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Behind the Screen : July 2020

 

All is lost!  The day is coming, note that Microsoft has announced the release day and prices for their wonderkind FS2020 Flight Simulator and the momentous day is 18th August, barely three weeks away and the cost is set out in three packages: Standard Edition $59.99, Deluxe Edition $89.99 and the full monty package is Premium Deluxe Edition $119.99, in my currency that is Australian AUS$150 big ones...  gulp!

 

But there are also a few sort of demo options that is available through the Xbox Game Pass channel and there will also be a physical disc release by Aerosoft at stores throughout Europe. For the rest of us that would be a rumored 120gb download for the full monty, yes that is a 120 big and slow gigabytes of download!

 

So all is gone, X-Plane will be ruined and thrown on the trash heap of bygone simulators, the heavens will fall in and we will be cast out, be brave my friends.

 

Only haven't we been here before? Yes it was the last huge hyped out release of a FlightSim by the name of Flight Sim World or FSW, by Dovetail Games and yes within a year the simulator had gone and crashed under the weight of its own hype and expectations. I am not certainly saying that FS2020 will go to the same over hyped and little reward scenario because FS2020 has the might of Microsoft behind it, but we should however though become a little more realistic on what the wonderkind simulator will actually deliver. No doubt in time it will take on the original FlightSim mantle of a huge user base, and FlightSim and X-Plane will probably resume their original culture clashes and boundaries.

 

Most early reports were under a NDA or non-disclosure agreement and everyone could only say really nice things about the coming FS2020, one user went and made a load of videos on the real reality, but he had a visit from the men in the black suits and ties and was shut down very quickly, quickly cast out broadcast stream land and told to be a very good boy in the future.

 

That NDA with the release of a beta of FS2020 has now been lifted and some of the reality is now available for all to see. First off the developers in comments are not as overly excited as you would want them to be...  don't get me wrong the new simulator is very strong and well done in the areas of creating a totally realistic flying environment and there are significant notes that the weather engine is excellent, so it is very nice to fly in, but like X-Plane there are well covered areas and the not so well covered areas. I saw a video that gave me a lot to think about, but the nightscapes are like flying over the moon like Neil Armstrong and in trying to find somewhere to land the LEM, X-Plane may not be a lot of things but it has come along way in this aspect.

 

The developers also complained that the SDK's are awful, these are tools to create the innards, and like the X-Plane WED and PlaneMaker tools, obviously they will be fixed, but not in the short term. These should have been priority and not a last minute fix as they are the guts of the engine that makes it all work, also notes that low down it is what FS2020 is in ortho-photos being just what they are in flat ortho-photos and in a few videos that aspect is also quite visual. Overall the developers were at the time under the restrictions of the NDA, but their comments were interesting, one even admitted to sneaking back over to X-Plane to get some serious flying time, but why would you do that with this over hyped wonderkind, changing the face of the earth simulator? They admit it is good, but as usual the devil is in the details.

 

The biggest factor in the comments is the framerate, yes our biggest heinous factor is again the biggest issue in the room. With Vulcan and v11.50 X-Plane users have at least a little relief from simulation's biggest headache and money costing exercise, but early reports and you can see the serious stutters on the videos is that FS2020 has a major framerate issue if you want to use all that eye-candy to its full advantage, then you will need a machine that is as good and as powerful as for mining bitcoin as it is for flying aircraft.

 

I am certainly not going to get into the argument of my simulator is better than yours. X-Plane has a load of disadvantages that Laminar has been a bit complacent about in the last few years with it's total focus on Vulkan/Metal, as good as X-Plane 11.50 is, but the extremely late new ATC, weather and the better textures are getting a bit long in the tooth even for their laid back attitude. And the release or announcement of Microsoft's new wonderkind has certainly shook them out of their contented selves to at least broaden the team to include more bodies that should have been placed there years ago... no this is not a new simulator war, certainly with FS2020 being noted from observers as being not really ready for the August 2020 release... most are calling it FS2021 (some even FS2022!) in before the simulator will be refined enough to be..  well a simulator. Even PMDG, who announced their 737 NDG product, in that it will not be available on the simulator's release but available in early 2021.

 

As the developers rush over to recreate their products for the new simulator, as they can make a fortune in reselling the stuff they have sold the poor buggers already twice (three times if you include X-Plane) for FSX, then Prepar3D and now all over again for FS2020, and that is at a full price for exactly the same thing "Thank you very much", in most cases all that gigabytes of spent money in their scenery and aircraft folders are simply worth zero again. No wonder the developers are on their jollys, it is Christmas all over again and it all comes with the big rewards with little development. In the end it will not be X-Plane that will suffer, but the real loser here in the FS2020 release has to be Prepar3D, they have nowhere to go as it tries to compete with the same but only a far better simulator above it, at least X-Plane is different in feel and choice.

 

The first videos also showed were the market really is... Gamers. Most early post NDA videos are awful in gamers showing off their gaming skills, but pilots they certainly are not, in fact the real test is the depth of detail we all heavily expect from our simulations and the pros are not liking in what they are seeing, there is a wide gulf between the users/fliers that the few that spin the aircraft around and the deadly serious gate to gate procedure nerds (hands in the air) of wanting simulation to reward you with that high immersion of fleet or military flying. Shown FS2020 A320 is quite basic and even X-Plane default aircraft have far more simulation depth than this, yes it is easy to fly and yes a lot of users/gamers will love that, but simulation is not about just flying an aircraft in the space above your head.

 

To an outsider simulation is about as exciting as watching paint dry...  there is no instant adrenaline rush of boarding an airliner and taking out loads of innocent passengers, blood splattering on the roof, bodies falling panicking in the aisles as you turn to take out the crew, bom, bom... bom, no levels to go up as the bloody excitement is usually all over in about 3 minutes, if that is what gets their jollys, then 20min to just set out the Flight Management System and input the full flightplan is going to get everyone getting glazed over eyes and in need of a gun, simulation is not for everyone, and patience is a tool in our toolbox, I have never met a gamer yet with a lot of patience, anxiety yes, but never patience.

 

So what does get our Jollys, and why do we commit ourselves to the continuous torment of simulation. To get to a level, you have to study, and practise, and in my case for years to get to a high level of competence, just like you have to do in real aviation. You are deadly serious in replicating a skill of completing a highly regarded capability of moving a complicated machine from one point on the earth to another, the trick and why we do it is for just one word... satisfaction. That word is an every longing goal, but do the right procedures and complete that nearly perfect flight and you will gloat for days, high as a kite on satisfaction and will bore everyone around you with the details of how you pulled it all off. Get it wrong or mess up, and you will punish yourself with low esteem for days, thankfully I get the more of the first than the second, and yes I do fly for actual fun and with no pressure to perform over every little detail... but satisfaction and pride in your skills is the end goal.

X-Plane as a simulator would never survive unless the satisfaction aspect was strong, it is in that area it has to deliver, deep immersion and deep systems in a realistic world, and it is a never ending road and yes in some areas the coming FS2020 has seriously upped the ante, it is now for Laminar to match it.

 

In satisfaction an aircraft came back onto my flightline that has been missing for months. FlightFactor's Airbus A320 Ultimate was sidelined because it was not Vulkan compatible, and yes I admit I really missed the aircraft because I flew it a lot early in the year before the beta run had started. Now under a beta (test) release it is Vulkan flyable and yes I am extremely happy to be sitting in the left seat again. I really got into it around Christmas and New Year, and coming back to it I realised even though yes it is very expensive, and yes quite complicated in system depth. The A320U does reward you in one aspect that makes it so good. The aircraft does what you actually tell it to do, your actions are perfectly transferred into the simulation and you may think that is not a very big deal but it is... the aircraft rewards you for flying it really well, your actions are inputted and how the aircraft responds, so you don't have to fly around the aircraft's foibles. How many times have you selected a flap selection and the position to the speed is wrong, this will give you a pitch up (not enough speed) or a pitch down (too much lift), but get your speeds right in the FF A32U and the changes are perfectly smooth, so you don't have to fly around the wrong speeds or flap drag even if you are flying the aircraft absolutely correctly, that is going to create a perfect feedback and then a perfect flight, and yes that gives you a lot of satisfaction...  it is very nice to have the FF A320U back.

 

Tomorrow 2nd August is another anniversary date for the site. In August 2013 X-PlaneReviews started doing reviews for the X-Plane simulator, that is seven years and now X-PlaneReviews is now going into our eighth year of providing experiences, tutorials, reviews, news and opinion for the simulator and altogether there is about 1800 reviews and notes on this site. Some notably are now old, but still have valuable information. We thought of culling a few of the very early posts, but we are still undecided in that matter, but the biggest impact is really mostly the visual aspects in how much in detail and quality the simulator has changed over the years, images can't lie, but even to a few years ago the flatness of the simulations were still quite pronounced.

 

Advances and changes are never ending, and the changes coming in the next twelve months are going to be fascinating on a completely new level. I say mostly every year that the next twelve months are going to create the biggest changes yet, but seriously there is no doubt that this next twelve months are going to be really huge and different, and how in like the virus, in that how it will affect us is still up for future debate, but interesting it will be to follow that journey. The one thing that we pride on is that X-PlaneReviews is the will to look at both sides, the good and the bad and even the grey areas in between. In any debate that is always a plus as every perspective can be different. Many only have a blinded side in their views, but good editorial will look at every aspect and not judge, the only common thread through the years of X-PlaneReviews has been to make the simulator and the products better, in that aspect I think we have achieved a certain goal.

 

See you all next month

 

Stephen Dutton

1st August 2020

Copyright©2020 X-Plane Reviews

 

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It is pleasant to read a more balance review of the new microsoft product. Over on the .org forum there is a constant stream of drivel with some posters putting up multiple videos each day and in some cases the same video to multiple threads all calling for the death of X-plane. Then there the other up until now Xplane sites that now have podcasts with the presenters all thrilled with the opportunity that the new, greatly enlarged flight sim community is going to give them in terms of new viewers for their online videos. 

 

So we wait until the opening day when the vast majority of those who have pre-purchased find out that either its going to run like a slide show or you have to turn down the eye candy and what you’ll get doesn’t resemble what those marketing videos show.

 

Hardware will catch up, it always does, but the kind of hardware that’s likely to be needed for great eye candy, heavy duty add on planes and scenery won’t come cheap for a long time yet.

 

Some have said that competition is good, and there’s some truth in that. Provided of course that Microsoft doesn’t kill the industry around flight simulation. So many software developers are turning their back on their current customer base as they hurry over to the pot of gold that’s going to come from supplying add ons for MSFS. If things don’t turn out to plan it’ll be the death of many of those providers.

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I totally agree that LR seem to have rested on the merits. FS2020 clearly shocked them as well. I think LR will not be able to compete with FS2020 on ortophoto-AI-autogen-3D-scanned-city level. Austin seems to see that as well even if disappointing for us.

 

But I think with Vulkan they have the technological basis to vastly improve the look of X-Plane. IMHO if they would do the following points with XP12 then they would be able to be competitive:

 

* volumetric clouds
* better water visuals

* UHD mesh

* Regional autogen

* improved ground textures

 

Especially with the great planes like MD-11, A300, Dash8 Q400, etc that are in the pipeline for this year or starting next year.

 

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You have missed the point. FS2020 or no FS2020 then Laminar was already faced with a major texture overhaul, the textures are two generations old as they came in with XP10... so work was already started, obviously the game has been raised, but I never ever underestimate Laminar in what they can do with so little... rumors abound on small details, but I think there is a surprise coming.

 

 

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