Live Dev Q&A - May 25th, 2022

Third Parties - Timestamp

Jorg – So last time we met – I think was April 26 – as I was thinking about today’s meeting, I was just looking back on what has happened. And man, what a month it’s been! So I put a few slides in. I think it’s quite possibly one of the most exciting months for lovers of complex aircraft, maybe ever. So let’s look back just a little bit.

Jorg – So on April 29, two days after our Q&A, Just Flight released their BAe 146 Professional, a real milestone. A day later, Leonardo Software House released Fly the Maddog X [MD-82]. A few days later, Milviz released the excellent Cessna 310R, which, you guys probably don’t know, we had in development. And the Milviz one was so good that we stopped our development. So that plane is covered. (Awesome job, Milviz!) Then, four or five days later, PMDG launched the 737-700, and Robert [Randazzo, PMDG founder] talked about all the upcoming cool stuff that is coming from them. Then on the 19th, Fenix Simulations launched the A320. And when I read the forums, and what I hear from the team, it’s maybe one of the best releases of all time. And then, a day later, Lefteris [Kalamaras, founder/owner, Flight Sim Labs] announced that Flight Sim Labs is working on lots of things for our sim, including an all-new A330, which is really exciting. So in the past, this might have been a great lineup for an entire year, and we had that all in a month. Which is just incredible.

Jorg – Goodness just keeps coming. A2A, Scott [Gentile, CEO/owner, A2A Simulations] was just talking about how their plane is coming together. Azurpoly, DC Design, FlightFX with the HondaJet and the Cirrus [SF50 Vision Jet], FlyingIron, IndiaFoxtEcho, Lionheart. I could go on and on and on. What third-parties are working on is really cool. And it’s coming out in the next few months. We think we’re going to be seeing another 80 to 100 planes just this year, which is really fundamentally awesome! It’s not just the numbers, really: It’s the quality that is the key, here. And I think the quality is really impressive. And in my view, and I hope you agree, I think that shows that it should really end the conversation, “Is this a platform for real simmers?” Just go and play those modules and they are frickin’ amazing.

Jorg – So, great job, third parties! Thank you for all that. I think it’s all getting better and better. I have just one more thought, maybe for some of the developers out there: We have been making updates, as we promised, every month since launch. We have nine sim updates, nine world updates, Xbox version, Game of the Year version, xCloud version, all this stuff. So 21 updates, 21 months. And it’s been super-duper busy. In gaming, we sometimes call this “gaming as a service”, and we are one of the most active ones. But I was reflecting upon some of the feedback that some of the third-parties are giving us, which is sometimes really cranky. And I just wanted to say, we are a game as a service, which is totally different than what FSX was. Because FSX was mostly a static platform. And in many ways, you all are part of the game as a service. So it’s super-important that when we put a beta out for a sim update that you test against it. We now have over 2000 addons (2152, last time I counted), and we are trying to test some of them, but we can’t test all of them. It’s impossible.

Jorg – So I think this is a reminder: Please, please spend the time, when a sim update beta comes out, play your module. Make sure that we hear if there’s anything wrong so we can work on it together. And just the tone: Let’s keep the tone friendly. This is a hobby, I think we all want to have a good time. I think Asobo is doing an amazing job. The team has been hammering it for the last 21 months, and I think, just take a little step back on the human side, and when you say something cranky, what it means on the other side.

Jorg – So that’s all I’m trying to say. Thank you for listening.

Top Gun Maverick - Timestamp

Jorg – So today, guys…what are we doing today? Glasses on. We’re entering the Danger Zone! We have a trailer. It just launched. And we thought we could watch it here for just a quick minute:

Damien Cuzacq, Design Director, Asobo Studio - Timestamp

Jayne – And on that note, because we have released Top Gun today, we do have a special guest, Damien. Welcome!

Damien – I’m Damien. I’m design director at Asobo Studio. I’ve been working on MSFS since we started here.

Jayne – Fantastic. Will you tell us a little bit about your work on Top Gun and take us through some of the activities we can do in the new DLC [downloadable content]?

Damien – With pleasure. It’s been some time since we were asked to work on content based on that franchise. That was really good news for us. So, yesterday we had a chance to watch the movie in the theater. But at the beginning, obviously, that was not the case. We had no view of the script at all, so we had to do our homework. So we had the chance to have a former jet pilot on the team. So that was a first step to get some insight on what all the expectations were for that type of experience. And the second step was to gather some information from Paramount from what they were allowed to tell us, to access some engineers that we were working on the aircraft that were featured in the movie. And step-by-step, we were able to define the content and the experiences we wanted to expose in the Maverick pack.

Low Altitude Challenges - Timestamp

Damien – So that’s one of the main experiences we wanted to bring: Being able to fly low. So we are welcoming a series of five low-altitude challenges. So basically, we ask you to fly low as fast as possible in canyons and mountain regions. There are five locations we selected based on the information we got from real-life pilots. So they are based on locations real-life pilots use for these exercises. So they all come with different challenges. Some are between canyons. You can try to get really low. Some are more mountainous, and it requires you to go through special maneuvers to be efficient to stay low on the ground.

Damien – We have defined a scoring system that tries to emphasize the runs that are low to the ground and fast at the same time. And on that analysis screen, we try to give you enough information so you can optimize your pass on each of the flights, and try to become better and better flying at low altitude. So just a fun fact, here: So to validate our work on those low-altitude flights, we invited a French pilot to the studio to get feedback on the F/A-18 and that experience. And during one of his first runs, he was able to get scores that we barely were able to do at the studio. [Martial – It was super impressive!] And impressive to see how fluid he was with the aircraft. What he was able to perform on the first run. And so that’s not something that lies. So, we hope that all people who are versed with that aircraft will be able to express themselves in these challenges, as well.

F/A-18E Training - Timestamp

Damien – And we setup three training flights for people who are not yet active with the F/A-18. It tries to better understand what can be done with it. And especially, ridge crossing training is a well-known technique to cross mountains while being able to stay close to the ground. It’s also a way to always keep the ground in sight. And so we have something setup for you so you can practice that and try to then apply it in the low altitude challenges.

Damien – That’s the setup we decided to go for for the training because even in real life, we learned that pilots are used to training to the clouds, because training close to the ground is the danger zone, and so they are used to using clouds as a reference point to practice. So that’s the setup you’re going to be able to try with the ridge crossing exercise.

Carrier - Timestamp

Damien – Another novelty with the content pack is the carrier. And so, we do have a landing challenge on the carrier deck. And something with weather with a FLOL [Fresnel Lens Optical Landing] system that is available on the carriers so we can properly setup your aircraft to land on the carrier deck. So we are essentially coming with a specific scoring system, here, to make sure that we give you the clues to stay on the proper flight path to approach the carrier. And also to grab the right wire. On that carrier, we do have a four-wire [system], and so the best situation to end up on the carrier is to grab the third one. And so you will have this information in the flight.

Stratospheric flights - Timestamp

Damien – And yes, the last flight we setup is the stratospheric flights. So with the Maverick content, we are coming out with a new aircraft, the Darkstar, to take you up to the stratosphere. And so what we can see here is a specific procedure we have implemented in the flight sim based on the information we got from engineers. That’s a procedure that will follow you to take that aircraft up to the stratosphere in an efficient manner. And that’s going to be a new way to see the world with weather from above, a new point of view that we have not yet showcased. For that, I will let all the people enjoy that directly in-game. So that’s another wonderful point of view that you’re going to be able to have during the flight. Fun fact: The flight we setup starts from the west coast of the United States and ends at Cape Canaveral on the East Coast. So all of that is about 35 minutes to make the flight. You climb to cruise and the arrival sequence. So that’s also something that is to be able to cross the entire United States in such a short timeframe. That’s about it for the content package now available for everyone on Microsoft Flight Simulator.

The Darkstar - Timestamp

Jorg – Thank you, Damien! I think it’s super fun. We’ve been playing it a ton. We’ve had a ton of help, too. I wanted to make sure you guys know this. The Darkstar is obviously a fictional plane. But we had access to actual aircraft engineers at the manufacturer that did a plane that looks very similar. Name is Spock. Spock helped us a ton, figuring out what the the instruments should be to give it a real level of authenticity. Damien, maybe you could speak to the pilots we had testing this and what their actual real life is.

Damien – We had a French former pilot that had multiple landings on carriers in real life on several different aircraft. And so he was able to provide us with advice on a lot of different domains on what he was experiencing when he was landing. What the look and feel was. He spent time to make sure that the choreography of the instrumentation of the aircraft was properly tuned. To make sure, for example, that the flows, he was able to get the same reference point he had in real life to land. So we had to spent a few hours tuning those elements with him in control until I was good on my parameters and it was doing the right thing. So, I would really like to thank all the people who helped us get our expertise in making that content as real as it gets.

Martial – So I am seeing on the chat somebody saying that it won’t be like US pilots. We had a close friendship we had with the French pilot. Actually, he also flies with the Canadian Air Force. And on top of that, on the team we’ve got a former Top Gun. So it was easier for us to work with the French pilot because we have this type of relationship and quick iteration processes.

Jorg – The US Navy helped, too, at the very beginning. We had some good conversations with them.

Damien – We had information that people shared from the Top Gun school. It was really interesting to have information on what people were doing there. What their behavior was. To ensure that the content we were providing was something good. As well as a few videos on the training flights. We wanted also to be right. So all that was important for us, as it was new territory for most of the people on our team at Asobo. And again, a great discovery to spend time with all those people to learn about that aspect of aviation.

Jorg – And I think the one question people are asking is, is the aircraft carrier available for free flight?

Damien – Yeah, so obviously, that is something we want, as well. So for us, it was not the right time to make sure it was properly fitting with all the rest of the feature and content, but it is definitely something we will continue to think about.

Martial – And is it moving?

Damien – Yes, obviously, that’s a requirement to land on a carrier. Basically if it stands still, you don’t have enough facing wind to land properly. So with the kind of information we have been able to get, an appropriate wind on the deck is around 28 knots. So all those details, we tried to add them properly in-game. And as soon as something was not good, anyway, that’s something we faced directly in the experience, like whether the landing was too out-of-reference or not good enough. So we hope you’re all going to be able to enjoy what is present in there.

Jayne – Thank you so much, Damien. We really appreciate you talking about the new DLC. We do have a thread open in our forums if you would like to post there. Definitely looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Damien – Thank you, everyone. See you another day. Enjoy the Maverick pack!

Follow-up From Last Dev Q&A - Timestamp

Performance/Stability (Xbox) - Timestamp

Jorg – Well, obviously, something went wrong, and we’ve had a lot of conversations internally about why and how.

Seb – What happened was that the update system on Xbox has been changed to perform background updates. And when people were doing specific things in the menus while the same data was getting updated, it could occasionally crash. And when it occasionally crashed, if there was another file lock, it could crash while it was writing some files into the cache on the console. And this could corrupt the cache. So I think this affected a percentage of users. Relatively quickly, we fixed the content on the service that was causing the updates that was causing the crash that was causing the corruption. It affected a few users for a few hours, and then it was fixed. But for those users, once the cache was corrupted, it was very hard to get them out of the corrupt state, so we had to update the .exe two times. It’s not simple: On some devices like a phone, when you have a corrupt cache, you just re-initialize it, and that’s it. On the console, it’s not that easy because you have bigger downloads and it takes longer. So the issue was fixed, and we shouldn’t see it again.

Jorg – Let’s talk about why we did all this. We are pretty clear that we need to spend a good amount of time flighting sim updates. In Sim Update 9, we locked the code a month early, fixed bugs, and then we flighted it for a month. During that month, we had tens of thousands of people playing. From those people, we never saw this bug. And the bug came in because we are trying to make world updates client-less, so we don’t have to update the client, which enables us to lengthen the sim update flightings. That’s the actual goal. So we were quite surprised that the background download caused problems. We were very confident because the feedback from the Sim Update 9 flight was really good. Then we put it out on Xbox and it really didn’t work. And then Asobo, within four hours, stopped the bleeding, and then we fixed the bug since then.

Jorg – But that is all just upon reflection: It’s just because we are going just too frantic. An update a month – and the team had said that to me for a while – an update a month basically does not give us enough time to test it. So we tried to elongate the time. But even that might not be enough. So we are most likely going to slow down the frequency of sim updates quite a bit. It might also affect the world updates. And with that, we’re going to get increased stability and more time. And then, it’s kind of what I said before: Flighting is key. There is no way – it’s kind of like Windows, they don’t test every app that’s on Windows. We can’t test every add-on there is. It’s impossible: There’s thousands already. So we just need more time. And so you will see a slight slowdown on our frequency, and an elongation of the flights. And then, please participate in the flights, and we’ll make sure that everything is stable. By the way, apologies that this happened. We feel terrible; I hope you know this. When our sim crashes, we feel very responsible. It was completely unforeseen, otherwise clearly we would have not shipped it. But just give us a little more time.

FPS/GPU in Menus - Timestamp

Jayne – In the last Q&A, we brought up the high FPS [frames per second] count and GPU [graphics processing unit] load in the sim. We talked about using Vsync to help mitigate it. Some users were already using Vsync but it maxes out the GPU, anyway. At the core, it was more of an environmental and electricity price issue. So, at the moment, if you go to the Content Manager, the GPU usage does drop dramatically. So we were wondering, is there a way to apply this to the menu or another option to reduce the FPS just in the menus?

Seb – So what we’ve done is we have added an experimental option that is going to be in the Options menu in developer mode, which is going to be called Low Power Mode. When you enable this, your frame rate will drop quite a bit. So, we tested this on a few PCs. GPU and CPU [central processing unit] usage is divided by four, so my CPU was 50%; it goes down to 10 or 12%. My GPU went down from 20% to 5%. My CPU frequency was at 4.5 GHz. It went to down 3 GHz, sometimes 2-something. So it reduces the load a lot. Frame rate goes down. I was like at 50 fps; it goes down to 15-20. It’s really meant to be a low-performance, low-power mode. It’s great if you idle. It’s not going to give you a great experience in terms of frame rate, etc. But I think the requirement was really, “Hey, I just want the power to drop. I don’t need an extremely high frame rate.” This is going to give you 15-20 fps, but the power consumption is going to go down a lot. It’s not in the sim menu; it’s a developer mode menu. Anybody can enable it, still. But it’s experimental and we will collect feedback if you like it or not, and make it better if it needs tweaks, and then publish it in the next sim update. This will become available in Sim Update 10, and based on feedback, we will make it a core option in Sim Update 11.

Runway Spawn Points at Hold Short Lines - Timestamp

Jayne – I know last time we talked about this, Martial, you mentioned you don’t know if we will take away the [runway] waiting point as a default spawning point because for newcomers, it might be hard to understand that you are not starting the flight in the alignment of the track. So it’s something we’re talking about. Is there anything you can clarify, here, about the original question?

Martial – Yes, everybody knows that now. So we followed the thread in the forums. And there’s plenty of good ideas there, and basically, putting by default a user at the waiting points, we could prevent those people from spawning when you’re about to land, but it’s not sufficient because we are talking about newcomers, we’re talking about beginners that don’t know that perhaps you should follow some procedures and rules not to go to the track before people are landed. So it won’t solve all solutions, so we are thinking about a solution in two steps:

  1. Allow some users to be spawned onto the waiting point if they want to.
  2. The other solution is another system to hide people on the track when you are about to land when you’re on final.

So it should solve all the situations, here. Hey guys, if you have got some other ideas, please note them in the forums in the thread so we can take the best decision here.

Seaplane Water Handling - Timestamp

Jayne – In the last Q&A, there was a question about seaplane water handling improvements. We asked for more details: “As more and more seaplanes come out, will we see improvements in this area?” There was a very long, great list provided. I know, Seb, you took a look at that. Wondering if you have an update on that.

Seb – Yeah, it’s a long list. We looked at it, added some of the stuff to the backlog. We actually did an iteration pass on water behavior. (I think it was end of last summer?) So the water plane behavior at MSFS launch was pretty much exactly the FSX water plane behavior. And we did one improvement step last summer. So yeah, we’ve seen the list of requests. We looked at it. It’s great because it’s been broken down into different pieces. We will prioritize and integrate that into our future updates. Probably not Sim Update 10 because that’s a bit too short. But starting with Sim Update 11.

Chat question - In clarifying the low FPS menu, will that experimental dev option that we plan on coming out just affect the menus or everything? - Timestamp

Seb – You can turn it on and off whenever you want. In the menus, in the sim. It’s an option at the top. You turn it on, you turn it off. And whenever you do that, it just reduces the workload on the system a lot, but you lose frame rate obviously. If we could do that without losing frame rate or quality, we would do it, anyway. But you can turn it on and off very quickly, very easily. So if you only wanted it in the menus, you can turn it on, and once you launch the sim, you can turn it off. Maybe later, once it becomes an option, we could assign it to a key so you can easily turn it on and off. We welcome to your feedback. We’ve tested it on a few PCs: Economy is divided by 4 on the system. We have not had a system where we were at 100% CPU or something, and so I don’t know what it does on these systems. But yeah, we can make it more convenient. There is no magic way to reduce energy consumption without reducing either frame rate or quality. Quality you can already do in the menus. You can reduce the graphics quality and if your graphics quality goes below, your GPU will go below the CPU load, and your GPU is not going to consume as much.

Martial – People are asking, “Why not simply [automatically] trigger the low FPS mod in the menu?” So we’ve got this option right now. It’s going to be tested by you guys.

Seb – You can turn it on and off. Oh, you want it automatic? (Martial – Yes.) And some people are going to want it in the cockpit and some people…that’s a bit maybe too much. If it’s just a keypress you can turn it on and off very easily. So, we’ll see what the feedback is.

Martial – Yes, exactly. At least that’s the option and you can discover if it’s the right way of doing that.

Forums question – Now that Marketplace 2.0 has been released for some time, is the current interface planned to remain static for the foreseeable future? Or are other updates planned to introduce new features, such as user comments, a top feature section, methods of contacting the developer, invoices indicating the product purchased, or a simpler refunds process? - Timestamp

Jorg – There’s a lot. So Marketplace 2.0, the feedback we’ve had is actually really positive. We actually did a user test. So I think we hear that the UI is better. And these other things that were just mentioned, I wouldn’t expect them, frankly, this year. That team is working on some other infrastructure issues right now. But I think we are aware of all the things that were just mentioned. And I would say, most of them are targeted somewhere for 2023. Some of them are a slippery slope, frankly. With long comments, we’re not sure that we want to do this, honestly. We think the rating system actually works pretty well. But in general, think about a Marketplace 3.0 somewhere next year. Maybe late next year, even.

Chat question – What is Microsoft doing to combat piracy for developers? - Timestamp

Martial – We’ve got partners that have access to several layers of security for this. For every plane, every content that is delivered by the Store, there is a DRM [Digital Rights Management]. So, maybe sometimes people get bothered by that, but at least it helps the people who create planes to be protected from wild copies. So it is included, by default, in the asset that is sold in our store. Why that? It’s because it’s directly linked to the system the store works on. And it’s very hard to use a system used outside of this store. So it’s the choice we’ve been taking.

Jorg – Yeah, that’s exactly the problem. Plenty of folks who run other stores have asked us if we could extend our copy protection to their stores, and it doesn’t really work. So, some of them roll their own. They are more or less successful. Sometimes, I look at some of the freeware share sites, and stuff shows up ridiculously quickly after it was launched, so it makes me a little bit sad because the developer doesn’t make any money. They poured their hearts into these things. Ours is safe, and we have a team that is constantly updating that. For other stores, we don’t think we have a solution for them, unfortunately.

Chat question – Do we have an update on the issue for Xbox users where avionics screens go black during long-haul flights? - Timestamp

Martial – We are still working on that. It’s very annoying, and I’m very sorry for that.

Jorg – We think we have a lead, right?

Martial – Yes. We would love to get you another answer.

Seb – I’ve seen an interesting question about the A320, if it’s going to get improvements because Xbox users don’t have an alternative A320. - Timestamp

Seb – We keep fixing small quality-of-life or bug issues all the time. There have been some fixes on the A320 in Sim Update 10. And with pretty much every sim update, there are fixes on different planes. And yes, Sim Update 10 has a few for the A320. And based on feedback we get, if there are issues, we fix them. For example, one of them is the autopilot nose dive when you are close to flare on final. There are fixes on ground effect making it too “floaty”. Many little bugs, I would say.

Jorg – Something to add. We had a pretty long discussion about that exact topic, the A320. How far should we do this? Fenix just did a great one. FlyByWire has done a great job modding. They opted not to come to the Xbox store, which kind of bummed me out. They went out of our Marketplace altogether for whatever reason. That’s a choice: Should we spend our time doing similar things that they did, or even exceed what they did, or should we move on? That’s a good discussion. We, at that point in time, said, “There is a freeware version that is great, and if people really want that, they can get that.” But it’s just on PC. So this is a strategic choice we have to make, and I am quite interested in getting some feedback on this. So maybe we could put something in the forums. How do we spend our time? Do we chase some of those things, or do we fix other things? It’s just a matter of priority.

Martial – And regarding other planes, we are still working on putting WASM [WebAssembly] on Xbox. We are making some progress here, and hopefully it will come soon. So it will help us to bring more planes to Xbox. It’s a long road.

Forums question – What are the future improvements for VR pilots? - Timestamp

Martial – I think we talked about that a bit on the last Q&A. We’ve decided to change the structure on the VR. We added a VR team that were doing some VR when we started to work on VR. Why did we do that choice? It was because we needed some people dedicated to this way of doing the sim because it was starting from scratch, and it was a pretty huge amount of work to do. And now, we are thinking that the best way of doing VR is to merge this team and the core team. So that’s what we’ve been doing for the past month. Now, VR is not like another way of doing the sim. It’s part of the experience. So if you walk into the offices here, you will see headsets everywhere. So basically, when we’re doing new functionality or when we’re doing some improvements we are bringing (e.g., UI performance, new things), VR will be tested while we are doing the feature. So it’s now considered a platform. We have PC, Xbox, and now we have VR and xCloud. So every time we are doing something, it has to be properly tested and developed using VR mode. So hopefully, this will help us to improve the quality of the VR experience. And we are still working on some improvements and I think we will get some with DLSS [Deep Learning Super Sampling] and FSR [FidelityFX Super Resolution] coming soon.

Forums question – Could you spend more time on fixing very small, but annoying bugs? For example, the drone camera’s undesirable rotation. - Timestamp

Jayne – Could we talk a little bit about how we approach small bugs?

Seb – There have actually been fixes on undesirable rotations on the camera in Sim Update 9. So maybe there are different things. But we keep fixing small things, as I said earlier. Every sim update brings hundreds of small fixes. Anything that’s brought to our attention and filed. We’re burning through these. So maybe there’s something else on the camera. Probably other issues. So we do that all the time. It’s just a report and maybe some of this doesn’t get enough visibility or it’s further down the road. But yeah, we keep doing that all the time.

Chat question – Will an in-game livery editor ever be coming for Xbox users? - Timestamp

Jorg – Or any users! We talk about it. Again, if you are just reading the chat, some people say, “Well, fix the stability issues and performance problems people run into.” And there’s new features like this. It’s all a balance. We’ve always said that this is a ten year road, and we are at the beginning of that. So, do we want/do I think a livery editor is cool? Do we think this is the highest priority at this moment? Definitely not. So, we’ll do it at some point but not right now.


Hans Hartmann, development partner, ATR 42/72-600 - Timestamp

Jayne – We do have another guest we would love to introduce:

Jorg – As promised!

Hans Hartmann – Hello! I am a third-party developer. I’ve been doing this for 23 years, now. I’m very happy to be allowed to do this specific project with Microsoft and Asobo. I’ve been a programmer all my life. Didn’t do much else, so that’s pretty much all you need to know about me.

Jayne – I know everyone is definitely itching for an update on the ATR. So, let’s hear a little about that!

Hans – So, the project started earlier this year, as you might know. We are currently in the middle of everything. So it’s not yet in any testing phase, and I certainly cannot talk about a kind of release date. So everything you see here is preliminary and it might or might not change before the product is ready for release. So first, let’s start with what is in there: There will be 3 different models: the ATR 42-600, 72-600 passenger version, and also the 72-600F Freighter version.

Exterior and Interior Model - Timestamp

Hans – So, let’s start with the exterior model. Everything is state of the art. Everything is animated. Doors are animated. Even the little documents flap. The captain’s side window. We included the new LED lights, and that’s pretty much about the exterior model. The freighter and passenger versions, of course, have different models for this.

Hans – Next is the interior model: It’s the same level of detail as the exterior model. For the first time in official play like this, a walkable cabin is included. This goes for the freighter version as well as the normal passenger version. Everything that opens or closes or is animated is usable. Sun visors, arm rests, and again, the document door, which is all included. The aircraft has an electronic flight bag (which is not visible in this picture). This might make hardware designers, people who will try to connect hardware, quite happy. All controls will be accessible through local variables. So you are not limited to the actual events that are available in the control options.

Flight Dynamics - Timestamp

Hans – The flight model, like so many other aircraft I have been involved with, has been Alexander Metzger once more. I cannot say much to this thing because there’s not really any data I can give you. It’s the [Pratt & Whitney] PW127M engine that’s simulated. And the flight model, of course, based on the modern flight model and this includes realistic ITT [inter-turbine temperature] behavior, realistic fuel flow, and so on. All within a few percent of real values.

Systems Simulation - Timestamp

Hans – So first, everything is up to the latest ATR standards, which is called STD3. The checklist system is absolutely completely included, as you can see in the screenshot. (This is an example from the takeoff checklist.) What is also included are the latest changes or updates to the ATR models, mainly the NAMS [New Air Management System] pressurization system. And the latest digital gauges for cabin temperature and landing elevation, as well. The aircraft has a full Thales FMS [Flight Management System] 220 system, like the real one. Two MCDUs [Multipurpose Control and Display Unit] in this case. ATR provided us with a ton of PDF documents, which really were an extensive documentation pretty much more than everyone could read during the development time. But it’s very helpful. Of course, we will include what’s already been announced: There will be a terrain awareness system and a weather radar. As I said, we are on a good way. The project is on schedule, but it’s a little early to talk about release dates.

Jayne – I’m seeing a lot of questions in chat. But everyone’s really excited.

Jorg – Hans, could you speak to how close the relationship is with ATR?

Hans – Very close. This is the second time I have personally worked with ATR, and we are in permanent direct contact with them. We can ask questions directly, even if something is not clear from the documentation. So that’s pretty nice.

Chat question – Is it going to be a high-fidelity plane?

Hans – Yes, it will be.

Jorg – Is this going to be on Xbox, Hans?

Hans – I would say yes. It depends on the WebAssembly [WASM] thing on Xbox. If that is solved, then the ATR will be no problem. We are doing absolutely everything to SDK [software development kit] specifications. So Xbox users can get the ATR as well.

Chat question – Will it be making use of CFD [computational fluid dynamics], soft body, and new prop physics?

Hans – Yes, it will be. It will work based on the latest updates.

Chat question – Who’s making this?

Hans – Asobo, Hans Hartmann, Alexander Metzger, and Benjamin Erd.

Jayne – Thank you for that update. We cannot share any details, but it’s great to see the work that’s been done so far on the ATR. Thank you so much, Hans, for that update!

Forums question – Is the team planning to add camera shake at touchdown? This effect is missing from the sim and would be very important. - Timestamp

Seb – Yes, Sim Update 10 is going to have camera shake at touchdown. It was really a small change. We already already have full camera physics with inertia and all sorts of physics calculations. It’s just that the parameters were very soft and not visible at all. So we tuned it a little bit better. We didn’t want to break the experience when you pull a lot of Gs, which is also a vertical force. We also wanted to keep the cockpit usable/readable. So yeah, you have much more noticeable shake if you do a kiss landing, but if you do a hard landing, it’s a much bigger shake of the camera. So that’s going to be Sim Update 10. It’s being tested right now.

Jayne – Will this be a default built-in option or a toggle?

Seb – It’s the same – It was already there it was just so soft that nobody could notice it. I think it was a 1 mm shake. Now it’s 2 cm, which is what about what your head would do.

Chat question – Is DLSS coming with Sim Update 10? - Timestamp

Martial – It’s been tested. So far, it’s running well. It’s the process we were talking about because we don’t want to rush. Sometimes, we were pretty confident about some features on different configurations for different use cases, and it was not a good thing. So we are going to push that into flighting and if everybody is pleased, it will be pushed it to everybody. But we don’t want to rush that. It could be a disaster for the user. Hopefully it will not. As soon as we can, as soon as it has been validated by the test plan we’ve got.

Chat question – Can we get more information on Sim Update 10? - Timestamp

Martial – Maybe I can give more details. Some of the features that have been asked for have been implemented and are being tested:

  • Multi-screen, for instance.
  • We talked about DLSS.
  • We are working mostly on DirectX 12 so we can have performance we have under DirectX 11. At the moment, I think we are off by 20%.
  • We are working on WASM.
  • We are working on a new cloud logic that will bring more resolution near to the ground.
  • We are doing some improvements on bush trips.
  • We are doing something important for accessibility:
    • So we are doing some modification of the UI on the menus so people can use the main menu with the keypad, which is super important from an accessibility point of view.
    • We are also improving the screen reader for accessibility, too.
  • We have added some key bindings:
    • Some people were asking to be able to remove just by pressing one key the [taxi] ribbon
    • and the [multiplayer] nameplates, the sticker with the names
  • We are working with Working Title to bring some VFR Map improvements and some improvements on the [G1000] NXi.

These are the kinds of things we want to bring.

Jorg – When does the flighting start? Pretty soon. It’s kind of what I said earlier: We might extend it. We had a date in mind for Sim Update 10. We might move it by a few weeks to allow for enough flighting. There’s a bunch of really meaty features coming with it, and we need this to be thoroughly tested by everybody.

Martial – I’m pretty sure I’ve missed some things.

Jorg – Bush trips came earlier. There were quite a bit of things. We are aware that things were unfortunately pretty broken. Maybe not 100% of all bugs were fixed because some of them are so fringy, but most of them are.

Jayne – You said that in the last Q&A, you said you might be able to give more details about multi-monitor support. Will it be present in Sim Update 10 or a basic feature? - Timestamp

Martial – At least, it will be present in the flighting. It’s done for the rendering part. We’re still having some issues with the interaction model when it splits on multiple screens. But it will definitely be in the flighting, and we will gather some feedback there. And if it working well enough, if it can be shared with everybody, it will be pushed in Sim Update 10, yes.

Forums question – Wind gusts are missing from live weather at the moment. When will gusts be implemented? - Timestamp

Seb – Sim Update 10. We are testing it right now. So we are injecting live weather gust values from either the live weather data coming from Meteoblue, or if there is a METAR close that has gust data. I tested it today quite extensively. Today, there were three or four airports that have gusts: Dodge City Airport, Atlanta, but in France there were none. So there’s not always gust data in METARs. Maybe because they’re too small. So when there is no data, we use the other live weather data source which has gust information, and it’s actually pretty close to what METARs say when there is a METAR. And if there is METAR data, we blend it in when you are close the airport, close to the ground seamlessly. And it works pretty well. The only difference, I would say – and it’s important for the flighting – is that it’s going to add gusts to live weather. So I remember the turbulence issue, which has been added, too. So if there are gusts in the region in live weather, you’re gonna have gusts. Dodge City this morning had 11 or 12 knots of wind, and gusts close to 30 knots. And it’s pretty hard to land when you have that much wind. So, we’ll have to do a little bit of testing. I don’t know if it’s going to cause a problem or not because when gusts are too strong in live weather, the only thing you can do is go to a preset. We don’t have an option right now to turn them off in the weather menu. Maybe that’s something we may have to do now that we have gusts. We’ll see.

Martial – On the chat, in Sim Update 10, we’re also getting an option that allows you to trigger whether you want the plane next to you to be hidden or not. So for those who want to do some close flights. [Jayne – Yes, the ghosting.] Yes, there will be an option to turn that on or off.

Chat question – Could we re-explore the potential for private servers or perhaps bigger group sizes in the future? We have sensitive events that would benefit to partition away from from those who try to ruin the fun for others. We had a really great event on Sunday and a few griefers on there. Do you have any thoughts on that? - Timestamp

Jorg – The private sessions are limited to 8. It’s something we need to look into.

Martial – Yes, on the network layer. I want to do some improvements there. We’re working on that.

Chat question – The overwhelming majority of issues I see on the forums are about stuttering, performance degradation in long haul flights, and low frame rates on the ground. Could you acknowledge and respond to these issues and what the future is for these issues? - Timestamp

Seb – I think we already responded to these in the previous Q&A and the one before. We said our QA [quality assurance team] is doing a lot of long-haul flights. I’ve done a few, myself. I didn’t get any slow-downs, stutters whatsoever. We’re still investigating. Martial, I don’t know if you still have a cause or anything.

Jorg – We know about one thing. We think it’s related to the VFR Map. We know that. That is the best lead we have so far and that’s being looked at.

Martial – Yes, and just to tell you, we’ve got like a wall of bills running. Next to my offices, there’s Xboxes and PCs running the game with long flights all the time so we can gather information and try to find the issues.

Jorg – I think there’s another thing. We are going to look a little bit more into third-party addons. Because we have a system in place that is handling it when you are low on memory. We really need to look into this more. And I have some real worries about this. We see some airports that are like 8 GB. It’s not quite clear how that is going to be a smooth frame rate experience. So we’re going to spend more time.

Forums question – Do we get an ATC [air traffic control] overhaul together with the redesign of the AI [artificial intelligence] traffic system? - Timestamp

Marital: Overall, we are still trying to add layers of improvements. So now, we are working on improving the vectoring not for Sim Update 10 but just after. Just to improve the ATC vectoring. And also, we want to make use of the MSAs for minimum safe altitude. So that should include on the flight planning formation, and it would change the way the ATC is using the flight plans, also. So layers of improvement. No reboots, I would say.

Chat question – Is there an open telemetry mode or flag that we could set to submit quality data to assist in various issues and bugs, versus just a text summary or the steps to reproduce? - Timestamp

Martial – We are already collecting some telemetry. We are trying to put new information in the crash dumps, so when people are enabling the fact that we can collect the crash dumps, we will try to get more information from that. (I think we already talked about that in the last Q&A.) So we are already collecting some data. The best way of improving something is to get some reproduction steps. Once we get reproduction steps, it is super easy to reproduce the issue, and once it is has been fixed, it is super easy for us to check that it has been fixed. Those reproduction steps – it’s not something you can guess from collecting telemetry. Or it should be like super precise telemetry, close to a video capture, I would say. So it helps, but it is not the ultimate solution.

Forums question – Could you explain what factors are currently taken into account in the thermal updraft model, and what are the future plans for realistic soaring weather? - Timestamp

Seb – In Sim Update 9, it computes the number of watts of energy received by the sun, which will depend on whether it’s day or night, how high the sun is in the sky, how thick of an atmosphere is crossed by the sunlight, if it’s humid, if there’s haze, if there are clouds. So there’s an amount of watts remaining that hits the ground at a certain angle. Then you know how much energy you get. Then, it calculates all sorts of things like how much energy is reflected, how much is kept. This transforms into heat. And then you know how much your ground is heating up. When your ground is significantly warmer than the air, it builds up hot air, which then wants to go up. And here, you have your thermals. Right now, this is Sim Update 9. What we are adding with Sim Update 10 is to make this a little bit more comfortable. We are blending in the wind factor, so that when you have absolutely zero wind, you will get fewer thermals. I know there have been a lot of requests when we added thermals, “Hey, I’m putting wind to 0 or just 1. How come I get so many thermals?” When you have low wind speeds, the thermals are going to be much less than before. If you want strong thermals, put at least 5 knots of wind or something. You don’t have to put a lot, just not close to zero. We also make the turbulence a little weaker at high altitudes (20,000 feet and above). You will see fewer thermals in Sim update 10. You will see more gusts, however, so be careful!

Something we are currently working on that will not be for Sim Update 10: The problem with this system is that it works very locally and generates local thermals that don’t combine when they go up. The air that goes up somewhere else needs to go back down. It doesn’t create any vortices, turbulence on the side of thermals, anything like that yet. So there’s research work going on that took the CFD of the airplanes and expanded that 20-ish km around the plane. So that’s a really, very, very, very big CFD running and it goes pretty high as well. And we hope that sometime this year, we’ll to get that to simulate the airflows in the atmosphere to get nicer updrafts that can combine so that only bigger fields get updrafts when you go higher up, that you get vortices with air going back down, and all sorts of different local wind effects that we don’t really get from live weather. Live weather gives us wind gusts and direction, but it’s something a bit more for the area.

Jorg – Hey Seb, there was a question about thermals taking snow into account. - Timestamp

Seb – It takes the ground albedo. I don’t know if it has the snow layer. We will have to check that. And also, you already have mountains going up and down, like when the wind hits the hill, which will also get improved once we have a broader simulation. But it currently doesn’t look real. So Sim Update 11, maybe, but not 10.

Forums question – The simulator makes use of plane substitutions, replacing the multiplayer plane that the player doesn’t own with a model on the player’s PC or Xbox. Currently, many planes end up as a TBM or Bonanza despite sometimes owning the same plane or even the same liveries. Are there plans for Asobo to revisit the system or integrate it with the upcoming AI database of plane models and airline liveries? - Timestamp

Martial – We know we’ve got to improve the system, especially for the moment if you’re using an F/A-18 or some other jets. It’s really not good. So we know that we’ve got to work on that. It’s always the same kind of patterns that we were talking about between bringing new stuff and fixing. But we know that we’ve got to improve the systems.

Forums question – Could we have a restore or backup feature for graphics or sim settings, camera views? As we have all experienced, sim updates sometimes do funny things. It would be great if we could reset or repair those settings, profiles, or views. - Timestamp

Martial – Yes, it’s something we would like to bring. The problem is, if we are doing that with the system we have right now, it would not be compliant, and we would still have to improve the synchronization and the cloud between PCs and consoles. So if we do that, it would have to be a drastic change. So, it needs to be thought through, and we would need to be very careful. We have read the thread with Damien [Cuzacq] and we think it’s super-interesting. And it’s definitely something we would like want to bring in the future.

Jorg – I see it in the forums: This is the balance. People ask for new things, and I think it’s totally legitimate to say, "There are some things that are broken right now. Go fix those first. And I just want to say, we all agree. We all want to have a perfectly stable, high frame rate, no-stutters sim before we add more stuff. For example, somebody was asking about airplanes and air traffic. We’ve modeled a ton of different models. But if we just add them now, it’s just going to make certain things worse. We need to understand a root cause, as somebody just correctly said: What are some of the things that are detracting from the experience right now before we keep adding more stuff?

Chat question – What are some improvements that are coming for ground friction and handling? - Timestamp

Seb – Four new parameters are coming in Sim Update 10. Two of them are going to give the possibility to eliminate or at least tune, but we decided to cancel it out on our plane where we tested it. Basically, an old feature that we kept from FSX. FSX was canceling out all crosswind below a certain speed. At 50 knots, you had 100% crosswind, and then it was fading out to 10 knots and then it was 0. The problem is, while you take off or land, the crosswind keeps changing. And it’s very unnatural. So this is something where, in the parameters for the plane you can say at what speeds you want this to happen. So on the Cessna 172, we’re testing this, so we basically canceled the effect completely. So you have a 100% crosswind even if you are parked, or if you go very slow. If there is a lot of wind, it can actually spin your plane around, at first. So that’s one of the new parameters.

Seb – And the other one, two parameters are there to allow you to control how sticky your wheels are when they are rolling fast. So when you are already going pretty fast in the takeoff, the sim was considering the wheels to be pretty much on rails as if there were slick tires from a Formula 1 car. Very sticky. And only the weight…so if you pull on the yoke, your plane gets a bit lighter. And the weight goes down, which reduces friction a little bit. But it’s still static. So it means that as long as you don’t push to the side strong enough, you’re still on rails. And so, there’s two parameters that allow you to make it so that the plane drifts off. The wheels are spinning so if you push to the side, it’s going to drift off a little bit, especially with plane tires that are not anything but racing tires. So we tested that with taildraggers. Taildraggers will always be hard to land and takeoff. But it’s a lot more natural and easy with that. So this is something we implemented on the Extra 330 for Sim Update 10. Also, plane makers have examples of how this works, so they can use it, too. We will deploy on more based on feedback. These four parameters are a first step on improving the ground handling. So more stuff will come afterwards. But Sim Update 10 is going to be these four.

Roadmap Update

Chat question – We have a question about the Local Legend IV status update - Timestamp

Jorg – I’ve been looking through my emails. The plane is done, and it’s been done for a few weeks now. To our great surprise, Leonardo, who owns the license, has not signed the license agreement we’ve been talking about for over a year. So we are all a little bit surprised. Mike [Johnson], who has been killing himself to get the plane in a great state is sort of like, “What’s happening?” So we think it’s a day-to-day thing. I’m literally expecting it any moment. Because they’ve said there are two people who have to sign it at Leonardo, and we’re waiting for the second signature. And then we have to make a decision: Do we put it out on a Tuesday? Obviously, it missed coinciding with World Update 9: Italy and Malta. It’s imminent; I just can’t give you a date.

Jorg – Leonardo, the Italian conglomerate. Not Leonardo Software House.

Jayne – We are on our roadmap slide here, Jorg, if there is anything else you wanted to talk through on this.

Jorg – I just wanted to actually say that about the Local Legend: Well, the plane is done. It’s quite fun. Our test department gave a very positive assessment of it. So it’s coming. We just did a lot of updates with World Update 9, Sim Update 9. Now Maverick, today. June is going to be interesting. So pay some attention to what is happening in the next two weeks, three weeks.

Jayne – We did get an interesting question. There are definitely more questions in the forums. We usually pick a certain top amount. Question was, would there be any way they could get text answers or replies if there are some interesting questions you want to answer post these Q&As?

Jorg – What we do do…I try to read it while we’re going. But Jayne sends me the log and I read it all again. I have no hesitation to answer some of this stuff in the forums. It ought to be answered. That’s why everybody’s here. It’s physically impossible to get through it all!

Jayne – Sounds like we should probably wrap it up, then. We appreciate you, chat. We’ll try to follow up perhaps in the forums with a couple more answers to some great questions we’re seeing. Until then, we hope you have a fantastic rest of May. And we will see you a month or so from now. We hope you enjoy, of course, the new Top Gun DLC, as well. Thanks, everyone!


Big thank you to our moderator, @N316TS, who kindly volunteered to transcribe this Q&A.