Live Dev Q&A - May 25th, 2022

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!