In the night!

Hi @RC2018, can you show a comparison before and after ? Two pictures at the same location ? And which “early build” date are you referring to ? pre-WU II ? earlier ?

Hey, I don’t have the screenshots but it’s been brought up before I recall there’s earlier posts about the same issue, they done a comparison and it was much better.

I do recall night lighting being much better before because I was so amazed by it. Just search the forums you’ll get what I mean.

Your topic does not exist.

Issue is… these things are very subjective ! the first day experience of MSFS is always the best. When updates change anything, it is considered an improvement when it is more realistic… not when it just differs from a previous version, or another sim that preceeded MSFS. That’s why I ask for your images.

Ideally, we would need real world aerial pictures of night lights… and compare them to MSFS.

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I can see it.

I’ve flown at night and the older builds looked more true to life.

It’s been brought up many times before. Current night lighting is nothing like it used to be.

People have been complaining about the night lighting ever since the very first alpha build. Seems it’s a very subjective matter.


Quick background: commercial airplane/helicopter pilot since 2003, worked in various conditions from northern europe to now flying in the US often at night over multi million cities, and also long term photographer/digital artist, most work at night.
This is mainly a cut’n’paste from my earlier posts regarding MSFS night lighting / degradation.

Subjective feelings aside, there’s a few features that were more realistic in the early alphas.
Lamp scaling/appearance, visibility range, lack of “Sepia mask” (more on this further down)

Here are some comparison-shots of Rio in the following order:

  • Early Alpha (Initial alpha build - mid alpha Mar 2020)
  • Release Build (Spring 2020 - Sep 2020)
  • Update 5 (Sep 2020 - Apr 2021)
  • SU3 (Apr 2021 - present)

Halfway through the alpha, the lamp textures got changed into the current fuzzy orbs fading in opacity instead of size. The lamp range was severely downgraded from realistic ranges to just a kilometer or two, unless using 4k and or resolution upscaling.
Also, the notorious “Sepia mask” was introduced, illuminating huge areas of the scene that IRL would be pitch black.

After many complaints, the mid alpha changes have been slowly/stubbornly reduced but we were still better off in many ways over a year ago in the early alphas.

As you can see here, the constantly sized lamps becomes enormous fuzzy orbs in the distance.

Regarding the “Sepia mask”:
Here’s the low-res light mask that’s being used both in the world map and also to apply the terrain-glow in the sim.

Take a look of this comparison of real life Dubai vs MSFS release-build (and present in terms of “Sepia Mask”). MSFS is pretty much the opposite of real life using this sepia illumination tech:
Deserts shining in the night and roads being dark, most obvious if flying higher than 5,000 ft.

Here are two videos how the release version of MSFS night is simply just the daytime texture with a brown/sepia filter and a lowres mask.
Completely different from what it looks like IRL.

Here’s a comparison with a screenshot from a real video approach over LA that some user claimed was easily mistaken from the release-build, but comparing to the other versions, it’s obvious that the release-build looks the least like real life. (Engine photoshopped into on the MSFS screenshots.)
Unfortunately there’s no early alpha shots in this comparison.

Here’s another comparison of the different night tech versions we’ve seen so far…

  • Early Alpha
  • Release Build
  • Update 5
  • *Update 7 - World Update US (November 2020, nothing significant have been done after this)

Los Angeles:
Once again you can see the highly unrealistic “Power outage look” of the release build with lamps disappearing at extremely short distance.
& why the early alpha was superior imho, with higher lamp amounts, “glow” around clusters of bright lamps, and more saturation.
Release and current lamps look like overexposed photos, with little to none color retained around the core, with very little color variation as well. The whole night scene feels dull brown low dynamic range compared to reality (And early alphas.)

Also note the more “organic look” the residential area to the right, compared to the much too uniform lamp placement of the more recent builds. 1 year of development between the pictures and we’ve regressed quite a bit in that aspect.

Here’s another location I’ve been using to compare night tech of different versions.
Currently lamps are visible at a greater distance, but still degraded from early alpha in terms of visibility of lamps (smaller lamps visible much longer), and with the new “feature” floating lamps at medium/long distance highways, where lamps are floating +100ft higher than they should, until getting closer where they fade away and the “regular” lamps fade into visibility. (More on this in separate post).
(Note that the early alpha generated too many lights on rural roads that IRL wouldn’t have any lamps. But this can be solved in a multitude of ways proposed by the community in the various threads regarding that problem.)

Feels like we’ve wasted a whole year at this, the early alpha tech was in my opinion definitely the most promising tech, but instead of building from that, Asobo downgraded it horribly to something very different with the release-build, to slowly start reverting towards realism again, but with quite a few visual / realism shortcomings / mistakes that wasn’t present one year ago in the early alpha…

More info can be found in this thread:


You’re worried about night lighting…

I think what this shows is typical of development work. First you want to see what you CAN do - then you have to make sure the highest number of users can have a quality experience. As you add features you might need to reduce some aspects to achieve general playability.
It’s the same game as trying to get the best look AND performance on your local machine. You raise the resolution but have to dial back ‘shadows’ or ‘draw distance’ or add FPS limits.
What ASOBO has to do is similar but at the other end of the telescope.
Be patient - as you can see they have dialed much of what was ‘lost’ since the release back into the simulator.

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Probably it has been moved to the Alhpa Subforums because of people talking and showing screenshots from the Alpha which was and still is under NDA.
And here in this thread the same starts so this thread will probably get there as well.

It’s a shame since the discussion was very long and detailed and does not necessarily need the Alpha Screenshots to prove that the current lights simulation was (and to some extent is) not the best we could have.

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I don’t know. I started up the sim from my last destination KSFO and did a test flight at night and sunrise. To me it looks as good as the early alpha. Even googled night aerial view of SF on my phone to compare and they were very identical although in game there was some haze/fog.

I’m running on 4K HDR on ultra to high settings render scale 100

I7 8700K 2080 super 64GB ram


I like the night lighting at present, though it could be brighter and at some point I would like to see the large ‘light pools’ or big city ‘glowing dome’ effect.
When flying home from Lake Havasu to Gillespie KSEE in the old Arrow II back in the day, as we headed west we could easily see this effect over San Diego and LA - as long as there was any kind of cloud layer or particulates in the atmosphere.
just in case anyone wants to see a video of the current lighting effects - this is at dusk during TnG’s at Dundee Scotland - typical of what I think is pretty darn good lighting in MSFS at this point…

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I’d definitely agree on that, if the re-implementations didn’t contain multiple and severe (non-performance related) oversights that was not present in the first iterations, and if the different night builds did actually show any notable differences in performance.

But it’s almost like a completely different artist took over and remade the night lighting with significantly less experience and understanding of the night lighting physics / visual realism, for example with huge areas of unlit terrain glowing in the dark.

The slow “roll-back” we see now towards better realism (but still quite far behind the early alpha) only started after the night lighting shortcomings became one of the most voted “bugs” after the release, and some Q&A’s indicated the many of the problems wasn’t really understood as well, very odd given how great the early alphas looked.


This all sounds to me like a completely different thing than just a typical development work / streamlining


Pretty much all of the constructive & information-filled night discussion threads are still available? Lots of threads have been merged though discussing the same topics as in the already available threads.

And don’t worry, All the screenshots posted here are either from post-release builds or officially released alpha shots found on Asobo/Microsoft pages still available since over a year back so no one is breaching the NDA here.

No doubt it looks good now, actually very good in some parts!
For a majority, it definitely looks good enough now, many improvements have been made.
But do you honestly believe deserts / unlit farmlands / mountain-sides glow in the dark like they do in MSFS thx to the Sepia Mask…? If you haven’t, take a look at this video

But in the same way, the majority of the MSFS users would not notice any bigger differences between legacy and modern flight model as well. In most casual/normal flying situations, I wouldn’t notice much difference either.
But that’s no excuse for leaving out P-Factor, Adverse Yaw, Spiraling Slipstream, Torque, Prop-Drag, Swept Wing aerodynamics and so on from the aerodynamic model.
Especially if those were present before, but later dumbed down / removed, to be clumsily reimplemented and more simplified than earlier.

At least I wish they gave us “Realistic” & “Simplified” options for night lighting same as with the aerodynamic, so we at least would have the choice not to be part of the collective dumbing down of the visual realism, since they evidently knew how to create very realistic features +18 months ago.

I totally agree with the sim looks awesome at close range and at low altitudes, but that’s not the problem…

Here are some 4k Ultra 100% render scale shots from today
(Resampled to 1080p to uploadable in the forum):

I can say this is simply not what the real world looks like when flying at night at these altitudes.
Pretty far from it, especially compared to the early alpha’s, where night lighting was based on lamps placed along roads, instead of an enormous brown lamp-bulb illuminating entire cities daytime texture uniformly, taking no account on what would be illuminated or not.
(unlit rock quarries same brightness as highways up until close enough for individual lamps to render)

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ok - I’ve only been here since mid November and so I have to take the word of them that was here first - and from whatever documented visual evidence there is. Let me just say that no other flight sim has lighting like this one - not even close. True it is often startling that the things the MSFS leadership say regarding the sim are seemingly one or two steps removed from what we are seeing - but that is generally true of any large enterprise. Unless the skipper checks the bilges himself, there could be any number of problems going on down there…he can rely on the folks who’s job that is but sometimes those folks are unwilling to relay bad news for any number of reasons.

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what is the moon phase and position in those images…?

I have flown under all phases of the moonlight and in the absence of that celestial light bulb and the differences over unincorporated areas would be almost unbelievable to the uninitiated…

and when folks talk about the ‘dumbing down’ of a fledgling flight sim still barely just out of the bassinet it makes me laugh out loud.
c’mon man. take a deep breath. Folks need to keep reporting the things they notice or think incorrect as that is why this forum exists (along with the cheerleading and exchange of useful information we see) but the idea that all is lost unless x,y or z. is fixed RIGHT NOW - is muffugan TIRING bruh

Around -50 degrees under the horizon, new moon.
Here’s the difference between full moon (left) and no moon (right)

Definitely, during my years of flying in northern europe (both sides of the arctic circle, I was often amazed how good visibility can be during a cold clear winter night with the fullmoon illuminating snowy plains in stark contrast of woodlands, compared to a murky/rainy overcast dusk/dawn situation)
But never did unilluminated terrain magically glow in the dark like in MSFS after the early alpha light tech was replaced, up to and including now.
SU6 will hopefully improve on this, even though they earlier said they might just increase the resolution of the sepia mask slightly, instead of replacing it with something realistic.

It’s totally ok for not caring about if the sim looks pretty or if it actually looks like IRL, most users probably doesn’t.
And to be honest, I kind of wish I didn’t took part in the first Alpha, 'cause then I would not know what we’re missing out on now.
But come on bruh, at least try to have a constructive discussion of the specifics / arguments being made here instead of ridiculing / strawman-ing / dismissing the whole thing.

It’d be slightly more helpful for the devs too, instead of reading of how loud this makes you laugh or how tired you get from reading about these silly ideas. :wink:

I didn’t ridicule the calling out of these flaws, I said it is necessary and vital to clearly state, especially with evidence, where the perceived shortcomings are, in order to guide development - it’s just the often strident urgency with which so many carry on that gets draining.

Yes it is unfortunate that you were privileged to have the earliest access. I see your point.

Given your responses you seem more interested in talking about “the discussion” instead of discussing the actual issues being lifted here…

Ok, last attempt to bring it back on topic: do you feel the huge areas of glow-in-the-dark brown terrain is the way to go, or might it be better to build on lamp-based illumination / baked maps…?

Here are some screenshots first showing the current night lighting & low-res masked uniform brown illumination of the day-time texture, and the 2nd image a lamp-based illuminated texture (by fclem33) covering the default ground texture, to emulate what it looked like in the early alphas:

Using the same way of recreating the early alpha, compare this screenshot with the photo and MSFS sepia mask tech of the same area:

For reasons unknown the devs stuck with the decision of the “sepia-mask” and made occasional changes every now and then, some making it worse, some making it better.
Instead of rolling back to what looked the most realistic, and building upon that.

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My mistake was that I thought it WAS a discussion, or an angry rant - but it’s really your manifesto…
please continue

C’mon man, take a deep breath

I get that it’s easy to mistakenly read in an “underlying tone” in forum posts but I assure you there is none over here.
I was hoping all those comparisons I posted could be a good base for discussion instead of broad nonspecific and subjective statements.

I’m definitely curious what others think of the comparisons and in ideas of how it could be done different / better / more realistic.

If this is of no interest to you, given what was addressed and what was not, no problem.
Happy landings!

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