Initially I had no desire to purchase MSFS2020 due to the naivety surrounding the lack of VR support from a couple years prior, but upon watching the pre-release videos it became apparent that this was something I would like, even on a flat screen. So I bought the Standard version via Steam and was immediately blown away, aside a few first release issues it was essentially everything I’ve ever wanted from a Flight Sim - the Whole World at my fingertips and no need to purchase Regions or Countries on top of the initial Sims purchase (ergo cheaper!).
Having come from a predominately Racing Sim background for the past 15years I was fairly new to Flight Sims, I had dabbled over the years but nothing really grabbed my attention since F-19 Stealth Fighter on the Amiga back in the 90s, more recently War Thunder (VR) was just great fun but nothing I could really sink my teeth into. So this simulation was all relatively new to me, learning how to fly a plane properly from Cold and taxiing to take off, flight and landings with a finger switch for a rudder and all that (I soon got Rudder Pedals off a mate), so I was almost properly flying, aside the flat screen hell but thoroughly enjoying the learning curve in the C152.
But looking back on those first few months it wasn’t all that pretty from a development angle, for sure the technological genius of rendering an entire planet whilst streaming data with awesome looking weather was (and is) an absolute marvel to behold - but the flaws of Asobo/MS started to peak through in abundance. It’s all generally schoolboy stuff and unfortunately still is to this day; Releasing an Update whereby the Sensitivity Page is completely missing (how in Gods name did that get through QA!!?), Live Weather not working on second load of a flight let alone not working at all, the fiasco around the “what lightning in clear skies bug?” during the Live Q&A with the Devs baffled faces, “Spikes” on the terrain, the Flaps issue and next to no communication until 10 days later (something they’ve still not learnt from), the weird Beta Test Team inclusion of which should’ve been there from the very start not 6months later…the list goes on.
Ultimately their genius on one hand was being let down by silly schoolboy errors on the other, how could a Dev studio be so great and yet so poor at the same time?! It baffled the mind then and unfortunately still does today.
Anyway cast your minds back to July 2020 and information regarding VR (which they had now backtracked on), it was as traditional as Asobo/MS themselves would later become with communication being very poor by initially stating it was for the Reverb G2 but not confirming anything else, anyone with WMR would be fine but then what about SteamVR & Oculus?! It was a mess of epic proportions, eventually though when the Testing began and they released the update it was for all and not one sole HMD so at least every VR user was happy.
Alas this was only just the beginning for VR though, on one hand it was good to finally have it, but it was full of issues and quite clearly a rushed “just to get it out there and we’ll come back to it eventually” inclusion. All this after their naivety of not including VR from the very start then back peddling when they realised they’d made a mistake, it screamed (and still screams to this day) of an uncaring attitude, a half-baked cake brought out the oven too early but at least it can feed those that are starving - at least we have their word that they’ll revisit VR later in the year eh?! we’ll see I guess.
In the meantime, issues or no issues, flying in VR was and is epic at times. I’ve enjoyed hundreds of hours in the skies, continuing my learnings, enjoying the experiences, loving the VFR around the planet we call home. The very fact I can go anywhere at anytime and experience it all in VR in total immersion is just fantastic, when it all fits & works well there really is no beating MSFS2020 for me - I love it and cannot get enough, to the point my trusty steering wheel & pedals have gradually gathered more and more dust as the months roll by.
But what have we learnt & received from the Sim and Asobo/MS this past year? That’s the main question I asked myself and if SU5 is anything to go by then it kinda tells me everything I need to know - They’ve not learnt much…
The backward degradation of the graphics, the continuous issues, random CTDs, constantly new bugs breaking something that worked fine previously, the degradation of the VR experience, the poor communication thereafter…need I go on?!
Now don’t get me wrong, I fully understand what a “continuously developed title” is all about, I come from Racing Sims remember where every single Studio works to that way of a Development Plan. This Sim has a 10 year plan as laid out in an interview or Q&A last year, that’s fantastic it really is. It should mean that things can only get better, but in my own personal opinion this first year has not gone forward, it’s gone sideways at best and even backwards to some degree. The Xbox release and SU5 is something of great debate but just the poor PC side of the update, I mean do the Devs even play their own game? are they actually proud of releasing updates riddled with bugs & issues like this? Or should all fingers point to the Overlords at MS for pushing the Xbox release to a specific date, even when the PC Update clearly was rushed out the door?
Having been around games development since the 1990s I can unfortunately say that this has been the worst First year for any game/simulation I’ve been involved with. Yes the technological feat is probably the greatest of any Game/Sim I’ve ever known, but that does not excuse the very poor mistakes that are continuously being made Update after Update after Update. Asobo clearly have no history in Flight Sims, their back catalogue reads like a Disney Game Franchise just looking at it. I’ve long thought that they’re out of their depth with certain aspects of the Simulation itself and I still think that today. But at least they’re learning something in the background, even if we don’t actually reap the rewards of it just yet I think we will eventually but they do need to learn fast.
If anything the inclusion of the Working Title team is testament to Asobo holding their hands up and saying “we need help in this area”, so I hope there’s more to come with that regard, more experienced and knowledgable folk to come onboard and help them achieve their goal is a must in my eyes with a Simulation with this much complexity. I believe they need all the help they can get, as again – in my opinion – in certain areas they are well out of their depth.
Overall it’s been a frustrating experience this past year, it’s had it’s Highs & countless Lows but I for one am determined to carry on supporting (and chastising!) where required as under the skin MSFS2020 has all the makings of what could well become the greatest Flight Sim ever. I still thoroughly enjoy those Flights where no issues pop up, I’m still loving the (albeit numb) VR experience and I’m also loving the group flights with mates when time allows. So in my eyes yes it’s been a rocky first year, but I do have some hope that it’ll only improve from now on…I mean it can’t get any worse than SU5 can it?!
P.S. A quick note to say Thank You to all the 3rd Party Paid/Free Modders & Developers out there, this first year in terms of Mods released has been utterly incredible. The work you all do does not go unnoticed and quite frankly if it wasn’t for you this Sim would’ve died months ago, so from the bottom of my heart Thank You x