It is no secret that simulators demand an awful lot from systems in order to render at a smooth and visually pleasing rate. Whilst Microsoft Flight Simulator has always been performance-intensive, the visual quality and fidelity were always commented on for being gorgeous. Since the release of the simulator, last August, Asobo and Microsoft have worked to optimise the sim further. Whilst those improvements were welcome, it looks as though Sim Update V will be the most significant leap. Previewed on the Live Developer Q&A this week, the teams showcased just how much more optimised the sim will be by the end of the month.
Jorg, Sebastian and Martial took to Twitch to discuss with the community just how far they’ve come to improve the performance of the simulator ahead of the Xbox Series X|S release on July 27th. To make these performance improvements, the team has rewritten and improved many parts of the sim’s engine and architecture. This has lead to dramatic improvements across the whole simulator. These improvements are now only for smaller areas, but intensive and resource-heavy areas such as New York. In fact, Seb previewed these changes and the results are staggering.
During the stream, Seb shared that he is using an i7-9700k and NVIDIA Geforce RTX 2060 SUPER on ultra settings in 4K as his test system. The first test showed him flying a Cessna 152 over New York where he was using the current publically available simulator update (sim update IV). In this test, Seb was achieving around 35-40 frames per second along with noticeable stuttering throughout. After a few minutes, we then saw the exact same settings, PC and scenario, but with the upcoming Sim Update V. His frame rate then jumped significantly to a near-stable 60fps. Not only that, but the simulator was silky smooth. This highlights just how huge the performance increase will be with the new sim update. The new update will make better use of system resources, with the GPU being used to the fullest extent, whilst CPU and ram will usage will be lighter in use.
Sim Update V will not only bring significant improvements to performance, but also to the visuals. As we saw in the Xbox Series X|S E3 trailer, new effects will be coming to the simulator. Furthermore, the teams have found and fixed an issue with the tree level of detail problem, meaning that you’ll see a lot more vegetation in your simulator moving forward.
All of these visual and performance improvements are not due to the implementation of DirectX 12. The team are still working on the implementation of the new API engine for the simulator and will be coming in the future. The use of the new DX12 engine will enable additional features such as ray-tracing and other effects. [edited]
Beyond the Sim Update, a few extra tidbits of information were shared in the stream.
It was confirmed the Xbox Series X version of the simulator will run in 4K with a locked frame rate of 30 frames per second. However, as we previously reported, if you own a variable refresh rate TV, then you can achieve up to 60fps in specific areas. Those who own Xbox Series S will enjoy the simulator at 1080p. If you’re looking to snap up the physical release on Xbox, Microsoft confirmed that the Standard Edition of the simulator will be a physical disc. You can find out a little more about the Xbox editions in our previous post, including how third-party content will be handled.
Other updates are also on their way over the next few months and years for the simulator. The team confirmed that they are working with MetroBlue to improve the live weather in the simulator. In fact, Jorg said that it will “blow people away” when people see what will happen in the future. Gliders were also teased as they have found a new partner to create some, with more details coming in the next developer Q&A. Finally, the US will get another World Update next year as better and newer data has been sourced by the team.
There’s a lot of new information here to digest, but everything is certainly welcome. To see performance gains of nearly 60% for the simulator is outstanding and will certainly help simmers with all systems get more from the experience.