A week ago, Microsoft shared news about four new things coming soon to Microsoft Flight Simulator during their Gamescom 2021 Xbox presentation. Prior to the event, we sat down with Jorg Neumann, Head of Microsoft Flight Simulator, to talk about the announcements and a few other bits related to the simulator. Despite the relatively short period of time, Jorg enlightened us with more information about what we can expect from the likes of World Update 6, the Junkers JU-52, eSport opportunities and much more.
On World Update 6
Jorg: World Update 6, as you know will focus on Germany, Austria and Switzerland. We’re updating when we have great data and in this case, we have excellent data. We have brand new satellite and aerial imagery for Germany, Austria and Switzerland and we got a great number of elevation maps for the alps. Now they are looking awesome! We also then had enough data to make new 3D cities. We thought about which ones we should make, as we had quite a few in Germany, none in Austria and one in Switzerland. So we ended up going to Frankfurt, Wuppertal, Basel in Switzerland Graz and Vienna in Austria. They look friggin’ great – down to 7cm in some areas and some are even better. We work with local tourism companies in order to help produce local points of interest and learn about the most meaningful things in the region. We’re really happy with the selection.
We then tie this all together with missions and discovery flights. Added in new discovery flights and continue doing this for every world update going forward. New landing challenges, some really cool airports and bush trips. We’re now starting to think about these [bush trips] as guided tours. So if you don’t know a country or a region, they’ll help you get around to look at the best and greatest stuff. The alps in this update are the difference between night and day. 30m – now 1-2m resolution. It’s near perfect.
On World Update 6 Delay
Jorg: I really wanted Vienna to look great. That’s what the delay was mostly about, to get the cities looking great. Just sometimes you don’t hit the date. There are so many people involved; you can’t imagine. We have to talk to the city government; talk to the pilots; fly on a nice day; crunch the data; adjust the data. I basically started on the Germany update 1.5 years ago. I’m working on stuff right now for late 2022 / early 2023. I’m very excited about this update.
Jorg: I have some regrets looking back when we did the England [World] update. We put it out when the time we said, but I still don’t think London is up to snuff to what it should have been. The photogrammetry data is complicated, but it’s massive. TBs of data and then crunch it into something we can stream. I’m going to re-do London.
On Junkers JU-52 and Future Local Legends
Jorg: The next thought I had was, World Updates are really well received. We see how many people engage with it. At some point, I sat here and thought why aren’t we doing more on aircraft. When you then research it, every country and region has its own story with aviation. The German’s say they invented Aviation, the Italians say they do – loads of people do. Every region has their own story, famous fliers, great feats and also local companies that make planes.
I had this idea so that we can shine the light on planes that are really locally known. Ended up picking a plane from Germany known as the JU-52. It’s a famous plane in Germany; a beloved plane. We scan the plane down to 1mm both internally and externally. This is a digital preservation effort.
We can get these planes and integrate it with the simulator and preserve it through some kind of virtual museum. In this case, we worked with Bernd Junkers, grandson of Hugo Junkers. He had a lot of information you can’t typically get. We also worked with organisations and pilots who flew the plane to help us get as close as we can to preserve the plane. The curators at the museums love it! We work together, give them the scans, give them some money to help them continue funding the maintenance and preservation of these planes. Currently, we are working with over 40 museums across the planet.
This is the beginning of a series of classic planes.
The mental model I have in mind for these local legends is that these aircraft are pre-1950s. When we go into a region [for World Updates], we’ll see what’s famous here and what means something to people.
My goal is to keep the pricing as affordable as possible and have as many people as possible can fly this plane. It really does some service for aviation and its history. To bring some of these planes from the past back into people’s brains.
We’re collaborating with Oliver Moser who made the Junkers back in the day and he knows everything about the plane. We asked if he wanted to make it with us and he said “I’m all in”. Trying to work with people in the country to get these aircraft made. He went off talking to the pilot who flies the Junkers and we can help connect the right people.
We’re talking to almost all of the aircraft manufacturers now and we’re really embracing that.
On the Volocopter
Jorg: We are working with a company called Volocopter. They make this baby called Volocity. It’s an eVTOL air taxi for urban traffic and they have a vision for how air traffic will work in the future. This is halfway between a helicopter and a drone with 12 rotors onboard. Working with the engineering team and now have all their data and models – we know how this is going to fly and have brought that into the sim. We have the voloports (the equivalent of heliports) and introduce it to the sim later this year.
With the 12 rotors, the way this works, it has an onboard computer so if you tilt too much, the rotor spins faster on that side to bring you back up. The whole point is to keep you level. So for people to fly around cities and land on rooftops, this is perfect.
The Volocopter is meant to be the near traffic air taxi for the Olympics in Paris. They already have landing positions in the city which they are talking to the government about, but we are basically trying to build for the future. When you get the package, you’ll get the version of the world with 5 or so voloports. You’ll be able to fly around Paris with these voloports, but you can still fly the aircraft around the world. We’re trying to get close to the pin as we can. They’re super high-energy folks that have been great to work with.
This is our baby step to getting helicopters into the sim.
Jorg: We talk about helicopters and everyone is asking for them., Sometimes I wonder if people want helicopters or want something you can land anywhere and hover. Helicopters are hard to fly!
We are committed to bringing helicopters into the sim in 2022, but honestly, it’s going to be late 2022 given that it’s complicated. But we want people to get going with the Volocopter and I’m excited for that.
When we bring helicopters to the sim, we know we need to put heliports everywhere. There’s a worldwide coverage for this we need to do, which is a lot of work.
On Air Racing
Jorg: Been working with RARA (Reno Air Racing Association) to bring the Reno Air Race into the simulator. We have been working on this for like 2 years and chatting to some of the most famous pilots in the races. They’re super excited and open with us. Sharing their tricks, tactics and what they do to their planes. We have been scanning their planes, [having] tones of conversations with the best air race pilots in the world. This is really exciting for us and is by far our biggest update yet; it’s got competitive multiplayer wing-to-wing.
We had to update the multiplayer model significantly, but we have now added wing-to-wing precision. You can do formation flights, crazy stunts, tail-to-tail type of stuff.
The package will be paid DLC that will originally come with some base planes and then there are plans to bring out collectable planes which we can’t talk about yet!
Leaderboards and other stuff will be included. You can fly these planes anywhere.
All of this is coming this year.
Calum: Does this open up the possibility of eSports in the future?
We’re a platform and we need to lead and we put something out that brings the platform’s capabilities forward. In this case, it’s competitive multiplayer. You could do eSports in the future and construct something around it. So it takes us forward as a platform quite a bit.
Once we have the capability in the sim, I ask myself, what will third-party developers do? That’s ultimately what I’m trying to do as a platform. Make stuff that people can then get creative with. I’m very curious if other people want to do air-racing and then I will step away from that. I don’t want to compete with third-party developers – my role and goal is to empower them.
I talk to 5-10 third party developers a day on a rolling basis and so I have a big idea of what people are doing. I don’t want to compete and I want them to have their creativity and allow them to express themselves.
On Top Gun DLC
Jorg: Will come out with the movie. The movie is scheduled for November 19th, and the DLC will release the day it’s out. Nothing more I can say on that right now as it’s their movie so we work around that.
On the Future
Jorg: Next year is going to be just as crazy and fun!
A big thanks to Jorg from Microsoft for taking the time to talk to us!
- World Update 6 is due to release on September 7th for free.
- The Junkers JU-52 DLC is due to release on September 9th for $14.99 (date originally was September 7th, but appears to have changed according to the latest development update post).
- The Volocopter DLC is due to release later this year.
- The Reno Air Race is due to release later this year.