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Microsoft Flight Simulator[b] is an amateur flight simulator developed by Asobo Studio and published by Xbox Game Studios. It is an entry in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series which began in 1982, and was preceded by Microsoft Flight Simulator X in 2006. The game is a return of the series after 14 years, with development beginning six years prior to its release. It was released on August 18, 2020, for Windows, with a virtual reality (VR) version released in December of the same year as part of the free Sim 2 update. Microsoft Flight Simulator is the first game in the series to see a VR and console release, with it being released on the Xbox Series X and Series S on July 27, 2021.[4]


The game was released to critical acclaim, with praise for its graphical fidelity, cited by critics as the "safest way to travel" during the COVID-19 pandemic. Several reviewers also placed it on their favorites' lists and called it the most aesthetically pleasing game of 2020, though there was criticism of its slow loading times, inaccuracies in rendering certain buildings, and unrealistic aerodynamics models. It also received several accolades, most notably winning Best Sim/Strategy Game at The Game Awards 2020.


As an amateur flight simulator, Microsoft Flight Simulator has a tutorial segment divided into sequences that allow players new to flight, or to the simulation, to learn the basic controls, the flight instruments, and other topics deemed essential for them to know before flying; it ends with a takeoff and landing test.[5] Throughout the tutorial, fictional pilot Captain Jess Molina assists players.[6][c] It offers landing challenges at some of the most famous and dangerous airports and the player is graded based on "how close to the center of the runway you land, how long it takes your plane to come to a full stop, and the touchdown's smoothness."[5] Another gameplay mode features three sight-seeing bush trips set in Nevada, Patagonia and the Balkans.[8]


Due to its complex amount of topographical, scenery and object data, Flight Simulator requires a certain speed of Internet connection for seamless gameplay. Windows Central states that a nimimum of 5 Mbit/s is required, with at least 20 Mbit/s recommended and 50 Mbit/s being ideal.[11] Flight Simulator has an offline mode, which uses the latest pre-cached data saved to the local hard drive.[12] Two caches exist, a rolling cache (controlled automatically by the simulator) and a manual cache (which can be set by the user). The rolling cache is written to when the user goes to flight mode, caching the local objects and scenery, and updates as the pilot flies around the virtual world. The user sets the manual cache locations and amount of detail to be stored, and the user can determine the storage sizes used in both methods - as well as turn them off if required.[8]


The addition of third-party aircraft and airports are also supported within the simulator, as are additions of other services. Virtual Air Traffic Simulation Network (VATSIM) and the International Virtual Aviation Organisation (IVAO) are examples of online flight-simulation networks supported within Flight Simulator since release[15][16] that allow pilots to talk to human air traffic controllers (instead of the AI ones) and to each other where there is no ATC coverage. These services add to the realism of flight simulators, and VATSIM was even used in 2008 to test proposed real-world changes to ATC before implementation.[17] Many of the third-party add-ons are repaints or exclusive liveries.[18] In addition, there are other add-ons (mods) for things such as recording flights, and a weather mod designed by Weather Preset Pro. The Microsoft team has said that they "welcome [all third party developers] onboard," and that they are "critically important".[19] To simplify things, an in-game marketplace was created on the game's website featuring a variety of third-party content.[20] This also includes the stock world updates, and some third-party mods such as A32NX by FlyByWire Simulations for the Airbus A320neo control systems.[21] The team is also committed to introducing new paid downloadable content (DLC) every "two or three months".[22]


Flight Simulator features multiple terabytes of texture and height map data. According to Alex Battaglia of Eurogamer, "Using a base mesh and textures, the game utili[z]es your [I]nternet connection to stream even higher quality terrain data onto your PC as you play, via the Azure cloud". This means that as the pilot flies around the world, the game downloads area-specific high quality scenery and objects which he says "boost the game's fidelity and diversity that I've yet to see in any other release".[27] Bing Maps updates every 28 days, allowing for Flight Simulator's to stay up to date with reality.[22] In rare cases where certain areas are blurred or pixelated on Bing Maps it "uses procedural techniques to fill in the blanks and make sure there is something in the space".[29] Some other places, however, were also blurred on purpose using clouds, filled with generic instead of specific graphics.[12]


Developer Asobo Studio scanned the interiors and exteriors of aircraft with a 3D scanner to create their realistic looks, polished with modeling and printing.[30] Textron Aviation also helped with the realism of the Cessna and Beechcraft aircraft.[31] There are also realistic physics and weather systems, and utilization of real-world weather data. For instance, if it is raining somewhere in real life, it can rain in-game. Individual clouds have their own behaviours and will impact aircraft performance depending on its location within the system.[32] Flight Simulator features a 600-kilometre (370 mi) draw distance and allows the player to see storms on the horizon, with lightning cracking inside the clouds.[33] Flight Simulator is the first flight simulator to enable worldwide visual flight rules (VFR), a feature not seen in contemporary flight simulators used by airlines to train and test pilots.[34]


Volumetric lighting is used for various effects, including illuminating water droplets, which can cover the entire cockpit window, and with everything being simulated in real time.[41] Light sources such as the sun, moon, or city lights scatter appropriately through the environment, pollution levels and humidity affect refraction and overall visibility, and the atmosphere is layered the same as it is in the real world. Clouds are volumetrically modelled, with 32 layers determining shape, density, and fuzziness".[42] At times, Flight Simulator's reflection system uses ray marching by retranslating voxels. Otherwise, the reflection system uses a mix of screen-space reflections and cube maps to show reflections on more distant bodies of water.[43] In addition to a complex lighting system, Flight Simulator makes use of highly detailed shaders.[44] The game uses screen-space reflections (an optional feature selected by players) extensively,[45] and bokeh depth of field.[46]


Six years before its release, Microsoft began working with Asobo on a product called HoloTour for Microsoft's HoloLens mixed reality headset. They built a digital version of Machu Picchu's vast mountainside and vistas versus normal buildings at street level. Microsoft executives and Neumann consulted with the Bing Maps team to use their detailed photogrammetry data of Machu Picchu, which included the ruins, to create a HoloLens replica of it. Neumann later used Bing Maps photogrammetry data for Asobo to build a flight demo for the city of Seattle,[53] The technology incorporates Microsoft's discontinued Photosynth project, which generates 3D models from 2D photos.[56] Wanting to use the technology for a game, project leader Jörg Neumann realized that Microsoft possessed Flight Simulator. David Denhart of Aces Game Studio had archived its flight simulator work, which was given to Asobo.[23][23]


At E3 2021, Microsoft announced that the game will be released for Xbox Series X and Series S on July 27, 2021,[81] with undated announcements going back to December 11, 2020.[92] Anticipating a wider range of players, Microsoft made several modifications in order to make gameplay more accessible, like adding four more tutorial sequences, diversifying the AI abilities, as well as adding the option of slander floats and skis in aircraft so that it can land anywhere.[81] Indeed, the game was released on the platform on time as announced. Video game critics were provided a preview of it several days ahead of public release.[93] A Microsoft spokesperson stated that plans for its release on Xbox One will be discussed sometime in 2021,[94] although Microsoft stated that the Series X version of the game would be playable on Xbox One via Xbox Cloud Gaming in 2022.[95] It was later released on Xbox One and Cloud Gaming on March 1, the latter allowing gameplay on smartphones, tablets, and PCs with lower-than-required specifications. Bluetooth and Xbox Wireless Controllers are also supported with the Cloud.[96]


Aerosoft, a German developer and publisher of simulation software, announced in July 2020 that they partnered with Microsoft to release a physical version in Europe. Released corresponding with the PC, the physical version is more suitable for those with slower Internet connections. It is available in two editions, Standard and Premium Deluxe and comes with 10 dual-layer DVDs, a printed manual, and a keyboard reference chart.[99] The DVDs are each able to store a maximum of 8.7 gigabytes (GB), and so contain around 90 GB of data that consists of the installer and basic content, including aircraft and the standard-definition default world;[100] however, an Internet connection allows the patches and updates to be downloaded during installation. An active Internet connection is needed for the simulator to update itself when needed. As with the digital versions, after installation the game does not require an active Internet connection and can be played offline; users also have the option to stream more details for the world, better ground imagery, real-world weather and ATC data from Microsoft's servers.[100] 041b061a72