• Op-Ed: A Beginners View of Flight Simulator 2020

    A Beginners View of Flight Simulator 2020

    By Neil Birch

    A Beginners View of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

    Welcome to a new era of flight simulation.

    I have been lucky enough to have flown FS2020 for some time now (was a beta tester), and I must admit that my view is still the same as when I first experienced it, and that is WOW!

    I am certainly not an expert on all matters regarding FS2020, I have simply flown it, but I must say, it pretty much worked out of the box for me. In saying that though, this is the first time in my 72 years of existence that no manual was included, which I thought was absolutely ridiculous for such a complex beast.

    I have been around flight simulators since almost the beginning, way back to 1980 in fact, and still have in my little black book, Bruce Artwick's telephone number (the younger generation might not know who he is). I started on the Sinclair Spectrum 48K, the start of a long line of computers, and the simulator was called "Flight" and came on a cassette.

    It consisted (if my memory serves me right) mainly of green squiggly lines. Back then you had to have a good imagination, but I can still remember how cutting edge it was, even back then.

    The successor to the 48K was the Sinclair Spectrum 128K, but I skipped that and went straight to the Commodore 64, which had slightly better graphics. It also enabled me to use subLogic's Flight Simulator II and all the scenery discs which came with it (I purchased a second floppy disc drive especially for it).

    A Beginners View of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

    As many of you will be aware, I love microlights and small aircraft (especially farm strip flying), and so when I moved to FS98, I designed most of the British Isles for it, and was the first person to design a mesh terrain for the UK.

    I then started designing my own scenery named "Farm Strips", being inspired by my late dear friend Bryan Lockyear's, guide book "Farm Strips and Private Airfields Flight Guide". Believe it or not, the UK has no fewer that over 300 grass strips dotted around the country.

    In 2007, like millions of others, I moved to FSX which was a huge leap forward in terms of realism, enhanced further by the likes of Just Flight and Playsim with their photographic sceneries of the UK. Again, the development of my own Farm Strips continued on this platform.

    After over 12 years on FSX I decided to move to X-Plane 11, my first true 64 bit simulator. Using Laminar Research's freely available scenery designer called World Editor (WED) and FlyAgi's add-ons, plus Jonathan Harris' excellent FS2XPLANE plugin (without which I wouldn't have been able to alter my FSX files), I managed to convert some of my FSX farm strips to X-Plane.

    Note: If you're reading this Jonathan, many thanks...and please consider making a program called FSX2-2020.

    Anyway...I won't bore you with the rest, but at least now you have some idea of where I am coming from.

    Which leaves us with FS2020.

    A Beginners View of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020

    When I first opened MSFS 2020 I was slightly wary, as it had a similar interface to FSW (Flight Sim World), Dovetail Games attempt at breaking into the flight simulator genre; and we all know the outcome to that particular story.

    Now I must admit, I didn't bother with Courchevel or the flight training option in MSFS 2020, I just wanted to fly somewhere that I knew. Looking at the world map, I was initially very disappointed by the choice of airports in the UK (I bet I wasn't the only one). However, it wasn't until I noticed the airport search box did I realise that I had over 37,000+ airports and airfields at my disposal!

    I typed in EGIL, St. Michael's (a microlight training field over on the Fylde coast) and to my incredible surprise it was listed...WOW! I selected it and a few minutes later, there I was, at EGIL. The grass was unbelievable and for a default aircraft, the graphics were first class.


    27 Comments
    1. KennethKerr's Avatar
      KennethKerr -
      Hello Neil

      I thoroughly enjoyed this article, although it is hard to think of you as a beginner.

      I share your love of microlights (we call them ultralights in Canada), having done some serious training on them about twenty years ago in Ontario. Your continued series of farm strips for MSFS 2020 is a perfect backdrop for these beautiful craft. I encourage you to keep on keeping on. When you have mastered home-made custom buildings, I will practically beg you to recreate some small Canadian airfields I have flown from! In the meantime, despite my scenery misgivings expressed in my "Kerrspectives", I continue to immerse myself in MSFS 2020. It just keeps on growing on me, and your work is helping that to happen.

      Best regards from this exiled Scot on the Canadian prairie... And remember.. we share the ATC and Chippy experience too!

      - Kenneth
    1. neilfb's Avatar
      neilfb -
      Thanks, kenneth, nice to hear from you. This 2020 has really grabbed me, it is sooooo different to anything that has come before. Well done to Microsoft for having the forethought! A microlight oops sorry ultralight would be nice though!! Neil
    1. collltip's Avatar
      collltip -
      Quote Originally Posted by neilfb View Post
      Thanks, kenneth, nice to hear from you. This 2020 has really grabbed me, it is sooooo different to anything that has come before. Well done to Microsoft for having the forethought! A microlight oops sorry ultralight would be nice though!! Neil
      Neil,Interesting article.I hope you will populate 2020 with your excellent strips.I drew 500 WW2 airfields for FSX but have lost most of them over the years.I prefer flying round haystacks to visiting large airports.From the screen shots,the grass looks like tall weeds .I think some small aircraft would tip up rather easily.I say from screen shots because although getting it on day one I still have not got it to start.I have passed it to a computer company,but they have not had any success yet.I live in hope.
    1. venerable's Avatar
      venerable -
      Hi Neil, thank you for this review. As I also started with the sim flying on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and tested and used the various brands up to the beta of FS2020 mainly in the Swiss Alps. We may never forget, that simulations are not games. This means no matter how detailled the environment is modelled, if you get too close to real world objects the gap becomes visible. So for the other readers, it's a solid sim, but it's a sim. The flight physics are still too simplyfied on larger planes. Now the only thing microsoft has to solve quickly with asobo studios is fixing the software start problems, which were introduced late in the beta program and weren't solved for general availybility.
      Or to take a humoristic note from a SW developers quality conference, when the question was asked if they would fly a plane running on their own software and a women raised her hand, stating that this would be absolutely safe, as the plane wouln't be able to start. Compared to X-Plane 11.5 you have more out of the box, but still with a handful of bugs.
    1. sfgarland's Avatar
      sfgarland -
      As a long time FS enthusiast like yourself, I really appreciate your work, and this article. Nice to hear unbiased opinion of the new version and eagerly awaiting for developers like yourself to place your mark of expertise on it. Thank YOU!
    1. jackdhee's Avatar
      jackdhee -
      Hello Neil,
      Thanks for your article. The scenery is fabulous and the program looks great. The negative part is that MSFS2020 is not compatible with simmers with a separate panel/cockpit. Why? In the FSX and P3d programs there is a (keycommand W) which gives a front full outside view, I am missing this in MSFS2020. There is a command (ESC) which gives you the view to the back of your aircraft you are flying, this is unreal. Further MSFS is not accepting all saitek equipment with me. I have no sound also. It forced me to use P3dV5 and leave MSFS on the shelf as long MSFS2020 is not solving this problem. The manufacturer of my panel as well myself did not get an answer on this problems from Microsoft.
    1. Rhanson's Avatar
      Rhanson -
      Neil,
      Great article on history of Flight Simulation, and on beginnings of FS 2020.
      I have owned most of the sims that you mentioned, but now I find myself
      under-powered, my PC does not meet the minimum requirements (already bought the sim from
      the MS store ).
      My PC is an HP 500-60, AMD Quad Core A6-5200 Accelerated Processor, 8GB DDR3 RAM,
      1 TB HD, AMD Radeon HD 8400 Graphics. Do you suggest a tweak, replace the
      Graphics card, or do you have any recommendations for PCs that will meet the
      recommended equipment requirements.
      Thanks,
      Ron Hanson
      [email protected]
      BTW, I found the St Michael's airfield, on Google Earth, just landed there,
      but never found EGIL on FSX or Skyvector.
    1. kityatyi's Avatar
      kityatyi -
      Hi Neil,

      Awesome job on the grass strips! Just landed at the one called Deal. Truly immersive! And it was indeed tough to find it!

      There is a small issue at Deal. I think the runway markings are incorrect, Rwy 20 is marked as 02 and Rwy 02 is marked as Rwy 20. Can you please fix it? Thank you!
    1. Av8rG33k's Avatar
      Av8rG33k -
      Thank you for sharing your history and thoughts on the various flight sim products. I consider myself a real beginner or newbie in that I have only owned Microsoft's Flight Simulator 2004, and FSX, but never had the proper machine to enjoy either product. Therefore dust gently settled on the games as it does on long term patience.

      My daughter and son-in-law bought me a gaming computer, so I bought the basic version of MSFS 2020 and found my really old Logitech Wingman Attack 2 Joystick. Long story short I landed on my second attempt at Courchevel. My first attempt was quickly pressing buttons to figure out what I was doing since there is no manual.
    1. chicagorandy's Avatar
      chicagorandy -
      Thanks for the article - I'm 71 and find this new sim simply amazing - I've been fiddling about with Microsoft Flight since the first version in the 80's,

      YES -YES - a thousand times YES - there ARE bugs and glitches in this new release, but it is clear (to me) that MS needed more Beta testers to quickly find all the issues so they released this game early and let us early adopters be that QC Department for them. I am VERY pleased that not one but two patches have already been released, IMHO proving my theory but also showing the company's determination to have a first class quality product bearing the Microsoft name.

      More as a joke I wondered if the little grass-strip airport near my brother's house in Amish country in Indiana was there, and YES it is and more like it, even his local small town hospital Helipad is represented . Simply AMAZING.

      I look forward to getting most all the bugs sorted out in short order, but even with them this sim is just terrific.
    1. Tonybro's Avatar
      Tonybro -
      I agree with pretty much all the comments here. I, too, was an Alpha and Beta tester and when MS/Asobo announced the release date there was uproar due to all the bugs still sitting in the beta - even if, as we all suspected, we were never given the latest builds to test.

      MS decided to get it out and into the community with it's problems. It is certainly workable and playable as it stands. The biggest point I want to make here is the comments made about the simulation aspect of the 'game'. As PC users we are in the luxurious position of being able to adjust files, plug in a variety of peripherals, etc. We have to remember this will also be released on X-box where this is NOT a reality for users so there has to be some simplification (or dumbing down) of the simulation aspects to cater for this whole sector that hasn't even got their hands on it yet.
    1. wayned10's Avatar
      wayned10 -
      I liked better the airport selection method in FSX.
    1. bushp04's Avatar
      bushp04 -
      What are the comparisons, in your mind?
    1. Rupert's Avatar
      Rupert -
      Thanks so much for your time and effort! It appears that after the expected debugging, this will be quite the sim!! And I am looking forward to it.

      But:I've not seen or heard anything about scenery etc. when unplugged. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand you are pretty much limited in appearance and possibly response as well, unless you are online whenever "flying."

      Owning a piece of software means it can be used when the owner chooses. Going online every "flight" puts control of software in the hands of others. I know people still quite happily flying several different flight sims are no longer "supported." If we didn't already own and have the discs, hard-drives, etc., we would have been out of luck years ago.

      I have no desire to spend money and then be put in that situation.
    1. Oliveone's Avatar
      Oliveone -
      As a 55 year pvt pilot and a 25 year flight simmer I am blown away by msfs2020. I just began using it a week ago and have a lot to get used to but I am super impressed.
    1. deepredson's Avatar
      deepredson -
      Lovely to see you're still hammering and welding small airstrips. MSFS - and so soon!
      I persevere and MSFS for me has become truly wonderful. Worth all the sweat.
      I've been following your lovely scenery since FS98, through X-Plane, to MSFS.
      My age is not far behind yours, Hee-hee.
      I have one longed-for request:
      OXENHOPE Airfield, West Yorkshire.. Please??
      It's been a longtime favourite, as I knew the area very well.
      (I'm in Northwest Kent now)
      Please would you consider it?
      I'd be like a puppy with a new toy.
      All the very best in working out the new SDK and its weirdness.
    1. neilfb's Avatar
      neilfb -
      Quote Originally Posted by venerable View Post
      Hi Neil, thank you for this review. As I also started with the sim flying on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum, and tested and used the various brands up to the beta of FS2020 mainly in the Swiss Alps. We may never forget, that simulations are not games. This means no matter how detailled the environment is modelled, if you get too close to real world objects the gap becomes visible. So for the other readers, it's a solid sim, but it's a sim. The flight physics are still too simplyfied on larger planes. Now the only thing microsoft has to solve quickly with asobo studios is fixing the software start problems, which were introduced late in the beta program and weren't solved for general availybility.
      Or to take a humoristic note from a SW developers quality conference, when the question was asked if they would fly a plane running on their own software and a women raised her hand, stating that this would be absolutely safe, as the plane wouln't be able to start. Compared to X-Plane 11.5 you have more out of the box, but still with a handful of bugs.
      Thanks, hope you get it working soon. Neil
      PS It's worth the wait.
    1. neilfb's Avatar
      neilfb -
      Quote Originally Posted by sfgarland View Post
      As a long time FS enthusiast like yourself, I really appreciate your work, and this article. Nice to hear unbiased opinion of the new version and eagerly awaiting for developers like yourself to place your mark of expertise on it. Thank YOU!
      I'm not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, I am what you would call an enthusiastic amateur
    1. neilfb's Avatar
      neilfb -
      Quote Originally Posted by sfgarland View Post
      As a long time FS enthusiast like yourself, I really appreciate your work, and this article. Nice to hear unbiased opinion of the new version and eagerly awaiting for developers like yourself to place your mark of expertise on it. Thank YOU!
      I want them to get rid of `PRESS ANY KEY'!!!!!!!!
    1. neilfb's Avatar
      neilfb -
      Quote Originally Posted by kityatyi View Post
      Hi Neil,

      Awesome job on the grass strips! Just landed at the one called Deal. Truly immersive! And it was indeed tough to find it!

      There is a small issue at Deal. I think the runway markings are incorrect, Rwy 20 is marked as 02 and Rwy 02 is marked as Rwy 20. Can you please fix it? Thank you!
      I am not an expert on computers but in my opinion (this is almost exactly what i said for FSX). Buy the fastest you can afford (but leave a little aside for VR). I would reccomend 32Gb ram 1070ti video card minimum and a computer of at least 3Ghz (like mine).
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