New Microsoft Flight Simulator Features
One of the more serendipitous product relaunches in recent history is Microsoft’s relaunch of its 40-year old Flight Simulator software. The CEO of Alvarez Technology Group, Luis Alvarez, was recently interviewed about his reaction to the new release that comes just in time for people confined due to the pandemic.
From Pioneer to Leading the New Technology
As a former Air Force pilot, Alvarez was quick to reminisce over the original release version. Flight Simulator was first released by Microsoft on Apple II computers running on just 48k of memory. Yes, that is kilobytes, not megabytes or gigabytes. The 40-year old application was floppy disk-based and was one of the world’s first applications in the video game genre.
Alvarez was quick to point out that even the original product was more than a game. Early uses could add a keyboard and joystick to better simulate the actual flying experience. The graphics were a very distant ancestor of today’s gaming environment, using serial cables and no dedicated graphics chips.
Even with those limitations, Alvarez notes that the application was popular with Air Force personnel and provided a practical training purpose. Despite its enduring popularity, the product was discontinued by Microsoft in 2006 and went the way of Pac-Man and Pong.
As one of the original users of Microsoft Simulator, Alvarez speaks reverently about the massive enhancements of the new release. He notes that the current version is cloud-enabled and accesses more than 2 petabytes of data to create an entire virtual world. This includes more than:
- 37,000 airports
- 50,000 cities
- 1.5 billion individual buildings
The visual effect of the application is made even more impressive through use of what is called augmented aerials. Instead of just showing scenes constructed from photos, the computer builds the representation from data as the user flies the plane over different landscapes and scenes.
The effect is stunningly realistic, and plans are to continue enhancing the library of images and augmented city visuals. Individuals can fly over the entire world and sight-see any landmark they choose using this software.
Alvarez points out that while this is an enjoyable program, it is far more than a game. It is designed, he explains, without a beginner or basic mode. Users literally learn to take off, land, and chart their courses with the features provided. As with the initial model, users can add elements to their PC (or Xbox) such as pedals, joysticks, and headsets to fully simulate the flying experience.
Instead of mere nostalgia, the new release of Flight Simulator takes users into the wild blue yonder that is just one step from the real thing.