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Microsoft Flight Simulator - Free!

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tranglos:
A quick update to say Flight is now available on Steam - the full Hawaii package. Now, before steam, you had to open a MS Games account (which is a Live account plus Game Points that you buy), and during the game/sim Flight connects to that account. Since you can now buy it through steam, I wonder what happens to that. If you buy it on steam, can you buy new DLC later directly from MS? Not sure that I'd want to mix the two!

There's a good, fair write-up of Flight here. Though this is written by an experienced simmer, and I am a total novice, I'd say pretty much what he says, about the good parts and the bad parts. His impression is spot-on:

my first impression was: Wow. This is awesome. And terrible. And beautiful. And ugly. And compelling. And boring
--- End quote ---

(Well, almost spot-on - I can't say I've seen the "ugly".)


I've been switching between Flight and FSX. Since FSX has a lot of tutorials, I use it to learn, then try it all out in Flight, where the flying environment is more fun. Then I go back to FSX, because it lets you plan longer trips, use the autopilot, ATC, all that. My main impression is that flying and (particularly) landing is significantly easier in FSX!

Now, I'm only flying single and twin-prop aircraft (since I realized I can't even level out a jet in flight :-) in fair weather, with realism settings at about medium, increasing them gradually. I have no idea which of the two has a more realistic flight model and aircraft response, but the difference is surprisingly large.

Flying the tutorials in FSX, when I am instructed to maintain 55 knots in the Cessna 172, no problem. Climb or descend at an assigned rate, comes after a few tries. Maintain an altitude - that takes me more time to get right than I think it should, but I can get there. Trying to do the same in Flight is way harder, sometimes next to impossible.

I like the Maule 7 a lot, and it's the only aircraft available in both Flight and FSX, so there should be some comparison. In Flight, this thing knows only two settings: climb uncontrollably or drop like a rock. Above 56% or so throttle, it will continue climbing until it stalls, regains airspeed, then climb again, in a huge flattened sinusoid. Below that, and it will descend at much more than the 500 feet per minute you're supposed to keep (more or less) during descent. There is nothing in-between.

(The intriguing thing is that when you switch to "flying with the mouse", everything becomes child's play - just point the mouse level and the aircraft will fly level. No fun, and certainly no realism. But with throttle+joystick, the same tasks become a near impossibility.)

That same aircraft becomes completely tame in FSX. Level flight - easy. Reduce throttle to 25%, and it will glide down nicely they way you want it to. In Flight, at 25% it's a paperweight.

Oh, there's trimming, but the controls are way oversensitive in Flight, with no settings to make them less so. A single press of a button will trim by 5, 7 or 9 percent, and the amount varies, so you can't bring the trim back to neutral at all. The only way to trim by 1% is to use the mouse wheel over the trim control in the virtual cockpit, which almost always requires panning the view, which prevents you from controlling the aircraft properly... and even the 1% changes seem to have an exaggerated effect.  Exaggerated in comparison with FSX, that is - not sure which is closer to reality.

In FSX, flying the simpler aircraft, I can grease the landings fairly easily, even make the recommended three-wheel touchdown in Maule is not that hard. In Flight, after over 80 hours flying time and over 700 landings (it keeps these stats for you), I can't make consistently soft landings. What's worse, at 100 or so feet above ground I still don't know what the touchdown is going to be like or if/how I can assure a soft one. It's unpredictable, and the aircraft just doesn't like to stay in the air very much.

Of the four aircraft available in Flight (excluding the external-view-only Mustang and Zero, which I'm not buying), the Stearman and the RV-6 behave very much like the Maule. Only the lowly Icon is more manageable. The RV-6 is the opposite of Maule in that it will climb happily even at 15% throttle or less, which makes it impossibly hard (for me, the greenhorn in the room) to properly slow it down to 60 kts or less for landing. With full flaps, I'm finding that I have to reduce the throttle to idle long before the touchdown point in order to slow down sufficiently, and then be very careful not to increase it above 6-8% if I don't want to overshoot the runway.

Somehow I have none of these problems in FSX, even when flying the more powerful twin-engines. They behave much more predictably to me, while I am really in no position to "predict" aircraft behavior in the first place.

Both FSX and Flight are great fun, both have tons of annoyances. FSX has all kinds of navigation (having ATC direct you to the runway is kinda cool), but I get off at the stop where you're supposed to start calculating fuel and landing weight (in your head, too). It crashes way too often, which is awfully frustrating during a training session or a mission, since they tend to be long (20, 40 minutes or more) and you can't skip to waypoints, like you can in Flight. And, I just have to say it, the UI in FSX is murder. Starting with the map, which you cannot resize beyond the tiny rectangle, or the spin controls in which you cannot type or which tend to reset to zero out of their own will when you set their values. Or how you cannot load a flight into the flight editor (e.g. to reuse the aircraft and airport but change the weather, etc.). It's hard to believe this UI passed quality checks in 2006. (I won't even mention usability tests.)

Flight, OTOH, is smooth as silk and has truly wonderful graphics, but as I switch between it and FSX, the lack of ATC, GPS, autopilot, a real map and other navigation aids takes away much of the initial fun. (Though flying an ILS approach in zero visibility without those helpers is as hard as it probably should be. Haven't cracked that one yet.)

I have no complaints yet about the limited range of aircraft in Flight - after all, the idea of taking a 7?7 from Maui to Oahu seems somewhat... out there. The limited area is more of an issue of course, but with the very limited navigation facilities, you would be hard pressed to navigate longer distances. (VOR does work, as long as you have FSX to learn how to use it in the first place!)

The much harder landings are more satisfying when you get them right. The frustrating part is, it's hard to know why you did or did not get them right. There's no recording, no replay and no flight analysis, so you are left to your imagination trying to figure out what you did wrong on approach. To me, learning, this is as bad as - maybe even worse than - all the other limitations in Flight, as it really adds to frustration. Trial and error works only as long as you can diagnose the error, which flight makes that much harder.

The appeal of Flight does seem to wane with time. What's keeping me with it is the challenges I haven't successfully completed, the varied weather patterns you can play with, and the overall ease of use and non-crashing. But I'm learning more from FSX, and in the long run FSX is probably the one to stay, if only I can keep it from crashing. In the end the only real advantage of Flight is in the beauty and detail of its graphics.

Stephen66515:
MSFlight = Shitty Flying Game - No user created addons - Must pay out your ass for a single airplane - NOT a simulator.

Flight Simulator X = Pretty Decent Simulator, Huge Community, nice amount of aircraft as default, map = WHOLE WORLD

X-Plane = Incredible, although difficult. (And not all that expensive) - Only downfall = Requires insane Graphics capabilities to run in anywhere near "Top" GFX mode

---

Tranglos, do you fly online (FSX)? - If so, PM me, I am looking for some flying buddies :) - I only fly single/dual prop, no Jets, Jets are no fun for me...(Take off, hit AP, wait till you get close, disable AP, land...)

tranglos:
MSFlight = Shitty Flying Game - No user created addons - Must pay out your ass for a single airplane - NOT a simulator.
-Stephen66515 (April 15, 2012, 07:14 PM)
--- End quote ---

I don't know about the shitty game part. It *is* a game, with points, missions, achievements and so on. When you make a bad landing, at least you'll know by the reaction of your passengers. (Though sometimes the way they react has no bearing on whether you are awarded points for "happy passengers").

The ease with which you can get into it and start flying without hours of reading and memorizing acronyms, speeds, approaches etc. makes it pretty good as a game for me. As a simulator, I really cannot judge. On flightsim forums I have seen very respectful comments on its flight model though, even from people who despise it for all its limitations.

Flight Simulator X = Pretty Decent Simulator, Huge Community, nice amount of aircraft as default, map = WHOLE WORLD

--- End quote ---

True, but it's a poor quality world. I'll have to check more thoroughly, but from what I've seen so far, my country (Poland) does not have a single landmark in FSX, except the rivers, lakes and mountains. In FSX there's a mission set in Hawaii... full of empty, uniform green hills. In Flight, you are really there. And I imagine recreating the whole world at this level of detail would take considerable time and investment.

For FSX there are add-ons which are much more expensive than either sim. $70 for "Northern Rockies" from ORBX? (The sad thing is, I'm thinking of buying it anyway, they have a sale during April.) And even at this price all you get is limited areas (kind of like Hawaii in Flight, really), not the whole world.

X-Plane = Incredible, although difficult. (And not all that expensive) - Only downfall = Requires insane Graphics capabilities to run in anywhere near "Top" GFX mode

--- End quote ---

This I can totally believe, but I will need to seriously upgrade my machine before I can run it.



Tranglos, do you fly online (FSX)? - If so, PM me, I am looking for some flying buddies :) - I only fly single/dual prop, no Jets, Jets are no fun for me...(Take off, hit AP, wait till you get close, disable AP, land...)

--- End quote ---

Same here on jets, but I''ll have to learn to fly them first, before I make up my mind :-)

I've never used multiplayer since I tried that in Quake all those years ago and couldn't last 10 seconds. I don't really know yet how it works in FSX or if my system can take the additional load. Besides, no-one wants to see me fly at this stage :-)

Stephen66515:


I've never used multiplayer since I tried that in Quake all those years ago and couldn't last 10 seconds. I don't really know yet how it works in FSX or if my system can take the additional load. Besides, no-one wants to see me fly at this stage :-)


-tranglos (April 15, 2012, 07:40 PM)
--- End quote ---

Multiplayer is very low on system resources, you can do local multiplayer, or use the built in Gamespy.  Plenty of servers online, mostly people just chasing each other in planes though. 

I try to create realistic flight conditions and sometimes do live ATC depending on my mood, those sessions are always fun xD

tranglos:
Found some good tips for tweaking configuration files for Flight, especially stuff that cannot be modified inside the app. Includes advice on how to tame the out-of-control trimming.

And AvSim has a few useful tutorials that fill the significant gaps, such as navigating by VOR and ILS. (Older tutorials for FSX and other sims will likewise work, since the principle is the same and the controls are always similar.)

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