Microsoft Flight Simulator is going into it’s third year in 2022 and Asobo Studios and Microsoft seem to be showing no sign of slowing down on developing their platform. Earlier this week, Jorg Neumann, Sebastian Wloch, and Martial Bossard from the MSFS team appeared on the latest Q&A session answering a huge number of questions and laying out the future for the sim in 2022. Let’s dive into it!
A huge list of content coming
I was quite surprised watching the latest stream at the sheer amount of content that the team is planning to bring to us over the course of this year. Microsoft, Asobo and a variety of third parties are coming together to provide both aircraft and scenery to the sim with a significant amount of variety.
The first one up to the plate is World Update 7 which is coming in just a few days. It is planned for release on Monday January 31st at 1pm PT (2100Z). A teaser showing just a few of the locations was played during the Q&A.
Follow-up World Updates are planned for March, May, June, August and October. We don’t know what most of those are, however, Jorg did reveal in the Q&A that Iberia (Portugal and Spain) would be the next one with a projected release in March.
New aircraft in two series on the way
There are then two categories of new aircraft coming to the sim. Local Legends are connected with the World Updates with the Fokker F.VII tied to the Australia update. The F.VII was famously flown by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith from the United States to Australia in June 1928. Orbx has been working with the Microsoft Flight Simulator team to bring this aircraft together. It should be available within a few days.
Additional local legends are planned for March, May, June, August and October. The next aircraft is the Dornier Do K “Wal” which also achieved an impressive long distance flight from Spain to South America.
Famous Flyers is another series that the Asobo team are working with third parties to bring to life. The Antonov An-2 was the first in the series and the team report that this is essentially done. They are waiting on some licensing with Antonov. Another plane was revealed in the stream and it is a Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing and it’s coming to us from Carenado. Fernando Herrera from Carenado was on the stream and really made it sound like an interesting aircraft. Additional aircraft are planned to release in July, September and November.
Also mentioned in the Q&A was talk about the ATR airliner. This was already announced last year and the Asobo team have been busy doing what they need to do on it but it will also be done in collaboration with a developer who just wrapped work on the Twin Otter from Aerosoft so progress is still getting underway. Asobo have committed to this being an “expert level” aircraft so it should be an impressive aircraft from the sounds of it.
Jorg also teased several ‘major releases’ for the year. The first is planned to come out soon but it has not yet been released. The second is planned for May and is the previously announced Top Gun: Maverick add-on. Another few surprises are planned in June and again sometime in the fall.
Gliders and Helicopter add-ons are both planned for the fall as well. Both have been on roadmaps for a long time but this gives us a little more certainty on the timing.
What the rest of these are is a little murky but I would expect that the Reno Air Races is a template for some follow-up content. That’s not to say that these are all races but rather that Asobo are going to build some interesting experiences that can be added on.
A lot of time during the Q&A was spent giving us some updates on some core sim updates and on a number of these I am very excited to see what happens. A lot of these updates are being driven by the development requirements of realistic helicopters. That has lead Asobo to replace their current propeller system (which dates back to FSX) and do a complete simulation of propellers.
The challenge is modeling surfaces that move quickly and it looks like Asobo has been busy building a system to make this work. The visualization showing the new system looked impressive.
The other update is new CFD (computational fluid dynamics) airflow modeling which was also shown with some cool visualizations. That, together with the propeller updates, are interacting to create a more accurate simulation. The outcome is that the sim will now have a physics based simulation for things like prop drag, deep stalls, wingtip vortexes, and weather connected features like wind, pressure and condensation. Three aircraft will have these new features starting in Sim Update 8 (and beyond).
Other updates mentioned included further work on DX12 including nVidia DLSS (deep learning super sampling) support. There’s also work ongoing with the weather system to make it more accurate to local METAR information while blending that successfully with the bigger weather model.
There was also a segment devoted to complex airliners in the Sim Update. This is a big part of the flight sim community and the sim is still waiting to see a few more of these aircraft release. In addition to the half dozen or so other high complexity airliners in development there is the case of PMDG’s 737.
The 737 is highly anticipated and PMDG has a reputation for complex simulation. Their lead, Robert Randazzo, had taken to the PMDG forums with an update that indicated that they were not in close communication with Asobo. That message seems to have been removed now as I can’t find it anymore although a full post on their forums does detail some of the challenges.
Jorg Neumann disputed the characterization of the situation saying that the teams are in constant communication. There’s obviously some drama going on right now in this area, however, the recent reports are that the 737 is back on track.
PMDG’s DC-6 was also mentioned with some clarification on what happened with the Xbox release. The type passed the testing process with flying colours, however, it was soon revealed that it just didn’t work on Xbox after release. It turns out that the development version allowed that extra code to work while the production version that the rest of us see did not. A learning curve for all involved.
The good news is that the MSFS team and the Xbox team have been working together to solve this problem, not only for the DC-6, but also for other aircraft now and in the future. While 55 of 68 aircraft in the marketplace do work on Xbox, Jorg and the rest of the Asobo team are hoping to be able to bring all aircraft to Xbox. A sandbox environment that will enable the ability to run these aircraft’s external code (often programmed in C++) without compromising the console’s security layers is the goal.
Of interesting note was news that Sim Update 9 is intended to be a stability update with the team focused on squashing bugs and solving stability problems. Jorg did admit that stability was not where they wanted it to be and that while numbers weren’t bad they also could be better.
As regular readers know, I have struggled significantly with stability problems and so any movement on this would be highly appreciated by me. I’m also in the process of doing a significant hardware refresh so that may contribute to this too. Aiming to be less self centered for a moment, I know many people personally who have problems with the sim’s stability and many more have reported problems including the recent updates from IndiaFoxtEcho and the F-35 project which is suffering from CTD problems reported by users even when Microsoft’s test team was unable to reproduce.
Jorg did mention that they now have a test team of 50 which is significant and will hopefully sort out the problems over time.
I am very encouraged that the team is heading in the right direction and that we’ll hopefully see some great content alongside key core feature updates and enhanced stability as the MSFS project begins to mature. Despite my own challenges with it, I remain optimistic that they will be able to get the whole sim to a great spot.