement, there wasn’t much they were able to do right away, but with Battle of Normandy, these new aircraft will almost certainly move directly into multiplayer scenarios with the rest of the Bodenplatte aircraft. When Battle of Normandy is complete, it and Battle of Bodenplatte will create a very strong combination package with aircraft and content that shares closely between the two of them.
The big question mark remains right now on what, if anything, the team is intending to do with Tank Crew and Flying Circus in the future. Will these series continue on with new development or will they be maintained only? I hope to be excited about a Flying Circus Vol 2 and I really want that to include more variety of aircraft from Rise of Flight (let’s see those bombers) and a more compelling single player experience including Career mode that benefits both Vol 1 and Vol 2. I think that will go a long way towards cementing Flying Circus as a product.
The series is likely to unveil at least a few surprises through the year as well and I think no matter what happens, we have a great way forward and lots of new content to be excited about.
Cautiously excited about X-Plane
I’ve written some articles in 2019 about X-Plane as I dipped my toes into the series and I’ve recently covered some of the developments in the series as it grows its medium sized business jet line with the Falcon 8X from Aerobask and as Orbx adds more high quality scenery to the sim including the recently announced True Earth US Florida scenery.
I am waiting to see what X-Plane intends to do about their sim in the wake of the Flight Simulator announcement from Microsoft. Although X-Plane has compelling flexibility and features, it also requires a lot of personalization and customization that their new (or new/old) competitor will have right out of the box. I don’t think Flight Simulator is the end of X-Plane as the series has been around for a long time and stands on its own merits but I do want to see and hear more from them.
I am very excited about recent news that their finally about to release their new Vulkan API engine update which should be coming early in 2020. Vulkan is not likely to dramatically change the X-Plane experience but it should allow the developers to push their sim further and allow virtual pilots higher frame rates (a constant issue for me in X-Plane).
A great year for sims in 2020?
I think we had a very good year when I look back at how things developed in 2019 and I think 2020 is going to be a great year for flight sims. We’ve got new and reinvigorated competition, new products rolling out with some regularity, and lots of exciting projects that are well underway.
I wouldn’t discount some surprises coming from other corners this year as well. Just as Microsoft surprised the industry in June, I think the one to watch and one that has flown mostly under the radar here on Stormbirds.blog so far is Microprose which has teased an AH-64 and a Bf109 in some tweets and posts back in September. We don’t know much but it looks like the brand is returning to flight simulation after a very long absence. In what form, we don’t know… but it will be interesting to see how things develop there.
And before I sign off on what I’m excited about, I want to also say that what we already have in 2019 is a veritable mountain of aircraft, scenery, and experiences already open to us from helicopters and jet trainers to WWII warbirds and some of the most modern jet fighters around. While there is a drive for more I also want to remind myself and everyone else that sitting here at the beginning of 2020 is to be looking at a huge collection of some of the most detailed and high fidelity flight simulation experiences ever available in history.
It’s going to be a good year folks!