Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

Videos of Microsoft's upcoming Flight Simulator 2020 release are worth watching, even if you're not a flight simulator enthusiast.

• 3 min read

Microsoft Flight Simulator first entered the market in November 1982 (37 years ago as I write this). It had many improvements in the following years but development came to a halt after the release of Flight Simulator X in 2006. This was also where I as a casual player stopped playing flight simulators. Since then titles like X-Plane have taken over the reins.

Flight Simulator 3.0 (1988). I spent a lot of time in this game starting with this version.

A few months ago Microsoft announced it had partnered with Asobo Studio to create a new version of the franchise. Everything I've seen about it so far is amazing and it's been a long time since I've been this excited for a game to be released.

Flight Simulator X (2006).

Even if you're not an enthusiast the trailer video is worth a look just for the visuals, but to understand the depth of what you're actually seeing you need to look at the discovery series videos below.

A key feature is bringing all of the satellite and topography data we have on the world and using AI to layer on procedural generation of structures and natural features. You can fly over your house, or any other place in the world with a level of detail that is astonishing. The developer estimates there are over 1.5 trillion trees in the game, with all cities on Earth (over 2 million), all airports (over 45000), all roads on Earth and every mountain on Earth included in the game.

The source for all of this is 2 petabytes of data supplied by Microsoft's Bing Maps and augmented with AI from Microsoft's Azure. It reminds me of a joke in Space Quest 4 about the ever increasing size of games, in this case it was joking about a future version King's Quest.

King's Quest XXXXVIII - Quest for Disk Space

Fortunately you won't need to download petabytes of data to play as the necessary content will be downloaded/streamed on-demand depending on where you are in the world.

I remember as a kid always flying from a local airport (Brisbane, YBBN) and trying to find roughly where my house would be. Brisbane was never a high priority target for things like 3D structures or roads and it took third-parties to build add-ons that included Australian features. Even with these add-ons the level of detail added was low and I always wished I could see in the game the features of my home region that I could see in real-life. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 appears to be a childhood wish coming true.

The detail about how the world is constructed is in the first discovery series video. As it turns out, the 3:03 minute mark in this video shows Brisbane exactly where I would mostly fly around as a kid. It's there and in an early preview development video no less (albeit without bridges at this point in development).

There are more videos in the series (with some yet to be published). I'd encourage you to watch them if you enjoyed the first one. Visuals are one thing, but the changes to flight realism are equally impressive.

There are more discovery series videos coming in the future. The next episode planned is on IFR (Instrument Flight Rules).

I'll update this post with links to videos as they appear, but you can also find a few more videos from the development team on their YouTube channel or you can visit the main Flight Simulator website where there is more commentary and screenshots.

There are public early access releases now, and I wish I could try them, but as it turns out it's been a long time since I've had a PC that could run games like this (I'm now deeply in the Apple ecosystem and my desktop is an iMac Pro).

It's going to be a dilemma when this game is released what I do about that.