Beautiful world, yet somewhat empty - missing "life"

First of all I want to say that I really think MSFS is a beautiful game, absolutely stunning.
But I want to address something that I think is overlooked, and maybe hear some opinions about it.
Second, I am aware that there are many bugs and other issues regarding MSFS that people (including me) wants to see addressed before anything else. So this will not be a “I want this, instead of fix nr# on the list”. So thats the disclaimer out of the way.

This beautiful stunning 3D representation of the real world is amazing, in every way. From the scenery to the oceans and clouds. Yet somehow It feels so empty, dead if you like. I have said it before, but to me what makes a game a simulator is all in the details. Details of the visuals (which we definately have), and in the systems and physics (we are slowly getting there) and so on.

What seems to be missing is the vibrant feeling of a living world. Yes, there are cars moving around and aircrafts and vehicles at airports as well as in the skies, but those are just that - vehicles moving from point a to b. In the same sense that there are ground personal at the airports I wish there was more focus on that aspect out in the world as well, and in the skies.

I realize that a major focus for the dev team is optimization, so whatever is done needs to have little to no performance impact. But I still think there are ways to get the world more “alive”.
The Fauna option and slider is great, but unless you are doing VFR safari flights or looking in very spesific locations you will never see any of this.

What about birds in the skies? Regarding performance impact, why not just make them extremely simple 2d sprites moving around. What about the same for people here and there?
What about having moving or blinking lights in the scenery, smoke from chimneys, things moving or just anything to make the world seem more alive. Of course made in such a way to keep performance impact close to 0.
There is no built in crew or passenger system, no passengers in airliners, no “mission” mode. I realize that has never been implemented before either, but point remains - its simple things that would just add to the realism, the simulation part of this… game.
For a game that pride itself with photorealistic graphics and scenery, it would be great if that same focus and attention to details was given to other aspects as well. Theres no ground roll or smoke from the tires on landing, no ground effect or updrafts. Yet It seems that there is so much focus on fixing bugs and adding more realistic scenery.

To me, it is like playing a freediving/submarine simulator with no marinebiology, no fish in the sea or algae or plants swaying or sand whirling in the currents with bubbles, you get the idea.

The fact that it took this long to get client side only-my-aircraft contrails into the game is somewhat alarming. Its like a boat simulator with no wake trail.
There is no wakes in the sea behind ships, no moving trains or active oilrigs (I think), no wing wake/turbulence, no visual air slipping over the wings, no particle system, no carrier landings, no helicopters. The cars and trailers could need a upgrade with some added lights as well.

I am not even talking about the realism of flight models, dynamics or flight systems (which is at best mediocre). I am more talking about that it seems to me that all of the focus is spent on realistic detailed scenery, and not much on what makes a world actually appear realistic as you move around in it.

As of now all of it is left up to 3rd party content creators, and they can only do so much. You need a 3rd party mod to have somewhat realistic ship traffic, people added to the world, jet fighters, supersonic flight, pilots/copilots in the cockpit, light modifications, passengers simulation/systems and so on, Vatsim for somewhat realistic air traffic, the list goes on. And thats on top of of course the more in depth flight systems that creators like WT and FBW delivers. Even the built in multiplayer system seems to not be very good at displaying correct aircraft models and liveries. Imagine that. A flight simulator that doesnt really bother representing aircrafts around you correctly. Why not have it so that it loads the correct model, but if you dont have the livery it uses a default livery?

I just get a feeling that this game is meant to be played alone, in external view and taking screenshots of the scenery. “Here I am flying next to Big Ben” , “Here is the empire state building” , “Here is mount everest”. It simply can not be a coincidence that the most popular topics on this forum is the screenshot ones, and you get forum titles as “photographer”.
I mean, its all great, I love it - but maybe not at the cost of making the world and flying feel realistic… alive.

Me personally would love to see more focus on the details that makes the world feel like more alive and less like just a backdrop for pretty pictures. And to people saying msfs is new, give it time, remember fsx at launch, well I agree. But it is 2021 now, this game has been in development for a long time, beta for a year, and released for over half a year. Older sims was developed in a time where they could only dream about the tech and dev-tools that exists today. And its not even about the quality, tech or bugs, we know how amazing it can be, just look at the scenery and the pretty visuals. But no contrails for everyone, no people in the aircrafts, no wakes in the ocean behind ships or no birds flying in the skies is just a little disappointing in 2021 for a simulator.

There is so much attention that could be given to some of the details that makes the world feel more alive, yet it is nowhere to be seen. Bug fixes and scenery addons seems to be the only focus.
I really wish this simulator would knock the socks off older and alternative simulators. Yet sadly some of them seems to still be preferred for reasons usually tied to realism. And that, to me, is just sad. While the developers seems to be pumping out more and more pretty scenery.

This is not meant to be a negative complaint thread about msfs, as I still love it and play it. I will as most others just wait however long it takes before it gets most of the puzzle pieces into place. Its more a plea to please focus on the details as well, because in my opinion - thats what makes it a simulator.

I wonder if anyone has good ideas of ways to make improvements keeping performance in mind.

*edit: I want to specify that I dont mean that the devs should try to prioritize making the world 1:1 realistic down to every human moving around realtime while eating a cheeseburger.
Im more talking about what I think is the very basics of small addidions that can make a difference, like wakes behind ships, contrails behind aircrafts, correct aircraft models displayed, passengers in your airliner, birds in the sky, some blinking lights/lights on vehicles and so on.

Also I realize that there is many mods out there that fills the gap for now, as I have most of them by now Im sure. Im mostly talking about the very scenery orientated focus from Asobo/MS, as we already know they havent really much interest in the study level systems in aircrafts, so that is fine.


I guess the first and foremost thing to have in a Flight Sim is other aircraft traffic, then everything can follow (land fauna, birds, people, etc). For boat traffic we have an excellent free addon. For flora we have Bijan’s fantastic payware addon. But without actual aircraft traffic, everything else doesn’t matter as much.

Which brings me to my point: there must be plenty of people who have turned off either of AI Traffic or Multiplayer feature (or both), because these have been reported to cause tons of issues (CTD, stuttering etc). I guess the focus should be first to fix this permanently and then the rest can be prioritized. Although personally I don’t expect any of this to happen, any improvements will most likely come from external parties, either with payware or with freeware addons.


I’m not sure I’d agree it’s a beautiful world. Does it have moments of beauty? Sure, but I have found plenty of ugliness (sloppy, misaligned ground textures, extremely poor coastlines, absence of watermasks, clouds baked-in to ground textures resulting in vast expanses of treeless nonsense, lifeless, mirror-like oceans, the ever-present problem of wonky bridges, sunken quays, roads (with traffic) going around the sides of hills and mountains at impossible angles, etc, etc).

I’m not at all fussed about the lack of life in the sim. If they could just nail down an empty but coherent facsimile of the world that would be good enough. With a 1:1 rendering of the entire world to fix, I fear this job is going to be all but impossible without a serious breakthrough in the current state of autogen.


Some scenery creators already add people, like the TNCM scenery. There are people walking around on the beach, taking selfies, and the like.

Yeah, there are already lots of asset packages in which are freely available to everyone to add to their sceneries. I’ve seen quite a few airports with dependencies on Dave’s or’s libraries. Here’s one of the best examples:

The thing about making the world more ‘alive’ is its a flight sim and you won’t see any evidence of it. Having birds flying about is a nice idea but it would be pretty pointless. I make scenery downloads and its been a lot of fun using Dave’s people library and other libraries to make scenery like the one I made for Glen Coe. Honestly, if you’re in a plane you just don’t see any of the little details. The only way of seeing any of it is in a helicopter and hovering close to the ground.

Asobo could make the AI ground traffic behave a bit more realistically and that would make a bit of a difference. I guess when helicopters come to the sim properly next year there will be greater calls to flesh out the world a bit more. I definitely like the idea of adding passengers to planes, particularly the smaller ones. That would add to the immersion. I love the copilot mod.


Asobo have said there are particle effects coming to the sim soon. We do have carrier landings and helicopters, both as mods.

I would add to all that the silly levels of detail on the inside of some terminal buildings. You just aren’t going to see any of that outside a drone camera exploration. I think one of them had magazine stands, and posters on the walls. :slight_smile:


Partially agree, while it would be wonderful if the world feels more alive I think that is just the next step. As others mentioned it is more important to fix the issues with current AI/multiplayer aircraft so that we can turn these on without having all sorts of (performance) issues. They should also fix all currently available features so we can all enjoy this simulator for what it is, a flight simulator.

We then have a working platform with a great looking world to which things can be added either by 1st party or 3rd party developers.

But just like you I dream of those smoking factory chimneys, birds flying around all over the world, ships moving through the oceans and rivers, trains going on their tracks and recreational aircraft flying around the local airports. Maybe even add some parachute jumpers and hot air balloons when the weather permits. I do think we’ll eventually get there, though it may take a few years and that is fine by me.


Soon… everything from Asobo will be soon.


A fact of life for a bit of software which is a constant work in progress. As soon as one much wanted feature is delivered another new one is always just around the corner. Its probably going to be like that for the next couple of years at least.

This was in fact one of the first things that struck me when MSFS came out last year. The exceptionally beautiful representation of some objects leads to a cognitive disillusionmens as to other objects missing.

It’s not necessarily helpful to look at a super realistic house and garden if there is not a clothing line moving in the wind, an abandoned children bicycle or paper flying from trashcans.

The end result is that your brain decided you are looking at a diorama and this is imo a problem that will take decades to improve. Photo-realism is one thing and it is within reach but another thing is context-realism. If I look at the world I also need to see humans and constant evidence of their actions, otherwise it is beautiful but dead toy world.

Larger aircraft like the airbus also suffer from this, if you move closer you don’t feel you are standing in front of a plane, but an aircraft model.


Of coutrse, human beings , birds, etc would be nice, but all has to be computed. I haope DirectX 12 will make it possible without loosing too much performance.

Perhaps, but I have my doubts that Asobo have the imagination or the creative energy to pull any of this off.

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I think Asobo has an abundance of imagination. Just look at the world we can fly in.

Before they embark on adding people around a campsite or folks walking down main street, I hope they finish the Flight Sim. What I am suggesting is that the team fixes all of the bugs and failures of the current sim.

I hope that all the buttons , switches and systems used in a normal flight for each included aircraft works correctly. I want them to work in the “Core” program. I do not want to be required to use an “addon” to fix a core issue. After all that is done, by all means add more “stuff” but keep in mind our computers have computational limitations…smile.


Let me know where these are as these are fixable.


Thats a big issue I’ve found made worse with VR. Its as if the more immersive the sim gets it actually gets oddly further away as an over all flying experience as your brain picks up on all the small things which are wrong. Its the so called ‘uncanny valley’ phenomenon played out in a flight simulator. Its one of the reasons that despite having a VR headset I find myself enjoying the sim on a flat screen more.

You’re right about the uncanny valley, but that’s no reason not to keep pushing the envelope. I used more imagination playing Flight Simulator 4 (or even Zork, for that matter) and enjoyed the heck out of it, but I still like the feeling of immersion in actual flight that VR brings. If you want to avoid the uncanny valley we can always return to the days of “flying” around in cardboard airplanes.

Road traffic and the vehicles are still quite iffy. I’ve recently seen cars of low quality texture and modeling trying to climb up and down the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge.


A 100% working AI traffic is the most important to fix right now, then they can start thinking about adding more afterwards.