2022 in flight simulation: A look back at the last year and a look forward

This year has been yet another tumultuous one both in the real world and in the world of flight simulation. To end out the year, I want to take a broad look at flight sims in 2022 and think a little bit about what’s coming for 2023. This year was quite the year and so here are some highlights!

We made it through 2022!

I’m not sure about the rest of you but 2022 felt like a year to endure and survive rather than one to thrive in. Yet, we still have seen quite a lot of good and have much to be thankful for throughout this whole year in the world of flight sims. And, thank goodness for distractions like these ones.

There’s no doubt about it that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused ripples across the whole of the industry with developers, artists, and whole companies affected. I’ll leave it to other outlets to cover that in the kind of depth and detail that they do but there’s no doubt that it has affected the development on the flight sims that we all enjoy.

Just one of those projects affected is a Local Legend that Microsoft Flight Simulator had been planned: the Antonov An-2. I’m still very much looking forward to checking out this incredible bi-plane when Microsoft, Antonov, and the developer have the time to make it all come together. Until then, their distracted nature is more than warranted.

Another high profile project affected is Heatblur’s DCS: F-4E Phantom. At the start of the year, Heatblur were very confident of their timeline for a late 2022 launch. But with much of Heatblur’s art team in Ukraine and suffering from some very difficult realities its no surprise that this project has been negatively affected too.

That’s just a handful of examples and there are of course many more sprinkled all across the flight sim community. These are difficult times and I send my hope, my best wishes, and more to those affected.

On a more personal note, this year has been a struggle for me. A neck injury early in the year has seen me fighting off persistent issues with vertigo. It’s forced me to reevaluate my sim setup, my hardware, and adjust the way I approach the happy. I had to dial back a bit and take things a little more slowly. Thanks to various medical supports, I have been able to regain a mostly normal experience which means I can fly a lot more again but it has been a challenge. Balance in life is usually a good thing and so I will continue to try and find that in 2023 for healthy, happy flight simming.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom this year either as we’ve seen a huge selection of content released across all platforms. Lets have a look at some of it!

Year of extraordinary releases

Microsoft Flight Simulator

Microsoft Flight Simulator had a superb year with the sim picking up a reported 10-million pilots and releasing a 40th anniversary special update that came jam packed with historic airports, new aircraft, new types of aircraft (gliders and helicopters), and it even managed to pack in a full fidelity airliner with iniBuilds A310. It also cemented a general sense of the sim reaching a new high level of accomplishment.

Following Sim Update 11 and the 40th Anniversary release, we’ve already seen a few more helicopter developers move into the sim including well known X-Plane developer CowanSim. This has become a big new growth area and I expect much more in 2023.

This year was also the year of the airliner for Microsoft Flight Simulator. Fenix Simulations came out of almost nowhere with their A320 airliner project. It’s now become a fan favourite and is packed with loads of features. Another example is PMDG’s highly anticipated 737 series which finally saw release in 600, 700, and 800 variants.

Not to be outdone, JustFlight launched their slightly more obscure BAe 146 this year and have signed up Blue Bird Simulations to develop a very impressive looking 757 that is planned for release next year. As mentioned earlier iniBuilds launched their Airbus A310, for free, as part of the 40th Anniversary update and they are bringing more Airbus products in 2023. Meanwhile, the A310 gives MSFS a high-fidelity experience right out of the box with simulation depth far exceeding the default A320neo, 747-800 and 787-900 that the sim had up until that point. Of course, one can’t forget FlyByWire who have spent the year updating their A32x project and working on an A380 for future release.

Even more airliners are on the way from PMDG, BlueBird Simulations, Flight Sim Studio AG, and more. Asobo themselves sound hopeful in their efforts to release a high fidelity ATR next year too. I expect by this time next year we’ll have a significant selection of high quality airliners to choose from.

It was a good year for GA aircraft too. The Kodiak 100 and RV-14 by SimWorks Studios have both proven to be outstanding fun. Carenado have released a half dozen GA-airplanes this year both under their own brand and as part of various joint Asobo releases. I struggle to point to an absolute favourite but I do have to say that the Bonanza V35 has been an awful lot of fun. Their Cessna 195, Beechcraft Model 17 and Model 18 have also been tremendous fun.

One of the projects that I started in 2022 was flying across the US in Carenado’s Beech 18. That project will have to wait until 2023 to be finished but I am getting there – with a few twists. You’ll see!

Blackbird Simulations DHC-2 Beaver, the classic Canadian bush plane, also impressed me quite a lot. And it was free! They also came out with their MV310 and revamped their PC-6 as well. Both are apparently worth a close look if you love those types of airplane.

There were more releases such as the Junkers F 13, Fokker F.VII and Savoia-Marchetti S.55. I missed out on these personally (so far) but each one appears to be a loving recreation and a kind of museum piece preserved in digital form despite a few modelling issues here and there. I’m sure we’ll see more like these in the new year.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the sheer amount of content that came out for this sim over the last year. These are just the highlights. This sim is huge and massive in its appeal and if even a small percentage of the 8-million who have now played the sim stick around, it makes things sound great for the future of the sim and the sim world in general.

Of course, Microsoft Flight Simulator isn’t without its maladies but the team at Microsoft and Asobo Studios have hosted multiple Q&A sessions over the course of the year and their enthusiasm and commitment to the product appears unwavering. I think 2023 will be a fantastic year for this sim.

X-Plane 11 and 12

It’s been a pretty good year for X-Plane as well. Laminar Research closed out the year with an official release of version 12. This is a huge milestone and it sets the stage for 2023.

This latest iteration of the venerable X-Plane series moves the needle forward on so many aspects of the sim which was great to see. Its competitiveness with Microsoft Flight Simulator is an open question in the community, however, no matter what you think of it there is still a strong group of developers and virtual pilots interested in continuing on and some of the series’ strengths are hard to find in other products.

X-Plane appears secure in its position going into 2023 with plans for post launch upgrades well underway. One of those big updates is a MDCU for their Airbus A330 which gives the sim a good default Airbus package which we’ll no doubt see translated into other Airbus projects for the sim later on too. Scenery updates are also promised in future updates so we’ll have to see what X-Plane can do with that.

We’re also seeing quite a few X-Plane developers supporting either new products or upgrading older ones. Aerobask, for example, launched an entirely new version of their ViperJet eX for X-Plane 12 while also upgrading their DA50 RG, DA62, and Phenom 300. Other products are expected to come later. Their highly anticipated Falcon 8X remains in development but I’m sure we’ll see it eventually.

X-Crafts have been providing constant developer updates on their E-Jets line which sound like they are not too far away from releasing. I’m guessing we’ll see that release in the new year and I suspect that will make a bit of a splash not only in X-Plane but also thanks to their connect with Flight Sim Studio AG to bring the E-Jets series to MSFS too.

VSkyLabs came out with a number of interesting releases this year too like the M-7-235B Maule, designed entirely for X-Plane 12, or the F-19 Stealth Fighter (based on the popular artists rendition of what the F-117 was thought to be). I think this might be a developer to watch in the new year as they seem committed to making the Maule M-7 and others into long term, continuously developed, products.

Another developer that I covered this year was vFlyteAir and their new Arrow III G5 which came packaged with some interesting avionics features.

There were countless other freeware and payware developers out there working away on all kinds of new and upgraded content that released this

IL-2 series

Combat flight sims had a great year too despite the calamities in the real world. Delivering on 9 flyable aircraft, 2 collector vehicles, and releasing a series of core updates over the course of the year was nothing short of miraculous.

A big highlight was that 1CGS was able to deliver IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Normandy after a lengthier than normal development process. The release came jam packed with features, core updates including new clouds and skybox, tons of new content and ways to play the sim. We got a bunch of interesting aircraft added as part of that development process such as the Me410, Mosquito FB.VI, Ju88C-6 and Ar234.

That’s not all as the series also added the Churchill Mark IV and StuG III Collector Vehicles to the Tank Crew roster, and delivered on most of the planned content for Flying Circus Vol 2 as well. Aircraft like the Gotha G.V and Handley Page 0-400 really added something special to the roster with these big heavy bombers (by WWI standards). I was also impressed with the C-47 coming as a flyable to the series finally and I had a lot of fun flying it during a night raid into France on the eve of the D-Day invasion.

At the height of this, the series also is heading into 2023 in a very uncertain state. The lead engineer announced his departure in September and Jason Williams, long time Executive Producer departed in late October. My recent Q&A with him revealed many of the challenges.

There are things to look forward to in the new year too with the IAR80/81, Spitfire XIV (bubble canopy), and Bf109G-6A/S Collector Planes all announced. An La-5F was also teased or leaked.

To summarize, the series looks set to continue in 2023 albeit with some changes to the development team and an somewhat uncertain future particularly thanks to a vague live stream. Read my article in reaction: What we now know about the future of the IL-2 series. Great Battles content is expected to continue but the exact details remain nebulous for now. A new product is also in development but it appears to not be part of the Great Battles series. All this we have learned in recent days.

Team Fusion Simulation’s next moves with IL-2 Sturmovik: Cliffs of Dover and Desert Wings – Tobruk are also shrouded in some mystery although the short term is bright. Their VR and visual upgrades are making tremendous progress through the year and I’m excited about the forthcoming update and what it will offer. I’m betting that will come sometime in 2023.

What they are plotting beyond that is a mystery but I hope for great things for Team Fusion Simulations.

DCS World

Meanwhile, DCS World has continued on with plenty of constancy this year with the usual mix of challenges and controversies.

The release of DCS World 2.8 in October has further transformed the visual landscape of the sim again with enhancements to the series’ cloud and weather system that now includes moving clouds with the weather system. It’s not a fully dynamic system in that they are not simulating real world weather fronts but it does mean that clouds will finally shift across the landscape dragging rainstorms with them. The clouds are also second to note in their visual appeal.

DCS World has continued to struggle in the later half of the year with performance issues, particularly in VR, and some users have also taken to documenting times where the developers have not added levels of detail to some vehicles/aircraft. This affecting memory requirements and performance. Documenting it seems to have had an effect as reports late in the year are that the sim now has those essential level of detail updates now in place for all models. Performance issues are always on the table when it comes to DCS World but this year it seems to have reached a fevered pitch at times – hopefully it will be at the top of ED’s list of priorities for 2023.

One the content front, however, DCS World has once again delivered with some stunningly detailed high profile releases this year. Eagle Dynamics’ DCS: AH-64D Apache attack helicopter was one of them. Long awaited and arriving in style, this helicopter is still very much an early access product although it is reasonably well equipped and well armed with a compliment of rockets, Hellfire missiles, and the 30mm chain gun. It’s also already fully playable in multiplayer with two player teams so that’s great to see!

Eagle Dynamics also launched the DCS: Ka-50 Black Shark 3. This offers a significant visual overhaul of the exterior the helicopter and brings with it a few new features too. It’s a good upgrade and it comes with a cheap upgrade price of just $9.99 USD until March of 2023.

Aerges launched their long awaited DCS: Mirage F1 adding a great new addition to the series’ Cold War era line-up. The initial offering is just the beginning with three additional versions of the Mirage F1 on offer in 2023 and beyond. Meanwhile, IndiaFoxtEcho had their inaugural DCS release with the simple yet unbelievably fun DCS: MB-339. This light jet trainer, aerobatics aircraft, and light attack airplane really impressed me and while it does have a few rough edges it’s a great release by this dev studio.

DCS World for 2023 already seems clear with over a half dozen new modules coming from a variety of veteran and new third party developers. DCS: Top end of Australia, DCS: Sinai, and DCS: Kola Peninsula round out the new third party map announcements. There were also announcements for the DCS: La-7, DCS: MiG-17, DCS: F-100D, DCS: C-130, DCS: Tornado GR1, and DCS: AH-1 Skyraider. These all in addition to long awaited modules like Heatblur’s DCS: F-4 Phantom and RAZBAM’s F-15E Strike Eagle. Both of those last two are expected to arrive in 2023 sometime. I’m not forgetting Heatblur and TrueGrit with their Eurofighter Typhoon which is somewhere off in the future too.

Modules are not everything and we’ve also learned quite a bit more about the forthcoming dynamic campaign system. It’s release in 2023 is not assured but it is something to look forward to! Of course, DCS World has their upcoming 2023 and beyond video which is scheduled for January 4.

Looking forward to 2023

There’s no doubt in my mind that the ongoing renaissance of the flight sim continues with the sheer number and quality of content available now far exceeding what I could have dreamed off in past decades. The golden age of sims is still very much underway despite the challenges of this year.

I tend to take a big picture perspective across the whole of the industry. We’re seeing growth and movement on so many areas that I can’t help but be optimistic about the entirety of the scene even if a few sims are facing some challenges at the moment. There’s more content than any one person can spend time with and that’s really a great thing with the choice that’s out there.

There are some interesting changes happening in the industry too with more developers coming into the defense space offering training and VR to professional clients. Many of them appear to be making use of the latest version of the Unreal Engine and there’s plenty of speculation that these projects may ultimately find their way into the consumer space in some modified form. I don’t think it will be 2023 when that happens but I do think we’ll see more from these projects over the course of the next year.

There’s always talk too from developers like MicroProse who have had a bomber game/sim in development for quite some time. The spiritual successor to B-17 Flying Fortress under the same MicroProse branding is well on its way from what we’ve seen. We still don’t know what type of experience it is meant to be but its worth keeping an eye out for.

I’m also encouraged by some of the smaller titles out there like Tiny Combat Arena which packed in a ton of sim experience with a lightweight wrapper that was both easy to approach and fun to play in a short period of time. It’s retro style may limit appeal but its a great example of the kinds of indie developer titles that are out there and that will continue to see development in 2023.

On area that I do hope we’ll see more of is growth in the gameplay experience of the sims that we play. From X-Plane to Microsoft Flight Simulator to DCS World, these are sims that are increasingly great at offering deep experiences of the aircraft that they simulate but they do lack when it comes to the experience and immersion of flying in different scenarios. For MSFS, I think we might see Reno Air Races and the Top Gun Maverick experience drawn out into deeper gameplay loops and 2023 may lay ground work for that. Similarly, I hope this is the year that DCS is able to begin to show off more fruits of their efforts on their dynamic campaign and improve the overall gameplay experience far beyond their current systems.

Thank you!

To close out the year, I want to send out some thanks.

First off, I want to thank my Patreon supporters. In this coming year, Stormbirds will become a bit more expensive to maintain thanks to popularity and an ever growing collection of media content. Supporters have provided the kind of resources that will help this blog continue on. From the bottom of my heart, a huge thanks to all of you who have been able to provide support in any way.

I want to thank the folks at Tobii who sent me one of their head trackers for review and have been extraordinarily patient as I’ve conducted a long term review of their tracker. You can read my unboxing and early impressions pieces here. My full review is coming as soon as I finish writing it but my overall impressions have been very positive. I’ve had the opportunity to conduct testing it out not just for a week or a two but for a prolonged period of time across multiple sims. I think it stands the test of time and I think these high-tech head tracking options are the future for us non-VR gamers. Stormbirds.blog is a Tobii affiliate in-case you feel like purchasing one for yourself!

I want to thank the folks at FlightSim Association for their ongoing support for this hobby and experience that we all love to share. I want to thank all of the developers who have connected with me and supported Stormbirds. I’d like to specifically thank Jason Williams for the work that we were able to do together with a promo trailer for Battle of Normandy that I was particularly proud of. Then, later, for sharing his perspective late this year after everything changed.

I want to thank the veritable constellation of fellow content creators out there. Folks like Sergio over at HeliSimmer, the folks at Skyward Flight Media, and the tutorial and video makers out there like Wolfpack345, CasmoTV, Tricker, and so many others. Whenever I get stuck learning a module its usually one of their videos that gets me through. I can’t leave this section without mentioning Chuck from Chuck’s Guides. His guides are essential reading for any DCS pilot and they have a new website and a new home so be sure to check that out. There are so many more to thank so if you’re not immediately on the list please don’t feel slighted! We’ve got great communities out there and there’s just too many to list.

Finally, I want to thank you – yes you reading this! The all of the readers of Stormbirds! I have heard from so many of you in different places both here on the blog and around the flight sim community and I know many more are just content to read the latest article and that’s more than enough.

This year, perhaps more than ever, I’ve read so many words of encouragement and it’s good to know that my efforts here are not just me shouting into the wind. It’s gratifying to me this site is continuing to offer something of value to all of you.

All of you have your own thoughts and opinions on how things are going with the sims that we love and I appreciate you sharing yours. Even if we don’t always agree it’s still worth it to have the conversation respectfully and that has been the vast majority of my experiences this year and in years past. I appreciate that so much.

With that, lets go forth into 2023 with the hopes for a better year, another great year for simulation, and here’s to making it bright! Happy New Year!

12 Comments Add yours

  1. Thanks for bringing these excellent news collections to us. Very appreciated. All the best to you and a bright new 2023!

    Like

  2. AegeanHawk says:

    Thanks a lot from |Greece for everything you are offering to us about flight simulation. Your site is my first
    source for news the last 5 years! Wish you a happy and prosperous new Year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      And a happy new year to you as well! Thanks for being a reader!

      Like

  3. CanadaOne says:

    Deephack referred to the site again, always positively, on his weekly podcast.

    Thank you for all the 2022 news. And Happy New Year!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Alex says:

    My 2022 was brightened by discovery of this website. Thank you for your great work! Happy New Year!

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Hi Alex! Happy New Year! So glad to hear you’ve become a regular reader and that it’s offering a bright spot in the crazy year that was 2022. Hoping for a good 2023!

      Like

  5. kallem says:

    thanks shamrock15 for your blog and for reporting all these things for us this year.

    i feel that 2022 has been a down year for combat flight simming, and that many of us are burnt out and frustrated. despite lots of announcements being made, the hypetrain had diluted them long before their release, and the deluge of announcements over the summer made us more hungry, but less sated.

    we also saw a number of really good servers shut down (eg. clash of wings and lfdm) and content creators dry up (eg. jabbers). enigma recently posted a video: ‘are we in the sim gaming dark age?’ and a lot of that rings true.

    let’s trust that 2023 shows some turn around. hopefully there will be some new content that will invigorate us all. and i know we will read about it here. thanks again shamrock15 for all your hard work. it is really dope.

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Hey Kallem! Thanks for being a reader!

      No doubt that 2022 was a tough year for many and yeah we’ve seen some impacts on the combat flight sim community. Storm of War shutting down at the start of the year was a surprise to me for example.

      But I also see new people getting into the hobby more generally and while I think this year will be a tough one for combat flight sims I think it will ultimately end up being a good one. We’ll have to see!

      I agree about 2023! Thanks again for reading and posting!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Kelly Hrdina says:

    Thanks for a great 2022 Shamrock. Here’s looking forward to a 2023 full of great flying and good health for you.

    Like

  7. Urgent Siesta says:

    Happy New Year, and many thanks (again) for the great reporting over the last several years! 🙂

    I agree with your overall positive assessment, but (shockingly) I feel even more positive about all aspects of flight sim.

    DCS has made such good progress on visuals that watching content from just a few years ago is somewhat jarring, and I’m pleasantly surprised at the amount of new content in the pipeline, as well as the quality of the recently released modules.
    Despite the recent widespread reports of performance issues, I can honestly say that I’ve not experienced them at all (knock on wood!). For me, the sim looks better than ever AND runs just as well as ever, and I’m still rockin’ a 3+ year old rig. This is really no small feat for ED’s so called “spaghetti code”!

    While MSFS 2022 was a massive success and remains quite enjoyable, the X-Plane’s recent Beta & Production release have proven that Laminar Research was able to deliver a huge leap forward for the sim in every regard.
    Though we all had doubts about it’s relevance/chances for success vs MSFS 2022, the recently released Navigraph Survey results show a frankly astounding adoption rate for the brand new Version 12, with at least half as many users of v11 – and that data was from BEFORE the actual late December release. More importantly, the combined number of X-Plane users puts it solidly in 2nd place overall, and far ahead of everything else.

    And the fact that DCS World was the 3rd most used flight sim in the survey was a pleasant jolt! 🙂

    Looking forward to more of your stories/journals – definitely the highlight of the blog (though the other News is always welcome)!

    p.s.: I’ve had my fair share of injuries and illnesses during my lifetime, but after a recent bout with Vertigo myself, I’d rather endure just about any of them again rather than another bout of Vertigo (and i’m still not 100%…!). It’s a special hell that I’d only wish on the worst of people…
    Glad you’re mostly through it – vigorous exercise and getting the hell out of bed were the key improvements for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks for all of the comments today and over the year! Always love to hear you weigh in on everything.

      I agree, we’re in a great place for overall sim usage and seeing that even X-Plane 12 continues to soldier on in second place despite it being in the early days is great news.

      Vertigo seems to be one of those things that you just don’t understand until it happens to you. As much as you want to empathize with someone who has had it, when it hit me, it really messed up so many things. I’m glad to hear that you’re recovering too but man can it take a long time to clear. Whatever the cause! I’ll keep at the exercises – I’m a trail runner and hiker and these things in addition to all of the physio work seem to be of huge benefit!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. sunrrrise says:

    Happy New Year. I also hope it will be better, the chances are it will be better cause the bar has been set really low already;-)

    No mention on release BMS 4.37 with VR capability?

    Like

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