09 Dec 2011

The first version of this franchise hit stores way back in 1982, flash forward to 2006, the venerable but resource intensive Flight Simulator X (FSX) was released.  Now Microsoft is putting the last tweaks into their newest iteration called Microsoft Flight, effectively a restarting of the engines for the franchise.

Microsoft is accepting Beta invitations to try out the PC simulation in their Beta Program.  Gather your flight gear and start the engines right here.  The target time frame for the Beta program to start is January 2012.  There is a Non Disclosure Agreement with this one though (NDA).  You can't share multimedia or details of the experience anywhere online while taking part.

If you are a fan of FSX, as i am, then you know how very CPU intensive the previous version is.  The power or overclock of your CPU is what leads to the best experience primarily, followed by a good video card for the rendering.  For example, take a look at my very own FSX rig setup specs and images at this location.  Using this setup I am able to get really good performance at generally every airport in the simulation, usually 30-50 fps depending on conditions, such as weather, etc.

Just last month Microsoft revealed the hardware requirements for this version.  You can view them here.  They were kind enough to list what "high settings" you would need.. of those, they include these:

  • CPU: Intel® Core™ i7 960 @ 3.20GHz, AMD® Phenom™ II X6 1100T 3.3 GHz or better
  • GPU: ATI Radeon™ HD 5870, NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 560 or bette

In my case, running an i7 2600K at 3.4ghz (but I overclock to 4.8ghz), i'm good on CPU for sure, while the video card requirements are slightly more strict (I have the 5850).

What remains to be seen is if the video quality and rendering will be better than some of the very good add-ons available for FSX.  Comparing the quality of these add-ons to what I have seen so far with Microsoft Flight, it is at least on par with what I currently have for FSX.  Either way, I know I for one will at least give the new software a try and take to the skies, but it may be some time before third party add-ons come out in the same number for this version as in the past ones to be able to fully retire the hearty FSX.  I also think what is probably going to be the case, hardware wise, is that there will be less of an emphasis on the need to overclock the CPU based on the requirements.  From what I have read, Microsoft has focused on getting performance to be optimal on a variety of hardware configurations as well.

Also, from a simulation standpoint, there is so much already built into FSX with the default software and the many software additions, that it remains to be seen if simulation wise, Microsoft Flight will carry the torch forward.  A few quotes from Tom's Hardware by Microsoft sum up their focus:

"With Microsoft Flight we're approaching the virtual flight genre from the ground up, with the focus on the universal appeal of the experience of Flight," the company said. "We believe the simplicity of Microsoft Flight perfectly captures that vision while welcoming the millions of existing Flight Simulator fans. The new Microsoft Flight retains the full fidelity simulation longtime fans have come to expect while offering all players a whole new look and feel, a wide range of new game play and challenges, persistent experiences and social connectivity."

Microsoft does emphasize they are maintaining the simulation status for the franchise in some statements they have made.  Either way the best way to begin testing this is to sign up for the Beta program and hopefully get an invite, so come January you can be soaring the skies on your PC with this new version.

Image Credit: Microsoft Flight

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