Microsoft Flight Simulator is the next generation of one of the most beloved simulation franchises. From light planes to wide-body jets, fly highly detailed and stunning aircraft in an incredibly realistic world. Create your flight plan and fly anywhere on the planet. Enjoy flying day or night and face realistic, challenging weather conditions.
Microsoft Flight Simulator (colloquially known as Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020) is a flight simulator developed by Asobo Studio and published by Xbox Game Studios for Microsoft Windows and Xbox One. It was released on August 18, 2020 for Microsoft Windows. It is the eleventh major entry in the Microsoft Flight Simulator series, preceded by Flight Simulator X.
Flight Simulator simulates the entire Earth using textures and topographical data from Bing Maps. Three-dimensional representations of the world’s features, such as terrain, trees, grass, buildings, and water are generated by Microsoft Azure technology. Through the use of the Azure cloud to render visuals, enhance visual fidelity, and simulate real-world data and effects, as well as calculate physics, the title has been viewed as the culmination of Microsoft’s “power of the cloud” mantra. Some players received the alpha version as part of the game’s Insider program. On July 13, 2020, Microsoft opened up preorders, and the PC version became available on August 18, 2020.
Flight Simulator uses Asobo’s in-house developed game engine, and leverages Bing Maps data, accessing over two petabytes of data from the cloud on demand. Microsoft partnered up with Blackshark.ai who developed a solution that uses the Microsoft Azure cloud and artificial intelligence that analyzes map data and photogrammetry to generate photorealistic 3D models of buildings, trees, terrain, and so on. This allows the simulator to depict most parts of the world in 3D photorealism, and other parts in high definition. The game’s engine utilizes satellite imagery or fly-by image scans as the basis for height and terrain texture data. An offline procedural generation AI then reads these textures based on their own parameters and properly populates terrain with materials, roads, buildings, bushes, trees and more based on brush set assets the developers have made. Afterwards, artists can further go in and embellish specific locations with even more detail with photogrammetrically captured materials and textures. Flight Simulator features multiple terabytes of texture and height map data. Using a base mesh and textures, the game uses the Internet connection to stream even higher quality terrain data onto the PC or console through the Azure cloud as the player plays, boosting the game’s fidelity and graphical diversity.
Asobo has created their own flight model engine, allowing thousands of surfaces and 3D forces and moments to be fully simulated. There are also realistic physics and weather systems, and utilization of real-world weather data. An example used at E3 2019 was that if it was raining somewhere in real life, it would be raining in-game. Individual clouds will have their own behaviors and they will impact aircraft performance depending on its location within the system. Flight Simulator features a 600-kilometre (370 mi) draw distance and allows the player to see storms hundreds of miles away, with lightning cracking inside of clouds.
Through cloud-based technology, Flight Simulator streams data to the computer or console in real time, with AI being utilized to extrapolate geometry from a blend of satellite and flyover imagery. Flight Simulator converts 3D scans of the environment into the game world. Other sources of data include terrain data for landscaping, data for foliage density, real-time meteorological data, and air traffic updates. A separate atmospheric renderer simulates accurate humidity and pollution. Microsoft has stated that the player’s aircraft feels air as it lifts, drags, or slides as they come in contact with it, accounting for ice on the wings, pollution particles, or how wind moves through buildings or across tree tops, as well as friction of rubber to asphalt when the aircraft touches down, with the aircraft responding accurately to each of these instances. Skyscrapers cast shadows over each other that darken as the player reaches street level and cities will disperse light at night that radiates the sky. Cloud technology is also used to calculate things such as the way air flows around natural structures such as mountains to cause pockets of turbulence, or stream in air traffic, time of day and weather from the real world. In regards to foliage, the game geometrically renders individual blades of grass and seas also contain waves created by the wind.
Volumetric lighting is utilized for various effects, including illuminating water droplets, some of which will occupy the entirety of the cockpit window, and with everything being simulated in real time. Light sources such as the Sun, Moon, or city lights scatter through the environment appropriately, 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”. Flight Simulator makes use of ray-marching. The game’s reflection system also at times utilizes 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. In addition to a complex lighting system, Flight Simulator makes use of highly detailed shaders. Flight Simulator makes extensive use of screen-space reflections and bokeh depth of field.
Flight Simulator populates the world with animals and roads with vehicles, water flows realistically based on wind direction, grass has individual grass blades and trees have individual leaves, creating the illusion of a living world. The game world includes over 2 million cities and towns, 1.5 billion buildings, 2 trillion trees, and 37,000 real-world airports. In regards to runways, dedicated tools allow Asobo to outline the site perimeter, runway footprint, orientation, as well as other properties. This approach also allows Microsoft to flag artifacts and visual anomalies from a birds-eye view, clearing up the input for a world-building algorithm. The result is fed into Microsoft’s artificial intelligence, stringing the environment together in the cloud, and is streamed to the PC or console in real time. Flight Simulator features various animal species that can even be viewed at ground level, including birds, elephants, giraffes and bears.
Flight Simulator allows the player to scout, “chase” and interact with real-world storms as they occur in real time.