Jorg Neumann et al have taken to the Twitch airwaves again to tell us all about the current state of Microsoft Flight Simulator. Over the course of just under 2 hours, they brought us up to speed with the platform’s development roadmap, and shared some details on exciting upcoming products for the sim. These streams are always quite long because there is so much exciting stuff happening in the Microsoft Flight Simulator space, but this can make them hard to digest. Fortunately, I’ve watched it so you don’t have to, and summarised the key takeaways.
Before reading any further, if you’re looking for news about the surprise announcement of the AN-225 ‘Mriya’ for the simulator, look no further than our deep dive into the news here – this article is focussing on all the stuff announced in the stream *except* the 225.
World Update 12
Firstly, Jorg dived into World Update 12, which is still on schedule for a release in February. The world update will focus on New Zealand, and Jorg had some good news on the specifics. Since the last developer stream announced the location of World Update 12, the team at Asobo has been working hard with their partners and increased the amount of content we are going to get. Namely, we can now expect WU12 to ship with 9 handcrafted airports (up from the originally planned 4), 62 points of interest (up from the originally planned 30) and 7 photogrammetry cities (up from the originally planned 6). In addition, Jorg quipped that no New Zealand World Update would be complete without Hobbiton, and was pleased to announce that the unique location used during filming of The Lord of the Rings will also be included as a sort of ‘eight city’ in the update.
Additionally, Asobo Studios and Microsoft have been able to work closely with the Government of New Zealand to secure a high-resolution DEM mesh for the islands, accurate to 1 metre. Jorg paid thanks to Gaya Simulations who have worked on implementing the mesh, as well as scenery developer NZA who are responsible for the 5 additional airports.
Although in the last developer stream Jorg had said the update was scheduled for February 7/8th, it appears this timeline has slipped slightly as he said on this stream that the update is coming in 3 weeks.
Local Legend 8 (DHC-4 Caribou)
Next the stream’s attention turned to the DHC-4 Caribou, which is currently being worked on by Orbx. The last time we saw this aircraft it was just screenshots, but this time Ben McClintock, one of the developers from Orbx working on the plane was able to show us a pre-release version of the aircraft in-sim on the stream.
Ben described the Caribou as “the ultimate short take-off and landing machine” – and with a stall speed only 10 knots above that of a Cessna 172, he’s not wrong. The plane entered service in the late 1950s, with most of them ending up as military aircraft. From what we could see of the plane on stream, it’s clear Orbx have gone to a high level of detail with the texturing around the cockpit and exterior model, especially the steam gauges which [in my opinion] looked great. Ben remarked that you can see the flight deck has had multiple coats of paint applied, and there is visible wear and marking to be found inside.
One of the unique features of the Caribou which has been included is the fact that the central pedestal can be slid forward to allow the pilots easier access into and out of their seats. On the overhead panel, we see detailed levers with visible wiring as on the real aircraft, and a fully modelled thrust lock. Around the back, the cargo door is also modelled and can be operated from a switch in the flight deck. As in the real aircraft, a green light comes on to show that the door is fully opened and the plane is not exceeding 15 degrees of pitch or bank, and this can be disabled using a switch. Simmers can look forwards to replicating paratrooper drops, operating the door in flight (although you’ll have to use your imagination for the actual troops!).
Where the plane falls slightly short is that Orbx have not made all of the circuit breakers clickable, however some of the breakers for the most vital functions have been included according to Ben. On stream, he demonstrated that the circuit breaker for the cabin light can be pulled and have the effect you would expect.
Ben confirmed that the plane will ship at launch with seven liveries, and should be a whole lot of fun to fly with fantastic sounds, an accurate flight model reflecting the Caribou’s incredible short field capability, and even the possibility to perform a famous manoeuvre called ‘the wheelbarrow’ – where the plane flies down the runway with only it’s nose gear making contact with the tarmac. We can all look forward to practicing that one.
Sim Update 12
The next big Sim Update to Microsoft Flight Simulator is now slated for a release on March 14, according to Jorg Neumann. He spoke on stream about how he was very happy with the reception of Aircraft and Avionics Update 1, which released yesterday, although adding additional avionics complexity to the simulator in this update and across 3rd party addons can cause memory issues that eventually lead to performance degradation and in some instances, crashes. Jorg said on stream that post-AAU1, “the numbers are better but we still have some ways to go” with regards to memory performance.
For this reason, he says, SU12 will primarily be an update focussing on performance and squeezing the most out of our computers at the lowest possible memory budget. The update will also bring long awaited WASM support to the Xbox, allowing for the operation of complex aircraft like the new AN-225 on all platforms and no need for ‘enhancement packages’ that are exclusive to PC.
As well as performance improvements and WASM, the update will contain a whole host of behind-the-scenes improvements to helicopters such as engine trim, along with more tools for 3rd party developers who want to create their own helicopters. The update will add support for up to 16 engines on aircraft, and improve the thermals that were added in the 40th anniversary patch along with gliders.
On this theme, Sebastian Wloch, CEO and Co-Founder of Asobo Studios, spoke about a new accessibility option being added in Sim Update 12 – a turbulence adjustment tool. Simmers will now be able to pick how much turbulence they experience from ‘realistic’, ‘medium’ and ‘low’. Turning the turbulence down to either medium or low will not remove wind gusts or thermals according to Sebastian, but instead act as a kind of low pass filter, making it so that the wind changes you experience feel slower.
Famous Flyer 5 – Antonov AN-2 by AT Simulations
Although it was another Antonov aircraft that stole the show in this most recent developer stream, it is not the only one being worked on for Microsoft Flight Simulator. The AN-2 biplane will be added to the simulator as Famous Flyer 5, courtesy of developer AT Simulations.
Simmers who may have dabbled in ARMA II and/or the DayZ mod in the past may be familiar with the biplane, which first flew in 1947 and is essentially a wide-bodied bush plane capable of landing on tarmac, gravel or grass. Andrei Tsvirenko, the lead developer on the AN-2 project, showed us some screenshots of a current build of the aircraft, showing us some of the interesting and quirky features of the plane. Judging from what we saw, the modelling and texture quality looks good.
According to Andrei, all parts, switches and buttons should be moveable and interactable, and the plane is slated for a release on the same day as Sim Update 12. I wonder who will be the first to take the AN-2 for a flight in the skies above Ústí nad Labem, the real world equivalent of the famous Chernarus map where this plane became recognisable for many gamers? We shall have to wait and see.
Question and Answer Session
Every developer stream there is the opportunity for simmers to put their questions to Jorg and the team. I listened to every question and answer and have picked out some of the more insightful ones for you here.
Q: Will the new World Update make the Orbx mesh redundant or cause any conflicts?
A: Jorg says it’s the same guy from Orbx working on the new DEM data that did the original mesh payware, so there shouldn’t be any conflict, although it would seem that the new data will make the mesh package redundant.
Q: How will you fix incorrect signage at default airports?
A: Asobo offered some insight here into new tools being developed which might offer the community a chance to fix some of the incorrect signage issues. They are caused by incomplete data, but Asobo is exploring the possibility of opening up the dataset and letting individual simmers make changes which could then be rolled out to the whole community.
Q: Sometimes PAPI lights appear in the wrong place or do not match up with my airport charts. Can you fix this?
A: Again this is a problem being caused by a lack of data- currently the position of PAPI lights on the ground is mostly determined from the orthography data. The tools mentioned above could possibly be used to solve this.
Q: Will more handcrafted airports be added for areas which have already received world updates?
Q: Will we see updates to the deluxe and premium deluxe edition airports in the future?
A: There is ‘a thought’ that we’ll get to those. From what Jorg said, it seems like the answer here is yes, but it’s not high on the team’s priority list.
Q: Is London’s photogrammetry being worked on?
A: Yes. London’s photogrammetry data was purchased from a company that is not in Asobo’s “usual pipeline”. They made a lot of POIs for the British capital to try and alleviate some of the issues caused by poor photogrammetry but it hasn’t been the best solution. Asobo is waiting to be able to source the right data to ‘fix’ London, but this takes time and they’re untangling government and legal stuff to get to this point.
Q: Will the community be better involved for the future of creating missions for MSFS?
A: Yes. The sim has been made for the community, by the community. Asobo love the dynamic between themselves as putting in the building blocks for 3rd party devs to come and build some really cool stuff. If you want to get involved making missions for MSFS, get in touch!
Q: Will localisation get a rework in the future?
A: Asobo admit that localisation and issues with language barriers have been sub-par and are asking for help in this area too, since they don’t have the resources nor the language experts to cross-check all of their localisation text. If you think you can help them with this, please get in touch with them.
That’s it for this stream! If you came here looking for news about the AN-225, please check out this article for a full deep dive on that. FSElite will continue to keep you updated with all of the latest developments.