Microsoft Takes Flight, Free To Fly…

Microsoft has after much rumor and speculation made the free to play flight simulator, Flight, available for download. Not a direct replacement for the quintessential Flight Simulator, instead Microsoft Flight hopes to bring the wonders of flight to a whole new generation.

The new free to play game already has a number of paid extras available for download. World War 2 Mustang, extra terrain and missions, The initial free map encompasses the main Hawaiian island. Starting with the Big Island of Hawaii, it will be interesting to see how Microsoft expands the maps and missions, will there be more free to play maps?

Holders of a Windows Live gaming account can get extra freebies by signing up through their Live account, it’s also the easiest way to register for the game.

Flight Simulator X – FSX – was the last – released 2006 – and definitive Flight Simulator, with a reputation amongst simulation purists as being near perfection. Flight is a different bird though, Microsoft is attempting to build a bridge between the casual flyer and the hard core Flight Sim fans. Aiming for a much wider audience.

FSX screenshot

The interface has been simplified to allow even the newest of newbie to get up in to the air quickly while the physics engine and graphics have been given a 2012 polish. It is a slick production that emphasizes getting down to flying as quickly as possible. A flight handbook is available for the readers amongst us, and expert settings is included for the technically inclined.

Microsoft officially states the FSX is the 10th and last in the franchise but there is often rumor and speculation that a new version is possible. Mid 2011 rumors of an advertisement for a developer with simulation experience had the FSX community chirping away. Flight Simulator has a notoriously long upgrade cycle, nearly 30 years ago this game established the practice of releasing an upgrade pack as a new game. If the typical lifespan of each version is anything to go by there are at least another 2 years before a new version would normally be due. Based on an 8 year average lifespan for the Flight Simulator code base.

Flight Simulator 1.0 was first released by Microsoft in 1982, before many people knew who Microsoft was, we all knew Flight Simulator. Literally spawning a whole genre of game, the simulator. Like many Microsoft products the original Simulator was born in IBM’s labs in the late 70”s as an industrial simulator to allow non-destructive testing, this was the first physics engine programmed into a computer. With the license purchased from IBM Microsoft improved the graphics engine along with a number of in game functions, all of which added up to Version 1.0.

Version 1.0 was such a standard in the PC world at the time that it was used as both a benchmark and a compatibility test for early PC’s. If you newly purchased PC could run Flight Sim 1.0 and Lotus 1.2.3 then it was considered 100% PC compatibility. Remembering that this was in the early days of PC compatibility, there were at times strange combinations of cards and drivers that caused compatibility issues. For benchmarking purposes Flight Sim 1.0 was able to display the number of frames per second your PC was able to produce. A handy yard stick when having a show down with fellow PC owners.

Microsoft Flight P51 Mustang

By 1984 Microsoft had prepared version 2.0 which brought more visual enhancements and more realistic functions of the cockpit. Around the same time an Amiga and Atari ST version was released. Some consider this version to be closer to version 3.0 on the PC. It had much better graphics and sound along with multiple pilot viewing angles, A Mac version was also released as Version 1.0 for the Mac.

Microsoft Flight does an excellent job of building on top of the most technically advanced simulator technology to produce quite a thrilling product, not something often said about Flight Sim.

The marketplace for Flight is already open for business, the shelves are a bit bare, currently available are Maule M-7-260C, the P-51 Mustang and the Hawaiian adventure pack that includes extra maps and missions.

In the ever increasingly crowded free to play market Microsoft has dished up an outstanding game that may just have enough polish and hooks to get people digging into their wallets. This first 6 months is going to be hugely important Microsoft, the right balance of free content to hook people in and must have upgrades – for a small fee – is going to be a tricky spot for Microsoft to find. Add to this the need to get bums on seats – people playing -.and we start to see the brave new world that Microsoft is diving into.

Source: Microsoft Flight