Flight Simulator 2020 – Back in the Skies

About ten years ago, I wrote a blog post about Microsoft Flight Simulator FSX and an Add-On called “ChicagoX”. The old post can be found here. A little while afterwards, I had been giving up flight simulation, mostly because Microsoft withdrew from the market and other simulators were not mine to work with. Yesterday, Microsoft published its brand-new Flight Simulator 2020 – and of course, I had to visit good old Chicago.

The photo above is taken at about the same location than the two photos in the old post – one from Flight Simulator 5 and one from Flight Simulator X with the ChicagoX Add-On. Once more, the technology has leaped ten years ahead – literally. Microsoft is now using web-based AI and its own Bing Maps service to render a photorealistic landscape including the matching buildings. Live!

Flying into the downtown area coming from the south not only shows how far flight simulation has come in the 30 years since the very first images taken in Flight Simulator 5, it also shows what is the currently best possible result – and makes you wonder what another ten years might add?

Trying to get into a similar position to where I took my screenshots ten years ago, I probably violated a ton of flight rules but the images were worth it. Downtown, the level of detail shown by the buildings is just stunning.

Yes, it is true that this is not the same for every place on Earth and yes, the results are best for the Unites States and some other well-digitized areas – but hey, we are here to enjoy the moment!

So what have we gotten in addition? A brilliant graphics engine that work on my six-year-old PC (although I have provided it a good graphics card two or three years back). A photo-realistic ground and very detailed skylines. Live weather and air traffic. Light effects where the sun can actually shine through the clouds.

Later this year, Microsoft wants to add support for Virtual Reality Headsets – I am curious if my old one will work. For the time being, I will enjoy the scenery a bit, explore the world from the cockpit of a Cessna or other small aircraft and this time, I will focus on the VFR Flights… “visual flying” is what this simulator is made for!

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