Live Dev Q&A - March 2nd, 2022

All credit goes to @N316TS for this summary!

Jorg starts the Q&A by saying few words regarding the current situation in Ukraine.

Follow-ups from the last Q&A – Timestamp

Broken achievements

Martial - Hopefully they are all fixed. We have two layers of issues. The first one was server side. Every achievement related to this bug has been fixed in Sim Update 8. It should be for the last two ones, which were linked to live events. The way we were doing live events was not taking into account with the achievement systems. There were two achievements called Spotlight Events and Decathlon that were not working because of this. We fixed the way we were doing live events to be now considered by the achievement system.

List of Xbox aircraft in development

Jorg - It’s nice how many people care how many planes come to Xbox. I’ve added a row to acknowledge how many planes are coming. We have been investigating multiple ways to get all the planes on Xbox, even the ones that have WASM [WebAssembly]. The platform team has dedicated a team to do this. It’s going to take a while. It could be next year. That is not acceptable, and therefore we have baked our own solutions. One of them looks very promising, and we are currently doing internal testing. If that comes together, we can bring WASM planes in short order. I don’t know exactly when, but it’s definitely in the next few months. If it works. But we are very focused on this.

Would it be easy to create a toggle on/off for plane ghosting for formation flyers?

Seb - Yes, we discussed this with the team, and it has been added to the list of features we will be bringing to Sim Update 10. It was a little bit late for Sim Update 9.

xCloud - Timestamp

Jorg - It’s a big deal for us. I have been playing on my phone and I have to say it’s awesome. Why is this relevant? Quite a few people on this Earth don’t have an infinite amount of money. They can’t buy high-powered computers. They can’t even sometimes get an Xbox. I really feel like this is democratizing gaming a lot more. It is a 1080p/30 fps stream. It’s not what you can get if you have the best rig possible. But we launched yesterday, and just the amount of people I’ve heard from in countries who are socioeconomically not well off…it’s delightful. It is a shockingly good experience for that type of device. I have a stack of old laptops, like eight of them that go back 15 years. And now they have become gaming machines again. It’s great for flight simming. We have seen a ton of people joining Flight Sim for the first time in places that have just not been able to engage with us, yet. I think it’s great for the hobby and the platform team that did a lot of that work. They’ve done a great job. Check it out if you have time. We are very proud of it.

Chat question - We know it can use an Xbox controller. Do you know what other peripherals, if any, will be able to be use?

Jorg - The next step for us is mouse, keyboard. This is platform-level support so it has nothing to do with us (obviously, the mouse, keyboard works for our sim). The platform team is working on this. I know I cannot give a date because it’s the platform team. It’s coming, and we are also talking about making Touch work. I also played a game called DS5 not too long ago, and it has the gyro. You can get a little bit more into the experience of flying a plane. I’m hoping that it will be soon available!

Weather - Timestamp

Martial - We started Flight Sim using weather data from our partner, Meteoblue. This raw data was showing some discrepancies with METAR data. The idea was to ingest this METAR into the weather simulation that Meteoblue runs for their forecast. And that’s what we did in the last update with the weather. It’s better, in a way that the METAR data, when you’re getting those, is closer to what you get in the simulations. But, we know that we are still having some discrepancies where maybe in some areas, the smoothness we had previously has not been back. But we are still working on this and still want to bring some improvements on the weather systems. This is what has been done in Sim Update 7.

Forum Community Question - When will the clouds in live weather reflect the variety of cloud types in real life and not simply cumuloforms as they appear to be in recent builds?

Seb - It partially already does. It’s a question on how detailed we make the box that holds all the cloud information. I think the data we are currently getting from the weather provider has 60 layers. Each layer tells you how much clouds there is. In our cloud rendering, I think we have 64 (or maybe 32) The question, here, in order to get cloud shapes, you need to have smaller box spaces, and also most of you have seen with the updates, there is a new slider in the clouds. We have added density. Before it was only how scattered they were, and then you had coverage. Now you have coverage, scatter, and density. And there is also a 3D texture system that makes the clouds more-or-less fluffy. And when you reduce your graphics settings, you sort of see that because the textures go away, like the more detailed ones. I would say, basically any system, we can add to the presets. We can add another slider to make the clouds less fluffy and more uniform, which then allows you to stretch them to make cirrus more or anything like that. This is basically something we have been progressively improving. And every time we add something new, you can make more and more cloud types. Nature doesn’t make a cloud type. We simulate physics, and then we call them “mammatus” or so. There are maybe 100 cloud types, but basically the more accurate the system gets, the more of the reality we can simulate. Maybe one day we can have these clouds that roll over. It looks like you have roll clouds coming up to you. Basically, all this keeps getting better. The weather provider has improved the accuracy with METAR, but also basically improving other data source resolutions, and we keep adding more detail and improving it. I would say step-by-step.

Forum Community Question - Could METAR-based weather be optional?

Martial - I think the best option would be to get METAR data weather working properly. I think that would be our highest priority. I would love to have a super cool weather and have it unified for everybody. I think that would be better.

Chat question (regarding the variety of cloud question) - Will this cloud simulation have a greater impact on the systems? Or are they provided online and streamed to the PC?

Seb - Anything that has more precision, more data, always has a cost. Now, the cloud system is not specifically very expensive. I mean, it should take a percentage on the whole simulation. I don’t know if you’re running a whole simulation on 60 fps/16 ms, the clouds are just maybe 1 or 2%.

Forum Community Question - Will wind gusts return to live weather?

Seb - There’s a lot of work going on in weather. I would say wind, turbulence, drafts…all that stuff is currently having a lot of development. Important to know is that in presets, you can really tweak the gusts with quite some control. In live weather, we currently don’t have gust information. In METAR data, there’s a little bit of information, but in the Meteoblue-based weather source, we have wind speed, but it doesn’t say the exact frequency of gusts. Currently, as we are working on that whole system, we are going to make it more realistic. You are going to see more and improved features.

Jorg - For high atmosphere, we have something. There is a data source for high-altitude turbulence that we’ve been looking at. All in progress.

Jayne - Is there any timeline to share on that?

Seb - I would say, over the next sim updates. We are breaking it up into pieces. The biggest issue is, it’s not easy for the user to notice. I remember recently seeing more complaints that there is not enough turbulence. The problem is, given the way the system is built, because we’re in winter, and the weather is usually cold, there’s not a lot of sunlight, there’s not a lot of drafts and turbulence.

Forum Community Question - When can we expect live weather to be enhanced with more data (aerosols, desert data, pollutants) from Meteoblue?

Jorg - I think you guys have pointed out some of the shortcomings. We know there are issues with the METAR and specifically the visualization of it, too. We want to fix what’s there now before we do a bunch of other stuff. We have gigantic goals for weather. We are going to get different data streams. More data streams, from not just Meteoblue but also from other providers. But let’s take one step at a time. Let’s fix what we have, make sure that it all works, and then do things like that. I’ve wanted a sandstorm since we launched.

Dornier - Timestamp

The Dornier is on track to launch on March 22. We’ve tried for literally a year to get to that museum in Luján, and we just did. We got the latest and greatest of the last surviving plane. We are making fine, itty bitty tweaks in the cockpit and tweaks to the outside. But everything else is coming together great. It’s going to be fascinating because it’s a full-on water plane.

Chat question - On the note of planes we’ve announced, do you have any updates on the ATR we talked about last year?

Jorg - The ATR is in development with Hans Hartmann. Alexander [Metzger] is working on the flight model. This is full core dev with Asobo. And the Asobo team is working with them and we are directly working with ATR. This is expert-level.

Q&A Session 2 - Timestamp

Forum Community Question - What is the status of the “Performance Degradation Over Time” issue?

Seb - The usual approach when we have something like this is to try to reproduce it. Once you have it on a machine in front of you, you can just go in and say, “What system is pulling our resources?” When you go from 40 fps to 2, you usually don’t have to do any performance measure. You break the debugger [set code breakpoints] and it’s going to break wherever it’s slow. The issue is that we never found it. It went as far as, I’ve been on my personal development machine, running some intercontinental flights, overnight, over lunch, or whenever we had meetings.

strategy now is to add telemetry to find bottlenecks in the code which are slowing down users, and once we have that out in an update, then I hope it’s going to be faster. We can have data, when the users have issues, we’ll know exactly where it’s slowing down. Then we can look into a smaller system. We don’t know exactly what, but if it’s a system that is possibly disabled, we can at least give users a workaround, saying, “Hey, just disable this and you won’t have to have this slowdown anymore.” That’s our strategy right now.

Forum Community Question - Can you talk about improvements to AI traffic?

Jorg - So, I think we talked about this last time. AIG wrote us a very detailed, thoughtful document that has been broken down by the team. We are going to go big into it and go fix it one thing at a time. All of the issues have been pointed out, so really, it’s up to us to go fix them.

Martial - And we already did some improvements. Under air traffic, the takeoffs are now better. This has been inherited from FSX. We added some improvements, we added real-time air traffic on top of that. On our side, it is also a matter of taking some time to reboot the system, and it’s something we would like to bring later on.

Forum Community Question - Are you aware of the shimmering issues in VR since Sim Update 5 and is there a fix coming?

Martial - This shimmering is, for most cases, happening in VR and I think it was spotted in Sim Update 5 because we changed the distance where we are putting small details on rooftops. It’s suddenly happening with temporal antialiasing (TAA). The good news, it’s improved by using DLSS [Deep Learning Super Sampling].

Forum Community Question - Any thoughts on shortening the time it takes to load MSFS when you have a large number of add-ons?

Martial - I was talking previously about FSX inheritance. So, the system we are currently having is reading all the applications, all the information needed to display on the main menu. Even if it’s planes or airports or anything else, it’s there. When you’ve got plenty of these items, it takes time to parse and read this information. That’s an issue we are well aware of. The solution would be to create a new system that puts the information outside of the main title. But in the same way, we’ve got to make that compliant with the former packages. It’s not that simple. Also, we’ve got a team dedicated to package delivery. They are thinking about creating a new system that would be compliant with the follow-on that sorts information in order to be faster when we are loading them.

Jorg - We all agree this has to change. But I think what Martial is saying is it’s a pretty deep architectural change. It’s going to take us a while. But, there is not a person on the team that doesn’t want this to go faster. It’s just, we can’t commit to a date.

Forum Community Question - Any update on the revamped ground physics handling/friction? In a past Q&A, we mentioned it had been done. Can you go into more detail and what’s coming up in the future?

Seb - last year in Sim Update 7, there have been a few improvements on ground physics. I think one was related to an assistance. When you turn on assistance of ground rudder – basically it’s the thing when there’s a crosswind and propeller effects and the plane goes all over the place, and you have a hard time using the rudder to just stay straight – that is very tough. And then when you rotate, it changes a little bit because you don’t have the wheels that hold you a little bit in place anymore, and you have to do some rudder work again to stay more coordinated. On ground, you’re basically changing from one system, which is staying straight on the runway to staying coordinated in flight. You have to make the switch. The assistance takeoff rudder does that for you. And previously it was just switched off whenever you rotated. It made this hard transition when you take off. That’s something that has been fixed so that this assistance, instead of switching off instantly when you rotate, it gradually fades out over the first 200-300 feet once you take off. It doesn’t have this brutal thing where the rudder turns off instantly. And there’s other little tweaks and improvements on ground friction that we’ve been improving. Mostly for specific bug fixes on specific planes.

But still, there is a deeper rework we need to do. Basically, it all comes from heavy simplifications that were in the sim 10-15 years ago, which were always assuming that the ground was flat. That’s why you couldn’t have sloped runways or undulated runways. The ground friction model…basically when something’s on the ground and when the brakes are fully engaged, you don’t move at all: The plane sticks to the ground. There’s what one could call infinite friction: There’s no movement at all. This is something we added that didn’t exist at all. And it wasn’t really needed 10 years ago because there were no slopes. When you put a plane on a flat terrain without wind, it’s not going to roll anywhere. But if you put that same system on a slope, it’s going to roll away and not stay there.

There’s also wind. Historically, in the sim, there was a system so that at low speeds, any crosswind was cancelled out. The plane ignores any form of wind, when you’re below, maybe 5-10 feet/second, which is why when you’re stopped on the ground, you go full propeller power and then there’s some propeller effects, so the plane starts going left. And then, all of a sudden, the wind kicks in, and then if you have a strong crosswind, it does this sort of thing which is not realistic. In reality, if I have a plane on the ground, and there’s a strong wind, and I release all brakes, it’s going to start moving: The wind is going to push it. And that currently does not happen. There are changes like that that we want to do. We want to do the ground friction model to make it 100% realistic. Which means that we don’t have to do anything: We don’t have to cancel it out anymore. Everything is going to be realistically simulated from when you stop to when you take off. There’s no such thing as crosswind that comes in over a few knots. I think it’s going to make the rudder a little easier. You’re just fighting one crosswind. It doesn’t change over time unless there’s gusts. Also, it’s going to work better on slopes. This rework is planned for somewhere this year, whenever we have time to go into that. It’s going to be compatible because the parameters are the same. It doesn’t change anything in the way you define or create or make airplanes. It just changes the way all the constraints and forces are sold so that the plane does what it’s supposed to do. All the constraints are the friction, the ground friction, the prop wash, the wind, even the engine, which is slightly shaking the plane. All these things come together. Currently, it’s a little bit better because we worked more in a bug fix development system, where we said, “The plane is sliding on the slope? Let’s fix that.” “The plane is sliding when there’s wind? Let’s fix that” Now we’re in a situation where we need to implement a real system instead of having a block of patches. That’s basically the next step, and that will give us much more realism the precise moment when you rotate.

For example, a wheel is currently simulated as a single point. So, a wheel can resist movement or rolling or sliding when you brake. It does not resist rotation. A wheel can rotate [with a rudder or tiller] without resistance. If you’re in your car and you’re parked, and you turn the steering wheel, if you don’t have power steering, it’s not easy to turn the tire because it’s not a point: It’s a flat surface. It’s a patch on the ground of rubber that you’re moving. The new simulation is going to allow this. This helps with stability when you’re taking off. Currently, the plane is just a tripod of points, and as soon as the nose is up, you feel that it’s already twisting because the wheels are not simulated as patches of rubber. They do not resist rotation enough. These kinds of changes are going to make the moments of takeoff a lot more precise and realistic. Later this year.

Chat question - Is AMD’s FSR [FidelityFX Super Resolution] to be supported in the future.

Martial - This is engine-related. I know that they are working on all the systems that we are currently using. We are using DLSS as a reference for these kinds of technologies, but for FSR, I don’t know what has been done, to be honest. I will give you more information during the next Q&A.

In the forums, our goal is to be more efficient in reporting and fixing these community-reported issues that we see. With that said, there are a few changes coming in the forums. Right now, we have that Bugs & Issues section. We are splitting that into two different sections: a Bug Reporting section and a Community Help section. The Community Help Center is going to be a place to get solutions, for the community to talk to each other. And we will keep the bug reporting section just for bugs that only our team is able to fix. In that section, we are going to have a new plugin that gives us new templates. When someone does report a bug, there will be a handy button that will say, “Contribute to this bug report” that will allow you to answer some questions to help us reproduce the issue. We are really excited to make that change in the next week or so. On top of that, I know that there are some mega-threads in our feedback snapshot. We are working on breaking down some of those, trying to find single issues within them to merge them into their own threads so we can track each one individually. It will be better for us, better for the community to get those bugs squashed. Look out for those changes in the forums soon.

Top Wishlist Snapshot - Timestamp

Add a Vegetation Render Distance’ Slider

Seb - There is already a slider in the sim called Vegetation Distance. it’s the same as terrain distance slider and building distance slider.

Jorg reminds everyone that some items in the feedback snapshot are ongoing progress and that the title not necessarily represent the content of the thread. Some threads evolves and that why we need to break them into specific issues.

Chat question - Do you have any updates regarding the scenery gateway system?

Jorg - The dev is hired, and we are now testing the system with one of our close partners. We are one step away from testing with the community. We want to make sure it mostly works before we throw it out there for everyone. But it’s making good progress and that should tell you everything. We’re committed to making this great. We have identified four people outside of Asobo to give us feedback, and then we will take it from there and bring it out to everybody.

Jorg - Somebody said in the comments, “Focus on the core sim. Don’t focus on stuff like xCloud. Who cares?” We have 220-230 people working on the sim, total, in various locations. This xCloud effort was one programmer and half of a UI person for a few months. All this work and the magic was done by the Microsoft-based xCloud streaming team. We’re not getting distracted with stuff like that. It is a benefit of being in this ecosystem. Just wanted to say that because I know people are concerned.

Will the maximum number of engines be increased? (This is related to the SDK.)

Seb - Yes. This has been around. There are a few places in the sim where it says the maximum engine number: 4 and maximum propeller number: 4. We need to increase this. It’s going to happen in the next few months. The biggest question that we have is, do we want to pick a number? 6? 8? And then one year someone comes and says, “Hey, I need 10 engines” Or do we want to spend a little bit more time and make it fully dynamic? The Volocopter had 16. We did a workaround. Ideally, it could be dynamic, but it’s going to be a little bit more work, but it’s just a matter of changing it everywhere and not breaking anything.

Jorg - Without announcing what the plane is, we have a Local Legend that has a lot more than 4 engines coming out.

There 2 serious mouse panning regression bugs (Freelook causes controls to freeze, middle mouse button always resets pilot view regardless of mouse control config or profile). There’s one not mentioned here where the mouse disappears when you use the arrow keys. Any updates?

Martial - If you talk about inputs in general, we know that we introduced some bugs with Sim Update 5 when we did some optimizations. By doing that, we introduced some contexts, and those contexts can sometimes exclude ways of doing things. For instance, when you’re using the freelook camera, it removes inputs on some axes, and it’s not good, so we want to improve that. Speaking of freelook, we were also getting some issues when using the freelook where the camera could reset, and that has been fixed. We have also fixed the bug that was preventing users from using any kind of axes for moving the icon cursor. This has been fixed, too and everybody will be able to manipulate the cursor by using any other axis or button. Everything here will come with Sim Update 9.

Are there any plans to improve ambient traffic or anything else that brings the world to life below?

Jorg - Yes. To the point that Seb and Martial were sick of me saying something about bringing the world to life. Ambient traffic? Yes, but it’s a question of exactly when? Air traffic, we already talked about that. We’re making a digital twin. It’s an endless task. But we are getting closer and closer. We are here for a long time. This is going to get better and better.

Chat question - Do we have any improvements coming for the download experience? (When you download from the MS Store, then you do the in-sim update, then Content Manager updates. It’s often cumbersome.).

Jorg - We’ve talked about this a little bit. “Cumbersome” is a friendly word to say. It is not good. And we know there is a re-architecture needed for it.

How about a splash screen after hitting the icon to launch the game?

Jayne - I think we all know when we launch the game. You wait a little bit. You think, “Did I already press it?” You’ll press it again. Then you get the popup that says it’s already running. Do you have thoughts on this?

Martial - We know that. The sim is getting very long to get initialized. The good news is, it’s going to be improved in Sim Update 9. Most of the code is homemade, but some is not. We don’t have the full control of it but it will be improved.

Can you add the ability to open doors and canopies on default aircraft?

Jorg - We are putting it, currently, into our Local Legends and Famous Fliers then we’ll spread it to other things. But it’s in the plan. We are aware that it should be done.

Seb – Update on helicopters. We have finished the propeller system. It’s been out on Sim Update 8. I’ve spent some time helping some plane makers use it. It’s going to get better in Sim Update 9. The system hasn’t changed, but the tools to use it have been improved. The .cfg is going to be out in Sim Update 9. Currently, we are targeting only for one plane: The [Cessna] 172 because we wanted to go fly it and test it. It changes the stall a little bit. I think it feels a lot more realistic, but it’s very subtle and so we wanted to change it and test it. That’s coming live, but it’s going live in a way that plane makers can turn it on. And it’s really just an option, but sometimes it may require a little bit of tweaking.

The next big thing we need to do which will also benefit planes, and so that’s always our goal to share the improvements over the whole sim. On helicopters, one important phenomenon is the blades are not rigid. They are soft. The lift is not the same, all around the circle. […]

Jorg – We are getting in touch with manufacturing partners for Seb. Right now, we have deep insights into the telemetry of helicopters, how the thing really works. That is really good news.

Do you have any updates on Shared Cockpit?

Martial - We do not.

How is the queue looking for new Marketplace releases? Devs eager, customers waiting. Thoughts?

Jorg - We have 80 things in the hopper right now. The team is working as hard as they can to get this out. I think the question relates to the planes that have WASM in it. As I said earlier, we do believe we have a solution. There is currently an epic debate if this solution can be for Sim Update 9 or 10. Everybody’s aware of it. I personally think it’s of the top importance, so I would like to prioritize this. But there’s always a trade-off. That means something else won’t get done.

When can we expect private servers (locally hosted or sessions similar to FSX Gamespy) or at least much larger group sizes?

Jorg - There is a feature cluster we call Social. And it’s in that. We will be meeting on this particular subject matter. We are doing a mind map exercise on Friday. It’s part of that. We want flight clubs. We want all this. It’s just, how do we fit it in and when? I don’t think it’s going to happen this year, because it’s not that simple, given our architecture. But it’s something we know you want: Bringing more social, bringing people together. Jayne, you do an awesome job with community fly-ins. We should make this a lot more friction-free for everybody to do this. It’s fully understood.

Do you know what aircraft are that will get the propeller upgrades introduced in Sim Update 8?

Seb - For Sim Update 9, we are introducing the Cessna 172 with the CFD [computational fluid dynamics] airflow simulation. For that, it would have worked without. But to fully take advantage of it, we also updated the propeller simulation. The 172 is already done. For Sim Update 9, it is just going to be that. I have been helping plane makers to try to use this, which slowed us down on our side. I have improved the tools to make it easier to port to the new system with Sim Update 9. That was my priority. Based on feedback on what people request, I would say the planes that have a lot of propeller effects (like p-factor) benefit more from the system. On the 172, you could feel it, but it was a little weak. We used that plane because for the CFD, we wanted to have a plane that would be easiest to test with our measurement tools. So that’s why we chose that one to port over. The biggest bottleneck for us is testing. When we update a plane, we need to make sure it gets thoroughly tested. And we can’t just update all propeller planes in one update.

Chat question - For our Local Legends releases, will we see updates to those aircraft in the future?**

Jorg - Oliver and Orbx have been working hard on getting the Junkers bugs fixed and you will be very happy what happens to the Fokker. I’ve seen it. They are doing great. We are not a “one-and-done” shop. We are going to continue to update them until everybody loves them.

Do we have any information on adding freeware to the Marketplace? Will that be a thing in the future?

Jorg - The answer is yes. It’s been on our feedback snapshot forever. We did a Marketplace 2.0, there was a brief discussion for that. The answer is, yes it’s coming. We don’t have a date. It’s more of a, what other filters do we use? We can’t just flood the Marketplace team. It still has to go through ingestion. People are still saying, “When will we get the Hawk? When will we get the Pipers?” Well, it’s the same team.

Chat question – Any update on a bug about icing not being able to be turned off. Setting it to off still freezes the plane over.

Martial - I’ve seen that. There are two options. The first one for the freezing is just turning off the effect on the planes, the weight and everything that can bring damages on the plane. If you also want to remove the icing visual effect, there is another option. If you don’t want any kind of icing, you have to switch these two options off.

Seb - We are going to test. Maybe something is broken. You can have it visual, you can have it physically simulated, and turned completely off. We will test again.

Are there going to be future updates to the F/A 18, for example, external fuel tanks?

Jorg - The are future updates coming with the Top Gun: Maverick release.

Enhanced API to Access All Aircraft States

Jorg - We need to have a meeting on this. We typically have a meeting on the feedback snapshot, where we talk it through, and we didn’t have it the last two weeks. We just did a platform launch so it was a bit stressful. But we need to actually sit down and talk it through. I know the team looked at it, but I was not part of the discussion. I think this is going to be a next week thing. We will try to get the output of this.