MSFS, Asobo and Xbox - A Year from Casual Perspective

Hello.

I want to say that if you stopped by to read this, thank you, I appreciate you, even if your stance on MSFS, Asobo, Microsoft and Xbox is different than mine.

This post has no TL;DR either.

This post is not about what MSFS is. To me MSFS is whatever you want it to be, simulation or arcade. To me it’s a fun game played by someone who has no idea how to operate more complex aircraft (but I promise I try my hardest), and does not own any peripherials besides mouse and keyboard. I’m sorry if that control method offends you. It’s just how I prefer to fly at the moment.

This post is about my experience with this product and everyone surrounding it, how I felt about it, how I felt about Asobo (Seb, Martial, David, Jorg and everyone from Q&A’s), as well as the whole process behind it. I don’t expect anyone to agree with me, and probably I will get a lot of comments that disagree with me, but that’s just the nature of how things are. This also perfectly encapsulates the game itself. People disagreeing with each other over things, and even I were harsh sometimes towards others simply because I misunderstood their point of view.

Back in 2019 when I first saw the trailer for MSFS on the E3 2019, I went silent. I wasn’t cheering. It’s not that I wasn’t happy, but I was trying to process what was being shown. You can call it disbelief. At first I thought the trailers were CGI but they were not. Then I remembered Watch_Dogs and Ubisoft, how they downgrade their games for release and my excitement fizzled out, making me only cautiously optimistic.

Until release I followed the game closely. I’ve read articles, but I was cautiously optimistic knowing in the back of my mind that it may be yet another flop. Until the game came out in 2020 I didn’t know what to think despite many trailers that released. Then I’ve played it. 2 hours passed. I’ve played it some more. 6 hours passed. I’ve played it more and more. 50 hours passed. I’ve played it more, more and even more. I sit at 300+ hours in this game right now, and somehow, even if I do play it less, a year after release, something pulls me back in. Despite all the problems game had with updates all the bugs and glitches it had, it pulls me back in and makes me spend those 4-5 hours in the air, until I inevitably go play something else.

This did not happen with any game in the past 8 years. The last Ubisoft Game I’ve purchased was Far Cry 3 week after it’s release. I did not play later games from that franchise, because they felt like copy and paste with overwhelming amount of content that felt meaningless in the end, culminating in the absolute slogfest that is Far Cry 6. I did not play any new EA game, none of the Call Of Duty titles from Activision, nothing from Warner Brothers or even Bethesda. Just nothing from major AAA publishers. I kept it small, to smaller games, like Euro Truck Simulator 2 and American Truck Simulator for example. Somehow MSFS, despite being just a game to me with exploration in mind, didn’t make me physically tired from looking at all the “cool stuff” and “mission markers” on the map. Because it doesn’t have any. Because it doesn’t need any.

I grew tired of open world genre. Horizon Zero Dawn came to PC? I did not care. I bought it, saw how much stuff you have to do, how game overwhelmed me with mechanics at once and in the first hour I just gave up and refunded it. I roll my eyes at the new Assassins Creed games. I roll my eyes at Call Of Duty Vanguard that apperantly is worse than last year’s offering. To me MSFS is good as it is. It doesn’t overwhelm me with story or progression system. It doesn’t show trilions of mission markers or collectibles I have to find to have enough XP to buy that next best plane that I will inevitably replace with better one, once the number on screen lets me. I just sit back, pick an airport, set real time weather and time, pick if I want IFR or VFR and set off to do whatever I please. I am not tired of MSFS. You wanna know why? It’s simple. It doesn’t overwhelm you. It welcomes you with a 3D model of entire planet. If it could talk it would tell you “See that mountain in Switzerland? You can go there!” Actually, it tells you on loading screens “You can go ANYWHERE in the World!”.

MSFS to me, is what Next Gen is all about. Not in gameplay mechanics or mission structure, but how believable everything is. No matter what, this feels like Next Gen title, not in just graphics but what it does. It uses technologies such as streaming large amounts of data effortlessly to the end user to make me stop and admire the fantastic views that no other game gave me. It broke boundaries and made me go “how in the world did they do it?”. I still ask this myself each time I return for those 3-5 hours to fly. It just does not get old, no matter how much I look at it and play it. It’s only reinforced by attitude Asobo has.

This game (to ME it’s a game, but if it is a simulator to you, great), sure has had it’s share of issues due to patching. However observing and analyzing people like Jorg or even Seb, I can tell they care. Seb is a good example of that. People make fun of him that he looks “sleepy” on streams when he isn’t talking. That’s because he is CEO and is probably a very laid back man who doesn’t want to seem intrusive and keeps to himself. He is thinking. A lot. However each time it is his turn to explain something, his eyes light up and he starts talking about things like there’s no tomorrow.

He explains how things work, he shows you videos and comparisons, he constantly says more than he needs to, because he cares and wants to. It’s his passion and even as CEO of Asobo, compared to other CEO’s I know, he knows more than he has time to tell you. I would actually give anything for 2 hour session with just Seb as he tells me how the clouds are generated. How the real-time Ai works. How the flight model works. Deep dives into each section of the game, dissecting it with the tech-jargon that is just pleasing to listen to. It’s the same story with Martial, who even though keeps his responses very coehisive and short, still probably would like to talk more about it and I’d sure as heck would listen to him all day about this.

Then we get to Jorg. People already made conspiracy theories that his upbeat and cheerful demeanor is fake facade. I don’t think so personally. I spoke to him over email. We talked about old planes being in MSFS and he flat out said:

I agree about historical planes and the fact that we can help preserve these machine digitally is one of the things I am very interested in. You’ll hear a lot more about this in the coming months.

He didn’t give me a PR talk. He didn’t say “We are interested and we endevor to make the best product yada yada.”. He got down to my level, and said that HE personally wants this to happen.

It did happen. We got Junkers Ju52, and soon Antonov AN2. He fulfilled a promise he made, by delivering something in future. That future is now. Doesn’t matter if they had it planned back then, however I sent this email waaaaay before Junkers was even revealed.

All the free world updates that normally would cost hundreds of dollars in other Flight Sims tell me a whole lot about terms they want to be on with the community. The fact that on November 18th we get 5 (FIVE) new aircraft, FREE OF CHARGE, tells me that all they care about is pleasing customers despite sometimes faltering in their promises and glitches that crop up in updates.

You may say “oh you’ve been brainwashed by freebies and talk” - I simply don’t care about that. I analyze things, I try to take logical approach. In the year 2021 when companies resell you skins they made for last years DLC, this kind of kindness is unprecedented. Sure Microsoft is a company with long history of mistakes and bad behaviour, however the Xbox branch in itself? After Xbox One launch in 2013? They’ve started killing it ever since Phil Spencer took over. The fact that Phil Spencer greenlit MSFS while other CEO’s of other companies are affraid to greenlight anything other than yet another remake of a game, is telling me a whole lot as well about how serious Xbox is about it’s position and reinforcing itself and how they just want people to enjoy their games no matter what platform. It’s just simple things that they do nowadays that stack up for me to make them actually want to give them money because they are, at the end of the day - a business.

MS did almost everything right with MSFS to me. After disaster that was Cyberpunk 2077, I certainly appreciate transparency from everyone involved with this product. It shows that if you are upfront with people who want to buy your product, no matter if it’s large corporation like MS or small indie studio, it goes a long way. In the age where we usually hate large corporations… I don’t really hate Microsoft and Xbox at all. Maybe because as someone once said - “Piracy is always a service problem.”. Microsoft seems to understand that and doesn’t seem to lock down their titles to one store like inevitably even Rockstar did.

My testament to how well Xbox did is that I’ve paid full price for Premium Deluxe Edition for the game, just because of how much of an achievement this game is. The fact that MSFS is trying to be inclusive of casual players like me is a beautiful statement that something can be as complex to handle as starting engines in the real A320, and as simple as grabbing a controller and flying wherever you want to fly. I appreciate that and it doesn’t take away from the fact that when 3RD party planes from PMDG released (DC-6), MSFS became complex for people who look for that kind of intricacy from this product. I even continue to support third parties by carefully picking the best planes released on the platform, even though there’s a lot of bad on the marketplace. I appreciate the support for modding, the fact that Jorg looks for ways to open up Premium Deluxe planes somehow, and how he actually openly supports modders, often mentioning them in Q&A’s. Today even Rockstar and TakeTwo turned their back on modding, while Jorg, a Head of Microsoft Flight Sim, talks about how awesome Salty’s mod is on Q&A, then hires entire mod team (Working Title) to help with the game. That’s astounding.

I acknowledge now, after long thinking, that this product has had many issues and many people saying it was downgraded or buggy thanks to updates. I certainly don’t feel the same way but I see your point. To me the level of downgrades (if there are any) is not as severe as Watch_Dogs back when it was showcase and inevitably released. The bugs that inevitably crop up from the update process are testament to just how complex this game is. That thought is also coming from my friend, someone who has no idea about programming or what it takes, however logic tells him - it couldn’t have been easy. He played MSFS, he bought Premium Deluxe. We play together sometimes. Asobo offered many explanations as to why bugs happen. They seem to struggle with amount of branches they have. It’s understandable to struggle as it’s human nature, since we aren’t perfect machines. I guess even though I am really against buggy releases (looking at you, Rockstar, with your “Definitive Edition Trilogy”), I can understand ultimately just what kind of beast MSFS really is, how it all works together and how much more complex it is than yet another janky remaster from tripe A company.

I guess what I wanted to say in this very long post is - MSFS did something to me and continues to do that something. I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly. It doesn’t have a progression system, mission markers littered across entire map, it doesn’t have collectibles, stupid mechanics or QTE’s… but it has everything else under the hood that even if some features weren’t present at launch like replays - didn’t make me upset that much. That is coming from someone who played FSX as well. This game is only “fly to x, then wherever you want next”. To me MSFS even without missions akin to FSX is just… more overall. Someone has said once that “Less Is More”. It’s true in this case. I’ve played X-Plane, I appreciated how intricate it was, how well modelled the flight model was and I appreciated it’s complexity and planes… but that same complexity told me it wasn’t for me. I’ve tried P3D, but it brought back too many bad memories of FSX and how FSX never got the updates it deserved.

I guess the overall attitude of Asobo, Microsoft, Bing and Xbox is just making this whole ordeal that much better for me. Usually I don’t care for Q&A’s, but I wait for next Asobo Q&A like it’s a new game about to be released, to hear Jorg, Martial, and Seb talk more about this little technical marvel they made with their team.

12 Likes

That wall of text is more monolithic and imposing than the Burj Khalifa. I stoped at ‘there is no TL;DR’ but liked anyway for the effort.

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You should have given Horizon Zero Dawn a bit more of your time. It’s a brilliant game. It’s no surprise that it had sold 10 million copies in its first 2 years before even being released on PC.

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