Microsoft has been teasing out a few new bits of info on Microsoft Flight Simulator this week, teeing up what sounds like a mightily ambitious project. During an interview with Ars Technica, Microsoft Flight Simulator’s head of development, Jorg Neumann, has outlined a decade-long plan for the aeroplane simulator.
The scrapping of the year at the end of the name tells you pretty much all you need to know about MS Flight Sim. This isn’t a yearly iteration but the start of something much larger, a long-term plan which begins on PC in 2020 but Microsoft envisages stretching through until 2030 and potentially even beyond.
Neumann said he spoke to Xbox head Phil Spencer, who committed to Microsoft Flight Simulator by passing “If we’re doing this, we’re in it for the long run. You’re in it for the long run.” Together, Microsoft and developer Asobo (A Plague Tale: Innocence) have pledged 10 years of support for MS Flight Simulator. The plan is to continue to expand the scope and scale of the content, with each and everyone one of the planet’s 44,000 airports forming what Asobo views as the “baseline”.
It’s a mammoth undertaking but it all begins with the flight systems themselves, which form the basis of MS Flight Simulator’s cloud-based antics. It’s powered by Bing, of all things, and Microsoft is pulling in satellite imagery which allows the surface of the Earth to be rendered to within an accuracy of 3cm. It’s a painstaking process though, and over the course of the decade more and more of the planet will be mapped in higher detail.
Right now, the focus is on North America, with large swathes of the States now rendered in excruciating detail. Microsoft currently has two petabytes of data and counting, streaming out the necessary details to players as and when they need it. You can see how its shaping up in some fantastic new environmental footage which Microsoft shared last week.
Microsoft Flight Simulator isn’t just concerned with recreating lifelike visuals though. The cloud-powered services will also be used to track the exact weather systems and air pressures happening in the world at the same patient. If there’s high humidity and turbulence above Houston in real life, it’s happening right there in the game too.
All this detail even extends to the lighting and the clouds themselves. Cloud systems are volumetrically modelled based upon 32 factors, allow for an insane variation in how clouds can be depicted. Light, too, is affected by light pollution levels, the position of the moon, smog, humidity, and whatever else you can possibly think of. It’s an insane achievement if it can ever actually be pulled off.
As it currently stands, Microsoft Flight Simulator is coming to PC (possibly via an early access program) at some point 2020, with an Xbox One version to follow in its flight path.