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:
- Allow some users to be spawned onto the waiting point if they want to.
- 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.