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Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2020 as real as it gets

Ever since the first version was released in 1982, Microsoft's Flight Simulator has been known for its realism, from the aircraft to the flight performance to the geographical world around it. Now, Microsoft is planning to release the 13th version and once again they are raising the bar.

After rigorous closed alpha testing Microsoft’s Xbox Game Studios and Asobo Studio announced that the next-gen Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will be launched on 18 August, Pre-orders are already open. FS2020 will come in three editions, Standard ($59.99), Deluxe ($89.99) and Premium Deluxe ($119.99), with the more expensive versions featuring more planes and hand-crafted international airports. The default edition features 20 aircraft and 30 hand modelled airports, while the deluxe edition increases that up to 25 aircraft and 35 airports and the high-end version comes with 30 aircraft and 40 airports.

The Microsoft Flight Simulator closed beta currently targets a July 30 release, as outlined through the team's latest development update. The next stage in testing shifts priorities from new features to pre-launch polish, while also expanding access to even more budding players. While details on the closed beta remain limited, the final Alpha 5 build brings further refinements for testers.

The core of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 is its mapping data pulled from Bing Maps, essentially photo-realistically re-create the Earth, converting 3D scans of the environment into the game world. Other applied sources include terrain data for landscaping, foliage density mapping billions of trees, real-time meteorological data, and air traffic updates. The team has also bundled 37,000 manually edited airports, with their own air and ground traffic. These allow Microsoft to recreate environments down to the individual tree. FS2020 has effectively made it possible to fly true VFR anywhere in the world.

Acquiring accurate third party scenery for FSX or X-Plane will put you back in the vicinity of $30 US which makes the higher cost of FS2020 far more acceptable. The developers definitely spent extra time on making some of these larger airports especially realistic.

Microsoft's partnership with weather data firm Meteoblue powers those weather models, leverage its legacy in prediction and historical records. The temperature, wind speed, humidity, pressure, and other data all factor into the simulation, visualizing the climate, with corresponding aerodynamics. There's also the traditional day-night cycle, spotlighting new lighting systems to better represent cities after dark, and a seasonal rotation from blazing summers to heavy snow.

The new cloud systems, fully conveying shape, density, and fluffiness, through 32 volumetric layers. The accompanying aerodynamics system, considering air mass, airflow, and the impact of the surrounding terrain, even rainbows are possible under the correct conditions.

The reworked systems fully account for the environment, with hills, trees, and buildings all filtering into back-end physics. Microsoft and Asobo are constantly working on cloud technology to, for example, stream some of the more detailed scenery to your computer on demand, chances are we’ll see regular content updates for these various editions as well.

The aircraft have been massively upgraded and have been modelled in far more detail than in previous versions, this is true for the handling as well as the graphics. Special detail has been given to the flight modelling making the aircraft as realistic as possible. Stalls and spins have been largely improved over earlier editions. The latest aircraft models also subdivide into thousands of surfaces, each affected by pressure, humidity, and speed. Real-time three-dimension calculations help the plane handle realistically, with Microsoft detailing examples of per-wind turbulence, or support for more advanced aerobatics. Stalls and spins have been largely improved over earlier editions.

“Your fleet of planes and detailed airports from whatever edition you choose are all available on launch day as well as access to the ongoing content updates that will continually evolve and expand the flight simulation platform,” is what Microsoft has to say about this for the time being.

Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 will require, at minimum, a Windows 10 PC with either an Intel i5-4460 or AMD Ryzen 3 1200 processor, an Nvidia GTX 770 or AMD Radeon RX 570 GPU, 8 GB RAM, 2 GB VRAM, 150GB of hard drive space, and support for DirectX 11.

According to Windows Central, Microsoft recommends an Intel i5-8400 or AMD Ryzen 5 1500X CPU, Nvidia GTX 970 or AMD Radeon RX 590 graphics, 4GB of VRAM, 16GB of RAM, and a 20Mbps download speed.

While Microsoft has primarily focused its efforts toward authentic solo flight, multiplayer also plays a crucial role in its vision. Virtual pilots can join an online game populated with players from all backgrounds, or configure private sessions alongside friends.

The new Flight Simulator experience comes divided across several modes, with its "live players" setup representing the full realism you'd expect. Those lobbies recommend players to abide by all rules and regulations, with real-time live weather and air traffic reflected at all times. There's also the choice of more casual free flights, with precise control over conditions and flight variables.

Microsoft has also discussed various technologies to ensure multiplayer handles as expected, including smooth flight animations that eliminate any form of judder. The game servers automatically optimize to only show planes with 200 kilometres, limited to the 50 closest pilots.

I personally can't wait for the release although it is probably going to cost me dearly in upgraded hardware. I believe the hype will be warranted once FS2020 is released, happy flying all.

To pre-order yours just click the logo below



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